Hey all! After almost 14 years of blog posting, I've decided to scale back, a bit. I no longer can maintain the weekly Monday posts, and have made the decision to get back to a less-scheduled blog posting "schedule." Nothing is wrong, unless you count needing more hours in a day. Been so busy with projects, including the upcoming reissue of a Colorado record masterpiece. Stay tuned! It's all good.
Monday, March 28, 2022
Was driving through the Springs last Friday, and decided to hit a few of my old thrift stops. The city has been kinda hit or miss lately, at least for esoteric Colorado vinyl finds, but took a chance before heading back up to D-Town.
Glad I did. Take a look at this find from KGHF radio, in Pueblo!
You may remember the story I published a few months ago, on the first Pueblo radio stations. KGHF went on the air in 1927, and stuck around until 1964 (later becoming KKAM). No date on this recording, but the tune "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)" was popular in 1954, as a song included in the movie "White Christmas."
The disc was in atrocious condition. You could barely hear anything, over the surface noise, but I had to at least attempt to clean it up.
The flipside of the disc was a cover of "My Best to You," a 1942 Gene Willadsen and Isham Jones composition recorded by Slim Whitman, the Sons of the Pioneers, and others. Sadly, this side was audibly beyond repair.
As for the performers - vocalist Frank Hummel worked at CF&I, with his wife Cora. According to Cora's 2018 obituary, the couple moved to Fort Morgan, and later Greeley, in 1960. Leon Dudley was very well known in Pueblo. While he was visually impaired, he was a regular entertainer at The 85 Club and The Broken Dollar, and later at La Renaissance restaurant. He often performed live on KGHF, along with ragtime performer Max Morath. He passed away in 1992.
Monday, March 21, 2022
Hey all! Needing your help to find out more about this fantastic record. My friend Lance Ortiz, who runs the most-awesome Colorado-based Vinyl Heard Facebook page, offered me this find, at the Vintage Voltage show, on Sunday.
Looks like an acetate from Summit Studios. Guessing the year would be around late 1960s, based on the song titles:
Funky Broadway (Wilson Pickett cover originally released in 1968)
Chicago (Paul Butterfield Blues Band cover originally released in 1965)
Heard It Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye cover originally released in 1968)
Who's Making Love (Johnnie Taylor cover originally released in 1968)
I'm a Man (Spencer Davis cover originally released in 1967)
Brown Eyed Woman (Bill Medley cover originally released in 1968)
So dear readers, know anything about a band called The Foxx? Possibly Denver, but who knows.
Monday, March 7, 2022
Hey all. Going to take a break from posting Colorado finds, because this discovery is pretty amazing.
So I'm digging at the big Denver thrift chain here, and found a stack of homemade-looking 78rpm recordings. I never skip looking at these, even if they aren't from Colorado, as I have found some incredible discs.
The label immediately caught my eye - East Richmond Radio and Appliance Center, Richmond, CA. These appeared to be home recording records, possibly recorded on the Packard Bell Phonocord machine (as noted on the label).
The labels note Dude Martin, who was a West Coast-based country singer and bandleader. Dude's Round Up Gang originated on KTAB radio, but moved over to KYA in 1939, where he stayed until 1950.
These are incredible audio samples of 1940s radio. They all show a date of August 27-28, 1948. One of the discs includes an Amarillo-area singer named Jimmy Ledbetter, who was the fourth contestant in the station's "Talent Tournament."
On this record you also hear Dude mention that they have been using a mic for "16 years," which would imply that he had been singing since 1932. Dude's first band, The Nevada Nite Herders, first appeared on KLX radio on April 15, 1932. Dude (John Stephen McSwain) would later take his show to television, appearing on the The Dude Martin Show, KTTV Ch. 11, Los Angeles. He died in 1991.
Again, no clue if these are simply home recordings of a radio broadcast, or if they were actual radio transcription recordings. My guess would be home recordings, based on the penciled notations on the labels. Still an incredible find. The outstanding Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame has another sample of his show, on its website.
"Wow -- what a find," museum founder David Ferrell Jackson told me. "Dude Martin is a personal favorite of mine; I have numerous photographs, promotional pieces and recordings of his music from over the years -- but only one aircheck. The odds and ends of Dude Martin on the air are rare, so these are amazing to hear."
On a side note, there IS a Colorado connection to Dude Martin. Eddie Kirk, who often provided
the musical backing for him, was from Greeley (but left the state in 1934).
Monday, February 28, 2022
(Story is also posted in the March 2022 issue of the Pueblo County Historical Society The Pueblo Lore).
Seventeen days after the flood of June 3, 1921, the Grand Theater reopened after clearing “six and a half feet of water from the stage.” The repairs were a sign that entertainment would once again be a part of the Pueblo landscape after the horrific devastation.
On November 6, the Daily Chieftain announced that the Grand was looking for a permanent stock company—a theater group which Pueblo could call its own—to be regular performers. A few days later, it was announced that the Harrison Players, formed by Charles Harrison, would take the stage as the troupe in residence. “The Harrison Players were organized expressly for Pueblo with the purpose of giving Pueblo theater goers a high-class, permanent, dramatic company,” according to the Grand’s manager, J.D. Colegrove.
Charles Harrison was a well-known theater company player, who had formed stock player companies in Dallas, El Paso, and Kansas City. In a Chieftain story, he admitted that he was looking for a permanent home for his troupe and was happy to be setting up in Pueblo for the long term.
The cast of the Harrison Players included a literal Who’s Who of early 1900s touring theater entertainers: Aubrey Anderson (previously of El Paso stock company), Frederick Boon (previously of the Arlington Players in Montana), Adelaide Irving—leading lady (popular actress who has appeared in Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and El Paso), Kelly Masters (from the F.P. Hillman Stock Co.), Fred McCord, Pearl Nichols (W.T. Swain Company in New Orleans), Ruby Rumley (Florida actress), Betty Rumley, Johnny Sullivan, Billy Topp (previously of the Lewis-Worth stock company).
The group’s first performance, Two-Fisted Love, told the story of “a lightweight boxer (Kid Maloney) who is booked to fight a champion (Kid Burns). While he is in a small town to train, he meets the daughters of a minister, and this precipitates a battle which means more to him than the prize-ring championship.”
Harrison Players’ performances:
November 19 – Cheating Cheaters
November 26 – Mr. Jim Bailey
December 3 – Kick In (John Barrymore starred in the original NYC production)
December 11 – Little Peggy O’Moore
December 17 – Mary’s Ankle
December 27 – The Brat
January 1 – Civilian Clothes
January 8 – Tennessee’s Pardner
January 10 – Common Clay – starred Don Barclay (previously of Ziegfeld’s Follies)
January 12 – Geewilliker Hay
January 22 – The Shepherd of the Hills
January 26 – A Pair of Sixes (starring 1911 Centennial graduate Miss Wally Norris)
February 5 – Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners
February 13 – At 9:45
February 18 – Fair and Warmer
February 26, 1922 – Her Husband’s Kin-Folks
Between November 11, 1921, and February 26, 1922, The Harrison Players staged a total of 17 plays, each running about a week. It was reported that every show sold out of tickets and there were waiting lists for admission. The company was so beloved that when rumors began to circulate that they were leaving Pueblo, the local paper ran a story asking them to reconsider (the rumors weren’t true, as the troupe only wanted to take a few days off).
On March 1, 1922, all of that was about to change.
At 1:15 in the morning, with an outside temperature of 22 degrees below zero, a fire broke out in the dance hall on the fourth floor of the Grand Opera House block. By 1:30, the three-alarm blaze had brought out every piece of equipment the fire department had and every fireman they could find. According to the Pueblo Firefighters Historical Society, the fire burned its way to the scenery loft above the stage and soon the falling and flaming scenery drapes ignited the stage. By 1:50, the roof had collapsed. The red sandstone exterior blocks were three feet thick and withstood the water and the weather. The estimated monetary loss was measured in the hundreds of thousands. The Harrison Players revealed that the loss of its sets and costumes was estimated to be $20,000 (2022 equivalent = $329,000). They had no insurance.
The day after the disaster, the troupe was left wondering what would become of them. They weren’t the only ones pondering the future of the performers. The Chieftain reported that the group wanted to stay, and that “scores of comments on the streets...the people want them to stay.” The city quickly rallied around the beloved Harrison Players. To financially help, the Rialto Theater held a benefit and donated all its revenue to them. The city approved the Harrison Players use of City Auditorium for a repeat performance of Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners. They then moved to the Majestic Theater, where they performed Her Husband’s Kin-Folks.
In an editorial, the paper pleaded with them to stay. “The Harrison Players in particular have won the good will of the people of Pueblo by their sincere efforts to provide clean and wholesome amusement of a high grade of artistic effort. Such a company is a valuable asset to any city, and it is the general hope that the destruction of the theater with much of the company’s equipment will not necessitate their removal from Pueblo. Anything that can be done within reason to make it possible for them to remain ought to be done. This we owe to the city if not to this painstaking and conscientious company of actors.”
By March 5, it appeared that the Harrison Players would continue to perform in Pueblo. It was announced that the troupe “voted and decided to stay.” They would use the City Auditorium, and even announced a new play was in the works, Lone Star Ranch. The good news would not last.
Just two days after announcing that they would stay in Pueblo, the troupe published a letter in the Chieftain, announcing that it could no longer stage performances due to “many obstacles.”
“To our dear friends. We had decided last Saturday to undertake to stay in Pueblo for a few more weeks, giving our performances in Memorial Hall, through the opportunity offered us by the City Commissioners. But we were swayed away from the vision of many obstacles when we made this decision by the great evidence of friendship shown us on the streets, and at our benefit. Later a more calm and mature view of the situation bringing to light troubles in the way of scenery needed, sickness of some of the players, offers received by others...”
“Never in the history of this city has a company of dramatic players given such a general satisfaction and gained such a tremendous number of loyal admirers and friends as did the Harrison Players, who appeared here in the Grand Opera House for seventeen weeks this winter. A big fire on March 1, resulting in the destruction of the theater and practically everything in it, brought to an end an engagement of one of the most enjoyed permanent theatrical attractions in the city.”
Billboard - April 1, 1922
The city commissioners offered the City auditorium to the players as an inducement to remain after the fire, the newspapers devoted columns to them, the fraternal and civic organizations offered their assistance, but after thorough consideration, it was decided they could not maintain their high standard of productions in the auditorium because of insufficient scenery to work with and the oversize of the building.
Eight months later the group would return to the stage in Walsenburg. The troupe staged Cappy Ricks at the Star Theater. They would take the act on the road, performing in Rocky Ford and Ordway.
After another year of touring Colorado, the Harrison Players would move to Colorado Springs. Charles Harrison and J.D. Colegrove would form the Harrison Play Bureau, a distribution house for scripts and other theater needs. In July 1924, the business moved to Denver (1012 E. Colfax). The last known performance of the Harrison Players was reported on June 27, 1924.
Monday, February 21, 2022
Taking a break from posting a record find, with this 1955 Denver East High yearbook, picked up at the big thrift store chain here. You never know what you might find in an old school annual. While I focus on lesser-known Colorado music finds, I thought you all would enjoy seeing this 16-year-old drama club member.
Yup, that is a young Judy Collins. The following year she would pursue her musical interests, performing at Sportsland Valley, near Winter Park. According to her biography she would continue to perform in Grand Lake, Estes Park, and the Gilded Garter, in Central City. Just two years after graduating East, she started performing at the Exodus Club, in Denver. Her first vinyl appearances would be Folk Song Festival at Exodus (SK 1002), followed by Mickey Sherman Presents Folk Festival at the Exodus (Sight and Sound SS 1002).
Collins would not be the only student in this yearbook to go on to national fame. Senior Marilyn Van Derbur would go on to win the Miss Colorado pageant in 1957, and would be crowned Miss America 1958.
Monday, February 14, 2022
Happy Valentine's Day! I thought I would dig through the "love" songs in my stash, and feature this 1980 catchy new wave-ish / pop number by the Denver band, Alpha Wave.
The band included Henry "Broz" Rowland (also formerly of Modern Kids, The Rowland Brothers, and The Dreamers) and Fred Poindexter (later of Thunder the Radar) on vocals and guitars, and Remo Packer, on drums. The single was recorded at Colorado Sound Recording, and was the b-side to the catchy power pop "You Know It's Coming." While Rowland and Poindexter stayed in Colorado, Packer later moved to Los Angeles (later with the groups Altra, Frankie Vigilante Boogie Band, Razor Sharp, Bryon's Backbeat Groove Co., The Drunken Monkeys, City Fritter, Anomaly, and Trudeau LA).
At one point the band also included Paul Conly (formerly of 1960s innovative psych-rock band, Lothar and the Hand People).
"Yes, I was in Alpha Wave for a couple of years," Paul told me. "Broz Rowland was one of my students at the University of Colorado, Denver, College of Music. I taught music synthesis and audio recording. After he graduated, he put the group together and then asked me to join on keyboards. I did join after I left my teaching job. Broz and Fred Poindexter [AKA Eric Danger] were the principal songwriters. I wrote or co-wrote some of the songs."
Conly's time with the group only lasted a few years, when he left to compose film music.
"My final show was Halloween at Mammoth Gardens. This was probably the best show ever for the group. A full house, a costume contest, a set-decorated stage and a good sound system. Then the box office was robbed and the promoter had no money to pay us. After a string of low paying gigs, it was the final straw for me and I quit Alpha Wave. Their next gig was at the Rainbow Ballroom as local openers for some L.A. punk band. It was trendy to spit on the band from the mosh pit and I was very glad to have missed that gig."
Paul was replaced by Donny Scott. Later in the group's history, the band line-up included Myles Mangrem, and Carlton Bacon.
"I still play music with Eric Danger. We performed as recently as late summer, but I am too busy now with a jazz group, Jazz Hands, plus I am composing a score for a feature length documentary film."