Monday, December 27, 2021

Blind Tom - "One of the Greatest Wonders of the Age"


NOTE: This piece is also published in the January 2022 issue of the Pueblo County Historical Society The Lore.

In the early stages of Pueblo’s history, live music entertainment was limited to the Choral Union, Pueblo Cornet Band, or the newly formed city orchestra. On occasion, a “traveling troupe” would pass through on the way to a larger venue. Nationally known musical acts often limited their tours of Colorado to Denver, or Colorado Springs.

In May 1878 the Colorado Daily Chieftain announced a concert by “the greatest musical prodigy living,” the visually-impaired pianist, Blind Tom. 

At 29-years-old, Tom Wiggins had already been performing, for almost 20 years. Growing up as a slave, along with his mother and father, he was often hired out by Georgia plantation owner General James Neil Bethune to entertain his antebellum friends. His ability to audibly memorize thousands of pieces of music, and then play them back on a piano, was considered “a wonder.” He was quickly marketed as a P.T. Barnum-style freak, with often cruel advertising of him as a transformation from an animal to an artist. As word quickly spread about his abilities, he would leave the plantation and travel the United States, often performing four shows a day, making about $100,000 a year for General Bethune, who acted as Tom’s co-manager.

By 1873 he had arrived in Denver, for four nights at the Guard Opera House, his first appearances in Colorado. “Blind Tom’s engagement here was a rich treat to all who heard him,” the reviews read.

In Pueblo, the Colorado arrival of what would become one of earliest African American musical superstars would only receive a small newspaper mention. “Blind Tom, the negro musical monstrosity, who has been astonishing large audiences in the principal cities of the United States, is giving entertainments in Denver. The metropolitans are wild with excitement, of course,” the Chieftain noted. 


As Wiggins popularity grew, he began writing his own compositions. Sheet music pieces were sold at his shows, as souvenirs for attendees. Titles included “The Battle of Manassas,” “Blind Tom’s March,” and even a novelty piece “Sewing Song,” where the piano imitates a sewing machine. For reasons unknown, later Blind Tom pieces used composer pseudonyms including Professor W.F. Raymond, J.C. Beckel, C.T. Messengale, and Francois Sexalise.

In 1878 he made his way back to Colorado. His tour included Denver, Colorado Springs, various mining towns and finally, Pueblo. The news of his long-overdue local appearance included a more glowing description of his abilities, as compared to the “musical monstrosity” narrative, five years earlier. 


May 15, 1878 - Colorado Daily Chieftain

“Mr. Theodore Warhurst, the avant courier for Blind Tom, made us a pleasant call yesterday. This musical prodigy will entertain our people on the night of May 16. He is, undoubtedly, the greatest musical prodigy living.” May 1, 1878 – Colorado Daily Chieftain

His Pueblo concert was considered one of the most anticipated events, that year. The local paper ran daily ads, and promotional stories which bordered on equal parts public relations enthusiasm and side show hype. “Blind Tom, one of the greatest wonders of the age, will visit our town on the 16th. There is hardly anyone in the country unacquainted with this musical prodigy. He is perfectly blind, who has not the mental capacity sufficient to attend to his own wants, and hardly sufficient to understand even a common place conversation, yet he is the perfect master of the piano.” As reported in the May 9, 1878, issue of Colorado Weekly Chieftain.

His sold-out, standing room only concert, at Chilcott’s Hall had patrons standing out in the street, hoping to hear the event. “Quite an audience thronged Santa Fe Avenue and Sixth Street last night, in the vicinity of Chilcott’s Hall, to listen to the playing of Blind Tom. They made some noise, and appeared to appreciate the performance fully, as well as those in the hall.”

But not all of the reviews were supportive of Wiggins’ performance. While classical concert attendees applauded his musical skill, many were confused over the “side show.”

“We had the pleasure of hearing the musical prodigy Blind Tom on Thursday evening. We didn’t fully appreciate the program, as too much time was taken up with Tom’s foolish speeches. Such a musical wonder should not be exhibited for such nonsense. The fault is not in the performer, for he is especially fond of the very highest order of composition, but a general audience likes a popular program, better.”

Little did anyone know about the behind-the-scenes management of his career. General Bethune’s son had taken over bookings of Wiggins, and promoted him as a novelty act, or “a human parrot,” as one critic wrote. When John Bethune died in a train accident, in 1884, his ex-wife Eliza took custody of Wiggins.

Wiggins would return to Colorado, in 1895. He would play Pueblo, one last time on January 18, at the Grand Opera House. Sadly, his visual impairment, odd stage antics, and lack of communication continued to be highlighted, for the sake of ticket sales.

“A helpless idiot, with scarcely sense enough to know when he’s hungry, or to feed himself when he’s hungry, yet endowed with a musical gift far beyond the average musician,” noted a story in the January 15, 1895, Colorado Daily Chieftain.

The concert included a variety of musical selections, including his own compositions. He also included “piano imitations” of various other musical instruments and sound effects, to a receptive audience. 

January 18, 1895 - Colorado Weekly Chieftain

A glowing review of the concert, published by the Chieftain, downplayed any previous behaviors which were deemed a novelty act. “It would be a multiplication of words to attempt to describe the wonderful talent for music this man has. There never has been his equal. In his playing of high-class compositions, he displays his marvelous memory and appreciation of the fine phrasing in them. His playing is perfect.”

In April 1908 Tom Wiggins suffered a major stroke. He died the following June. He was buried in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York. His story has been the subject of numerous books, documentaries, songs (Elton John’s “The Ballad of Blind Tom”) and artistic murals. The residents of his hometown, Columbus, GA., erected a commemorative tombstone for him, 68 years after his passing.

Monday, December 20, 2021

A Denver Christmas LP and the Mysterious Death of Bobby Bizup

There is no easy way to segue a Colorado Christmas record with the story of a suspicious death of a child, but sadly these two go hand in hand. Just giving you a heads-up that this post takes on a (very) disturbing note.

The Cathedral Choir was founded in 1912, by the late Rt. Rev. Joseph J. Bosetti (1886-1954). It was based at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (located at 401 E. Colfax), and made up of a volunteer group of Denver-area men and boys, from Catholic parishes around the city. 

Monsignor Richard Hiester

This 1964 LP credits Monsignor Richard Hiester, who took over the group after Monsignor Bosetti passed away. The album features the voices of 64 men and boys, who perform classical Christmas selections. Vocal soloists include Mike Hannigan, William Trinnier, Rose Enevold, and Ray Kellogg. It features organist Alan Hobbs and harpist Helen Lunn. No clue on the bulldog pictured on the front cover.

Listen to "Silent Night"

Now for the horrific connection.

Rev. Hiester's name would be linked with the death of Bobby Bizup, the ten-year-old, hearing-impaired boy who went missing at Camp St. Malo, in 1958. Hiester was the camp director, at the time. While he was never implicated in the case, the death cast suspicion on other priests, who worked at the camp. To this day, nobody has been charged with a crime. Bobby's partial remains would be found, in 1959. In a bizarre twist, a skull was discovered in the possession of Tom McCloskey, the son of Dr. Joseph McCloskey – a prominent member of the Catholic Church and a close friend of the Rev. Hiester. The skull has been turned over to the FBI, which is conducting a full forensic evaluation.

Joseph McCloskey died in 1980, and Tom McCloskey said he took possession of the skull a couple of years later, unaware of its history.

Earlier this year, Denver's 9News called attention to the unsolved case, which continues to intrigue the public, 63 years later (link to 9News documentary on the case) According to the investigative report, "Father Hiester told reporters that Bobby had been fishing and had failed to follow a counselor and other boys back to the main lodge for dinner. A search party went out that night, and within days hundreds of people, aided by bloodhounds and aircraft, were in the woods looking for the boy." At the same time, National Park Service documents obtained by 9News show that "Rev. Neil Hewitt discovered the bone and piece of clothing on July 3, 1959. However, Father Hiester didn’t report it to the park service until three days later, on July 6."

Monsignor Hiester died in 1993. He is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Merry Christmas From The Colorado Public Service Company Employee Choir

Here's an interesting holiday find - a 1963 single-sided 10" promotional Christmas record from the Colorado Public Service Company employee choir.

Listen to the intro (additional information at :43)

Conductor Forest Fishel (1899-1982) was the choir teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School, and later head of the music department at the University of Denver.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Marvin Hayutin

So I recently got a message from a reader who asked me why I don't feature classical music on my blog.

Good question. I own up to the fact that it's not really a genre I know much about, but that's not an excuse, as the Internet pretty much makes anyone an instant expert. 

Here's a 1956 LP I recently found, at the big thrift chain here in Denver.

 Listen to "Eli Eli"

The album is from classical tenor Marvin Hayutin. As a bonus, the find also came with song listing brochure, with a Denver address on the envelope.

Let's do some research...

 Radio Retailing - September 1945

Born in 1916, Marvin Hayutin attended West High School, and worked with his father as a Garod radio distributor, in Denver. 

The time between 1945 and the 1956 album above is not well documented. The liner notes of the album mentions that he studied voice with Florence Lamont Hinman (Denver's Lamont School of Music), Katherine Bowman, and Horace Davis. Apparently he also worked on Wall Street, at some point. 

Found a 1959 Billboard mention of his LP I Saw You Smile - "An album with the appeal of all members of the family with pop tunes, waltzes, religious selections, and children's songs. Pleasing tenor voice." Also reviewed in Cash Box, it was described as "much delight."

He also released the album Songs My Mother Taught Me

Hayutin was also a music composer, as I discovered a copyright reference for the songs "The Chop Top Song" and "Pat Cat." Harold Orlob is also credited. The co-composer was well known for his "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now," made famous by everyone from Bing Crosby to Harry Nilsson.

Marvin Hayutin passed away in 1973, at the age of 57. He is buried at Mount Nebo Cemetery, Denver.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Instrumental in Pueblo’s Growth - The Origins of Steel City Music Stores

NOTE: This piece is also published in the December 2021 issue of the Pueblo County Historical Society The Lore.

In the late 1860s, Michigan physician and surgeon, Dr. J.W.O Snyder came to the newly-established town of Pueblo with a hope of setting up his medical practice. But when he arrived in town, he discovered that only a handful of businesses lined the dirt roads, and stores for basic necessities were nonexistent.

 Fourth and Fifth Streets of Santa Fe Avenue, Spring 1870. Picture shows the X-10-U-8 Saloon, Dr. J.W.O. Snyder’s shoe store and news depot (center), and the office of lawyers A.A. Bradford and Henry C. Thatcher (photo courtesy of the Pueblo City-County Library) 

Having just been appointed the city’s postmaster, he decided to open a book and stationery business. But his entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop there. The store also carried toys, games, shoes…and musical instruments – violins, guitars, and banjos. 

June 20, 1874 Ad – Colorado Daily Chieftain (Pueblo)

By the 1860s, Pueblo civic leaders were focused on establishing the new city’s infrastructure. While there had been Masonic balls, and occasional dances and concerts, entertainment was low priority. But by 1869, on the northside of Seventh Street, Conley Hall (later known as the Thespian Theater and Montgomery’s Opera House) was built. The Pueblo Cornet Band would be one of the first organized music groups, in the city. 

Dr. Snyder’s music-related inventory also expanded, and he began carrying larger musical instruments, including pianos and organs. An 1874 ad in the Weekly Chieftain noted “If you want a fine piano or good organ, go to Snyder’s book and music store.” 

 In 1873, William W. Knight arrived in Denver, along with his brother Frank A. Knight. The two had left Michigan to find their fame and fortune in Colorado. The two teamed up with Asahel K. Clark to open a sewing machine business. In 1876, they added musical instruments to their offerings. Three years later Clark decided to leave the business, and sold his ownership to W.W. Waterbury. The store would go on to be renamed Knight Brothers and Waterbury. By 1879 their Lawrence Street music store was a huge success, and the owners began to think about expanding, to Pueblo. The following year they set up shop on Santa Fe Avenue.

March 5, 1881 – Colorado Weekly Chieftain (Pueblo) 

The store employed Mrs. D.M. King, as manager. In a May 1881 Chieftain story, it was implied that the new business, under her leadership, was trying to keep up with the demand for pianos. “Mrs. D.M. King, in charge of Knight Brothers & Waterbury’s Music Store in this city, has disposed of a piano every day this week so far, and informed us last evening that she anticipated negotiating another sale today. She deserves all the success with which she is meeting.” 

Possibly following the lead of the Knight Brothers, Pueblo began seeing more and more non-music stores carrying music-related items. In 1880 J.R. Shaw, a Santa Fe Avenue sewing machine seller, expanded his offerings to include sheet music and instruments. In 1881, brothers F.A. and C.M. Wells purchased the Richardson Building, at the corner of Sixth Street and Santa Fe, and announced that they too would be opening a music store, known locally as “The Temple of Music.” Interestingly, the clothing store Roworth & Veatch, located at 81 Union Avenue, also carried sheet music, and was known as “The Temple of Fashion.”

September 30, 1883 – Colorado Daily Chieftain (Pueblo) 

With three major music dealers on one street, the Chieftain took notice. A May 12, 1882 story announced that Santa Fe Avenue will “give people music day and night.” 

 In 1883, the Schreiber Rowcroft Quartette made their performing debut. The band was being booked for almost any engagement, which required musical entertainment, and they became instant local celebrities. 

November 8, 1883 – Colorado Weekly Chieftain (Pueblo) 

At some point the group became known simply as the Schreiber Orchestra. Possibly parlaying on their popularity, the family opened a music store, at Seventh and Main.

January 21, 1896 – Colorado Daily Chieftain (Pueblo) 

By 1885, the Knight Brothers and Waterbury store had changed ownership, to become Knight-McClure. They highlighted the addition of A.G. Haupt, a piano tuner “direct from Steinway & Sons, New York.” 

April 28, 1890 – Colorado Daily Chieftain (Pueblo) 

Opening in 1888, in the basement of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, at Fifth and Santa Fe, Crews-Beggs Dry Goods promoted “thousands of pieces of sheet music” at its store.

By the late 1800s, possibly sensing a goldmine in a newly-established town, additional Denver music stores began expanding to Pueblo. 

In 1882, at age 21, John Henrich moved to Denver, and worked as a clerk in E. F. Merriam's piano and organ store. Soon joined by his sister and brother-in-law, Lydia Henrich and Charles H. Walker, the trio soon opened the J. S. Henrich & Co. music store. Within five years, the store opened in Pueblo. 

“He(i)nrich & Co have decided to open a music store in Pueblo, and have rented the east room in the Maple Block, on west Fourth Street.” – Colorado Daily Chieftain, 1887. 

However, within the year, the Pueblo store closed. It’s inventory was acquired by W.W. Montelius and Co., a Denver music store, who had recently set up a Pueblo store front at 112 West Fourth Street (later Seventh and Main). As noted in the ad below, Charles Schreiber would later be affiliated with the Montelius Piano Company.

February 16, 1896 – Colorado Daily Chieftain (Pueblo) 

Around that same time, George C. Harper and his wife, Annie opened the Pueblo Music House (sometimes known as “Harper’s Music Store”). The shop was located at 307 N. Main, and offered pianos and organs “sold on easy payments.” It’s claim to fame was offering the Harper Guitar, an instrument designed by Mr. Harper, and sold exclusively at the store.

March 14, 1896 – Colorado Daily Chieftain (Pueblo)

In 1898 the Pueblo Music House went out of business, and its contents were sold to N. E. Motherway and partners A.V. Bradford, and J.H. McCorkle. 

On October 6, 1898 the Chieftain published an article of incorporation for Silver State Music. The owners were listed as Ohio transplant (and former Knight-McClure music store employee) L.M. Kieffer and jeweler Frank H. Frankenberg, Jr. While previous music stores had barely received a note in the local paper, the arrival of Silver State Music was announced with a lengthy story. “Music loving people of Pueblo and the public at large are assured that a long felt want is being supplied by the location of such a desirable branch of grade, and it will and much to the many industries and the progressiveness of “the Pittsburg of the West…the Chieftain hails them welcome.” 


April 23, 1899 – Colorado Daily Chieftain (Pueblo) 

Silver State Would set itself apart from the other music operations, by publishing its own sheet music. In 1900 “Where the Golden Daisies Grow,” composed by Silver State owner Lowell Kieffer (with lyrics by Francis E. Nelson) was published. 

Silver State wouldn’t be the only early Pueblo sheet music publisher. Western Music Co., housed at 205 E. Fourth St., would press its own compositions, including the 1906 “When the Columbine’s In Blossom Bessie Dear,” by Frank W. Sterns and Edmund Leischke.

The new century would bring adversity to Silver State. In 1916 a fire at a nearby store spread to the shop, destroying it, along with Dondeo Woolen Mills, and Scribner and Co. 

As World War I raged, Pueblo would soon be home to other local sheet music publishing houses, which quickly took advantage of the need for patriotic songs. These companies included E.D. Moyer (1917’s “Bonnie Land of Freedom”) the Cooperative Music Union (1917’s “Betty My Own”), and the prolific F.B. Martin (the 1918 compositions “America in War,” “Follow The Flag,” “Off to France,” “The Pacifist Song,” “Uncle Sam Will Fight,” and “At the Call of the Bugle”). 

Lowell M. Kieffer would pass away in 1918. Silver State Music would continue, but its location would be destroyed, in the 1921 flood. According to a story in the Chieftain, “The management of the Silver State Music Co. estimates that it will require sixty days to clean up the debris, and then the business will he resumed.” 

The business would later move to 206 N. Main. 

Between 1918-1919, the city would see two more music stores open – Knight-Campbell, and D.Z. Phillips. The Denver-based Knight-Campbell, previously of Knight-McClure mentioned above, opened a store in Pueblo, at 420 Main Street. The grand opening included a performance by Denver singer, Rose Hilts. D.Z. Phillips’ store was located at 627 N. Main. 

When it came to promotion, Phillips Music would one-up Silver State’s sheet music publishing, by creating its own band, the Phillips Crusaders. Members included musical youth, who would later wear military uniforms, and subtlety hyped the music store, while being staples of Pueblo parades during that era.

Phillips would later become vice president of the Bennett Music Company, in Santa Barbara, CA. He died in 1952, in California.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Spring Singers


Photo courtesy of The Harmonizer - July/August 2019

Added this doo-wop LP to my stash, courtesy of my fellow Colorado digger Mike Stelk. I immediately noticed the KCMS notation on the label, which indicated that it was recorded at Bud Edmonds' Manitou Springs studio.

 Listen to "How Come You Do Me Like You Do / Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas"

Nice barbershop harmonies, with an evident doo-wop vibe. The label reads that it was recorded in 1956. It noted Bill Trego as the producer. The group included tenor Bill Butler. lead Bill Brooks, baritone Vic Holmes, and bass Monty Duerksen. I'm guessing this is a very limited edition release, as it notes "present for our friends" under the singer credits.

A quick search finds that Duerksen, formerly of Newton, KS, formed the Spring Singers when he arrived in Colorado Springs, while stationed at Camp Carson (later Fort Carson). According to his obituary (he passed away February 25, 2020), "While there, he put up a bulletin board notice seeking quartet singers and thus was born his first barbershop society quartet, the Spring Singers." In 2004 he was inducted in the Barbershop Harmony Society's Central States District Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information on the three other members. Of course, drop me a line if you know more.


Monday, November 15, 2021

La Dama De Los Ojos Verdes

Was recently offered this incredible find, from my dear friend Joel Scherzer. A Spanish-language take on Denver-based band Sugarloaf's Top Five hit, "Green-Eyed Lady," by The White Lines de Paco Sanchez.

Listen to "La Dama De Los Ojos Verdes"

Now, before I get messages on this, this is not the same Paco Sanchez, who is considered the "Father of Hispanic Radio" in Denver. That Paco came to town in 1948. Yes, while he was a lead singer of a musical group (and later a member of the Colorado House of Representatives, and namesake of Paco Sanchez Park), he had moved on to social reform causes, which I doubt included him resurrecting his musical career, at this late stage in life. He passed away in 1973, at the age of 57.

It's actually the group Las Lineas Blancas.

Paco Sanchez is listed as a member. The band put out an 1971 self-titled LP, which includes "La Dama De Los Ojos Verdes" (Caytonics CYS 1293). I found a listing of this group in Florida, and also Mexico.

So now I'm wondering how many Colorado-centric English-language songs were recorded in different languages? Idly wondering if there is a version of "Alto De Las MontaƱas Rocosa" out there. I'll keep hunting!

Monday, November 8, 2021

Stairway to Heaven from Gateway High School, Aurora

(NOTE: Rick Kurtz, who I interviewed for this piece, passed away on October 27).

Hey all! So 50 years ago today, Led Zeppelin released the signature power ballad "Stairway to Heaven."


I had always wondered if I would run into a Led Zeppelin cover in my quest for obscure Colorado vinyl finds. A Page/Plant song had always eluded me, until I found this Aurora high school LP in a Colorado Springs thrift. To my absolute shock, the record was inside another Colorado high school album, so sadly there isn't a cover to go along with it.

Listen to "Stairway to Heaven"

The kids at Aurora's Gateway High School are to thank for this find. Recorded in 1974, and directed by Eugene Matsuura, the album features several pop covers (included the Beatles "Hey Jude," Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Simon and Garfunkel's "Dangling Conversation," and "The Theme From the Men" the short-lived TV show, with the theme written by Issac Hayes). 

Gateway High School Pops Ensemble (click to enlarge). Rick Kurtz standing in second row, holding guitar - Photo courtesy of Kenton Adler

I tracked down a few members of the group who filled me in a bit on the recording.

"I don't know if you would call me the lead singer on that record," said Kenton Adler. " I sang the opening verse, and the harmony parts. I'm pretty sure it's me on 'As we wind on down the road...'. Marianne Ledder was one of the flutes."

"Everybody was all for including the song on the album," said Marianne Ledder Sellers. "I think Gene [Matsuura] just gave it to us, and we were cool with it. He did all of the arranging. I think it took more than one take to record the song."

"Gene Matsuura did a really cool arrangement on that record," said Adler. "I think Robyn Smith was the other flute, along with Marianne. The electric guitars were Rick Kurtz and Dennis Guin. Rick went on to a music career in Nashville." (Side note: Rick Kurtz was a guitarist with Delbert McClinton, T. Graham Brown, Webb Wilder and others).

 "I don't have a great memory of the Pops Ensemble," said Rick Kurtz. "I think Kenton has a better recollection, than me. All I remember is that it was the only class I enjoyed, and one of the only I took, as I had quite a few credits from attending Australian schools, for a few years, previous to Denver."

Other members included Dave Dawes, Brad Westhoff, Sarah Maruyama, Kim White, Lud Villani, Calvin Erbert, and Mike Collins.

"A guy named Dan Daniels was the recording engineer," said Adler. "He brought portable equipment, and microphones, and we did it in the choir room at Gateway, in one day. He had a studio near Hinkley High School, in an industrial complex."

Monday, November 1, 2021


Here's a genre head scratcher.

"Rhinestone rock, featuring an expressive disco-influenced female vocalist, invoking powerful visions of a 70s couple under mirrored balls, in downtown velvet sofa nightclubs, decorated with day glow zodiac wall paintings. Mystic sideshow under tones of occult and science fiction." - Subliminal Sounds

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

Listen to "The Rings of Saturn"

Saturn is singer Flavia Williams and a backing band - Peter Anthony, Perry Sheafor, Bard Hoff (Street School, and later of Kinesis), and later-Zephyr percussionist, Ken Lark (Heartbeat). Recorded Radiant Star, in Loveland. The LP comes with a nine-page lyric booklet.

The six-song album also included an invitation to the group's LP 1978 release party, in Fort Collins (including a talk on the record engineering process, by Radiant's Bruce Brunson). The invitation also noted that attendees would have an opportunity to purchase a "special limited edition, signed album."

Flavia Williams passed away March 23, 2017.  According to her obituary, Flavia Williams-Florezell was born in 1955. She graduated from Colorado State University, with a degree in theatre.  The tribute noted that she was closely associated with director Peter Anthony.

She would go on to appearing in a number of Fort Collins and Denver theatre productions. Her last performance was in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Wonder of the World at the Bas Bleu Theatre, in Fort Collins.

In 2020 the LP was re-released by Subliminal Sounds, in Sweden.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Emmett Ryder

Emmett Ryder and his Orchestra poster - no year (watermarked) 

Found this Emmett Ryder poster at an estate sale, up in Denver, recently. Great piece of ephemera, for a concert down in Manitou Springs.

I mentioned Emmett and his band in a piece I did on some University of Colorado newspapers.

Hiawatha Gardens postcard

Emmett Ryder was a very popular band leader. In doing research, I found his band mentioned in almost every college prom and dance announcement, of the era. 

For this concert (no date noted) he included vocalist Dominic Cesario, and vibraphonist Bob Hanna.  

Photos from the author's collection (watermarked)

I first found a mention of Emmett Ryder, in a 1933 story, in the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the Colorado State University student newspaper, as a student performer. The last entry I found, of his band performing, was in 1946. As is often the case, the trail goes cold, after that.

Hiawatha Gardens was a historic "gentleman's resort," beer garden, casino, ballroom, concert venue, and restaurant in Manitou Springs. The original Hiawatha Gardens main building was built in 1889 by F. L. M. ("Flimflam") Smith, and burned down in 1920. A separate open-air dancing pavilion (built in the late 1890s) survived the fire, and was incorporated into the current structure, which was built to replace the one that burned. The new building continued to operate as a dance hall and night club into the 1950s. In 2021, the structure underwent a partial demolition along Fountain Creek just east of City Hall. The city is tearing down additions to the original dance hall that were made between 1921 and 1955 and have become structurally unsound over the years. 


Monday, October 18, 2021

Bob Roller Recordings


Found this Denver label flexi-disc record, during a thrift dig, recently. Not a lot to go on, so hoping a reader can fill me in.

Bob Roller Recordings - "Perfection in the Wax" is noted on side one of the record. It also shows a phone number of "Race 1424." According to Denver telephone history notations, 1941 saw two new exchanges added - Race in the spring and Alpine in the fall. Dexter was added in spring 1942. 

Sadly, as you can image with a flexi that's possibly 80 years old, the disc quality is atrocious, so I won't be able to share any audio clips.

Side one includes a church choir, singing an unrecognizable song. The flip side includes an unidentified male announcer. He indicates that the recording is from the choir of the Calvary Baptist Church, in Denver. He notes that "hundreds of men, and a few women" in the church are currently serving "in the war effort," so this just reaffirms that we're talking around 1941. He also mentions that the new church bulletin is now called The Messenger. On the church's own history page of its website, it too mentions the bulletin's name change, that year. 

I found a Bob Roller mentioned in a 1964 issue of the Denver Catholic Register as being the president of Electronics Services, Inc.  

In a 1968 issue of the Denver Catholic Register, I discovered a photo of Bob Roller, who is listed as the English teacher at Blessed Sacrament school. He is shown in a photo, with his students, at the KLZ television studios.

(click to enlarge)

I could find no other information on Bob Roller, or the label which shares his name. As always, if you have any additional tidbits on this, please let me know.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Randy Lee

Picked up this Colorado Springs LP from my friend, Mike Stelk, the "encyclopedia of Colorado music history," recently. Another "off my radar" find, I'm grateful that he offered to me.

This all-instrumental jazzy piano lounge record doesn't offer a lot of clues, as to its history. No year is noted. I'm going to guess 1964, based on what I dug up, below. It doesn't sound like a "live" recording, as there is no audience banter or applause. Bill Cook, of KRYT radio is listed under "sound."

Listen to "You Came A Long Way From St. Louis"

A few credits are mentioned, namely Jerry Teske on bass, drummer Tommy Thompson, and Herman Raymond, on bongos. 

I noted Jerry in a story I did, back in 2018. In that piece, I found out that he was a private vocal coach, and regular entertainer at Figaro's Restaurant, who also served as the choral director for Palmer High School, in Colorado Springs. He passed away in 2017.  His obituary indicated that he also performed for the Grace Episcopal Taylor Choir, Colorado Springs Chorale, Abendmusik, Colorado Opera Festival, Opera Theatre of the Rockies, and the western group, The Trailriders.

Drummer Tommy Thompson would appear on the Just Jack LP by Jack Harry and the Sammy Colon Trio.

Bongo player (and also listed as "art director") Herman Raymond was a Colorado Springs fine artist, and was listed as "a friend" of Lee's, and who also wrote the liner notes, on the back of the LP.

Bill Cook was the owner of  KRYT radio. He sold the station in 1979 (the FM side later became KKCS). He was also behind the recording of the Mike and Fran LP.

It's quite possible it was recorded at the old Alamo Hotel, on S. Tejon, where Lee was a regular entertainer, for several years. The front cover picture was shot at the Alamo Hotel. 

 (Colorado Springs Gazette - June 14, 1964)

In a 1964 newspaper ad, it noted that he was coming back from a six-month engagement in Hawaii. It also noted that he played for three years at the Ent Air Force Base Officer's Club. 

Lee made the rounds, when it came to Colorado Springs venues - I found stories and advertisements of his performing at the Eldorado Lounge, on east Pikes Peak, the Embers on Wahsatch, the Garden Valley Restaurant, on S. Circle, Wee G's on Pikes Peak Blvd., the Gourmet Table, the Medallion Hotel on Bijou, and the Chateau Motor Inn, and Pierre's, both on South Nevada.

The last newspaper notation I found on Mr. Lee was in 1970, performing at the Sportsman Steakhouse, located on W. Las Vegas.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Betty Finch - Short in Stature, Big in Voice


Digging at an estate sale, last week, and discovered this Audiodisc recording of "You're The Cause of it All" by a singer named Betty Finch. There was nothing on it, noting if it was a Colorado recording, but I'm a sucker for these mystery discs.

Put it on a turntable, and discovered it a cover of the 1946 Sammy Cahn-penned (Freddy Martin) song, of the same name.

 Listen to "You're The Cause of it All" - Betty Finch

A quick Internet search revealed that the singer, Betty Finch, was indeed a Denver resident, with aspirations of being a professional singer. I found a 1939 story noting that she had won a whopping $2,000, as a winner in a movie quiz.

Greeley Daily Tribune - February 28, 1939

The undated photo of her (above) shows a cutline on the back:

"This is to aquatint you with the forthcoming honorary presentation of an award of merit to Miss Betty Finch, of 4544 Zuni Street. On February 26, Miss Finch, a 3 foot high glamorous young lady will be given honors by Governor Dan Thornton on behalf of Fanfare Community Service, on the occasion of her 150th benefit performance. Miss Finch, one of Fanfare's thirty emcees, also qualifies as a combination vocalist and pianist. She will receive the certificate award at the 1550 benefit show, of the organization at Fitzsimons Army Theatre, with 1500 patients. Betty is a graduate of Boetcher School, in Denver, and has won in several competitions, one of which was the runner-up honors on the Broadmoor Radio Competition."

Governor Thornton served from 1951-1955, which indicates that she probably entertained Korean War soldiers.

Sadly, as is often the case. I couldn't find any additional information on her.