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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

Richard “Dick” Weissman

The most difficult part of inducting Richard 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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Folk Band

Colorado Artist Spotlight: 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, spokesperson for the National Association of Bilingual Education, adds, “It’s wonderful to see them growing. It’s an encouraging sign for 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 more rare. It’s great that Denver has one.”

Paul Lhevine, the current CEO of Swallow Hill Music, is effusive in his excitement about the organization’s potential. “The future looks ever 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.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Roman Zaiets

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Who Is Joe Walsh?

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

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

Joe Walsh Band Beginnings

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

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

Joe Walsh in Colorado

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

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

Joe Walsh Leaving Colorado

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

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

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

Learn More

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

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KBCO

Inducted: December 3, 2018

KBCO

What began as a modest, 250-watt signal booming out of the little town of Boulder (with a population of under 70,000 at the time) had, 42 years later, turned into the nationally known 97.3 KBCO World Class Rock. In the process, KBCO set the standards and benchmarks that every Adult Rock station strives for: creativity balanced with radio fundamentals and commitment to the local community that led to long-term success. And KBCO was also the founding station of the Adult Album Alternative (or Triple A) format that to this day holds its annual convention in Boulder.

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Back in the ‘60s, a radio fan named Bob Greenlee graduated from Iowa State with a dream to own a radio station. His search led him to Boulder where, in 1975, Bob and his wife, Diane, bought KADE-AM. But Bob knew that FM radio was where he really needed to be, and by the end of 1976, the Greenlees had purchased a 1000-watt FM station, KRNW, that had a loyal following in the progressive college community. The signal also happened to come with a Class C license, allowing an upgrade to 100,000-watts.

The original vision was to create a music station that reflected the unique population of Boulder, and the call letters were changed to KBCO for Boulder Colorado. On the air, it was dubbed “Boulder Radio” with a mix of soft, acoustic “Colorado Music.”

By the mid-1980s, KBCO was so successful that the station constructed an antenna that could reach the entire Front Range. The programming vision changed with the expanded audience, as KBCO could now embrace the entire Denver market and beyond, expanding the original acoustic music playlist while keeping the unique Boulder image. And it worked: By the winter of 1988, KBCO was the #1 rated station in the Denver radio market.

KBCO always embraced the fun Colorado lifestyle. Boulder was and is a bicycle town, and in 1980 KBCO launched the Kinetic Sculpture Challenge: a competition of human-powered amphibious crafts made from bicycle parts and whatever else was available. The teams raced through mud, down dirt roads and over water at the Boulder Reservoir. For the winter, KBCO created the Cardboard Derby. Contestants created their crafts out of cardboard boxes and raced them down the slopes at local ski resorts. At the same time, the “I Ski with KBCO” program offered discount ski weekends, bringing hundreds of KBCO listeners together to do what Coloradans love most in winter…skiing and riding. And KBCO has hosted hundreds of live concert events, from its years presenting the 4th of July fireworks at Folsom Stadium to special performances at small clubs to hundreds of shows at Red Rocks and such venues as the Pepsi Center and Fiddler’s Green.

Over the past thirty years, the top names in music have performed live on-air in KBCO’s Studio C. Dave Matthews, Sting, Stevie Nicks, Robert Plant, Mumford and Sons, Imagine Dragons, Ed Sheeran and hundreds more have recorded unique and often cutting-edge performances at the station. Studio C is a regular stop for up-and-coming artists, who play there for their fans and the exposure … and the opportunity to be included on the annual CD that the station releases each December.

The idea for the Studio C performances came when Melissa Ethridge brought her acoustic guitar into the station so that it would not be exposed to the elements. She did an impromptu on-air performance in one of the station’s small editing studios called, “Studio C.” It’s now developed into one of the best live recording and broadcast studios in the country.

Before streaming – when CDs were the way we bought music – 30,000 copies of the popular KBCO Studio C Series would sell out in 4 hours. And in December 2018 KBCO Studio C celebrated their 30th Anniversary with a special 2 CD set that contained some of the best music ever preformed live on the radio. The KBCO Studio C CDs have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Boulder County AIDS Project and the Food Bank of the Rockies.

KBCO’s dedication to Colorado music and musicians comes to life in there ‘Local Edition’ program airing weekly for more than 30 years – giving a voice to the local music community. In 2004, the KBCO Local Edition CD featured local artists recorded live in KBCO Studio C to benefit Music Education in the Denver Public Schools. And in keeping with the times, a vinyl album version of local Colorado musicians recorded live at KBCO supported the Colorado Music Hall of Fame’s move to Red Rocks. Through the years KBCO has showcased local artists right alongside the national acts released on the Studio C CD series.

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Radio has changed. In 1977 there was no internet, streaming, cell phones or ear-buds. Today radio is taking on new, exciting roles in the digital world and in our community. Now, radio is only one of many outlets for music fans to find out about new artists. The business of radio has changed in the past 40 years as well. When Bob and Diane Greenlee bought KBCO they were only allowed, by law, to own two stations in any given marketplace. Today companies can own up to eight stations per market in many different markets.

KBCO navigated the waters of corporate buyouts and management changes to keep KBCO relevant and supportive of the local community. KBCO keeps us informed, laughing through the traffic and giving us access to the best new songs mixed with a wide variety of music spanning many decades. The station remains the essential outlet for any artist who wants to build a fan-base of loyal music fans, concertgoers and supporters of the band.

The Triple A format has morphed into a collection of mostly noncommercial radio stations across the country. But with the incredible heritage, loyalty and dedication of the KBCO staff of the past four decades; the loyalty and unbridled enthusiasm of the Colorado music fans who feel a personal connection to DJs like Ginger, Keefer, Bret, Scott and all the on-air staff; KBCO remains by far the most successful station of them all. For over 40 years KBCO has provided the music of several generations – the music of our lives. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental is proud to induct 97.3 KBCO for their incredible contribution to Colorado Music.

KBCO set the standards and benchmarks for which every Adult Rock station now strives.

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Chuck Morris

Inducted: December 3, 2018

Chuck Morris

A pioneering concert promoter and prolific artist manager, Chuck Morris stands as a pillar or Colorado’s music scene.

Born in Brooklyn, Chuck Morris found his passion for music ignited by a Kingston Trio concert at New York’s Lake Chautauqua in 1957. Morris launched his fifty-year career in concert promotion and artist management when he dropped out of a University of Colorado Ph.D. program in 1968 to manage The Sink, an iconic college hangout on Boulder’s University Hill, for friend and owner Herbie Kauvar. Morris started to book local bands — Flash Cadillac, Tommy Bolin, Magic Music — and the rest is history! In 1970, Morris and Kauvar acquired Tulagi, another Boulder venue that had built a national reputation. Morris booked a blend of up-and-comers, including the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, ZZ Top and Bonnie Raitt, plus a mix of blues, folk and country legends like Muddy Waters, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Leo Kottke.

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Morris moved beyond Boulder in the early 1970s when he began a long partnership with powerhouse Denver concert promoter Barry Fey.

Morris, Fey and Fey’s wife, Cindy, launched Ebbets Field, an intimate club named after the fabled Brooklyn Dodgers stadium. Though Ebbets lasted just a few years, it was regularly filled beyond capacity as Morris snagged then-burgeoning music superstars like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat and Herbie Hancock, plus rising comedians like Richard Pryor and Steve Martin. Morris joined Feyline Presents as Senior VP of booking and promotion and helped facilitate the rise of that juggernaut concert company into one of the biggest in the country, as well as helped turn Red Rocks Amphitheatre into the most popular outdoor venue in the country. In the 1980s, Morris and Fey collaborated on the Rainbow Music Hall, a 1,458-seat space that allowed Morris to lure bigger bands and established performers like AC/DC, Bob Dylan and Metallica, plus new artists U2, Blondie and Pat Benatar.

As the Front Range music scene grew, Morris turned his talents to artist management. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Leftover Salmon and Lyle Lovett are among those who benefited from his guidance. In the late 1980s, Morris began a long and fruitful friendship with entrepreneur Philip Anschutz when Anschutz approached Morris about having The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band perform at the opening of Anschutz’s Western art collection exhibition in what was then the Soviet Union.

Ready to strike out on his own, Morris left Feyline Presents (while remaining a consultant for several years) and allied his promotion expertise with the company founded by the legendary Bill Graham. In the late 1990s, they purchased and redeveloped Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium, which shares its name with the storied San Francisco venue that Graham helped make famous. Bill Graham Presents/Chuck Morris Presents was eventually acquired by SFX Entertainment and ultimately became Live Nation, which Morris continued to run.

In 2007 Morris joined Anschutz’s AEG as President-CEO of AEG Presents Rocky Mountains, the largest concert promotion entity in the region. Morris led the renovation of Fiddler’s Green, an outdoor 17,000-seat amphitheatre in south Denver; the creation of 1stBank Center, a 6,500-seat facility in Broomfield; and the development of The Mission Ballroom, a 60,000-square-foot space in Denver’s hip RiNo Arts District scheduled to open in 2019.

Outside of his music-industry interests, Morris has been recognized for his philanthropic work. He is a longtime supporter of the Denver Health Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Denver Dumb Friends League, American Transplant Foundation and University of Colorado Foundation, among many more organizations.

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental was proud to induct Chuck Morris into the Hall on December 3, 2018.

A pioneering concert promoter and prolific artist manager, Chuck Morris stands as a pillar of Colorado’s music scene.

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Chuck Morris & KBCO

Colorado has a rich musical history. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the contributions of legendary music promoter Chuck Morris, and 97.3 KBCO that got its start in Boulder, Colorado. Morris and 97.3 are set to be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental this December 3rd at the Paramount Theater. Read on to learn more about these two titans of the Colorado music scene and get tickets to be part of this historic community event.

Chuck Morris

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Chuck Morris established himself as a Colorado music industry institution. After leaving the Ph.D. program in political science at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Morris was offered a job managing The Sink, a restaurant and bar on the Hill where he brought in acts as varied as Tommy Bolin and Flash Cadillac. With partner Herb Kauvar, they bought and re-opened Tulagi nightclub. At Tulagi, Morris brought Boulder the first real concert hall experience, bringing in Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt, and The Doobie Brothers on their very first tours.

In 1974, he brought his prolific ear for music to Denver where he booked early tours of Richard Pryor, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steve Martin, and Carole King at Ebbets Field Nightclub with his financial partner Barry Fey. Morris recently told The Daily Camera, “I thought I would be doing this music thing for six months and then go back to graduate school. That was 50 years ago.”

Since then, Morris has continued to drive the Colorado music community as a world-class promoter and an artist manager, and most recently in a bid to bring a 4,000-seat theater to downtown Denver called the Mission Ballroom opening in 2019.

KBCO

97.3 first went on the airwaves in 1977 and established itself in the Boulder community as the premier station for playing both well-known artist’s deep album cuts and discovering young unknown artists. At the time, there were no stations that gave airtime to indie bands and performers, and KBCO found a massive audience hungry for new, upcoming bands and performers. The strength of KBCO’s increased transmission power brought the station to the entire Front Range and that combined with their deep community involvement, from Kinetics to the Studio C sessions released on CD. This supported The Boulder Valley Aids Project and Food Bank of The Rockies with millions of dollars in fundraising that led to 97.3 KBCO becoming not just world-class rock, but a Colorado music icon that is as vibrant today as it was when it started in the 1970s. From their featuring of local artists on “Local Edition” to their hosting of the national Triple A Radio Convention and its long history of environmental activism, 97.3 KBCO is more than just radio; it is the music of our lives.

Be a Part of Colorado History

The inductees will be honored on December 3rd at the Paramount Theater. More than seven musical acts will pay tribute including The Lumineers, Leo Kottke, Isaac Slade of the Fray, Amos Lee, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, members of Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident, and surprise guests – plus

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper leading a “roast” of Morris this is a not-to-be-missed event. To attend this fun event and honor some of the most prolific members of the Colorado music scene, grab tickets here. If you’re interested in learning more about Colorado’s musical history, visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental and check out our exhibits that range from 20th Century Pioneers to John Denver.

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Jazz Masters & Beyond

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Jazz Masters & Beyond

On November 28, 2017, at the Historic Paramount Theater, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental hosted a concert and induction ceremony for Colorado’s Jazz Masters – bassist Charles Burrell, guitarist Bill Frisell, cornet player Ron Miles, singer Dianne Reeves, and Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, and Andrew Woolfolk from Earth, Wind & Fire. East High School also received the first-ever Barry Fey Visionary Award.

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One thing that all of these Jazz Masters share in common is that they are all gifted and experienced performers in almost every genre, and it is their grounding in jazz that has made them truly exceptional.

 

The concert at the induction ceremony demonstrated how their mastery of jazz influences all of the styles that they play, from classical music to rock and roll. The induction concert proved that point in spectacular fashion.

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. Jazz teacher Keith Oxman and choir program director Wil Taylor accepted the award.

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Jazz is alive and thriving well here in Colorado, and these artists are used to performing around the world, influencing genres from pop to rock and much more.

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