Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Home for the Holidays

Interview with Dr. Patrick Faricy conducted December 2009.

"Well no matter where I wander I know I'll always
find a welcome.

For at the end of every journey, they'll be
friendly people waiting."

Please allow the diversion of a personalized post.
A few months ago I found a record by a folk band from The Springs – Emanon Majority. The LP features the three-part harmony of Pat Faricy, John Griebel and Mel Perry.

"It was recorded in 1965 while we were seniors at St. Mary's High School in Colorado Springs," said Patrick Faricy. "We originally were the New Brandywine Singers, but when the real Brandywine Singers found out about us and threatened to sue, we changed the name to Emanon [No Name--spelled backwards]."

Faricy grew up in Pueblo, attending Saint Patrick's grade school. When he was 10 years old, he and his family moved to Colorado Springs.

"This was our only album and we sold it ourselves; I believe we made 500 copies. We all are still friends but went our separate ways after leaving high school. Mel and I are physicians in Colorado Springs, John is an attorney in Denver."

A recent trip home to Pueblo for Thanksgiving had me feeling pretty melancholy after I crossed the Colorado state line—back to my current zip code. No matter how many times I come home to visit, the trip is much too short. As we continued the long drive I couldn’t help but think about a song I had heard on this album (the group's take on a Kingston Trio song, "I'm Going Home"). I’d like to share it with you.

No matter where you wander, have a wonderful holiday.

Listen to “Colorado”

COMING NEXT POST: Frankie Bregar and his Polka Kings of the West

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Interview with Jim and John Cooper conducted September 2009.

NOTE: In 2016, I authored a story on Jim and John Cooper in The PULP, with additional information.

Call it destiny, or fate, but for the band Chance, their first public appearance was just that—sheer luck.

“We were out bar hopping, and ended up at Bobby’s Cabaret on Elizabeth Street,” said Jim Cooper. “One of us had the guts to ask the band performing there if we could play a song on their next break. To our surprise they agreed.”

That night, after they performed their one song (a cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Riding the Storm Out”), they were officially a performing band.

Chance started out as four friends from Pueblo South High School - twin brothers Jim and John Cooper on guitar and vocals, Jeff Glaubensklee on drums, and Karl Harvey on bass and vocals. While they had toyed around with forming a band, that accidental, spur of the moment gig, that fateful night in 1975, gave them the confidence to go forward. Before too long they were being booked around town.

“We were pretty busy doing a lot of other gigs in the Southern Colorado area, including playing at Schmedley’s in Canon City, The Keg in La Junta, The Cotopaxi Mining Company in Cotopaxi, R Place in Salida, high school dances, and private parties,” said Jim Cooper. “One of the strangest gigs we did was an audition for a local businessman – T.G. McCarthy. T.G. owned a funeral-home business in Pueblo. We set up in the chapel, and played our rock ‘n’ roll to a pretty dead crowd. T.G. liked us, but unfortunately no connections came to life from this unusual performance.”

While the band was enjoying local success, it was not their ultimate goal. The foursome set their sights on California, where they thought their music would catch the ear of national record companies. To better their chances, they decided to produce a record.

“We were anxious to experience recording in a real professional recording studio,” said John Cooper. “Having our own record would put us on a more level playing field with all of the other greats from Pueblo who also had their own records out.”

In 1978, the group recorded two band compositions “Harbor Nights” and “Magic Eyes.”

“Karl came up with the idea for “Harbor Nights.” It was loosely based upon a trip the band took to Hawaii in 1977 and an experience on one of the islands. “Harbor Nights” was one of the first songs we wrote as a band, experimenting with musical arrangements and harmony structures,” said John Cooper.

Listen to "Magic Eyes"
“Jim burned some midnight oil and came up with the beginnings of “Magic Eyes” – a song about a fantasy girl. We wanted the guitars to have a magical, mystical, hypnotic feel, the drums and bass to be solid, and the vocals to be up front with harmony,” John Cooper said.

The band recorded the songs at American Recording Studio in Denver, printed up 1,000 copies, and set out to distribute them around town and to local disc jockeys.

“KDZA had this “battle of the new bands” contest and “Magic Eyes” did battle with Paul Davis’ “Sweet Life.” Listeners were urged to call in and vote for their favorite. When the contest concluded, much to our dismay, “Sweet Life” was the winner,” John Cooper said. “Another radio station that aired both songs was Love 99. It was a strange but great feeling to wake up one morning with the radio alarm-clock starting our day with the sounds of Chance.”

While the band was fairly successful at home, the realities of trying to break out nationally quickly became apparent, when they decided to take the next step – mail the single to major record labels. “Our mailman soon turned on us and began delivering form letters of rejection from the labels. Paul McCartney’s publishing company was actually very cordial in their response – they said Paul was too busy touring with Wings to take on any new projects, and wished us the best of luck,” Jim Cooper said.

Not content with rejection, in 1978 the band took the bold step of packing up and moving to Los Angeles, in an effort to get the single directly into the hands of the record companies.

Chance (1978)
Pictured (left to right): Karl Harvey, Jim Cooper,
John Cooper, and Jeff Glaubensklee (drums).

“We actually had a very unique distribution system, such as handing them out of the car window across traffic lanes to the drivers of Rolls Royces on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California,” said Jim Cooper. Isaac Hayes, walking into Columbia House in Century City, refused the record, but we were able to toss some 45s into open car windows in the Columbia House and Capitol Records parking lots. We were hungry for the big time, and thought that perhaps one or two
annoyed record company execs would be a small price to pay for a shot at the brass ring.”

However, within a few months, the band moved back to Pueblo. “I guess we grew homesick and were somewhat disillusioned by the record business in general,” Jim Cooper said. “During that stay we did manage to make some important connections in the industry, audition for The Gong Show. We got gonged after the audition because they said we were too serious and not funny enough for the show, but we make some lifelong friends and memories, and played a few gigs.”

While back in Pueblo the band opened for Robert John’s 1979 Colorado State Fair show. John had just scored a Top 10 hit with “Sad Eyes.” The experience gave them the confidence to make several trips back to Los Angeles, taking up a long-term residence there, in 1982.

“We met and began working with record producer Joe Saraceno (The Ventures) and George Motola (“Goodnight My Love”). At one point Joe said we were soon going to be signed to Ariola Records in Germany, but the deal fell through,” Jim Cooper said. “While working with Joe and George it was suggested that we rename the band. One of George’s sons came up with two suggestions – Wooden Cross and Calculated Risk. We unanimously voted and accepted Calculated Risk as our new band name.”

While the newly-named group gained valuable experience, producing demos, making connections and playing gigs in Los Angeles, in 1989 they decided to disband the group, and come home to Pueblo.

“After moving back to Colorado, we continued to write, record and perform as a trio [Jim, John and Karl] in an around Pueblo under the name Calculated Risk,” said John Cooper. “We stayed together until 1996.”

CooperSonics CD release party
Pueblo, Colorado - July, 2009
Jim and his brother John continue to write and record in Pueblo, calling themselves the CooperSonics.. The group’s latest release is entitled Sonic Harmonics.

The CooperSonics Web site.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Johnny Wyatt

Johnny Wyatt

Interview with Johnny Wyatt conducted September 2009.

Life on the road found Johnny Wyatt’s five piece band, the Nashville Rebels, playing in nearly every bar in the south, but it would be a date in Clayton, New Mexico which would lead him to a regular paying gig – in Trinidad, Colorado.

“The owner of the club where we were playing in Clayton told us about this club in Trinidad, called Martha Lee’s, at the Best Western motel,” he said. So, in 1969, the group packed up the gear and pointed their vehicles northwest.

Johnny Wyatt’s band would go on to perform at Martha Lee’s five nights a week for almost four years. Playing his own compositions, as well as the hits of Willie Nelson, Jack Green, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, and Merle Haggard. “Country was really big in southern Colorado, but the newer hits were slow to get up to that region. We were performing them during our show, and a lot of times it would be the first time our audience had heard them.”

Regional success couldn’t keep the group together. After changing their name to the Overland Stage Band, they broke up at the height of their popularity, and Wyatt had a choice to make – go back home to Texas and regroup, or continue as a solo act in Trinidad.

He decided to stay in Trinidad.

“I got a job doing my act at the Pizza Shop there in Trinidad,” he said.

Booked as Johnny Wyatt, he was later joined by Jackie Lee Stinson on the bill.

After years of success in Trinidad, packing in the Pizza Shop, the prolific songwriter decided to put his songs on vinyl.

Wyatt kept ties with friends in Texas, and in 1976, hooked up with the Hill Country record label in Austin, to release the gospel-tinged One Who Cares (Hill Country 7613).

In 1978 he went back to Colorado, and back into the studio, where he recorded “Sometimes Dreams Come True,” and the flipside “More of You to Love,” at Rocky Mountain Recording in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Listen to "Sometimes Dreams Come True."

The songs received extensive airplay in Denver. “I was ‘pick of the week’ at Denver station KLAK,” he said.

Also during the session, he recorded a second record, "Loneliness Is," and the b-side, "I'll Love Your Lonelies Away."

Listen to "Loneliness Is."

Wyatt had ambition to make it big in Nashville, having received encouragement from producer Johnny Dollar, who had heard him perform in Denver. While he did make the move to Music City, he soon found himself back in his adopted home - Colorado, where he was inducted in the Country Music Foundation of Colorado’s Country Music Hall of Fame, and was named Instrumentalist of the Year, in 1981.

Sammi Smith and Johnny Wyatt

He continued to tour, traveling with Wynn Stewart (“It's Such a Pretty World Today”) who later recorded Wyatt's “Why Don’t You Come To Me.”

Wyatt currently resides in Las Vegas, where he continues to write songs. He still occasionally performs in Trinidad.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Richard Baca

Interview with Richard Baca conducted September 2009.

Richard Baca knew how to woo the girls at Pueblo’s County High School. “I carried my guitar around and used to sing to them.”

Ever the performer, it wasn’t until 1973 that he joined the local band, The Tributes – but three years later he realized being in an organized group was not all that it was cracked up to be.

“There was too much traveling, and we just couldn’t get a good sound.”

So he decided to go out on his own and form his own group, appropriately called The Rebels.

Joined by Eddie Aragon on guitar, Denver drummer Steve “Bird” Acosta, and Juan Ortega on bass, the Rebels, who were also known as Los Reveldes, immediately found gigs close to home.

“We were playing, at the time, at a club known as The Del Rio Night Club, located in the Blende area just a few miles east, on the old Highway 50, from downtown Pueblo,” he said. “We did that for two and half years straight on Saturdays. We also played at the Latin Village, Pueblo Lounge, Dave and Rena's, El Patio Lounge, Tia Marias, Shirley's Lounge, and La Favorita. We also played every hall in Pueblo at that time for weddings or private parties.”

One of the regular audience members at The Rebels gigs was Tom Vasquez, the owner of Tom’s Trash Barrel, a waste management company in Pueblo. Tom thought the band had star potential and offered to finance a recording session at Steel City Sound Recording in the Bessemer area of town.

To commemorate recording their first record, the band stayed out late the night before the studio session and celebrated – heavily.

“Eddie Aragon and myself were the only ones to show up for the recording,” he said. “Eddie and I did our parts in about ten minutes and Steve and Juan dubbed their parts in at a later time, individually.”

“I chose the two songs on the record. Although the performance was not even close to the live sound, we were pretty excited about it," he said. “I chose the Charlie Pride song ["So Afraid of Losing You"] because I loved it, but we had never performed it live before as a group.”

Listen to "Si Tu Tambien Te Vas."

A total of 500 records were pressed, on the Tom label (named after the band's financial backer), and given away to family and friends.

Tom Vasquez saw big things for Richard Baca, so he invited friends with music connections out on the West Coast to Pueblo to give the band a listen.

“Those people agreed with Tom that we had something special and then they contacted someone in Los Angeles. The record producer from an independent record company came to see us on the recommendation of the friend of Tom’s. So, this guy caught our live show, and later approached me about going back to Los Angeles.”

But as was the case when he played with the Tributes, Baca didn’t want to tour, and certainly didn’t want to leave his wife and children.

“I told him I already had a band and that I was not interested. I told him that I could always pursue that career when my children were grown. He advised me that I would never get that opportunity again, and that I would lose my looks and the energy that I had and maybe even my voice. I didn't change my mind and I never regretted it as both of my children turned out to be great people and I was there to see it.”

Richard Baca disbanded The Rebels, and stayed on at CF&I, retiring in June. He went on to form Sierra Gold – and true to his word, now that his children are grown, he’s touring with the band.

“We play all over – Kansas, Nebraska and all over Colorado.”

Sierra Gold
Abel Valero, Richard Baca (standing center), Rodney Ortiz (red and white shirt), Danni Lucero (brown suit), and JoAnn Ewing.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dot and Jimmy Vaughn

Updated Sept. 21, 2013 - with self titled LP picture and information.

Interview with Dorthy Sowards conducted September 2009.

In the fall of 1943, Vaughn Sowards decided to take a break from college. The then 19-year old came back home to Manassa, located midway between the New Mexico border and Alamosa, Colorado. While there he took in a football match-up between his high school alma mater, Manassa High School, and their arch rivals, La Jara High School.

“He kept watching me in the stands, said Dorthy Sowards, who was a then 15-year old La Jara sophomore. “And I started watching him.”

After the game, Dorthy and her friends went for a soda at a nearby cafĂ© – and he just happened to show up.

"He was very shy," she said. "He sent a waitress over to tell me that he wanted to talk to me."

The two began dating, and realized they shared a common bond – they loved to sing.

“We would go on dates, and go off where nobody could hear us, and sing,” she said.

The couple stayed in touch, even after Dorthy and her family moved to Arizona, and Vaughn joined the U.S. Navy.

Right after Dorthy graduated high school, the two married, and moved back to Manassa, where they took up ranching – but they never stopped singing. Before too long, word got out about the couple, who were soon being booked for weddings, funerals, and conventions.

In the winter they would move to Arizona, where they made a living singing around Phoenix. In the summers they would come back to Colorado, where their talents were beginning to get noticed.

“One of our friends heard us sing, and mentioned that his son knew producer Norman Petty, in Clovis,” Dorthy said. In 1965, the couple packed their bags and headed across the state line to put their songs on vinyl - where Buddy Holly had previously launched his career.

Needing studio musicians for the recording, Petty enlisted the help of the Fireballs who two years earlier scored a national hit with “Sugar Shack.” The group was looking for gigs, after their leader, Jimmy Gilmer left for an artist management and record production job in New York. The session produced two singles, the folk ballad, “Between Two Trees,” along with the Porter Wagoner hit “A Satisfied Mind,” (which was later recorded by Bob Dylan, the Byrds and Johnny Cash). The second record was the duet’s take on two Webb Pierce hits “Slowly,” and “That’s Me Without You.”

Listen to "Between Two Trees"

Before the records were pressed, the couple had one more professional decision to make.

“Vaughn is a hard name to pronounce,” said Dorthy. “He was always called Jimmy in high school, so we thought it sounded more professional to be known as Dot and Jimmy Vaughn.”

The records were put out on the couple’s own Manassa record label.

Listen to "Slowly"
300 copies of “Slowly” were pressed, and sent to radio stations across the country.

“It was picked in Billboard, as an up and coming record,” Dorthy said. The song also caught the ear of national agents and producers – but the timing was not right for the couple.

“They all said they could make us big stars, but at the time we had an auto accident, and the thought of traveling on the road was not something we wanted to do.”

The couple would release a third single, also produced by Petty, and accompanied by the Fireballs, the Dorthy Sowards-penned “The Lovin’ Arms of You” and the b-side, “Hayseed” on the KLR label, along with a self-titled country album.

(a BIG thanks to B. Cook, of the most excellent Lone Star Stomp blog
for finding this album and sending to me)

“The label was named for the initials of our children, Kim, Lee and Rick,” Dorthy said.

While Vaughn and Dorthy enjoyed singing country music, their heart was in performing sacred songs. As members of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints, they often performed for church functions. Then one day they received a letter.

“We were asked to come into the tabernacle in Salt Lake City,” said Dorthy. “They asked us to record a song there.” By the end of the two-night session, Dorthy and Vaughn had recorded 13 songs.

With the blessing of the church, they brought the tapes back to Norman Petty, who sent them to the Dot record label – the same label that made national stars of Jimmy Gilmer and Fireballs.

The Sowards were immediately signed.

The Magnificent Mormon Sound was released in 1967.

“We received some wonderful compliments about that record,” said Dorthy. “Gene Autry was playing our record on his station in Arizona, and sent us a letter telling us that had more requests for our songs than any other record they played.”

Deseret News - Salt Lake City
Sept. 3, 1966

The couple stopped performing professionally in 1980, when Vaughn Sowards suffered a heart attack. They continued to sing in their church choir.

Vaughn Sowards died in 2000.

“I look back on my life and it was great life,” said Dorthy. “Those were really exciting and fun times.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Guys and Doll

Interview with Angelo Rotondo conducted August 2009.

Angelo Rotondo was ready to play music again. It was 1970, and just a few months earlier he was part of the “this close" to national success band, the Teardrops, who scored the huge regional hit “Armfull of Teddy Bear,” produced by Norman Petty.

After the Teardrops broke up, Rotondo put away his drum kit, and went to work at the local steel mill, CF&I – then former Teardrops keyboardist Rick Witcowich called him.

“Rick’s dad was a friend of Wayne Sloan [the owner of the local Caravan Club]. He needed a band to play a party, so I showed up with my then-wife, Claudia, who is a classical pianist, and we played – then Rick showed up, and we all jammed.”

After the receptive gig, and bitten by the performing bug again, the three decided to form a trio – Guys and Doll.

Guys and Doll (from left: Angelo Rotondo, Claudia Rotondo, and Rick Witcowich).
Picture courtesy of Angelo Rotondo.

“We never had a guitar or a bass in the band. We’d have musicians approach us, who wanted to join, but we never needed them – it was always two keyboards and drums,” Rotondo said.

The three musicians found a receptive audience for their diverse playlist, performing three nights a week at the Caravan Club, and getting regular bookings for parties and weddings.

Then the group decided it was time to take the next step – make a record.

Rotondo put together ARC Records (an amalgam of their first name initials). He also contacted old friend Norman Petty to produce the session.

Armed with the Rotondo and Witcowich-penned “In The Meantime,” the group headed to Clovis, New Mexico, and to the studios where the Teardrops had recorded a few years earlier.

“We recorded that song pretty quick,” Rotondo said. “Rick sang lead, and Norman suggested that we add harmony. Claudia did double harmony on it.”

Needing a flipside, the group decided to use a song they had played numerous times at their Caravan shows, The Rivieras “California Sun.”

“It was a song we really enjoyed playing,” said Rotondo. “Rick sang lead on that one.”

Guys and Doll sold the record at their Caravan Club shows, where they played for six years to packed audiences. Then abruptly, they decided to call it quits.

“We wanted to quit while on top,” Rotondo said.

Witcowich went on to form another local band, Loose Change. He passed away in 2001.

Rotondo took some time off, joined the country outfit, the Sundowners, and later hooked up with the popular polka group, the Chuck Spurlock Band. He just recently retired from CF&I, after 40 years on the job.

He and Claudia divorced in 1981.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Strange Cargo

Interviews with Dan Treanor and Joel Scherzer conducted July-August 2009.

Dan Treanor felt that he had done all he could do in Pueblo. As a member of a number of several successful local bands, including the Steel City Blues Band, Crooks and Hungry Bear, it was time to move up north, to Denver – a route his former Crooks bandmate Kenny Grimes had done earlier.

“I wanted to pursue a full time career in music, so my wife Eleanor and I decided to move to Denver where there were more opportunities,” he said.

Treanor, Eleanor, and Grimes, along with former Pueblo musicians, Monty Bradbury and Chico Apodoca took up residence in the same Denver condominium complex. “We called it Pueblo North,” Treanor said. There the group would jam and write songs.

While in Denver, Treanor kept in touch with Joel Scherzer, the owner of the Pueblo used record mecca, Record Reunion. The two had previously worked together to publish The Pueblo Poetry Project, a book featuring local poets. Scherzer would later enlist Treanor to write the soundtrack for the documentary, Damon Runyon’s Pueblo.

“Joel and his wife would come and see our group play, and on one of those occasions he came up with the idea of putting out a 45 that would feature Pueblo musicians doing some original music,” Treanor said. “He asked me if I could write a couple of songs and get a band together. I jumped at the chance of doing that.”

“My business partner, Marc Shulman and I liked their bluesy, harmonica-driven sound,” said Scherzer, who proceeded to form the Jo-Mar label (a contraction of Joel and Marc), for the project. The only thing they didn’t have was a name for the band.

“I came up with a list,” said Scherzer. “I liked The Rockin' Townies, but the musicians preferred Strange Cargo, the title of a 1940 Joan Crawford movie.”

Strange Cargo (clockwise from top left: Monty Bradbury,
Kenny Grimes, Chico Apodoca, and Dan Treanor)
Photos and graphics courtesy of Dan Treanor.
"Black Night Has Fallen" and "Settle Down Blues” - songs Treanor had already been performing with his Denver band, the Terrifics - were picked for the single. The group soon booked a date at Colorado Sound Studios.

“We went in and recorded the whole thing in about two hours, he said. “We did it old school, played all the instruments at once, with no over dubs,” said Treanor. “You can hear all the influences of each musician on the record. I'm a bluesman, Chico's thing is jazz, Kenny can play anything on the guitar, Monty is a great bass player, but specializes in country.”

Listen to "Settle Down Blues" - Strange Cargo

Treanor estimates about 300 records were pressed, and sold at Record Reunion, in 1983. Shorly thereafter the one-shot group disbanded, and its members went on to other projects.

Strange Cargo never played any gigs together, and never recorded another record.
Listen to "Black Night Has Fallen" - Strange Cargo

Grimes and Bradbury would go on to play in Cactus Jack, a Denver country band. Treanor would make a guest appearance, playing harmonica, on the band’s first album.

Kenny Grimes would later move to Austin, and find steady work playing with the likes of Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Hank Thompson, Shelly West, Chris Wall, Gary P. Nunn, Johnny Gimble, and most recently, Hal Ketchum.

Chico Apodoca went on to play with the Rendon Brothers and the Tony Romo Jazz Band, for a number of years. He is still playing the jazz circuit in Denver.

Dan Treanor keeps busy with Dan Treanor and the Afrosippi Blues Band – considered one of the top blues bands in Colorado, playing about 200 concerts a year.

COMING NEXT POST: Two guys and a doll...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Rudy Gutierrez Orchestra

Rudy Gutierrez Jr. interview conducted July-August 2009.

Born in 1935, in Bronte, Texas, to bass player Jesus Gutierrez and his wife Tibursia, Rudy Gutierrez grew up surrounded by music.

“When my grandfather saw that my dad had an interest in music, he helped him form a band. I believe my dad was somewhere between 10 to 13-years old – he was known as the ‘youngest band leader in Texas’ back then,” said Rudy Gutierrez Jr.

href In 1954, after a number of years performing around Texas, Rudy Gutierrez moved to Colorado. Several of his family members followed, setting up a new base for the band. The group was quickly establishing themselves in the Pueblo area, but homesickness for Texas eventually split up the family. While a majority of the band headed back to the San Angelo area, cousin (and trumpet player) Danny Gutierrez and Rudy decided to make a go of it in Pueblo.

After recruiting a number of local players, the Rudy Gutierrez Orchestra was soon complete, with a total of ten members: Two trumpeters, one trombonist, one alto saxophonist, one tenor saxophonist, one bari saxophonist, one bass player, one guitarist, one organist, and a drummer.

“My father played alto saxophone – but he could also play clarinet, flute, piano, tenor sax,” Rudy Gutierrez Jr. said. “To the best of my knowledge, possibly more.”

By the 1970s, the Rudy Gutierrez Orchestra became a regular fixture around town, playing in various clubs, including Gutierrez’s own Tico Room on Northern Street.

Due to their popularity, and the demand of their audience, the band began to record their music. Gutierrez created the Flamingo record label, which was based out of his Pueblo home on 6th street.

While unsure of the total, Gutierrez Jr. estimates that his father released close to a dozen singles.
Performing traditional ranchera, balero, and cha-cha styles, the band enlisted the help of Paul Romero, who took over as lead vocalist on the early recordings.

(Author's note: Flamingo 1278 "Our Love" / "All About You" with vocals by Eddie Martinez).

On the later recordings, singer, and organist Larry Montoya would lend his talents to the band.

“Larry Montoya was sensational,” said Gutierrez Jr. “I was blown away each and every time he got behind the keyboards. You couldn't help but stare and listen. His improvisation style was so hypnotizing.”

(Author's note: Flamingo 1280 "Marita" / "Las Cuatitas." Flamingo 1281 "Este Fue Mi Adios" / Todo Me Gusta De Ti," Flamingo 1282 Una Por Una" / No Cuento Contigo," and Flamingo 1283 "Mi Chulita" / "Dame Un Poco De Ti" all vocals by Larry Montoya).

Rudy Gutierrez had established himself as a showman, giving his audiences their money’s worth with often marathon-long shows.

“Seeing them perform live was awesome,” said Gutierrez Jr. “Man the band would stretch and groove. He played his sax with a lot of heart and took his time during solos to say what he wanted to say musically.”

Rudy Gutierrez died September 1, 1975. The group would carry on as the Gutierrez Orchestra for a number of years, before disbanding.

His son, Rudy Gutierrez Jr., would go on to follow in his father’s footsteps as a local musician. He is also a published author, Rudyville.org.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Crew

Interview with Rick Terlep and Earl Poteet (The Crew) conducted July and August, 2009.

Rick Terlep was having a hard time recording a song he had written, “Mickey One.” The band he had put together to record had “issues” and fell apart almost as soon as it was formed.

“Rick and Kenny Grimes recorded a demo version of the song at Dan Treanor’s house, with Mike Green on drums,” Poteet said. “But everybody had a different idea on what to do, so we all drifted apart.”

So Earl and Rick went with Plan B – start over.

Both Terlep and Poteet had already established themselves in the local Pueblo band circuit – Terlep with The Crooks, and Poteet in the polka outfit, The Chuck Spurlock Band.

With Poteet on lead vocals, and Terlep on guitar, the two recruited Alfred Sanchez on drums, Brain Police member Phil Dirt on bass guitar, Dave Carleo on keyboards, and John Grove on backing vocals.

“The name of the band came from Rick’s mother,” said Poteet. “We were rehearsing in Rick’s grandmother’s old house, and his mother came in while we were practicing, and said, ‘That's a motley looking crew.’”

Terlep got the idea for the single “Mickey One” from a Warren Beatty gangster movie. “I never saw the movie but I knew Mickey One was a cool guy,” he admitted.

The record was put out by Terlep’s own Klover Records, in 1981. “There was an article in the Pueblo paper about some St. Patrick’s Day event here. The holiday is pretty big here in Pueblo, and at the bottom of the story there was this shamrock. I thought that could be cool for a record label, but there was already a Clover Records, so I ended up spelling it differently.” The Wheatridge Drive address on the label was to his own home.

The flip side, “Front Window Dummy,” was written by Terlep and Mike Green. “Mike was mad because he had broken up with his wife and he didn’t like the dating scene, because the thought all of the women were phony and plastic,” said Terlep.

"Mickey One" went on to become the "Pepsi Pick of the Week” on local station KDZA. “They played two records and the other one was some nationally-known artist. The one song with the most calls won,” said Poteet. “We were on pins and needles because here was our song being played on KDZA.” The distinction meant that the song would go into heavy rotation on the station. "For whatever reason it didn’t," Poteet said. “I think the station thought we jammed the phone lines with our own people, but we didn’t."

In the process of promoting "Mickey One", Poteet and Terlep approached Jay Ritchie, a disc jockey on KIIQ, based outside of Colorado Springs. Ritchie hosted a program called “Band on the Run,” featuring local up and coming acts.

“We wanted to play “Mickey One,” but Jay said since it was a long show, we needed to have about four or five more songs,” said Poteet. The band went back into the studio and recorded the extra material, including a song entitled “Invasion of the Plant People.”

While "Plant People" received airplay during the KIIQ broadcast, it also caught the ear of Dr. Demento, who played the song on his nationally syndicated show, August 1, 1982, sandwiched in between the premiere of “Hey E.T,.” by Dickie Goodman and “There Was a Fungus Among Us,” by Terry Nolan.

“We also submitted another song called “Computerville,” but that didn’t actually air on the Demento show,” said Poteet.

The Crew would go on to steady bookings throughout the city. “Our band was known all over town for playing a pretty diverse playlist,” Terlep said. “We would play “Houston” by Dean Martin, along with some Eddie Rabbitt, and Buddy Holly. We had a regular gig at the Best Western on Santa Fe, the Bandstand Bar, and were the house band at the Cosmopolitan Club.”

Shortly after the release of the record, Terlep left the band for a guitar conservatory in San Antonio. Poteet quit music to work as a high school teacher, and later a longtime radio personality on KDZA, Wallace Cotton. "I would also go on to have a seven-piece R&B/funk band named Wallace Cotton & The Royals that would play together from around 1990-2003, and had a huge regional following," said Poteet.

Terlep returned to Pueblo to join Brodie White and White Noise, and in 1994 he recorded a solo CD, Electric Silence. It was released in 1997.

The Crew carried on with Alfred Sanchez, Nick Lucero and Anthony Miklavec. Poteet was replaced by Carlos Crull, who also added a saxophone to the act. The group went on to record the single “Sooner or Later” and the flip “Voices in the Night”

"I actually had the pleasure of singing the first version of the song," said Poteet. "It was right before I left the band. Anthony took over the lead vocals and did a great job with it."

The Crew went on to play around southern Colorado for several years, before disbanding.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Marvin Shilling

Head south out of Pueblo, turn right at Walsenburg, and you’ll come to La Veta, Colorado—population 882.

Situated on the eastern side of La Veta Pass through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, at the northern opening of the Cuchara River Valley, you’d never expect to find one of the kings of square dance callin’ – Marvin Shilling.

Shilling ran the Lightning S Guest Ranch in town, a popular tourist destination for city slickers wanting to play cowboy. The facility also served as a Huerfano County hot spot, with dances held throughout the year.

Bow and Swing - June, 1960

A savvy businessman, Shilling recorded not only himself, but close to 20 different callers on more than 60 records on his Lightning S label.

The June, 1960 issue of Bow and Swing describes "Rocky Mt. Dew" as "a singing call, with a continuous do-paso ending in a promenade with the right hand lady." He sold the record for $1.45.

While Colorado was Shilling’s home base, he would regularly gas up his private plane and fly himself to dances across the country, where his calling was always in demand.

Bow and Swing - December, 1957

Shilling died October 25, 1962 when the plane, of which he was piloting, crashed while on his way to call a dance in Nebraska.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The sign-off of another broadcast day...

Val Croll Tursi and Sam Pisciotta interviews conducted July 2009.

In 1965, Jim Croll was the station manager of KOAA-TV in Pueblo. As was the practice during the early days of television, the local NBC affiliate signed-off at midnight with a standard "end of the broadcast day" announcement, followed by the national anthem. A test pattern would then appear, until the start of the next broadcast day, at 6:00 a.m. While the ritual worked fine for almost every station in the country, Croll had another idea – sign-off the station with an original song.

“Jim Croll asked my father if he would write a song for the television station to use during their sign-off every evening,” said Sam Pisciotta. “My father told me he spent several days writing the song, and then Jim’s wife Valerie wrote the lyrics.”

His father, Sam Pisciotta, a prominent local businessman known as “Captain Sam,” was the owner of the Family Athletic Club for more than forty years.

“The song was performed by Stan Burk, an opera singer at the Mario’s of Aspen restaurant, in Denver,” said Val Croll Tursi. “Unfortunately the accompaniment used for the low budget project was an accordion.”

As the President of the Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, Croll saw an opportunity to press a record of the song, and sell copies as a limited edition local collectible.

“The record was sold at the Crown Discount Store, which was then on the corner of 4th and Elizabeth,” Val Croll Tursi said. “I can't recall how many were printed, but there are not many in circulation, so probably under 100.”

The song was played for years at the end of KOAA-TV’s daily programming. Gerhard Track (the youngest conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and the long time conductor of the Pueblo Symphony Orchestra) later orchestrated the piece for the Pueblo Symphony and conducted the song during a chorale performance in the 1970s.

“The (Stan Burk) recording is not nearly as impressive as the chorale groups,” Val Croll Tursi said.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Memories of P-Town

When I was five months shy of graduating from high school my father uprooted my family, from small town Oklahoma, to Pueblo, Colorado.

The only thing I knew about Colorado was John Denver and the Denver Broncos, and only thing I knew about Pueblo was that it was the home of those consumer information catalogs.

In 1979, I pretty much had blinders on when it came to my interests - listening to the radio and playing records. Come to think of it, not much has really changed. My radio dial was permanently set to KILO 94, a rock station out of Colorado Springs. I had long decided that radio was going to be my career choice, but hearing Jennifer Bell back announce Triumph and Styx sealed the deal for me.

My second home was equally divided between Independent Records and Record Reunion.

Back then, Independent was a new and used vinyl store and head shop. Coming from Podunk, Oklahoma it was like opening the door into Oz. If the incense didn't make you dizzy, the rows and rows of vinyl would. I easily spent nearly every dime I made (making cheddar melts at Arby's) in there.

Record Reunion was located near the city library, next to a used book store, on the old side of town. You could spend hours going through each bin - only because nothing was categorized or alphabetized. The randomness made the store a bit of a challenge, and not for the faint-hearted, but well worth the time, if only for the thrill of the hunt.

Sadly, I just recently found out that the owners decided to close the store.

So what is this blog about? Quite simply, here is where I will feature vinyl originating Colorado. Chances are you will have never heard of these singers and bands, or the record labels of which they appear--but then again I bet you only thought the only things that came out of Pueblo were consumer information catalogs, huh?