Inducted: December 3rd, 2019

Anthony James Spicola

Anthony James Spicola was born in Trinidad, Colorado, on July 24, 1937. At the start of the 20th century, southern Colorado was one of the best places to find work in the state, in both the steel mills of Pueblo and the mines near Trinidad and adjoining mountain towns.

Southern Colorado drew a diverse group of immigrants from all over Europe, especially Italy.

One of them was Spicola’s grandfather, who, after emigrating from Italy, moved there to work on the railroads that hauled the mined coal and manufactured steel.

As a young man, Spicola was filled with a love of music, inspired by the records he collected during trips to Denver. Those discs included jazz and early R&B artists like Little Richard, The Moonglows, The Coasters and The Platters. His first foray into the industry was a job created for him as equipment manager for the marching band at Trinidad High School, from which he graduated in 1955.

He also embraced what became a second passion in his life: photography. Not only did Spicola gain a successful reputation as a photographer, but he helped regional bands with promotional packs and marketing materials. His pictures of custom cars garnered him national attention, including doing covers for Hot Rod Magazine.

_MG_0620

The photography work led to music talent management, which in turn led to the world of concert promotion, the field where he truly shined.

While looking for acts that had star power, Spicola started recording and promoting bands throughout southern Colorado. One of the most successful of these emerging artists was Chan Romero, whose hit recording of “Hippy Hippy Shake” was covered by The Beatles, and was a music element in over ten motion pictures. The Trolls, The Frantics and others also benefited from Spicola’s mentoring.

While he promoted local bands and concerts at different venues, Spicola opened a nightlife college club, The Fantastic Zoo, and, later, Pinocchio’s, in Pueblo. Before long, he was doing concerts with national and international acts at larger venues.

In 1963, Spicola began bringing in what would become classic acts, starting with The Rascals and continuing with Ike and Tina Turner, Pete Seeger, and a host of bands that later formed the core of the famed “British Invasion.” Needing places large enough to accommodate the sell-out crowds these popular headliners would draw, Spicola turned to venues around Colorado Springs.

At the age of 32, Spicola experienced what became a defining, iconic moment of his concert promotion career. On August 18, 1968, he brought The Who to Kelker Junction Concert Hall, a 3,000-seat venue. The famed quartet flew in from London for what was to be their first appearance in Colorado. A ticket was $5.

After The Who’s show in Colorado Springs, Spicola promoted a second show the following night in Albuquerque. It was Keith Moon’s birthday, and the wild party that followed the show got the entire band and crew kicked out of their hotel.

“In the ’60s, we all had an affair with music,” Spicola remembers, noting that in addition to The Who, such icons as the Jefferson Airplane, ZZ Top and Fleetwood Mac came to Colorado through his efforts. Twenty of the artists he introduced to the state have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Alambama

The Young Rascals Poster

Spicola didn’t limit his shows to rock and roll. He also booked a number of country acts throughout southern Colorado and at the Colorado State Fair, including Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, John Denver and even a young Garth Brooks, who played a fair “free stage” in his very first Colorado appearance. Santana (with Phish opening), Aerosmith and Kenny Rogers also came to Pueblo thanks to Spicola.

During his days as a promoter, Spicola developed a relationship with various radio stations, buying advertising; he eventually went to work in sales at KDZA in Pueblo. After a decade with KDZA, he bought the station in 1979. And for the next seven years, Spicola was holding down two jobs: concert promoter and radio station mogul.

Legendary concert promoter Barry Fey, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, worked with Spicola in the early days of his career, learning much from his mentor. Fey went on to become co-presenter, with Spicola and KDZA, of several major shows, including the infamous “brown M&Ms” Van Halen show at the University of Southern Colorado that was labeled by MTV as one of the twelve roughest nights in rock and roll.

Between 1970 and 1986, Spicola presented shows at the area’s larger venues, including Penrose Stadium at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and the Albuquerque Civic Auditorium, as well as various college sites, including Folsom Field at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he co-promoted a Doobie Brothers show. Shortly after promoting an Everly Brothers show at Penrose Stadium, he married his wife, Karen, at the Broadmoor.

By 1986, Spicola’s two children, Gina and Joel, were growing up, and the family became his focus. After he sold his stations that year, he turned his attention to the relationships he’d made in the auto business through radio. And for most of the next 33 years, he helped market the Spradley Barr auto sales empire, with dealerships in Fort Collins, Greeley, Cheyenne and Pueblo.

Promoters as varied as Fey and Chuck Morris both identify Spicola as Colorado’s first rock concert promoter. And so the Colorado Music Hall of Fame is very proud to induct Tony Spicola into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and also present him with the Barry Fey Innovation Award.

Keep music history alive! Shop at Colorado Music Hall of Fame.



More Inductees