Monday, September 20, 2021

Red Rocks Radio Jingle

So 80 years ago, this year, Red Rocks Amphitheater was officially dedicated. I'm not going to cut and paste the history of the venue, as there is plenty already documented, but...

Here's something I have NEVER seen (or heard) - a Red Rocks radio jingle!

I can't take credit for this incredible discovery. It was found by my dear friend Mike Stelk, who offered the disc to me. I can't thank him enough for doing so.

:35 Red Rocks radio jingle

Is that great, or what?

No information on who is singing the jingle. There is absolutely no identifying marks, no year noted, and nothing etched in the run out. The plain white label notes three :35 cuts and two :10 cuts, which are the same on each side. It's quite possible this is a one-of-a-kind find.

:10 Red Rocks radio jingle



Monday, September 13, 2021

Leslie Fore

I'm constantly surprised when I find a Colorado record, which has completely slipped through the cracks of my collection. So is the case with this 1981 EP from Leslie Fore.

My Colorado Home shows the total of four songs, and not much else. The songs are performed by Thomas Roland. The genre could be described as antiseptic, and very dated. I wish I could offer more of a review, but there really is not much to elaborate here. The lyrics and singing style on this record are more 1931, instead of 1981. No credits mentioned on the backing musicians. I'm guessing that the music is quite possibly a simple backing track, as it sounds almost the same on every cut.

 Listen to "In The Garden of the Gods"

 Leslie Fore's history is far more interesting, and helps solve the mystery of this album.

1955 Photo of Leslie Fore (Denver Post - watermarked)

Born in 1896, Fore was a one-time bandleader, and a dedicated sheet music collector, with an emphasis on Colorado-themed songs. He was also an elevator operator at the Colorado Historical Museum.

 
October 6, 1960 - Monroe (Louisiana) News Star

In a 1938 issue of Hobbies - The Magazine for Collectors, Fore placed an advertisement for souvenirs, postcards and novelties. The ad noted his 1525 E. 30th Street home address, in the Whittier neighborhood of Denver.

In 1954, the U.S. Copyright Office showed his Success Music Publishing Company was located at 3151 High Street, near the corner of what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and High St.
 
According to copyright filings, Fore not only collected Colorado sheet music, but he also composed it, dating back to 1922. 
 
1922
"Miranda on the Old Veranda"
 
1936
"In The Garden of the Gods I'll Wait for You" 

1954
"My Colorado Home"

1965
"Angel In My Dreams"
 
1974
"I'll Wait At the Gates of Heaven"
"You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone"
 
Sadly, I couldn't find an actual printed piece of his sheet music. I checked with Tom Merry, my go-to on anything sheet music related, and he had nothing related to this composer. The 1936 "In the Garden of the Gods" and the 1954 "My Colorado Home" both show up on his 1981 album, which explains why this disc sounds about 40 years older than it's original year released. 
 
I also couldn't find anything related to Mr. Fore's time as a bandleader.

Fore died in 1992, at the age of 96. He is buried at Fairmount Cemetery (marker below). 




Monday, September 6, 2021

Pueblo Signs on the Air – The Origins of Steel City Radio

In 1919, Colorado Springs amateur radio enthusiast Dr. William D. “Doc” Reynolds, Jr began a short-range broadcast, under the call sign 9JE. A few months later, according to a May 13, 1920 story, titled “Dance Music by Wireless Transmitted by Reynolds,” published in the Colorado Springs Gazette, “Pupils at the High school [didn’t identify which one] who experiment in wireless telephony and telegraphy received the canned music from the home of Dr. W. D. Reynolds last night, and tripped the light fantastic to it with satisfaction.” 

 Two years after that experiment, the Reynolds Radio Company would launch the first radio station in Colorado, KLZ. The Denver-based station broadcast a 5,000-watt signal, reaching Pueblo, which would not be far behind with its own radio presence. 

KFGB 

In 1922, George G. Loewenthal was the first to bring a radio station to Pueblo – or at least a radio license. In the February 1923 issue of The Wireless Age, KFGB was officially listed in the Broadcasting Station Directory. In a February 17, 1923 issue of Radio World, it was noted that there were “six new broadcasters,” who had been licensed by the Department of Commerce, including KFGB, in Pueblo, which was owned by “The Loewenthal Brothers.” 

 
(click to enlarge)

According to the filing, the studio was located at 616-618 N. Main Street, which was also the location of Loewenthal’s electrical contracting and Apex brand vacuum cleaner shop. 

Pueblo Chieftain – February 20, 1921 

While KFGB would be the “first” radio station application, in Pueblo, there is very little known about the station’s programming format, its announcers, or if it even ever went on the air. 

 Just a year later, in the 1923 Radio Service Bulletin, issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, KFGB was on a list of stations to “strike out all particulars,” implying that the station was no longer on the air – if it was ever on, at all. The radio call letters would later go to a station in Iowa City, IA. 

While there is no documentation that KFGB ever broadcast, and can’t be officially noted as the “first” radio station in Pueblo, there is quite a bit of information confirming that KGDP holds the honors. 

KGDP 

 (click to enlarge - sorry for the blurriness)  - Fort Collins Coloradan (year unknown) 

 In 1922, KGDP would join the local Pueblo radio dial - as the first and only radio station, in the United States (at the time), run entirely by Boy Scouts. 

Heard at 1340 on the radio dial (later switching to 1210), according to a June, 1922 report from the Department of Commerce, KGDP was listed as operating at 2927 High Street, (the residence of John D Price, scout commissioner of Pueblo). 

“The station has a recorded distance of 400 miles and occasionally, under favorable auspices, even longer, and sends out programs regularly on Tuesday and Friday evenings. On the first, strictly scouting programs are rendered. On Thursdays programs are arranged with local participants but with an effort to use scouts or scout parents, where talent is available” - 17th Annual Report of the Boy Scouts of America (1926) 

According to coverage of the first evening of broadcast, in the Pueblo Chieftain, “Thursday night’s program, as broadcasted by Pueblo scout station KGDP was the first that has ever been broadcasted from Pueblo. This very fact, in itself is a significant achievement…” 

 The first broadcast featured scout “bugle caller” Carl Christenson, along with vocalist Miss Ethel Yund, and John R. Elliot, on horn. Other performers that night were bassist Thomas A. Christian, Miss Ruth Lyons on violin, R. M. Miller “a tenor soloist,” Thomas Christian and Charlies Wilson (who performed a duet), and Miss Majorie Starkweather, who gave a reading entitled “ The Little Mixer.” 

The Boy Scout-run station received quite a bit of national publicity, for the unique staffing. The New York Times featured KGDP in its February 12, 1927 edition. “Boy Scouts of Pueblo have their own broadcasting station, KGDP, from which programs are radioed Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. This, so far, as is known, is the only station maintained and operated by the Boy Scouts, although one station is New York City, and one in Kingston, N.Y., and one or two elsewhere, have time to time operated under Boy Scout assistance.” 

 KGDP would be the model for other scouting organizations, looking to teach members how to operate a radio station. Under the headline Scouts Operate Radio Station, the Hutchinson (Kansas) News reported, in its February 26, 1927 edition, that “Hutchinson Boy Scouts are invited to tune in on their radios for the programs which are being offered every Tuesday and Friday by station KGDP scout-owned broadcasting plant located in Pueblo, Colo.” 

The story went on to note that the “executive board of the Pueblo council raised funds to send an older scout to Chicago for training as an operator for the station.” 

 
Boy’s Life – May, 1927 

H.E. Hedlund was listed as the station announcer. In the 1927 issue of Santa Fe magazine, He was noted as a violinist and vocalist. Programming on KGDP was furnished by scouts, or their parents. It broadcast on a 261 meter wave and operated on 10 watts of power. 

The last notation of KGDP, with the U.S. Department of Commerce, would appear in 1930. 

KGHA 

On December 9, 1927, George H. Sweeney and N.S. Walpole were granted a radio broadcasting license for a 50 watt (later 500 watt) station, located at 1200 on the radio dial. 

 Sweeney ran the Globe Fire Insurance & Investment Co., located at 206 W 4th. He was also listed as vice president of Pueblo Foundry and Machine Co. Walpole listed his occupation as a postmaster, and secretary-treasurer of the Pueblo Club. 

No additional information could be found on this station. 

KGHF 

On October 27, 1927, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a license to (later state senator) Curtis P. Ritchie and Joe Finch. Other records show the names Philip G. Lasky and J.H. Albert. J.H. McGill was noted as the news editor. The station would have the call letters KGHF. 

Radio reception stamp for KGHF 

KGHF was the first to have a station slogan, “The Voice of Pueblo.” It broadcast at 1350 at 1,000 watts in the day and 500 watts at night, at 1430, on the radio dial, daily from 8:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 4:00-11:00 p.m. 

The studios were located in the Broadway Arcade Building.

Programming included public affairs shows, featuring John F. Connors, who was also in the Public Affairs Department at Lowry Field. The station also broadcast “You and the Law,” a syndicated program, produced by the Colorado Bar Association. Later, the station would feature live instrumental music from Walsenburg accordion player Mario Carreri, and country music by Jimmie and Dick and the Novelty Boys with Cora Deane. 

In 1945, KGHF sold for $300,000. The station was purchased by Colorado publisher Gifford Phillips (of the East Jefferson Sentinel and the Jefferson County Republican). 

In an April 25, 1947 FCC application for construction permits for KGHF, it was noted that were “only two stations in Pueblo – KGHF and KADP…and a third station has been authorized – KCSJ.” 

KGHF would keep the original call letters until 1964, when the station used KKAM (1964-1976). The station would go on to change its call letters several times, in its history. 

 Other early stations 

Over the next twenty years, there were new radio licenses in Pueblo, implying that KGHF was the lone local Pueblo station, in that time. 

In 1947, longtime Pueblo stations KCSJ and KDZA signed on. While the history of both has been well-documented, very little is known about two other Pueblo stations, which applied for, and received licenses for broadcast – KADP and KROM: 

KADP 

In 1947, the son of former Colorado U.S. Senator (from 1923-1924 and 1933-1941) Alva B. Adams, and grandson of former Colorado Governor Alva Adams, applied for a construction permit for a new broadcast station. 

Alva B. Adams, Jr. who was the chairman of the Pueblo Bank & Trust, would call his station KADP. It would broadcast at 1490 on the radio dial. The official address on the application was noted (incorrectly) as 102 Arman Avenue (believed to be instead Orman Avenue – and the address of the Orman mansion, where Adams and his family lived ). 

For reasons unknown, on October 4, 1948, Adams cancelled the permit, and pulled out of putting a radio station in Pueblo. 

KROM 

Also in 1947, an FM permit was issued to Rocky Mountain Broadcasting Co., (which included Walter Hurd, owner of Hurd Pontiac Co; Carl Walter and Martin Walter Jr., operators of Walter’s Brewing Co., and A. G. Chamberlain, First Federal Savings and Loan Co.), for the station call letters KROM, which would be broadcast at 920 on the dial. The station’s studios were located at 429 Thatcher. However, according to the filing “the permit was dismissed for failure of prosecution.” The original story, in April 21, 1947 issue of Broadcasting, did not elaborate further.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Rock the Boat with the Gentry Brothers

Anyone who grew up in Sterling, during the 1960s-1970s knew the Gentry family, Rex and Phyllis, and their four sons - Bruce, Keith, Royce and Wayne. Rex helped build the original part of the Calvary Baptist Church, and the family were the former owners of the Spin Out roller rink. 

The Gentrys had always been active in the local church, and as the boys grew older, they started entertaining the congregation with their harmonies. According to an archived story in the Greeley Daily Tribune, the brothers performed for the first time, in 1953, at at the Cook Community Sing. 

 
Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph (June 12, 1976) - Click to enlarge.

At some point, the brothers were billed as performing both gospel and rock, as noted in this ad for the 1977 Greeley Farm Show (along with other known Colorado performers, Al Fike and Jim Turner).

 
Greeley Daily Tribune (January 24, 1977) - Click to enlarge

I've listened to my fair share of private-issue Colorado faith-based records. To be honest, most are hard to get all the way through, so I rarely have hope that one will surprise me.

The Gentry Brothers did, with their 1976 release of Jesus 1 The Only Way.

This album starts off with the stereotypical heavy-harmony, and I was thinking this is just another family gospel LP. But then it took on a moody loner folk vibe with side two, and "The Answer."

 Listen to a sample of "The Answer"

But the biggest surprise was the use of the Hues Corporation 1974 hit "Rock the Boat." Changing the lyrics, but keeping the obviously immediately-recognized melody. This will teach me to listen to an album all the way through. 

Listen to "Jesus" 

Wow. Just wow.  

Sadly the vocalists are not credited individually, so I have no clue which of the brothers is handling the lead on these songs. 

I couldn't find any other press on the brothers performing, past 1979. The Windsor Beacon mentioned they were going to be working on a second album, but I couldn't find anything indicating that it actually happened. In 2017, Bruce Gentry performed a solo concert for "First Friday @ First Presbyterian," in Sterling.

Whether one album was enough, or not, their debut has been discovered as a rarity, among a certain collectors. In 2014 Popsike recorded a selling price of $150 (although Discogs has it closer to $25).

Monday, August 23, 2021

Pete Smythe - "I've Been Robbed"

 

So I'm going through this massive stack of 1940s-era Down Beat music magazines, when I spot this story in a 1942 issue. It mentioned well-known Denver entertainer Pete Smythe and his long-time association with the old Cosmopolitan Hotel (formerly located at 1760 Broadway - demolished in 1984), Apparently ol' Pete had a run-in with the union contract waiters at the hotel, when he crossed the picket line. It inspired him to write a song about it, "I've Been Robbed." Apparently the argument didn't last long, as he then released a follow-up song, "I've Had a Change of Heart."

(Click photo to enlarge)

The story indicates that both songs are being played on NBC radio, but I have never been able to find an actual copy of a record. I'm wondering if the writer meant that the songs were being heard on KMYR radio, where Smythe was first a disc jockey (and had a regular show called "Meet The Boys in the Band"), before his long-time association with KOA radio and "The Pete Smythe General Store."

The story headline mentions big band pianist Henry King (1906-1974), who apparently had a long stretch at the Cosmo. King claimed to have recorded over 5,000 remote broadcasts for numerous networks during the group’s traveling career. The band's theme song was "A Blues Serenade." 

 If anyone happens to know of an actual (record) copy of "I've Been Robbed" or "I've Had a Change of Heart," I would love to hear it!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Record Digging: A Korean Caribbean Music LP... From Colorado

 

So I'm digging through a record bin, and come across a couple of 1990 Korean language (at least based on the liner notes) LPs entitled Due West Isle of St. Thomas. The album appears to have a smooth jazz Caribbean vibe, based on the cover art and song titles ("Toucan Strut," "Coconut Bay," Coral Reef Ballet"...). I was about to put it back, when I flipped over the album and noticed the record label address - Windsor, Colorado.

I obviously pick up both copies and head back to the house, to learn more.

Thank goodness for language translation apps. Although, I'm idly wondering just how accurate it is. See Korean-English translation below:


"Due West is a world-class musician Kip Kuepper, who was in the group Rare Silk, who was nominated for a Grammy, and Jim Ridi, from the jazz group Spyro Gyra. Accompaniment by Kim Stone. It is characterized by the refreshing saxophone performance of Ron Axelson. The debut album Isle of St. Thomas is a collection of homeways performances. The blend of smooth flowing rhythms and warn island sounds create a perfect heart passage for your life.  The Isle of St. Thomas album is casual, light, fast bit energy, and deep technique, giving you an unforgettable taste and aroma. Each track provides a view of cheerfulness, pleasure, joy and it is also a trip to warm the spirit and its purposed is to give a different feeling. The fresh sound of percussion and the smooth and beautiful melodic color playing along the river of various performances such as flute, mandolin, the new fusion sound that brightens the heart."

Ron Axelson was born in 1954, in Grand Junction. The liner notes mention that he moved to Nashville, before moving back to Colorado.

The players, as mentioned above, include Axelson (alto sax), Jim Ridi (keyboards), Kip Kuepper and Kim Stone (bass), along with Don Prorak (steel drums), Randy Chavez (guitar), and Mike Aggson (acoustic guitar).


The music has a very "drinking a mai tai, under an umbrella, watching the ocean" vibe to it. 

 Listen to a sample of "Coconut Bay" (1:10)

I couldn't find a domestic release of this vinyl album. It appears it was only released in Korea, as I found several links to the album, on Korean websites. 

In 1995, the album was reissued on CD, and was credited to Ron Axelson, rather than Due West. In a May 1996 issue of Mobile Beat, I found a review of the Isle of St. Thomas:

"A well-produced eight-cut CD on the Ivory Moon label. Ron's music is best described as a cross between Kenny G and Jimmy Buffett. All songs are a medium tempo, with a sunny Caribbean flavor, perfect for any type of event. But there's a twist - using the untapped marketing power of mobile DJs, Ivory Moon has begun a promotional mailing of the CD to mobiles across the country."

In 2006, he released another CD, Sun Tones.

I have messages into Ron, as well as the other players on the record. Hopefully we will soon learn more about the Korean-exclusive issue of this Colorado-made LP. Interesting, to say the least.


Monday, August 9, 2021

Golden Music's Massive Sheet Music Library

Hey all. A few weeks ago I was alerted about an incredible sheet music collection, being housed at Golden Music. The business has taken on a huge project - databasing each and every one of the donated items it currently has stored. We are talking thousands of pieces. It's a huge undertaking, but one which will preserve these important music pieces for decades to come.

We're talking pretty much every type of sheet music you can think of -  pieces from the 1800s to pop music of the 1990s. Seeing it in person is overwhelming. My thanks to project organizer Betsy Nelms, who graciously showed me the collection, and talked to me about the store's plans.

How did you all obtain this massive collection? 

Many people donate used sheet music to Golden Music. When Denver Musicians Association (DMA), the musicians' union, moved their offices to our building, they donated many boxes of sheet music.

What does the collection contain - what kind of music? 

We have had a lending library of school string orchestra music for many years. This library has string orchestra selections from very beginning level through advanced works suitable for high school and collegiate level. This repertoire ranges from classical style through newly written material and arrangements of Broadway and movie tunes. We also have had a music education program ever since the store was started over 20 years ago. The library has teaching materials for piano, electronic organ, every band and orchestra instrument, guitar, and classical voice and theatrical voice. The DMA donation included teaching materials for specific instruments, youth orchestra music, theatre orchestra music from early 20th century and dance band music.

Where did the pieces originate? 

Many individuals donate sheet music to the store, mostly instructional materials for instrumental lessons. The many boxes from DMA also came from various sources. I was told that some came from radio station KOA. In the early days of radio, many stations had their own in-house musicians who played live music on the air. A few of the folios are stamped with KOA National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). Most have no markings as to their original source. 

 How many pieces are there? 

As you saw when you visited Golden Music, there is a lot of music. The school orchestra lending library probably has well over 1,000 titles from very beginning level to advanced string orchestra. The school band lending library probably has about 100 titles and is expanding. There also is a full symphonic orchestra section (winds and strings) that has about 50 titles. The instructional materials for piano probably has about 250 titles. The materials for other instruments probably has 300 titles ranging from violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and a few others. The youth orchestra materials are of two types. The first was published by BMI in the early 1940's. There are probably 500 titles ranging from folksongs to arrangements of classical repertoire. The other type is a mix of original compositions for youth orchestra and arrangements of classical repertoire, published by various music publishing houses from late 1800's through mid-20th century. The octavo sized theatre orchestra materials are for a medium sized ensemble of strings and winds, maybe 15-20 players. This portion of the collection has well over 1,000 titles most of which are dance tunes and arrangements of popular songs of the early 20th century.

Do you need help with databasing or other archiving jobs - looking for volunteers? 

Currently, I am doing all the database entry and prefer to continue without assistance. However, when it is time to digitize this music, some help would be appreciated. 

Do you plan to sell any pieces? 

Alex Qualtire, co-owner of Golden Music, was quite adamant that nothing is for sale from this collection. 

Do you plan to make them available to the public - if so, how do you plan to do this? 

At the moment, only the string orchestra lending library, band music library, and the symphonic orchestra library are available for loan to teachers. There are no plans for the older music except to maintain it in archival storage. Once we really know what is in this collection, as I complete the database, Alex may be willing to loan out materials to teachers. 

Do you plan to digitize it? 

Once Alex agrees to lend a title, it will be digitized. Only the electronic version, not the fragile paper pages, will be allowed on loan. There are no plans yet to digitize the entire collection. The database can be made available to anyone who would be interested. 

What are some of the most interesting pieces you all have discovered? 

I found it quite interesting to see many pieces in the youth orchestra music by Irenee Berge who was a Frenchman who moved to the United States at the end of the 1800's to conduct orchestras. He is listed in Wikipedia although I don't know anyone today who knows his name. As I worked through the octavo theatre orchestra music, I found tunes that my mother used to sing. She was born in 1912 and was very familiar with popular tunes from 1920's, 1930's and into World War II era music. In all parts of the collection, there are patriotic tunes and medleys. Some represent tunes from the American Civil War, some from World War I and World War II. There are also many tunes that reflect the culture of early 20th century. with references to Hawaii, China, Japan, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. 

Are you accepting more pieces into the collection? If so, how can folks get those to you? 

Golden Music will always accept donations to these various types of library holdings as listed above. The donor should bring the music into the store, Golden Music, 10395 W. Colfax, Lakewood, 80215. The store is also active in assisting band and orchestra programs through the public, charter and private schools. 

Is it safe to say that is one of the largest (if not THE largest) collection of sheet music, in Colorado? Do you know of any other collections, this vast? 

In reality, this is a modest collection of sheet music. Quite likely local universities and school districts have a similar size or larger. What makes this collection unique is the amount of music of historical value. Although the string orchestra and band lending libraries have selections from the past 20-30 years, the majority of the youth orchestra music and the theatre/dance orchestra music comes from the first half of the 20th century.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Janie Fricke's First Record - The Colorado Connection

If Janie Fricke's path had gone the way her parents had hoped, she would have been a teacher.

"I was on a path toward elementary education," she said. "I was a student at the University of Indiana, but my love was music."

In between her studies, she would pick up singing gigs at "little restaurants" in her home state.

"I heard that there was a restaurant, in Elizbethtown, Kentucky, which was looking for a singer," she said. "So in between semesters, I went down there and  became a strolling minstrel, singing popular songs of the day, in between the tables at this restaurant."

One night a patron, so impressed with her vocals, suggested that she move to Memphis, and sing commercial and radio station jingles.

"This was around 1968. So I went down to Memphis and auditioned for this group, at Pepper Tanner studios. I didn't know what I was getting into. I was hired and immediately started singing. That's when I really fell in love with studio work."

While she was finding success as a backing vocalist and jingle singer, her family had other ideas.

"My parents wanted me to come back and finish my degree."

She would later return to Indiana, to earn her diploma, but the lure of a singing career kept her from using her university education. In between the books, she would try her luck in Los Angeles and Dallas.

"I went down to Texas and worked at TM Productions, doing radio station call letter jingles, and station IDs. We did so many, I couldn't even begin to tell you how many stations I did. On any given day, we would have a radio station representative come in and watch us record, then they would leave, and another radio station representative would come in, and we would record his station. This would go on and on, all day long. They would come in, from all over the United States."

She did remember one station ID, in particular, which included a then-unknown singer, Dan Seals.

"We were recording one for KLIF, there in Dallas. Dan was one of the other jingle singers. Of course, this was way before England Dan and John Ford Coley [and their 1976 #1 hit "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight"].

Fricke's own vocals were so in-demand that competing companies tried to recruit her.

"When I worked at TM, we were not allowed to work for any other studios, including PAMS, which was a competing studio, there in Dallas. We had to sign an agreement."

By then, she knew that if she wanted to pursue a singing career, she needed to be in Nashville.

"I took my jingle tape, and my first job there was as a secretary. I was meeting producers, and background singers, and that's how I got on with the Lea Jane Singers."

Formed by Lea Jane Berinati, the ensemble was one of the most in-demand backing vocal groups, in country music. The group included several soon-to-be famous names, including Judy Rodman, and Chuck Woolery.

By the mid to late 1970s, Fricke was considered one of the most prolific commercial jingle singers, in the country.

"I still have my little black book, showing all of the studio work I was doing, back then," she said. "I was so busy, doing jingles for Red Lobster, Dial soap, McDonald's, and Pizza Hut.

On September 18, 1977, as so noted in her personal records, she recorded a 2:29 song, for the Golden Colorado-based, Coors beer company. The song was written by John Adrian, who would later have hits for Billy Crash Craddock ("Broken Down in Tiny Pieces," which Fricke sings backing vocals on, and was a #1 song, in 1977), as well as songs for Loretta Lynn ("Out of My Head and Back in Bed") and Conway Twitty's "This Time I've Hurt Her More."

The song was recorded at Woodland Studios, in Nashville, and produced by Ron Chancey, who would later have hits with the Oak Ridge Boys, Sawyer Brown, and T. Graham Brown, among many others.

"I think that session may have lasted 45 minutes, to an hour," she recollected.

 Listen to a sample of "Make it Coors."

Little did she know, the Coors song was pressed into a promotional 45. She is credited as the vocalist on the label, and the single is considered her first record.

"I didn't know they did that," she told me. "That has to be pretty rare, as I'm sure they didn't press very many of them, but yes, that Coors song is actually my very first record."

The flip side of the disc is credited to singer Don Gant, who previously formed (with Tupper Saussy), the 1960s psych-rock group Neon Philharmonic. He passed away in 1987. 

 Fricke winning the Academy of Country Music Top Female Vocalist Award (1984)

Fricke would soon go on to super stardom. She would rack up 18 top 10 Billboard hits (9 peaking at #1), named Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year  (twice, consecutively), and Academy of Country Music's Top Female Vocalist. 

She still tours, and will soon be part of a Lee Greenwood tribute event, celebrating the multi-platinum performer, known for "God Bless The U.S.A." She will be performing his song "Hopelessly Yours," as part of an all-star line-up, which is scheduled October 10, in Huntsville, AL. She's also booked to perform at the Texas Country Music Celebration, set for August 12-15, in Carthage, TX.

Even with all of the accolades, Fricke still looks back on her jingle career with much fondness.

"In my shows I do a jingle medley, and I still sing 'Make it Coors,' in my set list."




Monday, July 26, 2021

From a Basement Radio Station to the Grand Ole Opry - Englewood's Own Dick McMahon

Photo of Dick McMahon (arrow) at the announcer's mic stand at the Grand Ole Opry. Ernest Tubb shown on bottom right, in the yellow suit.

In the 1950s, a teenage Dick McMahon entertained his immediate Englewood neighborhood, from his basement radio station studio.

"The reach from the basement was only a couple of houses. I kept changing the call letters, to always something that sounded cool," he said. "I was playing what was popular, at the time. Lots of big bands, Bing Crosby type stuff."

McMahon had been enamored with radio, from when he first heard the local Denver-area stations.

"I listened to a lot of the old KTLN, when it was in the Park Lane Hotel, at Washington Park. I remember listening to Joe "Upsy Daisy" Flood, in the mornings."

After he graduated Englewood High, in 1956, his love of radio took a back seat. He instead majored in psychology, at Arizona State. The diversion didn't last long.

"My first radio job was at KGMC, in Englewood, working in their record library. I would file the phonograph records, and catalog them for the disc jockeys. Later I worked for many years at KLZ radio. That's when Star Yelland, Warren Chandler, Carl Akers, and others were the big names there. 

 Listen to this 1959 Dick McMahon KLZ broadcast

His time in Denver radio was brief, as he was offered a job at a radio station, in Nashville. The gig was short lived, as the station soon went out of business.

"I then applied for an announcer position with WSM radio, which is the station that owns and operates the Grand Ole Opry. Part of my assignment there, along with my 7-11pm radio shift, was working on the Opry shows. At that time the Opry originated from the old Ryman Auditorium. The announcer’s job was to introduce the various portions of the show, and do the live commercials. So I would say things like 'This next portion of the Grand ‘Ole Opry is brought to you by _______, and here’s the star of this segment – MARTY ROBBINS!'"

The list of notable performers he encountered, while at the Opry, is a list of country royalty - Roy Acuff, Tex Ritter, Faron Young, Archie Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, and Margie Bowes (who made a surprise appearance at his bachelor party).  

"Loretta Lynn was a genuine country girl. She’d drive up in her pickup truck and park behind the Ryman Auditorium, come in, sing a few songs, then drive back home."

McMahon served as Opry announcer for about three of his six years at WSM (he was replaced on WSM by a then-unknown Pat Sajak). He then teamed up with (later) Colorado U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, who recruited him to start a TV operation in Idaho Falls, Idaho (KKVI / KPVI). He then moved to Oregon, to manage another television station. He current resides in Oregon, where he stays busy as an actor.

Check out this hysterical Amazon ad, featuring Dick McMahon

While he hasn't been back to the Denver area in several years, his time here left an impression.

"Denver will always be my home. In fact I named my son Denver, and my daughter's name is Molly - after the Unsinkable Molly Brown."


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Request for help - The GBJ Band

Hey all - on occasion I will post a question, in hopes that someone can help a blog reader. Got this message today, from someone in Greece:

"I need your valuable help please. There was a Christian band (trio) from Denver, the GBJ Band, and they released an LP called Flyin' and Singin' in 1977. Any info or just to see the front cover of the LP? Can you help please?"

Thanks for the question! Here's what I found.

The GBJ Band included Patrick "Pat" Boone, Ralph Carmichael, and Jimmy Owens. I found a 1977 picture of them, advertising a concert they were having, in Colorado Springs.

       
Of course the name Ralph Carmichael is familiar as the one of the early composers of contemporary Christian music, but this Ralph Carmichael is much (much) younger.

As for the LP, I couldn't find a thing. There isn't even a listing on Discogs. So fellow readers, can you help out this reader, who contacted me all the way from Greece?  If you have this album, I would love to include a picture. Many thanks, in advance!

 


Monday, July 19, 2021

June Sproule(s) and Her Piano

 

Far too often, when doing research on Colorado records, I run into brick walls. It happens. As was the case with this instrumental LP from June Sproules, Junie's Moods. I couldn't find a thing on this album. I knew there had to be a Colorado connection, given the KCMS catalog number (1272), but I kept coming up with nothing. 

Listen to "I'll Remember April"

Then it dawned on me. Maybe her name is spelled wrong. The label shows June Sproules, but typos happen. Sure enough. Her name is June Sproule.

I noted that the label showed a Hutchinson, KS home address, which is now a vacant lot. Putting two and two together, I finally solved the mystery.

Hutchinson (KS) News - July 12, 1958

I found references to a June Sproule performing several years earlier, dating back to 1938, so no clue if the woman on this album is her, or a daughter, or some other relative. Apparently a June Sproule was a regular in the Colorado Springs club circuit, when I'm guessing she recorded her album at Bud Edmonds' Manitou Springs KCMS radio studio, during one of her visits.

 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Saved from the trash - Denver Junior Police Band

 


Going through a stack of records, on the last day of an estate sale. The organizer told me to "take them all, or they were going into the trash."

With an offer like that, who am I to turn down free records?

I get home and notice that they all were Recordio discs - home recording discs produced by the Wilcox-Gay Corp., for use on their Recordio machines. Now, these are usually a crap shoot, as they are normally amateur audio recordings of Aunt Mabel sharing what happened at Uncle Bob's birthday party, or kids singing Christmas songs, to mail to grandma. The company went out of business in 1963.

I noticed there was one other in the pile - a 12" reference recording on an NBC record label. The disc showed a 1952 date.

While there is no obvious Colorado notation on here, the label on the record indicates that it was from the "Review in Blue" radio show, which aired on KOA radio, Friday nights at 9:30, and featured the Lowry Air Force base band. The record identifies 13-year old Jerry Robinson, a trumpet player with the Denver Junior Police Band, as the guest soloist.

As you will notice, the record is in almost unplayable condition, but wanted you to hear.

Sample of "Desert Star" (2:00)

The Denver Junior Police Band was formed in 1937. In 2001 it was renamed the Mile High Community Band. Members wore uniforms patterned after the Denver Police uniforms, with badges and holsters with little silver cap pistols. 

Just a few of the Denver Junior Police Band LPs in the author's collection.

Interesting note, in 1956, a 7-year old Kenny Passarelli (bassist for Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, Hall & Oates, Joe Walsh and co-writer of "Rocky Mountain Way"), auditioned for the Junior Police Band.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Jami Porter

Hit up the ARC thrift on Colfax, and found a cache of Colorado LPs - right place, at the right time. Someone had donated a bin full of state-made vinyl. Very rare to see such a collection, in one place. Yeah, for a moment there I thought I was on Candid Camera, and someone had to be filming my reaction to seeing so many obscure Colorado records at one thrift store (grin).

Surprisingly (not surprisingly) I actually had almost all of the albums found in the bin. But then I noticed this 1979 unknown-to-me record by a singer, with the singular name, Jami. 

While the record did not show a Colorado address, nor any other indication it was from Colorado, there was a picture on the back cover of a girl, presumably the singer, sitting on top of a snow bank. I also recognized a "Dan Hoffman" in the liner notes. I assumed it was the Aspen-based Daniel P. Hoffman, who recorded the LPs Red Neck Hippie and Empty House. So I took a chance, and brought it home.

The minimalist production is coupled with amateur folky femme vocals. The songs sound like they belong in a guitar church worship service, with lots of uplifting lyrics - minus what sounds like a song about a deceased child.

Listen to "Little Baby Boy" (3:37)

I couldn't find much on the vocalist, Jami Porter. She appears to have moved from Colorado, shortly after the release of this album. She is not the Albuquerque-based artist, of the same name.

Dan Hoffman handles all of the instruments, on the record. The liner notes also give a shout-out to the Chapel of the Hills church, located west of Woodland Park, for choir backing vocals on one of the songs.

One name that did stand out was the artist behind the hand-drawn LP cover design - Sean O'Meallic. If you live in Denver, you are familiar with the artist Sean O' Meallie, the designer behind the Running Balloon Man sculpture at Denver RTD’s Central Park Station, and Cowboy Pajamas, at the Residence Inn on Champa St. In 2011, he was the artist behind the Manitou Chair Project - a temporary art installation, involving 600+ empty chairs lined up along Manitou Avenue, in Manitou Springs.


Could this person be one in the same, and this was simply an album credit typo?

"Yup, that was a typo," he told me.

"My then-girlfriend, now wife and I met Jami while working at the Broadmoor Hotel. We were part of the annual temporary tourist seasonal worker population. She asked me to create the cover, even though I was not of her, nor any, religious group. Though it felt awkward, it was certainly an honor to be asked. As I recall, she was pleased with the outcome."

He told me that the album was given as payment for his work. He lost track of Jami, after she left Colorado, about 40 years ago.

"I've never done another album cover, after that."

Monday, June 28, 2021

Alamosa High School (1917)

 

This has to be one of the oldest Colorado yearbooks in my collection - Alamosa High School, 1917. Found this at the big Denver antique mall. While it's not exclusively music related, I wanted to include it on the blog, as a historic look at a small town Colorado music education 104 years ago. It's pretty cool.

In 1917, a total of nine seniors graduated from Alamosa High. Right behind them, there were 12 juniors, 18 sophomores, and 22 freshmen.

A total of 11 students were a part of the first AHS orchestra. The yearbook notes that the group was founded in October, 1916. "Only five could play," according to the page notation. "Many, after a time,  decided that they could not conquer their instruments, and dropped out - now only eleven are left."

Alamosa High School Orchestra (1917)
Members noted (alphabetical order): Merle Aylard, Frank Byrum, Genevieve Freeman, Ernest Knutzen, Hilda Malmberg, Bernice Shahan, Esther Simmons, Gladys Stevens, Helen Sunquist, Mayme Whitney, and Glen Van Fleet
 
The yearbook notes that the Senior Glee Club formed on Sept, 23, 1916.
 
Senior Glee Club (1917) 
Members noted (alphabetical order): Rosalynde Allen, Florence Best, Evelyn Caffal, Louise Camp, Dorothy Cline, Francis Darling, Genevieve Freeman, Leone Hayhurst, Hazel Houser, Mabel Hutchinson, Charlotte Hyndman, Grave Kay, Gladys King, Oneta Kirkpatrick, Wenonah Koentz, Hilda Malmberg, Ruth McCabe, Blanche McCormick, Irene McDaniels, Emily McLellan, Louise Roderick, Jeannette Schooland, Minnie Snyder, Ruth Springer, Ellen Stevens, and Chrissie Taylor
 
Junior Glee Club (1917)
Members noted (alphabetical): Elsie Anderson, Helen Bell, Lillian Bergman, Helen Blackburn, Florence Farnham, Lorraine Freeman, Helen Groves, Mildred Groves, Oka Groves, Tina Kolkman, Christina Muff, Mattie Murray, Laura Nissen, May Paris, Maxine Pinchard, Pauline Ritchey, Frances Roberts, Helen Roberts, Ruth Sanchez, Dorothy Sanger, June Shipley, Lorretta Speraw, Dorothy Stanley, Winabeth Stephenson, Henrietta Stevens, Jewyl Stoddard, Agnes Taylor, Opal Timmons, Dorothy Traveller,  Flossie Turner, Lucille Walsh, and Edna Woodin
 
Double Quartet (1917)
Members noted (alphabetical order): Francis Darling, Genevieve Freeman, Hazel Houser, Charlotte Hyndman, Gladys King, Marguerite Knutzen, Melmoth Koentz, and Emily McLellan



Sunday, June 20, 2021

Buddy Johnson Book - A Son's Tribute to His Father

Hey all! On this Father's Day, I wanted to post this news related to one of the fathers of early Pueblo television.

Got a message from John Johnson, the son of Pueblo cowboy TV star and singer, Buddy Johnson, that the tribute book he wrote about his father is now in its second, and soon-to-be third, printing. The reaction to this book has been fantastic, and he wanted to let everyone know that it's available at the Beulah Historical Museum (8869 Grand Ave), the Pueblo Heritage Museum (207 West B Street), and the John Deaux Gallery (221 S. Union - Pueblo). It's also for order, on the incredible website, John put together, in memory of his father.

While the Pueblo Chieftain did an article, when the book came out, in October, I wanted to ask John a few other questions.

What made you all want to put together this book? 

My sister Pat badgered me for years to put something on paper about Dad. She was a young girl and a teenager during this time, and was occupied elsewhere during those years. She really didn’t know or remember everything that Dad was involved with, but she knew that I was right in the middle of lots of it, and thought he should be remembered in some way. Initially doing a book on Dad was the farthest thing from my mind. I thought I would just scan a few photographs and put up a site which we could refer the grandkids to, and that would be that. Then they would at least know something about Dad, who was such a force of nature in our lives, but was little known to his grandchildren - all of whom were born years, and in some cases, decades after all this happened. That just didn’t seem right. 

What was it like going through the memorabilia? Did it bring back any memories, for you? 

 I had seen lots of his stuff when he was alive, but it wasn’t until my mother died in 2004 that everything was divided up among the three of us children, so stuff was scattered between Pueblo where I live, and Littleton and Lakehurst where my sisters live. Once I looked at what I had, it did bring back memories of things I knew existed, but that I didn’t have. So my sisters started giving me things like scrapbooks and such. The further I looked through everything it did bring back many memories I haven’t thought about for decades, since he died in 1986. And once I had the website up, people would discover it and they would send me emails about their going to The Adventurer’s Club show, of how they met at one of Dad’s dances, that type of thing. People just felt that he was a cherished part of their young lives, as he was in the media for so many years. I only decided to do a book when my son Thomas happened to mention to one of his friend’s parents who his grandfather was. Their amazed and happy reaction - amazed and surprised that they would even know his grandfather. Then he told me about it. I thought a website would come and go, but I should put it into a more permanent form - a book. I’ve made a few films, but I think books are much more of a permanent item, which you can hold and go back to. 

Was there anything left out of the book? It’s packed with so many photos and other things! 

In telling Dad’s story and also Mom’s story too, I wanted to give the grandkids, and now the great-grandkids more context about the history of our family. up to his time. So I tried to give a historical context to what their lives were really. That’s why there are chapters bringing the genealogical lines of the family - from the early days in this country, and from the journey of our ancestors from Italy. Also, as all of his descendants live away from Pueblo, and it has so drastically changed since that time, I felt I had to let them see Pueblo the way it was during my parents’ lives here, and the way I remember it when I was young, thus the chapter on Pueblo history. In researching Pueblo, like researching Dad, there were just so many fascinating things I came across like the war years and the Pueblo Army Airbase and my grandmother’s remembrances about the terrible Dust Bowl era, but I couldn’t put everything in, so I had to really pare everything down. But I tired to keep in some of the most interesting items from all the stories I found. I’ll tell you if you really want to understand the history of your parents, read the newspapers from the time when they were alive. Things we think of now as being all settled, just historical fact, at the time were not settled at all, and the outcomes were very much in doubt. So lots of great stories that were left out. 

Why did Pueblo mean so much to Buddy? I’m sure he could have been “big” elsewhere, but he chose to stay here. Why? 

 Well I think it was the main city of any size that he lived in, and like I said, Pueblo was indeed formidable in those decades. A real power house. I mean here he was born in very rural Kansas, then he lived on the vast prairie at Arlington, which might have had maybe 600 people at its height. When the Johnson family moved to Pueblo, it was a big, powerful, industrial city with street cars on Main Street and many national department stores. He just liked the mix of people here, like I do. Pueblo was, and still is, just different from the rest of Colorado at the time. It was much more cosmopolitan that the rest of the state which which was pretty much white, rural and agricultural like Arlington. It must have seemed somewhat exotic to Dad, at sixteen, and his family. You have to remember that because of the heavy industry at one time there were something like 30 different foreign language papers published here, so it was totally different, back then. 

Has the book brought back any memories for readers? What have you heard from those who have bought the book? 

I've heard from so many people that either bought the book for themselves or purchased it for their husband or wife. They tell how they encountered Dad, even down to remembering exactly what was said. Amazing. One man even found himself in a photograph from The Adventurer's Club in the book. Remember there were just two or three TV stations, not the thousands of choices we have today. If someone was lucky enough to have a TV everyone was pretty much watching the same shows. These memories remain. When I went to my wife’s high school reunion they began their "remembering when" PowerPoint presentation of their high school years with a slide of Dad, and they didn’t know I was related to him. His memory is very warm and fuzzy for so many people, it reminds them of their youth and a much simpler, possibly happier time in their lives. I like that, you love your father and it’s nice to know so many others do too.

What do you think Buddy would have thought of the book? 

My sister Kitty told me that Dad would be so proud of the book. I think he and Mom both would be proud and think I did ok. One time I was talking to Dad about things like death and such and he told me 'When I’m gone just put me in a wood box and dump me off to the side of the road. Just forget about me.' Fat chance of that happening. With his family or us kids who were and still are very close, or the countless people who consider him their own. But yeah, if there’s a heaven he likes the attention.

 

Monday, June 14, 2021

KTLN Radio -vs- Kaytee Ellen

I'm so fortunate to have rescued these photos, a while back. The story of "Katey Ellen" (also spelled "Kaytee Ellen") is one of those Denver media stories, which was well ahead of its time - can a radio personality continue to use an air name, which sounds like the radio station call letters, after she is fired from said station?

Unfortunately these photos have no identifying writing, on the back. Hoping someone can definitively identify these ladies. Could one of them be "Katey Ellen," Irva Steffen?

On May 16, 1948, KTLN signed on the air, on 990 kHz. It was owned by Alfred M. Landon, former governor of Kansas and one-time Republican presidential candidate. It moved to 1150 on the dial, in 1951, so it would appear these photos are before 1951 (note the 990 banner in the back). In 1954, the station moved up the dial to 1280.  In 1969 the station changed its call letters to KTLK, then later KBRQ (1981-1987), KXKL (1987-1996), KRRF (1996-4/1999), KEXX (4/1999-5/1999), KXKL (5/1999-6/1999), and KVOD (1999-2001). It's now known as KBNO.

Irva Steffen was considered one of the most popular radio personalities in Denver, during that time. She went by the catchy name "Katey Ellen," a play on the station call letters. In 1954 the station fired Steffen, for undisclosed reasons, and hired her replacement, Shirley Wray. The new hire took over Steffen's shows, and even her radio name, Kaytee Ellen.  The change didn't sit well with Steffen, who claimed that she came up with the air name and should have full rights to use it. The station claimed that the name was an obvious phonetic play on the station call letters, and they should retain all rights.

Steffen filed suit, and in May, 1957 the case went to court. After several weeks, a judge ruled that the former station personality could keep her professional name, in spite of its phonetic similarity to the station's call letters, because "ratings showed that her personality gave the program drawing power, not the call letters."  She was awarded a $13,300 judgment, including $2,500 punitive damages, for what the judge described as "wanton and reckless disregard of plaintiff's rights and feelings." 

 However, in 1959, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the lower state court decision. "Since the radio station has developed a vested and valuable property interest in its trade name, the plaintiff cannot be held to have established a separate and severable property interest in a trade name that when spoken is indistinguishable from the call letters KTLN." 

Several decades later, the great-granddaughter of Steffen, Anika Pyle, would go on to have a band named Katie Ellen

If anyone can offer positive proof that one of the ladies in the picture is the original Kaytee Ellen, Irva Steffen (or is it Shirley Wray), please let me know.