Monday, April 26, 2021

"Home Sweet Home at Twilight" - "Trees" Johnson and Virgil Welsh

Went to an estate sale last month, and while I didn't find much, I did spy a box of beat-up looking sheet music. I didn't have time to sift through the box, so I called up my friend (and extreme sheet music collector) Tom Merry

Tom is not only a wonderful friend, but he's also my extra set of eyes. We have a mutual beneficial relationship, where if we see something in our respective collecting interests, we always let the other know.

So Tom shows up and goes through the pile, and pulls out this fantastic piece from Colorado, "(When You Hear Them Playing) Home Sweet Home at Twilight."

In fact, he pulls out three of them!

That'll teach me to make time to go through a box of tattered looking sheet music (grin).

"(When You Hear Them Playing) Home Sweet Home at Twilight" was written by "Trees" Johnson and Virgil Welsh. It was published in 1939 by the Knight Campbell Music Company of Denver. Guitar, banjo, accordion chords are noted by Bill Brooks.

Knight Campbell Music Company - 1625 California Street (year unknown) - Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library (Side note - 1625 California Street would later become the NBC building and the home of KOA radio. In 1965 the building was demolished, to make way for a parking lot / garage - see below)

The popular country group Ozie Waters and the Colorado Rangers are shown on the front cover. I couldn't find any notation that a the band recorded this song. Of note, Waters worked on the "The Ford Ranger Show" on KOA, before becoming a western movie actor. He acted in at least sixteen westerns, including most of the 1940s Durango Kid movies, alongside Charles Starrett, as well as with William Boyd (aka Hopalong Cassidy), before moving back to Colorado, and becoming a long-time performer at the Silver Slipper Saloon in Central City.

"Trees" Johnson was actually one Forrest H. Johnson, who was the long-time silent film organist for the Alpha Theatre on Colfax (which is now a parking lot). Records indicated that he was born in 1897 and passed away in 1971.

I found a Bill Brooks listed on my 1976 Colorado Polka-Thon LP (with Hal Pierce), but no clue if this might be the same, who appears on the sheet music.

October 15, 1919 - Denver Jewish News

Virgil Welsh is a bit of a mystery. I couldn't find much on this composer. I did find that he was born in 1911, or possibly 1910, and passed away in 1964. He is buried in Arvada Cemetery. I found no other record of any other composition he wrote.

There's something that I'd like to ask you, concerning an old old refrain.
I'm blue when I heart it at twilight, and wondering if you feel the same.
When you hear them playing Home Sweet Home at Twilight, do you dream of the long, long ago.
Do your "thots" to straying far away at twilight while the stars up above softly glow.
Do the tears start to burn, as you long to return to some spot on this earth that you know.
When you hear them playing Home Sweet Home at Twilight, do you dream of the long long ago.
When you go. 
The back of the sheet music shows another composition by Johnson, along with Ida Klein, "Starlight and You"  (published in 1932). The piece indicates that the two has also worked together on the songs "California I'll Be There" and "Share Your Love." It appears "California I'll Be There" was recorded by Cally Holden and his Orchestra, but I also noted that Johnson was not listed in the songwriting credits.

The flipside of this record was "Share Your Love," which does note co-songwriting with Johnson.


Monday, April 19, 2021

Dick Kroeckel, Ragtime Pianist (September 6, 1945 – October 11, 2020)

Hey all. I received late word that Colorado ragtime pianist Dick Kroeckel passed away, back in October.  

Dick was a well-known entertainer, mentioned in the same breath as Max Morath and Danny Griffith. Born in Indiana, at the age of six, his family moved to Colorado. His piano playing was influenced by musical family members, along with Little Richard. He started playing professionally, at the age of 16 years old, at the Screwball Bar, in Kittredge. He soon became part of the Central City Colorado Summer Fun, playing at the historic Tollgate and Glory Hole Bars. 

After completing his military service, he moved to Georgetown, where he was hired as a bartender at the Silver Queen, where he spent the next five years. In the 1970s he moved to the Cherry Creek Inn, Red Slipper Room in Denver.  He soon took to the road, performing in the southwest and Midwest states.

The New Mexican (Santa Fe) - March 20, 1974

La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wisconsin) - September 5, 1975

In 1976, Dick was asked to perform on an episode of ‘On The Road’ with Charles Kuralt on the CBS Evening News. That same year, he appeared in Estes Park with the Al Fike Show. 

In 1977 he released his album Echoes From Lulu White's Mahogany Hall. The album also features drummer Steve Ashton, who was a music teacher for Denver Public Schools (he now performs in the polka trio, The Rhinelanders).

I have another copy of this record, showing a little girl on the cover.

In his later years Kroeckel performed nightly at the Diamond Belle Saloon, at the Strater Hotel, in Durango.  

During the 1980s, he took a job as a brakeman on the Durango & Silverton narrow gauge railroad. He soon returned to Central City, and in 1987, was back to entertaining audiences again.

In the 1990s he was found playing for audiences at the Phenix Club, in Cripple Creek.

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph - October 4, 1991

According to the liner notes of his album, Dick would end each show with the song "Three O'clock in the Morning," signaling that the show was coming to an end. "I hope this record will be your ticket to happy listening," he writes.

Listen to "Three O'clock in the Morning"

Monday, April 12, 2021

Chris Cox and Richard Hathaway

I recently picked up a large stack of flexi-disc record greeting cards. As I was going through the stack, I noted two of them showed "performed and sung by a group of Aspen musicians, directed by Chris Cox and Richard Hathaway."

You never know where a Colorado record connection is going to show up.

These record greeting cards were produced by the Musicard Corporation / Vann Tone, out of California. There are no dates shown, but a few of the "non-Colorado connection" ones shows 1973 and 1977. Both have the same version of "The Happy Birthday Song."

Listen to "The Birthday Song"(4:00)

The song does not show any writer credits, nor does it give any credit to the female vocalist (if anyone can solve that mystery, please contact me).

Chris Cox was a longtime Aspen-area musician, who moved to the area in 1970. He died in 2005, at the age of 58.  According to his obituary, he played with Bobby Mason, Dan Forde, Richard Hathaway, Brian DeWolf, Dave Johnson, Khristie Krantz, Jason Perrin, Tai Vare, Bobby Yang, Buddy Miles, Suzanne Paris and others. 

Richard Hathaway was best known for his work as bassist and composer with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1977–1982), and with Steve Martin (he appears as backing vocalist on Martin's 1978 hit "King Tut").

These are the only two Musicards I have found, so far, with the Cox/Hathaway connection. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Frontier Airlines


Found this promotional record for Denver-based Frontier Airlines, recently. It was a limited release, not meant for mass distribution, more than likely sent to airline employees.

The flip side is an instrumental version of the jingle. No year is noted. The other side notes it was produced by the ad firm of Tracy-Locke Inc., and Fred Arthur, a well-known Denver disc jockey (KGMC, KIMN and KTLN). There is no information on the jingle singers, but more than likely they were Western Cine Service performers (Arthur was the executive director of the firm).  He was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Colorado Hall of Fame in 2005. He died July 31, 2020.

Listen to the Frontier jingle (1:00)

Voiced partially by (then) Frontier executive Al Feldman. In 1971 Feldman moved from an aerospace contractor job with Aerojet-General to president of Frontier Airlines, which had been struggling carrier. 

Listen to Al Feldman's commentary (2:27)

As president, he transformed the airline into a highly profitable business through a combination of improving passenger amenities, restructuring, and employee motivation. In 1980, Feldman left Frontier to head Continental Airlines. He passed away in 1981, shortly after the death of his wife.