Best know for what he called the. “National Anthem of Colorado” Joe Walsh came out of Cleveland and the success of his band The James Gang
with hits like “Funk #49” to Boulder, Colorado largely due to his friendship with Bill Szymczyk (the producer of many of the James Gang hits and later of the Eagles and J. Geils Band.
After moving into the mountains and living what he would call a “rustic lifestyle” Walsh formed Barnstorm in 1972 with Joe Vitale from Ohio who had played in the legendary Amboy Dukes (Ted Nugent’s band), and bassist Kenny Passarelli from southern Colorado. Their first “self titled” album, produced by Szymczyk, was the first album to come out of Jim Guercio’s new studio at Caribou Ranch. The “barn” was still not in full operation but Wash, Passarelli and Vitale had the freedom to create an entirely new sound that incorporated both the hard rock and the inventiveness of all three. Taking that sound on the road required more than the trio so they added Rocke Grace and Tom Stephenson (among others) for their touring dates.
It was their next album, “The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get, also recorded at Caribou with Bill Szymczyk serving as producer that gave the band their first hit (Top 10)and it sold over a million copies. The song “Meadows” charted but it was Wash’s anthem “Rocky Mountain Way,” (co-written by Passarelli) that would become not only an international hit but also an iconic homage to Joe’s love for the State and a song that rivaled John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” for best Colorado song ever written. As Walsh said in an interview with G Brown, “It’s the attitude and the statement. It’s a positive song, and it’s basic rock ‘n’ roll, which is what I really do well.”
In 1974, after the death of his young daughter in a car accident, Walsh continued in Colorado for a time, producing and recording with Dan Fogelberg, and in LA with various artists. Barnstorm officially broke up in 1975 and Walsh would go on to work with some of the most respected and talented artists in the business eventually joining the Eagles and working on the seminal “Hotel California” including co-writing credits on “Life In the Fast Lane.” Keny Passarelli is probably best known for his work with Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, and Hall & Oates and Joe Vitale continues to play with acts as diverse as Crosby, Stills & Nash and Peter Frampton.
Joe Walsh and Barnstorm created one of Colorado’s most iconic tribute songs and even though the trio’s tenure was relatively short, their impact and inventiveness propelled all three of their careers to heights that rivaled the peaks where the songs were recorded.