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East High

Inducted: November 28, 2017

East High

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Colorado has an incredible wealth of actors, artists, and musicians to call our own, and it’s astounding to see how many of them came out of East High School.

Many of our Jazz Masters inductees attended East High. Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, and Andrew Woolfolk of Earth, Wind & Fire all went to East High School, and so did Bill Frisell and Ron Miles, as well as prior inductees Judy Collins and Paul Whiteman.

While Philip Bailey was singing in the Youth Choir with future actress Pam Grier,

future guitar great Bill Frisell was playing clarinet in the school band. A few years later, Ron Miles was playing trumpet in the East High Jazz Band with actor Don Cheadle on saxophone.

A long list of renowned East High alumni spanning many generations have all benefited from the remarkable music programs there.

The East High School Music Program is the very first recipient of the Barry Fey Visionary award presented to the school for making great music possible in Colorado.

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East High was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame, with Jazz Masters class of 2017.

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Earth, Wind & Fire

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Earth, Wind & Fire

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Certain songs will always remind you of particular moments in your life; like your first time you fell in love, or of a certain time and place, or a special event in your life.

It’s a feeling that truly masterful musicians can create for us. But there is one funky group that seems to do this quite often. We are specifically talking about Colorado’s Earth, Wind & Fire – the local band gone global. It is the grounding that all these players have in jazz that has made Earth, Wind & Fire so enduring and expressive. Every time people hear these songs, they only love them more. Members Philp Bailey, Larry Dunn, and Andrew Woolfolk all attended East High School.

Every time people hear these songs, they only love them more.

Larry Dunn was working clubs seven nights a week by the time he was 15, and he signed with Earth, Wind & Fire at the tender age of 17. Larry was already playing rock and jazz gigs and had a regular gig with local blues artist Sam Mayfield.

Andrew Woolfolk is a natural-born saxophone player who infuses every song with exquisite and adventurous playing. Philip Bailey’s four-octave range makes Earth, Wind & Fire’s songs unique, beautiful, and timeless.

Earth, Wind & Fire has taken us on an extraordinary musical journey for more than 40 years. They have used elements of jazz to create pop songs that have become a part of our lives, truly living up to the term “Jazz Masters.” Congratulations, Larry, Philip, and Andrew, for your induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

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Earth, Wind, & Fire has taken us on an extraordinary musical journey for more than 40 years.

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Dianne Reeves

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Dianne Reeves

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Denver native Dianne Reeves has achieved remarkable status as a vocalist in the jazz world.

The unique timbre of her voice and the style and sensitivity she brings to her songs have made her an American treasure. Music was everywhere in Dianne’s family when she was growing up, and she honed her jazz chops with her cousin, George Duke, and her uncle, Charles Burrell.


Friends and family played a huge role in Dianne’s life.

She moved to Los Angeles in 1976 at the suggestion of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey, and the two quickly rose to the top of their respective fields.

Ms. Reeves ranks among the top echelon of jazz singers, winning five Grammy Awards, two honorary doctorates, and numerous other awards. She sang with everyone from Stanley Turrentine to Harry Belafonte, and she was the featured singer in George Clooney’s film Good Night and Good Luck.

We are fortunate that she decided to move back to Colorado in the 1990s, and we treasure her for her elegance and evocative voice and the way she makes us feel as she explores and re-imagines jazz standards and new compositions. Congratulations to Dianne on being inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

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Congratulations to Dianne on Being inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

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Miles & Frisell

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Miles & Frisell

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By the time Bill Frisell graduated from Denver’s East High School, he was already an incredible guitarist and had begun working with some of the greats.

Bill has held the number-one guitarist spot in the annual Downbeat Critics Poll for nine out of ten years. He has been named Guitarist of the Year 18 times, and he’s won numerous Grammys for his work recording with Petra Haden, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wolleson. Bill continues to collaborate with a wide range of artists and musicians, from Paul Simon to Vinicius Cantuaria. But his most lasting connection and collaboration has been with Denver’s own Ron Miles.

Ron Miles has played in many genres and styles of music with artists from all over the world… Yet there is something uniquely Colorado about the way he approaches all music equally.

Ron Miles has played in many genres and styles of music with artists from all over the world. Yet there is something uniquely Colorado about the way he approaches all music equally. As much as Ron and Bill are both renowned for jazz playing, they both frequently cross musical boundaries into styles like folk, country music and Americana. It is fitting that these two were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame together in 2017.

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It is fitting that Ron Miles and Bill Frisell were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame together in 2017.

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Charles Burrell

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Charles Burrell

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Any story of jazz in Colorado must begin with Charles Burrell, also known as the Jackie Robinson of classical music.

He was the first African-American to ever play in a symphony orchestra. He was also a brilliant jazz musician, playing with all of the luminaries of his time.

Charles Burrell learned from some of the best,

and he passed it on in so many ways, most notably in tutoring his cousins George Duke, who became a world-famous keyboard player and producer, and Purnell Steen, also a well-known keyboard player, as well as his niece, the celebrated singer Dianne Reeves. Burrell, who turned 99 in 2019, has had an enormous impact on music during his lifetime, especially on jazz in Colorado.

Charles Burrell received the Denver Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture and the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, and Congresswoman Diana DeGette led a tribute to him on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, referring to him as “a titan of the classical and jazz bass.” Charles Burrell was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Jazz Masters class of 2017.

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A titan of the classical and jazz bass, Charles Burrell was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame, with Jazz Masters class of 2017.

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Wendy Lynn Kale

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Wendy Lynn Kale

Wendy Kale is the first journalist to be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and her dedication to and support of the Colorado music scene makes her very worthy of that honor. “She just loved the music,” Firefall’s Jock Bartley has said of Kale.

Born in New Jersey on March 19, 1953, Kale moved west to Boulder in the fall of 1971 to attend the University of Colorado, where she studied Communications.

Boulder’s reputation as a hot spot for emerging music and art was the main reason she selected CU Boulder, she told friends. Kale became a regular at Tulagi and the Buff Room on the Hill, enjoying all kinds of music, from folk to jazz. She also found a prolific music scene at the University of Colorado, where she caught such acts as the Jefferson Airplane, Savoy Brown and the Marshall Tucker Band in Balch Fieldhouse, and Zephyr and B.B. King in the Glenn Miller Ballroom.

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Kale wanted to be involved in the scene, and soon found her way to the office of the CU Program Council, the campus group responsible for bringing movies and concerts to campus. She began as a general volunteer, hanging posters, working on production crews moving equipment, volunteering for security and selling tickets for the movie programs. But mostly, Wendy loved the music.

She helped organize free concerts with local musicians and suggested bands to play at the enormously popular Friday Afternoon Club concerts at the UMC Grill. In 1976, Phil Lobel became the director of the CU Program Council and hired Kale to be the official PR director. She relished the opportunity to talk with musicians and write press releases; she arranged interviews and coordinated press access and kept guest lists. She also wrote stories for The Entertainer, the Program Council’s in-house publication, and scoured area venues for emerging talent.

When Stu Osnow took over the reins at the Program Council, he relied heavily on Kale to suggest acts for the organization’s events. She selected local talent to serve as opening acts for established touring artists, and continued to find musicians for FAC and other events. Among the bands she helped in their early days were Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the Samples, the Subdudes, Chris Daniels & the Kings and 16 Horsepower, to name only a few.

Kale graduated from CU in March 1979 and continued to help out at the Program Council, even enrolling in continuing-education classes to stay eligible. She advised several classes of Program Council staffers and was considered a mentor for most of her life. In order to make ends meet, she took almost any job that would accommodate her music-dominated schedule. She worked at the CU Bookstore and at CU registration, and helped out at local entertainment venues in any capacity available.

In 1986, Kale was hired to write a music column for the Colorado Daily. That column, “Out and About,” allowed her to continue doing what she loved: attend music events and promote local and emerging talent. According to Colorado Daily entertainment editor Leland Rucker, who hired Kale, “She wasn’t a very good writer, but she was certainly enthusiastic and she was willing to work for $25 per week.” At the Daily, Kale established herself as a music writer; her beat was the theater and club circuit in Boulder. She specialized in finding and promoting new talent, and many artists credit her with giving them the boost they needed.

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Wendy Kale CU Yearbook Photo

When the E.W. Scripps Company purchased the Colorado Daily, Kale was one of three or four writers who were spared in the inevitable purge, and her work began to appear regularly in the Boulder Daily Camera. While continuing to write about music and local venues, she expanded her scope to write about alternative healing and new-age spiritualism. She continued to write for the Camera until her untimely death on August 3, 2011. Kale was also working at the Unity of Boulder Church at the time of her death, helping develop materials for the church’s outreach. She was beloved by both the staff and the congregation.

It has been said that Kale attended more concerts than any other person in Boulder. If you wanted to find her, you just went to the Fox, or the Blue Note, or Tulagi, or Nissi’s, or any other local music venue; looking around the back of the house, you’d surely find her. If she wasn’t there, she was peddling her old black bicycle from one performance to another. She loved the music. She was a rock writer.

When word of Kale’s passing became known, many friends in the music community came together to honor her memory. Jeff Brinkman, Rebecca Folsom, Jock Bartley, Chris Daniels, Hazel Miller, Liza Oxnard, Mark Diamond, Trace Bundy, Brian Nevin and Al Laughlin all contributed words or songs to her memorial; Teresa Taylor, Andy Schneidkraut and Helen Forster also spoke. Each person mentioned Kale’s tireless support for music and musicians; each shared a personal account of how she’d given them help early on or at a critical juncture in their career. For some, Kale arranged their first interview or wrote the first article about them; for others, she connected them with people who would book them. The event ended with the entire group gathered on stage for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and many tears were shed.

It was an honor and a privilege to give Wendy “Rock & Roll” Kale the Barry Fey Innovation Award and make her the first journalist to be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, as part of the Going Back to Colorado Class of 2019.

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Zephyr

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Zephyr

Anyone who ever saw Candy Givens perform with Zephyr through the years when the band released albums on ABC, Warner Bros., Red Sneakers, BGO and One Way-Casablanca Records will never forgot the vocal power and sheer energy of her presence. Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, Animal Planet veterinarian-comedian and former bodyguard for the Rolling Stones, says Candy was simply “a force of nature.”

Whether Zephyr was opening for Jimi Hendrix at the legendary Denver Pop Festival, playing Mammoth Gardens or tearing the roof off the Fillmore West with Jeff Beck, it was the band to see in that incredible era that produced artists like the Who, Buffalo Springfield and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Candy Ramey was born in 1946 into a family of what’s been described as “gamblers and small-time outlaws,” living in a log house overlooking the lake near Evergreen. When she was eleven, her family moved out of the mountains to Applewood, near Golden. Candy’s love of music and her powerful voice got her voted the “most likely to become a famous singer” in her senior year at Golden High School. After high school, she attended the University of Northern Colorado, intending to become a teacher.

But music was her focus, and she and a high school buddy, Doug Lubahn, hitchhiked to California, where he looked for jobs as a bass player (he wound up playing on the first two Doors albums). Meanwhile, Candy moved on to San Francisco to join her friend Connie Kay. It was there that she made her radio debut, playing guitar and singing “Greensleeves” on a Chinese-language station. After a year on the West Coast, Candy moved to Aspen, where she and Doug Whitney played in the Piltdown Philharmonic Jug Band. In Aspen, she met David Givens, a songwriter, guitar and bass player, and together they moved to Boulder with his band, Brown Sugar. David and Candy were married in October 1968. Brown Sugar played shows around Denver and on tours in Salt Lake City and California, and the band formed the cornerstone of what would become Zephyr.

Candy and David Zephyr

Zephyr came together after a monumental jam with guitar wizard Tommy Bolin at the Buff Room on the Hill. Candy and David joined keyboardist and flutist John Faris and Bolin as Ethereal Zephyr, adding Robbie Chamberlin on drums.

The act burst onto the Colorado music scene with several explosive shows, starting at the Sink in Boulder and then at the University of Colorado’s Glenn Miller Ballroom, later opening for John Mayall with Tim Leary at Macky Auditorium. Early shows at Reed’s Ranch with the Grateful Dead; free concerts at the Boulder Bandshell; short tours to Phoenix, where they worked with musicians like Steve Miller, Vanilla Fudge and David Lindley; and appearances in Los Angeles at the Avalon Ballroom, Whisky a Go Go and the Boston Tea Party built the group’s reputation.

With Candy’s stage presence, songwriting, vocals and harp, Bolin’s magical guitar solos and the power of the Zephyr rhythm section, the band made a name for itself with its blues/jazz/rock sound on shows with Led Zeppelin, Leslie West’s Mountain, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Spirit, Fleetwood Mac and pretty much every top group of the era. It established a loyal fan base across the U.S., Canada and internationally, in Europe, Japan and Australia. The stage was set for Zephyr and Candy to become the logical heirs to Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and a small dynasty of powerful women-fronted bands of the late 1960s.

But logic and destiny rarely unfold in a way that confirms inevitability. Zephyr’s second album was recorded for Warner Bros. with famed producer/engineer Eddie Kramer in New York at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady studios, with Bobby Berge on drums. Carly Simon, who was recording her first album at Electric Lady, invited David Givens to play bass on several tracks, including her first hit, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.” Sadly, Hendrix died the day before he was to return to New York to complete his legendary album Cry of Love; Kramer and bassist Mitch Mitchell finished the album, but the Zephyr project was adversely effected by the chaos. Going Back to Colorado came out in 1971 on Warner Bros.

The album was favorably reviewed in Rolling Stone by famed critic Lester Bangs, and according to writer Gil Asakawa, Candi Givens “had a powerful, throaty voice that could scream the highest rock-and-roll notes but swoop down to the lowest moaning blues.” But despite fantastic live shows, Zephyr’s album sales were not what the company wanted, and while the band was chosen, along with Eric Clapton, as most likely to succeed in 1971 by Billboard, the magazine was only half right.

Zephyr

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Labels of that era chose favorites, and Warner Bros. gave Colorado only half-hearted promotion.

Coupled with mismanagement back at home, Zephyr did not receive the commercial success that fans thought the band deserved. According to David Givens, Barry Fey (local promoter and Zephyr manager, who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2012), turned his attention to Bolin. “Eventually, our band was consigned to a career of playing ski towns, along the Front Range, up into Wyoming, and down into New Mexico as we beat our heads against the wall that our management erected around us,” he remembers.

David and Candy formed a new band and recorded Sunset Ride, which may be the album best remembered by their fans. Candy’s songwriting, vocals and harp were at their peak. On guitar, Bolin had been replaced by Jock Bartley, who would later co-found Firefall with Rick Roberts. They also added Michael Wooten on drums, who toured and recorded with Carole King and Leftover Salmon. The album was produced by David Givens, who wrote the majority of the songs for this second Warner Bros. release.

For the next ten years, Zephyr’s lineup continued to evolve, with award-winning trance-blues artist Otis Taylor, blues guitar great Eddie Turner, boogie-woogie piano legend Rob Rio, Bobby Berge back on drums, and a host of other local and national luminaries.

The band produced one more album in 1982, Heartbeat. The video for that album used elements of animation combined with performance footage that was groundbreaking for its time. But Zephyr disbanded shortly thereafter, and most of the players went on to successful careers with other projects. Candy and David were planning a blues album when she died in Boulder of a drug-related accidental drowning on January 27, 1984.

In 2014, Greg Hampton and David Givens remastered and repackaged their first album, Bathtub Album, on Purple Pyramid Records, then gave the same treatment to Going Back to Colorado, adding previously unreleased live and studio recordings in a boxed set titled Leaving Colorado for Sunset Boulevard Records. David is currently remixing Sunset Ride and Heartbeat from the original multi-track recordings, and there are still several albums’ worth of unreleased studio recordings that he intends to release in the future.

In 2019, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame inducted Candy Ramey Givens and Zephyr into the Hall of Fame. While Zephyr certainly deserved more attention while the act was still together, the time was right to recognize the band as Colorado’s most incredible female-fronted group, one that was rooted in the blues-rock tradition but transcended that genre to create its own unique niche in Colorado music history.

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Tommy Bolin

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Tommy Bolin

Born in Sioux City, Iowa, on August 1, 1951, Tommy Richard Bolin was arguably the best guitarist to find a home in the Colorado music scene of the 1970s. When Bolin died of an overdose in 1976, he was on a career path that would have taken him to icon status, with a style that incorporated jazz fusion, rock and elements of pop. His credits include two albums with Zephyr, two solo albums and two albums with Joe Walsh’s former band, the James Gang; he also collaborated with jazz drummer Billy Cobham on his seminal album, Spectrum, and replaced Ritchie Blackmore in the number-one psychedelic-rock band of the late ’60s, Deep Purple. But those are household names of the time. What’s less well known is the work that Bolin did with other amazing guitarists, such as Jeff Beck and Albert King, and musicians in bands like Energy and Tommy Bolin’s Dreamers, which included brother Johnnie (a member of Black Oak Arkansas for thirty years), bassist Stanley Sheldon (a longtime member of Peter Frampton’s band), drummer Bobby Berge, vocalist Jeff Cook and singer/keyboardist Max Carl (a founding member of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack, later with 38 Special and Grand Funk Railroad).

The legend began even before Tommy Bolin took up the guitar at age eleven.

His father, Rich Bolin, took him to see Elvis when he was only five and, according to his brother, had a dream that Tommy would follow in the King’s footsteps. Tommy studied guitar and lap-steel at Flood Music in Sioux City, as well as with a local country guitar-picker who lived across the street. He could play just about anything by ear, including jazz and riffs from recordings by the Ventures, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He joined his first band when he was a teen, playing with Miserlous before he was asked to join Denny and the Triumphs (later called A Patch of Blue). He came to Colorado on a one-way bus ticket in 1967 after his high school suspended him twice for hair that was too long.

American guitarist Tommy Bolin

Bolin developed his signature powerhouse style in various bands, eventually as the featured soloist in Ethereal Zephyr.

After a jam session at the Buff Room on the Hill in Boulder, singer Candy Givens and her husband, David Givens, joined forces with keyboardist and flutist John Faris, drummer Robbie Chamberlin and Bolin to create Colorado’s first breakout ’70s blues-rock act, Zephyr.

Zephyr began writing originals and playing at the Sink in Boulder, managed by Chuck Morris (who went on to become CEO of the Rocky Mountain division of AEG and a Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee in 2018); CU’s Glenn Miller Ballroom, opening for John Mayall; the university’s Macky Auditorium; Reed’s Ranch with the Grateful Dead; and various shows around the state. The musicians played in Phoenix, where they connected with acts like Steve Miller, Vanilla Fudge and David Lindley’s band Kaleidoscope.

They moved on to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where they played the Avalon Ballroom, the Whisky a Go Go and the Boston Tea Party. Of particular note was the Denver Pop Festival, where Zephyr was on the roster two nights, one with Jimi Hendrix. With shows that included spots with Led Zeppelin, Leslie West’s Mountain, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Spirit, Fleetwood Mac and pretty much every top group of the era, the band established a fan base across the United States and seemed headed for a place in rock history. Zephyr recorded its first, self-titled album in 1969 in Los Angeles for ABC’s Probe Records; its second album, Going Back to Colorado, came out in 1971 on Warner Bros. Recorded at Electric Lady studios in New York around the time of Jimi Hendrix’s death, the album was caught in the confusion of that moment and never received the attention it deserved. It was at this point that Zephyr’s manager, Colorado promoter Barry Fey (another member of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame), turned his full attention to Bolin’s career, and Bolin left Zephyr to head out on his own journey.

In 1973, Bolin joined the James Gang after founder Joe Walsh recommended that he take his place. Bolin toured with the band and recorded Bang in 1973 and Miami in 1974; he was a co-writer on all but one of the songs on those two albums. In between the two James Gang albums, Bolin played on Mahavishnu Orchestra member Billy Cobham’s solo album Spectrum, along with Cobham on drums, Leland Sklar on bass and Jan Hammer (also of Mahavishnu Orchestra) on keyboards and synthesizers. Bolin was featured on four tracks on that iconic disc.

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Tommy Bolin

After leaving the James Gang, Bolin recorded with various jazz artists, and in 1975 began his solo career with Nemperor Records. Bolin gained confidence in his vocals, thanks to coaching from members of the Beach Boys, and he worked with David Foster, David Sanborn, Jan Hammer, Stanley Sheldon, Phil Collins and Glenn Hughes.

The year that Bolin recorded his first solo album, Teaser, members of Deep Purple approached him to take over the lead-guitar chair. Bolin not only stepped in for Ritchie Blackmore, but he wrote seven of the nine tracks on the act’s 1975 album, Come Taste the Band. After a difficult worldwide tour during which the bandmembers’ drug use detracted from their performance, Bolin again focused on his solo career.

In September 1976, with a stellar lineup that included Narada Michael Walden, Mark Stein, Norma Jean Bell, Reggie McBride, Jimmy Haslip, Max Carl Gronenthal and brother Johnnie Bolin, Tommy recorded and released Private Eyes on CBS Records. He began touring to support the record, doing shows with Peter Frampton and Jeff Beck, among others. In Miami on December 3, 1976, he was upbeat and told an interviewer that he was excited about the future, saying, “Don’t worry about me. I’m going to be around for a long time.” Sadly, Tommy Bolin died of an overdose that same night; he was only 25 years old.

“Tommy was a gift to us all, but I really didn’t realize what a keystone he was in my life back in the heyday of ’70s Boulder,” says Stanley Sheldon, Bolin’s former bandmate and bass player for Peter Frampton. “We were so young and having too much fun for that kind of deep introspection. We were playing incredible music, we were carefree and inseparable. Now the hurt of losing him lingers like a dark shadow, especially when I consider what we might be doing today if he were still with us. Really hoping to see you on the other side someday, Tommy.”

What is probably most telling about Tommy Bolin’s legacy is the number of guitarists who cite him as an inspiration in their own playing. From Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, who produced one of two tribute albums to Bolin, to blues legends Joe Bonamassa and Sonny Landreth, Bolin’s influence continues to outlive his all-too-brief time in the spotlight. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame was proud and honored to induct Tommy Bolin with the Class of 2019.

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Anthony James Spicola

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Anthony James Spicola

Anthony James Spicola was born in Trinidad, Colorado, on July 24, 1937. At the start of the 20th century, southern Colorado was one of the best places to find work in the state, in both the steel mills of Pueblo and the mines near Trinidad and adjoining mountain towns.

Southern Colorado drew a diverse group of immigrants from all over Europe, especially Italy.

One of them was Spicola’s grandfather, who, after emigrating from Italy, moved there to work on the railroads that hauled the mined coal and manufactured steel.

As a young man, Spicola was filled with a love of music, inspired by the records he collected during trips to Denver. Those discs included jazz and early R&B artists like Little Richard, the Moonglows, the Coasters and the Platters. His first foray into the industry was a job created for him as equipment manager for the marching band at Trinidad High School, from which he graduated in 1955.

He also embraced what became a second passion in his life: photography. Not only did Spicola gain a successful reputation as a photographer, but he helped regional bands with promotional packs and marketing materials. His pictures of custom cars garnered him national attention, including doing covers for Hot Rod magazine.

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The photography work led to music talent management, which in turn led to the world of concert promotion, the field where he truly shone.

While looking for acts that had star power, Spicola started recording and promoting bands throughout southern Colorado. One of the most successful of these emerging artists was Chan Romero, whose hit recording of “Hippy Hippy Shake” was covered by the Beatles and was a music element in over ten motion pictures. The Trolls, the Frantics and others also benefited from Spicola’s mentoring.

While he promoted local bands and concerts at different venues, Spicola opened a college nightlife club, the Fantastic Zoo, and, later, Pinocchio’s, in Pueblo. Before long, he was doing concerts with national and international acts at larger venues.

In 1963, Spicola began bringing in what would become classic acts, starting with the Rascals and continuing with Ike and Tina Turner, Pete Seeger, and a host of bands that later formed the core of the famed British Invasion. Needing places large enough to accommodate the sell-out crowds these popular headliners would draw, Spicola turned to venues around Colorado Springs.

At the age of 32, Spicola experienced what became a defining, iconic moment of his concert promotion career. On August 18, 1968, he brought the Who to Kelker Junction Concert Hall, a 3,000-seat venue in Colorado Springs. The famed quartet flew in from London for what was to be their first appearance in Colorado. A ticket was $5.

Spicola promoted a second show for Who the following night in Albuquerque. It was Keith Moon’s birthday, and the wild party that followed the show got the entire band and crew kicked out of their hotel.

“In the ’60s, we all had an affair with music,” Spicola remembers, noting that in addition to the Who, such icons as the Jefferson Airplane, ZZ Top and Fleetwood Mac came to Colorado through his efforts. Twenty of the artists he introduced to the state have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

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The Young Rascals Poster

Spicola didn’t limit his shows to rock and roll. He also booked a number of country acts throughout southern Colorado and at the Colorado State Fair, including Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, John Denver and even a young Garth Brooks, who played a fair “free stage” in his very first Colorado appearance. Santana (with Phish opening), Aerosmith and Kenny Rogers also came to Pueblo thanks to Spicola.

During his days as a promoter, Spicola developed a relationship with various radio stations, buying advertising; he eventually went to work in sales at KDZA in Pueblo. After a decade with KDZA, he bought the station in 1979. And for the next seven years, Spicola was holding down two jobs: concert promoter and radio station mogul.

Legendary concert promoter Barry Fey, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, worked with Spicola in the early days of his career, learning much from his mentor. Fey went on to become co-presenter, with Spicola and KDZA, of several major shows, including the infamous “brown M&Ms” Van Halen show at the University of Southern Colorado that was labeled by MTV as one of the twelve roughest nights in rock and roll.

Between 1970 and 1986, Spicola presented shows at the area’s larger venues, including Penrose Stadium at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and the Albuquerque Civic Auditorium, as well as various college sites, such as Folsom Field at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he co-promoted a Doobie Brothers show. Shortly after promoting an Everly Brothers show at Penrose Stadium, he married his wife, Karen, at the Broadmoor.

By 1986, Spicola’s two children, Gina and Joel, were growing up, and the family became his focus. After he sold his stations that year, he turned his attention to the relationships he’d made in the auto business through radio. And for most of the next 33 years, he helped market the Spradley Barr auto sales empire, with dealerships in Fort Collins, Greeley, Cheyenne and Pueblo.

Promoters as varied as Fey and Chuck Morris both identify Spicola as Colorado’s first rock concert promoter. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame was proud to induct Tony Spicola in 2019 and present him with the Barry Fey Innovation Award.

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Otis Taylor

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor grew up in Denver, but like the old blues song, he was born in Chicago, in 1948. His parents were both jazz fans. “My dad worked for the railroad and knew a lot of jazz people. He was a socialist and real bebopper,” Taylor recalls. His mother loved everything from Etta James to Pat Boone.

The first instrument that Taylor learned to play was the banjo, but he soon rejected it for its association with the racist American South. He would eventually return to the instrument after discovering its African roots.

Like so many musicians in Denver, Taylor drew inspiration from time spent at the Denver Folklore Center founded by Harry Tuft, where he first heard Piedmont, Delta, country and Chicago blues artists such as Son House, Muddy Waters and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He learned to play guitar and harmonica, and, while still in his teens, started a band called the Butterscotch Fire Department. Later, he formed the Otis Taylor Blues Band.

A brief sojourn in London in the late 1960s earned Taylor a contract with Blue Horizon Records. Disappointed that the label didn’t share his vision, he parted ways with Blue Horizon and returned to Boulder, where he played with various artists including Tommy Bolin, Zephyr and the Legendary 4-Nikators.

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photo credit by Jacqueline Collins for Westword

As the music and the business changed, Taylor turned away from public performances in 1977 and developed a thriving career as an expert in high-end antiques.

During the twenty years he was out of the mainstream music business, he also helped organize, coach and fund one of the first African-American bicycle racing teams, which eventually ranked fourth in the United States. In 1995, at the urging of Kenny Passarelli (the renowned bass player for Elton John and Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017), Taylor performed at the opening of Buchanan’s Coffee Pub on the Hill in Boulder, joined by Passarelli and former Zephyr guitarist Eddie Turner. Audience response was so strong that it served as a catalyst for Taylor’s return to recording and touring; he envisioned pushing the blues genre forward with fresh and original songwriting.

In 1996, Taylor released his first solo album, Blue-Eyed Monster, on Shoelace Music, produced by Passarelli. According to Taylor, “I developed a way of saying something that seemed to be more intense. You can definitely see how I was getting ready to go that way.” Passarelli also produced Taylor’s second record, When Negroes Walked the Earth, released in 1997. Taylor earned his first big break with a review in Playboy magazine by rock critic Dave Marsh, who described the music as “minimalist blues in the John Lee Hooker mode.”

Taylor’s vocal, guitar and songwriting talents were also recognized in 2000 with a coveted fellowship to the Sundance Composers Lab in Park City, Utah. Upon learning that he’d been selected, Taylor remarked, “I feel like I just won the Miss America pageant.” The fellowship would eventually help Taylor land music-sourcing contracts for a number of major Hollywood films and television shows.

In 2000, Taylor released his breakthrough album, White African, on the Canadian label NorthernBlues Music (it was also produced by Passarelli). Taylor’s songs confronted both his personal connection to the legacy of lynching in African-American history — his great-grandfather had been lynched — and other dark topics. Taylor shocked the blues world with a heartfelt vocal delivery that accentuated his writing’s exploration of race relations and social injustice. The album earned four W.C. Handy nominations, and he won the award for Best New Artist Debut.

Taylor’s next album, Respect the Dead, was released in 2002; it was recognized by the W.C. Handy Awards in 2003 with nominations for Best Acoustic Artist and Best Contemporary Blues Album.

The roots of the style that would become Taylor’s most recognizable contribution to blues can be found on Truth Is Not Fiction, released in 2003 on Telarc Records. Music critics were both enthralled and a bit mystified by Taylor’s signature “trance blues” electric, psychedelic style. Truth Is Not Fiction earned a Top 10 album-of-the-year listing from the New York Times and also received rave reviews from USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR, as well as a Downbeat critics’ award for Blues Album of the Year.

Double V came out in 2004, and was the first of eleven records produced by Taylor. It also marked the increased presence of Taylor’s daughter, Cassie, who was featured on the cover and would become an integral part of his band on bass and vocals. The album won Taylor the Downbeat critics’ Blues Album of the Year award for the second year, and reviews from Rolling Stone, the New Yorker, Blender and CNN all helped to establish him as a rising and distinctive songwriter and producer in blues. That same year, the readers’ poll for Living Blues magazine awarded both Taylor and blues icon Etta James Best Blues Entertainer honors.

Three years later, Taylor scored again when Downbeat named Definition of a Circle, featuring Gary Moore on lead guitar, as Blues CD of the Year for 2007.

Otis Taylor

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During these years, Taylor had learned about the African roots of the banjo and dreamed of a project that would highlight some of the most accomplished contemporary black banjo players. He connected with Keb’ Mo’, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Don Vappie, Guy Davis and Corey Harris for the groundbreaking 2008 CD Recapturing the Banjo, which honored the roots of the banjo and simultaneously took the instrument in a bold new direction. The following year, Downbeat critics named Recapturing the Banjo Blues CD of the Year. In 2009, Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs scored another win.

All told, Taylor has collected five coveted Downbeat awards over his career. Over the past ten years, he’s released five more celebrated albums, and his music has been used on Hollywood films and foreign-movie soundtracks, as well as by television shows including Shooter and Public Enemies.

Personal highlights of Taylor’s career include being an answer in the New York Times crossword puzzle in 2009 and being part of the inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016.

A resident of Boulder since 1967, Taylor gives back to his community through the annual Trance Blues Festival, where he invites a diverse cast of musicians as guest artists for an all-ages workshop and concert. He and his wife, Carol, created a blues-in-the-schools program called Writing the Blues, which Taylor has delivered around the world; it acknowledges the history of the blues, but also encourages original songwriting. “I start by talking about how everybody gets the blues,” Taylor explains, “and it’s been amazing to see the powerful stories the students are willing to share.” Carol says: “It allows Otis to do his part in ensuring that the blues, with new and original voices, will continue to move forward in the next generation.”

Otis Taylor is a rare musician who brings depth and honesty to his lyrics, as well as the passion of his voice to his music. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame was proud to induct Otis Taylor as part of the Class of 2019.

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