Thursday, August 6, 2020

VAB Records - The Little House on Lowell Street and Denver's Polka Epicenter


(image from author's collection)

I was digging around Boulder yesterday, and spotted this album. Like I need another polka record in my life, but the amateur cover art just drew me in (pun intended).


Eddie Basgall and the Jolly Dutchmen, as noted on the cover, were actually from Hays, Kansas (also home to Denver polka legend,  Herman Dinges, who passed away earlier this year). Eddie was well known in polka circles, and was a member of the Bob Hope Radio Show Orchestra and a featured musician with the Bobby Mills Orchestra in the 1950s. He also performed and arranged music for the Six Fat Dutchmen and the "Whoopee John" Orchestra. Later in his career he formed the Eddie Basgall Band, the Danceland Band and the Jolly Dutchmen.

Eddie Basgall and the Jolly Dutchmen
(image from author's collection)

The group also included two of Basgall's sons - Stan (clarinet) and Neal (on drums). The LP notes Jon Kisner (vocals) and Hal Pierce, the host of the popular polka show on KBRN radio, in Brighton (credited on banjo).  Of note, Hal also shows up on the Herman Dinges albums, German Wedding Days and Grand Old Flag.

Eddie passed away in 2001.

Soooooo.... what does this have to do with Colorado?

Eddie and his band were one of several groups who recorded in Denver (a five hour straight shot from Hays, KS, on I-70), at the VAB Recording Studios. Owned by John and his wife Vilma "Jerry" Benicken, and located on Lowell Street, in a little house on the Barnum side of town. The home studio was literally polka ground zero, for anyone wanting to make a 45 or album.



I got back home and realized I owned several albums, and a few 45s, from the VAB studios.

NOTE: Again, not a complete VAB album discography - just a sampling. The list below notes records with obvious credits to VAB:

Eddie Basgall
VAB 169 - Old Time Polka Fun Salute to the Troubadors
E-869 - Here Come De Original Jolly Dutchmen (record label shows the title It's Polka Time and More)

Jake Bauer
VAB JB 100 - Eins-Zwei Everybody Polka 

Bobby Bruntz and the Polka Kings
VAB BB-2 - Self Titled
VAB BB-4 - Self Titled (orange vinyl)
VAB BB-6 - Some Call it Bang Bang
VAB BB-7 - Self Titled (blue vinyl)
VAB BB-9 - Blast Off (blue vinyl)

Denver Dutchmen
VAB 10-30-57 - Dance to the Denver Dutchmen 

Herman Dinges
VAB A8-64 – German Christmas Carols & Folk Songs
VAB A10-64 – Cheerio
VAB 66 - Old and New Favorites (red vinyl)
VAB 66 - Round N Round with Herman Dinges
VAB 68 - Colorado is Paradise
(NOTE: quite possible other Herman Dinges LPs were recorded at VAB, but there is no obvious notation, on the others I have)

Dutchmasters Polka Band
VAB 2-68 - Featuring Polkas and Waltzes
VAB A7-19 - Kansas Dutch Hops

Albert Holman and the Polka Toons
1396 - Uni'que

Adolph Lesser
Rocky Mountain AL3-1 (recorded at VAB) - Polka Varieties (two different covers – Hollywood night street scene and pink and purple graphics)

Cindy Quint and Her Polka Band
No label number

John Benicken passed away in August, 2006. Vilma passed away, shortly thereafter, in October, 2006.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Talking Records and Radio on the Buy Sell Trade Podcast

Hey all!

Was a guest this morning on the fantastic Buy, Sell, Trade podcast, hosted by Rusty Garner - talking about record collecting, radio, and diggin' for obscure Colorado music.

Monday, July 27, 2020

MYSTERY SOLVED - The Coachmen

My thanks to my friend, and the mastermind behind the Colorado Springs record show, Chris Davis, for solving the mystery, behind The Coachmen.

They are from Connecticut!

Chris found this Putnam, Connecticut radio station video, and alerted me to the proof (see screenshot, below):


The Coachmen originally formed in 1965 by then-Putnam High sophomore Mike Crotty (the Mike noted on the album cover).

So dear readers, another mystery successfully solved! I'm going to go ahead and leave the original story posted, for a bit longer, then go ahead and remove it from the blog. My thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions, including those who swore this group was out of Colorado.

As for my copy of the album? It is now back home in Connecticut, in the hands of a local record collector, up there. He told me the piece was a longtime "holy grail" want of his, so I was happy to sell it, and get back to where it belongs.

__________

(Original story posted November 27, 2018)

Hey all.

So I'm working on this massive Colorado song database (cataloging every single song, on every single piece of vinyl I own), when I get to the letter "C" and find this long-forgotten LP in my collection, from The Coachmen. There is a $10 label on the plain back cover, so I'm thinking I obtained it from a used record store, somewhere in my travels. I remember liking the yellowing, pasted-on front cover picture, so I took a chance, and plopped down my Hamilton.

So I get home and, like I always do when I obtain a perplexing find, I head to the Internet to look for additional information. Much to my surprise, I discover the album has had realized online auction prices of well-over $100 (!!), AND I also discover that this record might be from a Colorado group! After searching a few hours, for definitive proof that these guys were actually a Colorado band, and finding none, I filed it away - only to be rediscovered in my stash, today.

The front cover only mentions the band members: Bob, Jode, Terry, Fran and Mike. There is absolutely no mention of a city, a state, or a recording studio. The album was issued on the Director Records label and is an RCA Custom pressing.

The 1960s-era selections give a bit of a clue, as to the time period, with a cover of the Beatles, "Hey Jude," being the "newest" song, noted (1968):

Taste of Honey
Everybody Loves Somebody
More
Alfie
Tijuana Taxi
Around the Lake Polka
Cry Me a River
Theme From "The Oscar"
Somewhere My Love
In the Mood
Sugar Bear Boogie
Hey Jude (YouTube audio)

Apparently, around this same time, there was another band, going by The Coachmen, based in Nebraska. There were also Coachmen bands in Bellinghman, WA; St. Louis MO; Iowa, Mountainside, New Jersey, and Sacramento, CA. The pre-ZZ Top group the Moving Sidewalks were originally dubbed The Coachmen, and an Illinois group, dubbed The Coachmen, which included a young Dan Fogelberg. Plus, there was a group going by Cindy Rella and the Coachmen, who had a minor hit with "Bring Me a Beatle for Christmas" - and that's just naming a few!

To make matters even more confusing, there was apparently a three-piece band, from Colorado, going by The Coachmen. Newspaper archive digging find them playing quite a bit in Colorado Springs, Greeley, and Boulder, from 1966-1969.

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
December 26, 1966

So dear reader, let's figure this one out. I'm looking for absolute proof that the five-piece Coachmen, with Bob, Jode, Terry, Fran and Mike, are from Colorado, or not. 

Let's solve the mystery!



Monday, July 20, 2020

"Fight Fight On For Denver U" - Al Berube and Plains Music Publishing

 

Hey all! I haven't dug into my Colorado sheet music in a spell, so I thought I would post this latest acquisition - "Fight Fight On for Denver U."

Music was composed by Milton Shrednik (who was actually the music director at KOA radio). He passed away in 1957. Sadly, I could not find anything on the lyricist, Georgia Colclough.

Stand up! Stand up! And yell for Denver!
Yell when the Pioneers appear!
Naught prevails and pow'r of Denver, give 'em a mighty cheer!
Rah, Hu-rah! Hurah! for Denver Pioneers, so bold!
Shout, so Shout, Oh Shout for Denver. Shout for colors, red and gold!
Fight, Fight you men of gold, fight for Denver U!
Crash the enemy, line from the start!
Smash their plays apart!
Red shirts you must win today, let our voices rise and give three cheers for the Pioneers.
Varsity of Denver, Fight Fight Fight!

Strangely, this was not the official University of Denver fight song, as that was written in 1916, and entitled "Fairest of Colleges." According to the front of the "Fight Fight" sheet music, that song made its debut during the 1937 homecoming. It was performed by the University of Denver band.


"Fight Fight On For Denver U" was published by Plains Music Publishing, located at 24 W.  Bayaud (in the Baker part of Denver). It appears the building, believe it or not, is still standing.

(This building is actually listed as 30 W. Bayaud, but you can see various offices/apartments noted)

Plains Music Publishing was owned by Al. N. Bérubé, who also taught dancing and various musical instruments.


Denver Catholic Register
July 22, 1937

Mr. Bérubé was semi-prolific, in the sheet music business, as I found several notations of published pieces, including "Denver" (words and music by Rosamond L. Little - published 1940), and a song entitled "Oh How I Love You, Colorado" (words by Flora Pool and music by Malloy Miller - year unknown). 

Other pieces included "Learn to Keep the Corners of Your Mouth Turned Up and Smile, Smile Smile" (lyrics by M.E. Baker and music by A.N. Bérubé - 1941). Plus a fantastic Cañon City-related piece of sheet music "Canon My Canon" (words and music by Jimmie Miller - 1940)


According to the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center, Jimmy Miller was an inmate in the Cañon City prison, when he wrote this piece. The song was performed by the Tiger Band at the high school. The cover shows a photo of the Cañon City High School Band gathered in front of the school building's front entrance.

I also discovered that Mr. Bérubé was using a pseudonym, Alex André, on some of his pieces, including "You're the Reason Why I Fell in Love" (1941), "You're the Person I Fell In Love With" (1941), "Keep Smilin' Pal of Mine" (1941), and "Possession" (1941).

As luck would have it, a couple of weeks ago, I found yet another Plains Music piece, "My Haunting Melody" (words by Gladys Bailey and music by A.N. Bérubé - 1940). The piece apparently received national recognition, as it shows well-known bandleader Ted Weems on the cover (and signed by Gladys Bailey).


I found Al living in Cheyenne Wyoming, before he came to Denver. I noticed he wrote a few pieces of music, while there, including "Meet Me in Cheyenne For Old Frontier Days" (1934).



Friday, July 17, 2020

"Deep, Mellow, Soulful" - Gustav Henning and his Mail Order Violins

 Gustav Henning (1948)
Photo courtesy of University of Washington photo library

So I'm going through this large stack of 1920s-era Etude classical music magazines, when I spotted a tiny ad for a Denver violin maker, Gustav V. Henning. Of course, you just know I had to go down that path of finding out more...

Etude Magazine (1923)

Gustav Henning was born in Karlstad, Sweden in 1876. In 1885, at the age of nine, he immigrated to America. I couldn't find any information on his childhood - whether or not he had been previously musically proficient - but as a young adult, he worked for a piano company (Chickering and Sons), in Boston. By 1905 he had switched from pianos to violins, making them out of his home, and marketing them under his own name.

From Boston he moved to Miami (1914), and advertised himself as a piano tuner and violin maker. Then six years later, he concentrated solely on violins, and relocated his business, to Denver (2424 Gaylord St.). It was here in Denver that Mr. Henning was quite prolific. He discovered the benefits of magazine advertising, and took out monthly ads in Etude, and even Popular Mechanics. Business took off, as orders came in to his City Park-area home. It's estimated, based on catalogs of his work, that he could create about 17 violins a year.

2424 Gaylord St., Denver

Advertising the instruments as "deep, mellow, soulful," the violins were crafted with spruce and maple, and were finished with a semi-opaque yellow-brown varnish.

After seven years in Denver, Henning moved to Seattle, where he continued to make his violins. In a 1927 issue of Music Trade Review, it was announced that Henning had relocated to Seattle, where he had opened a store for "high grade violin making, repairing, regraduating, and bow repairing."


His later Etude advertisements continued to use the "Deep - Mellow - Soulful" descriptive. While the announcement above shows a 512 University address, I found 20 years worth of Etude ads (1929-1949) showing three different Seattle addresses - 302 University Blvd, 301 Fisher Studio, and 1106 N. 49th St.

At some point he returned to his native Sweden, where he died, in 1962. It's estimated that he created close to 600 signature violins, over the course of his business. The handcrafted instruments, which originally sold for $350-$500, are now worth close to $4,000 today. One of the violins made by Henning, during his time in Miami, is on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (picture below).



Monday, July 13, 2020

The Bucher Yodeling School of Boulder / Denver


Boulder was once home to a yodeling school. Yup, the things which continue to surprise me about esoteric Colorado music history.

Found this previously-unknown-to-me history, while attending an estate sale, last weekend. Discovered a couple of 45s and an album, and noted the Colorado addresses on them. Of course the fun part is always doing the research...

Bucher's Yodeling School opened for business, in the 1950's, by Magnus Bucher, a Bavarian immigrant, and Olympic skier, who came to Denver to attend the University of Denver (where he was also on the ski team). He later attended the University of Colorado.

The story goes that this world-known skier used to impress his teammates with his yodeling skills, and they encouraged him to teach others.  During his time at the University of Colorado, he opened a formal yodeling school with K.A Jaensch, a Slovenian immigrant who worked as a full-time Denver engineer, when he wasn't yodeling. The school was housed in Boulder, at 1146 Pleasant (Bucher's college apartment).


Billboard Magazine
May 19, 1958
(note the Alpine Records notation, not to be confused with the Paul Weingardt label)

In 1956, Bucher recorded the instructional album, Anyone Can Yodel.


The following year, Bucher appeared as a guest on the popular TV show "What's My Line" - click on the link to watch.  He stumped the panel, won $50, and gave a sample of his yodeling, before he left the stage.


More publicity followed, when Bucher appeared in the January 20, 1958 Sports Illustrated, hyping the Boulder school.

In 1959, Bucher graduated the University of Colorado, with his Ph.D., in history.  That same year Jaensch (sometimes spelled Yansh) recorded a handful of 45 rpm singles, of his own original songs (performed by Bucher), pressed by RCA Victor, and released under the KAJ Montaphone Records label. (KAJ stands for Kurt A. Jaensch). The address of the school also changed to 515 E. 7th, in Denver, as noted on the record sleeves (apparently due to Bucher leaving his college housing, in Boulder).


"Yodel Fox" / "Alpine Yodel Waltz" (featuring Magnus Burcher, yodeler)
KAJ 201


"Aspen Polka" / "Call of the Magic Mountain" (featuring Magnus Bucher, yodeler)
KAJ 202

"Skier's Joy" / The Yodeling Santa Claus" (featuring Magnus Bucher, yodeler)
KAJ 203

No clue when the Bucher Yodeling School shut down, but I found a reference to Magnus Bucher, in 1971, where he was noted as a ski instructor at the University of Maryland, Munich campus.

In 1982, Bucher's now long out-of-print yodeling instruction course was discovered by a reporter at Skiing magazine, who ran a story on it, in a piece entitled "Bring Back the Yodel."

K.A. Jaensch died in 2000.




Monday, July 6, 2020

When You Find Out That Rare Iowa Garage Band Record Has a Colorado Connection

So during the holiday weekend, I ventured over to Loveland, to check out a row of antique stores, and hit the local big Colorado thrift chain store out that way.

Found a massive stash of Colorado LPs for my ever-growing, oh-my-God-will-it-ever-end, collection. Spotted a large stack of 45s and, of course, as a matter of due diligence, began sifting through the Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, Christopher Cross, and Air Supply singles (obviously this particular donator was in to mellow 70s sounds).

In between the adult contemporary radio playlist, I spotted a local-pressed single from Iowa, on the IGA record label - a group called the Scavengers.  I immediately grabbed the iPhone to search for more on this unknown-to-me record.

IGA Records label (IGL is an acronym for the Iowa Great Lakes Recording Studio) began in 1965, in Milford, IA, by Cliff Plagman, John Senn, and Roger Blunt. Apparently they were quite prolific, releasing an estimated 150+ singles, and 40 LPs, to their credit. Some pretty amazing garage band singles came out of there, including those by The Rockers, The Fowl, Billy Rat & The Finks, Fifth Generation, X-Men, The Noblemen, The Mad Hatters, Torres, Liberty Street Ferry, and The Cyclones.


Original members of the Scavengers included Sutherland High teens Jim Johann (class of '66) on lead guitar, Jim Streufert (class of '64) on rhythm guitar, Grant Gilmore (class of '65) on bass and drummer Lonnie Brown (class of '65).

Upon getting back to my turntable, I heard a fun teen vibe, with a heavy Byrds influence on "But If You're Happy."


It's obvious who these guys were listening to, as the flip side borrows heavy from the Beatles (note the "Day Tripper"- like riff on "It's Over.")


Both records were included on the 1994 Arf! Arf! CD release The IGL Rock Story - Part One (1965-1967). There is also a mention of this single in Mike Markesich's outstanding Teen Beat Mayhem. I then quickly discovered that the record is considered a "rare garage band" find, commanding between $80-100. For my $.50 investment (and since I assumed it didn't have a Colorado connection), I thought this would be a good candidate for the eBay pile.

But hold your horses, Lisa...

In further researching the band, I found out that, in 1966 (shortly after the release of their single), the band members relocated to...Colorado. Members changed the group's name to The Pillars, and toured up and down Denver and Colorado Springs.

Say what?

I couldn't find any Colorado newspaper stories or ads on the band. Usually I find, at least, one print ad for a concert, but I found nothing. In the group's bio, on the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site (the band was inducted in 2006), it too also mentions that the members later (briefly) relocated to Colorado, before returning back to Iowa.

The Scavengers disbanded in 1967. 

As luck would have it, I have friends in the Sutherland, IA area, who know the family of one of the band members. Hope to have more info, as soon as I can nail it down.