For Four Decades…
Singer and entertainer Lannie Garrett has brought happiness to the Denver music scene.
At age 22, Garrett arrived in Colorado, the beginning of a purposely undefined emigration to the West. Fired from her job as a lunch waitress in Melrose Park, Illinois, she joined her boyfriend on a cross-country road trip.
“One of our stops was in Denver and I had never seen anything like it,” she told Colorado Music Hall of Fame board member Patricia Calhoun on one of the Hall’s Front Row & Center virtual episodes. “So we went out to California and on the way back I told him to basically drop me off; I found a little apartment, got a U-Haul and moved out here.”
Garrett figured she would attend college and become a teacher. But as she waited to establish residency for in-state tuition, she found herself instead on the path to living her lifelong dream — singing and performing on stage. After a few glasses of wine while waitressing in Larimer Square, Garrett’s impromptu rendition of “My Man” from “Funny Girl” caught the attention of patrons who worked at Windsor Gardens. They hired her, paying Garrett $20 to sing for an elderly audience. Soon after, Garrett approached well-known Denver entertainer Ron Henry and told him to call her if he ever needed a vocalist. He did, and Garrett got her first big break as she got her feet wet in the music industry. Performing with Henry as a backup singer and opening for big name acts like the Four Tops helped her get comfortable on the stage, she said.
Before long, Garrett was performing at nightclubs across Denver, entertaining audiences with a long list of themed shows, from fronting her “AnySwing Goes” big band as a sequined chanteuse to bringing her comedy chops to The Patsy DeCline Show, her campy country-music spoof.
Other creations include the George Gershwin tribute “’S Wonderful”; “Screen Gems: Songs from the Movies”; “Great Women of Song”; “The Chick Sings Frank: A Tribute to Sinatra”; “A Slick Chick on the Mellow Side,” her 1940s jazz and jump show; “Beatles to Bacharach: Songs and Stories”; “The Platforms and Polyester Disco Revue”; and “Under Paris Skies,” influenced by gypsy jazz.
“I loved the show business aspect of singing, not just singing,” Garrett said. “I loved being a performer, packing costumes and comedy.”
Crowds loved her back. Readers of the Denver Post named Garrett their favorite female vocalist many years in a row. She garnered the same recognition with readers of 5280 magazine and Out Front, which serves the LGBTQ community — a population Garrett credits for breaking her shy nature and coaxing out her inner entertainer.
Channeling her idols, Bette Midler and Judy Garland, Garrett appeared in nightclubs nationally and recorded a half-dozen albums. Over the years, she has worked with a diverse group of national entertainers including B.B. King, Roseanne Barr, Ramsey Lewis and Jay Leno.
It wasn’t long before Garrett owned and operated nightclubs of her own, including Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret. Beneath the D&F Tower, one of the most iconic buildings on Denver’s 16th Street Mall, Garrett hosted top local and national talent. She also operated Ruby, a club on East 17th Avenue and spent a decade as the house entertainer at the Denver Buffalo Company.
Garrett was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame with the 20th Century Pioneers class of 2016.
“It’s a great honor to me,” she says. “From someone who only dreamed of being a singer and didn’t get to do it until I was in my twenties, it blew my mind. It means the world.”
Garrett operated Ruby, a club on East 17th Avenue, and spent a decade as the house entertainer at the Denver Buffalo Company. In 2006, she realized the dream of owning her own venue, opening Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret beneath the D&F Tower downtown, hosting top local and national talent. Garrett took to the stage herself with a succession of themed shows, from fronting her “AnySwing Goes” big band as a sequined chanteuse to bringing her comedy chops to The Patsy DeCline Show, her campy country-music spoof.
Garrett’s creations also include the George Gershwin tribute “’S Wonderful”; “Screen Gems: Songs from the Movies”; “Great Women of Song”; “The Chick Sings Frank: A Tribute to Sinatra”; “A Slick Chick on the Mellow Side,” her 1940s jazz and jump show; “Beatles to Bacharach: Songs and Stories”; “The Platforms and Polyester Disco Revue”; and “Under Paris Skies,” influenced by gypsy jazz.