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Paul Epstein’s “Let Me Take You Down (to the basement)” #4

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Jimi Hendrix at Regis Field House February 14, 1968. This is one of the Holy Grails of Colorado music history. What a legendary night it must have been! When I first moved to Denver in 1968, I remember hearing about this show, how wild Hendrix was, how weird opening act Soft Machine were, and how Hendrix himself went over to the legendary Family Dog venue and sat in after the show. Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee and blues legend Otis Taylor has confirmed that he was onstage at the same time. 

The Regis University (founded 1877) Field House is a typical campus gym. Built in 1960, it holds just under 2,000 people and was the sight of a number of great concerts in the 1960s and ‘70s. I remember seeing Queen with Mott The Hoople as their opening act in 1976 and being blown away by both bands. It seems as though it does not get used for concerts anymore. 

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was at their zenith at the time of this concert. Hendrix was one of the highest paid musicians in the world and his album, Axis: Bold As Love, was at the top of the charts in the U.S. (No. 3). Denver was not a primary music market yet, but Barry Fey’s Feyline Productions was fast becoming the most important promoter in the middle of the country with Denver a crucial stopping point between the coasts. Within a year, The Experience would play their final concert together at The Denver Pop Festival, but that’s a story for another blog.

Above, you can see a framed display of both the poster and two handbills from this event. In my early days of poster-collecting, this poster was something I burned with desire for. I saw a few of the handbills  throughout the years but never managed to put my hands on one. After many years, I was able to finally get these from various sources, and they hold a great place of pride in my collection. 

Perhaps even more interesting was the tale of the tape. Sometime in the late ‘90s, a guy named Daniel Smith walked into the Alameda Twist And Shout and told me he had something I might be interested in. He looked like the real deal–a leather vest with shells and roach clips hanging from it, sunglasses on indoors, Huarache sandals. When he told me he had recorded Jimi Hendrix at Regis the day after he returned from a hitch in Vietnam, I was incredulous but thought it could be possible. 

As an avid live-tape collector, I knew this show was not out there and it would be a major score if I could surface it. Daniel then pulled a cassette tape out of his backpack and held it just out of reach of my quivering hands. We commenced an hour or so of negotiation, where I finally convinced him that, even if he was the one who taped it, the music on it belonged to the Hendrix family and that there was no way for him to turn this into the giant payday he was envisioning. I told him the best-case scenario was for this to get out there into the Hendrix collecting community. He finally agreed to let me take it home and transfer it to a CD. When I got it home, I was still questioning whether this was real, and, even if it was, how good could the tape be? Well, the tape was actually quite listenable (far below release standards as I suspected though) and, importantly, provided proof of its authenticity. After playing a scorching Purple Haze, Hendrix clearly says, “pleasure playin’ up here, a mile high in Denver, Colorado.” Wow, there it was: proof! 

The set list that night was: Tax Free Jam, Fire, The Wind Cries Mary, Foxy Lady, Spanish Castle Magic, I Don’t Live Today, Jam-> Purple Haze, Wild Thing. Don’t you wish you were there? Maybe you were. Maybe you took pictures. I saw Daniel Smith a few more times as he drifted around the world; I hope he is well and still listening to the CD I made him of the show.

– Paul Epstein, Co-Chair, Colorado Music Hall of Fame; founder/former owner of Twist & Shout; music historian and archivist

“I moved to Colorado in 1968 and started going to concerts almost immediately. I eagerly grabbed posters, flyers, ticket stubs, advertisements, concert recordings, pretty much any proof I could find that the event happened. In 1988, I started a record store called Twist & Shout, and my collecting of memorabilia went into even higher gear. Over the next 34 years, I had rare access to memorabilia of all types and sizes. Now that I’ve retired, the time seems right to start sharing these things, and the stories that go with them. So, every other Tuesday, I will ask you to Let Me Take You Down (to the basement) to check out some of the good stuff!” – Paul Epstein