Meet Colorado Music Hall of Fame’s Summer 2021 Interns

Tori Everson
Senior at the University of Denver majoring in Journalism and International Studies and minoring in Marketing
Hometown: Orono, MN

Who is your favorite band/musician? SZA

Who is your favorite Colorado band/musician? The Lumineers

Tori Everson

What sparked your interest in interning with Colorado Music Hall of Fame? I have family that works in the music industry in Nashville and they always have the most interesting and unique stories, so I thought it would be fun to start working in the music industry in Colorado. I also love attending concerts, Red Rocks being my favorite venue, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to gain internship experience in a field I am interested in and genuinely enjoy!

What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on during your internship? Why? My favorite project I have worked on during my time with CMHOF would be researching all of the Hall of Fame’s around the nation. This was fun to see how other states have designed their hall of fame’s. Towards the end of my internship, I began designing and typing content for a docent training guide. This was fun as I got to further research the artists/bands inducted into CMHOF.

Lorne Fultonberg
Master’s student at the University of Denver studying Media and Public Communications with a focus on strategic communications
Hometown: Superior, CO

Who is your favorite band/musician? The Beatles

Who is your favorite Colorado band/musician? Earth, Wind & Fire

Lorne Fultonberg

What sparked your interest in interning with Colorado Music Hall of Fame? First and foremost, it was a love of music! I wanted to see what life was like in a nonprofit with a mission I believed in. And the Hall’s work was so valuable (and so cool!). I realized that, despite growing up in Boulder County, I knew nothing of the Hall. I wanted to change that and use my skills to spread the word.

What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on during your internship? Why? Personally, researching and updating several of the inductee pages on the Hall of Fame site has been a true treat. It’s been so much fun learning more about the artists and venues that make our state great! Professionally, I’ve enjoyed strategizing ways to put the Hall and its great work in front of a larger audience.

 

 

Abbie Smith
Junior at the University of Denver, Political Science and Journalism double major
Hometown: Richmond, VA

Who is your favorite band/musician? The Beatles

Who is your favorite Colorado band/musician? Judy Collins

Abbie Smith

I’ve always been passionate about music and journalism, and when I discovered the internship with the Colorado Music Hall of Fame I thought it was the perfect way to explore both areas of interest. I was absolutely right! I have been able to discover more about Colorado music history and have exponentially improved my writing and editing skills over the course of my internship.

What has been your favorite project that you’ve worked on during your internship? Why? My favorite project that I worked on this summer was the interview I conducted with museum archivist Dave Aldridge. I felt very lucky to be able to sit down and discuss music history with Mr. Aldridge and to hear about his experience and involvement in the Colorado music scene.

An Interview with Colorado Music Hall of Fame Volunteer Dave Aldridge

By: Abbie Smith, University of Denver Intern

Longtime history and music lover Dave Aldridge joined the Colorado Music Hall of Fame team as the museum’s volunteer archivist during the summer of 2020, after responding to an ad in the Hall’s newsletter seeking volunteers for various projects. “I was hoping to explore more of Colorado music history beyond the ‘big names’ of John Denver, Judy Collins, and Stephen Stills,” he says. A forty-year resident of Colorado and veteran concert attendee, Aldridge claims to have attended over 100 concerts at Red Rocks alone; he’s clearly not a stranger to Colorado music.

Despite having no training as a museum archivist, Aldridge’s volunteer work has been pivotal in the organization of artifacts and photos donated and loaned to the Hall. “I’ve organized and inventoried records, CDs, photos, textiles, posters, and other items given to us for our exhibits… but there is no ‘normal day’ for me,” Aldridge explains. He does what is needed, whether that means documenting and properly storing the Hall’s artifacts at the storage space or outsourcing to find new artifacts from donors in the area.

Two artifacts stick out as particularly interesting during Aldridge’s time exploring the Hall’s archives: an Elton John pinball machine owned by Barry Fey and an oxygen tank (to preserve the voice) used by John Lennon at Caribou Ranch recording studio. He was so taken by these items that he chose to feature them in the first two installments of “From Our Collection” in the Hall’s newsletter. That column was started in January 2021 to showcase artifacts not currently on display at the museum.

Aldridge’s passion for Colorado music history is evident when he speaks about everything from meeting Ginger Baker in an aisle at the grocery store to watching the moon rise over Red Rocks at a John Denver concert in ‘82. His stories are remarkable, and the depth of his knowledge of the music scene is profound. Although he stumbled into his volunteer role as an archivist, Aldridge believes in the importance of preserving this history for future generations of Colorado music lovers. Over the past year, Aldridge has become a fundamental part of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame team; his dedication to his volunteer work is a real gift to the Hall.

Photo Caption: Volunteer Dave Aldridge with his wife Nancy at the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour at Red Rocks

The Women of Colorado Hip-Hop

Mic Check 1,2: The Colorado Hip-Hop Scene is Made by its Women

By: Haley Birt, University of Denver Journalism Intern

When thinking about the Colorado music scene, it’s common to refer to the labels of folk, country, and rock; however, Colorado is a little-known hotbed for hip-hop artists. In honor of Colorado History Month, we’re looking at two women who have been rewriting the definition of what it means to be a hip-hop artist.

From the soulful melodies of singer/rapper/songwriter Aja Black to the lyrical gymnastics of Lily Fangz, these artists are weaving powerful social commentary into ear-catching beats that keep heads nodding and minds turning.

Colorado Springs-based artist Aja Black put herself on the map over a decade ago when she and her husband, Big Samir, founded their group The ReMINDers. Black’s strong vocals and creative lyricism are consistently impressive. Her flow between rapping and singing plays into her remarkable ability to capture the fullness and complexity of life. In just a few stanzas, she can sing about everything from skyping her kids backstage to racism in America.

The group’s most recent release, 10k, is one more testament to Black’s talent. Within the first 30 seconds, Black is serving up her lyrical dexterity in the form of both rap and song. Her ability to convert emotions into music has been key in helping propel the group onto stages alongside musical legends Nas Lauryn Hill, and Snoop Dogg, to name just a few.

Black sings, raps, and composes with a passion and authenticity that transcend the airwaves. She brings what is traditionally invisible in hip-hop music — being an artist, emcee, mother of three, and wife — into the forefront of her work. It is her musical prowess that allows her to effortlessly marry and make visible all of these important and diverse life roles. From this, she and Samir have built the foundation for the signature sounds and rhymes of The ReMINDers.

Much like Aja Black, Denver-based Lileana Krenza, better known by her stage name Lily Fangz, stretches her talent far beyond the bars she spits on stage. If her loyal fanbase is not proof enough of her skill, her resume contains such feats as opening for Nas and SchoolboyQ at Red Rocks, hosting CHOMPcast and speaking at TEDx.

Fangz made a name for herself when she released her song “Lay It Down,” which reflected on the fatal drug use of a close friend. From that moment forward, Fangz continued to captivate audiences with her vulnerable and thought-provoking compositions. Alongside her lyrical skill, Fangz shows exquisite talent in blending her poetic prowess into her sonic beats.

In her February release, “RAW V.5,” Fangz exemplifies her adaptive competency. RAW V.5 is part of a larger project that Fangz describes as “experiments in courage.” She approaches this project with a refreshing vulnerability, weaving captivating stories into acoustically driven beats, spotlighting the thematic rawness of the project. She even goes so far as to abandon the beat at times and fall entirely into spoken word. It is Fangz’s openness to stylistic evolution paired with inventive poetics that leave anyone who listens breathless, reeling, and wanting more.

The authentic and grounded music of Fangz and Black creates a strong basis for their success. Their music offers a powerful coupling of authenticity and musical ingenuity; these women are the living examples of what it means to refuse to be silenced. Their work, and the work of many other women in hip-hop, is confident, bold and impactful.

During Women’s History Month, we honor their bravery, as well as that of the women who came before them and the women who will come. May they refuse to be silenced and empower others to do the same.

Colorado Music Hall of Fame Celebrates its 10th Anniversary and the Induction of eTown

DENVER, CO (February 26, 2021) – Colorado Music Hall of Fame (CMHOF) will celebrate its tenth anniversary with events throughout 2021. “Colorado Music Hall of Fame is ten years into an exciting journey of honoring and enjoying the music that makes our state unique….The most abiding takeaway for me has been the genuinely emotional connection that lives on between an artist’s output and the hearts and imaginations of the fans who experience that music,” says CMHOF board co-chair Paul Epstein, a founding board member and the owner of Twist & Shout Records.

CMHOF 10th Anniversary activities include:

March 24: In celebration of Women’s History Month, Patty Calhoun, founder/editor of Westword, will interview Lannie Garrett, 2013 Hall of Fame inductee, in a free, live Zoom that will include a Q&A session with the audience. Information on registration will be posted on cmhof.org.

April 22: On Earth Day 2021, eTown will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a virtual concert celebrating eTown’s own 30th b’ Earthday Celebration. “We’re honored that eTown is being inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. We’ve been working hard for thirty years to bring great music to our audience and have featured so many Colorado musicians along the way,” says eTown founder and host Nick Forster. Additional event details, including the lineup of performers and how to watch the live stream, will be announced in March.

May: This spring, CMHOF will host a 10th Anniversary online auction offering one-of-a-kind music experiences with some of Colorado’s most famed musicians and music industry legends. Visit www.cmhof.org in April for more information. Later this year, new Hall of Fame induction class exhibits will be installed at the CMHOF museum located at the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. At the start of the year, the Hall of Fame launched an online shop featuring CMHOF-published coffee table books and other music-related merchandise. Proceeds from purchases support CMHOF’s mission, to start shopping, click here!

About Colorado Music Hall of Fame

Founded in 2011, Colorado Music Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization with the mission of celebrating our state’s music heritage and inspiring the future of Colorado music through our museum, educational programming, induction concerts, and events. Since the inaugural induction of John Denver and Red Rocks Amphitheatre on April 21, 2011, CMHOF has hosted eleven inductions, honoring more than forty musicians, individuals, and institutions who have made a mark on Colorado’s music history. Sharing the legacies of Colorado music, inductee biographies, videos and memorabilia are exhibited at the Hall of Fame’s museum, located at the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. In 2021, CMHOF welcomed three new board members: Carlos Lando, General Manager of KUVO; Troy Duran, CFO/COO of Growth Leasing LLC; and Yvette Pita Frampton, community leader/documentary filmmaker/musician. It also launched its inaugural Board Emeritus with former board members JC Ancell, Aaron Friedman, Phil Lobel, and David McReynolds.

About eTown

eTown, the internationally syndicated radio broadcast, podcast, and multimedia/events production nonprofit, was launched on Earth Day 1991 in Boulder, Colorado. Since then, eTown has produced musical, social, and environmental programming all focused on its ongoing global mission—to educate, entertain, and inspire a diverse audience through music and conversation in order to create a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable world. Prior to the pandemic, eTown recorded shows in front of a live audience in eTown Hall, a 17,000 square foot former church in downtown Boulder which has been renovated and transformed into a solar-powered performance and recording facility—likely the only zero-carbon facility of its kind in North America. Recently, eTown pivoted to all-virtual episodes. eTown has aired on over 300 radio stations nationwide, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean, Vimeo, on Facebook and Twitter @eTownRadio, on Instagram @eTown_Radio, on YouTube, as well as at www.etown.org.

Colorado Music Hall of Fame Induction Classes 2011-2021

2011- Inaugural Class: John Denver, Red Rocks Amphitheatre
2012- Setting the Stage: Barry Fey, Harry Tuft
2012- Rockin’ the ‘60s: The Astronauts, Flash Cadillac, KIMN Radio, Sugarloaf 2013- Colorado’s Folk Revival: Judy Collins, Chris Daniels, Bob Lind, Serendipity Singers
2015 – Country Rock in the Rockies: Firefall, Manassas w/Stephen Stills, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Poco
2016 – 20th Century Pioneers: Lannie Garrett, Glenn Miller, Max Morath, Billy Murray, Elizabeth Spencer, Paul Whiteman
2017 – Rocky Mountain Way: Caribou Ranch, Dan Fogelberg, Bill Szymczyk, Joe Walsh & Barnstorm
2017 – Jazz Masters & Beyond: Philip Bailey, Charles Burrell, Larry Dunn, Bill Frisell, Ron Miles, Dianne Reeves, Andrew Woolfolk
2018 – Live & On the Air: John Hickenlooper, KBCO, Chuck Morris 2019 – Old Folk, New Folk: Walt Conley, Mother Folkers, Swallow Hill Music, Dick Weissman
2019 – Going Back to Colorado: Tommy Bolin, Freddi & Henchi, Wendy Kale, Tony Spicola, Otis Taylor, Zephyr
2021 – eTown

Meet Our Board Emeritus

Moving into our second decade, the Hall’s board of directors is thrilled to present the inaugural members of the newly formed, Colorado Music Hall of Fame Board Emeritus. These four individuals consist of former board members (some, even founding members!) who have contributed to the Hall of Fame’s evolution and success.

Journalism intern from University of Denver, Haley Birt, interviews our inaugural Board Emeritus:

JC Ancell
Associate Director, University Memorial Center/ Staff Advisor, CU Program Council
University of Colorado (Retired)

What motivated you to join the board of Colorado Music Hall of Fame?

“I was at the University of Colorado and the staff advisor [for the Program Council]…and [Phil Lobel, a fellow board member] convinced me… that I might be useful to the board. I had lived in Colorado my whole life…I was a music fan and involved in the music business from the university perspective….Music business and artist recognition was sort of my forte and things that I was interested in.”

What has been most rewarding about your time on the board of Colorado Music Hall of Fame?

“I was instrumental in helping to develop the material and the presentation when Wendy Kale was inducted into the Hall of Fame. I contributed to her biography, contributed some photos and personal artifacts that supported her induction into the Hall. And I was fortunate, and grateful, that I was able to actually induct her into the Hall myself.”

What is your favorite Colorado music memory?

“Being involved with hosting back-to-back Rolling Stones concerts at Folsom Stadium in 1981….It took extensive planning and a lot of precautions and programs that weren’t necessarily common at other concerts we produced….We were recognized nationwide as being two of the smoothest run rock-n-roll concerts ever so it was a big feather in our cap…. It was a great show, full success, very smooth,… [and] it was an opportunity for me to see my favorite rock-n-rollers up close and personal.”

Aaron Friedman
Vice President, Finance
AEG Presents Rocky Mountains

What motivated you to join the board of Colorado Music Hall of Fame?

“Music is a big passion of mine; [it] always has been. Before I worked for AEG Presents, I was doing lots of things in the music business, as many people in the music business do…. I had various nonprofit experience as well as the music industry passion, and because I am in finance and accounting,…I kind of recognized that I might be a good fit and volunteered.”

What has been most rewarding about your time on the board 0f Colorado Music Hall of Fame?

“The most rewarding thing, I really do think, is celebrating the legacy of music in Colorado specifically. Colorado has this really rich and interesting and deep musical tradition, and both getting to explore that and learn about it, myself, and getting to celebrate it and publicize it is really the most exciting aspect.”

What is your favorite Colorado music memory?

“It’s really hard to distill down to a single favorite. You can’t not mention Red Rocks. That place just gives you the chills. I’ve been to hundreds of shows at Red Rocks, and, every time I go, I still get a feeling of it being the greatest place in the world….Going to Red Rocks is an amazing experience.”

Phil Lobel
Founder & Chairman
Lobeline Communications

What motivated you to join the board of Colorado Music Hall of Fame?

“From the moment I snuck into my first concert at the Folsom Stadium when I was a freshman in Colorado in Boulder,…my connection with Colorado music has always been a part of my life. I moved out to L.A. in 1986 to start my own PR firm but always stayed in touch with and worked with Barry Fey and Chuck Morris on various tours that I was working on. Ten years ago, when Chuck [Morris] was putting together the idea of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, I couldn’t think of a better way to renew my connection to the music of Colorado than to be one of the founding board members.”

What has been most rewarding about your time on the board of Colorado Music Hall of Fame?

“The induction of Firefall was just an incredible moment. That was probably for me personally one of the most rewarding moments of the last ten years of Colorado Music Hall of Fame-o have this band that I had a one-on-one relationship [with] in college, [and then] to see them recognized on stage and become one of the early inductees into the Hall of Fame….The other personal induction that really meant so much to me was, I had nominated Barry Fey,… who was at various times, my mentor, my boss,and in his last years, my client….So, to be able to nominate Barry Fey and to also at that time be his publicist for the book about his life was really very rewarding.”

What is your favorite Colorado music memory?

“In 1977, when Barry Fey and Chuck Morris called me about doing the first stadium show at CU, which was…FleetWood Mac along with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, the first thing I said to them was, ‘There’s no way we’re going to do this stadium show without adding Firefall onto the bill.’ So yes, Firefall played on that stadium show–61,500 people sold out, in advance…. To work so hard to get the University to change direction and allow us to book a stadium show and then to book the hottest stadium show in the country…was amazing.”

David McReynolds
President
Columbine Health Plan

What motivated you to join the board of Colorado Music Hall of Fame?

“When [Chuck Morris] first started talking about putting [Colorado Music Hall of Fame] together, I told him I would support him in any way I could. I love music as well, and I love [the] history of music and the history of the music of Colorado. So, it was an easy choice for me to join.”

What has been most rewarding about your time on the board of Colorado Music Hall of Fame?

“Being able to highlight to the public all of the bands that had history and a foundation in Colorado. Some of the bands people were aware of, the famous bands and what have you, people don’t really realize that they had roots in Colorado. So, exposing that to the general public and honoring [the inductees] for all the fine work they’ve done [was] certainly very rewarding.”

What is your favorite Colorado music memory?

“The [Colorado] Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Fiddlers Green where [Dan] Fogelberg and Joe Walsh were there. Essentially, that was one of the great pinnacles of music in Colorado…. That was a special, special night…It was one of the highlights of music events that I’ve been to.”

Black History Month

By Haley Birt, University of Denver Journalism Intern

February is Black History Month. For Colorado Music Hall of Fame this is a time for celebrating not only the successes of today’s black artists but also a time to reflect on the incredible struggle, sacrifice, and triumphs of the those who came before them, laying the foundation for today’s music landscape. 

Charels Burrell
Charles Burrell

Among the Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductees is groundbreaking artist Charles Burrell. Known as the “Jackie Robinson of music,” Burrell became the first black musician to be hired under contract with a major American symphony, the Colorado Symphony, in 1949. Here, his dexterity on bass as both a classical and jazz musician garnered him notoriety far beyond the borders of Colorado. After leaving the Colorado Symphony, Burrell continued to make a name for himself as a founder of the Five Points Jazz movement. The famous bassist developed a habit of passing his musical prowess onto various other family members including his cousin, George Duke, and his niece, Grammy award-winning jazz vocalist and fellow Hall of Fame inductee, Dianne Reeves. 

Diane Reeves
Diane Reeves

Dianne Reeves, a Colorado native from the age of two, began developing her signature style among the musically rich environment of her family. Her talent as an artist allowed her a diverse repertoire that seamlessly blended Jazz, Pop, R&B, Gospel, and African folk. Her genre spanning talent led her to Los Angeles where her preceding reputation promptly lifted her to the top of the charts. In her ongoing career, Reeves has been awarded two honorary doctorates, six Grammys, and has been recognized by the NME as a Jazz Master. 

Earth Wind and Fire
Philip Baiely | Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind and Fire began its exponential journey to fame in the early 70’s, bringing funk and R&B to the forefront of American music, consequently breaking down racial barriers and ultimately changing the landscape of the music industry forever. Lead singer Philip Bailey’s vocal arsenal was essential to this success. His talent as a vocalist and gifted songwriter led the group to seven Grammy-winning nominations. His talent gave him ample foundation to gain success in a solo career beginning in the early 80’s. His array of talents was honored further in 2008 when Berklee College of Music awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Andrew Woolfolk
Andrew Woolfolk

Saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk kicked off his career in 1973 when his instrumental prowess secured his spot alongside fellow bandmates and inductees, Larry Dunn and Philip Bailey, in Earth, Wind, and Fire. Throughout his career, Woolfolk has been a part of many Grammy nominated collaborations and has played alongside everyone from Phil Collins to Deniece Williams. 

Larry Dunn
Larry Dunn

Larry Dunn, performing from the age of 11, was discovered by Philip Bailey in a L.A. night club just a few years later. Dunn quickly found success as the keyboardist for Earth, Wind, and Fire. While continuing his work with the group, he was also a well-known collaborator. Dunn worked with various other artists such as Deniece Williams and The Emotions. His passionfor collaboration would help launch a solo career that would lead him down many successful paths as a composer and producer at his production company, Source Productions. 

Freddi and Henchi
Freddi and Henchi

The Southwest funk scene should not be discussed without a mention of Freddi “Love” Gowdy and Marvin “Henchi” Graves. Together, Freddi and Henchi stoked the soul-funk genre and music scene. Their work as the band Freddi Henchi and the Soulsetters earned them the title of “Crown Princes of Funk.” The group was known for their funky beats and enigmatic choreography. They became particularly popular across college campuses for their party atmosphere. Their reputation for a good time led to the success of their club Good Earth, which opened in Boulder and fortified their presence on the music scene. 

Walt Conley
Walt Conley

Denver native and multi-talented performer, Walter “Walt” Conley, was fundamental in establishing the folk music scene in the southwest. Early in his career, he shared stages with the likes of Judy Collins and The Harlin Trio. His success would lead him far outside of Denver’s city limits –from L.A. to New York where he stretched his talents beyond music, making a name for himself as a film and voice actor. Conley returned to Denver where he opened a folk music venue called Conley’s Nostalgia. On November 16, 2003 Conley passed away in Denver at the age of 73. His legacy is carried on in the hearts and minds of all true folk lovers, and he is annually celebrated during the Colorado WaltFest. 

Otis Taylor
Otis Taylor | photo credit by Jacqueline Collins for Westword

American Blues singer Otis Taylor has been carving out space for himself in the American Blues scene since the early 1970’s. Taylor, drawing inspiration from the diverse culture of the various 1920’s blues scenes, is a breath of fresh air with old school style. His exceptional talent led him to be featured in the inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and to 12 Blues Music Award nominations. Today, Taylor continues to produce music that transcends time, place and audience. His last ten albums have featured a wide variety of talented musicians, including fellow inductee, Ron Miles. 

Ron Miles
Ron Miles

University of Denver alumna, Ron Miles, has made his mark in the contemporary jazz scene as one of the most gifted melodists and cornet players of this era. Throughout his career, Miles has worked with many talented musicians such as Fred Hess and renowned composer Mercer Ellington. His improvisational talent and compositional expertise have most recently been produced under the legendary Blue Note Records label.

These men and women have laid, and continue to lay, the foundation for a creative industry that is more diverse and culturally abundant. Their talents and works deserve to be recognized not only in the month of February but throughout the year, every year. They have each individually and collectively molded today’s music far beyond the genres they call home. Colorado Music Hall of Fame is proud to honor these nine talented musicians as inductees and share their stories with the world.



Quotes from our Inductees

Ron Miles, Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee, “Jazz Masters & Beyond” class (2017):

“My mom, dad, sisters and brother are my closest friends. They have turned me on to so much of the music I hold closest to my heart. I can remember us driving and listening to AM radio. Hearing my folks tell me about Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, Ellington, Monk, Ella, Billie. And my younger siblings hipping me to Prince, The Bee Gees, hip hop. Them tolerating and supporting me practicing all hours of the day, taking me to concerts and lessons. One memory is I challenged a kid in junior high to move up in the trumpet section. My sister Shari was in the clarinet section. I started out with a huge clam, but I looked over and saw her — and she gave me a look that said ‘you can do this’. I regrouped and shocked the whole room (except for her).  I won and can still see her face as I walked up from last chair to first. I actually lost a week later, but I was convinced I could figure this thing out. God and family have been the constants through this journey.”

Otis Taylor (2019 inductee):

“My family’s past has had an enormous influence on my music. Both of my parents were part of the Great Migration of Black people from the south to northern cities. My mother’s family traveled from Louisiana to Chicago, and my father traveled from Memphis to Chicago, in the 1930s. Most of the Black people settled on the South Side of Chicago, and my parents joined this community. My father became a Pullman porter, a prestigious job for a Black man in those times. The Pullman porters helped to deliver the Black-owned Chicago Defender newspaper to southern cities, and it fueled the migration. 

My parents met and married in Chicago. I was born on the South Side in 1948. In the 1950s, after my uncle was shot and killed during a crap (dice) game, my mother moved the family to Denver where she had friends and relatives. She felt it was a safer place for us. Moving to Denver became a pivotal event in my life. 

My parents were social and had parties and played jazz records all the time. However, my coming of age coincided with the counterculture movement, and I was drawn to the people and the music of the times. I found my second home at the Denver Folklore Center and learned to play folk and acoustic blues songs from musicians there. It was a bit rebellious on my part to be a folkie and a hippie and not a sophisticated jazz fan. 

Later, when I wrote my own songs, I drew on many of my family stories and struggles including my father’s job on the railroad, lynching, racism, violence, civil rights history, and social justice. 

It’s important to me that I have shared my family’s history and my musical career with my own family– my wife of 35 years and our two daughters. My daughter Cassie has played on many of my records and toured for years with my band as a bass player and singer. She is also a songwriter who has drawn on these same topics. My younger daughter, Jae, has traveled with me as well, and, as the academic one in our family, she has been inspired to read and study about Black history, music, and literature.”

 

Colorado Music Hall of Fame Journalism/Communications Internship Feb-May 2021

Internship duties include:

• conducting online research on Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductees (musicians, music industry
professionals and institutions) and other Colorado-music related topics
• writing compelling articles and inductee biographies for the Hall’s website and monthly newsletter
• assisting in the roll-out of digital media campaigns for the Hall’s 10th Anniversary
• assisting in content development for marketing collateral
• identifying current news related to Colorado music to share on the Hall’s social media platforms and website
• potential opportunities to conduct remote interviews

Requirements:

• Demonstrated interest in print and online journalism
• Junior year+ of undergraduate degree, with a Journalism or Communications major
• Must have own computer, internet access and email
Qualifications:
• Excellent written communications and research skills
• Creative, energetic and driven
• Takes initiative and works well independently
• Adheres to deadlines
• Music lover

Internship Details:

Dates: February – May 2021
Hours: Flexible hours, approx.. 7-10 hours/week
Location: Fully remote position
Pay: This is an unpaid internship. Prefer candidates whose internship will be counted as academic credit at their university/college.
Reports to: Colorado Music Hall of Fame Executive Director

About Colorado Music Hall of Fame:
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Colorado Music Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization with a mission to celebrate our state’s music heritage and inspire the future of Colorado music through our museum, educational programming, induction concerts and events. Eleven Hall of Fame induction concerts and ceremonies to date have honored and inducted more than 40 musicians, individuals and institutions who have made a mark on Colorado’s music history. Sharing the legacies of Colorado music, inductee biographies, videos and memorabilia are exhibited at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame’s museum, located at the Trading Post at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

To Apply:
Send the following to info@cmhof.org with subject line, Internship, by January 29, 2021:
• A cover letter that addresses why you are a good candidate for a Colorado Music Hall of Fame internship
• Your resume, with names and emails of 3 references
• 3 recent writing samples (attachments or links)

El Chapultepec

Remembering El Chapultepec

Colorado Music Hall of Fame is grateful to have had several artifacts and newspaper clippings donated to our archives from El Chapultepec. The Hall of Fame will ensure its history is not forgotten.

 

Get your El Chapultepec t-shirt and other merchandise before they sell out – here.

Read more about the legendary club:

Westword: https://www.westword.com/music/covid-19-isnt-the-only-reason-el-chapultepec-is-closing-11858362
Denver Post: https://theknow.denverpost.com/2020/12/07/el-chapultepec-closing/250196/
5280: https://www.5280.com/2020/12/covid-19-isnt-the-only-reason-el-chapultepec-is-closed-permanently/
Denverite: https://denverite.com/2020/12/08/denvers-outgrown-us-el-chapultepecs-owners-and-friends-explain-the-demise-of-another-old-school-denver-landmark/

 

Photo Credit: El Chapultepec

Dick Weissman: An interview with Paul Epstein

Dick Weissman: An interview with Paul Epstein

Dick Weissman is an entirely unique mix of historian, musician, teacher, and mensch. He has his curmudgeonly side, but his genuine love of music and understanding of the times in which he lives permeate everything he says.

His self-effacing manner belies a sharp and incisive wit, whether he’s dispensing wisdom to a class full of music-industry hopefuls or picking his way through a complicated banjo piece before a rapt audience.

Weissman is never less than completely honest and authentic. As he speaks his mind, his manner recalls a different America and a different type of American: the type for whom art is an occupation, not an abstract concept, and to whom civic engagement is an obligation, not an antiquated joke.

He is part of a tradition of American folk musicians who helped define the national character at crucial times in our history.  He should be heard and cherished, and he is right here in Colorado.

We spoke on St. Patrick’s Day 2019. As his thoughts unwound in lengthy reminiscences, it felt like the history of modern culture was coming alive. Weissman’s experiences are defining, and trace the development of the now thriving music scene we enjoy in Colorado.

The Early Years

Q : Tell us about your early life and your first introduction to Colorado.

A: I grew up in Philadelphia….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, 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? So my big 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 — my father took very few vacations, he was kind of an immigrant boy who worked 7 1/2 days a week – and when I was 13, we went to Colorado and New Mexico…

…Driving.

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 for me at that age because everybody I knew was pretty middle class, my parents palled around mostly with medical people. So that was my first interest in Colorado.

I then went to college in Vermont, which is where I first learned how to play the banjo from a person whose name was Lil’ Blos, whose main claim to fame was her father, Peter Blos, who was one of the last living associates of Sigmund Freud.

I had heard Pete Seeger at the age of 13, at the Progressive Party convention, because my brother was very active in unions and politics. So Seeger kind of intrigued me, and I started to buy all these old records, 78 discs.

One of the things about me that is different from most of the folkies is that I got equally country-ish and bluesy things. So I had Seeger and Woody, but I also had Brownie McGhee and Lonnie Johnson. When 78s were phased out, Walgreens would have five for a dollar and I would buy 78s by Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie and people like that.

Q: Based on what? How did you know to go by Big Bill Broonzy?

A: I started doing some reading and also I went to a few Seeger concerts, who was always pretty generous without doing the sort of scholarly schtick that the New Lost City Ramblers did: “I learned this from Blind Paul Epstein who learned this from Deaf Dick Weissman, who learned it from his dog.” Seeger didn’t do that.

He said, “If you like the way I play this, you really should really hear Pete Steele do this.” So I would try to find out who’s this Pete Steele, how do I find this out? Seeger was an evangelist that way; that was very constructive and non-egotistical because there’s nothing in this for him to turn people on to those folks.

young Dick Weissman and friend

My junior year (1954) at Goddard in Vermont and then The New School in New York City was probably my formative musical period, when I took guitar and banjo lessons from Jerry Silverman, who was one of the Hootenanny crowd.

In the fall I met The Reverend Gary Davis: I played banjo with him, but never took lessons. He was very influential in my understanding. He played at Tiny Ledbetter’s house on Thursday nights.

Tiny was Leadbelly’s niece, who lived in the same building that Leadbelly and Martha had lived in. In the spring I had gone to the University of New Mexico and met a guy named Stuart Jamieson.

He had collected banjo music from a guy named Rufus Crisp in Kentucky. Rounder later put out a CD called Black Altamont, and Stuart produced a lot of those recordings.

So I met these two people, and the way they influenced me was Gary created this atmosphere around himself where you were sort of lost in this world of 1920s black evangelicals — you know, you’re gonna go to hell if you don’t straighten out.

Yet there was a schizophrenic kind of thing where he loved to have pretty girls around him, and he’d ask them to hold his hand and do crap. He would sing blues when his wife wasn’t around. After a beer or two and a little coaxing, he would do ragtime stuff.

So he was one level of inspiration, and Stuart had this certainty about what he did…he may have these insecurities, but it’s not apparent. Seeger was not one of those people. I don’t think that what he did came naturally to him.

He had to work to do this, and I would, of course, say the same thing about myself. I didn’t grow up in an environment where blues and banjo music were being played on the predecessors of Dick Clark.

So it was partially through Seeger’s influence, partly through buying these records and the radio. I wasn’t a real happy adolescent, so anything different appealed to me.

Q: So it was cultural osmosis, sort of the natural alternative to the “grey-flannel 50s”?

A: Yeah, exactly. So, when I was a senior at Goddard, I wrote the first lengthy banjo thing that I had ever done.

Q: Which you learned to do…?

A: I made it up. I created a form that, as far as I know, no one else has used. It’s called A Day in the Kentucky Mountains, and there are three instrumental parts and a song.

The song does what instrumental music does in most non-classical music — so instead of a banjo break, there’s a song break.

I don’t know why I did this, and I’ve continued to do it. So I graduated, came to New York, started working on a degree in sociology and started to get calls for sessions.

There was a music store called Eddie Bell’s and all the session guys would hang out there, and none of them knew how to play 5-string banjo — they all played tenor banjo. I remember I did a session for Raymond Scott that was one of my first sessions.

Raymond Scott was this crazy person who wrote experimental music, but he also wrote jingles. On the session are Barry Galbraith and Al Caiola, who are two of the biggest studio guitar players in New York.

They were very curious about what the hell I was doing — they hadn’t really seen anyone playing the finger-style banjo, not bluegrass banjo but sort of like old-timey music.

I would start to get more of these sessions and I took all my credits at Columbia and I wanted to write a thesis on five blind black blues religious artists: Gary Davis, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell and one more.

I realized that writing this would be like warfare with my advisor. I had this theory that non-literate blind people — and I was ignorant to the fact that McTell was not non-literate, he actually knew how to read and write Braille, and could write music in Braille — who had been blind since birth or an early age were residues of the culture that existed at the time that they went blind.

I ended up writing an article, but that was about it. So that’s sort of where my Colorado thing started. I had hay fever in August for about three weeks, so I tried to get out of New York. The first time I went back to Colorado I was 23.

Dave Van Ronk was a friend of mine in New York; one of my weird sources of income was that I taught Van Ronk a song called “Bamboo,” and it was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary on a record that sold multi-platinum and we split the copyright, which was a joke because it was a traditional Jamaican song, but that was the game that was being played in the mid-’50s until the mid-’60s.

Dave was in ASCAP and I was in BMI and you were not supposed to work together, so after the first pressing my name was taken off everything after the first pressing, but he continued to pay me my half.

Q: On an informal basis? “Hey, buddy, here’s some more money”?

A: Yeah, and years and years later, he made it into a shoe commercial in Germany and I got an additional ten grand over time. I still get money from it, because after Llewyn Davis (Inside Llewyn Davis), Folkways issued a Van Ronk box set and that song is on it.

Q: What did you think of Llewyn Davis?

A: I hated it! It presented folksingers as being just like pop singers. The story I just told you about Dave Van Ronk — that wasn’t part of Llewyn Davis.

We had personal friendships and relationships.

I’m not saying everybody was honorable, I’m not saying there wasn’t some level of competition, but none of that spirit is in Llewyn Davis. The other thing is that black people are totally invisible. There is no black person in Llewyn Davis.

So, Dave told me I could get a job at Hermosa Beach working at this club. I didn’t know anything about Los Angeles at this point; I didn’t have a car, I didn’t know how to drive. Hitchhiking back to New York, I get stopped in Colorado because it is illegal to hitchhike, and the state cops escort me to the bus station.

So I go to Al’s Loans on Larimer Street, and I bought three cheap guitars, go to the bus station and there’s Tom Paxton.

I don’t know what he’s doing in Denver, but we were both going to New York, so he and I played for about an hour until I realized that people were trying to sleep. He would have kept playing.

There was no stop sign in his vocabulary for that. So that was my first trip to Denver.

Denver in the Late ‘50s and ‘60s

Somewhere in there, I met Walt Conley, who was one of the three best-known folk people in the Denver area, with Harry Tuft and maybe Judy Collins.

A couple of years later, I had a friend who was a guitar student of mine named Art Benjamin, and I said, ‘Why don’t we drive out to Denver?’

The first thing I did was to look up Conley, who lived in a house somewhere between Capitol Hill and Five Points.

His house was a 24-hour-a-day party, and there were friends and girlfriends, whatever. This was ’59 and he was slightly older than I was. I only recently found out that Conley was working for the FBI, reporting on radical folk singers.

Because of the nature of Walt’s house, I met a woman named Karen Dalton, and she and I started a relationship, and my friend Art started a relationship with her sister, who was 17 years old and had been married for ten days to a folksinger named Dave Hamill.

Walt was booking the Satire Lounge and I ended up as the opening act: Walt would do a set, and then The Smothers Brothers would do a set. Dickie Smothers, who was the straight man, his wife was working as a waitress at The Satire — it was so early in their career that his wife had to work as a waitress in the club.

The Satire was a pretty wild and wooly 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.

Q: You were on stage by yourself? Did you have patter? Were you a showman?

A: I had no patter. I didn’t have any show. That evolved in Los Angeles the next year.

At The Ashgrove, the opening act there was Rene Heredia, who was 17 years old and on fire at that point. He was this kid who had come from Spain, and I guess he had some things to prove, and he just really impressed me. I didn’t see him again for 15 or 20 years when I moved to Denver.

I went back to New York and I lived with Karen for three or four months, and in the course of that time I met John Phillips, who had been part of a band called The Smoothies — I played on a session with them — and it was clear that their label Decca wasn’t interested in them as a folkie-pop thing like The Kingston Trio.

John knew a guy named Scott Mackenzie, who was the lead singer in The Smoothies, and the three of us would form a trio. Because I was living with Karen, I suggested we try and put Karen in the group. John was a lot more worldly than I was, and he knew very well that my relationship with Karen wasn’t going to go very far.

We had two of the very worst rehearsals I’ve ever had in my life, which consisted of Karen arguing about vocal parts with John. John was a great vocal arranger, and his idea of fun was he’d get five people in a room and give each of them apart, and they might sing anything — it might be “The Teddybear’s Picnic,” it might be “Tom Dooley,” whatever, he was really into vocal music.

…I don’t know that I ever became a great showman, but I learned how to tell stories on stage, and that was a revelation to me.

Around this time I met a woman named Barbara Dane, who was a white blues singer and sang with Dixieland bands. She had a tour of the Northwest and she offered me this tour, so I called John Phillips and said, “Are you serious about this band because I just got a chance to play Portland and Seattle.”

He started to laugh and he said he had just turned down a trip to the beach in Ibiza so that he could start a new group.

I said, “Okay John, I’ll be there.”

Q: Before we get too far, give me a couple of sentences more on Karen Dalton and the different sides of her talent and personality.

A: When I met Karen, she used to sing a lot of mountain music, some blues, in fact, I think she was doing “Blues on the Ceiling” by Fred Neil even then, and she sang loud, and not in a lethargic way but in an energetic way.

She was never a really good performer because she had a lot of unresolved hostility. The audiences tended to bring that out in her, and it got a lot worse if she decided she wanted to be drinking.

Years later, when I heard her first records, there was this sort of behind-the-beat, lethargic, pseudo-Billie Holiday type of phrasing, which has turned into, in a small way, a vogue among feminist and music historians who’ve typed her as a white Billie Holiday, which to me was a joke.

I thought, “That’s not what she sounds like.” She was particularly noted for her wild mountain harmonies, not this [he affects a slowed-down, overwrought vocal] “Blues on the Ceiling” type thing, which to me just sounds like a junkie…which she was.

It’s what she’s famous for. This French record producer and another guy in Nashville who are enamored with Karen have issued at least five CDs of Karen, and only one of them has what I’m talking about, which was recorded at Joe Lupe’s place, The Attic, in Boulder.

It has a little bit of that mountain music — open your mouth wide and just let it out — kind of singing.

Q: Did you think she was a genuine talent or…

A: I think she has a talent for doing that. I think she was not a good jazz singer. This need to create Billie Holidays among whiteys is crazy, and it also happened with Judy Roderick.

The Journeymen

So, now I’m in New York, and we (now called The Journeymen) rehearse for six

weeks, we get a deal with International Talent, which is booking The Brothers Four, Kingston Trio, The Limeliters and later Bob Dylan, and through them, we met these managers in San Francisco.

MGM was willing to see us — they wanted to sign us, they didn’t think we had any hits. Ultimately, we had this scene where we picked up our manager, we went to MGM.

He wanted us to be guaranteed two albums a year and a five-thousand-dollar-a-year promotional budget, and one of the MGM producers looked at me and said, “You’ll never get a deal like that in the record business, and ten minutes later we were signing at Capitol Records and got that exact deal.”

That’s when I became interested in the music business, which really didn’t surface ‘til some years later when I started teaching. I filed that in the back of my mind that this business is not what people say that it is.

Somebody can say no and what they really mean is: I’d rather not.

So, we got the deal with Capitol and we toured for three and a half years. We never played in Colorado, but I would come here periodically because my friend Harry Tuft had moved here and opened The Denver Folklore Center in ’62.

At one point Scott Mckenzie, our lead singer, got nodes in his throat and we were out of work for six weeks. I just came to Colorado and Harry and I did a week at Crested Butte.

So I went from the three of us making $1,500 a night to playing in Crested Butte to Harry and I each got a room and a hundred dollars, and I went from playing for two or three thousand people to twenty to thirty people. Scott rehabbed, we got back together and our price went up to $1,750 a night.

Q: And the biggest record sold?

A: Maybe 15,000. We never got any royalties from Capitol at that point. We never recouped the original advance. Later, Bonnie Raitt got Capitol to tear up all its contracts before 1970, and so Capitol reissued all of our stuff in its Legacy Series, all three of our albums and some of our singles on the CDs.

I probably ended up making $5,000 from these; in fact, I got a check last month for $60 because it still gets streamed.

Scott and I decided to leave at the end of ’64, and I go back to New York — playing on sessions, writing songs and then producing records. I did some sessions with Gram Parsons.

Gram Parsons was a fanatical Journeymen fan. He and his band used to follow us around. Gram recorded a couple of my songs.

I also did a solo album for Capitol three or four months before we broke up because they were looking for a “Dylan,” and I was the only one that, even mildly in their mind, could do a Dylan thing.

I thought it ridiculous because I really was not doing protest songs and at that point, that’s all that Dylan was doing. I had written one song called “Lullaby for Medgar Evers” that later Judy Collins recorded.

So I did that on the album and four others that I wrote, and Gram recorded the one about mining called “They Still Go Down.”

In ’68 and ’69 I worked as a producer, and there’s a big Colorado connection there because I had maintained my friendship with Harry Tuft and he sent me a tape of a band called Frummox, and I ended up producing them in New York.

Those were really, really kinda cool sessions. I had hired Eric Weissberg to play some fiddle and mandolin and pedal steel, and at the end of the sessions he came to me, and he said, “Every five years I do something I like and this was it for the next few years.”

They were really good. Everything kind of clicked. Harry also sent me a tape of a band called Zephyr. I didn’t produce them but I did go to see them, and I took the tape to my boss and we all thought I wasn’t the guy to do it.

Q: Did you recognize anything in Tommy Bolin?

A: No. I thought they were a sellable white, psychedelic blues thing, and I wasn’t a huge fan of that music, but Harry and, in effect, I were partially responsible for them getting a record deal. But in ’69 the entire label group I was working for [ABC/DUNHILL] was fired.

I was still playing on sessions, and more and more of them were jingles. I was studying jazz guitar pretty seriously with Barry Galbraith, who was the studio guitarist I admired the most. He was number one and maybe Bucky Pizzarelli was number two.

I wasn’t playing the banjo very much and began to question why was I even doing this.

Pop Music to Teaching and Writing

Q: So at this point, the world of “pop stardom” exists. It is clear. The Beatles and Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan exist. How did you avoid the pitfalls of that lifestyle that both John Phillips and Scott Mckenzie suffered?

A: John was in effect, my mentor. I saw him destroy himself over a period of years. When I first met him, he was drinking too much and taking uppers and it wasn’t really pleasant to be around him.

Scott didn’t have a particular vice — whatever he did, he would overdo. It seemed to me like childishness. I started growing up. I got married in ’65 and it never quite made sense to me, that whole business of having to lie to people all the time, making everybody unhappy all the time.

We stayed in touch after The Mamas and the Papas got big, and this must’ve been in ’66 or ’67 and he invited me to a concert at Forest Hills. He forgot to put me on the guest list and it was $10, so I left.

I did go to the party at the St. Regis Hotel afterward…there’s a table and on the table, there’s coke, hash, pills, and another table with vodka, gin, whatever you want.

He looks at me and says, “I’m the perfect host, what would you like?”

So I said, “How about a beer?” As I’m saying this, their road manager was stoned out of his brains on acid and walking on the ledge of the sixth-floor balcony.

I’m thinking I don’t really want to witness this. So I had a beer and quickly left. I just didn’t see the point in all this.

By the late ‘60s, I still had my hay fever and came out to Colorado to vacation with my wife. While I’m here I get a call to do a Texaco commercial. I’ve had jingles that end up paying two or three grand for an hour’s work, ‘cause you don’t know how it’s gonna be used when you’re recording it.

So I really couldn’t not do it, plus the fact is that if you turn down people very much, they stop calling you. I had told Harry, “I’m gonna come here.”

He said, “You’ll never come here, you’ll always get these calls from people, and you’ll end up doing this shit-whatever it is.”

By ’72 I was becoming unhappy enough with the music thing that it was also penetrating a lot of aspects of my work and my life. I came out here. The summer before I had seen a brochure from the University of Colorado Denver that they were starting a music business program.

David Baskerville was the guy who started all this. I went down and talked to him, and they liked the idea of someone going to school there who had actually had a lot of experience in the industry, so I came out here and enrolled at UCD.

The first thing that happened when I moved here was I started to play the banjo again, which was just bizarre. It wasn’t really a conscious choice.

Q: You immediately got into a music scene in Denver, such as it was, through Harry?

A: Through Harry.

Q: What was the music scene in Denver like then?

A: Well, The Folklore Center was the center of stuff. Walt was still sorta in and out, but his preeminence had kind of eroded and he had gotten involved with various clubs where he…somehow he got involved with an Irish pub or something.

Harry had a string of people work for him: Kim King, who was in Lothar & The Hand People; Mike Kropp, who was a banjo player and ended up in a bluegrass band in New England; Paul Hofstadter a luthier who was a renowned builder, restorer, and player of folkie instruments.

Those guys had gone by the time I got here, but Harry had a little music school and I taught there about 20 hours a week, going to school and trying to be a family person.

When I stopped teaching lessons there, I pretty much stopped teaching music, except for a very short period at Swallow Hill.

I was in a band called The Main Event that was a mediocre lounge group that played Pueblo, Casper, Cheyenne…mostly conventions.

I played electric guitar and banjo — did all the Doobie Brothers stuff, whatever was popular at the time: some country, some rock, which was basically a paycheck for me, I didn’t enjoy it.

Then I got involved in writing film scores. I wrote two feature film scores, I wrote about five documentary film scores and I did a TV show for Channel Six (Rocky Mountain PBS). Harry was sort of the executive producer on all this stuff, but I wrote all the music.

The main film was called The Edge. It was done by Roger Brown, who did Downhill Racer, and Barry Corbett, a film editor who was an Olympic skier who’d crashed into a mountain while filming and was a paraplegic, and he had a film editing facility on Lookout Mountain.

The documentaries were all done with a guy named Dick Alweiss. I did a number of things for John Deere Tractors; they’d do these little film shows where they’d introduce the new line and you’d come up from Oregon or Missouri in your car, and while we’re trying to convince you to buy a 40 grand tractor, we give you some beer, a few pretzels and show you a couple of short films.

These were three-to-five minute films and they were fun to do; from ’74 to ’80 I was doing that stuff. I was teaching at Colorado Women’s College starting in’75 while still going to school at UCD in music business.

Tom McCluskey was the guy who was the head of the department and was the music critic for The Rocky Mountain News, before Justin Mitchell.

In the meantime, I had met Wesley Westbrooks, who was a black guy who originally was from Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

When he was 10 years old, he was driving a wagon delivering milk and ice cream and the guy who owned the store; his daughter ran a retail outlet and people in the town saw Wesley, who was black, talking to her and she gave him an ice cream cone without charging him.

They came to his father’s house that night and said, “You need to get your kid outta here tonight or he’s gonna get killed.”

He moved to Denver, and he got a job working for United Airlines cleaning airplanes, and he wrote about four songs that The Staple Singers recorded, none of which he’s credited with.

The most famous one is “He Don’t Knock,” which was recorded by The Kingston Trio. He also did a song called “Hear My Song Here,” which Pentangle recorded in a really nice version.

I wrote a grant to the National Endowment for the Humanities to write a biography of him; it’s the only book I have ever written that I couldn’t sell. I got the grant and spent a year.

It was a wonderful experience. I wrote up the whole thing — this was the Reagan years and I still have the manuscript, it’s called A Good Time in Hard Times. I learned a lot of stuff but I couldn’t sell the book.

I had written a book called The Folk Music Source Book in ’76.

That book came about accidentally, where Harry knew somebody who was a writer and she had been at Knopf, which was one of the most prestigious publishing companies, and she started talking with Harry, who’d a written a catalog: The Denver Folklore Company Almanac or whatever.

Knopf said they’d be very interested in talking to this guy. So she came back and talked to him and Harry being Harry, he did nothing.

So one day I said, “Look, you’re a moron: Here’s one of the best publishers in the whole goddamned world, and they’re asking you to write this book. What can I do to help you to do this?”

He said, “Why don’t you do it? You know how to write, you know how to do this stuff.”

At that point, I hadn’t written any books, but I’d written instruction books for banjo and guitar – a lot of them. The book was reviewed everywhere. It was reviewed in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The L.A. Times.

Basically, that’s how I got into the book-writing game. That book won the ASCAP Music Critics Award.

Q: That’s about the time I started to know who you were because you really started to get a name in Denver as an academic.

A: I had worked for 14 months at The Grammys as their educational director. That was pretty horrible. I thought I would be some kind of huge hick there, but it turned out everybody there was a huge Streisand or Neil Diamond fan and that I was like a left-wing hippie.

In the middle of that, I taught at Colorado Mountain College, which had a songwriting workshop for ten years in Breckenridge. It was great! You got a condo. I brought Steven Fromholz from Frummox in.

I was doing the musician juggling act: I was writing instruction books, I was writing 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. I ended up playing at Winnipeg three times, which was great. 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, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, and I ended up doing music for two of their conventions and a CD, and some of the music led to a play about Karen Silkwood. And I did music for a play by a professor named Larry Bograd who was then at Metro about the Ludlow Massacre. So that was all going on.

At UCD I taught music business mostly, and I created a lot of classes; my favorite was Social and Political Implications of Music. A lot of the stuff I taught about –contracts and stuff – after 12 years of it, it wasn’t that interesting to me, honestly.

Ultimately, I was head of the department for two years and the turf wars and the politics just drove me crazy. During this time, for some reason, I got good at writing grants, and I brought Peggy Seeger here with a grant, I brought Len Chandler, who was a black protest singer who was arrested like 50 times.

I brought a Native American guy, Vince Two Eagles from Montana, and there was no King Center, no performance space, so they were mostly playing in classrooms.

I got a grant and we set up a 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.

Back to Denver

In 2003 Dick moved to Oregon, where he stayed until 2012 when he returned to Denver.

Q: You were happy to come back here and…it’s different from the place it was one you first came here.

A: The congestion and traffic are troublesome. There have been a lot of generational changes that I don’t especially appreciate. There’s no point in getting upset about it because that is the world.

That’s not Denver, that’s everywhere.

There are other changes that are not Denver, as the demise of the recording medium. I’m very into albums.

When I do an album it’s not just 12 songs, there’s some relation between the songs, and I’m not really interested in having people pop off one tune in a four-part suite, when in fact, it makes no sense.

It would be like taking a Hemingway novel, and you’ve read the first quarter and you just throw it away, because “Well, I read the first quarter, what more do I need?” That’s the way kids consume music.

Q: That’s exactly where I wanted to come back to, because we talked early on about how you discovered music, that process, how there seems to be something of value in that archaeological process or the organic process that you did of buying the 78s and going to see Pete Seeger, listening to what he said. It seems that the way people gather information and art now has fundamentally changed the role of art.

A: I think it’s changed the role of art. And another thing that happened is, as a musician at the age of 22, I could work at Folk City for a week or two weeks. Where do you work in Denver for a week? Nowhere. You work one day.

There’s no money, and worse than that, there’s no development. I was at The Ashgrove for three weeks. During that time I basically learned some performance skills. If I had been there one night, what would I have learned?

Right now I’m doing a paper on the musician’s union, which I’m presenting at The Music Business Educators Conference. Go to Nathaniel Rateliff, who is a pretty big success.

In 2019, someone like the young Nate (let’s make him 22) is here now and he’s making his own records, he’s booking his gigs, he’s managing his career: What does he need the union for? So, the union has not been able to…what can they do for him? There are things they could actually do.

Suppose they bought a new building and make it into rehearsal studios and if you’re a member of the union, the rent is $20 an hour. That would save him a lot of money. But it’s not available to you if you’re not a member of the union.

For the hip-hip people, you have classes on this is what ASCAP does, this is what BMI does, this is what CSAC does. Nobody’s ever done that. The union has no contact with managers. Managers run the game now.

Managers often confiscate or own, depending on your degree of cynicism, half or all of the acts’ publishing. He’s making more money, and then he probably turns ‘round and commissions our songwriting money. Kids don’t know that.

The Fray went to UCD, two of them in the music business, but they had to sue to get out of their management contract. What if the union actually negotiated with managers? There are things they could do.

Q: So is there a bit of positive that you can see in the modern landscape to give hope?

A: There are a couple of dozen musicians around like Bill Frisell, like Ron Miles, and there’s a niche for these people who are doing something new. The challenge is to create, whether it’s radio, whether it’s streaming, whether it’s the union sponsoring some concerts of music for music’s sake, and I think the university has abrogated its role in that regard. Okay, let them teach tech and music business, but what about music? How do we make that bridge? The musicians are out there. There is good stuff around.

Q: How do you find young musicians that you like specifically, and do you have hope for this next generation? Or will it keep going at all? If there’s no skin in the game because the internet has accelerated everything so much that nobody actually has to learn anything, what is the incentive to become a great musician?

A: With the explosion of Dylan and The Beatles, we had this explosion of a generation that grew up thinking, “I could do this, I could make two-to-three million dollars a year, own two or three houses, have four cars, go through multiple wives, multiple drugs, whatever. Maybe what we’re coming down to in a way is a world where we’re going back to the musician in the loft. The people who are going to do significant work are just going to say, “I don’t buy into this, and anyway I can’t win this game. What I’m going to do is what I always wanted to do, which is to do music.”

I think the music is there. The question is, how do we create the mechanism for the music to be heard?

__

Trying to label Dick Weissman as just a musician, teacher, author, philosopher or historian is simply inadequate. He’s an incredibly rare bird in the world of music. He is an adult, someone who made his way in the music business by exploring and mastering it, then being the smartest guy in the room about nearly any facet of his chosen field. He did what he wanted at the same time he was doing what he had to do to keep home and hearth together. In a world of tarnished myths and rampant bullshit artists, Dick Weissman is a breath of fresh air.

Featured Photo Cred: northstarmedia.com

Gov with Award BEST Dec 3

Hickenlooper Has a Winning Soundtrack for his Campaign

On March 4, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper made it official: He’s running for president. He joined an already crowded Democratic field, but as Hickenlooper’s March 7 kickoff rally at Denver’s Civic Center Park showed, he’s got a winning soundtrack for his campaign.

The rally included performances by local singers SuCh and Mary Louise Lee, and ended with a three-song set by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. 

Hickenlooper was a music fan long before he became a successful brewpub owner, much less a popular politician. And as mayor of Denver and then governor of Colorado, no one did more to support this state’s music scene than John Hickenlooper. 

“I have never known a politician so involved and caring of the Colorado music community as John,” said promoter Chuck Morris, who had to miss the rally because he was at a concert in Uganda with Michael Franti. “When tragedies like the Boulder floods and fires hit, John was there, helping us reach out to artists to come and perform, helping get donations from corporations and literally emceeing and partaking in the events themselves.” At the rally, the former mayor of Jamestown lauded Hickenlooper’s work dealing with the 2013 floods.

In his push to elevate Colorado’s music industry, Hickenlooper did not just respond to emergency requests, though. As mayor of Denver, he helped propel Red Rocks Amphitheatre to its top-tier status, tripling the number of shows at this legendary venue to more than 100 a year. He used property tax discounts to encourage live music downtown, and today Denver rivals Nashville and Austin for the number of spots booking music. He also worked with established organizations like the Colorado Symphony and Swallow Hill so that they landed on solid footing. And certainly, one of his lasting legacies as governor is Take Note Colorado, a statewide initiative he introduced to provide access to musical instruments and instruction to every K-12 student in Colorado.

Hickenlooper’s support of the scene has earned him many fans, including musicians themselves. “Old Crow Medicine Show, The Lumineers, One Republic, The Fray, Bonnie Raitt and Dave Matthews are only a few of the acts that he calls friends, and he is usually seen when they appear in our great city,” Morris added. “My favorite story is when the Denver Art Museum called me to get a band to surprise him when John was awarded the Man of the Year at its 2019 gala. It took five seconds of asking The Avetts to fly all the way from North Carolina and surprise John with a beautiful show to end the evening. The look on John’s face was priceless.  If there is one person who personifies the greatness of Colorado music for the last 25 years, it would be hard to top John Hickenlooper.”

Hickenlooper was honored with the Barry Fey Visionary Award at the December 2018 induction ceremony for the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. How to top that? Running for president, of course, backed by a winning soundtrack.