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Colorado Music Hall of Fame Commemorates Black History Month

Since 1976, February has been dedicated to recognizing and appreciating the achievements of African Americans in many different walks of life.

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame Presented by Comfort Dental celebrates the incredible contributions of African American musicians who have impacted Colorado and international music scene over the years. Many of these artists were either born in Colorado, studied here, or ended up in the area through their musical journeys. These artists have been powerful advocates for social issues, cultural issues, and entertained Colorado music fans and music lovers all across the country and throughout the world.

Back in November, the Jazz Masters & Beyond Induction Ceremony and Concert was a capstone event honoring some of the most prolific musicians from Colorado who have literally changed the course of music. Dianne Reeves, Charlie Burrell, three members from Earth, Wind & Fire, Ron Miles & Bill Frizell and the music department of East High School were the first inductees from the Jazz tradition who received awards for their contribution to the Colorado music scene.

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves, an inductee in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, is at the forefront of producing and performing quality Jazz music since she started out in the 1970s. Inspired by her family’s deep musical background, Dianne Reeves has contributed significantly to the genre of Jazz around the world and in Colorado.

After studying at the University of Colorado, Reeves signed with Blue Note Records in 1987. She’s won two honorary doctorate awards, from Berklee in 2003 and Juilliard School of Music in 2015, and she has won 5 Grammy awards. She was featured in George Clooney’s movie “Good Night and Good Luck” as a featured singer and as the music of the soundtrack for the movie. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards. We were honored to celebrate Dianne Reeves as part of the Jazz Masters & Beyond class and for all of her incredible achievements and contributions.

Charlie Burrell

Charlie Burrell is widely known for being the first African-American to be a member of a major American symphony. For this accomplishment, he is often referred to as “the Jackie Robinson of Classical Music”. Born in 1920 in Ohio and raised in Detroit, Burrell was drawn to Colorado to be with family and where he joined the Denver Symphony that year. As one of the few black classical musicians of his time, Charlie Burrell pioneered his authentic sound and put the Colorado music scene on a national platform. He rose to prominence in the Denver Five Points Jazz scene by becoming the house bass player at the Rossonian Hotel. During those years he played with almost all of the legendary Jazz musicians of the time who came to Five Points including Billie Holiday, Erroll Garner, Charlie Parker, Earl Hines, Duke Ellington, Count Bassie, Lionel Hampton and Gene Harris to name only a few.

Burrell lived through the age of segregation in the US and was at the forefront of championing equal rights through his classical music background. He also served to bridge the gap between classical and Jazz with his groundbreaking and effortless transitions between the two fields. We celebrate Charlie Burrell during this Black History Month for all of his incredible contributions to Colorado and to the country.

George Morrison, Sr.

The late George Morrison, Sr., was born during the height of the “Jim Crow” era in this country (1891). His dream was always to play the violin in a major orchestra, but the rules of the day served to nullify that dream. However, Morrison, Sr., did not relent, and he later ended up forming an 11-piece band that ultimately caught the attention of Colombia records. His work and recordings served as a great inspiration for many black musicians who came after him. He became a light and inspiration along the path that black musicians would follow, breaking into every style and genera in our State and all across the US.

Earth, Wind & Fire

The CMHOF’s Black History Month celebration would not be complete without recognizing one of the most popular bands in the US and the world, Earth, Wind & Fire. Their unique fusion of jazz with soul, gospel, pop, and rock dominated the airwaves between 1973 and 1981 with seven Top 10 hits, 12 Grammy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The supergroup’s Colorado connections run deep with East High graduates Phillip Bailey, Larry Dunn and Andrew Woolfolk being inducted into the Hall in November and the studio where they recorded their breakout hits, Caribou Ranch Recording Studio being inducted in August of 2017. The incredible sound of joy that EW&F brought to the world was of a celebration of both the power of funk and the power of their positive uplifting lyrics despite the difficulties we all face. It was and is the sound of remembering September and the “Shining Star” that lives both within the African American community and within all of us.

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is proud and honored to celebrate the careers, contributions, and legacies of all these remarkable men and women during Black History Month.

And there is more to come including a celebration of Ron Miles and Bill Frizell and their upcoming concert this month.

 

Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

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What Aspiring Young Musicians Can Learn From the Legacy of Producer Bill Szymczyk

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame Presented by Comfort Dental recently presented a Special Achievement award to legendary producer Bill Szymczyk. His work helped define the golden age of rock from the late ‘60s through the ‘90s. From his beginnings as a Navy SONAR operator with no musical training to his recent induction into the Hall, he’s credited with producing many of the albums that defined a generation.

Early Days

Szymczyk left the Navy in 1964 with advanced knowledge of electronics and a love for music. He took a temporary job at a recording studio sweeping floors and fixing gear while working his way to an engineer’s seat. That eventually led to a series of engineering and production jobs with various recording entities before striking out on his own. The rest, as they say, is history!

If you’re a fan of classic rock you know Szymczyk’s work. He’s produced recordings for BB King, Bob Seger (Against the Wind), the Eagles (One of These Nights) (Hotel California) (The Long Run), Joe Walsh, The James Gang, J. Geils Band, Johnny Winter, Elvin Bishop, and the Who among many others.

The connection to Colorado came from discovering a unique new recording studio in the mountains above Boulder—Hall Inductee, Caribou Ranch. He was instrumental in turning the barn of a former horse ranch into a production mecca for many of the most popular artists of the era!

For a young up and coming musician or producer, the legendary career of Bill Szymczyk should serve as an inspiration. Here are some lessons to consider from his illustrious 40 plus year career.

No Job Is Too Small

According to Szymczyk, you should take any job that can get you in the door. The music business is about paying dues and learning. Just being around the artists and the process can be a learning experience. In a 2004 Sound on Sound interview he described his career as, “…an ongoing series of happy accidents.” He worked hard and earned many jobs over the course of his career, meeting each with professionalism and an openness to learn from everyone he met.

Creating Music is a Team Sport

To be a successful engineer or producer, you need to be a team player. It was always about the music. Though Szymczyk had no formal music training and never played an instrument, he considered himself a great listener. He maintained his job was to listen and determine what he could bring to every song to make it the best it could be.

As a producer, you must continually keep things moving forward. Whenever there’s a group of creative musicians in a studio together there are bound to be disagreements. He tried to keep everything light and happy in order to eliminate as much tension as possible.

Producing “Hotel California” with the Eagles was definitely challenging. Szymczyk recalled, “I was a bud, not a boss. …mostly listened and was always willing to try new stuff.” In spite of the creative friction, he and the Eagles created a huge multi-platinum album that won several Grammys!

Lessons Learned

It’s OK to start at the bottom, learn everything you can along the way, welcome all the happy accidents, work hard, and most of all—Listen!

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Rocky Mountain Way: An Evening to Remember

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental’s latest & largest Induction Event, “The Rocky Mountain Way” brought together musicians for a special evening of music and entertainment. Artists performed tribute sets, honor videos were played, and award presentations made, all celebrating the music and contributions of the Hall’s inductees – Caribou Ranch, Joe Walsh & Barnstorm and Danny Fogelberg. Events like this happen once in a lifetime and the Induction’s theme fittingly echoed throughout the night.

Caribou Ranch

In the early 1970s, musicians were starting to hear about an out-of-the-way recording studio far from the major recording hubs of New York City and Los Angeles. That studio was Caribou Ranch, and over its short history it would play host to dozens of musicians and artists who would record some of their best-known works there.

Artists of Caribou Ranch

Artists as diverse as Michael Jackson, U2, John Lennon, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Chicago and The Beach Boys wrote and recorded timeless music at Caribou Ranch.

Elton John’s album “Caribou” was named in honor of the studio, and John Oates (of R&B duo Hall & Oates) was onstage to perform the single, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” from that album during the concert. 

Two other major acts of the ’70s – Earth, Wind, & Fire and Supertramp – also recorded at Caribou Ranch. Big Head Todd & The Monsters and The Lumineers helped pay respects to both the bands and the studio itself with covers of “Shining Star” and “Give a Little Bit,” respectively.

The musician who holds the distinction of being the first artist to record at Caribou Ranch was also on hand, since he was being inducted as well. Joe Walsh was between bands at the time, having just left The James Gang and not yet on the radar of The Eagles. His solo album ‘‘Barnstorm’’ was recorded at Caribou Ranch after a mixer at his house failed. The rest is rock and roll history.

Joe Walsh & Barnstorm

Joe Walsh rejoined his Barnstorm bandmates on stage, who also helped write and record the album, to play some of its best-known tracks. He even cheekily introduced “Rocky Mountain Way” as “the anthem of Colorado.” Before his performance, Walsh presented his good friend and producer Bill Syzmczyk (who’d worked with Walsh and The Eagles on a number of albums) with the Award of Excellence.

Dan Fogelberg

The last inductee of the night, Dan Fogelberg, also recorded at Caribou Ranch during the ’70s. The many admirers he had was reflected during the last portion of the event as they paid tribute to him. 

The final batch of performers included artists playing their renditions of Dan Fogelberg’s songs, which have been recently re-recorded for an upcoming Fogelberg tribute album to drop next year – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Riche Furay, Amy Grant (singing a duet with her husband Vince Gill) and new folk pop duo Johnnyswim.

The night ended with country superstar Garth Brooks performing two of Fogelberg’s hits before rounding out the event with “There’s a Place in The World for a Gambler.” Most all the artists joined Garth on stage for this final tribute song.

It was a fantastic event and we are immensely proud to welcome our newest Inductees!

Jazz Masters and Beyond Press Release

Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental

Induction Concert honoring  “JAZZ MASTERS AND BEYOND”

On Sale Friday, October 13, 2017 at 10am MT

 

DENVER – 10/9/17 -The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental, will host its next induction concert “Jazz Masters and Beyond” Tuesday, November 28, at Paramount Theatre honoring world-class musicians who have tremendous ties to the state.

Tickets go on sale starting on Friday, October 13, 2017, at 10 am MT.

The evening features performances from some members of the induction class—jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves, guitarist Bill Frisell, trumpeter Ron Miles, Philip Bailey and Larry Dunn of Earth, Wind, & Fire with Friends.

A closer look at all the inductees, who will be the seventh group for enshrinement in the Hall since its inception in 2011:

  • Philip Bailey, Andrew Woolfolk, and Larry Dunn longtime Denver natives left in 1972-1973 to join Earth, Wind, & Fire.  The band has won 6 Grammy Awards, 4 American Music Awards, have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The band has sold over 100 million records making them one of the world’s best selling bands of all time.
  • Dianne Reeves grew up in Denver knowing that music was her path. After studying at the University of Colorado, she moved to Los Angeles and recorded and toured with various artists. Reeves was the first vocalist signed to the revived Blue Note label in 1987, and she rose to the top echelon of jazz singers, performing on some of the most prestigious stages of the world and recalling the era of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan while imparting her own versatile and original style. She received four Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. The long-time Park Hill resident moved back to Denver in 1992 after years away from home.
  • Reeves learned about jazz from her uncle Charles Burrell, a bass player revered by generations of both jazz and classical music devotees. In 1949, Burrell joined the Denver Symphony as the first person of color under contract with a major orchestra.  In his 60-plus years as a professional musician, Burrell played for conductors Arthur Fiedler and Pierre Monteux; he was an acclaimed jazz bassist appearing onstage with the likes of Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Lionel Hampton.
  • Bill Frisell became interested in guitar as a teenager in Denver, playing in rock and R&B bands. Dale Bruning, a Denver-based guitarist, and educator, advanced Frisell’s preoccupation with jazz; Frisell studied with Johnny Smith at the University of Northern Colorado. He developed a niche through his unique explorations of variations in timbre, using an array of effects. He held the No. 1 spot for guitar in the annual DownBeat Critics Poll in nine out of 10 years. In a career that spans more than 100 recordings, he continues to garner notoriety as one of the world’s most well-known and sought-after jazz musicians.
  • Trumpeter, composer and bandleader Ron Miles, a staple of the Denver jazz scene, is solicited all over the world for his unique sound. He studied music at the University of Denver and the Manhattan School of Music and gained national exposure recording on his own and performing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Ginger Baker and the Bill Frisell Quartet. For recent recordings, he has incorporated a trio of himself, Frisell and drummer Brian Blades. Miles has balanced his musical output with his career as an educator at Denver’s Metropolitan State College, where he heads up the jazz studies program.
  • East High School will be getting a special non-performer award for their long history of musical alumni. Artist who attended East High School include; Philip Bailey, Andrew Woolfolk, and Larry Dunn, three long-time members of Earth, Wind, & Fire, Bill Frisell, Dianne Reeves, Ron Miles, Jamie Laurie from the Flobots, Reese Roper of Five Iron Frenzy, as well as bandleader Paul Whiteman and singer-songwriter Judy Collins, both previously inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental.

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is a non-profit organization that educates the public on everything that makes our state’s music great and is currently located at the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Inductees include John Denver and Red Rocks Amphitheatre; Harry Tuft of the Denver Folklore Center and promoter Barry Fey; the Astronauts, Sugarloaf, Flash Cadillac and KIMN radio; Judy Collins, the Serendipity Singers, Bob Lind and Chris Daniels; Stephen Stills/Manassas, Firefall, Poco and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; and “20th Century Pioneers” Glenn Miller, Paul Whiteman, Max Morath, Billy Murray and Elizabeth Spencer and Lannie Garrett; Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh & Barnstorm and Caribou Ranch.

Produced by AEG Presents reserved seats are available at AltitudeTickets.com starting 10 am MT Friday, October 13.

Additional information can be obtained on the Hall’s website, www.cmhof.org.

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NATIONAL PUBLICITY: Phil Lobel, Lobeline Communications phil@lobeline.com310-271-1551 ext. 13 

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7 Things to Know About the Grateful Dead in Colorado

There are plenty of legends surrounding the Grateful Dead, from the group’s unlikely beginnings in San Francisco during the 1960s to the diverse artistic exploits of Jerry Garcia and his bandmates. The long, strange trip truckin’ to stages all over the world earned them a well-deserved place in music history.

The Dead has an extensive history in the Centennial state. You might have heard a few of their adventures shared by Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann at “Colorado Getaway – the History of the Grateful Dead in the High Country,” the recent reception hosted by the Colorado Music Hall of Fame and presented by Comfort Dental.

Seven Notable Grateful Dead Events in Colorado

  1. The band’s first-ever shows in Colorado took place on September 22 and 23, 1967, at a Denver venue called The Family Dog.
  2. Following their debut in the state, the Dead returned with regularity. On April 24 and 25, 1970, the band performed two shows at Mammoth Gardens (which is now the Fillmore Auditorium). They would be the only acoustic shows the band ever played in Colorado.
  3. As the band’s popularity continued to grow, the Dead played their first stadium show in Colorado at Boulder’s Folsom Field on September 3, 1972. Conditions were soggy, but the pouring rain did not stop the concert.
  4. By the late 1970s, the Grateful Dead was performing regularly at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the legendary outdoor venue they came to regard as “a sacred place.” They played there for the last time in August 1987.
  5. Also in August 1987, the Dead performed two shows in Telluride, despite locals raising concerns about the concerts and the Deadheads descending on the mountain town.
  6. The Dead’s last stadium show in Colorado took place at Mile High Stadium on June 28, 1991, with Santana opening the concert.
  7. The Grateful Dead’s final performances in Colorado took place at McNichols Sports Arena on November 29 and 30 and December 1, 1994. Leader Jerry Garcia would pass away less than a year later on August 9, 1995.

You can find out more about the Grateful Dead and their history at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in Morrison. Check us out online to see how you can visit us!

ALMOST, ALMOST FAMOUS

On the eve of Joe Walsh & Barnstorm’s induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, the 2000 film Almost Famous comes to mind. In the Academy Award-winning film, screenwriter Cameron Crowe expertly shares his experiences as a 15-year-old music journalist on the ‘70s rock scene.

I used to be one of those, too. The movie reflects a lot of what we lived, coming of age when the music business was less corporate and more of a community.

Growing up in Arvada, Colorado, I spent my days listening to the radio, blowing my allowance at the local record shop—and reading Creem magazine and the writing of, among others, the legendary Lester Bangs (played brilliantly in Almost Famous by Philip Seymour Hoffman). I played drums in garage bands, but it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to be playing at Red Rocks anytime soon.

So, I decided to channel my passion for music into writing about it. At age 15, I took a record review to the Arvada Citizen, the suburban weekly newspaper.

The editor was Mark Wolf, soon to be a fine reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, then a 22-year-old fresh out of college. And he decided to print my piece. I don’t think he called the Pulitzer committee, but I know he enjoyed having someone to sit at his feet slackjawed as he spun the story of how he saw the Yardbirds play at an Indiana nightclub while he was still in high school.

A few clippings later, I got up the moxie to contact RCA Records for an interview with the Guess Who, a band I dearly loved. The guys were touring in support of American Woman, their classic album, and I thought Burton Cummings had the most compelling vocal style in the world.

And I was told I could meet Cummings before the Guess Who played at the Denver Coliseum—a prospect that thrilled and terrified me in equal measure.

On that unfathomable day in July 1970, I got dressed and, wanting to make a good impression just like my mom taught me, I put on my brown wool suit, an orange shirt and matching tie. I took my place backstage, pen in one sweaty hand, spiral notebook in the other, and introduced myself.

Cummings was the epitome of rock star cool. Looking back, I’m sure that he must have pulled the road manager aside and said, “Who sent this geek?”

But to his credit, he came back into the dressing room, curled up in a chair and answered my questions, picking his toes the entire time. It taught me a valuable lesson right off the bat, that brilliant musicians weren’t gods—awe-struck elation had to be tempered in journalism.

Who could handle rejection at the tender age of 16? If Cummings had blown me off, I might have never recovered. But he didn’t—and with the zeal of the newly converted, I wanted to interview every rock band that I could.

I started thinking of story angles, an exclusive. I targeted Joe Walsh, who had come to national fame as the lead guitarist for the James Gang. He had left the band and moved to Colorado to start a solo career under the moniker Barnstorm. He was going to play a woodshedding gig at a nightclub on East Colfax.

Chest heaving, I drove to the joint, walked through the door—and was denied further access. You had to be 21—and having just turned 17, I wasn’t going to pass muster.

I asked the bouncer to get word to Walsh that I had tried to contact him. I went back to my car and pondered my next move…and five minutes later, Walsh came out to the parking lot, introduced himself and got into my Dodge Dart. He sat in the passenger seat and answered all of my questions for a half-hour. Then he went back inside, presumably to play a great show.

I was smitten.

I wound up going to journalism school, and I’ve interviewed well over 1,000 musicians. I still wait on them in hotel lobbies and backstage areas, hoping they’ll deign to speak to me. It sounds like nice work if you can get it, and I agree it’s been a blessed existence.

But the writer’s experience is different now. Publicists are paid to keep interviews short and shallow—on occasion, they come up with questions that you’re not allowed to ask. Too often, interviews become pure promotional events, not a chance to reveal anything about the music.

So when I watch Almost Famous, I see a reflection of what got me started in the first place—that the industry, often lost in cynicism, greed and disillusionment, is driven by the love of music.  It’s the heart and soul of what I do.

And it’s time I thank Joe Walsh. When I wasn’t entirely sure if my heart was in it for the long haul, he kept an introverted teenager interested in writing about music.

G. Brown

CMHOF director

A SOULFUL TRAILBLAZER

A Soulful Trailblazer - Greg Allman circa 1975 - Colorado Music Hall of FameThe death of Gregg Allman on May 27 at age 69 brought back memories of the countless Allman Brothers Band shows I attended over the years.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Allmans conjured a mix of virtually every American musical form – blues, country, R&B, jazz and rock – bound by an ethos of soaring concert improvisation. They disbanded, regrouped, splintered into various offshoots and disbanded again before coming back together in 1989 and garnering a new generation of fans.

Gregg Allman was the primary voice and face of the band, and I was lucky enough to spend time in his presence. The last time we spoke was when the 2003 edition of the jam-band progenitors performed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Dickey Betts, who sang and penned many of the band’s trademark songs, had been forced out of the band on the eve of its 2000 summer tour, but the Allmans had found stability. An album called “Hittin’ the Note,” the group’s first release since Betts’ firing, was vintage ABB, and Allman’s world-weary singing had never been better. “High Cost of Low Living” was a cautionary tale of hard living, and Allman still sounded like the best white blues belter around.

“It sure sounds autobiographical,” Allman said. “If the shoe fits… it probably fits a lot of people.”

“Blues is usually about a good man feeling bad about a good woman,” he said. “Or not having any money, or a broken-down car. But the real art of blues is, you’ve got a story about a man that’s hurting, but somehow you inject some humor into it. Muddy Waters was a king of this, if you ask me.”

Allman claimed that Betts’ drinking and drug use interfered with the band’s performance. Cynics had asked if Allman was pot or kettle. He fought an alcohol problem for years and endured a much-publicized drug trial in the 1970s. But at 54, he seemed to have turned a corner.

“Butch (Trucks) and I were leaving (the band) – I had my letter already written out,” Allman said. “Somehow our wives got to talking. I didn’t know he was also leaving. So we got together and he asked me, ‘Are you through with it? Have you done everything you feel like you need to do in this band?’ I said, ‘Not really.’”

The Allmans rocked harder than a band with four AARP-eligible members were expected to. Laurels, they believed, weren’t for resting on.

“We try hard,” Allman said. “It’s weird how things happen and turn around. We landed on our feet.”

“It feels refreshing,” he added. “In the end, you get the same result, but more refined. I think it has to do with maturing. You’re putting a glaze on your art form.”

The last time I saw the Allman Brothers perform, I didn’t see Allman, literally. It was the 2006 pilgrimage to Red Rocks, a two-night package, the last shows of the band’s summer tour. Mother Nature made her statement on the first night. Large rain clouds surrounded the outdoor venue throughout the show, unleashing a long soaking. As temperatures plummeted to the low 40s, conditions started to affect the stage.

The road crew prepared a large steel box structure, then surrounded it with tarps on the sides and on the top, creating a “roof” for Allman and his keyboards. Large holes were cut on the sides so that the players and Allman could retain eye contact. The structure – guitarist Warren Haynes deemed it “the hut” – prevented some audience members from catching sight of Allman at all!

G. Brown

CMHOF executive director

How to Check Out for Good

By Bruce Van Dyke

One of the great cool cats of jammin’ jazz-rock, Col. Bruce Hampton, died on May 1. Not many folks out West knew Hampton or his music, which is a shame because his band, the Aquarium Rescue Unit, was nothing less than extraordinary. Still, Hampton’s swan song on May Day is what deserves a mention here, because it’s a superb example of that great rarity – death as performance art.

Hampton was a fixture in Georgia, so it was all good that his 70th birthday bash took place at the hallowed Fox Theater in Atlanta. It was to be an evening of good times and great music, with members of Widespread Panic, Colorado’s own Leftover Salmon, the Allman Brothers, REM and Phish among the many luminaries and pals who showed up to play and party with Bruce.

Predictably enough, the encore for this event was a superstar mega-jam of “Turn On Your Lovelight,” guaranteed to send everybody home with a happy face.

So “Lovelight” was blazing away with Hampton on vocals, and he introduced a young guitar prodigy named Brandon Niederauer to step up for a solo, and then, Bruce just sort of gently collapsed on stage, face down next to Brandon’s feet.

Everybody there, knowing Hampton was an incurable joker, assumed that he was just kind of screwing around as he lay there while Brandon rocked out. And, of course, he wasn’t. A couple of minutes passed until someone finally figured it out – uh-oh!

By the time the ambulance got to the hospital, Hampton was DOA. But dayam, what a way to go – singing “Turn On Your Lovelight” until, as if on cue, his own lovelight… faded to black!

Kuh-razy! And let’s give the man some credit. I mean, his heart didn’t blow up during the third song of the concert. No, Bruce coolly enough waited until the encore to depart his mortal vessel. Now that’s a pro and how to really check out for good!

 

This month’s guest blogger is Bruce Van Dyke, a legendary radio personality for Denver station KAZY in the late ‘80s. He’s been a columnist for the Reno News & Review since 1993.

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Even in the Not-So-Quietest Moments…

Caribou Ranch’s Legendary Roots

The legendary Caribou Ranch recording studio will be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in August 2017. A veritable who’s who of rock music’s elite was lured to Caribou, located near Nederland, in the 1970s—America, Jeff Beck, Rick Derringer, Earth, Wind & Fire, Dan Fogelberg, Michael Murphey, the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, Rod Stewart, Stephen Stills, War, Frank Zappa, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Joe Walsh, Chicago, Eddie Rabbitt, Sheena Easton…

…and Supertramp. The English rock band’s fifth album, Even in the Quietest Moments..., was released 40 years ago this month and reached #16 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. The band’s crew dragged a grand piano up to a mountaintop at Eldora Mountain Resort (a ski area near Caribou Ranch), covered it with snow and photographed it for the album cover (the sheet music on the piano, though titled “Fool’s Overture,” is actually “The Star-Spangled Banner”).


Frank the cat at Caribou Ranch - CMHOFRoger Hodgson’s opening song, “Give a Little Bit,” became an international hit single for Supertramp. He had written it at age 19 before introducing it to the band years later. And it nearly became the recording debut of Frank, the huge black and white cat that lived at Caribou.

According to engineering assistant Tom Likes (many of his Caribou tales can be read on musicbizsecrets.com), when Hodgson was recording the acoustic guitars for “Give a Little Bit,” he wanted to get a “special” sound. He had the idea to record them in the elevator, which was a hydraulic lift similar to the ones garages use to raise cars. It had a hardwood floor, rather than a huge metal plate, to match the décor of the studio. “There were walls on three sides of it with the front being open,” Likes notes. “Brass gates kept someone from accidentally falling from the second-floor studio to the first floor.”

Hodgson put a chair on the platform, and engineer Peter Henderson ran cables out of the studio onto the platform for microphones and a headset. The elevator was lowered halfway between the floors. “This way the guitars sounded fuller than they did in the acoustically dampened studio. After some experimenting with microphone placement and such, everyone was happy with the sound and we began recording.”

Just as Hodgson was playing the final rhythm for the end of the song, Frank the cat gave out a loud howl that was recorded on the guitar track. When it came time to do the final mixing, there was an argument about whether to include it or not. “Not won out, and that’s why the song fades rather quickly,” Likes explains.

Both “Fool’s Overture” and the title track also got a fair amount of FM album-rock play. Even in the Quietest Moments… was Supertramp’s first album to use Henderson, who would work with the band for their next three albums as well. Frank’s services were not retained.

G. Brown

CMHOF Executive Director

Find more information on Colorado’s music history and visit our inductee page for the legends who have made their mark. Even better, visit us near Denver, CO today!

Remembering Chuck Berry

R.I.P. Chuck Berry, the revolutionary guitarist-songwriter who passed away at 90 on March 18. Berry stood head and shoulders above rock ‘n’ roll’s early stars. The majority of his output was self-penned, and during the second half of the 1950s he added new hits to his repertoire with almost every tour—compositions that gave the explosive new music genre a good deal of its potential and attitude.

Several tunes were written from true-life experiences. “Sweet Little Sixteen,” Berry’s highest-ranking hit of the decade, was inspired after a Denver concert at the Auditorium Arena.

“I wasn’t sweet little sixteen when I wrote it, of course,” Berry recalled when I interviewed him years later.

Berry had embarked on impresario Irving Feld’s “Biggest Show of Stars for ’57” package tour, with Fats Domino, Clyde McPhatter, the Crickets, LaVern Baker and others. The event went through every region of the United States, including some—such as the northern Rocky Mountain states—which had never witnessed live rock ‘n’ roll.

“I happened to open the show this particular date in Denver, and while the other acts were performing, I walked around and signed autographs,” Berry said.

“I noticed that there was this little girl wearing a big, flowery yellow dress running around and around the oval-shaped auditorium. I passed her six or seven times—she was searching for autographs a mile a minute, waving her wallet high in her hand.”

“She never saw one complete act fully, and she didn’t seem to care about who was on stage—she only cared about when they came off so she could get her autographs. And this made me think that she wanted things to remember.”

Berry never got around to speaking with the girl who would serve as his muse for his classic celebration of everything beautiful about fandom. “I wish I could have gotten her name,” he said. “I was writing as I was looking at this kid, and I got several lines of ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ that night.”

“Sweet Little Sixteen,” with pianist Johnny Johnson rocking at top form, sold more than one million copies. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts in March 1958 and topped the R&B chart for three weeks.

G. Brown

CMHOF Executive Director