Monday, August 10, 2020

Price Check: Gary Wilson Cornerstone LP - $399.99 (US)

It never really surprises me when I find out that a Colorado record I dig up is worth more than the normal $1.00 I pay for it, at the thrift. In fact, my first thought is, "It's about time!"

I've always felt like I was sailing by myself, in an open sea, when it comes to hyping unknown Colorado vinyl. I never really know if anyone has the same affinity for these often-overlooked recordings, as I, but then I saw this today, on Discogs:

(click to enlarge)

Yup, $399.99 for a copy of Gary Wilson's 1983 soul/jazz/funk LP, Cornerstone, (plus there's a $705 one, being offered, by a France-based seller).

 In 2018, two copies of the album sold on Ebay for $313 and $316.

Recorded by Jay Salem, at his Denver studios (you may remember, Jay was in Synchrony, with Sam  Bachica), Cornerstone is a mix of soft soul and jazz-vibe cuts, mixed with 80's catchy beat funk dance numbers.

Gary has an amazing history in Colorado music - growing up with three members of Earth, Wind and Fire (Phillip Bailey, Andrew Woolfolk, and Larry Dunn), and being asked by the late Tommy Bolin to join his band, Energy, with Tom Stephenson (Joe Walsh), Stanley Sheldon (Peter Frampton), Bobby Berge (Buddy Miles), and Bobby LeKind (Doobie Brothers). In 1979, Gary recorded with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Wilson Pickett, on Pickett's album I Want You - all before he recorded his own (now collector's item) album, in 1983.

Gary is still active in the music industry, according to his website.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

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

(image from author's collection)

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

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

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

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

Eddie passed away in 2001.

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

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

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

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

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

Jake Bauer
VAB JB 100 - Eins-Zwei Everybody Polka 

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

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

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

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

Albert Holman and the Polka Toons
1396 - Uni'que

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

Cindy Quint and Her Polka Band
No label number

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

Friday, July 31, 2020

Talking Records and Radio on the Buy Sell Trade Podcast

Hey all!

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

Monday, July 27, 2020


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

They are from Connecticut!

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

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

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

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


(Original story posted November 27, 2018)

Hey all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
December 26, 1966

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

Let's solve the mystery!

Monday, July 20, 2020

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denver Catholic Register
July 22, 1937

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 17, 2020

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

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

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

Etude Magazine (1923)

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

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

2424 Gaylord St., Denver

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Bucher Yodeling School of Boulder / Denver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

K.A. Jaensch died in 2000.

Monday, July 6, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But hold your horses, Lisa...

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

Say what?

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

The Scavengers disbanded in 1967. 

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Pueblo – Mötley Crüe Connection

Freeway Flyer 
Phil Head  (far left) John Withers (top center) 
Joe Ellis (bottom center) Bob Deal (far right) 

I truly believe Phil Head is one of the most interesting people I have ever interviewed. Seriously. I’ve been talking to him, about his incredible music career (The Cobras, The Trolls, The Frantics, Waco), but I had never chatted with him about his time in the LA-based band, Freeway Flyer.

“So I was in the band Waco, with Joe Ellis, after his brother Ron (both formerly of White Lightnin') left the group, to go to college. We were playing lots of gigs in Pueblo, including opening for Canned Heat,” he said. “Joe and I were living out in Black Forrest, and one day we just decided we should go to Los Angeles, and try our luck out there.”

A near-death accident nearly ended the plans.

“Joe went out to L.A. before I did, and he got into a really bad car accident. An oil tanker hit the van, and flipped it. Thankfully he, and all our equipment, survived.”

Safe on the West Coast, the band hooked up with a former bandmate of Phil’s, who suggested they change the name of the group.

“Max Byfuglin, who I knew in the Frantics (former lead singer), was our manager. He liked the name Freeway Flyer, so we just went with it.”

But not all of Max’s ideas were universally accepted by the band. “Max had this idea that we dress like all disco. I liked to wear a cowboy hat, but I think it made the group look too much like a country band.”

Phil recruited another Pueblo musician, John Withers, to come out and play keyboards. With a drummer (Phil) and bassist (Joe) in the band, the group needed a guitar player.

"We were friends with the guys in Whitehorse. They played around Denver, and they would always come out and see me, when I lived in Wetmore. We knew about Bob Deal, who was a helluva guitar player,” he said. “Bob told us that he wasn’t happy in Whitehorse, and so I recruited him to join us, in Freeway Flyer. I remember he wanted us to always call him “Zorky,” I’m guessing because he didn’t want his real name associated with the group. Who knows.”

Shortly thereafter, Joe’s cousin, Jerry Elbow, joined he band, as the band’s second guitarist.  

With the lineup complete, Phil, Joe, John, Bob and Jerry soon hit the road, playing military bases, with a diverse set list… when the entire band managed to show up, on time.

“We had this gig, in Point Mugu, and Bob and Jerry were going to come up, in a separate car,” Phil said. “So just before we go on, we get a call from Bob, who tells us they took the wrong exit, and were in Bakersfield, which is like two hours away!” So me, John and Joe had to carry the first set off, just the three of us. Bob and Jerry finally showed, for the second set.

Of course, you can’t have a band story, with at least one member getting homesick.

“Jerry and I were driving somewhere, and he tells me that he wants to leave the band, go back to Colorado, and learn how to fly airplanes. I wasn’t upset, I mean you have to follow your dreams. Sadly, several years later, Jerry would be killed in an airplane crash, trying to fly out of Aspen.”

Phil told me that shortly before Jerry left the band, he and the group went into a studio and recorded an original Jerry Elbow composition,” 389,” which was never released. “It was a really good song. I’m sure I have a copy of it, somewhere.”

While, for the most part, Freeway Flyer was a pretty laidback band, Bob Deal insisted that the group rehearse.

“John had access to this club in Burbank, called the Stone Crow, so we would go there and rehearse, from 3-6:00 a.m.. Then Bob found a place to rehearse on Sundays, in exchange for playing at the club, in the afternoons.”

Chaos continued when Bob Deal’s wife kicked him out of the house (allegedly for keeping company with several of their female fans). “He had no money, no place to live, so he slept at my house, for a while. He later moved in with Joe. He got kicked out there, too. It was discovered that the couch Bob was sleeping on gave someone crabs, who sat on it.”

While Bob was wearing out his welcome with most of the band members, he and Phil would often collaborate on ideas for the group.

“He told me that I really should have a drum riser, but I didn’t have any money to buy one,” Phil said. “Bob told me that we could make one with milk crates and plywood. So one day this truck pulls up, with a big sheet of plywood, and Bob showed me how to make a riser.”

As was typical in the mid 1970s Los Angeles club scene, Freeway Flyer would often share a venue stage with other up and coming bands, trying to make a name for themselves. “One night, we were playing in the bar, at the Orange County Airport. The setlist included ‘You Really Got Me,’ by the Kinks. After the show, this guy comes up to me and says, ‘The band on before you played it better.’ I got kinda pissed of the nerve of this guy. So we go back into the dressing room, and the bands who play there sign their names on the wall. I noticed that group who played before us was this band called Van Halen. I never heard of them.”

But Bob Deal had.

“Bob would go on and on about Eddie Van Halen. I obviously wasn’t paying attention,” Phil said. “He was friends with the band.” (NOTE: "You Really Got Me" would end up on Van Halen's debut LP, in 1980, which would go on to sell 10 million copies).

It was around that time that Bob was getting restless.

“He really didn’t like the other guys in the band. He wanted to play originals. He was a loud player, and the club management always complained,” Phil said. “One day he came up to me and said, ‘Let’s start our own band, playing originals.’ I told him I had a family, and mouths to feed, and we had lots of gigs playing covers, but it wasn’t enough for him.”

Freeway Flyer would only last about a year.

“John and Joe got tired of being poor. Bob was sick of doing covers, and I got a job driving a truck.”

A few years later Bob Deal auditioned for a metal band, looking for a loud guitarist. The up-and-coming band needed a name, and Bob remembered an incident that occurred when he was playing with Whitehorse, when one of the other band members called the group "a motley looking crew.” The group stylized the idea, to Mötley Crüe.  Bob’s time with Whitehorse also influenced his decision to change his own name.

“Whitehorse had a female singer named Micki Marz, so he changed his name to Mick Mars,” Phil said.

Phil and Bob didn’t stay in touch, after Freeway Flyer disbanded, however Phil’s son Jody had a brief encounter with the now-platinum selling album guitarist.

“Jody was riding his bike, over by a 7-11 convenience store, and a big black limo pulled up. It was Mötley Crüe, headed to a gig somewhere. My son went up to Bob, who instantly recognized him. He said ‘I remember you, you are Jody.’ Jody told him ‘My dad still plays, but he didn’t make it.’ Bob replied, ‘So what.’”

Phil said he didn’t hold any grudges, until he heard about an interview Bob/Mick did, talking about his early band days.

“He said that he was playing in a bunch of ‘schmuck bands’ back then. I was pissed. We fed him, and gave him a roof over his head, when he had nothing. That’s the story of my life. Who knows what would have happened if I had taken him up on his offer to form an all-originals band.”

“Maybe I would have been in Mötley Crüe,” Phil laughed.

NOTE:  According to a Mötley Crüe fan site Whitehorse bassist Harry Clay comes up with the name Motley Croo,  late in 1972, but management prefers Whitehorse, named after the bottle of Scotch whiskey. The name Motley Croo is utilized whenever the band shops their original tunes for a recording contract, but to this day, there is a disagreement amongst original Whitehorse members as to whether the band actually ever played any live gigs under the name Motley Croo or not. Whitehorse member (and former member of the Frantics, David Day), teaches Bob the Whitehorse songs while David’s previous band-mate, Kim Sherman (also formerly with the Frantics), fills in as the second lead guitarist for the group during a ten-week tour of Colorado in the Fall of 1973. Bob officially joins the group on stage as lead guitarist in January 1974 at Mr. Lucky’s in Denver Colorado, during another ten-week Colorado tour, when Kim finally leaves to return to Los Angeles where he plays session guitar for Flash Cadillac.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

John Denver Exhibit at the History Colorado Museum


Hey all! Yeah, I know, John Denver is hardly considered normal criteria for a blog on esoteric Colorado music history, but I had to post about this fantastic visual tribute to Colorado's favorite musical icon, at the History Colorado museum.

While the display is pretty sparse, on the exhibits front, it is nonetheless a nice show of affection to the individual who probably, single-handedly, caused a large population surge, in Colorado, in the 1970s (In 1978, I remember my dad coming home and telling us we were moving to Colorado, for his job transfer. All I then knew about Colorado was the Denver Broncos...and John Denver).

The exhibit runs now, until August 16.

Take a look at a few of the items on display:

 Get your picture taken with John Denver!

Family picture 
(Full disclosure: John's uncle, Abe Deutschendorf, was my 
junior high school principal, in Lawton Oklahoma)

 The exhibit shows a few dozen of the 50+ albums he recorded, including his first appearance on an LP, the 1965 Mitchell Trio That's the Way it's Gonna Be.

Not a lot of people knew that John Denver was an avid nature photographer. 
The exhibit shows a handful of his photos. 

 Embroidered denim jacket and pants/
Greven 12-string guitar
Leather "peace" guitar strap (used during his 1995 Wildlife Concert)

Probably some of the most iconic glasses worn on a musician, since Buddy Holly.
Handwritten lyrics to "Druthers," which appears on the 1977 LP I Want to Live.

Interesting trivia on the history of his most-famous songs, including "Rocky Mountain High."
Denver wrote this song after witnessing the Perseid meteor shower over Williams Lake, in Aspen, during a camping trip, in 1972.

 In the Zoom In: The Centennial State in 100 Objects, also located at the museum, check out John Denver's 1986 Yamaha guitar, used during the John Denver's Rocky Mountain Reunion TV special (1979).

Of course, one has to stop by the gift shop!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Incredible Story of When the Trolls Played the Troubadour

The Trolls (1965)
Lower left - Richard "Speedy" Gonzales
Standing: "Reload" (briefly the band's bass player), Phil Head and Fred Brescher

I watched the Laurel Canyon music documentary last night (which is fantastic), and it got me thinking about a story Phil Head recently told me, about how his band was (very) briefly part of the early Los Angeles rock scene. Phil just happens to be a dear friend, and the former drummer of the 1960s Pueblo band, the Trolls.

Get ready - this is an amazing story.

So early in the band's history, after one particular Pueblo show, a man comes up to the group and says, "I want to manage you, and take you to Hollywood."

"This was early 1965, before Tony Spicola became our manager," Phil told me. "Even before Monty Baker and Doug Rymerson joined the band."

Without a second thought, and with high hopes of making it big in California, the band loaded up two cars - keyboardist Fred Brescher's 1955 Chevy, and a station wagon owned by band guitarist Richard "Speedy" Gonzales.

Picture taken the day before the band's trip to California
In front of the Quick Draw club, Pueblo (March 1965).
Back row: Wayne Sloan (owner of the Quick Draw), Fred Brescher, and "Reload"
Front row: Phil Head, Dick Trontel, Tom Fillmore, and Speedy Gonzales.
The trip didn't start off, as planned.

"We were somewhere between Taos and Santa Fe, and all of sudden we started hearing this knocking noise, under Speedy's car," said Phil. "It was a bad U-joint and it caught the undercoating on fire. I remember all of us jumping out, because there was a fire under the car. Speedy got a big chunk of snow, went under the car, and put the fire out."

Speedy was able to drive the car to a small service station, where a mechanic said he could fix it - but he had to drive to Albuquerque to pick up a part. So the band spent the night in their cars.

Back on the road, the group took a detour to Las Vegas, an unplanned route, which resulted in another automobile issue.

"We drove right into a dust storm, and it was so bad Speedy's car choked out and died," Phil said. "I remember being freaked out, because I had never seen a sand storm, and I thought the car wasn't the only thing going to die."

The storm passed, and the car was back on the road, finally making it to Los Angeles.

"So we get to California, and the guy who brought us there gets us a room in this apartment, right below the famous Hollywood sign. The place was a dump. Across the hall there were prostitutes," Phil remembers.

But just as the band unloaded their belongings, and were ready to conquer the L.A. music scene, they were hit with another problem.

"The guy who brought us there says, 'I have to go back to Pueblo,' and he leaves us," Phil said. "We didn't know a soul there. We had no money to pay the rent."

Stranded in an unknown city, the band looked to the apartment landlord for help.

"It just so happened the landlord of this apartment had connections at the famed Troubadour, and could get us on the bill, for open mic night," Phil said.

Things were starting to look up. Just two days after they arrived, the Trolls found themselves on stage at one of the most well-known venues in L.A.

"It was a great show," Phil said. "We had a great audience, and lots of applause. I don't remember the set list. We might have played some originals, but I remember getting off that stage feeling very positive about our chances to make it big here."

A chance encounter with an up-and-coming group further added to the feelings that success was just around the corner.

"So we are loading our equipment, in the alley, and these blonde, barefoot surfer-looking dudes come out of this VW van. They came up to me and one of them said, 'You guys sounded really good, we just caught your show."

The fan then asked, "When did you guys become the Trolls? We were going to call ourselves that.'"

"So I'm immediately thinking these blonde barefoot surfer dudes are in their own band, and they are trying to take away our name, and I get kinda upset, then one says, 'Yeah our record company didn't like the name we picked, because it sounded too much like this new British group, the Yardbirds, so we were thinking about several other names, including The Trolls.'"

So Phil asks him, "So what did you end up calling yourselves?"

The stranger said, "The Byrds."

He had been talking to Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke.

The Byrds

According to the history of (what would become) the Byrds, the group  (known then as the Jet Set) signed a recording contract with Columbia Records on November 10, 1964. Two weeks later, the Jet Set decided to rename themselves as The Byrds, which according to Wikipedia: "a moniker that retained the theme of flight and also echoed the deliberate misspelling of the Beatles".

Just two months after Phil talked to Hillman and Clarke, the Byrds would make their television debut, singing "Mr. Tambourine Man."

High on their success at the Troubadour, the Trolls headed back to their rented room. Speedy wanted to make dinner, and headed out to a nearby supermarket to buy groceries.

"But he didn't come back."

Apparently Speedy had an old warrant for his arrest, for jaywalking, and while walking to the store, the police arrested him, and threw him in jail.

Back at the apartment, the band had a problem -  Speedy was in jail, they had no money, no contacts, and no way of getting back to Pueblo. Then, it got worse.

"The landlord of the apartment, who knew we were down on our luck, had an idea to help us make money - he said we could do gay pornos," Phil said. "I didn't even know there was such a thing. It was dawning on us that the Pueblo guy who brought us out to Los Angeles, was in cahoots with this landlord to bring out young men to do these films. When we told him we wouldn't do it, he kicked us out."

It just so happened that living across the hall from the band was Tommy Youngblood, the R&B singer who had recorded a few singles, and felt bad for the guys.

Tommy Youngblood

"He had a studio, off of Vine street, and asked if I could play drums for him, and do some sweeping. So we just jammed in the studio, just the two of us. He then told me that he had a place for us to stay, so we loaded everything up, and went to this place in Watts. It was a dump, but by that time Speedy was out of jail, and we were able to figure out what our next plan would be."

The band managed to contact their Pueblo friends Dick Trontel and Tom Fillmore (pictured in the first photo), who drove to Los Angeles, and rescued them. Back in Pueblo, they immediately headed to the home of the guy who bailed on them.

"We were so pissed. We broke into his house, dragged him out of bed, and into his kitchen. We wanted to rough him up, but we didn't do anything to him, but probably put the fear of God into him. He left town shortly after that, and we never saw him again."

The disastrous, but memorable, trip wasn't without its benefits, back home in Pueblo, as they were then billed as "Direct From the Troubadour in Hollywood."