Thursday, January 3, 2019

Tiptoe Through the Tulips - The Colorado Springs connection

Nothing should surprise you, when it comes to my never-ending search for esoteric Colorado music history, but this little tidbit surprised even me.

On July 28, 1982, Nick Lucas passed away at the Cheyenne Mountain Nursing Home, the result of a stroke he had suffered days before. He was 84.

What, that name doesn't ring a bell?

In 1929, Nick Lucas sang a little ditty entitled "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," in one of the first color "talkies," "Gold Diggers of Broadway."

His rendition of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" (written by Joe Burke and Al Dubin) went on to sell 4 million copies.

A native of New Jersey, Lucas was a star in the early days of motion pictures. He appeared in many of the short musical films Hollywood made, often billed as "the new voice" of recordings. He would go on to have hits with "My Blue Heaven." and "Bye Bye Blackbird."

Other film credits include Disc Jockey, and the Broadway musical, Show Girl. Other recordings include 'Goodnight Sweetheart,' 'Side by Side,' 'Among my Souvenirs,' 'I'll Get By,' 'Singing in the Rain,' 'Three Little Words,' 'I Surrender Dear,' and 'All of Me.'

Back to the Colorado connection - After his movie career ended, Lucas toured the state, appearing at nightclubs up and down the front range.

December 8, 1951
Greeley Daily Tribune

 In 1953, after a lengthy stay in Colorado, performing at the Rosedale Inn, he purchased the Ouray Inn, in Woodland Park.

 Feb. 12, 1953
Greeley Daily Tribune

I couldn't find any additional information on the Ouray Inn purchase, but Lucas and his wife would continue to make Colorado their second home, staying close to their daughter and son-in-law, Emily and Leonard Bissell, who lived in Black Forest. In 1967, Lucas and his wife spent  their 50th anniversary in Colorado Springs.

April 21, 1967
Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph
(click to enlarge)

The following year, Lucas again saw a resurrection of his career when former Pueblo resident, Dan Rowan, co-host of Laugh-In, introduced a "new talent," named Tiny Tim, on the popular variety show. Tim pulled out his ukulele, and sang Lucas' signature tune, making it his own, overnight.  

In 1969, Lucas personally performed on The Tonight Show, as a special request of Tiny Tim, on the broadcast of Tim's wedding to Miss Vicky.

Two years after Tiny Tim brought Lucas' music back to life, his wife Catherine passed away.

In a 1974 story, appearing in the Greeley newspaper, Lucas admitted that he was enjoying yet another comeback, with his songs "When You And I Were Seventeen," "Five Foot Two and Eyes of Blue," and "I'm Going to Charleston Back to Charleston" appeared in the Robert Redford - Mia Farrow movie, "The Great Gatsby," released that year.

Lucas finally retired from performing, in 1982. That summer, he suffered a stroke, in Santa Monica, CA. His daughter and son-in-law brought him to Colorado Springs, to convalesce at the Cheyenne Mountain Nursing Home, where he passed away. He and his wife are enshrined, in Colorado Springs.



  1. Great story, Lisa! I’ve always appreciated Nick’s playing and singing. I didn’t know the extent of his connection in Colorado. When I sing and play one of his songs now I’ll share your story.

  2. You mention that Nick Lucas performed more or less to the end of his life, and there's a funny story about how much he liked to give a show. In 1976, The California Dept. of Motor Vehicles apparently didn't mail a bunch of registration renewal reminders to motorists until the last any case, a couple of hundred people ended up at the Glendale DMV office needing to renew vehicle registrations all at the same time on a Tuesday morning. The DMV office manager had put out a call ahead of time for an entertainer--any entertainer--to come down and distract the crowds he knew were coming. Nobody stepped up, but the office manager knew Nick Lucas, and called up Nick to ask for a favor. Nick showed up and played for the grumpy DMV cusomters. You can see scan of the newspaper coverage here:

    Today, as you probably saw when putting togther this post, the name "Nick Lucas" is more commonly raised when discussing his signature Gibson flat-topped guitar than discussing the man himself or his music. A prime example of a 1930s Nick Lucas model Gibson came up for sale a couple of years ago at a specialty shop in North Carolina, and the instrument was priced at $40,000.