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The Mission Ballroom

What may be the best live music club in Colorado will have its grand opening on August 7. During its opening weeks, the Mission Ballroom will host everyone from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelia to 2019 multi-Grammy-winning country songstress Brandi Carlile. As the focal point of the new North Wynkoop development in Denver, the Mission Ballroom will feature a unique stage and layout where music fans can experience some of the best sightlines and one of the best sound systems in the country.

Where Is the Mission Ballroom?

AEG took eight years to find the perfect location for a concert venue that would cater to both fans and the touring artists who frequent venues with the capacity of the Beacon Theater in New York City or Austin City Limits’ Moody Theater in Texas. It ended up being in the RiNo neighborhood, in the North Wynkoop development that will include a mixed-use hotel, restaurants, retail and office space, as well as residential units. Once completed, the project will also boast an open pedestrian plaza envisioned as a place for outdoor festivals. But for music lovers, the Mission Ballroom, located at 4242 Wynkoop Street, is the attraction that will hold it all together.

Just a five-minute walk away from RTD light rail’s 38th & Blake Station, it’s also minutes away from access to I-25 and I-70; once completed, the development will have 240 parking spaces in an underground garage as well as abundant bike parking. The entire area will be an exciting destination for locals and out-of-town visitors to Denver.

What Makes It the Place to Be

The Mission Ballroom and its surroundings will be the place to be in late 2019, whether you’re enjoying a concert, a meal or one of the outdoor events that organizers are planning for the future. Inside the Mission Ballroom, performing artists and audience members alike will experience a state-of-the art venue with flexible staging configurations, world-class sound and production, and a house setup that allows anywhere from 2,200 to 3,950 guests. The venue is designed with a tiered layout so that every fan will have an unobstructed view of the stage,

Speaking of the stage, it moves and transforms to create a perfect experience no matter who is playing, and is the first of its kind in Colorado. The Mission Ballroom will allow every artist and act to connect with their audiences on a more personal level because of the tailored stage setup.

Who You Can Expect to See There

The Mission Ballroom will open with a bang, with The Lumineers on August 7. Trey Anastasio Band (founder of the band Phish), Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, and the Steve Miller Band will take the stage in the days following. Also currently scheduled:

  • George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic – August 15
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – August 21
  • Highly Suspect – August 24
  • Flux Pavilion – September 1
  • The National – September 6
  • Maggie Rogers – September 23
  • The Tallest Man on Earth – September 25
  • Brandi Carlile – September 27-29

In addition to hosting a lineup of international artists, the Mission Ballroom’s open layout will provide a perfect space for weddings, trade shows, private events, awards shows, receptions and other special occasions requiring a large space. The dance floor can accommodate displays, exhibits and trade-show tables and booths, as well as decorations that will turn it into a unique space for multiple-use events.

Get Tickets to Your Favorite Events

To learn about all types of music events coming to the state in 2019, contact the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Colorado has some of the best concerts and festivals in the world, with more than 150 shows planned for Red Rocks this summer, as well as other special events ranging from the Five Points Jazz Festival to the Levitt Pavilion Denver concert series. Don’t miss some of the greats that consider Colorado the best place to perform in the country.

Photo Credit: Kenzie Bruce

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Who Is Joe Walsh?

If you’ve ever listened to “Hotel California” and marveled at the incredible guitar solos, you have heard the genius of Joe Walsh and Don Felder improvising together on the iconic 1976 recording. But while Walsh’s time with the Eagles was his longest stint with any one band, his musical career started much earlier.

Joseph Fidler Walsh was born November 20, 1947, in Wichita, Kansas. His mother was a classical pianist who filled their home with music. After his father died in a plane crash, Walsh kept his memory alive by taking his father’s name as his middle name.

Joe Walsh Band Beginnings

Walsh’s family moved around frequently when he was young, landing in such places as Chicago, New York City and Montclair, New Jersey, where he played oboe in high school. Finally ending up in Ohio in his late teens, he attended Kent State University for a short time. He was there at the time of the Kent State Massacre; that and other events prompted him to leave college and focus on music. Walsh soon joined a garage band called The Measles, singing such tunes as “And It’s True” and “I Find I Think of You” as the lead vocalist.

Early in 1968, Walsh auditioned for and got a gig with a four-piece Ohio rock band named James Gang. At a show in Detroit at the Grande Ballroom opening for Eric Clapton’s Cream, the other James Gang guitar player missed the gig.The  three-piece James Gang took the stage and impressed Mark Barger, a local artist manager who connected the band with ABC Records staff producer Bill Szymczyk. That started a long collaboration between Walsh and Szymczyk, who worked with Walsh on James Gang’s hits “Walk Away” and “Funk #49. Shortly after the release of James Gang Live at Carnegie Hall, though, Walsh left the band and headed to Colorado.

Joe Walsh in Colorado

In 1971, Walsh moved to an old mining town in Colorado. He helped organize a new studio near Nederland, and made a deal to record there for almost nothing (it later became the iconic Caribou Ranch Studio). Using revolutionary guitar sounds and recording techniques, including running his guitar through a Leslie organ speaker, Walsh joined with legendary drummer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Vitale and bassist Kenny Passarelli to form Barnstorm. Their 1973 second album under the name Joe Walsh and Barnstorm was titled The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get; it contained the song “Rocky Mountain Way,” which reached #23 on the US Top 40 chart. (Szymczyk worked on that, too.) Some of the other hits recorded and released by Barnstorm include “Mother Says” and “Here We Go.” At Caribou Studios, Walsh also produced Dan Fogelberg’s Souvenirs album, bringing in Graham Nash to sing harmony vocals on “Part of the Plan,” which reached #17 on the 1975 Billboard album chart.

Walsh and his wife, Stefany, had a daughter, Emma, in 1971. When she was three years old, Emma was injured in a car wreck as they were taking her to nursery school, and she eventually passed away from her injuries. The tragedy prompted Walsh to write “Song for Emma,” which he included on his So What album. The title for that album reflected Walsh’s depression over the loss of his daughter. A memorial plaque honoring Emma sits next to a water fountain in North Boulder Park in Boulder, Colorado.

Joe Walsh Leaving Colorado

After his years in Colorado, Walsh joined the Eagles when founding member Bernie Leadon left the band in 1975. During his many years with the Eagles, he recorded such hits as “Hotel California,” “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Life in the Fast Lane,” built off of a Walsh guitar riff. Walsh toured with the band until its first breakup in 1980, then rejoined the Eagles in 1994 when the band returned for the “Long Run” era.

Though the Eagles were a huge success, Walsh also produced solo albums during this time. In 1978, his solo Life’s Been Good reached #12 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Other hits during his solo career included “All Night Long,” “Ordinary Average Guy” and “A Life of Illusion.” Along the way, Walsh made many guest appearances. He appeared on Sonic Highways, the Foo Fighters’ eighth album, and also played a Colorado-inspired “Rocky Mountain Way” on The Voice with Laith Al-Saadi in 2016.

In 1998, the Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, Rolling Stone named Joe Walsh one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” recognizing his incredible music career.

Learn More

To learn more about Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” and to find out when he’ll be in Colorado next, check the Colorado Music Hall of Fame calendar.

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History of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame

Before 2011, efforts to remember and immortalize influential musicians from Colorado in a single music history museum had all failed. Then, in collaboration with former Denver Post journalist Gary “G” Brown, Chuck Morris took on the task of bringing the Colorado Music Hall of Fame to life. Morris’s career as a concert promoter and artist manager had started in 1969; over the years, he’d watched countless musicians from all over the state rise to fame. Morris and Brown envisioned creating an organization that would recognize more than one style or aspect of music. They created the Hall as a nonprofit with the mission of celebrating musicians working in all genres, as well as individuals and organizations that have impacted the scene. For these music enthusiasts, the only limitations were the Colorado state lines.

From a Modest Start to a Permanent Home

With a board of dedicated industry and community leaders and a list of future inductees, Morris reached out to Comfort Dental, a Colorado-based company serving communities throughout the state. With its financial support, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental began the work of preserving and displaying the stories and artifacts of this state’s musical legacy. The Hall presented induction events that celebrated the artists and inductees and educated fans about Colorado’s rich musical heritage. Early Hall exhibits were housed in the 1stBank Center in Broomfield and then, thanks to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor John Hickenlooper, the Hall moved to its permanent home at the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a Denver Mountain Park and one of the world’s best music venues.

Honoring Musicians of Colorado

In 2011, its first year, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental inducted just one musician, Grammy Award-winner John Denver. The other inductee was the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Since then, the Hall has inducted more than 25 individuals, organizations and musicians, including Judy Collins; Firefall; Colorado’s successful surf-rock band, The Astronauts; Flash Cadillac, which appeared in the George Lucas/Francis Ford Coppola movie American Graffiti; the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; Poco; Glen Miller; five-time Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves; Charles Burrell, the classical bassist known as the “Jackie Robinson of classical music” for his work as the first African-American musician to be hired by a national symphony in 1949; and many more. In 2018 the Hall added inductees 97.3 KBCO, the legendary Boulder radio station that is celebrating over forty years on the air and helped create “album-oriented” Triple A radio, and Chuck Morris himself, who is responsible for the success of such artists as Lyle Lovett, Big Head Todd & The Monsters and who, along with Bill Graham’s company, opened the Fillmore Ballroom in Denver. During that celebration, Governor John Hickenlooper received the Barry Fey Visionary Award for his unwavering support for Colorado-based music and musicians.

Exhibits in the Trading Post tell stories about much of the state’s music history in such displays as Jazz Masters, Live and on the Air, 20th Century Pioneers and Rockin’ the 60s. Others are devoted to individual inductees, supported by the artists themselves or their families. For example, John Denver’s wife made generous donations of clothing, instruments and other items from Denver’s personal belongings. The Judy Collins exhibit includes a beautiful dress from the singer and the original lyrics to some of her songs.

Come Celebrate Colorado Music History

With a mission to educate, empower and inspire future musicians in this great state, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental offers an important educational experience. Schools and other organizations can tour the self-explanatory exhibits for free from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; on concert dates during the Red Rocks summer season, the Hall, which is located in the Trading Post just to the east of the main stage, often stays open until 7 p.m. The exhibits, films, and artifacts make learning about Colorado’s musical influences simple and engaging for everyone. Simply drop by the Hall or contact us to schedule a guided visit.

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Red Rocks Amphitheatre Kicks off Another Season

Over the past century, Red Rocks Amphitheatre has become one of the most storied venues not just in the United States, but around the world. Now it’s getting ready to open another chapter as the summer concert season kicks off in April.

Back at the turn of the last century, John Brisben Walker realized that the 200-million-year-old formation of red rocks southwest of Denver provided the ideal acoustic environment for live performances, and began producing concerts there in addition to offering a thrill ride. In 1911, opera singer Mary Garden became the first nationally-recognized act to perform on a makeshift stage at what was then known as the Garden of the Angels. It was not long before the natural amphitheater was recognized as a Natural Wonder of the World.

Later, the City of Denver purchased the property for just over $50,000. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps Works Progress Administration created by then-President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1936 the city began constructing a formal amphitheater in the rocks, along with other buildings.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre was officially dedicated on June 15, 1941. Into the ‘50s, orchestras and opera companies typically performedat Red Rocks. But soon solo artists began appearing more frequently.

The earliest rock performance at Red Rocks? The Beatles in 1964. It was the only venue on the band’s first U.S. tour that did not sell out. Many legendary acts followed. But during a Jethro Tull performance in 1971, an incident between concertgoers and police resulted in a five-year ban on any rock acts performing at Red Rocks.

That ban was lifted well before U2’s renowned show at Red Rocks in 1983. The performance was filmed, and later released as the band’s concert film U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky.

Other acts that have produced CD and DVD material at Red Rocks include the Dave Matthews Band, The Samples, The Moody Blues, Incubus, Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, Boukman Eksperyans and Neil Young. B.o.B., the Zac Brown Band and Train have all filmed music videos at the venue.

Red Rocks’ influence on pop culture extends well beyond music, too. The venue has been featured on episodes of The Simpsons, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Amazing Race and South Park. And with only a few exceptions for weather, Red Rocks has hosted a sunrise service every Easter since 1947.

For Colorado-based acts, performing at Red Rocks has become a rite of passage. John Denver; Earth, Wind & Fire; The Lumineers; OneRepublic; 3OH!3 and Judy Collins have all done shows there.

Over the past decade, the number of shows booked at Red Rocks has tripled, to over 2019 slated for 2019. The season opens on April 13 with Flabbush Zombies/Joey Bada$$; go to redrocksonline.com for the complete schedule.

 

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Hickenlooper Has a Winning Soundtrack for his Campaign

On March 4, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper made it official: He’s running for president. He joined an already crowded Democratic field, but as Hickenlooper’s March 7 kickoff rally at Denver’s Civic Center Park showed, he’s got a winning soundtrack for his campaign.

The rally included performances by local singers SuCh and Mary Louise Lee, and ended with a three-song set by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. 

Hickenlooper was a music fan long before he became a successful brewpub owner, much less a popular politician. And as mayor of Denver and then governor of Colorado, no one did more to support this state’s music scene than John Hickenlooper. 

“I have never known a politician so involved and caring of the Colorado music community as John,” said promoter Chuck Morris, who had to miss the rally because he was at a concert in Uganda with Michael Franti. “When tragedies like the Boulder floods and fires hit, John was there, helping us reach out to artists to come and perform, helping get donations from corporations and literally emceeing and partaking in the events themselves.” At the rally, the former mayor of Jamestown lauded Hickenlooper’s work dealing with the 2013 floods.

In his push to elevate Colorado’s music industry, Hickenlooper did not just respond to emergency requests, though. As mayor of Denver, he helped propel Red Rocks Amphitheatre to its top-tier status, tripling the number of shows at this legendary venue to more than 100 a year. He used property tax discounts to encourage live music downtown, and today Denver rivals Nashville and Austin for the number of spots booking music. He also worked with established organizations like the Colorado Symphony and Swallow Hill so that they landed on solid footing. And certainly, one of his lasting legacies as governor is Take Note Colorado, a statewide initiative he introduced to provide access to musical instruments and instruction to every K-12 student in Colorado.

Hickenlooper’s support of the scene has earned him many fans, including musicians themselves. “Old Crow Medicine Show, The Lumineers, One Republic, The Fray, Bonnie Raitt and Dave Matthews are only a few of the acts that he calls friends, and he is usually seen when they appear in our great city,” Morris added. “My favorite story is when the Denver Art Museum called me to get a band to surprise him when John was awarded the Man of the Year at its 2019 gala. It took five seconds of asking The Avetts to fly all the way from North Carolina and surprise John with a beautiful show to end the evening. The look on John’s face was priceless.  If there is one person who personifies the greatness of Colorado music for the last 25 years, it would be hard to top John Hickenlooper.”

Hickenlooper was honored with the Barry Fey Visionary Award at the December 2018 induction ceremony for the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental. How to top that? Running for president, of course, backed by a winning soundtrack.

 

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Who Was John Denver?

A legendary artist whose love for the state of Colorado shines through the lyrics of his music, John Denver was a creative visionary and one of the most beloved singer-songwriters of his time. His imaginative mind and peaceful spirit still influence millions today through the legacy of his music.

Starting Out in the Music Industry

John Denver was born on New Year’s Eve 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico, as Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.  His father, “Dutch,” was a record-breaking pilot in the United States Air Force, and because he was born into a military family, young John lived in a number of places while growing up. His grandmother gave him his first guitar, and he got his first major break during an audition for the popular Chad Mitchell Trio. Chad Mitchell was leaving the group, and he was chosen as the new lead singer over 250 other hopefuls. Young Deutschendorf started writing songs at an early age and made demos of some of them, including a 1967 song he called “Babe, I Hate to Go.” In 1969, Peter, Paul & Mary, the most popular folk group of that decade, had their first and only No. 1 hit with a cover of Denver’s renamed “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” By then, Deutschendorf had chosen the new professional name of John Denver to honor what he said was his “favorite state, Colorado” and also because the newly named Mitchell Trio could not fit Deutschendorf on the marque. The Mitchell Trio morphed into Denver, Boise and Johnson (Michael Johnson, who wrote “Bluer Than Blue”) and disbanded in 1969.

Success as a Solo Artist

Less than two years later, Denver was zooming up the pop charts with “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” the first of many hits. He soon became a household name with “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” The strength of Denver’s popularity was measured in record sales that few other artists have achieved, including eight platinum albums in the U.S. alone.

A cheerfully optimistic image marked Denver’s 1970s heyday, when he emerged as one of the five top-selling recording artists in the history of the music industry. Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, the couple who co-wrote Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” created the Starland Vocal Band, and the clean-cut, all-American group became the first act signed to Denver’s new Windsong label in 1975; “Afternoon Delight” was Windsong’s first and only No. 1 single.

Collaborations with Other Artists

Denver starred alongside celebrities as diverse as opera singer Beverly Sills, violinist Itzhak Perlman and flautist James Galway. Frank Sinatra was the “Friend” in Denver’s John Denver and Friend television special, and their back-to-back co-billing at Harrah’s Tahoe was one of the most sought-after tickets in the casino hotel’s history. Denver and Placido Domingo recorded “Perhaps Love,” a song written by Denver, as a duet, earning the Spanish tenor considerable recognition outside of the opera world.

Environmentalism and Humanitarianism 

Due to his popularity, John Denver was given a platform to pursue his passions for environmental and humanitarian causes. He founded the Windstar Foundation in 1976 as an education and demonstration center dedicated to the creation of a sustainable future. He was known for his close friendship with Jacques Cousteau, the most famous underseas explorer of the 20th century; he wrote “Calypso” in 1975 as a tribute to Cousteau and his research boat of the same name, which sailed around the world for oceanic conservation.

Denver took his music beyond American shores, traveling to mainland China (where he was the first Western artist to do a multi-city tour) and the Soviet Union (the first time an artist had been invited to give public performances since the cultural exchange agreement expired in 1980), as well as Europe, the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America. His charitable activities included a trip to Africa to publicize the food crisis there, and act as spokesman for UNICEF’s fundraising drive.

Movies and the Muppets

When Denver guest-starred on The Muppet Show, he began a life-long friendship with Jim Henson that spawned two television specials with the Muppets ensemble. Denver’s movie debut alongside George Burns in the comedy Oh God! was a solid hit. He also starred and guest-starred in many television productions, including the seasonal special A Christmas Gift, filmed in the Rocky Mountains in 1986. He guest-hosted The Tonight Show on multiple occasions and hosted the Grammy Awards five times.

Denver was a photography buff for three decades, taking picture of people and places during his many tours around the country and abroad. Denver’s father had taught him how to fly, and their shared passion for flying brought them closer together.  Denver, a licensed pilot, died at the age of 53 when his experimental aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean in October 1997.

John Denver & Colorado Tourism

John Denver’s effect on the world of music is felt the strongest in Colorado, where “Rocky Mountain High” is one of two official state songs. People from all over the world have fallen in love with the images he portrayed of the mountains and countryside surrounding his adopted state, and want to experience some of that beauty in person. John Denver fans can enjoy a variety of landmarks celebrating his life and career, including the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental; Denver was the Hall’s first inductee in 2011.

Visit our website to learn more about the John Denver music exhibit and the musician’s inspiring life, as well as to see upcoming events on the CMHOF schedule for 2019. 

 

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The Lumineers Play at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame

With their rootsy blend of Americana and indie rock, The Lumineers deliver foot-stomping, dynamic live performances that draw crowds to sold-out shows. Their message and authentic passion for the music resonates with audiences around the world, making them one of today’s most beloved, inspiring bands.

Passionate Storytelling

New Jersey natives Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites began collaborating and playing gigs in New York City in 2005. Moving from covers to writing original music, they experimented with various styles while working several jobs just to pay rent. In doing so, they discovered that while New York was a fantastic place to grow creatively, they couldn’t make the time to focus on their music. They moved to Denver in 2006 to explore a more affordable market.

As it turned out, the move to Denver and teaming up with classically trained cellist Neyla Pekarek was the change they needed to kickstart their professional music career. A recent college graduate, Pekarek was planning a career in music education when she took a chance and answered a Craigslist ad for a cellist. Open mic nights allowed the lineup to test new material at such Denver venues as the Meadowlark and Larimer Lounge. In the process, The Lumineers attracted the interest of Onto Entertainment and signed with the management company, which funded the band’s first recording. The eponymous album was produced by Ryan Hadlock at Bear Creek Studio in Seattle, and “Ho Hey” was released as the first single. It was part of the CW’s Hart of Dixie season finale, and a Seattle morning show DJ began playing it twice in a row daily, declaring it the best song of 2012 and fueling a national buzz. The song went on to reach #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Triple A Radio Charts for eight straight weeks, culminating in two Grammy Award nominations in 2013.

In 2016 the band released Cleopatra, and the single “Ophelia” went to #1 on the Triple A Charts for thirteen weeks. After that, The Lumineers embarked on a world tour that included shows with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and U2. Now Schultz and Fraites are working on their third album with new members and an exciting new sound, and the band is poised to become one of Colorado’s most successful acts.

Colorado’s Deep Musical Roots

For more than a century, Colorado has been a mecca for musicians.

Denver’s love affair with music blossomed in the 1920s, at the height of the jazz age with Paul Whiteman. Musicians such as Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker played at the Rossonian Hotel in Five Points, and artists as diverse as Charlie Burrell, guitarist Bill Frisell, Chet Baker, and Frank Sinatra hung out in establishments ranging from El Chapultepec to the Roxy. In the 1960s, bluegrass and folk took center stage, with Judy Collins and the Denver Folklore Center moving into the spotlight. John Denver

found a home in Aspen and artists from Townes Van Zante to Little Feat found an audience at venues like Chuck Morris’s Ebbets Field. Through the years, everything from hip-hop to punk, funk, and country have found a place here. Denver audiences have always been full of passionate, adventurous music lovers. No single style or sound dominates the scene, unlike at many other urban music centers. Artists come to Denver to make great music, so it’s no surprise that The Lumineers found their voice here.

Earning Their Place in the Spotlight

After spending years in local venues, The Lumineers have gone from a hardworking Denver act with incredible talent to an international headliner. On December 3, 2018, the band played at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental induction ceremony for longtime Colorado promoter and artist manager Chuck Morris and 97.3 KBCO. The gala also included performances by Isaac Slade and Ben Wysocki of The Fray, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Billy Nershi from String Cheese Incident, Amos Lee, Leo Kottke, Vince Herman and Drew Emmett from Leftover Salmon, and Big Head Todd & The Monsters with Hazel Miller and Chris Daniels and the Kings. Such diversity is at the heart of Colorado’s music scene. To learn more, visit our website to read about everyone from John Denver to Dianne Reeves, as well as events and inductions coming in 2019.

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Who Is Otis Taylor?

Otis Taylor is a critically acclaimed blues musician whose work speaks to the tragic, haunting legacy of America’s treatment of the disenfranchised, often, specifically, African-Americans. His songs provided emotional resonance in popular movies and hit television shows, and his albums have proved themselves to be a soundtrack to the darkest moments one can experience.

Yet, as he puts it in his official website’s biography, “I’m good at dark, but I’m not a particularly unhappy person. I’d just like to make enough money to buy a Porsche.” Furthermore, before his songs reached critical fame, he achieved a level of local celebrity in Denver, not for the genius of his music, but because, as a teenager, he rode to school on a unicycle while strumming his banjo.

Early Life

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1948, Otis Taylor was only a child when his uncle was shot to death. Seeking to raise their son in a safer environment, his parents moved the family to Denver. There, Taylor fell in love with blues music and the banjo. However, after learning of the racially charged history behind the popularity of the instrument, he developed his guitar and harmonica skills.

As a young man, Taylor toured Europe and North America as a professional musician, and played for a short time with Zephyr, with famed vocalist Candie Givens, and later with the Legendary 4Niktors. In 1977, Taylor stepped away from his passion to become an antique dealer. During this time, he also utilized his experience as a master unicyclist and coached a nationally ranked cycling team.

Music Career

It took until 1995 for Taylor to restart his musical career. He began by playing an intimate show in Boulder, and one year later he released his first album, “Blue-Eyed Monster.” His impactful second album, “When Negroes Walked the Earth,” brought critical acclaim and started a prolific period that saw him produce nine albums from 2001 to 2010, many with the Telarc International.

During this period, he also stretched the definition of blues, originating a fusion genre Taylor dubbed “trance-blues.” This musical form calls for repetitive looping beats that create space for urgent lyrics falling on the darker end of the emotional register.

Taylor brought this genre to the music festival space when he created and performed in the first ever Trance Blues Festival. Staying true to his Colorado roots, the festival plays every year in Boulder.

Over the years Taylor’s deep baritone voice and consistent push for expansion of the blues genera have earned him a number of prestigious accolades including, Down Beat magazine critics’ Poll that named “Taylor’s Truth is Not Fiction” as Blues CD of the Year for 2002 and Living Blues readers’ poll awarded him “Best Blues Entertainer” title in 2004. In 2005, Down Beat named Taylor’s “Double V” as Blues CD of the Year, “Definition of a Circle” as Blues CD of the Year for 2007 and “Recapturing the Banjo” as “Blues CD of the Year, 2008.”

Contact Colorado Music Hall of Fame

For more about Otis Taylor and other Colorado music legends, visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame’s website. As 2018 winds to a close and 2019 are about to begin, keep a close eye on the calendar for future musical events.

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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

aspiring-young-musicians

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!