John Denver


John Denver

The Exhibit Includes:

  • A personalized spring 1978 tour jacket and denim stage outfit from TV Special
  • Denver’s custom-made acoustic guitar and straps
  • A collection of photographs, records highlighting Denver’s career, gold and platinum albums, sheet music, major magazine covers and tour programs
  • Handwritten lyrics from John Denver’s personal notebook
  • An autographed photo to John Denver by his mentor Jacques Cousteau
  • Stills from the movie ‘‘Oh God,’’ in which Denver plays Jerry Landers, who gets a visit from God
  • Images from Denver’s television collaboration with ‘‘The Muppets’’
  • A sampling of his personal photography
  • A bronze bust of Denver
  • Panels detailing his historic shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
  • A personalized tour jacket and stage outfit.
  • Denver’s custom guitar and custom-made guitar straps
  • Photographs, LPs and 45s from Denver’s career, gold and platinum record awards, sheet music, magazine covers and tour programs
  • Handwritten lyrics from John Denver’s personal notebook, plus an autographed photograph of Jacques Cousteau signed to Denver
  • Stills from the movie Oh God and Denver’s television filming with the Muppets, plus a sampling of photography by Denver
  • The exhibit also includes a bronze bust of Denver plus panels detailing his historic shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
  • The Colorado Music Hall of Fame Presented by Comfort Dental honors the life and talents of John Denver as the Hall’s first Inductee in this special exhibit filled with artifacts from his estate’s personal collection.

About John Denver

Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. in 1943, John Denver gained notoriety by beating out 250 others in an audition for the Chad Mitchell Trio. Becoming the lead singer of the famous group catapulted Denver into a successful career in songwriting. His songs became so popular in the folk music industry, that other prominent artists earned No.1 hits for covering Denver’s music – such as the classic “Leaving On A Jet Plane” sung by Peter, Paul and Mary.




His singing and songwriting career took off from there, earning eight platinum albums in the U.S. alone. His lengthy list of hits includes:

  • “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
  • “Rocky Mountain High”
  • “Sunshine On My Shoulders”
  • “Annie’s Song”
  • “Back Home Again”
  • “Thank God I’m A Country Boy”

To this day, ‘‘John Denver’s Greatest Hits’’ remains the best-selling album in RCA Records’ history. His amazing career also included numerous collaborations with some of show biz’s most revered artists, including:

  • Frank Sinatra
  • Beverly Sills
  • James Galway
  • Placido Domingo
  • Jim Henson
  • Activism

John Denver was a major advocate for environmental and social causes. He maintained a close friendship with Jacques Cousteau, the notable undersea explorer who inspired Denver’s work and philanthropy.

He used his fame to create the Windstar Foundation in 1976, an educational center dedicated to sustainability and to bring awareness to the African food crisis in conjunction with UNICEF.

“Spirit” in Colorado

Located outdoors at the Red Rocks Trading Post, the impressive bronze statue of John Denver, guitar slung across his back and an eagle perched on his arm, stands 15 feet tall and weighs 1,500 pounds. It was commissioned by the Windstar Foundation he founded, to honor his symbolic relationship with Colorado. “Spirit” was created by sculptor Sue DiCicco in 2002.

To experience the John Denver Exhibit in person, visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Presented by Comfort Dental, at The Trading Post next to the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Inductee Page


Do you love and appreciate the history of music? Head over to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental, where you get to learn and enjoy the rich history of music in Colorado.

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Poco, Firefall, Manassas, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band


Poco, Firefall, Manassas,
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band



Rusty Young got his musical start in Böenzee Cryque, a Denverbased band that recorded for Uni Records. The double-sided 45 “Still in Love with You Baby” backed with “Sky Gone Gray” went to No. 1 on the hit list of KIMN, Denver’s dominant Top 40 station, in April 1967. On the West Coast, Richie Furay had formed Bualo Springfield with Stephen Stills and Neil Young. His song “Kind Woman” made the Springfield perhaps the first rock band to experiment with a country sound. Furay called his friend from Colorado, Rusty Young, to play pedal steel guitar on the session.



In 1968, with Springfield in disarray, Furay and guitarist Jim Messina quickly set about assembling a band of their own. They recruited Young, who called in two buddies from Colorado—drummer George Grantham, also from Böenzee Cryque, and bassist Randy Meisner, who came from a rival band, the Poor. Poco’s Pickin’ Up the Pieces album debuted in 1969, blending sweet country harmonies with a driving rock beat. Meisner left and later co-founded the Eagles, and Messina slipped into the band’s bass slot until Timothy B. Schmit signed. After Messina split to form a duo with Kenny Loggins, former Illinois Steam Press guitarist Paul Cotton stepped in. Poco made its reputation as an exciting live act, playing hopeful, optimistic music. The 1971 live album, Deliverin’, was its biggest seller of the era.

In 1971, the band members moved to Colorado. While walking down a road to his house near Nederland, Furay wrote one of Poco’s most distinctive compositions—1973’s “A Good Feeling to Know,” with the lyrics “Colorado mountains I can see your distant sky.” Frustrated when the crowd-pleasing track failed to generate the expected commercial success, Furay departed the band.

Poco plugged on, recording such classics as Schmit’s “Keep On Tryin’,” Young’s “Rose of Cimarron” and Cotton’s “Indian Summer.” When Meisner left the Eagles, Schmit quit Poco to take his place; Grantham left to live and work in Nashville. With Legend, Poco’s 12th studio album, Young and Cotton cracked the top of the charts. Young wrote and sang on the surprise hit, “Crazy Love.” Cotton’s “Heart of the Night” was a second Top 20 hit. Young orchestrated a Poco reunion of the five original members in 1989; Legacy contained the Top 20 hit “Call It Love” and earned a gold record. The team of Young and Cotton carried on until 2010. Young, the Colorado native, has remained the only member who has performed at every Poco gig and played on every Poco recording since the band’s inception.

Richy Furay

Richie Furay left Poco in September 1973 to join the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, a supergroup assembled by record mogul David Geen. Furay wrote “Fallin’ in Love,” the group’s sole hit. During the recording of its second album at Caribou Ranch in Nederland, steel guitarist Al Perkins
suggested Furay consider Christianity. Furay became one of the first rock stars to make Christian music for the general market. 1976’s I’ve Got a Reason spent eight weeks on the Billboard pop album chart, and “I Still Have Dreams” reached the Top 40 in 1979.

In 1982, Furay temporarily abandoned music to devote himself to pastoring Boulder’s 150-member Rocky Mountain Christian Fellowship, now Calvary Chapel in Broomfield. The longtime Colorado resident continues to record and perform with the Richie Furay Band.

Inductee Page



Storking a sound that had been smoldering in the rockies, Firefall landed six singles on the top charts between 1976 and 1981.



Singer-songwriter Rick Roberts and guitarist Jock Bartley founded Firefall in the summer of 1974. Roberts had served as a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers from 1970 to 1972, after Gram Parsons left the band. He contributed several compositions to the repertoire—the best-known being “Colorado”—before launching his own career as a solo artist. Bartley had started as a student of jazz guitar great Johnny Smith, a Colorado Springs resident. With a few band stints around the Denver/Boulder area under his belt, Bartley took over the lead guitar post of Tommy Bolin in Zephyr in 1971. The following year, he switched over to Gram Parsons’ band, the Fallen Angels (which also featured Emmylou Harris) and met Roberts, whose touring schedule with the Burritos often overlapped that of Parsons. Mark Andes, the founding bassist of the bands Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, joined with Bartley and Roberts, who began an informal series of jam sessions at his home in Boulder. Roberts thought of a fourth participant he’d met in Washington, D.C., singer-songwriter Larry Burnett. At Chris Hillman’s suggestion, the band added drummer Michael Clarke, an original member of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

The break came when Roberts, Bartley and Andes toured as Hillman’s backup band. Hillman fell ill during a date at the Other End in New York, and the club owner accepted a proposal to bring Burnett and Clarke into town. Firefall finished out the engagement, and Atlantic Records was sold on the band. By January 1976, the group had completed recording a debut album with producer Jim Mason, who blended the group’s acoustic guitars, mellow pop melodies and vocal harmonies. A sixth member, David Muse,
joined the ranks on keyboards, synthesizers, flute, tenor sax and harmonica.

Firefall reached platinum status, and the singles ”You Are the Woman,” “Livin’ Ain’t Livin’” and “Cinderella” together sold in excess of one million copies. Firefall notched more hits—“Just Remember I Love You” and “Strange Way”—and two more best-selling albums in the late 1970s, Luna Sea and Elan. The band’s heady time culminated in an opening slot for Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” tour in 1977, including a hometown Folsom
Stadium gig before 61,500 Coloradans. Lineup changes followed, and the band ran out of chart momentum. Bartley has continued to tour with the Firefall name. The song “You Are the Woman” has been played on American radio more than six million times.

Jim Mason

came out of the folk tradition, co-writing “I Dig Rock-N-Roll Music,” a Top 10 hit for Peter, Paul & Mary, and co-producing Paul Stookey’s classic “Wedding Song (There Is Love).” His work with harmonizing folkies drew the attention of country-rockers, and in 1972 he came to Boulder to produce Poco’s A Good Feelin’ to Know album. Mason stayed to produce gold and platinum recordings for Firefall, and albums for Chris Hillman, Richie Furay and a diverse range of Colorado acts such as Woody & the Too High Band, Chris Daniels and Jim Salestrom. Mason’s career awarded him the opportunity to work in Abbey Road Studios in London. From 1989 to 1998 he was a music business instructor at the Colorado Institute of Art, University of Colorado-Denver and Swallow Hill Music Association.

Inductee Page



Lighting out from hte supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the 1970s, Stephen Stills found his muse – and inspired musicians – in Colorado.



Stills posed outside his cabin near Gold Hill in Boulder County for the cover photo of his first solo album. It was September 20, 1970, the morning after he received the news of the death of his friend Jimi Hendrix. Stills wrote songs for his second solo album that winter while in Colorado; he named his publishing company after Gold Hill. After watching the Flying Burrito Brothers play the Boulder nightspot Tulagi, Stills posited that Chris Hillman, then the Burritos’ lead singer and driving force, and guitarist Al Perkins should quit their band and join him.

Stills had been visualizing a group that would bring together rock, folk, Latin, country and blues. He also retained several members of his touring band—Dallas Taylor on drums, bass player Fuzzy Samuels, keyboardist Paul Harris and percussionist named Joe Lala. When the Stills-Burritos amalgam—dubbed Manassas— congregated in the studio, something clicked. The 1972 debut double-LP Manassas, featuring the singles “It Doesn’t Matter” and “Rock & Roll Crazies,” peaked at #4 on the charts. On stage, Manassas gained fame for its nearly three-hour shows with an opening rock set, followed by Stills playing solo acoustic, Hillman and Perkins playing bluegrass, and the band then returning for country, more rock and an acoustic finish. After touring, Hillman took several weeks away to record a reunion album with the Byrds, his pre-Burritos band. Manassas then regrouped.

A second album, Down the Road, was completed at James William Guercio’s Caribou Ranch in Nederland, Colorado. It peaked at #26 on the Billboard charts, and “Isn’t It About Time” reached #56 on the singles charts. Hillman made a future commitment to the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (which would include Perkins, Harris and Lala), and Stills regrouped with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for sessions that were ultimately aborted. When Stills reassembled Manassas, he hired bassist Kenny Passarelli of Joe Walsh’s Colorado-based band Barnstorm

Following the last shows of its late fall 1973 tour, Manassas announced its breakup. Stills spent a few years working with Donnie Dacus, a guitarist who played an integral role in the making of Stills’ next two albums. Many recording sessions for Stills and Illegal Stills took place at Caribou Ranch.


An original member of the Byrds, left with Gram Parsons to develop acoustic country sounds in the Flying Burrito Brothers. The group had undergone many personnel changes when Stephen Stills oered him a partnership in the formation of Manassas. Moving to Colorado, Hillman co-wrote songs and contributed vocals and instrumental versatility. When Manassas broke up, Hillman produced his Burrito bandmate Rick Roberts’ second solo album, She Is a Song. He then joined forces with J.D. Souther and Richie Furay in the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band; the group recorded two albums and toured nationally before splitting up in 1975.

Back in Colorado, Hillman prepared his first solo album, Slippin’ Away, which reached #152 on the charts. He then produced the demos that led to Roberts’ band Firefall landing a recording contract; he also manned the board for former Dusty Drapes & the Dusters member Dan McCorison’s self-titled solo album.

Inductee Page


Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

A move to Colorado triggered The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s rise in both commercial and creative stature.



Coming out of the fluid California scene of the late 1960s, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band hit upon a unique Americana style. The thread of Je Hanna and Jimmy Ibbotson’s acoustic guitars and brother-like harmonies, John McEuen’s string wizardry, Jimmie Fadden’s utilitarian prowess, and Les Thompson’s mandolin rounded out the sound. At shows at Denver’s Marvelous Marv’s nightclub in early 1970, the band played to enthusiastic crowds.

In 1971, the band left Los Angeles to relocate in the Colorado mountains, the members settling into their respective wooded communities. Success arrived with their fifth album, Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy; Hanna’s take of Jerry Je Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” made the Top 10 pop charts. The new Colorado residents went to see traditional country music icons Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson perform at Tulagi in Boulder on consecutive weeks. They both consented to take part in recording a selection of traditional country numbers, with the band allowing the spotlight to fall on the old masters who had greatly influenced them. The resulting album, Will the Circle be Unbroken—an unprecedented, groundbreaking three-LP set, recorded two-track life, with no mixing or overdubs— elicited appreciation from both rock and country listeners. It even earned a gold album, the first for Scruggs, Watson, Maybelle Carter, Jimmy Martin, Roy Acu, and others. The circle was ultimately inducted into the Library of Congress as “one of America’s most important recordings.”

In 1977, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band became the first American group selected by the Soviet government to tour the USSR. The band spent a month in Russia, Armenia, Georgia, and Latvia playing to sold-out audiences, with an estimated 145 million people tuning in to the group’s one-hour performance on Moscow Television. The following years saw members come and go. Bob Carpenter, based in Aspen with the band Starwood, became an invaluable addition on keyboards and vocals. The back-to-back hits “Make a Little Magic” and “An American Dream” with Linda Ronstadt was released under the name the Dirt Band.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was recast as a country act, eventually scoring 17 consecutive Top 10 country songs. “Colorado Christmas,” recorded in 1983, has remained a radio staple around the holidays. In 1986, a 20-year anniversary concert at McNichols Arena in Denver was a sell-out, with guests such as Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, John Prine and others. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band continues to record and tour, and Hanna, Fadden, Carpenter and McEuen will celebrate “50 Years of Dirt” in 2016.

Steve Martin

Steve Martin learned the banjo with help from high school friend John McEuen, and the instrument became a staple of the young comic’s stand-up career. Martin performed at Tulagi in Boulder and Ebbets Field in Denver, and then discovered the charms of Aspen and rented a home. By 1978, the Colorado transplant had earned the level of commercial success reserved for rock stars. The second side of his comedy album A Wild and Crazy Guy was recorded at Red Rocks Amphitheatre; it reached #2 on the Billboard pop albums chart, was certified double platinum and won a Grammy. A Wild and Crazy Guy contained the novelty single “King Tut,” performed by Martin and the Toot Uncommons, actually Je Hanna and others from the Nitty Gritty
Dirt Band camp. Produced by William McEuen at his Aspen Recording Society
studio, “King Tut” sold over a million copies.

Inductee Page


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Luthiers of Colorado


Luthiers of


Pogreba guitar

The art of stringed instrument restoration, repair, and building.
“Lady’s Butt” electric
Larry Pogreba doesn’t do many custom orders, preferring to offer his experiments for sale. His original instruments look and sound like nothing else. His flamboyantly welded aluminum body resonators—lightweight, with the cone cover of vintage auto hubcaps—have been coveted by Bonnie Raitt, Keb’ Mo’, Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Darrell Scott and many other top players. As a fine-arts student in the late 1960s, Pogreba built guitars as a hobby and shifted into making knives. He got back into guitar building full-time in the early 1990s, creating nearly 300 guitars. Most of his wood was salvaged in Central America from stumps and tops left by loggers or fire- and hurricane-damaged trees. Whimsy comes standard with every Pogreba instrument and defines his many other inventions, such as a long-range cannon that fired bowling balls that he developed while sequestered in Colorado.



Fletcher Guitar

“Ripple Creek OM”
The Ripple Creek acoustic guitar is built entirely out of Colorado native products. Paul Fletcher began a study of wood species native to pre-1850 Colorado (prior to European settlement) more than six years ago and standing dead varieties (including 2,000-year-old bristlecone pine) were gathered from various locations. Fletcher re-sawed milled and cut the logs to hand-build the instrument that takes its name from Ripple Creek Lodge in Meeker. It was there he harvested two quarter-sawn plates from the base log of the same Englemann spruce that had gone to Washington, DC to become the 2012 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. Fletcher used the wood to fashion the top of the OM.

DW Stevens Guitar

“70 PRO arch top”
An Arvada High School graduate (class of 1961), Denny Stevens began building guitars during his teenage years. Preferring to have his referrals generated by word-of-mouth rather than self-promotion, he apologetically declined interview requests and turned away apprenticeships. He designed and built custom instruments for his clients, his waiting list sometimes exceeding five years. Stevens specialized in arch top instruments and made flat top guitars as well. In 1991, he designed and built the double-neck 14-string guitar dubbed a “guitjo.” Stevens’ life was cut short by ALS in 2009.

Krimmel Guitar

Nederland artist Max Krimmel’s career as an instrument builder began circa 1965 with a Denver Folklore Center course in guitar making (“Build Your Own Peach Box Guitar”). He built 169 instruments between 1965 and 1982, bought by such clients as Jerry Jeff Walker, Stephen Stills, David Bromberg, the Kingston Trio’s Bob Shane and Colorado favorites Judy Roderick, Carla Sciaky, Mary Flower, Chuck Pyle and Krimmel’s partner Bonnie Carol. Jazz guitarist Al Di Meola and the group Supertramp used Krimmel guitars on albums recorded at Caribou Ranch. Made in 1980, “#150” has the full “Style 45” treatment (the top of the Martin line), distinguished by abalone shell and mother-of-pearl inlay everywhere and a bridge constructed of solid ivory. The sides and back are Brazilian rosewood; the top is German spruce.

Fleishman Guitar

“Morning Glory”
Harry Fleishman has built unique custom guitars since 1973, when he established Fleishman Instruments in Denver, and then Boulder, Colorado. His research and experiments in asymmetric design, multi-soundport and multi-tonewood instruments, as well as electric upright basses, have influenced many craftsmen. Fleishman is active on many professional fronts. He teaches focused workshops at Luthiers School International and formerly directed the American School of Lutherie. He has pioneered designs of guitars and basses for leading guitar companies in the U.S. and internationally.

NBN Guitar

Founded in Longmont, Colorado by craftsmen Monty Novotny, Reb Bennett and Bernie Nettesheim, NBN built custom guitars from 1969 to 1976 for such notables as James Taylor, Leo Kottke, Stephen Stills, Peter Yarrow, Paul Simon and the members of the Colorado band Magic Music. The NBN “R-2,” made in 1971, was one of three instruments fashioned for Chris Daniels. NBN’s basic steel string guitar line consisted of three grades of ornamentation; the second style was offered in rosewood (as well as mahogany), hence the model name.

Bashkin Guitar

“OM model”
A lifelong scientist, teacher and student of wood, Michael Bashkin mastered the substance during his graduate studies in forestry at Colorado State University, his post-graduate research at Duke University and his subsequent years teaching tropical forestry in Belize. In 1996, he opened Bashkin Guitars in Fort Collins, Colorado. Working with exotic woods and a unique set of guitar designs that he has developed, he builds acoustic instruments for guitar players throughout the U.S. and around the world. The 2015 OM model has a Carpathian spruce top and Indian rosewood back and side.


OME banjo

“Parrot” Grand Artist Megatone

Chuck Ogsbury came to the art and craft of lutherie in 1960 as an engineering student at the University of Colorado, sand-casting aluminum banjo rims to produce the first 100 ODE long neck banjos in his parents’ Boulder garage. By 1965 he had produced over 2,000 ODE banjos, ranging from basic aluminum pot long necks to fancy bluegrass and jazz models. After selling his small company, in 1971 he started another, OME, which improved the instrument in design, construction and tone. He and his team (daughter Tanya is carrying on the family tradition with builders Rich Sharples, Gustavo Silva and Jose Prado) have made more than 6,000 banjos, with the quality of the designs expanding to include handmade models of every imaginable style. The “Parrot” bluegrass banjo also features the work of Colorado artisans: The wood carvings and inlay engravings are by Ron Chacey of Pagosa Springs and Kent Bailey of Florissant; the metal engraving is by Tim Gabriella of Marshall.


Woodsong’s Lutherie

Jon Eaton, a graduate of the Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie, opened Woodsong’s Lutherie in Boulder in 1981, running a one-man shop for the first ten years. To handle the demands of local and touring musicians, the staff of craftsmen has grown steadily to include Eaton, Mike Stephens, Matt Bergdorf, Greg Nichols, Ian Hendrick, Mike Davis and Jonathan Scott. The team brings 97 years of combined experience to its trade and annually repairs an average of 5,000 instruments.




…for precisely detecting the pitch of musical notes



…for accurately setting fret positions on the fingerboard


…for cutting slots for frets


…to carve inlay material



…for rounding or crowning leveled frets



…for checking the fretboard radius


…for cutting varying string size grooves in the nut


…for assessing and adjusting neck straightness or relief, as well as determining top lift behind the bridge


…for measuring proper length, for a new violin sound post


…to gauge fret height and width in thousandths of an inch, as well as determining precise dimensions of various materials

Bonnie Carol

dulcimer “#309”

Bonnie Carol learned to build dulcimers from her partner, Colorado luthier Max Krimmel. She created 328 instruments between 1972 and 2004, after which she collaborated on another 125 with Krimmel. Carol was one of the first to use Schaller geared tuners instead of the traditional friction pegs. Construction of each dulcimer is different, guided by a particular piece of wood as well as artistic and acoustic design considerations. An early Carol dulcimer, “#104,” has gone to the Smithsonian Institution American History Museum as part of the Ann Grimes dulcimer collection. In 1999, Carol finished “#309,” which she constructed using curly koa wood from Hawaii and features rosewood bindings, engraved mother-of-pearl inlays in the fingerboard and rosewood leaf sound holes.


Do you love and appreciate the history of music? Head over to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental, where you get to learn and enjoy the rich history of music in Colorado.

Plan Your Visit

Keep music history alive! Shop at Colorado Music Hall of Fame.


Lannie Garrett



For Four Decades…

Singer and entertainer Lannie Garrett has brought happiness to the Denver music scene.

At age 22, Garrett arrived in Colorado, her first stop on a purposely undefined emigration to the West. While waiting to establish residency for tuition purposes, she met Denver club singer Ron Henry and told him to call her if he ever needed a singer. He did, and she eventually proved herself to the eager young musicians in town, many of whom backed her over the years.

Garrett performed at a cabaret in Larimer Square and was named Favorite Female Vocalist several years in a row by The Denver Post readers. She garnered the same recognition with readers of 5280 Magazine and the gay community’s Outfront.
The Colorado Symphony Orchestra accompanied her for a concert, and she appeared in nightclubs nationally and recorded a half-dozen albums.



Garrett operated Ruby, a club on 17th Avenue, and spent a decade as the house entertainer at the Denver Buffalo Company. In 2006, she realized the dream of owning her own venue, opening Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret beneath the D&F Tower downtown, hosting top local and national talent. Garrett took to the stage herself with

a succession of themed shows, from fronting her “AnySwing Goes” big band as a sequined chanteuse to bringing her comedy chops to the “Patsy DeCline Show,” her campy country music spoof.

Garrett also created the George Gershwin tribute “’S Wonderful”; “Screen Gems: Songs from the Movies”; “Great Women of Song”; “The Chick Sings Frank: A Tribute to Sinatra”; “A Slick Chick on the Mellow Side,” her 1940s jazz and jump show; “Beatles to Bacharach: Songs and Stories”; “The Platforms and Polyester Disco Revue”; and “Under Paris Skies,” influenced by gypsy jazz.

Do you love and appreciate the history of music? Head over to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental, where you get to learn and enjoy the rich history of music in Colorado.

Plan Your Visit

Keep music history alive! Shop at Colorado Music Hall of Fame.


20th Century Pioneers


20th Century

Billy Murray

Pop music is among the most popular and widely loved genres of the industry. From Bruno Mars to One Republic pop is King, or Queen if you are talking about Taylor Swift. The international acclaim and success of pop artists all over the world can trace its roots to humble beginnings back as far as the rise of the popular songs of Stephen Foster in the mid 1800s and minstrel shows that led to Vaudeville. Early in the 20th century the advent of the 1877 Edison “talking machine” saw an entire revolution in the music industry that was similar to our era’s digital revolution and internet. Pioneers of that time came from all over the country including Colorado. In 2016 The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental inducted one of these iconic pioneers by the name of Billy Murray (no relation to the Saturday Night Live actor).



Billy Murray was one of the most prolific and iconic singers in the United States. He was born on May 25th, 1877 (the same year Edison invented the “talking machine”), in Philadelphia to Patrick and Julia Murray who were immigrants from Ireland. His parents moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1882, where Billy grew up.


As a kid, Billy, fell in love with theatre. His passion and enthusiasm for the performing arts drove him to join a traveling troupe in 1893, performing in minstrel shows and later Vaudeville shows across the country. In 1897, Murray made his first recording for Peter Bacigalupi who owned a popular phonograph company in San Francisco. Seeking to perfect his art, he endeavored to record regularly in New York and New Jersey where major recording companies were based.

Murray performed with some of the most famous names of the time, such as Ada Jones and the Premier Quartet among others. Billy’s unique musical style combined comedy and a romantic touch that won the hearts of audiences all over the country. Nicknamed “The Denver Nightingale,” his clear vocal intonation with high-quality – crystal clear enunciation, combined with his loud “theater voice,” made his style even more attractive to early recording studios who did not have electronic microphones until the 1920s.

Murray recorded everything from Broadway musicals and “comic fare” to sentimental ballads and topical pieces. His popularity spread with the popularity and sale of early record players and his clear vocal style (described as “hammering”) became a “standard” adopted by early singers of the era. His hits included K-K-K-Katy and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

With the invention of the electronic microphone Murray’s musical style had to change to adapt to the transition. He adjusted to a softer and smoother sense of style. In addition, he ventured into recording dialogues for film cartoons and stories. He became the voice for several animated cartoons including the iconic “follow the bouncing ball” sing-along cartoons and the Fleischer Studios character Bimbo. Murray continued to work throughout the 1930s making his last recordings for Beacon Records in 1943 with Jewish dialect comedian Monroe Silver.

Personal Life

Billy Murray retired to Freeport, Long Island in 1944. He died ten years later at the age of 77 in Jones Beach. Murray married three times, the first two ending in divorce, and he was survived by his third wife, Madeleine. He is buried in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, New York but he was always known as the “Denver Nightingale.” On April 16th, 2016, he was inducted to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame for his widely acknowledged contributions to the record and entertainment industry.

Inductee Page


Elizabeth Spencer

The preservation of musical history is an important part of our mission. Early pioneers of the music industry laid the foundation for what’s become our modern music tradition and industry. Due, in part, to these contributions the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Presented by Comfort Dental recognizes the musicians, institutions and individuals that left their mark on our music heritage. One such iconic pioneer is Elizabeth Spencer.



Born in 1871 to Julia and Col. John M. Dickerson, Elizabeth was the youngest of four siblings. Following the sudden and tragic death of her father, her mother married Col. William Gilpin in 1874. They moved to Denver where Elizabeth received vocal training and play various musical instruments, including the violin and the piano. Because of her passion and love for music, she performed in various local venues and churches when she had the opportunity.


Her iconic and powerful soprano voice, said to have a “sterling operatic quality combined with the ability to sing in the vernacular,” led to a 1905 opportunity for a performance at Denver’s Orpheum Theatre and then to additional roles on Broadway. She moved to New York in 1910 where Thomas Edison gave her an exclusive recording contract and signed her to his recording company. During this period, she performed both as a soloist and in various duets, trios and choruses with well-known artists of the era.

Personal Life

Elizabeth Spencer married Otis Spencer, an attorney with the justice system and they lived in Montclair, New Jersey, until her death in 1930 at the age of 59.

Elizabeth Spencer was inducted into the Hall

Elizabeth Spencer was inducted into the Hall in 2016 in a celebration held at the Gelnn Miller Ballroom at the University of Colorado in Boulder along with other early 20th Century Pioneers like Paul Whiteman and Glenn Miller. You can learn more about the rich history of Colorado music, musicians and the music industry and the contributions made by various pioneering artists at www.CMHOF.org

Inductee Page


Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller is a legendary Colorado musician and bandleader whose signature big-band sound and life story is still with us today. From the blockbuster movie starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson to his unequaled recorded of 23 number-one hits in just four years, more than Elvis Presley or the Beatles, Miller’s phenomenal recording success include “In the Mood”, “Moonlight Serenade”, “Pennsylvania 6-5000”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, “A String of Pearls”, “At Last”, “(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo”, “American Patrol”, “Tuxedo Junction”, “Elmer’s Tune”, and “Little Brown Jug” to name only a few.


Early Life

Glenn Miller was born on March 1st 1904 to Mattie Lou and Lewis Elmer Miller in Clarinda, Iowa in the southwestern part of the State. The family moved to Nebraska and then Missouri. Along the way Miller found music as a constant in his life, playing mandolin, cornet and switching to trombone in 1916.Miller’s family moved to Fort Morgan, Colorado in 1918 where he played football and was named the “Best Left End in Colorado” on his high school team that won the Northern Colorado American Football Conference Championship in 1920. It was here that he would begin to develop his love for what was called “dance band music” the EDM of its era. In 1923 Miller enrolled in the University of Colorado with the intention of becoming a successful musician. Because dance music was his first love, he spent much of his college years playing gigs with the Boyd Senter’s band in Denver. He spent so much time performing that he had to drop out of CU but he kept perfecting his style and sound studying the “Schillinger technique” of arrangement with Joseph Schillinger, and that became part of his signature theme in “Moonlight Serenade.”


After leaving CU Miller signed on with the Tommy Watkins orchestra where he played for a few years. Like many musicians from the West of the time he gravitated to Los Angeles and Chicago with Ben Pollack where he was a featured soloist and he also played with Red Nichols, and Paul Ash and in the Broadway pit bands for shows like “Strike Up the Band” and “Girl Crazy” where he worked with Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa. In the mid-1930s Miller got a gig as a trombonist, arranger, and composer in The Dorsey Brothers. Miller composed several songs for the brothers whose tumultuous relationship is the stuff of legend. Miller appeared in his first movie in 1935. The YouTube/MTV of the era it was a Paramount Pictures release called “The Big Broadcast of 1936.” Miller was a member of the Ray Noble Orchestra performing “Why Stars Come Out at Night” and the movie featured Bing Crosby, the Bruno Mars of his time. In 1941 Miller and the band became a central part of the story in “Sun Valley Serenade,” that featured comedian Milton Berle and Dorothy Dandridge.

Miller began working on his “signature sound,” a way of arranging call-and-response swing using the clarinet and saxophone section as a single leading harmonized voice with trumpet and trombone counterpoint, that would land him his first major recording contract with Victor’s Bluebird label in 1938. Those records, “Little Brown Jug” and “In the Mood,” alongside his classic “Moonlight Serenade,” along with “Chattanooga Choo Choo” sold well over one million copies and Miller received the first-ever gold record ever awarded to a recording artist in 1942. That same year Miller joined the service to aid the war effort. He formed and led a number of ‘hit’ bands including the AAF Orchestra-that recorded songs with American singer Dinah Shore at the famed Abbey Road studios in London. General Jimmy Doolittle famed for his B-25 bomber raid on Japan said, “next to a letter from home, that organization was the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations.” Miller was killed when his plane went down in the English Channel on December 15, 1944. While several theories were put forward as to the reason for his disappearance, modern analysis indicates it was due to a design flaw in the carbonator of the UC-64 that could not withstand severe icing conditions.

Glenn Miller was arguably

the most popular bandleader and musician of the big-band era and credited with more hits than Elvis. We were thrilled and induct him, and to have The Glenn Miller Orchestra perform at his induction into the Colorado Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental. Make sure to visit the Hall at the Trading Post at Red Rocks to learn more about Glenn Miller (alongside other musicians) and the rich history of music in Colorado.

Inductee Page


Max Morath

Max Morath was born at the end of the Ragtime Era on October 1, 1926. Max’s mother left their Iowa home soon after, arriving in Colorado Springs with a piano bench filled with the tunes that Max says were his early influences. The syncopation and blue-harmonies that influenced the likes of Gershwin and Copeland fueled his passion for the music and earned him the nickname “Mr. Ragtime.”



Morath received a Bachelor’s degree in English that helped him in his work on screenplays, radio, and television writing that dominated his various careers in entertainment. From 1959 to 1961 Max wrote, performed, and produced two syndicated programs backed by KRMA in Denver. These two programs, The Ragtime Era and Turn of the Century, were aired on stations that were the predecessors of modern PBS stations and network. During those years, he created 26 half-hour programs that brought Ragtime to audiences who were rediscovering the music through the Newport Folk Festival, and later because of the music of Scott Joplin featured in the 1973 movie, “The Sting.”

While working in radio, Max played regularly at the Gold Bar Room in Cripple Creek, and it became his home away from home until he left for New York City in 1963. There, Max formed his own band, the Original Rag Quartet, and they played colleges and nightclubs all across the US.

In the mid-60s, Morath created a one-person show and took it on tour, “Max Morath at the Turn of the Century.” With the success of that show, he created three additional shows, “The Ragtime Years,” “Living a Ragtime Life,” and “The Ragtime Man.” Between tours, Max worked on and earned his Master’s degree in American Studies, and he and his wife published a book. “Max Morath: The Road to Ragtime” featuring extensive photographs documenting his travels through the years.

In 1982, Morath wrote and produced musical revue entitled “One for the Road.” It was a mixture of comedy and commentary that explored American culture including our changing attitudes about drugs and alcohol. Max co-wrote the screenplay for “Blind Boone” that won first place for a music-inspired drama at the 2015 Nashville Film Festival.

Even though Morath stopped touring in 2007,

he remained active in publishing and as a contributor to publications and performances on the culture and music during the days of ragtime.

Max is part of the exhibit at the Red Rocks Trading Post where you can learn more about the incredible heritage of our state at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Presented by Comfort Dental.


Paul Whiteman

legacy is often considered both incredibly noteworthy and also controversial. He was the leader of one of the most successful orchestras in the US and around the world in the 1920s and early 1930s. He was dubbed the “King of Jazz” during that time. Historians and critiques have noted that he played almost no actual “Jazz” in the time of Armstrong, Ellington, Henderson, Goodman, and others. Consequently, the “Whiteman – King of Jazz” label is seen as problematic in retrospect. Despite that reevaluation of our country’s music and history, nothing can take away from the incomparable success of his entertainment career. And Ellington himself declared, “Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one, as yet, has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity.”


Born in Denver on March 28, 1890, his father was the Director of Music for Denver Public Schools. Whiteman began studying the viola while in high school. In his early years after high school, he joined the Denver Symphony as first chair, did a stint with the San Francisco Symphony, and led a large Navy band during WWI.

By 1918, Paul formed the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Whiteman worked with both black and white musicians, though the era of segregated bands would not end until Benny Goodman began working with Lionel Hampton and Charlie Christian. Whiteman found some of the best players in the country and took his Colorado and San Francisco bandmates to New York City. For the next four years, his group became one of the most popular dance bands of the era. Declared by critiques and fans of that era as one of the first West Coast dance-bands to make a name for itself on the East Coast, Whiteman made the first iconic recording of “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin.

By 1924, his band included 35 members and was the first to include both full brass and full reed sections. Paul’s ensemble was also the first of its kind to tour Europe. It was during this time that the Paul Whiteman Orchestra broke new ground and played Aeolian Hall. This venue was noted for its classical music, yet fans and critiques of the day were over-the-moon by Paul’s combination of symphonic orchestrations and jazz influences. And it was there that Gershwin introduced his famous “Rhapsody in Blue,” which became Paul’s theme song.

In 1926, Paul began working with a trio they called the “Rhythm Boys.” One of the members of the trio, Bing Crosby, would later reach international super-star status. During the 1920’s, Paul Whiteman recorded 28 number one records. In 2006, his version of Ol’ Man River was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The “Great Depression” proved catastrophic for many of the 1920’s dance-bands, and Paul’s band lost several key members due to lack of venues and promoters who could pay Whiteman enough to keep the group together. By the early 1940’s, Paul’s days as million-selling orchestra leader had virtually ended.

But Paul’s career did not end with the coming of WWII. He spent time as a disc jockey and later worked in the early days of television. In addition to his many guest appearances on various shows, Paul Whiteman spent the summer of 1955 filling in for Jackie Gleason. In the 1960’s, Paul discovered his love of sports car racing and spent time promoting the sport in both Florida and California.

Paul Whiteman died

in Pennsylvania in 1967 at the age of 77. His music, recordings, and legacy live on, and to this day he is considered one of the first of the mega-star bandleaders like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Duke Ellington.

To learn more about the greats that shaped not only Colorado but the world of music in general, visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Presented by Comfort Dental.

Inductee Page


Do you love and appreciate the history of music? Head over to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental, where you get to learn and enjoy the rich history of music in Colorado.

Plan Your Visit

Keep music history alive! Shop at Colorado Music Hall of Fame.


Backstage Past



The Photos of George Kealiher, JR.

Over 60 never-before-seen photos of Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and more are on view in “Backstage Past: The Photos of George Kealiher, Jr.”

Kealiher spent his youth working at the Rainbow Ballroom near 5th & Lincoln in Denver, one of the best known dance halls west of the Mississippi from its opening in 1933 to its closing in 1961. His relationship with the Rainbow management allowed him—and his camera—backstage when they booked national acts at the newly constructed Denver Coliseum, which started operation in 1952. Before passing away in January 2016, Kealiher bequeathed a shoebox filled with photos to his volunteer caregivers, John and Lisa Ferreira, who donated the collection of snapshots to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.



Spearheaded by a young Elvis Presley, country music transitioned to rockabilly between 1956 and 1958. National acts booked into the Denver Coliseum mirrored this trend, as performers from the Louisiana Hayride, the Grand Ole Opry and Ozark Jubilee showcased their talents in the Mile High City.

Among them, as represented in the exhibit: Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, George Jones, Faron Young, Wanda Jackson, Don Gibson, Ernest Tubb, Minnie Pearl, Lefty Frizzell, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Ray Price, Kitty Wells, Porter Wagoner, Little Jimmy Dickens, the Louvin Brothers and a young Johnny Cash before he became the Man in Black.

In 1956, after two years of recording blues and country songs in a small Memphis studio and playing backwater Southern towns, Presley exploded onto the American entertainment scene. The newly crowned “king of rock ‘n’ roll” performed in every region of the United States, including some—such as the Rocky Mountain states—which had never witnessed live rock ‘n’ roll. On April 8 in his breakout year, Presley played two shows at the Denver Coliseum, getting $4,000 for the gig.

Do you love and appreciate the history of music? Head over to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental, where you get to learn and enjoy the rich history of music in Colorado.

Plan Your Visit

Keep music history alive! Shop at Colorado Music Hall of Fame.