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Poco

Inducted: January 9, 2015

Poco

Rusty Young got his musical start in Böenzee Cryque, a Denver-based band that recorded for Uni Records. The double-sided 45 “Still in Love with You Baby” backed with “Sky Gone Gray” went to No. 1 on the hit list of KIMN, Denver’s dominant Top 40 station, in April 1967. On the West Coast, Richie Furay had formed Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills and Neil Young.

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His song “Kind Woman” made the Springfield perhaps the first rock band to experiment with a country sound. Furay called his friend from Colorado, Rusty Young, to play pedal steel guitar on the session.

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

In 1971, the band members moved to Colorado.

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

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

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While walking down a road to his house near Nederland, Furay wrote one of Poco’s most distinctive compositions—1973’s “A Good Feeling To Know,” with the lyrics “Colorado mountains I can see your distant sky.”

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Firefall

Inducted: January 9, 2015

Firefall

Singer-songwriter Rick Roberts and guitarist Jock Bartley founded Firefall in the summer of 1974. Roberts had served as a spark for the Flying Burrito Brothers from 1970 to 1972, after Gram Parsons left the band.

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He contributed several compositions to the repertoire—the best-known being “Colorado”—before launching his own career as a solo artist. Bartley had started as a student of jazz guitar great Johnny Smith, a Colorado Springs resident.

With a few band stints around the Denver/Boulder area under his belt, Bartley took over the lead guitar post of Tommy Bolin in Zephyr in 1971. The following year, he switched over to Gram Parsons’ band, the Fallen Angels (which also featured Emmylou Harris) and met Roberts, whose touring schedule with the Burritos often overlapped that of Parsons. Mark Andes, the founding bassist of the bands Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, joined with Bartley and Roberts, who began an informal series of jam sessions at his home in Boulder. Roberts thought of a fourth participant he’d met in Washington, D.C., singer-songwriter Larry Burnett. At Chris Hillman’s suggestion, they added drummer Michael Clarke, an original member of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

The break came when Roberts, Bartley and Andes toured as Hillman’s backup band. Hillman fell ill during a date at the Other End in New York, and the club owner accepted a proposal to bring Burnett and Clarke into town. Firefall finished out the engagement, and Atlantic Records was sold on the band.

By January 1976, the group had completed recording a debut album with producer Jim Mason, who blended the group’s acoustic guitars, mellow pop melodies and vocal harmonies.

A sixth member, David Muse, joined the ranks on keyboards, synthesizers, flute, tenor sax and harmonica.

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

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Bartley continues to tour with the Firefall name. The song “You Are the Woman” has been played on American radio more than 6 million times.

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Manassas

Inducted: January 9th, 2015

Manassas

Searching for some peace from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1970, Stephen Stills would fly by Lear jet to decompress at his cabin near Gold Hill in Boulder Country. He posed there for the cover photo of his first solo album on September 20, 1970, the morning after he received the news of the death of his friend Jimi Hendrix.

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Stills wrote songs for his second solo album that winter while in Colorado; he also named his publishing company after Gold Hill.

After watching the Flying Burrito Brothers play the Boulder nightspot Tulagi, Stills posited that Chris Hillman, then the Burritos’ lead singer and driving force, and guitarist Al Perkins should quit their band and join him.

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

After touring, Hillman took several weeks away to record a reunion album with the Byrds, his pre-Burritos band. Manassas then regrouped.

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

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

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Manassas was Stills’ vision of a group that would bring together rock, folk, Latin, country and blues.

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Billy Murray

Inducted: April 16, 2016

Billy Murray

Born May 25, 1877 in Philadelphia, Billy Murray and his family moved five years later to Denver, where he spent most of his early years expressing an interest in show business. Following his stint as part of a “rube” song-and-dance act with neighborhood pals, his parents allowed him to join Harry Leavitt’s High Rollers troupe as an actor at age 16.

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He spent the next decade honing his skills in a succession of minstrel shows and small-time vaudeville venues.

Murray found his way to New York, where he could achieve success in the rapidly emerging field of phonography. In 1903, he secured an engagement with Thomas Edison’s National Phonograph Company, and his initial recordings, released and marketed nationwide, became immediate hits. Murray’s ability to sing loudly, in full voice, was suited for making precise, vibrant records during the acoustic era of sound process, which employed recording horns rather than the electronic microphone.

Murray emerged as a huge solo recording star, introducing the public to the music of George M. Cohan (“You’re a Grand Old Flag”) and a host of familiar tunes—“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (written by Irving Berlin), “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis,” “Over There,” “Casey Jones,” “Pretty Baby” and “That Old Gang of Mine.”

The labels had him record a wide range of styles, including material from Broadway musicals, sentimental ballads, comic fare, vaudeville sketches, “ethnic” and topical pieces. He served as guest lead vocalist for the Haydn Quartet, known for its spirited interpretations of ragtime and novelty numbers (the biggest was “By the Light of the Sil’vry Moon”), and became leader of his own group, the American Quartet. He also recorded duets with popular female artists of the day.

Murray remained a prolific artist throughout the 1920s; when the industry transitioned to electronic recording, he adjusted to a softer, crooning delivery for jazz and band-oriented dance numbers. During the 1930s, he recorded spoken dialogue to children’s stories and film cartoons. He retired in 1944 and passed away on September 17, 1954 in Long Island.

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Murray emerged as a huge solo recording star, introducing the public to the music of George M. Cohan (“You’re a Grand Old Flag”) and a host of other familiar tunes.

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Elizabeth Spencer

Inducted: April 16, 2016

Elizabeth Spencer

The youngest of four children, Spencer was born Elizabeth Dickerson on April 12, 1871; her father died eight months later. In 1874, her mother remarried to Col. William Gilpin, who had served as the first governor of the Territory of Colorado in 1861. The family moved to Denver. Spencer received vocal training and learned to sing, recite stories and poetry and play piano and violin. She graduated from St. Mary’s Academy and, after an extensive European tour, married Otis Spencer, an attorney. A recognized society woman, Spencer sang in churches, concerts, clubs, parties and amateur theatricals.

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She got her big break in 1905, performing a successful solo act at the local Orpheum Theatre, her professional debut in a major vaudeville house.

Her second engagement, a one-act sketch, displayed her acting abilities, and the experience led to roles in Broadway road companies. By 1910, she was residing in New York City and making her first recordings. Signing an exclusive contract with inventor and businessman Thomas Edison’s company, Spencer’s “dramatic soprano” was heard on numerous studio recordings, participating in solos, duets, trios, quartets and choruses.

Having made only phonograph cylinders, Edison decided to add a disc format to the product line in order to compete with such rivals as the thriving Victor Talking Machine Company. The majority of Spencer’s best work was on the Diamond Disc, which reproduced the quality of her singing with greater accuracy. Edison chose Spencer to give public Tone Test demonstrations, during which she would sing at the same level with the phonograph, the lights would dim, and audience members had to guess when she stopped singing and when the phonograph took over.

The Edison studio cashbooks document Spencer in approximately 661 sessions by the time her commitment expired in 1916, more than any other vocalist. Spencer signed with Victor, but by 1920, she was back at Edison, and her session schedule slowed considerably. Diamond Discs were more expensive than and incompatible with other brands of records, ultimately failing in the marketplace; Edison closed the record division a day before the 1929 stock market crash. Spencer died in Montclair, New Jersey in 1930, ten days after her 59th birthday.

The majority of Spencer’s best work was on the Diamond Disc, which reproduced the quality of her singing with greater accuracy.

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Paul Whiteman

Inducted: April 16, 2016

Paul Whiteman

Born in Denver in 1890, Whiteman was raised in serious music by his father Wilberforce, director of music for the Denver Public Schools. As a student at East High School, he learned viola and started in 1916 with the Denver Symphony Orchestra as first chair.

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After time with the San Francisco Symphony, he formed the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1918.

The nine-piece ensemble had relocated in New York City by 1920; it played the Palais Royal for the next four years—the earliest dance band from the West to take the East Coast by storm. In 1924, Whiteman staged a concert blending symphonic music and jazz at Aeolian Hall, New York’s temple of classical music. George Gershwin, playing piano, introduced “Rhapsody in Blue,” which became Whiteman’s theme song.

Whiteman had the country’s largest and best-paid dance orchestra, an imposing ensemble of up to 35 musicians—the first to play arrangements; the first to use full brass and reed sections; the first to tour Europe. Sidemen included many greats and future bandleaders—Bix Beiderbecke, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Johnny Mercer and Jack Teagarden. In late 1926, Whiteman signed the Rhythm Boys to sing for his band; Bing Crosby’s prominence in the trio helped launch his career.

Whiteman had 28 No. 1 records during the Roaring Twenties, and his version of “Ol’ Man River” with Paul Robeson on vocals would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006.

By 1928, Whiteman was on the air when live radio programming was on the increase. He and the band made The King of Jazz for Universal Pictures in 1930, one of the first feature-length movies filmed entirely in Technicolor. As the band became more of a show unit, the size decreased, but as late as 1938, his personnel roster included 27 musicians and a vocalist.

When disc jockeys took over radio, Whiteman briefly spun platters on ABC. After television came onto the market, he made a number of special appearances and was Jackie Gleason’s summer replacement in 1955. In the early 1960s he promoted sports car racing in Florida and California. Whiteman died in a Pennsylvania hospital in 1967 at the age of 77.

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The Paul Whiteman Orchestra was the earliest dance band from the West to take the East Coast by storm.

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Glenn Miller

Inducted: April 16, 2016

Glenn Miller

Miller was born on March 1, 1904 in Clarinda, Iowa. His family was poor, moving steadily westward during his childhood, first to Nebraska, and then to Fort Morgan, Colorado. Miller studied music during high school, and soon after graduation in 1921, he took his first professional job in the Denver area with Boyd Senter’s popular orchestra.

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He then enrolled at the University of Colorado, where he spent his time outside of class playing in fellow student Holly Moyer’s band.

He left college in 1923 to devote full attention to his career as a musician and arranger.

Joining Ben Pollack’s band, Miller went to Los Angeles, to Chicago, and eventually to New York in early 1928, where he married his college sweetheart, Helen Burger. After leaving Pollack, Miller joined the Smith Ballew orchestra, then the newly-formed Dorsey Brothers band.

He finally decided to launch his own band in January of 1937. At the end of the year, he disbanded it, discouraged and in debt. With financial help he tried again the following spring. This time he had the players he wanted to go with his gifts as an arranger, and he developed a clarinet-led reed section and created what came to be known as the “Miller sound.”

In 1938, Miller signed with Victor’s Bluebird label. “Little Brown Jug,” “In the Mood” and his signature, “Moonlight Serenade,” played both from jukeboxes and on radios across the country.

By the fall of 1939, the Glenn Miller Orchestra was the nation’s hottest attraction.

“Tuxedo Junction” and “A String of Pearls” reached No. 1 on the top-sellers chart, and Miller was awarded the first-ever gold record in 1942 for selling more than one million copies of “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

With the onset of World War II, Miller, at 37, was determined to take part in the war effort. Entering the army in October 1942, he molded the nation’s most popular service band. That U.S. Air Force Band went to England in the summer of 1944, entertaining troops at 71 concerts in five months. On the afternoon of December 15, while flying from the south of England to newly liberated Paris to lead a concert to be broadcast on Christmas, the small plane carrying Major Glenn Miller disappeared over the English Channel, ending a brilliant and influential career in American popular music.

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“Tuxedo Junction” and “A String of Pearls” reached No. 1 on the top-sellers chart, and Miller was awarded the first-ever gold record in 1942 for selling more than one million copies of “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

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Max Morath

Inducted: April 16, 2016

Max Morath

Ragtime virtuoso Max Morath was born in Colorado Springs on October 1, 1926. His mother had lugged a piano bench full of music west from the family farm in Iowa; as a youngster, he said he discovered “the beat in my fingers” for ragtime, the tunes that predated jazz as America’s first distinctive music.

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After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English from Colorado College, Morath embarked on a varied career.

Appearing in melodrama productions in southwest Colorado, Morath studied American popular music and theater. Finding inspiration in his ragtime heroes Eubie Blake and Scott Joplin, he became fascinated with the accompanying fads from the turn of the century.

Morath logged hundreds of appearances in the Gold Bar Room in Cripple Creek during the summers of the 1950s. He also did radio announcing and moved into TV, where he wrote, announced, edited, acted and sang at Colorado’s new KKTV in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

During 1959 through 1961, he wrote, performed and co-produced 26 half-hour television programs for NET (National Educational Television), the precursor to PBS. Produced by KRMA, Channel Six in Denver, they were fed nationally to the nascent public broadcasting network, combining his seemingly offhand, colloquial approach to early American popular music, comedy and social history.

The Ragtime Era series, followed by the Turn of the Century series, were in syndication through the 1960s and are considered classics of the genre.

Moving from Colorado to New York, Morath performed nationally at colleges and in nightclubs with his Original Rag Quartet. His off-Broadway one-man show Max Morath at the Turn of the Century was a hit (he spent seven weeks rehearsing his performance in Durango, Colorado), and similar productions followed—The Ragtime Years, Living a Ragtime Life, The Ragtime Man and more.

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“Mr. Ragtime” retired from touring in 2007 and continued to be active as a lecturer and consultant.

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Lannie Garrett

Inducted: November 8, 2013

Lannie Garrett

At age 22, Garrett arrived in Colorado, her first stop on a purposely undefined emigration to the West. While waiting to establish residency for tuition purposes, she met Denver club singer Ron Henry and told him to call her if he ever needed a singer.

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He did, and she eventually proved herself to the eager young musicians in town, many of whom backed her over the years.

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

Garrett operated Ruby, a club on 17th Avenue, and spent a decade as the house entertainer at the Denver Buffalo Company.

In 2006, she realized the dream of owning her own venue, opening Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret beneath the D&F Tower downtown, hosting top local and national talent.

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

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

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Garrett operated Ruby, a club on 17th Avenue, and spent a decade as the house entertainer at the Denver Buffalo Company.

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Russell, Cohen and Allison – Honoring those lost but not forgotten.

The music world lost three icons in November, and I’m grateful to have had the privilege of seeing them perform in Colorado.

When Leon Russell (d. Nov. 13) was recording Hank Wilson’s Back in 1973, he decided he wanted kindred spirits New Grass Revival to back him up. The veteran rocker made his Telluride Bluegrass Festival debut in 1980, teaming up with New Grass to shake the San Juan Mountains in Southwestern Colorado. Russell looked radiant in the spotlight, his sly rasp “converting” hushed fans to gospel grass with “Jesus Will Take Me Home” and “Amazing Grace.” I remember a second encore of “Roll Over Beethoven” went well beyond the curfew. It then took the emcee, Pastor Mustard, 20 minutes to convince the crowd that the magic had come to an end.

Leonard Cohen (d. Nov. 7) was experiencing a creative upsurge late in life when he performed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2009 and 1stBank Center in 2012, two of the strongest, most confident shows I witnessed in the past decade. In his seventies by that time, the elegiac poet was returning to the stage after he discovered that his former business manager had embezzled millions from him; he never managed to collect the awarded damages. Cohen sang his heart out—even getting down on his knees to emphasize his dedication—serving up his catalog accompanied by a full complement of meticulously rehearsed musicians and singers.

Mose Allison (d. Nov. 15), who bridged sophisticated jazz and the Delta country blues of his childhood with pointedly observant lyrics, released 31 albums and toured for 65 years before retiring in 2012. Born in Mississippi, Allison attended Ole Miss for a year before joining the Army in 1946 and playing in the Army Band in Colorado Springs. He became British rock’s most popular jazz musician, exalted by the likes of Pete Townshend and Jack Bruce. A sparse crowd showed up at Denver’s legendary Ebbets Field nightclub in the mid 1970s, but when a fan requested a tune from his 1965 Mose Alive! album, Allison obliged in his gentlemanly way by performing several of the songs.

They may be gone, but their music lives on…”

G. Brown

CMHOF Executive Director