In celebration of our tenth anniversary, Colorado Music Hall of Fame has launched, From Our Collection, a monthly campaign showcasing a unique item from our museum collection.
From Our Collection
John Denver Autographed People Magazine Cover
The first issue of People magazine was released in March 1974, 48 years ago. During that time, John Denver appeared in the pages of People numerous times and was pictured on the cover three times. A May 1974 article about Denver states “a segment of the rock press, unintimidated by his mass success, delights in knocking his Pollyanna perceptions.” John admits, “People ask, ‘Is he really that nice a guy?’ I can’t answer that. I got nothing to prove. I’m on no ego trip. My life is perfect. There’s not a single thing I would change.”
In our collection, The Hall has an original copy of the front page of People magazine, dated February 26, 1979. Denver, whose photograph along with his first wife, Annie, grace the cover, is the feature story in the magazine: “The Unsung Story: He talks about His Adopted Children and How He Saved his Marriage with Annie.” In the article, they both talk about their six-day separation and reconciliation in 1973, a difficult time which inspired John to write his second No.1 hit, Annie’s Song (You Fill Up My Senses).
The magazine cover has been autographed by both John and Annie Denver.
Pop Idols and the Disco Scene featuring Earth, Wind & Fire
You can’t find a better time capsule for the disco era than Pop Idols and the Disco Scene, which ran in Sunday newspapers across the country from 1976 to 1980. Each week, Stan Drake (illustrator) and Brendan Boyd (writer) brought you everything from music news and pop star biographies to describing the latest disco steps.
In our collection, The Hall has a copy of the Pop Idols article from September 30, 1979. The article highlights Earth, Wind and Fire: The World’s Greatest Rock ‘N Soul Band, formed by Maurice White in 1971. According to the article, “EW&F combines long horn passages, African dance percussions, philosophical lyrics, and aggressive showmanship into a revivalist brand of party music.” The article also states, “Maurice chooses musicians for their sensitivity as well as their musical prowess.”
One third of the nine band members are former Denver East High School alumni. Philip Bailey (vocals & percussion), Larry Dunn (keyboards), and Andrew Woolfolk (flute & saxophones) were inducted into Colorado Music Hall of Fame in November 2017, along with Denver East High’s music program.
July 1954 Liberace Concert Program from Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Performances at “The Garden of the Titans,” later Red Rocks Park, began in 1906. Construction of the Amphitheatre started in 1936 with formal dedication in 1941. Classical concerts at Red Rocks in the late 1940s, ’50s and ’60s were big events but sometimes a challenge for audiences. Drivers had fewer options to reach the park, and the “parking lots” were just patches of dirt. Still, the performances saw concertgoers dressed to the nines and fighting for seats.
In our collection, The Hall has a concert program from a July 1954 Red Rocks appearance by Liberace and his Columbia Recording Orchestra. His brother George Liberace, a violin accompanist and orchestral arranger, was also part of this performance. According to the program “since no two Liberace concerts are exactly alike, you are about to witness a performance that is unlikely ever to be duplicated.”
The back of the program contains an offer to receive a free full color photograph of Liberace for just 10 cents to cover the cost of postage and handling.
1973 Concert Poster for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, was formed in 1966 in Long Beach, CA. When the San Fernando earthquake struck in 1971, the band members, most of them California natives, decided to move to more stable ground. They left Los Angeles to relocate to the Colorado mountains, settling into the wooded communities of Evergreen, Golden and Aspen.
In the Hall’s collection, we have a framed Nitty Gritty Dirt Band concert poster for their two February 1973 shows at the Cowtown Ballroom in Kansas City, MO. The opening act for these shows was comedian Steve Martin. Martin did his stand-up comedy routine opening for the band in the early 1970s. The band played on Martin’s 1978 hit song “King Tut,” credited as “The Toot Uncommons” (as in Tutankhamun).
Judy Collins Photo from 1954
Inducted into Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2013, Judy Collins is an American singer and songwriter with a career spanning seven decades and an iconic 55-album body of work. Collins began her impressive music career at the age of 13 as a piano prodigy, dazzling audiences with the Mozart “Concerto for Two Pianos.” But her interest in folk music and the guitar soon took her away from the piano. She discovered the Denver Folklore Center where she spent all of her babysitting money on records.
Her summer job between her sophomore and junior year at Denver’s East High School was at the Sportsland Valley Guest Ranch near Winter Park, CO. When the day’s work was done, she sang folk songs in the big main room, where the guests gathered for mulled wine after a day of horseback riding. Colorado Music Hall of Fame has in its collection a black and white photograph from 1954 of 15 year-old Judy Collins at this Ranch, accompanied by a piano, flute, and guitar trio.
Max Morath Autographed Program from “The Ragtime Era”
From 1959 to 1961, Max Morath wrote, performed and co-produced 26 half-hour television programs for PBS titled “The Ragtime Era.” The series showcased the development of this uniquely American music genre at the turn of the century and brought him national recognition. His nightclub debut in New York in 1963 was followed by college tours, nightclub stints in Las Vegas, TV dates and regular guest appearances with Arthur Godfrey.
Morath had several theatrical reviews that in New York before embarking on national tours. In our collection, the Hall has an autographed program from his 1976 one-man show “The Ragtime Years,” which provided a musical anthology of the history of ragtime. A champion of the classic sounds of Scott Joplin and other early musicians, Morath contributed to a sweeping rediscovery of this vital American music in the 1970s.
1961 Hit Parade Listing – KIMN Radio
From the late 1950’s to the early 1980’s, KIMN was the dominant Top 40 music station in Denver. KIMN’s roots began in 1922 with the creation of station KFEL and continued until 1954 when the call letters became KIMN, the last three a designation for “Inter Mountain Network.
The KIMN song survey also began life in 1954 with a simple “Top 10” positions. At that time there were no “boss jocks”, “KIMN Countdowns” or the issuing of weekly “Nifty Top Fifty” survey sheets. The survey contents were based on Denver area record sales, listener requests, and plays on music coin machines.
KIMN’s methodology for selecting its weekly top hits quite often led to some rather obscure music being played. Their playlist also highlighted the popular local rock n’ roll bands of that era, such as the
Astronauts, Daniels, Fogcutters, Moonrakers, Soul Survivors, and others. The station had several nicknames including the Denver Tiger, Boss Radio, and 95 Fabulous KIMN.
In 1978, KIMN changed their format to more “adult contemporary” music. By the 1980’s, FM radio was moving the AM stations from the past aside. By 1987, the once proud and ferocious KIMN Tiger had fallen to a lowly 15th position in the Arbitron Ratings with only a 2.7 audience share. The dreaded day arrived on April 26th, 1988. At precisely 12 noon, KIMN 950 AM, the Denver Tiger, went silent. In its place, KYGO AM 950 “All Country” emerged.
The image is of an original KIMN Hit Parade list for the week of May 10, 1961. The list contains the top 50 songs being played on KIMN for that week. #1 on the list was Travelin’ Man / Hello, Mary Lou by Ricky Nelson. Some other well-known artists on the list that week include Elvis Presley, Connie Francis, Roy Orbison, the Shirelles, Neil Sedaka, Brenda Lee, and Pat Boone.
Some of the lesser-known artists that week were Johnny Dankworth, Ral Donner, the Roomates, Janie Grant, the Frogmen, the Paris Sisters, and B.Bumble & The Stingers.
The back page of the survey that is mentioned on the listing promotes the “POGO POGE TEEN DANCE” held every Saturday evening at Denver’s Mammoth Gardens, now known as the Fillmore.
1972 The Village VOICE ad for Joe Walsh and Barnstorm
After leaving the James Gang and moving to Nederland, Colorado, Walsh formed Barnstorm in 1972. The band included Joe Vitale, a drummer and multi-instrumentalist from Ohio, and bassist Kenny Passarelli from southern Colorado. Their self-titled debut was the first album to come out of Jim Guercio’s new studio at Caribou Ranch. At Caribou, the recording studio was still not in full operation, which gave Walsh, Passarelli and Vitale the opportunity to create an entirely new sound that incorporated both the hard rock and creativity of all three.
With the release of “Rocky Mountain Way” in June of 1973, Joe Walsh and Barnstorm created one of Colorado’s most iconic tribute songs. In 1974, Barnstorm disbanded and Walsh continued as a solo artist. Even though the trio’s tenure was relatively short, their impact and originality propelled all three members’ careers to heights that rivaled the Colorado peaks where they recorded their music.
This original newspaper ad from New York’s The Village VOICE, dated October 5, 1972, is for a week of concerts by Joe Walsh (“… one of the finest guitarists in the world”) and Barnstorm at Paul Colby’s Bitter End in Greenwich Village. It describes Joe’s first solo album with Kenny Passarelli and Joe Vitale. According to Vitale’s book Backstage Pass, opening night at the Bitter End was “our first on the road show of our first tour”. The ad ends with a suggestion to buy the album for $3.77 because “it is totally enjoyable…”
Soundtrack LP “The Way West” by Serendipity Singers
2013 Hall of Fame inductee Serendipity Singers was a nine-member, folk-oriented group. From its origins on the Front Range, the act moved to New York City in hopes of landing a recording contract, and signed with Philips Records. After releasing six albums, a Hot 100 single and a single that made the Adult Contemporary Charts, the Serendipity Singers appeared on television shows ranging from Hollywood a Go-Go to The Dean Martin Show, The Tonight Show and Shindig!
CMHOF has several Serendipity Singers artifacts in its collection including: An original motion-picture soundtrack album for the United Artists film The Way West, released in 1967. The group is featured on three songs on the album, including the title track and the finale. The music for The Way West was considered the last classic Western movie score written until John Barry’s music for Dances with Wolves appeared two decades later. The title track from the album was released as a single but did not chart. The group released one more LP for United Artists in 1968, Love Is a State of Mind, which was the Serendipity Singers’ final album to feature original members of the group.
2016 Hall of Fame inductee Paul Whiteman’s Lobby Card
Paul Whiteman was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1890. He enlisted in the Navy during World War I, and his musical abilities resulted in the Navy putting him in charge of his own band. In 1920, he moved to New York, where his first recording sold more than two million copies, making Whiteman an instant star.
CMHOF has several Paul Whiteman artifacts in its collection, including an original Lobby Card from the MGM musical Strike Up the Band starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and featuring Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. In the movie, Jimmy (Rooney) and girlfriend Mary (Garland) want to take part in Paul Whiteman’s high-school band contest, but they can’t afford the entry fee. By chance they meet Whiteman in person, who ends up lending them the money.
Lobby Card and Japanese 45 RPM record from The Astronauts
The Colorado Music Hall of Fame artifact collection includes a Lobby Card and Japanese 45 RPM record from The Astronauts, 2012 Hall of Fame inductee. The Lobby Card featured is from Great Britain and depicts The Astronauts in the 1964 movie Surf Party. It was created by a film studio and intended for display outside movie theaters in a special glass display box.
In 1964, The Astronaut’s record company discovered that the act had a growing fan base in Japan. A Japanese 45 RPM record was released in April 1964 with the songs “Movin’” (retitled “Over the Sun” and “Baby Let’s Play House.” It hit #1 in Japan, where the band enjoyed its greatest success, outselling the rival Beach Boys.
Elizabeth Spencer’s circa 1910 Postcard and Diamond Disc Record
After she signed 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 his 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.
We have several Elizabeth Spencer artifacts in our collection, including a 1914 Diamond Disc recording of “Somewhere A Voice Is Calling” by Spencer and Vernon Archibald. The other side of the disc contains the song “A Perfect Day” by the Metropolitan Quartet. Diamond Discs were expensive––the record sleeve shows a price of $1.50, which is equivalent to about $39 today.
In addition to the Diamond Disc, we have an original postcard from the early 1910s advertising Spencer’s appearances at Churchill’s, which at the time was New York City’s elite restaurant located in Times Square. The three-story terracotta brick building could seat up to 1,200 diners and employed a staff of over 300. The musical entertainment was often provided by Maurice Levi and his Orchestra, with Spencer on vocals.
Oxygen Tank and Mask from Caribou Ranch
Recording artists came to the Caribou Ranch near Nederland not only for seclusion and scenery, but also for the unique sound that could be produced there. Sound engineer and physicist Tommy Dowd attributed this sound to the thin air at the Ranch’s altitude of 8,600 feet.
That altitude would have a negative effect on some artists, though, so Jim Guercio, Caribou Ranch owner, equipped the studio with an oxygen tank, the one featured in our collection. In July 1974, Elton John invited John Lennon to visit the Ranch for four days, as part of his eighteen-month “lost weekend” with May Pang. In a 2008 Rocky Mountain News article about the Ranch, May Pang shared this memory about the altitude:
“I was not prepared. I don’t think John was prepared. In the recording studio, I said, ‘John, what’s this?’ He said, ‘That’s an oxygen tank.’ I didn’t understand that the air was so crisp and thin that you might need it.”
According to Guercio, while the two were recording, John Lennon would desperately grab for the oxygen tank tube after each take.
Barry Fey’s Captain Fantastic Pinball Machine
This pinball machine was inspired by the 1975 movie Tommy, and includes a representation of Elton John, as his character in the movie, playing pinball. The name Captain Fantastic came from the title of Elton John’s 1975 autobiographical song and album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The lyric “From the end of the world to your town” appears at the very top center of the backglass.
Barry Fey, one of rock music’s most prolific and successful promoters, wrote about how he and Bruce Springsteen played pinball on this machine in his 2011 book, Backstage Past:
“At last, they get to the party and everybody’s having a good time. Bruce and I are playing pinball and one of his sycophants is rooting him on, ‘Get him Boss! Get him Boss!’ I looked at him and said, ‘I beg your pardon. This is my house. I’m the f***in’ boss.’ I cleaned Springsteen’s clock, but it wasn’t really fair. I had home-field advantage because I played a lot on that machine; a ‘Captain Fantastic’ version given to me by Elton John.”