RIP: Harold Welch, bay area restaurateur, music promoter

Harold Welch
A few days ago, I was reading the San Jose Mercury when I ran across an obituary of an old friend. Harold Welch was a very colorful character in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it saddens me that I hadn’t talked to him in many years. Looking at the obituary, it mentions that he died at the age of 77 years of complications of diabetes.

This blows my mind… I had no idea he was 77 years old! He certainly didn’t act his age! This was a man that was so full of life, who seemed at least twenty years younger than that!

I first met Harold in the early 1980s’ when he was a bartender at the Seafood Place, a little Chinese food restaurant in Sunnyvale, a suburb of San Jose, California. At the time, there really weren’t that many venues for “alternative music” in the south bay, and Harold was one of the few people booking this kind of music in the region. I remember seeing seeing quite a few wonderful shows at this unlikely location, and being treated to many delicious drinks from this friendly bartender from Barbados.

As Harold got more ambitious with booking music, he branched off into larger venues, booking shows at the IFVS (?) Hall in Mountain View and the New Varsity Theatre in Palo Alto. As I recall, Harold assembled some great shows with The Calm, Wombat Suicide, the Rockafellas, The R.B. Firebirds, The Suspects, Stop the Keg, and a lot of other underrated local bands that should have made it big in a more perfect universe.

As I looked through my photo archives, trying to find a decent image of Harold, I found one of him surrounded by my friends Nathan of the Suspects, Diana Anderson, and two guys I don’t recognize.

Harold Welch 1995

On the same roll, I found some other images I forgot about. Here’s a photo I took at a punk rock show produced by Harold Welch at the New Varsity on February 23. 1985. While Joe Pop-O-Pie was the headliner for this show, I don’t remember who’s actually singing in this particular picture…

Punk rock at New Varsity 1985

Eventually, Harold retired from rock music promotion, and focused on the restuarant business. He got a lot of attention when he opened the Cajun Caribbean restaurant in Sunnyvale, which advertised a special alligator dish. I lost touch with him after that, but I understand he was a taster at the California Culinary Academy, and appeared on a lot of local TV shows.

One of the things Harold did was manage a reggae band known as George and the Wonders, which was one of the bands that performed live at KFJC‘s Maximum LOUIE LOUIE marathon, which is where the LOUIE connection comes into place.

In recent years, Harold started his own brand of coffee- Chef Welch’s Coffee, and operated Josline’s Caribbean Cajun restaurant in Sunnyvale.

He will be missed.

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