Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Tis the Season for SoCo Gospel

Every December I like to feature something of the non-secular nature, to get into the spirit of the holiday season. In this post I found two quite nice, but obscure Southern Colorado recordings that I'm hoping someone can shed a bit more light on.

First up is The Valley Singers, out of Capulin--birthplace of Alex J. Chávez, and near Manassa, home to Dot and Jimmy Vaughn.

Side One:
He is the Way
Con Que Pudiera Yo Pagarte
Stumbling Stone
Ya No Es Tiempo De Jugar
I Never Want to Forget
Ya Ven Senor

Side Two:
Brother, Won't You Help Me
The Mame of my Friend
Lord Help Me Love
Ten Misericordia

The album (Alta Vista 8890/1976) is apparently the second from the group, who are made up of Emily, John, Linda, Gene, Elva, and Nick. No last name is shown on the disc. The notes on the back indicate that they are all from the same family.

LP is a nice blend of English and Spanish language folk gospel. Lots of guitar.

Recorded at Alta Vista Studios in Albuquerque, that's pretty much it on this one. Again, any information would be helpful.

The next find is from Joyce Griesel, a sweet folky femme vocalist, who appears to be out of Salida (back notes from Pastor Keith Frederickson at the 1st Baptist Church there, and who apparently passed away in 2008). LP was recorded at Summit Studios in Denver, and pressed by the prolific folks at Rite in Ohio (33372-1974).

Side One:
I Looked for Love
Put Your Hand in the Hand
Holy, Holy
Victory in Jesus
It's Love
He's Got The Whole World in his Hands
Like a Lamb

Side Two:
He Touched Me
Happiness Is
The Old Rugged Cross
For God So Love the World
In The Garden
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul
Give Me Oil in My Lamp

"I have been singing since I was seven years old, and began voice lessons at the age of 15. I have wanted to record from the age of 13, but never figured it would be possible. Then in April 1974, we were in Albuquerque where we met and listened to the Kings Quartet. After visiting with these gentlemen and their giving me the name of their recording company in Denver, the ball began to roll."

Appears she is accompanied by "Smokey Len" Kapushion.

Unfortunately she passed away in October. I located her ex-husband's family, who told me that Joyce had hoped the recording would help establish herself as a professional singer. After her divorce she moved to Aurora, remarried, and became a computer technician. This was her only recording.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Trolls - Monty Baker

The Trolls (left to right, Fred Brescher, Richard Gonzales,
Doug Rymerson, Phil Head, and Monty Baker)

Monty Baker interviewed August-November 2011

Monty Baker’s contribution to the Southern Colorado music scene is legendary. As a member of the Trolls, The New World Blues Dictionary, and Jade, it’s often assumed that he was a native of the region.

The fact is, he’s a product of the Hawkeye State.

“I went to high school in Iowa, and went to college in Minnesota – that’s where I got together with the band I was in, The Radiants,” he said.

The Radiants were made up of Richard Northrop (formerly of The Night Crawlers) on drums, Doug Rymerson on lead guitar, Ryan Carter on rhythm guitar, and Monty Baker on bass. Monty, Doug, and Richard were attending Mankato State College at the time, while Ryan was attending the Glamour Beauty Academy in Minneapolis.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

July 9, 1964 issue of the Lake Park News:

Monty Baker and the other members of The Radiants and their manager are guests the remainder of the week at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Baker. The Radiants played during a three-hour broadcast over KSUM radio in Fairmont, Minn., Monday evening. The group played during intermissions at the Roy Orbison show at the Roof Garden in Arnolds Park Tuesday evening. The musical group will perform at the teen dance at the Skyline Ballroom near Estherville Sunday night. The men are now living in Owatonna, Minn.

April 1, 1965 issue of the Lake Park News:

Monty Baker visited Sunday with his parents Sheriff and Mrs. Bob Baker. Monty, a member of The Radiants band had a just completed a five-week engagement in Cedar Rapids, and was en route to Ispedmina, Michigan, for an engagement at The Roosevelt Hotel. The Radiants will return to Iowa City to appear at The Hawk, April 22, 23 and 24.

The Radiants, who were all under 21, worked around their age limitations at 6-percent clubs-- thanks in part to fake IDs.

“I was Denny Blake, and I guess I had that fake ID until I turned 21. When I turned 21 and got a license under my real name, Monty Baker, and they wouldn’t accept it,” he said. "So I used my fake ID to get some real beer."

While touring the United States, The Radiants ended up playing a gig in Pueblo, and got to know The Trolls.

“After the gig, we went back home…and then Uncle Sam and the draft broke up The Radiants,” he said.

“So Doug Rymerson and I called up Phil Head of The Trolls and asked him if he wanted a lead guitar and bass player. So we went to Pueblo. I guess this was 1965.”

The Trolls (left to right: Monty Baker, Fred Brescher,
Richard Gonzales, Doug Rymerson, and Phil Head)

“We all were known by our nicknames. Lead vocalist and guitarist Richard Gonzales was ‘Speedy,’ keyboardist Fred Brescher was ‘Brush,' and drummer Phil Head was ‘Flip.’ I was ‘Denny,’ and lead guitarist Doug Rymerson was ‘Digger’."

The band portrayed themselves as having a harder edge than most local bands, at the time - playing covers of Kinks and Stones songs.

“We had members of our fan club in California get us their newly-released records, before anybody ever heard of these songs in Pueblo.”

The Trolls were regulars at The Columbine, and Jerry's, where they were the house band.

“We were working all of the time, doing weekends and special gigs. We were working five hours a night, most nights. We’d make $400-$500 in one weekend.”

Baker says several of their live shows were taped.

"I think I have eight reels somewhere, with about ten shows on them.”

In the early stages of the reformed Trolls, Baker took the lead as the group’s manager.

“We never signed a contract. When we said we would do a job, we did. We gave our word, and we were there. I remember a particular gig we were playing at East High School. They wanted a contract and with much prodding from the members, I signed it, because it was good money. Our normal thing was play 50 minutes, with a 10-minute break. So we played the 50 minutes and took our break, and this teacher comes up and she’s irate as hell because she said we had to play four hours without a break—it was in the contract. She got the principal and I explained that if he screwed with me, and the band, I was going to tell the kids why we were packing up and leaving, and he would have a riot on his hands. The principal tore up the contract, and we got our check, before the next set.”

Then Southern Colorado promoter Tony Spicola stepped in, and took the band under his wing as its manager.

“I remember we won a recording session in a Battle of the Bands contest, that was held at a Pueblo movie theatre. I think there were about 15 or 20 bands competing. We kind of rigged it. We had a bunch of our fans in the audience, and they started screaming like were the Beatles, or something. So when it came to vote, we won.”

“We ended up meeting this guy named Ray Ruff, who had a studio in Amarillo. We went down there to record our first single. I thought Iowa was flat. I remember getting into an argument with Digger about whether or not the road was sloping, or not, on the drive down. To prove the point, we peed in the middle of the road. It didn't move."

The band’s first single included two Fred Brescher compositions "That's The Way My Love Is" / "Into My Arms.”

Listen to "That's The Way My Love Is"

“I think we recorded, oh what, maybe a dozen more songs, but they are all lost – from the fire.”

In 1968 the Ruff studios burned to the ground. Countless masters, from numerous recordings, were lost.

“The Ruff sessions were different, as compared to the first time Digger and I were in the studio with the Radiants. We made a record for the SOMA label – in fact, we were in the studio the same time The Trashmen were recording “Surfin’ Bird” (In December, 1964 The Radiants released "Special Girl" / "Ain't Got No Home"). The Ruff recordings were difficult because the Trolls played “on” each other live—we played as a band. We kind of fed off each other and Ray Ruff had us recording each of our parts separately. So the drummer did his thing, the guitarist did his thing, I did my thing – it was actually pretty traumatic.”

A few months after the Ruff sessions, the band traveled to Clovis, New Mexico, to record at the Norman Petty Studios.

"I think this would have been 1965 or early 1966. I really don't remember much about that recording session."

The studio time resulted in one single, the Speedy Gonzales-penned "I Don't Recall," and a cover of the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards composition, "Stupid Girl."

Listen to "I Don't Recall"

The single was released on Chan Romero's start-up label, Warrior. The band posed for the picture sleeve photo in a Pueblo park - minus one member.

The Trolls, left to right: Richard "Speedy" Gonzales,
Phil "Flip" Head, Monty "Denny" Baker, and Doug "Digger" Rymerson

“Freddie wasn’t in the picture. Two nights before we took that shot, he touched his amp with one hand, while he played the organ with the other, resulting in a violent jerk of his arms, collapsing his lungs, and he ended up in the hospital."

"Our manager, Tony Spicola took that picture. He wanted us eating ice cream. When he took the shot, Phil’s ice cream came out of his cone.”

Baker estimates only 500 copies were pressed.

The flip side of the jacket features art from Baker's then-wife, Leryln (she signed "LKB" on the far right sleeve).

“We made it and they played it on the local radio station in Pueblo, and if we had a prom or a show out of town, we would take some to the local station where we were playing – of course we had to put some money under the table so they would play it.”

The band split up in 1966, shortly after the release of the record. Baker didn't want to elaborate on the reason why.

“Things just fell apart, and we just went our own way. I joined up with The New World Blues Dictionary.”

The Colorado Springs-based NWBD originated as The Persuaders, in 1964. The band was made up of Dave Julian on guitar, Lynn Larson on bass, Bob Crowder on keyboards, Jim Boitos on saxophone and Denny Townsend on drums.

After going through a number of name changes (including Filthy Five, and Goguenard) they settled on their new name, and a new lineup, with Baker replacing Larson on bass. Cabell Shepard replaced Bob Crowder.

“We played primarily psych rock, and was booked quite a bit at the Honeybucket in town.”

In July 1967 the band opened for Jefferson Airplane at The Broadmoor Hotel.

“I can tell you quite a bit about that show. The Airplane’s crew drove over the mountains, and lost one of their trailers with the light show in it. We were the opening act, and the local union was running lights for us. It was nothing fancy, just your standard lights with different colors."

"So Grace Slick comes out and berated the light guys, and embarrassed everyone with her tirade. Our manager went up to the light guys and got them to mix the lights, and when we came out of the second break, we had these great colors. When Airplane came out, they just had this one white light on Grace, and she was pissed."

"The local newspaper came out to cover the show, and said that we blew Airplane off the stage.”

It wouldn’t be the only time the band would share the stage with future hall of famers, opening for Eric Clapton and Cream, and Chuck Berry.

“We were asked to join Chuck Berry on a five day tour. So we get there at 1:00, expecting to practice with him. He shows up five minutes before the show, and I go ballistic. When I got done, he looked at me and said, 'Do you know how to play that thing?' I answered 'You bet your ass.' So he said, 'Let's go impress these people.' The guy is a total pro. We get up on stage to join him and we’re trading licks back and forth like we had been playing together for 20 years. He offered to pay us $2,000 a week to come on his one month tour of Germany, and he would pay all expenses. Jim and Dave refused to go because they were college guys."

"The night we did the show with Clapton we got done playing and Dave and Jim came up and said, ‘We’re done,’ so we broke up that night."

NWBD disbanded in 1968. Baker would go on to join the Pueblo band Jade, with Cabell Shepard, Marty Spritzer (who had been in The Chandells), and Murray Watson on drums.

“I think at one time we actually had two drummers in the band.”

Jade lasted about two years, resulting in one single “That Was Yesterday” / “I’m Leaving You.”

“The band wanted to get me replaced, so they kept playing with other bass players, but what they didn’t know was that I owned 90% of the equipment. By that time my marriage was going south, and we went our separate ways, and I went on a vacation by myself. I decided to go back to Iowa and get a real job, using my other occupation, as a respiratory therapist. So I said the hell with it, and became a respiratory therapist."

Baker is now semi-retired from the health care industry, and continues to live in Iowa.

COMING NEXT POST: 'Tis the Season for SoCo Gospel

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jimmy Cox

UPDATE (12/14/16): Found two of the three Jimmy Cox 78s (audio and pictures below).

Interview with Cameron Devries and Billie Devries conducted September 2011.

Back in June I posted one of those mystery records, one I couldn’t seem to locate any information about, by Jack Shiplet and the Blue Ridge Boys. The singer on the disc was Jim Cox. A few months later I received an e-mail:

My name is Cameron DeVries and wanted to see if you would be interested in running an article of my grandfather, Jimmy Cox.

Born in Illinois, in 1925, Cox’s family ended up in Colorado. At the age of 16, he lied about his age, and joined the U.S. Navy.

“Somewhere he taught himself to play the guitar,” said his daughter, Billie. “Then he started doing radio.”

In 1948 Fred Milton Cox began his radio career at KCSJ in Pueblo. Using the name Jim Cox on the air, he was better known as Jimmy Cox, the Colorado Troubadour.

“He had a manager who helped him get started,” said Billie Devries. "Jim Smith was his name, and for some reason they decided to call my dad, Jimmy Cox.”

The popular announcer played his guitar, read livestock reports, and kept his listening audience entertained in the mornings, beginning his show with his familiar theme “My Colorado Hills Are Calling.”

While holding down a job as an appliance salesman at Sears, he continued to perform both on the radio, and at bars around town. In 1952, Cox signed with Blue Ribbon Records, operated by Chaw Mank, out of Staunton, Illinois. He recorded (at least) three 78 rpm records for the label, "My Colorado Hills Are Calling" / "Can I Take My Pony To Heaven" (with Buddy Johnson and the Colorado Rangers--J.C. A/AA), "I Had to Love You” (backed by Don Mason) / “Blue Ribbon Waltz “ (backed by Don Mason on guitar) - Blue Ribbon 1912 and “I Look in the Mirror”(backed by Bud Watkins and his Buddies) / “This Orchid Reminds Me of You” (backed by Gaylon Mize on guitar) - Blue Ribbon 1922.

A quick Internet search finds that Gaylon Mize died in 1956. Bud Watkins was the Buddy in Buddy and his Buddies, who recorded on the Canyon label with vocalist Paul Moyers “Out of Sight Out of Mind” / “I Didn’t Even Cry” – Canyon 101/102, no information could be obtained on guitarist Don Mason.

When KCSJ television signed on the air in 1953, the station was looking for local programming to fill the nine-hour broadcast day. They turned to Cox.

Management had an idea for a children’s show to entertain the kiddos when they returned home from school. So every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon, from 4:00-6:00, Jimmy Cox (and his sidekick Cliff Hendrix) would sing songs, play games, and introduce the popular “Howdy Doody Show."

Jimmy Cox (and his sidekick Cliff Hendrix, sitting)

"He was very busy during that time of his life," said Billie DeVries. "He was a state fair marshall, and he was always doing grand openings. I remember when he appeared at the grand opening of the old Chet’s Market.”

The “Time for Adventure” show, and later his music show “Colorado Hayride” were so popular that Jimmy Cox had his own fan club. For $1, admirers received a newsletter, a membership card, 8X10 photos, and four issues of Cox’s newsletter. The first 100 members received a free western tie, signed by Cox. The first newsletter, published in the fall of 1954, introduced his fans to Jimmy’s family, wife Wilma Mary, and daughter Billie Marlene.

Jimmy Cox, who recently augmented his country & western music spinning at KCSJ, Pueblo, Colo., has been notified that he was voted Star of the Month by the servicemen and women of the U.S. Armed Forces in Africa. Jimmy's recording of "I Look in the Mirror" was the month's most popular recording on the Armed Forces station, according to requests received by Kenny Wilder, the station DJ. --Billboard, November 13, 1954

Just six years later his TV shows ended, and so did Wilma and Jimmy's marriage. Wilma passed away in 1978.

“My mom and dad just grew apart when he got into the music business,” she said. “He ended up in Denver, and then moved to the Pacific Northwest, where he worked in radio, and later remarried.”

Before he left Colorado he teamed up with local country performers Jack Shiplet and the Blue Ridge Boys.

By the way, Jimmy Cox is not be confused with Jim Cox and the Outlaws, the Casper, Wyoming country outfit who recorded around the same time on the Outlaw label (see record below).

After 20 years away, Jimmy Cox returned to Pueblo in 1980, when he and his second wife divorced. He moved into a home on West 6th Street. It was a chance to reconnect with his now-grown children, and grandchildren.

(Click to enlarge)

“We’d have him over to the house for family dinners, and it was a chance to get to know him again,” Billie Devries said. “He was enjoying playing when he came back. He played a the Uptown Theatre, and he got involved in the church downtown and played his guitar."

On July 4, 1985 he died. He was just 60 years old.

“He had problems with his health, and his family had a history of heart problems,” said Billie Devries. “He’s buried at Fort Logan cemetery."

Jimmy Cox’s musical legacy lives on with his grandson, Cameron, who plays in the local band Double Down with Curtis Pacheco. He was previously in the rock band, Obsybian.

“It’s funny that I was never really in to country, I was more rock and roll,” said Cameron Devries. “But my grandfather really gave me a new respect for the genre – the older stuff. Today’s country is too rock and roll. I’m leaning toward performing more country.”

COMING NEXT POST: Monty "Denny" Baker

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chan Romero - The Pueblo Connection

Interview with Chan Romero conducted October 2011.

For the past two years, since I started this blog, I’ve had numerous people write to me suggesting I talk to Chan Romero, the former teen sensation who, in 1959, scored a huge hit with “Hippy Hippy Shake” (later covered by the Swinging Blue Jeans and The Beatles, among many others).

“You might not know this, but he’s from Pueblo,” the e-mails would always say. However in all of the biographies I could find on him, there was absolutely nothing that indicated he spent any time in the Steel City.

Through a series of events, that spanned several months, I was able to track down Chan, to set the record straight.

“My parents met in Trinidad, and later married in Pueblo,” he said.

Lloyd Romero, and his wife Rachel, both migrated to Montana to find work as farm workers. There they stayed and raised ten children.

A student at Central Catholic High School, in Billings, he was a member of the teen band The Bell Tones.

The Bell Tones (Richard "Chan" Romero second from right)

“I taught myself to play the guitar, and one day in my bedroom, I wrote this catchy little number called “Hippy Hippy Shake.”

The song became an instant local hit, as the Bell Tones would perform it at school dances in the area. In December 1958 local disc jockey Don Redfield singled out Romero as a star, and helped the teen make a demo of the song to send to Bob Keene, who was busy promoting another teen sensation, Ritchie Valens.

Two months after he sent the demo, Valens was killed along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.

That summer, Keene released the 17-year old singer’s “Hippy Hippy Shake,” which shot up to No. 1 in Europe and Australia.

After a world wind tour to promote the record (he opened for Jerry Lee Lewis), Romero returned home to Billings, where he graduated high school, and formed a band, The Challengers.

“I was too young to play clubs, so my friends told me about the 3.2 clubs in Colorado,” he said. “I had relatives in Denver, and that’s where I met the Cordova brothers, Billy and Frank.”

The Challengers also included Andy Baca on saxophone, and Ray Madrano, a guitar player out of Dalhart, Tex.

“We heard about all of these 3.2 clubs in Pueblo, and since the Cordovas had relatives in nearby Trinidad, we decided to head south.”

The Challengers were regulars at The Honey Bucket, and the Hi-Fi Club, where they caught the eye of local Pueblo promoter Tony Spicola.

“I guess this was around 1960, or so, and Tony became our manager,” he said. “We had a good time in Pueblo. We would play in these battle of the band contests, and I have lots of great memories about those.”

While the band would always play Chan’s hit song, the group started to branch out and perform more soul numbers. “We thought "Hippy Hippy Shake” was pretty bubble gum, so we really wanted to diversify the set list, and started doing more James Brown and Ray Charles stuff.”

The Challengers packed in the audiences, but they yearned to play to more than just the local college crowd.

“We turned 21 and Tony thought we should head to California,” he said.

“I wouldn't say I'm from Pueblo, but guess I was actually in Pueblo for about a year, or two, total.”

Working with a booking agency out of Hollywood, the band signed on for a six month engagement at the 49 Club in El Monte, where they opened for acts including Ike and Tina Turner, and the Righteous Brothers.

“We also discovered that there was another band in town called The Challengers, so we had to change our name,” he said.

They renamed themselves The Limits.

The band broke up when the reformed Crickets asked Romero to tour with them. “Glen Hardin’s wife was having a baby, and they asked me to take his place for the tour – so I left the band.”

Romero would later return to California where he recorded on Gene Autry’s Challenge label, “The Funniest Things” and the flip side “It’s Not Fair” (Challenge 59285 – 1965). “I think shortly after we recorded that, the label folded,” he laughed.

In 1962 while home in Billings, he decided to start his own record label, Warrior.

"My first artist on the label was my paperboy," he said. There was this Greek kid named Kostas who used to bug me to teach him to play the guitar, so I did. We went into the studio and recorded "Something We Call Love" and the flip side was "Jane." I think we made about 500 of them - they got a lot of airplay, in Billings.

(Kostas would later go on to write songs for Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakum, Travis Tritt, The Dixie Chicks, and many other country acts).

“I had started a publishing company called Warrior Tunes, so I just liked the name, and just called the label that,” he said. “The horse logo on the label was done by a really good friend of mine out of Billings, Bill Stands.”

After he had the label up and running he received a call from his old friend Tony Spicola, who was looking for a label for his latest find, the Pueblo Colorado rock band, The Trolls (note: Trolls story in an upcoming issue).

(Romero’s Montana-based label is often confused with other labels of the same name. For more on other Warrior labels, see the outstanding Garage Hangover site.)

Romero would also have his hand in another of Tony Spicola’s Pueblo finds, Patti Jo Martinez, who had just left The Teardrops.

“I wrote her song “I’ll Sleep Tonight,” and I was there at the Ruff Studios in Amarillo when they recorded it for her,” he said.

Romero would continue his relationship with Spicola, when the two teamed up during his Phillips label recording sessions.

“We recorded five or six tunes. Tony was with me for those," he said. "But the one that was released was “Humpy Bumpy” (and the flip “Man Can’t Dog a Woman" – Phillips 40391/1966). “We had Leon Russell doing the keyboard overdubs on that one.”

Romero decided to give up the secular music business in 1968. He restarted the Warrior label in 1971, releasing Christian music.

“I haven’t been back to Pueblo in ages,” he admitted. “I was in Trinidad a couple of years ago, doing music with Frankie. I hope to get back there soon.”


Saturday, October 15, 2011

When the hungries hit, hit the Red Barn

Interview with Bob Fredregill conducted August 2011.

In the mid 1960s brothers Jim and Bob Fredregill were looking for a franchise opportunity.

"Both of us had worked in restaurants," Bob Fredregill said. "Our company, that was started in 1962, managed restaurants for absentee owners. Most of the those were in the mountains, like the Red Lion Inn in Vail, but we also had management contracts in Denver."

Originally from Sterling, the two set their sights on Pueblo, where they would open the city's first Red Barn restaurant.

"Red Barn was a franchise establishment started by a group of men from Ohio. We thought it was very innovative, and we were excited by the concept. They had an expanded menu, with not only hamburgers, but also chicken and fish."

On Nov. 1, 1966 the first Red Barn was opened at 215 E. Abriendo. The following year a second location started serving customers in the Belmont Shopping Center, on Bonforte.

The chain was an instant success, with hungry diners lining up for the diverse menu options, including Big Barney or Barnbuster burgers, $.99 fried chicken, and fish sandwiches.

The Red Barn capitalized on their diverse menu (and its instant appeal to children) with three mascots, Hamburger Hungry (complete with hamburger head), Fried Chicken Hungry (a chicken leg) and Big Fish Hungry (a blue fish).

"We actually had our own Hamburger Hungry costume," said Fredregill. "We would enter the State Fair parade driving a golf cart, with someone dressed in the costume. It was a fun attention-getter, but very hot to wear in the summer months."

Before Burger King patrons ever learned the lyrics to "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce," The Red Barn had their own catchy jingle, "When the hungries hit / When the hungries hit / Hit the Red Barn."

By 1974 the brothers opened their third location, in the Sunset Shopping Center on South Prairie.

Like many other family food chains, the Red Barn offered premiums to its customers. In the early stages of the restaurant, plastic hand puppets, yo-yos, comic books, plastic cups, and kites were popular with children.

Enlisting the help of local marketer, Jack Holden, the Pueblo chain branched out with its own promotional give-aways.

In 1969 the Pueblo Red Barn franchise release a red flexi disc, entitled "Sounds of The American West."

The 33 1/3 single, complete with life on the range sound effects, was narrated by a folksy storyteller who managed to sneak in a few mentions of the restaurant's signature food items.

(Dinner bell sound effects) "You know there weren't any Red Barn restaurants handy like there are now, so we had to chop our own wood, and mother had to cook over an unpredictable wood stove. But it tasted all pretty darn good, all the same. What I wouldn't have given for a delicious Big Barney."

Fredregill doesn't recollect the specifics of how the promotional record came about, who recorded it, or how many were made.

The paper cover of the flexi was covered with scenes of the west, from noted Southern Colorado photographer, John Suhay. In 2010 Suhay was honored by The Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center as photographer emeritus.

It wouldn't be the last time the restaurant offered a record.

"Remember the old jingle for Coke ["I'd Like to Teach The World to Sing"]? Well, we got a whole bunch of those records and gave those out as a premium, with a sandwich and coke. But Coke found about it, and said we couldn't do it."

By the 1970s, glassware replaced records as the more popular premium offerings to customers.

"One of the biggest promotions we had was our patriotic glasses we had in 1976. Those were very popular."

By the late 1970s, the Red Barn company changed hands, and sold to Servomation, who later sold it to Motel 6. The new owners ceased advertising for the chain and the franchise leases were allowed to expire with the last of the leases expiring around 1986. At its peak, Red Barn had 400 restaurants in 19 states.

"We closed the one in the Sunset Shopping Center a couple of years after we opened it - it just wasn't a good location. We broke our franchise in 1979, and renamed the two we had left J.R Poteet's, after a character in James Michener's Centennial [trail boss R.J. Poteet]. We ran it that way for two years. We kept the same concept, and made a few changes. Then in 1981 Paul Jones and Sam Sharp, who owned Loaf and Jug, bought the business."

While the Red Barn is no more, there are numerous remnants of the restaurant. Most of the distinctive Red Barn buildings were converted for other uses. While the Belmont location is gone, the Abriendo building is now a Mexi-Deli.

By 1972 the brothers started a catering business in town. In 1974 Jim and Bob Fredregill purchased an old church at the corner of Michigan and Routt, in the Mesa Junction area of Pueblo, a few blocks from Central High School. The property would be used for office and kitchen space for their expanding businesses.

After refurbishing the structure, the Fredregills opened the upscale La Renaissance Restaurant in 1978. This year marks their 33rd year in business.

"We came to Pueblo to start the business. It’s a great town, a good place to raise a family, and we just stayed."

COMING NEXT POST: Chan Romero - The Pueblo Connection

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pueblo Nightlife (1974)

When I moved to Pueblo in 1978, my parents liked to eat at a place called the Burl Tree Lounge, off of Bonforte and Constitution, near our Belmont home. At 17, it was my first taste of nightlife. I felt like I had been elevated to "adult status," seeing an honest-to-goodness bar, with real alcohol (not that 3.2 stuff I used to sneak with my East High friends).

The Burl Tree Lounge is long gone (now a sports bar), but to this day, I can still remember that dingy, dark, smoke-filled joint, those burgers and fries they used to sell, and the cocktail waitresses with the Aqua Net-plastered hairdos who always called me "honey."

When I was a freshman at USC, my college friends and I would always shake off the Steel City zip code, and head up to The Springs for a night at O'Furry's, Muffins, or Thunder and Buttons (I'm sure there were more, but I've lost a few brain cells since then).

Point is, I never had the opportunity to go "bar hopping" in Pueblo.

The invaluable Ange Rotondo (The Teardrops and Guys and Doll) sent me a brochure in the mail that was so good, I had to dedicate a blog entry to it.

Nite Life was a little ten page, black and white, pamphlet loaded with places to go "after hours" in Pueblo. The March 1974 issue (Vol. II, Issue VIII) is filled with a time capsule of clubbing options in the Steel City.

So to recreate the Pueblo lounge scene atmosphere of the era, dig out the polyester, put John Denver's "Sunshine on my Shoulders" (the #1 song in March 1974) on the turntable, turn down the lights, light up a cigarette, throw back a whiskey sour, and check out the advertisements below.


(click on each to enlarge)

COMING NEXT POST: "When the hungries hit, hit the Red Barn."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Silver Eagle Band

Interview with Dennis Perrino conducted August 2011.

Dennis Perrino and Bob Villalon had known each other in and around the Walsenberg and Gardner area of Colorado for years. Then one day, the two musicians decided to join forces.

"This was 1986, when we decided to form a group," said Perrino. "We recruited drummer Jerry Minogue, Bruce Mahan on bass, and Rick Witcowich (Teardrops and Guys and Doll) on keyboards, and I was the lead singer and played guitar, while Bob was on lead guitar."

They named themselves the Silver Eagle Band.

"The name of the band came about, because one day we were looking at Jerry's drums, and they kinda looked like a silver eagle, all spread out (laughs).

The band played most country covers, and a few originals, and once they perfected their act, they started booking gigs.

"We traveled all over the United States for about six to seven years, in Wyoming, Nevada, and New Mexico, plus our regular gigs in and around southern Colorado."

In 1988, the group decided to record a single.

"Robby Hudson was a neighbor of mine. He was a musician, who inspired me to play the guitar," Perrino said. "When I was 13, he was killed in a car accident, and I sang a song he had written, "Colorado Pines and Flowers." When it came time, several years later, to record our first single, I wanted it to be that song."

Listen to "Colorado Pines and Flowers"

"The single was recorded at some studio in Colorado Springs. Rick Mouser (sp) did the recording. I think we had about 3000 pressed. We would sell them at our shows."

The flipside shows a harder edge of the band.

"Yeah, I’ve been accused of being both rock and country," he said.

Listen to "Bourbon Street"

Shortly after the release, the band was selected to compete in the regional Marlboro Country Music Contest. Later they competed in the Colorado True Value Country Music Showdown Finals at the Colorado State Fair.

While the band was riding high, opening for Mark Chesnutt, Chris LeDoux, Brooks & Dunn, and Marty Stuart, tragedy would strike when Jerry Minogue died. Then Bruce Mahan left the group.

"This left a hole in the band, and we really had trouble finding a replacement - we just kinda lost our interest in the group," he said.

By 1995 the band broke-up.

"About that time Bob and I went to Nashville," Perrino said. "But after less than a year there, we wanted to come home. "

When they returned they decided to try one more time to put the Silver Eagle Band back together.

"We picked up drummer Greg Carbjal and guitarist Jim Neveil. Bob moved over to bass."

More personnel changes would occur when Jim Neveil left in 1997. Gerald Trujillo took over at lead guitar for the band. They also started incorporating more rock music in their act.

Then keyboardist Rick Witcowich passed away, in 2001.

The band returned to the studio in 2004 to record The Colorado Sky which was released as a CD.

Just when they thought they had a stable line-up, they were dealt another devastating blow with the death of guitarist Gerald Trujillo in November of 2006.

After Jerry Minogue died, the group went through a series of drummers, including John Marrella, Greg Carbjal, and Steve Vigil. Eric Valdez subs on guitar.

Dennis and Bob have remained the glue which has held together the Silver Eagle Band. In 2011 the group celebrates its 25th anniversary.

"We stay very busy, playing The Grove, The Dog Bar, and Shorty's. We're actually booked through September."

"This is the first and only band I've ever been in," said Perrino. "Bands come and go, but after everything we've been through, we're still plugging along."

Dennis Perrino on iTunes.

COMING NEXT POST: Pueblo Nightlife (1974)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ring ring goes the bell...

As school starts up around the region, I thought I would pull out this little 10" red vinyl find from Crowley County High School, Ordway (1963).

Crowley County High School Band - Al Smith, Director
Golden Gate
Concert Overture

Side Two: Crowley County High School Mixed Chorus - Al Smith, Director
Song of the Pedlar
O Lady Fair
To Thee We Sing - Crowley High School Small Choir
The Willow Song
The Last Words of David

The disc was produced by the prolific Century Custom label, which would go on to issue hundreds of similar recordings for local high schools and colleges throughout the country. The Crowley High record was one of the first Colorado efforts by the label, having earlier produced Western State College of Colorado: Twenty-Eighth Annual Gunnison Music Camp (1961).

In 1965 the label produced El Testamento - Spanish Folk Music of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado (Century Custom Records 22376), and later Duermete Nino (Custom 39908) for Alex J. Chávez (see the story here).

Ordway sits about an hour due east of Pueblo. Once a major sugar beet processing center, it's now home to the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. The prison opened in 1986 and houses 1,007 medium custody inmates.

Crowley County High School, Ordway, CO.

The Silver Eagle Band