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"

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