Inducted: December 3rd, 2019

Zephyr

Anyone who ever saw Candy Givens perform with Zephyr through the years when the band released albums on ABC, Warner Bros., Red Sneakers, BGO and One Way-Casablanca Records will never forgot the vocal power and sheer energy of her presence. Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, Animal Planet veterinarian-comedian and former bodyguard for the Rolling Stones, says Candy was simply “a force of nature.”

Whether Zephyr was opening for Jimi Hendrix at the legendary Denver Pop Festival, playing Mammoth Gardens or tearing the roof off the Fillmore West with Jeff Beck, it was the band to see in that incredible era that produced artists like The Who, Buffalo Springfield and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Candy Ramey was born in 1946 into a family of what’s been described as “gamblers and small-time outlaws,” living in a log house overlooking the lake near Evergreen. When she was eleven, they moved out of the mountains to Applewood, near Golden. Candy’s love of music and her powerful voice got her voted the “most likely to become a famous singer” in her senior year at Golden High School. After high school, she attended the University of Northern Colorado, intending to become a teacher.

But music was her focus, and she and a high school buddy, Doug Lubahn, hitchhiked to California, where he looked for jobs as a bass player (he wound up playing on the first two Doors albums). Meanwhile, Candy moved on to San Francisco to join her friend Connie Kay. It was there that she made her radio debut, playing guitar and singing “Greensleeves” on a Chinese-language station. After a year on the West Coast, Candy moved to Aspen, where she and Doug Whitney played in the Piltdown Philharmonic Jug Band. In Aspen, she met David Givens, a songwriter, guitar and bass player, and together they moved to Boulder with his band, Brown Sugar. David and Candy were married in October 1968. Brown Sugar played shows around Denver and on tours in Salt Lake City and California, and the band formed the cornerstone of what would become Zephyr.

Candy and David Zephyr

Zephyr came together after a monumental jam with guitar wizard Tommy Bolin at the Buff Room on the Hill. Candy and David joined keyboardist and flutist John Faris and Bolin as Ethereal Zephyr, adding Robbie Chamberlin on drums.

The act burst onto the Colorado music scene with several explosive shows, starting at the Sink in Boulder and then at the University of Colorado’s Glenn Miller Ballroom, later opening for John Mayall with Tim Leary at Macky Auditorium. Early shows at Reed’s Ranch with the Grateful Dead; free concerts at the Boulder Bandshell; short tours to Phoenix, where they worked with musicians like Steve Miller, Vanilla Fudge and David Lindley; and appearances in Los Angeles at the Avalon Ballroom, Whisky a Go Go and the Boston Tea Party built the group’s reputation.

With Candy’s stage presence, songwriting, vocals and harp, Bolin’s magical guitar solos and the power of the Zephyr rhythm section, the band made a name for itself with its blues/jazz/rock sound on shows with Led Zeppelin, Leslie West’s Mountain, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Spirit, Fleetwood Mac and pretty much every top group of the era. It established a loyal fan base across the U.S., Canada and internationally, in Europe, Japan and Australia. The stage was set for Zephyr and Candy to become the logical heirs to Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and a small dynasty of powerful women-fronted bands of the late 1960s.

But logic and destiny rarely unfold in a way that confirms inevitability. Zephyr’s second album was recorded for Warner Bros. with famed producer/engineer Eddie Kramer in New York at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady studios, with Bobby Berge on drums. Carly Simon, who was recording her first album at Electric Lady, invited David Givens to play bass on several tracks, including her first hit, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.” Sadly, Hendrix died the day before he was to return to New York to complete his legendary album Cry of Love; Kramer and bassist Mitch Mitchell finished the album, but the Zephyr project was adversely effected by the chaos. Going Back to Colorado came out in 1971 on Warner Bros.

The album was favorably reviewed in Rolling Stone by famed critic Lester Bangs, and according to writer Gil Asakawa, Candi Givens “had a powerful, throaty voice that could scream the highest rock-and-roll notes but swoop down to the lowest moaning blues.” But despite fantastic live shows, Zephyr’s album sales were not what the company wanted, and while the band was chosen, along with Eric Clapton, as most likely to succeed in 1971 by Billboard, the magazine was only half right.

Zephyr

zephyr_barn_best_version

Labels of that era chose favorites, and Warner Bros. gave Colorado only half-hearted promotion. Coupled with mismanagement back at home, Zephyr did not receive the commercial success that fans thought the band deserved. According to David Givens, Barry Fey (local promoter and Zephyr manager, who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2012), turned his attention to Bolin. “Eventually, our band was consigned to a career of playing ski towns, along the Front Range, up into Wyoming, and down into New Mexico as we beat our heads against the wall that our management erected around us,” he remembers.

David and Candy formed a new band and recorded Sunset Ride, which may be the album best remembered by their fans. Candy’s songwriting, vocals and harp were at their peak. On guitar, Bolin had been replaced by Jock Bartley, who would later go on to co-found Firefall with Rick Roberts. They also added Michael Wooten on drums, who toured and recorded with Carole King and Leftover Salmon. The album was produced by David Givens, who wrote the majority of the songs for this second Warner Bros. release.

For the next ten years, Zephyr’s lineup continued to evolve, with award-winning trance-blues artist Otis Taylor, blues guitar great Eddie Turner, boogie-woogie piano legend Rob Rio, Bobby Berge back on drums, and a host of other local and national luminaries. The band produced one more album in 1982, Heartbeat. The video for that album used elements of animation combined with performance footage that was groundbreaking for its time. But Zephyr disbanded shortly thereafter, and most of the players went on to successful careers with other projects. Candy and David were planning a blues album when she died in Boulder of a drug-related accidental drowning on January 27, 1984.

In 2014, Greg Hampton and David Givens remastered and repackaged their first album, Bathtub Album, on Purple Pyramid Records, then gave the same treatment to Going Back to Colorado, adding previously unreleased live and studio recordings in a boxed set titled Leaving Colorado for Sunset Boulevard Records. David is currently remixing Sunset Ride and Heartbeat from the original multi-track recordings, and there are still several albums’ worth of unreleased studio recordings that he intends to release in the future.

In 2019, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental will induct Candy Ramey Givens and Zephyr into the Hall of Fame. While Zephyr certainly deserved more attention while the act was still together, the time is right to recognize the band as Colorado’s most incredible female-fronted group, one that was rooted in the blues-rock tradition but transcended that genre to create its own unique niche in Colorado music history.

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