Founded in 1974

Colorado’s most popular contribution to the country-rock movement, Firefall scored numerous hit singles and best-selling albums during the 1970s, when the genre was at its peak. But the period of the band’s greatest success was no less remarkable than the tenacity of assorted Firefall members, who’ve kept the flame burning for well over four decades and counting.

Jump To Discography

Explore Playlist icon volume

Gram Parsons, one of country-rock’s brightest lights…

…and most tragic figures, unknowingly drew Firefall’s elements together. From 1970 to 1972, singer-songwriter Rick Roberts helped fill the vacuum left by Parsons when he departed from the Flying Burrito Brothers to go solo. For his part, guitarist Jock Bartley, who’d replaced Tommy Bolin as a member of Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee Zephyr, had moved on to join the Fallen Angels, Parsons’ backing group. In 1973, Roberts and Bartley connected in New York City, where both were on tour at the time, and they subsequently got together in Boulder and forged a musical partnership.

Before long, Roberts and Bartley had fleshed out Firefall’s original lineup. Roberts suggested singer-songwriter Larry Burnett, whom he’d met during his travels. Mark Andes, founding bassist of the groups Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, was also invited aboard. And on drums, the players took the suggestion of country-rock icon Chris Hillman and recruited Michael Clarke, who’d played with him and Parsons in both the Flying Burrito Brothers and its famed precursor, the Byrds.

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame was proud to induct Firefall on January 9, 2016

Hillman also helped Firefall land its first major-label deal. He produced a three-song demo for the combo and asked Roberts, Bartley and Andes to back him up during a tour. Then, when Hillman fell ill during an engagement at New York’s Other End, the Firefall members convinced the club’s owner to let their group play the rest of the shows. Among those attending the appearances were representatives of Atlantic Records, who were so impressed that they signed the band to a long-term contract.
Firefall’s self-titled debut for Atlantic, which featured a new sixth member, multi-instrumentalist David Muse, hit stores in April 1976 and quickly opened doors for the band. After tours with A-listers Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Doobie Brothers and the Electric Light Orchestra, the band’s second single, “You Are the Woman,” blasted into the Billboard Top 10. The momentum created by this smash and “Cinderella,” its popular follow-up, helped win Firefall an opening slot on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours tour in 1977, including a hometown Folsom Field gig before 61,500 Coloradans.

The next two Firefall albums were also widely embraced:

1977’s Luna Sea, highlighted by the single “Just Remember I Love You,” earned gold sales status, while 1978’s Elan, sparked by another chart scaler, “Strange Way,” went platinum. But after 1980’s Undertow failed to match its predecessors’ impact, Andes and Clarke, who’d been struggling with personal problems (he died in 1993), left the band. When Roberts did likewise the next year, Atlantic dropped the group.

That could have spelled the end for Firefall, but Bartley wouldn’t let it die. Over the years, he continued to recruit new band members to substitute for those who’d moved on and welcomed returnees; both Andes and Roberts came back for brief stretches. By one count, well over twenty musicians have been part of Firefall, contributing to albums such as 1982’s Break of Dawn and 1983’s Mirror of the World (both issued by Atlantic, which gave the group a second chance), plus 1994’s Messenger, 2007’s Colorado to Liverpool: A Tribute to the Beatles, 2009’s Reunion Live, 2020’s Comet and 2023’s Friends & Family.

Bartley’s devotion to Firefall is only matched by that of the group’s fans. For them, the band’s version of country rock is timeless … and very Colorado.

-by Michael Roberts



Explore More