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Wendy Lynn Kale

Inducted: December 3rd, 2019

Wendy Lynn Kale

Wendy Kale is the first journalist to be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental, 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 Church of Boulder 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 is 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 3rd, 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, they 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 go on to 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 presented by Comfort Dental will induct Candy Ramey Givens and Zephyr into the Hall of Fame. While Zephyr certainly deserved more attention while the act was still together, the time is 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 3rd, 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 (today the CEO of the Rocky Mountain division of AEG, and an inductee in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental in 2018); CU’s Glenn Miller Ballroom, opening for John Mayall; 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.

Bolin Live in Concert

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 presented by Comfort Dental is proud and honored to induct Tommy Bolin with the Class of 2019.

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Anthony James Spicola

Inducted: December 3rd, 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 shined.

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 nightlife college 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. The famed quartet flew in from London for what was to be their first appearance in Colorado. A ticket was $5.

After The Who’s show in Colorado Springs, Spicola promoted a second show 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, including 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. And so the Colorado Music Hall of Fame is very proud to induct Tony Spicola into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and also present him with the Barry Fey Innovation Award.

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Otis Taylor

Inducted: December 3rd, 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.

Taylor would eventually return to the banjo upon discovering its African roots, however.

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, he 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 presented by Comfort Dental 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 again 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.” His wife 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 such depth and honesty to his lyrics, as well as the passion of his voice to his music. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is proud to induct Otis Taylor as part of the Class of 2019.

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Freddi & Henchi

Inducted: December 3rd, 2019

Freddi & Henchi

Freddi “Love” Gowdy founded the rhythm and blues/funk band Freddi Love and the Soulsetters in Phoenix in 1965. Marvin “Henchi” Graves (the nickname is a shortened version of “Henchman” from his days as a collegiate wrestler) joined the band because of his great dancing. With Freddi’s clear, high-voiced vocals and Henchi’s dance moves, they created a groove-laced, falsetto dual-lead-vocal sound that would be copied by Earth Wind & Fire and other funk acts that emerged later in the 1970s.

In Arizona, they established a reputation for a wild stage presence through dance steps, matching costumes and live shows at local nightclubs.”

They were taken under the wing of producer Hadley Murrell (a former radio DJ) and, working with him, established a fun-loving sound and an identity as the “Crown Princes of Funk.” They began recording as early as 1966, and through the early years, they were signed to various labels as they put out 45rpm records. The band then got signed to Reprise Records and moved to L.A., where it put out the famed Dance album; a music video of the title track has become a YouTube classic.

In part because guitar wizard and songwriter Larry Wilkins’s hometown was Boulder, the band did its first gig at a country music bar in Fort Collins that resembled a scene from the Blues Brothers movie. But the band’s legendary “Freddi Henchi Party” also attracted hundreds of college students, who packed the house. The band relocated to Boulder in 1970 and got a new name along with a new home.

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For the next fifteen years, the Freddi-Henchi Band was a headlining act at venues across Colorado and as far west as California and as far east as Chicago.

The musicians opened a club called The Good Earth in downtown Boulder, and were known as the best party band in Colorado, with everybody from John Denver to members of Earth Wind & Fire sitting in.

With its funky, distinctive two-guitar-based music, original choreography and full-blown party atmosphere, the Freddi-Henchi Band served as co-bill and support for acts ranging from the Average White Band to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Chicago, Dr. Hook, Billy Joel, Etta James, Jose Feliciano, Three Dog Night, B.B. King, Steely Dan, The Platters, Chuck Berry and Dan Fogelberg, to name only a few.

The band went through personnel changes in the late ’80s and ’90s after Graves left the group, though he rejoined several times, reuniting Henchi with Freddi. But Graves died on June 12, 2009, after a long battle with cancer. His younger brother, Richard Graves, remembers that “he was an energetic, outgoing person who was a lot of fun to be around,” and adds, “He won’t ever be forgotten by anyone he ever met.”

Freddi Gowdy continues to sing and do commercials; for the past seven years, he’s performed as the co-frontman and vocalist in Chris Daniels & The Kings, working with everybody from Garth Brooks to Johnny Swim when the Kings backed him at a Fiddler’s Green show in 2018. With the Kings, he’s released two award-winning albums and toured Europe.

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Over the years, there were many who became part of the “Crown Princes of Funk” legend, and Marvin “Henchi” Graves was not the only one to pass on.

Soulsetters Bobby Soul, Jessie Escoto, Chuy Castro have also gone on, as have Eppi Guerrero, Arnold “Budgie” Andrews and Roger “Quills” Uyeda.

The Freddi-Henchi Band lost Sonny Abelardo, Eddie “Boom Boom” Washington, Phillip Wakeman, John “Beast” Bailey, Rich Guest, John Olsen, Eddie Costa, Rocky Duarte, Eddie Duarte, Harold Lee and Phil Weightman. Also gone but not forgotten are Larry Wilkins, Tony Bunch, Bob Yeazel, Brad Huff and honorary Crown Prince Alan Roth, who ran Skunk Creek Inn and Herman’s Hideaway.

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is proud to induct Freddi Gowdy and Henchi Graves, in recognition of their role as Colorado’s “Crown Princes of Funk.”

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Mother Folkers

Inducted: November 9th, 2019

The Mother Folkers

According to Denver rock critic and historian Gil Asakawa, seeing the Mother Folkers, aka the MoFos, was “like watching the musical mix-and-match of the Band’s Last Waltz movie, only live, here in Denver.” With all women! Denver Folklore Center founder Harry Tuft always chuckled repeating when the act’s oft-quoted tag line…

“The Most Carefully Pronounced Name in Show Business.”

Over its forty-year evolution, the Mother Folkers produced countless concerts, released three recordings, appeared on a compilation album produced by Minnesota Public Radio, and created some of the most iconic musical events that folk music has offered in Colorado.

According to legend, Eileen Niehouse coined the name the Mother Folkers, which newspapers refused to print and deejays avoided saying on the air. But while the Colorado group was the first use the name, members are quick to point out that the tradition is now followed by other bands that adopted their own versions, including Les Motherfolkeurs of Quebec, The Motherfolkers of Brazil and more Mother Folkers in Denmark, England and Kansas.

But the story of this group is the stunning talent and interests that each of the individual artists brought to the mix, everything from Tex-Mex to Celtic, contemporary jazz, South American folk songs and so much more.

The group was formed in 1973 at the Denver Folklore Center run by Tuft, with founding members Eileen Niehouse, Mary Flower, Mary Stribling, Kathi De Francis, Lynn Morris, Leigh Morris, Barbara Davidson, Bette White, JC Caldwell and Ruthie Allen.

Their Instruments included piano; bass; saxophones; acoustic, dobro and electric guitars; mandolin, concertina; marimba; hammered dulcimer; banjo; harmonica; autoharp; penny whistle; accordion; violin; conga; cajón, and snare drum, with additional percussion. The expert vocal ranged from stirring solos all the way to a large repertoire of full-group a cappella numbers with harmonies galore.

With a solid representation of original music in the genres of Americana, pop, rock, world, jazz, swing, bluegrass and blues, with a touch of classical and New Orleans influences, as well as a liberal seasoning of traditional and cover songs, the group’s performances have evolved over its long lifespan, which included a twelve-year break in the early part of this century.

In concert, the dynamic combinations of performers and styles can go from a solo to a duo or quartet, then build to the full band experience and dissolve again into an intimate trio setting.

No two MoFos shows are alike, and that is the magic and beauty of this pioneering, inventive and durable group of gregarious, high-level musicians.

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On November 9,the Mother Folkers will be inducted.

Into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental at a concert honoring the fortieth anniversary of Swallow Hill Music, which will also be inducted. The lineup performing that night will include Ellen Audley, Liz Barnez, Bonnie Carol, Angie DeFrancis, Mary Flower, Julie Hoest, Ellen Klaver, Rebecca Leonard, Barb (Davidson) Morris, Suzy Nelson, Eileen Niehouse, Mollie O’Brien, Bonnie Phipps, Pamela Robinson, Carla Sciaky, Deb Schmit-Lobis, Sumi Seacat, Mary Stribling Vicki Taylor and Nondi (Leonard) Wernick. Bette (White) Rutherford will join the group to accept the award, then enjoy the concert from the audience.

There is nothing quite like a Mother Folkers concert, which showcases some of the most accomplished and talented women in Colorado folk music today; we are lucky that these musicians call this state home. We’re proud to induct the Mother Folkers as part of the Hall of Fame class of 2019.

“The group’s performances has evolved over its long lifespan… no two MoFos shows are alike.”

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Walt Conley

Inducted: November 9th, 2019

Walt Conley

Born on May 20, 1929, the year of the great stock market crash, Billy Robinson was adopted by Wallace and Ethel Conley, who raised him in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, as Walter Bell Conley. After his adoptive father died in 1944, Walt and his mother moved to Denver, where he graduated from Manual High School, one of the first “integrated” high schools in Colorado, in 1949.

He went to college on a football scholarship and spent his summers in the saddle, working on a ranch in northern New Mexico.

There he met Jenny Vincent, a local folk singer, and activist who performed with the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie; she also worked for Native American and Chicano rights causes. While working on the ranch, Conley met Seeger and other members of The Weavers, and it was Seeger who helped Conley get his first guitar and adapt his deep baritone voice to interpreting the folk songs of the day.

Conley served in the Navy during the Korean War. According to Conley biographer Tim Fritz, “Walt was one of almost 100,000 African-Americans who were on active duty in the U.S. armed forces during that time.” While stationed in New York City, Conley made it a point to see and meet such folk artists as Cisco Houston, Josh White, and Woody Guthrie.

Building on his ranch experience in New Mexico, Conley returned there shortly after leaving the Navy in 1953 to get a job working on the film Salt of the Earth, which was based on the 1950 Mine-Mill Strike. That New Mexico labor action was led by wives of the miners who fought for improved working conditions and basic rights for their husbands. (It may have been that exposure to the art of film-making, along with his study of drama in college, that influenced his move to Hollywood in the 1980s to build an acting and voice-over career.)

Conley went back to college at what would become the University of Northern Colorado, graduating with a degree in physical education and drama.

He taught junior high for a time until his music career forced him to make a decision between the two careers in late 1950s.

He started as a Harry Belafonte-style calypso singer at the Windsor Hotel. “I’d sing a few songs in one [bar]. Then I’d race up the stairs to another and do a show there; then on to the third bar. It was the Belafonte era,” Conley remembered. “I was barefooted and wearing cut-off pants. It was a crazy way to perform, but I sure learned a lot of calypso songs.” (Walt Conley & Company website) By 1958 Conley was appearing at various clubs and Colorado venues, including the Red Ram in Georgetown and in Denver at Little Bohemia, where he met Judy Collins. Collins suggested that he come and play at Michael’s Pub in Boulder.

In 1959 Hal Neustaedter opened The Exodus in the Raylane Hotel in downtown Denver, bringing the premier folk acts of the day to Colorado, including Josh White, Bob Gibson and Jimmy Driftwood.

According to Fritz, “On October 16, 1959, the Exodus hosted the Folk Festival…Denver’s first Folk Music Festival. Josh White was the headliner. The line-up included Walt Conley, Judy Collins, the Harlin Trio, George Downing, The Travelers, and Dave Wood among others.” A recording of the event, called The Folk Festival at the Exodus, is still available as a hard-to-find LP, but it includes Conley singing “900 Miles,” “Worried Man Blues,” “Passing Through” and “John Henry.”

Around this time Conley was asked to take over the booking at another Denver folk music venue, the Satire Lounge, where he reportedly booked the Smothers Brothers for their first Denver appearance and gave Bob Dylan a place to stay at his house near the club. Denver folk legend Dick Weissman, says that “it was a 24/7 running party.” According to Fritz, Dylan was not to keen on Walt’s more polished approach to performing, and reported Conley as saying, “Dylan was thoroughly disappointed in me. Because I was black ,he expected me to be a young Bill Broonzy or a young Leadbelly. Instead, he encountered a singing actor who knew his on stage commercial worth. It was obvious to me that Bob thought I had sold out.”

Walt Conley Portraits

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Conley’s first album, Passin’ Through, came out in1961 on Premiere Records, a small Denver label.

It featured ballads, blues and traditional folk standards, including the title track, “Passin’ Through,” which became Conley’s ode to his life on the road.

In 1963, his second album, Listen What He’s Sayin,’ was released on Studio City Records, another independent label, this one out of Minneapolis. Conley had been part of the Minnesota folk scene as far back as 1960, and actually played the Padded Cell, a folk venue in Minneapolis, the day after the assassination of President Kennedy.

Between 1966 and 1970 Conley played the Ice House in Pasadena, California, with various folk acts and even a young comedian by the name of Steve Martin. During those years he played clubs from California to The Bitter End in New York and colleges across the Midwest.

Conley’s dual love of music and acting shifted towards drama as the folk revival of the 1960s ended. In Hollywood, he found work in television series like The Rockford Files and The Six Million Dollar Man and appeared in such movies as Prison for Children with John Ritter and Flashback with Dennis Hopper and Kiefer Sutherland. Because of his rich baritone voice, he was a sought-after voiceover actor in films like The Longest Yard and various TV and radio settings.

Back in Colorado, Conley opened the music venue Conley’s Nostalgia on South Broadway in 1983; he’d played the room back in 1958, when it was The Last Resort.

While the times had changed, Conley believed there was a place for the songs of the past. “Everyone in Denver is serving food, but no one else is serving folk music,” he said. “I’m looking for an era, a time. I don’t think that folk music is coming back. There aren’t going to be more ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone.’ All I want to do is eulogize the era. I love folk music. I know one thing — you can’t go back to stay. I can take you back for an hour. I can take you back for a night. I can sing the old songs, but I can’t make you young again.”

Conley closed the venue in 1987 and released his third and final album, After All These Years, under the name Walt Conley & Company.

Throughout his life, Conley was a champion for various causes, and in 1995 he celebrated 35 years as an actor and musician by holding a fundraiser for the Rocky Mountain Music Association (now Colorado Music Business Association), a nonprofit group that promotes original music, at the Mercury Café. From that and other connections, Conley re-invented himself one more time by creating a music group dedicated to traditional Irish music. Asked why he had turned to that music, he replied, “What made a black man become a singer of Irish rebel songs? If the band U2 from Ireland can sing American blues, then I sure as hell can sing Irish folk songs!”

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Walt Conley died on November 16, 2003; he was 74 years old.

His legend lived on in annual “Waltfest” at the Sheabeen Irish Pub, which raised money for the American Diabetes Association; that ended its run in 2017.

There are very few musicians/actor/venue owners in the world, and we were blessed to have one of those rare individuals here in Colorado. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is proud to induct Walt Conley as part of the Class of 2019.

“I know one thing — you can’t go back to stay. I can take you back for an hour. I can take you back for a night. I can sing the old songs, but I can’t make you young again.”

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Richard Weissman

Inducted: November, 9th 2019

Dick Weissman

The most difficult part of inducting Richard Weissman, better known as Dick Weissman, into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is crediting only one aspect of his long career as the catalyst for the inclusion. Weissman is an award-winning musician, a songwriter, and author of more than 22 books about everything from banjo instruction to music business in the current century, an educator who helped create the Music Business Program at the University of Colorado Denver and a historian.

Oh, and he’s also a mentor for hundreds, if not thousands, of former students and colleagues.

Weissman was born on January 21, 1935.  “I grew up in Philadelphia,” he says. “My parents had a commuter marriage: My mother was teaching public school in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and my dad was a pharmacist in Philadelphia, where he had a little drugstore…it was during the Depression and my mother didn’t want to quit her job because she was afraid of what happens if this drugstore goes under.”

As a child, his hobby was collecting travel booklets. “I had all of these Western booklets, so I had a box full of this stuff and I was pestering my parents about the West and when I was thirteen we went to Colorado and New Mexico. This would have been in 1948. That’s where I met this sort of old railroad worker at the State Capitol who wanted to talk to me…he fascinated me but frightened my parents. I talked to him for maybe ten minutes, but it was kind of a peak experience….That was my first interest in Colorado.” 

Early Career

Weissman attended Goddard College in Vermont, where he learned banjo from Lil’ Blos, whose father was an associate of Sigmund Freud. Like many musicians who came out of that era, Weissman was influenced by Pete Seeger and old 78 records, in his case both traditional mountain music and blues. In Vermont and later at the New School in New York City, after he moved to New York, Weissman took guitar and banjo lessons from Jerry Silverman, who led hootenannies. He even played banjo with the Reverend Gary Davis, who was also a mentor. Like many others, Weissman spent time at Tiny Ledbetter’s house, at her Thursday night gatherings; she was Leadbelly’s niece. Weissman was also influenced by Stuart Jamieson from New Mexico, who collected banjo music from artists like Rufus Crisp out of Kentucky.

In New York, Weissman began getting calls for recording sessions, in part because he hung out with other session musicians at a music store called Eddie Bell’s. His guitar and banjo chops got him to work with New York studio guitarists like Barry Galbraith and Al Caiola, who liked his distinctive, finger-style guitar playing.

When Weissman was 23, he got a major co-write with Dave Van Ronk titled “Bamboo,” which was recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary. The album went multi-platinum and the song was later used for a shoe commercial in Germany.

In 1959 Weissman made his third visit to Denver (during an earlier stopover, he played music for unsuspecting travelers with Tom Paxton at the Denver bus station). This trip turned into a wild time that included a stay at Walt Conley’s house.

“His house was a 24-hour-a-day party,” Weissman recalls.“

Walt was booking the Satire Lounge and I ended up as one of the opening acts. Walt would do a set, and then the Smothers Brothers would do a set.  The Satire was a pretty wild and woolly place in those days. That was great fun for me. I can’t remember what I got paid — probably $10 or $15 a night, but I didn’t go out there to make money, I went to avoid hay fever.”

When Weissman returned to New York, he met John Phillips (later of the Mamas & the Papas), who was part of a band called The Smoothies at that time. Phillips introduced him to Scott Mackenzie (“If You’re Going to San Francisco” and “Don’t Make Promises”). Through a series of events, the three became the Journeymen. The act was signed by International Talent, the booking agency for the Brothers Four, Kingston Trio, The Limeliters and later Bob Dylan, and through International Talent, the musicians found management with MGM that then got them signed to Capitol Records. Though the Journeymen records were not great sellers, the band toured for almost four years.

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In 1964, just before the Journeymen broke up, Weissman recorded a solo album for Capitol, The Things That Trouble My Mind.

The label hoped that Weissman might provide competition for Dylan’s success at Columbia. The album and other songs that he wrote in this period met with considerable success, including a song about mining called “They Still Go Down” for Gram Parsons and “Medgar Evers Lullaby” that Judy Collins recorded.

After twelve years in New York doing everything from producing records to writing songs and touring, Weissman decided to make the move to Denver. In 1972 he enrolled in the fledgling music business program at CU Denver. In the Mile High City, Weissman found a rekindled passion for banjo; most of his session work in New York had involved the guitar. The Denver Folklore Center, opened in 1962 by Harry Tuft (inducted in 2011), was the hub of the folk and bluegrass community and that included Kim King of Lothar & the Hand People (signed to Capitol between 1965 and 1970); members of Magic Music with Chris Daniels and later Nick Forster; and Tim O’Brien, who founded Hot Rize, Colorado’s premier neo-traditional bluegrass band.

While he attended UCD and taught lessons, Weissman was also making the transition to family man.

From 1975 to the early 1980s, he played in bands, raised a family, taught at Colorado Women’s College and composed music for a number of films and commercials. In 1979, he recorded a solo album on Kicking Mule titled Modern Banjo – Mountain Style.  Weissman also began his career as an author, writing a biography about Wesley Westbrook, a black songwriter who left Arkansas and came to Denver to escape the oppression of that era. While cleaning airplanes for United Airlines, Westbrook wrote several songs for the Staples Singers, including the hit “You Don’t Knock.”

Though that book was not picked up by a publisher, it started Weissman on a career that would include more than 22 titles, including instruction books for guitar and banjo. His first major book, The Folk Music Source Book, was published by Knopf Press and won the ASCAP Music Critics Award.  As Weissman describes this time in his career: “I was writing instruction books, for a couple of years I taught at Swallow Hill, I did gigs with The Main Event, and I did what gigs that I could get.   And I taught at Colorado Institute of Art for a year.  I started teaching at UCD in 1990. While I was there, there was a union called the Oil, Coke, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, and I ended up doing music for two of their conventions, a CD and some of the music which led to a play about Karen Silkwood.  I did music for a play by a professor named Larry Bograd who was then at Metro about the Ludlow Massacre.”

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During this time, Weissman also began writing grants to fund special educational experiences for his students.

“I brought Peggy Seeger here with a grant, I brought Len Chandler, who was a black protest singer who was arrested like fifty times,” he recalls. “I brought a Native American artist, Vince Two Eagles, from Montana…. I got a grant that set up the (college) label CAM Records. The last thing I did at UCD was a class on Advanced Record Production.”

I brought three kids in from Jamaica — I had taught at a Jamaican governmental trade show and then at two songwriting boot camps while I was at UCD. So we selected three writers, they came here, the orchestra was a combination of UCD students and faculty, and the producers were students. It’s a good experience for people.”

Between 1990 and 2019, Weissman recorded seven albums, from 1990’s New Directions, which included a quintet with Tim O’Brien, Mollie O’Brien and Bob Rebholz playing everything from flute to sax, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, dobro and electric bass, to 2008’s double album, Four Directions. Weissman’s music is always evolving. In 2016 he recorded and released Night Sky, comprising sixteen instrumental pieces, including a five-part instrumental suite based on the folksong “The Golden Vanity” (also known as “Willow Tree”). These albums appeared on several labels, among them Folk Era, Wind River and Long Bridge.

Today Weissman is as creative and busy as he was in the 1960s.

Over the past few years, he’s been elected to the Denver Musicians Association four times. In 2016 he put out the book The Music Never Stops. And in 2019 he’s coming out with a new book, History of American & Canadian Folk Music. He also just released an album, No Ceiling, which includes seventeen instrumentals and four lyrical pieces; the songs are sung by Mollie O’Brien and Harry Tuft. And with all that going on, he continues to be a sought-after speaker and consultant.

There are very few musicians in the world who are also authors, educators, producers, and historians, and we are fortunate to have one of the most talented and knowledgeable of these rare individuals in this state. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is proud to induct Dick Weissman as part of the Class of 2019.

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“There are very few musicians in the world who are also authors, educators, producers, and historians, and we are fortunate to have one of the most talented and knowledgeable of these rare individuals in this state.”

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Swallow Hill Music

Inducted: November 9, 2019

Swallow Hill Music

Swallow Hill Music has a long and impressive history as Denver’s home of roots music: folk, bluegrass, old-time, acoustic, Americana and beyond. The concept grew out of the idea that roots music concerts, and teaching enthusiasts how to play that music, could be combined into a nonprofit association.

Harry Tuft, inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental in 2011, saw such an organization as a way to bring the best in folk artists to Colorado, while Julie Davis, a well-respected autoharp performer, and teacher, added a music school to the equation.

Swallow Hill was established in 1979 at Tuft’s Denver Folklore Center in the Swallow Hill neighborhood just east of downtown. Now celebrating its fortieth anniversary, Swallow Hill has grown to become the nation’s second-largest roots music concert organization and music school. But the road to success was not always easy: As with the roots music it celebrates, interest in the organization suffered in the 1980s.

Early Roots of Swallow Hill Music

By the 1990s, though, a permanent home had been established at 1905 South Pearl Street. Under the Swallow Hill Music board and executive director Seth Weisberg (1987-1995), class enrollment swelled to 2,700, with Rebecca Micklitch as the school director. The number of concerts grew to almost 100 a year, with Meredith Carson as concert director.

Twenty years ago, under the leadership of Chris Daniels (executive director from 1995 to 2000, and inducted into the Hall in 2013), Swallow Hill moved into its current location at Yale Avenue and South Lincoln Street. But that was only the beginning of the organization’s real growth spurt.

Performances and Community Outreach

Swallow Hill Music now has a combined concert attendance well over 60,000 annually, and produces about 250 shows in the three concert halls at the group’s home at 71 East Yale Avenue, as well as the Denver Botanic Gardens series at York Street and at Chatfield Farms, the Oriental Theater and Four Mile Historic Park, to name a few venues. Today Swallow Hill Music School hosts 64,000 student visits each year, with seventy teachers who provide private lessons and classes for everyone from toddlers to seniors at the Yale Avenue location and satellite locations in the Highland and Lowry neighborhoods. And Swallow Hill’s Community Outreach programs create more than 75,000 music connections annually. These programs in Denver’s underserved communities bring music education and experiences into pre-schools, K-12 schools, libraries, and senior centers, working with more than 200 schools and organizations across the Front Range.

Awards

Swallow Hill Music has won awards that include accolades from the El Pomar Foundation, the Mayor and Governor’s awards for excellence in the arts, and countless Best of Denver honors from Westword. Musicians and music fans around the country continue to heap praise on the organization.

Swallow Hill Testimonials

Says Mary Flower, award-winning blues guitarist, vocalist and a founding member of the Mother Folkers,” For me, Swallow Hill has been an enormous network of friends who have grown together since they worked behind the counter in their early twenties at the old Denver Folklore Center.”

According to Paul Kashmann, guitar player, former Swallow Hill board member, and current Denver City Council representative, “There’s really nothing like Swallow Hill in that you can literally reach out and touch the performers if you don’t pass them in the hall before the show.”

Folksinger Tish Hinojosa, the spokesperson for the National Association of Bilingual Education, adds, “It’s wonderful to see them growing. It’s an encouraging sign of the power of acoustic music. The intellectual-circle places, like the Northeast, have ongoing music venues that have always presented acoustic and folk music. But in the heart of the country, it’s a little rarer. It’s great that Denver has one.”

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Paul Lhevine, the current CEO of Swallow Hill Music, is effusive in his excitement about the organization’s potential. “The future looks even more promising,” he says. “We continue to attract new audiences while paying homage to our historical roots – we’ve found ways to stay relevant in a quickly changing music scene. Our additional locations are proof-positive that folks want music in their neighborhoods, and our Community Outreach programs are ensuring that everyone in our community has an opportunity to learn and grow through music.”

Swallow Hill Music’s Induction into CMHOF

From the early dreams of a group of dedicated musicians at Harry Tuft’s Denver Folklore Center to the award-winning arts organization that it has become, Swallow Hill is one of the most vibrant music resources in not just Colorado but the nation. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is proud to induct Swallow Hill Music into the Hall of Fame. We are honored to celebrate the contribution of all the performers, teachers, volunteers, members and supporters who make Swallow Hill an essential part of this state’s music history.

“We continue to attract new audiences while paying homage to our historical roots – we’ve found ways to stay relevant in a quickly changing music scene”

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