Monday, August 5, 2019

I'm Trying to Find Where the Angels Live

Attended the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, last week, where I scored a substantial cache of Colorado-published sheet music. Some fantastic additions to the esoteric state-related music collection, but one particular piece made me mutter a silent "%&@#," when I saw it (it was a public place, after all - grin).

I'm Trying to Find Where the Angels Live features a little girl, holding a doll, and I'm thinking, "Wait, why would she want to go to heaven. Who died? The little girl? Her doggie?"

Think again. The song is about her mother.

Fro, the yard 'cross the way, strayed a baby one day
To look for her mama, so dear.
Her doll in her arms, seemed to add to her charms
And check could be noticed a tear.
A police man passed by, saw this little one cry,
And asked her, with hand on her head.
Why from home she had strayed, then he kissed the wee maid
As wistfully to him she said...
I'm trying to find where the angels live
My mama is there you see
They called her away, on bright summer's day
And left daddy dear and me.

I'll give you a second to get a hankie...

Written by Harry J. Jones and Robert F. McGowan, the 1910 tearjerker was put out by the Denver Publishing Company, located at 218 Coronado Building, which was original located at the corner of 15th and Stout (it was demolished in 1953, and is now home to a parking garage).

I also located another copy of the sheet music, with an illustrated cover:

The story gets even better, when I tracked down the composers.

Robert F. McGowan was born in Denver, in 1882. He is listed, in the 1904 Denver City Directory as a musician, with a residence at 2428 Larimer. I found another reference that he served as a Denver firefighter.  In 1905, he and Jones penned "I'll Come Back Some Day," published by the prolific Tolbert R. Ingram company.

He left the city in 1910 (I found another story, which noted 1913), to move to Los Angeles. While there, he met up with a young producer named Hal Roach, who gave him a job as the director of a new series of silent films he conceived... Our Gang.

How. About. That. 

Robert McGowan, with the cast of Our Gang

Shortly after McGowan began directing the Our Gang series, he became ill, and turned the director's chair over to nephew, Robert A McGowan.  The senior McGowan recovered, and took the series back over, during what was considered the height of the silent film and the early talkie eras of the series, with the popular characters, Farina, Stymie, and a young Jackie Cooper (the character of Buckwheat didn't appear until 1934. The character of Alfalfa joined the cast in 1935). McGowan left the series in 1933 (when the character of Spanky was introduced), to direct several Paramount motion pictures.  He returned to Our Gang, one more time, to direct Divot Diggers (1936).

McGowan died in 1955. He is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, CA.

According to the 1904 Denver City Directory, Harry J. Jones was a clerk at the Colorado National Bank, who resided at 3826 Gilpin. I could find no other information on this lyricist.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Joe Bob Mundell and The Ballad of Highlands Ranch

Back in 1978, Denver was growing so big, there wasn't enough space to accommodate the influx of new residents enamored with Colorado (thanks, John Denver). The Mission Viejo Company, seizing the opportunity, purchased a large parcel of land, 12 miles south of Denver, in unincorporated Douglas County - home to nothing more than herds of cattle, and a handful of ranches. The suburban plan included thousands of new homes, a library, schools, parks, and shopping centers.

But not everyone was happy with the plan. Namely the ranchers who were put smack dab in the middle of an eminent domain fight, for their land.

Back then, Joe Mundell was a student teacher in Nederland. The former University of Colorado-Boulder physical education major, and football player, dabbled in songwriting, and the story about the ranchers versus the ranch homes caught his attention.

"I was reading about the story, in the Rocky Mountain News, and saw a picture of a dummy hanging with a sign on it," Mundell told me. "It had kind of a last cowboy standing vibe to it. The developers ended up winning, and I thought it would make a good song."

Mundell recollects that he wanted to record the ode to the expropriating of private property as a bucket list project. "It was something I always wanted to do, make my own record. I recorded that in Boulder, in somebody's basement. The studio had carpet on the walls, and an old 8-channel, half inch tape recorder."

He estimates 500 copies of "The Ballad of Highlands Ranch" and its flipside, "Talking to the Waterfall" were pressed. "I sent them off, but out of the 500, I think I still have about 200 left," he laughed.

Mundell took a chance in Nashville, but admitted, "I got smashed around there, and I needed to pursue a living, so I came back to Colorado. It really wasn't a crushing thing to not get a recording contract. It was just a realization."

He put his degree to use in Alamosa, coaching high school sports, before moving to his hometown of Walsh, located in far southeast Colorado. The bulk of his teaching career would be in nearby Lamar, where he taught math, and served as the track and cross country coach, and offensive coordinator for the school's football team, for 35 years. "I was also sponsor of the Knowledge Bowl team, which I was very proud of."

In between teaching, Mundell continued to pick up his guitar, and play in a few local and area bands, including the Black Water Band, Prairie Fire, and a duo known as Stereo.

He and his wife Darla are the parents of two grown children, a daughter Mandi, and a son Blake, who has followed in his father's musical footsteps. "My son lives in Nashville, and performs under the pseudonym, Courier," Mundell said.  In 2017, he released his 13-song LP The Present Tense.

Joe Mundell retired from the Lamar school district, in 2016, to move back to Walsh. He is currently the high school math teacher, there.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trudy and John


So yesterday, I hit the thrifts in the Longmont area...and unearthed a mother lode of esoteric Colorado records, at various store stops. Over the course of the discovery of my newly-acquired cache, I ventured into Absolute Vinyl, to see my friend, Doug Gaddy, who immediately presented me with an album from an Evergreen couple - Trudy & John With Love.

Upon the first listen of this adult contemporary, faith-based album, I was taken by the haunting softness of the production, along with Trudy Horth's complementary vocals.

"My family moved to Evergreen, from Kansas, when I was 11 years old," Trudy Horth told me, when I contacted she and her husband, John. "John's sister Sue was my English teacher, at Northglenn High School. That's how we met. We started singing together, and got married a year later."

The couple were active members of Evergreen's First Baptist Church, playing in worship bands. Trudy became a prolific songwriter, and after several years of performing her original compositions for parishioners and friends, a co-worker suggested the couple take the next step - record an album.

"So I was actually working with a guy [Geoff Landers] who had a recording studio, and we talked music all of the time at work, and he said, 'Why don't you guys come over, and record?.' said Trudy.

"Packing House Studios was the office for a meat packing company, right by the stockyards," said John. "The building itself said Cattleman’s Association. Geoff bought that and he lived on the top floor of it, and the recording studio was in the basement of it."

(NOTE: Geoffrey Landers and his Packing House Studios released some amazing experimental ambient and industrial albums, made with Bob Drake, including Habitual Features, and The Ever Decimal Pulse, along with producing the Fort Collins-based group, Endgame single ("Nothingness"), Crank Call Love Affair's release ("What's Wrong Yvette"), and Spray Pals Project A ("Happy Go Lucky")

While Trudy took on the lead vocals and acoustic guitar, John handled the synth and strings. The couple enlisted the help of drummer Kevin Meilinger (formerly of The Young Weasels), who was a friend of Geoff's, along with Vance Ortiz, on acoustic guitar. "Vance was one of our best friends." said John. "He was in a band with his brothers. They once opened for Strawberry Alarm Clock." Producer Geoff Landers handles acoustic guitar on "Set the Spirit Free." and bass on "For Grandma."

Released in 1983, Trudy describes the album as a contemporary Christian record, with a very personal meaning. "The songs reflect all of those things that are important to us, and we wanted the songs to be a thanks to God. He is not a separate part of my life. He brings my whole life together."

Side One
Freedom's Secret
Is it Just a Dream
Set the Spirit Free
For Grandma
Turn Around Child

Side Two
Thank You Lord
See the Love
Make Me Strong
Happy Just Lovin' You
Sinful Nature

The album was offered to friends and family, but received no promotion or radio play. Trudy says her goal was never to become famous. "We never pursued anything like that. Music is my ministry. My feeling was that I didn’t write the songs, I’m just the one who put it on paper. It was God who wrote those songs. I felt it was such a privilege."

In between their full-time jobs (the couple worked in computer drafting, along with taking on various remodeling and construction projects, including helping to design and build the body molds for Denver's 16th Street Mall electric hybrid buses), Trudy and John went on to raise two children - a daughter, Elicia, and a son, Jeremy (who tragically died, in 1998). They would later produce five other recordings (on CD), and tour Japan and Europe, as a musical ministry. They are currently working on additional material, for future releases.

"Basically we build things," said John. "We also built a lot of street rods. And we are building another house... and still working on the music."

After 46 years, living on a mountain top in Evergreen, the couple moved to Missouri, in 2015.

"We started a new phase of a music career in Missouri," said Trudy. "The church we attend is a little country church, and I’m the choir leader."

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Here I Am in Denver... ( Crystal River Band )

So I'm digging through the mountain of bags and boxes, from the move up to Denver, and rediscovered a recent addition to the Colorado stash, courtesy of Austin, at Recollect Records.

I put this fantastic homemade bluegrass disc on the turntable, and my ears perked up, when I heard this catchy, and oh-so-appropriate chorus, which became an instant unpacking earworm:

I hit the Internet to see if I could find out more about the Crystal River Band. It didn't take long to locate former-member Russ Rueger, who graciously offered to tell me more about his involvement in the band, and the recording:

"I joined the band in the fall of 1982. A friend brought me to a small bar that was at the intersection of Hog Back Road and I-70, in Golden. A bunch of guys were jamming, and I joined in on harmonica. They invited me over to their next practice, and I brought a guitar and mandolin. Over the next few weeks we played a lot in the basement of a house, in Arvada, and Saturday nights at the same bar. The band settled into six of us, and we named ourselves "The Crystal River Band," after the river out by Carbondale. The band was: Andre Lefebvre - guitar picker and banjo; Charlie Mueller - bass; Kevin Knudsen - rhythm guitar; Kent Knudsen - banjo; Dan [didn't recollect last name] - drummer, and me on mandolin-harmonica-guitar.

Crystal River

We got into the Medicine Man Saloon up on Lookout Mountain, and became their house band. We played there most Friday and Saturday nights through 1985. We gigged some other clubs in the Denver area, and were the top billing for Bailey Days in 1984 and 1985. We also did a couple of festivals and weddings.

We recorded that album in one cocaine-fueled night in a small studio in Denver. Our drummer had left the band, and the producers brought in a studio drummer [Phil Gonzalez] a few days after our sessions. Mostly I remember being really tired.

We fell apart in 1985. Kevin and Kent disappeared, Andre moved back to Nebraska after a nasty divorce and job loss, Charlie met a woman and spent all his time with her, and I got serious about raising my four kids. I moved the family to Vermont in 1987 [Listen to Russ's new music, on his website].

Here's a pic from our heyday - minus the drummer. Left to right: Charlie, Andre, me, Kent, Kevin."

Russ told me there were probably less than 100 of these LPs pressed. The extensive website located a copy, and reviewed it:

"I suspect this disc was simply a souvenir of a summer that a few buddies spent smoking pot and picking out tunes by campfires in the Rocky Mountain nights...  There are a few cover songs -- "Ghost Riders In The Sky," Ian Tyson's "Summer Wages," Doc Watson's "Deep River Blues."  It's exactly the sort of stuff you'd expect mellow '70s dudes with guitars to strum along to at a barbeque party or whatever. There are also a fair number of original tunes by mandolin picker Russ Rueger, also in a raggedly folkie vein. Anyway, this is a real record made by real people..."

Of note, and not to be confused, there was also a faith-based Colorado Springs group, going by the Crystal River Band, around the same time period. 


Monday, June 24, 2019

Back in Business...

Hey all! Well, I'm now a Denver resident! You may remember, back in April, I announced that I was moving up the Interstate, after a little more than three years, in Colorado Springs. It took a bit longer than I would have liked (more than a month to get the house packed up and ready for sale, but then it only took 48 hours to go under contract - wow!).

Finding our next home took a bit longer, but we think we have  the perfect Denver house, for us. We close in mid July. I can't wait to get all of the records back on the shelves!

In the meantime, we are doing the temporary extended-stay hotel housing, and I'm having a blast exploring all of the local thrifts and record stores!

Less than 24 hours after we checked in to our short-term accommodations, I got back into the record diggin' game. First stop, visiting my Denver Record Convention bud, Austin, at Recollect Records.

1255 Delaware St, Denver, CO 80204
(720) 542-8785

After taking in the fantastic Denver Art Museum, the walk over to Recollect is easy peasy, and makes for a fun Sunday afternoon.

Recollect is, by far, the cleanest record store I have ever entered. While I love getting all dusty and dirty, going through unsorted boxes, there is something to be said about leaving with your purchase, minus sneezing and immediately needing a shower. Dare I say, there is a elegance about this place. A nice glass of wine would be completely appropriate here, while rummaging through the neatly sorted selections.

 Austin saw me coming, and directed me right to the Colorado vinyl area. There are $3 local LPs in the back, while the higher dollar, but very reasonably-priced, state-made albums are located in the front left bins of the store. While my ever-supportive, but non-record-collector hubby sat in one of the comfy chairs, I got down to business.

This store did not disappoint. I walked out with a grand total of 20 Colorado albums! Ohhhh yeah, I plan to be a regular.

I already have plans to highlight several of these new finds on this blog, as well as play several of these on the radio show (UPDATE: new Elk Bugles shows are in production, now, and I will also have some cool news, about a SECOND Colorado vinyl show, coming soon, on KGNU - stay tuned).

Monday, May 13, 2019

Dawilla Records

Hey all! Taking a quick break from packing for the big move, up the Interstate...

So, I'm using some stockpiled newspapers, to wrap items, when I spot a loose page from an Aug. 15, 1964 Cash Box. I have no clue why this was sandwiched in between a 2015 front page of the Pueblo Chieftain, and a 2016 Sunday insert from the Colorado Springs Gazette, but this tiny ad immediately caught my eye.

I was familiar with Dawilla Records, as I once had a copy of the Danny Williams single, "My Little Black Book" / "Stranger To Love" (Dawilla 101). However that single had no mention of Denver (kicking myself now, that I long-ago sold this, without knowing the Colorado connection).

Side note: In 1962, Danny Williams appeared on the Pilot record label, with the semi-milquetoast single, "Dreamer." The single lists Eddie Cochran as producer, however it is NOT the same "Summertime Blues" singer, who died two years earlier.

My curiosity about the above ad got the better of me, as I spent most of my moving break trying to track down the Denver connection. I found nothing, until I found this single:

Bingo! Note the Denver address listed, on the upper right side, which corresponds with the address on the advertisement, and the one I also found, below.

November 21, 1964

The trail goes cold, after 1964. A few websites indicated that Danny Williams and Alton Albright were one in the same. Who knows.

OK, done with my little break. Back to packing...

Friday, April 26, 2019

Published in Rye: Eva Alice Stone

Hey all! Taking a much-needed break from packing, to attend a Castle Rock antique show, today. I really didn't expect to find anything, music-related, as I really just wanted a quiet respite from shoving more of my life in a moving box.

Famous last words.

I immediately spot a vendor with sheet music, for a buck, and dove in. After sorting through about 100 pieces, and finding nothing from Colorado, I get to the very last piece - a 1934 composition, published in the little town of Rye, located about half an hour south of my hometown zip, Pueblo.