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Miles & Frisell

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Miles & Frisell

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

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

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

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

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

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Charles Burrell

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Charles Burrell

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

Burrell, a bassist, is perhaps best known for becoming the first African American to ink a full-time contract with a major American symphony, as he did when he joined the Denver Symphony Orchestra in 1949. But equally impressive is his virtuosic career as a jazz musician, making him one of a rare breed who felt as comfortable in a tux at Boettcher Concert Hall as he did with a cigar in his mouth at Five Points’ Rossonian Lounge.The first notes of Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony proved to be Burrell’s first exposure to an incurable music bug. As soon as he heard the San Francisco Symphony on his family’s crystal radio, the kid from Detroit made it his goal to play under the orchestra’s director, Pierre Moneteux. So, when his 7th grade music teacher asked if anyone wanted to play an instrument, Burrell eagerly followed him to a set of storage lockers and took the last thing left: an aluminum string bass so large his mother thrifted him a Little Red Wagon to help carry it.

To learn his instrument,

Burrell practiced for hours every day. Some evenings he would get together with his friends and listen to the swinging sounds of Count Basie, getting his first feel for jazz and blues.Burrell aspired to become a music teacher but joined the Navy during World War II. Stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base in Chicago, he continued to hone his craft. He jammed in an all-Black big band with famous trumpeter Clark Terry and trombonist Al Grey, while also collaborating with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Northwestern University music groups.

When the war ended, he continued his music education at Detroit’s Wayne State University but was told he would never find work as a Black music teacher. Instead, Burrell hopped on a bus and moved west to Denver, where his mother had recently settled. A career in music wasn’t financially sustainable on its own, but Burrell paid the bills by painting and washing every one of the 9,000 seats at Red Rocks Amphitheatre — the very same venue where he would, hours later, don a tuxedo and perform with the symphony. Meanwhile, sporadic gigs at restaurants and nightclubs further sharpened his improvisational skills.

After ten years, Burrell left Denver and fulfilled his longtime dream, becoming the San Francisco Symphony’s first Black musician. He later joined the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as one of the institution’s first professors of color. When an earthquake shook the Bay Area in 1964, Burrell moved back to Denver, where he would play with the symphony until retiring in 1999. A staple of the local jazz scene, Burrell, who celebrated his 100th birthday in 2020, performed alongside the likes of Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan. Along the way, he mentored bassist Ray Brown (Fitzgerald’s husband), keyboardists George Duke and Purnell Steen, and his niece, singer Dianne Reeves, who herself is a Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee.

Burrell has been honored with the Denver Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture and the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. Congresswoman Diana DeGette led a tribute to him on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, referring to him as “a titan of the classical and jazz bass.” But perhaps his most meaningful honor came on his 99th birthday, when the Colorado Symphony honored him with a rendition of the piece that started it all: Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony. “I could not believe it,” Burrell told CPR in 2020. “I think it was the first time in my life I really shed a tear because it was so beautiful.”

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Charles Burrell was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Jazz Masters & Beyond class of 2017.

Charles Burrell Discography

1982 – Jim Ranson, Dreams of the Skies

Dreams Of The Skies

1982 – Marie Rhines, Tartans _ Sagebrush

Sagebrush

1988—Don-Ewell-Denver-Concert

Denver Concert

1999 – Joan Tower, Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman

Across The Blue Mountains

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Wendy Lynn Kale

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Wendy Lynn Kale

Wendy Kale was the first journalist to be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

Born in New Jersey on March 19, 1953, Kale came west to Boulder in 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 had selected CU, Kale told friends. She became a regular at Tulagi and the Buff Room on the Hill. She also found a prolific music scene at the school itself, where she saw the Jefferson Airplane, Savoy Brown and the Marshall Tucker Band in Balch Fieldhouse, and Zephyr and B.B. King in the Glenn Miller Ballroom.

WENDY W BILLY JOEL

Kale soon found her way to the CU Program Council, the group responsible for bringing movies and concerts to campus. She began as a general volunteer, hanging posters, working on production crews, volunteering for security and selling tickets for movie programs. But mostly, she loved the music.

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

When Stu Osnow took over, he relied on Kale to suggest acts for Program Council events. She selected local talent to open for touring artists, and continued to find musicians for the FAC and other events. Among the bands she championed in their early days were Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the Samples, the Subdudes, Chris Daniels & the Kings and 16 Horsepower.

Kale graduated in 1979 but continued to help out at the Program Council. She advised several classes of Council staffers and was considered a mentor. To make ends meet, she took jobs that accommodated her music-dominated schedule, working at CU’s bookstore and registration, and helping out at local entertainment venues.

In 1986, Kale was hired to write the “Out and About” column for the Colorado Daily, which allowed her to continue doing what she loved: attend music events and promote local and emerging talent. At the Daily, Kale established herself as a music writer; her beat was Boulder’s theater and club circuit.

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Wendy Kale CU Yearbook Photo

When the E.W. Scripps Company purchased the Colorado Daily in 2005, Kale’s work began to appear regularly in the Boulder Daily Camera. She still wrote about music, but expanded her scope to include alternative healing and new-age spiritualism. She wrote for the Camera until her untimely death on August 3, 2011.

It’s been said that Kale attended more concerts than anyone in Boulder. If you wanted to find her, you went to the Fox, the Blue Note, Tulagi, Nissi’s or any other local venue. And if she wasn’t there, she was peddling her old black bicycle from one performance to another. “She just loved the music,” Firefall’s Jock Bartley has said of Kale.

Many in the music community came together to remember her. 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 at her memorial; Teresa Taylor, Andy Schneidkraut and Helen Forster also spoke. Each mentioned Kale’s tireless support for music and musicians, and shared a personal account of how she’d helped them early on or at a critical juncture in their career. The event ended with the entire group gathered on stage for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

It was an honor and a privilege to give Wendy “Rock & Roll” Kale the Barry Fey Innovation Award and induct her into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2019.

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Zephyr

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Zephyr

No one who ever saw Candy Givens perform with Zephyr can forget her vocal power or her energetic presence. Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald — veterinarian, comedian and longtime music fan — remembers her as “a force of nature.”

Whether Zephyr was opening for Jimi Hendrix at the Denver Pop Festival, playing Mammoth Gardens or tearing the roof off the Fillmore West with Jeff Beck, it was the band to see in an incredible era of rock music.

Candy Ramey was born in 1946 and grew up around Evergreen and Golden. Her love of music and powerful voice got her voted “most likely to become a famous singer” in her senior year at Golden High School. She attended the University of Northern Colorado with plans to become a teacher.

But music was her focus, and she ended up in San Francisco, where she made her radio debut playing guitar and singing on a Chinese-language station. A year later, she moved to Aspen and joined the Piltdown Philharmonic Jug Band. She also met David Givens, a songwriter and guitar and bass player. They moved to Boulder with David’s band, Brown Sugar, and were married in October 1968.

Candy and David Zephyr

Brown Sugar formed the beginnings of Zephyr, which came together following a 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 the University of Colorado’s Glenn Miller Ballroom, later opening for John Mayall at Macky Auditorium. The group built its reputation through early shows at Reed’s Ranch with the Grateful Dead, free concerts at the Boulder Bandshell, and gigs at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles.

With Candy’s stage presence, songwriting, vocals and harp, Bolin’s magical guitar solos and the power of the Zephyr rhythm section, the band honed its blues/jazz/rock sound on shows with Led Zeppelin, Mountain, Joe Cocker, Spirit and Fleetwood Mac, and established a loyal fan base across the U.S. and in Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. Zephyr was the logical heir to a small dynasty of influential women-fronted bands of the late 1960s.

But logic and destiny don’t always unfold as expected.

Zephyr’s second album was recorded for Warner Bros. with producer/engineer Eddie Kramer at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady studios  in New York. Sadly, Hendrix died the day before he was to return to complete Cry of Love, and the Zephyr project was adversely affected by the ensuing chaos. Going Back to Colorado was released in 1971.

The album was favorably reviewed in Rolling Stone by Lester Bangs; local journalist Gil Asakawa noted Candy’s “powerful, throaty voice that could scream the highest rock-and-roll notes but swoop down to the lowest moaning blues.” But Warner Bros. wasn’t happy with sales and gave Colorado only half-hearted promotion.

Zephyr

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Coupled with mismanagement back home, Zephyr never achieved the commercial success that fans thought the band deserved. According to David Givens, promoter Barry Fey turned his attention to Bolin.

David and Candy put together a new lineup and recorded Sunset Ride, a fan favorite. David produced the album and wrote most of the songs. Bolin was replaced on guitar by Jock Bartley, with Michael Wooten on drums. Over the next ten years, Zephyr’s evolving roster would include Otis Taylor, Eddie Turner, Rob Rio, Bobby Berge and others.

Zephyr disbanded shortly after releasing Heartbeat in 1982. Candy and David were planning a blues album when she died in a drug-related drowning on January 27, 1984.

In 2014, Greg Hampton and David Givens remastered and repackaged Zephyr’s self-titled debut, then did the same for Going Back to Colorado, adding previously unreleased material in a boxed set titled Leaving Colorado. David is currently remixing Sunset Ride and Heartbeat.

In 2019, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame was proud to induct Candy Ramey Givens and Zephyr.

Zephyr Discography

1982 – Zephyr Heartbeat

1969 – Zephyr

1972 – Sunset Ride

1971 – Going Back to Colorado

1997 – Zephyr Live at Art’s Bar and Grill

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Tommy Bolin

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Tommy Bolin

Born in Sioux City, Iowa, on August 1, 1951, Tommy Richard Bolin was arguably the best guitarist to find a home in the Colorado music scene of the 1970s. When Bolin died of an overdose in 1976, he was on a career path 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 the James Gang; he also collaborated with jazz drummer Billy Cobham and replaced Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. What’s less well known is the work he did with other guitarists, such as Jeff Beck and Albert King, and musicians in bands like Energy and Tommy Bolin’s Dreamers, which included his brother, Johnnie Bolin, bassist Stanley Sheldon, drummer Bobby Berge, vocalist Jeff Cook and singer/keyboardist Max Carl.

Bolin took up guitar at age eleven, studying at Flood Music in Sioux City and with a country guitar-picker who lived across the street. He could play almost anything by ear and joined his first band as a teen. In 1967, after being suspended from high school twice for his long hair, he came to Colorado on a one-way bus ticket.

American guitarist Tommy Bolin

Bolin developed his signature powerhouse style in various bands, including Ethereal Zephyr. After a jam session at the Buff Room 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 the blues-rock act Zephyr.

Zephyr began writing music and playing around the state, including at the Sink in Boulder, various University of Colorado venues, and Reed’s Ranch in Colorado Springs. On trips to Phoenix, the musicians connected with acts like Steve Miller, Vanilla Fudge and David Lindley. They played at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles.

In 1969, Zephyr played two nights, one with headliner Jimi Hendrix, at the Denver Pop Festival. During spots on shows with Led Zeppelin, Mountain, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Spirit, Fleetwood Mac and more, the band established a fan base across the country and seemed headed for a place in rock history.

Zephyr recorded its self-titled debut in 1969 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 Hendrix’s death, the album was caught in the confusion of the moment and never received the attention it deserved. Zephyr’s manager, Colorado promoter Barry Fey, turned his attention to Bolin, who left Zephyr to head out on his own.

In 1973, Bolin joined the James Gang on founder Joe Walsh’s recommendation. He toured with the band and recorded two albums, with co-writing credits on most of the songs. In between, he played on Billy Cobham’s iconic solo album Spectrum along with Leland Sklar and Jan Hammer.

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, releasing his debut, Teaser, in November.

That same year, members of Deep Purple asked him to take over for lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Bolin wrote seven of the nine tracks on the act’s Come Taste the Band album — but after a problematic world tour, he returned to his solo career.

In September 1976, Bolin released Private Eyes on CBS Records. He began touring in support of the album, doing shows with Peter Frampton and Jeff Beck, among others. In Miami on December 3, he was upbeat and told an interviewer that he was excited about the future. Sadly, Bolin died of an overdose that same night; he was only 25 years old.

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

Tommy Bolin Discography

1969 – Zephyr

Zephyr

1971 – Going Back to Colorado

Going Back To Colorado

1975 – Teaser

Teaser

1976 – Private Eyes

Private Eyes

1973 – Bang

Bang

1974 – Miami

Miami

1975 – Come Taste the Band

Come Taste The Band

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Tony Spicola

Anthony James Spicola

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Anthony James Spicola

Anthony James Spicola was born in Trinidad, Colorado, on July 24, 1937. At the start of the 20th century, southern Colorado attracted many European immigrants, who came to work in Pueblo’s steel mills and the mines near Trinidad. One of those newcomers was Spicola’s grandfather, who worked on the railroads that hauled the coal and steel.

As a young man, Anthony Spicola was filled with a love of music, inspired by the records he collected during trips to Denver. His first foray into the music industry was as equipment manager for the Trinidad High School marching band; he graduated from the school in 1955.

Another passion was photography, which not only garnered Spicola national attention (especially his covers for Hot Rod magazine), but allowed him to help regional bands with promotion and marketing materials. His photography work led to music talent management, which in turn led to the world of concert promotion, where he truly shone.

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Spicola began recording and promoting emerging artists throughout southern Colorado. One of the most successful was Chan Romero, whose hit recording of “Hippy Hippy Shake” was covered by the Beatles and included in over ten motion pictures. The Trolls, the Frantics and others also benefited from Spicola’s mentoring.

In addition to his promotion work, Spicola opened two clubs in Pueblo: the Fantastic Zoo and Pinocchio’s. Before long, he was putting on concerts with national and international acts at larger venues.

In 1963, he began bringing in now-classic acts, from the Rascals to Ike and Tina Turner and a host of bands that later became part of the British Invasion. In order to accommodate the sell-out crowds these headliners would draw, Spicola turned to larger venues around Colorado Springs. The defining moment of his concert promotion career came on August 18, 1968, when the Who played at a 3,000-seat concert hall in the Springs. The band had flown in from London for its first Colorado appearance; tickets were $5.

“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 also booked a number of country acts in 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 “free stage” at the fair. Santana (with Phish opening), Aerosmith and Kenny Rogers also came to Pueblo thanks to Spicola.

In the late ’60s, Spicola went to work in sales at radio station KDZA in Pueblo. A decade later, he bought the station — and for the next seven years, he held down two jobs: concert promoter and radio station mogul.

Legendary concert promoter Barry Fey worked with Spicola in the early days of his career, learning much from his mentor. Fey was co-presenter, with Spicola and KDZA, of several major concerts at the time, including the infamous “brown M&Ms” Van Halen show at the University of Southern Colorado, an event labeled by MTV as one of the twelve roughest nights in rock and roll.

By 1986, Spicola had turned his focus to his family — wife Karen and children Gina and Joel — and his marketing skills. He sold his radio stations and devoted most of the next 33 years to boosting the Spradley Barr auto sales empire in Fort Collins, Greeley, Cheyenne and Pueblo.

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

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Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor

Inducted: December 3, 2019

Otis Taylor

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

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

In his youth, Taylor drew inspiration from the Denver Folklore Center, where he first heard the music of Piedmont, Delta, country and Chicago blues artists. He learned to play guitar and harmonica, and 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 garnered Taylor a contract with Blue Horizon Records, but he ultimately parted ways with the label and returned to Boulder, where he played with artists including Tommy Bolin, Zephyr and the Legendary 4-Nikators.

otis-taylor

photo credit by Jacqueline Collins for Westword

As the music business changed, Taylor turned away from public performances in 1977 and developed a career as a high-end antiques expert. He also helped organize, coach and fund one of the first African-American bicycle racing teams.

In 1995, at the urging of bass player Kenny Passarelli, Taylor performed at the opening of Buchanan’s Coffee Pub on the Hill in Boulder, joined by Passarelli and former Zephyr guitarist Eddie Turner. The strong audience response inspired Taylor’s return to recording and touring.

Taylor released his first solo album, Blue-Eyed Monster, on Shoelace Music in 1996. The next year, When Negroes Walked the Earth earned a review in Playboy from rock critic Dave Marsh.

Taylor’s vocal, guitar and songwriting talents were recognized in 2000 with a Sundance Composers Lab fellowship. That same year, Taylor released his breakthrough album, White African, on Northern Blues Music. His songs confronted his personal connection to the legacy of lynching  — his great-grandfather had been lynched — and other dark topics. Taylor shocked the blues world with a heartfelt vocal delivery that accentuated his exploration of race relations and social injustice.

The roots of the style that became Taylor’s most recognizable contribution to the blues are on 2003’s Truth Is Not Fiction. Music critics were both enthralled and mystified by Taylor’s “trance blues” style. Truth Is Not Fiction earned rave reviews, as well as a Downbeat critics’ award for Blues Album of the Year.

Double V came out in 2004, the first of eleven albums produced by Taylor. It also marked the increased presence of his daughter, Cassie, who would become an integral part of his band on bass and vocals. Double V won a second Downbeat critics’ Blues Album of the Year award, while a Living Blues readers’ poll awarded both Taylor and Etta James Best Blues Entertainer honors. In 2007, Downbeat named Taylor’s Definition of a Circle Blues CD of the Year.

Otis Taylor

Otis 3

Taylor had dreamed of a project highlighting contemporary black banjo players, and he connected with Keb’ Mo’, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Don Vappie, Guy Davis and Corey Harris for 2008’s groundbreaking Recapturing the Banjo, named Downbeat’s 2009 Blues CD of the Year. Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs scored another win that year.

Over the past ten years, Taylor has released five more albums, his music has been used on various film soundtracks and television shows, and he was included in the inaugural exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

A resident of Boulder since 1967, Taylor gives back to his community through his annual Trance Blues Festival, and he and his wife, Carol, created a blues-in-the-schools program called Writing the Blues, which Taylor has taken worldwide.

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

Otis Taylor Discography

1997 – Blue-Eyed Monster

1997 – When Negroes Walked the Earth

2001 – White African

2002 – Respect the Dead

2003 – Truth Is Not Fiction

2004 – Double V

2005 – Below the Fold

2007 – Definition of a Circle

2008 – Recapturing the Banjo

2009 – Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs

2010 – Clovis People, Vol. 3

2012 – Contraband

2013 – My World Is Gone

2015 – Hey Joe Opus Red Meat

2017 – Fantasizing About Being Black

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Freddi & Henchi

Inducted: December 3, 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 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 45 rpm 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 “I Want to Dance, Dance, Dance” has become a YouTube classic.

In part because guitar wizard and songwriter Larry Wilkins’s home town 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.

Freddi-Henchi-3

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 Johnnyswim to Garth Brooks, 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.

Freddi-Henchi-4

Freddi-Henchi-Band

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 the Skunk Creek Inn and Herman’s Hideaway.

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame was proud to induct Freddi Gowdy and Henchi Graves in 2019, in recognition of their role as Colorado’s “Crown Princes of Funk.”

Freddi – Henchi Band Discography

1972 – The Prophets Of Funk

1972 – Dance

2010 – The Last Set

1972 – The Prophets Of Funk

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Mother Folkers

Inducted: November 9, 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 when repeating 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 to 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 acoustic, dobro and electric guitars, piano, bass, saxophones, mandolin, concertina, marimba, hammered dulcimer, banjo, harmonica, autoharp, pennywhistle, accordion, violin, conga, cajón and snare drum, with additional percussion. The expert vocals ranged from stirring solos all the way to a large repertoire of full-group a cappella numbers with harmonies galore.

Offering 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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The Mother Folkers were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame at a concert honoring the fortieth anniversary of Swallow Hill Music, which was also inducted. The lineup performing that night included Ellen Audley, Liz Barnez, Bonnie Carol, Angie DeFrancis, Mary Flower, Julie Hoest, Ellen Klaver, Rebecca Leonard, Barb (Morris) Davidson, 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 joined the group to accept the award, then enjoyed 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. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame was 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.”

MotherFolkers Discography

1991 – Confluence

1989 – Live At The Arvada Center

2004 – Best of Keepers

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Walt Conley

Inducted: November 9, 2019

Walt Conley

Born on May 20, 1929, 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 in 1949.

Conley went to college on a football scholarship and spent his summers working on a ranch in New Mexico. There he met Jenny Vincent, a local folk singer and activist who performed with the likes of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. While at the ranch, Conley met Seeger, who helped him get his first guitar.

He served in the Navy during the Korean War. According to biographer Tim Fritz, “Walt was one of almost 100,000 African-Americans who were on active duty” at the time. While stationed in New York City, Conley made it a point to see and meet folk artists.

He returned to New Mexico in 1953 to work on the film Salt of the Earth. He also 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 deciding to make music his career in the late 1950s.

Conley started as a Harry Belafonte-style calypso singer at the Windsor Hotel in Denver. “I was barefooted and wearing cut-off pants,” he remembered on the Walt Conley & Company website. “It was a crazy way to perform.” By 1958, he was appearing at Colorado venues including the Red Ram in Georgetown and Little Bohemia in Denver, where he met Judy Collins, who suggested that he play at Michael’s Pub in Boulder.

In 1959, Hal Neustaedter opened the Exodus in the Raylane Hotel, bringing premier folk acts to Denver. According to Fritz, “On October 16, 1959, the Exodus hosted…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, Folk Festival at the Exodus, was made of the event; on it, Conley sings “900 Miles,” “Worried Man Blues,” “Passing Through” and “John Henry.”

Around this time, Conley was asked to take over booking at the Satire Lounge; 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.

Walt Conley Portraits

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Conley’s first album, Passin’ Through, came out in 1961 on Premiere Records, a small Denver label. Listen What He’s Sayin’ was released in 1963 on Studio City Records, an independent label out of Minneapolis, where he’d been part of the folk scene for several years.

Between 1966 and 1970, Conley played clubs from California to New York and colleges across the Midwest. When the ’60s folk revival ended, he found work in Hollywood, acting in television and movies. He was also a voiceover actor.

Back in Denver, he opened Conley’s Nostalgia on South Broadway in 1983. He believed there was a place for the music of the past. “Everyone in Denver is serving food, but no one else is serving folk music,” he observed.

At Conley’s, he created a group dedicated to traditional Irish music. “If the band U2 from Ireland can sing American blues,” he noted, “then I sure as hell can sing Irish folk songs!”

He closed the venue in 1987 and released After All These Years under the name Walt Conley & Company. In 1995, he held a fundraiser at the Mercury Cafe for the Rocky Mountain Music Association, a nonprofit group that promoted original music.

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Walt Conley died on November 16, 2003, at age 74. His legend lived on in the annual “Waltfest” at Sheabeen Irish Pub, which continued to raise money for the American Diabetes Association until 2017. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame was proud to induct Walt Conley as part of the Class of 2019.

Conley believed there was a place for the music of the past. “Everyone in Denver is serving food, but no one else is serving folk music,” he observed.

Keep music history alive!
Donate to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.



More Inductees