Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Tale of the Dog - The Untold Story of Denver's Greatest Rock Club


So last night I was honored to be invited to the exclusive premiere showing of Tale of the Dog - The Untold Story of Denver's Greatest Rock Club, a fantastic documentary on the history of Denver's short-lived Family Dog concert venue.

A who's who of 1960s-1970s Denver music was in attendance - Harry Tuft, the founder of the Denver Folklore Center, Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee Otis Taylor, New World Blues Dictionary drummer James (Denny) Townsend, Eighth Penny Matter's Brent Warren, Lothar and the Hand People's Paul Conly, as well as Mike Stelk, whose tireless efforts to preserve Colorado music history helped inspire the film.

Paul Conly and the author

The Tale of the Dog is a long-overdue movie on The Family Dog, the "pioneering hippie rock club," which was only in business from Sept. 8, 1967, through July 19, 1968. The club made a huge mark on the early Denver rock scene, hosting the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Cream, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, and Canned Heat, whose famous run-in with the Denver police department is well documented in the film.

Packed house at University of Denver showing

The brainchild of Dan Obarski and University of Denver art professor Scott Montgomery, The Tale of the Dog spends an equal amount of time spotlighting the visual representation of the nightclub, both with its promotional posters (created by Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, Rick Griffin, Michael Ferguson, George Hunter, and Robert Fried), and its multimedia light shows, by Diogenes Lantern Works.

"My training is as a medievalist," said filmmaker Scott Montgomery. "I got involved in this because I think it's significant art, and it seemed to be under acknowledged. It's not that far off from what I do, in medieval art. I still look at the iconography, the style... so I don't think I've changed my field, but I just embraced a movement of art that I think is under acknowledged, and I think is one of the more significant art movements of the second half of the 20th century."

"I didn't know anything about this place," said filmmaker Dan Obarski. "It wasn't until I was in my 30s, I saw a picture of Jim Morrison playing at DU, and about fell out of my chair. I went searching for this Family Dog thing, and found this one website, that a guy named Mike Stelk had - it was the only website with the only piece of information out there, on the Family Dog. It listed all of the concerts. Nobody knew this. It was completely unknown. Then I saw Scott at a poster show, and he was the only other guy who knew anything about it. And we both thought it was important, and we needed to tell this story."

The movie's first hand interviews, with former Family Dog employees, poster artists, band members, and even the former Denver police officers, who contributed to the demise of the club, is incredibly thorough.

Family Dog doorman Marcello Cabus, Mike Stelk, and the author

After the showing, the filmmakers, and a few members of the cast, took part in a panel discussion.

 From right to left: Film narrator Rick Lewis, Otis Taylor, Scott Montgomery, Brent Warren, Melanie Wannamaker, Paul Conly, and Dan Obarski.

While making the movie was the primary topic of discussion, the audience got to hear some little-known music trivia and fascinating stories, including how one (then) little-known comic tried his hand at experimental music.

"When the band [Lothar and the Hand People] left Denver - the band started at DU - and when we left to move to New York, and try to make it big, we started working at clubs in the Village, and one of them was the Cafe A-Go-Go, in New York City," Paul Conly told the audience. "One thing about being in the Hand People was, we got to share the stage with a lot of great bands of that era. At the Cafe A-Go-Go, we shared the stage with Richard Pryor, who had not been on television yet, but he was working the stand-up clubs. We were hanging out with him backstage, and he saw the theremin. He asked, 'Do you mind if I go out and play the theremin?' We said 'Of course, go ahead.' So he improvised his whole set, riffing with stuff he came up with, on the theremin. I wish there was a film of it, because he was so brilliant. I still have the theremin, which we called Lothar. It still works great. It was made by Dr. Bob Moog."

"When I got to Denver, in 1964, it was a big folk scene, and I came out of the folk world," said Brent Warren. I sang with a guy named Michael Dunn. But then all of a sudden, a bunch of guys said 'Hey do you want to try out to be a lead singer, in this band [Eighth Penny Matter]?' I came out of the world of theatre, and so I tried to apply some theatre to the act, too. I wore a corduroy jacket, and one of the things I discovered was that I could pour lighter fluid on my sleeve. During our cover of 'You're a Better Man Than I,' by the Yardbirds, our guitarist's job was to drive me into such a frenzy, with his fuzz tone guitar, that I would pour lighter fluid on my sleeves, and set myself on fire, and then stand backwards and jump off the stage backwards, into the crowd. So I think I invented the mosh pit."

Suffice to say, it was an amazing evening, and it is a must-see film. The Tale of the Dog will be shown on March 26, at the Mayan Theatre, Denver.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Elk Bugles - Show 20 (78 rpm)

And welcome to show #20! I'm digging deep into the stash, and playing all 78rpm records. Yup, scratches, pops, and all! Some really (really) old and obscure Colorado records on today's episode!

Listen to the show 
(links to the KGNU AfterFM audio)

Wolf of Wolf Creek Pass
Pete Smythe with Walt Shrum and the Westernaires

Mother Goose Boogie
Gene Lewis and the Dude Ramblers

Trinidad Twister
Marvin Shilling 

Christian Cowgirl
Jeannie Bradway

Jesus Paid It All
Gospel Melody Men 

Life is a Wonderful Thing
Dave Krane 

I Love Girls
Max Morath

Molly Lou
Norma Lou Tackitt with the George Marvin Orchestra

Coax Me
Norma West 

Estamae McFarlane

Out of Sight Out of Mind
Buddy and his Buddies (vocals by Paul Moyers)

Jess Hunter Song
Ted West and Buddy Watkins (Buddies of the West)

There’s a New Star in Heaven Tonight
Ozie Waters 

On Top of Pikes Peak
Billy Briggs

Boom Song
Colorado A&M College

The Denver Mountain Parks
B Lee Pace

No Credit
Joey Buffalo and Sonics

Saturday, February 8, 2020

National Pizza Day - Colorado Style

February 9 has been deemed National Pizza Day. Wouldn't you know, there is a Colorado song, dedicated to this glorious dish, courtesy of Colorado Springs' own Andrew Everson and the Deluxe Combo?

Released in 1984, "The Pizza Song," was a track on Everson's Sea to Sea LP. Andrew was joined by Russel Spaeth on guitar, Kent Dix on drums, and bassist Doug Statler.

 No idea why the band member on the far right has his face blacked out - as that's how I found it.

The album was recorded at Passage Studios, in the Springs, with the help of local production guru, Rich Mouser. Tiny Barge shows up on trumpet, along with Anne Lenoire on clarinet. Mike Brumbagh rounded out the horn and wind section, on trombone. The "Tower of Flour" (Ann Chovies, Mel & Ted Chaez, and Chris P. Crust) add vocals to "The Pizza Song."

I had a chance to track down Andrew, last year, and he graciously told me the story behind the song.

"That song still draws a lot of attention! Pizza is a product that deserves its own song. America loves this stuff! The song also was the beginning of my 'rock' style of banjo playing. That recording still gets many hits on line and also grabbed the interest of Dr. Demento some years ago.

It was my intention to create a music video with the band at Fargo's Pizza, in the Springs. It was a fun idea that never got beyond the drawing board. And yes, Fargo's is still my favorite pizza even after living here in California for the past 30 years.

A lot has happened since this album in which I was exploring new places for the 5-string banjo. I proceeded to release a cassette tape album entitled Banjo in a Briefcase, in Colorado Springs which went much deeper into this experimental music. I took the project to Southern California, where I wrote and recorded more of this music as it morphed into a progressive rock project with banjo as the lead instrument.

I formed a band in Orange County and recorded a CD called If I'm Alive. We were just beginning to showcase this music at local clubs when an overuse injury to my right hand torpedoed the whole project. I can still play at modest speeds but the condition stole my hard-earned professional level of playing from me. At the same time I was directing a small choir at a church here in Orange County and after the sudden demise of the banjo project my work for the church increased. Since then my choirs have recorded 5 CDs and many of my songs have been published for choirs across the English speaking world by OCP publications and World Library Publications."

Visit Andrew's website

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Pueblo's KAPI Radio and a Walter's Brewing Radio Jingle (1958)

So I just got back from my hometown of Pueblo. Great visit with family and friends, including Joel Scherzer, the former owner of (the unfortunately long-gone) Record Reunion, the Pueblo record store, located near the library. Joel is the man who started my hunt for esoteric Colorado music, back in 1979, when I was a regular in his store, as an East High School record nerd.

So he's showing me his latest cache of obscure Colorado vinyl recording finds (knowing I'm already salivating at the prospect of including them in my collection), when he pulls out a one-sided, 8" acetate, on a New York City-based radio jingle company label.

The label on the 78rpm recording simply read "Walters Brewing Co.", and the radio call letters KAPI.

You know when you try to appear all cool, calm, and collected, and inside you are freaking out? Yup, that was me, at that moment.

In the year 1979, I was not only a record collector, but it was also the year I started my eventual-long radio career, at a "beautiful music station" in Pueblo (KYNR), changing out reel-to-reel tapes, and reading news headlines at the top of the hour. So being offered a one-of-a-kind Colorado record, with a local radio station connection (and a radio jingle of a Pueblo beer company, at that), was like finding the holy grail.

On Nov. 3, 1958 radio station KAPI signed on the air, from its studios at 2829 Lowell Avenue, off West 29th street, in the far west Pueblo city limits. Located on the AM dial (690), the bilingual Spanish language station programming staff included President and General Manager Ray J. Williams, Sales Manager Del Kinkle, Program Director Bob Burch, Promotions Director John Lambert, Chief Engineer Dale Reding, News Director John Bosman, and Farm Director Bob Burch.  In 1979, the station began broadcasting on the FM frequency (107.1), making Hispanic music available on the local air waves until midnight daily. In 1981, the station call letters were changed to KRMX (later KSPI, then KWRP).

Former location of KAPI radio (Google Maps view)

There is no date on the label, minus at catalog code, and "Copyright 1958." I can only assume that this jingle was provided to KAPI, shortly after it went on the air, making it one of the first advertisements for the new station.

Walter Brewing was local Pueblo beer staple, since first opening in 1898. It closed its doors in 1975. The company was brought back to life in 2014, and remains a beloved adult beverage brand, in the Steel City.

Side note:  The back cover liner notes, for the 1967 Sunny and the Sunliners LP No Te Chifles are courtesy of George Sandoval, the-then general manager at KAPI. The San Antonio group (formerly Sunny and the Sunglows) is considered one of the founders of Tejano music. Led by Sunny Ozuna, they were the first Tejano band to appear on American Bandstand and have a Top 20 hit ("Talk to Me" peaked at #11 on the 1963 Billboard charts).

 (click on image to read)