COLORADO BLUES – A PRIMER.

Let me start by saying that my girlfriend is a blues junkie and it is because of her that I’m writing about blues in Colorado. We recently went out to catch some local blues bands. I started writing a critique about what I saw on stage. She disapproved. I started over.

Blues is well over a hundred years old. Today, it’s like that old dog-eared novel that you pull out for comfort. You no longer really read it for the detail; instead you put it on for the feels, like a throw blanket on the coach that should have been discarded years ago but is too comfortable to let go.

And, artists keep chasing it – the feels – the groove – the “blues.”

Most of what passes for blues bands in Colorado today are backyard concert party bands playing in small bar and grills and, well, backyard parties and suburban centers and events attended by aging boomers and GenX parents, grandparents and pre-tween kids swingin’ on the grass.

Despite that outlook, there are some stellar blues players capable of capturing broader attention given the right set of circumstances: Some of whom are award winners playing to national and international audiences.

When it comes to blues in Colorado music history, some notable names and organizations come to mind.

Judy Roderick – A University of Colorado student, Judy signed with Columbia and Vanguard Records and released two albums; Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues (1964) and Woman Blue (1965). She also founded and fronted 60,000,000 Buffalo, a Denver based funky blues-rock band that broke up after one album, Nevada Jukebox, in 1973.

Candy Givens emerged with the band Zephyr in 1969. Powered by the hard rock blues guitar of Tommy Bolin, Zephyr put out two well received blues-rock albums before pivoting stylistically in subsequent albums. Tommy Bolin and Zephyr were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2019.

Although not strictly speaking a blues artist at the time, award winning finger style guitarist Mary Flower moved to Colorado in 1972 and became an instrumental part of Swallow Hill Music and the Blues Foundation’s Blues In the Schools program.

Mary moved to Oregon in 2004, and was the Blues Music Award nominee for Acoustic Artist of The Year in 2008.

Filling the void left by the demise of Zephyr in the early 80s, Big Head Todd and the Monsters embraced blues-rock beginning in the mid-80s. The band would go all in on the blues for two albums as Big Head Blues Club, “100 Years of Robert Johnson” (2011), and “Way Down Inside, the Songs of Willie Dixon” (2016).

Their version of John Lee Hooker‘s classic Boom Boom (Beautiful World, 1997) remains a staple of the band’s live shows today.

The most heavily awarded blues artist in the Colorado blues pantheon is multi-award winner and Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee Otis Taylor.

In the seventies Otis performed alongside Candy Givens in Zephyr and in the Legendary 4Nikators, another popular Boulder band. Otis left music in 1977 and wouldn’t return until 1997 when he self-released the stunning blues-trance debut When Negroes Walked the Earth.

Otis’ 2008 album Recapturing the Banjo is remarkable, as much for who appears on it as how he reintroduces the banjo as an historical blues instrument.

Other than Otis Taylor, no other significant blues band or artist emerged during the 1990s. Recording was still too expensive for most locally based bands. Exceptions included the late Creighton Holley, Dan Treanor’s band Arclight, David Booker’s Alleygators and Boa and the Constrictors.

Baby boomers now in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties, who grew up on the blues-rock of the 1960s and wanted to escape the deluge of 80s hair-metal bands and 90s grunge, flocked to area bars to catch acts like the Creighton Holley Band, JD & the Love Bandits featuring the late trombonist JD Kelly, the Alleygators, Arclight and Boa and the Constrictors to name a few.

In 1995, under the leadership of David McIntyre, the Colorado Blues Society was formed and opened the door for national and regional blues bands at the growing list of blues specific venues and festivals.

However, it wouldn’t be until the beginning of the 21st century that the next group of blues artists would truly begin to emerge.

To learn more about blues in Colorado, there are two organizations that serve to preserve not only the legacy of blues in Colorado, but also advance it via educational programs: The Colorado Blues Society and the Mile High Blues Society. Please visit and support.

I’ll be back soon for The Blues in Colorado – Part II – the 21st Century

The Colorado Sound S8 EP15 April 2014

Big news this week!  The String Cheese Incident is playing a free show on the “hill” in Boulder April 28th.  And our pal David Glasser at Airshow Mastering blasted this on his FB page … couldn’t be happier brother Dave.   Stop by and congratulate our friend when you get a chance …

grammy“I’m tickled and proud to report that I’ve been elected a Governor of the San Francisco Chapter of NARAS (The Grammy folks). San Francisco? Well, Colorado does not have a local chapter and our vibrant music scene is underserved by NARAS. But over the past year, the San Francisco chapter has reached out to Colorado and sponsored several events in Boulder and Denver. MusiCares, a service of NARAS has helped many Colorado flood victims since the September flood. This is just the beginning. I look forward to being a part of this activity. Colorado musicians – if you are not a NARAS member you should seriously consider joining, and affiliating with the SF Chapter. If you are already a member, I look forward to meeting you.

Factoid #1 – the Grammy statues are Made In Ridgeway Colorado!

You can call me Guv’na.”

Zephyr, HeartbeatCOMING NEXT WEEK:   the on air debut of a lost Colorado classic from 1982,  Zephyr’s “Heartbeat” .. the last record recorded by Candy Givens, David Givens and Eddie Turner before Candy died in 84.  There are a couple of videos on YouTube, but the album itself has been sitting in Eddie Turner’s basement for 30 years.  I have never been able to locate a copy.  Until now.  Thanks to Kevin Clock (one of the engineers who recorded the original album)  at Colorado Sound Studios for preparing the old vinyl for airplay, since I’m all digital here.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Candy Given’s death from alcohol and ‘ludes.  Could be the reason for this msg left on my FB page:  “HAPPY RECORD STORE DAY ! Young Goat  Hey, did you see where David Givens is releasing a 3 CD expanded/deluxe release of Zephrs’ very first lp ? Yuppers, one disc of the original lp ( remixed/remastered ), the other two are previously unreleased material : a CD of studio outakes and demos and the third CD is of a concert they did at Tulagis’.”  WHOA!  

zephyr, box set 2014A quick look at David Givens page led me to Amazon … where you can preorder the boxset.  

Some of Colorado’s most legendary and enduring musicians who played in Zephyr are still around playing today … they include Otis Taylor, Jock Bartley (Firefall), and Eddie Turner … Eddie’s been showing up on the blues jam scene lately with Eric Boa and the Constrictors, as he rehabs from a hand injury he sustained several months ago.

So, as I’m writing this blogpost this morning … David Givens and I are PMing at FB … he remastered Heartbeat … and is sending it over for this week … oh man … seriously???  NICE! Thanks David …

Seriously, I feel like it’s Christmas … Happy 4/20 Colorado 🙂

I am also getting pretty excited for The Colorado Sound Presents Head for the Hills at the Mishawaka on May 17.    Tickets at www.themishawaka.com  Check out this performance from H4TH at the Mish in 2012 ….

VIDEO PICK OF THE WEEK  

Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon) is gone, and Taylor Sims (Bonnie & the Clydes, Spring Creek Bluegrass) is in – from our friends at the Daily Camera/SecondStoryGarage … the NEW Great American Taxi

PLAYLIST S8 EP15 APRIL 2014

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “Mr. Bojangles” [single] (1970)
Poco “C’Mon (Live)” from The Essential Poco (2005)
Subdudes “Poor Man’s Paradise” from Street Symphony (2007)
(N) Crucifix “Heaven” from The Beginning (2014) 
The Fray “Love Don’t Die” from Helios (2014)
Dragondeer “Castaway” from Don’t That Feel Good (2014)
El Toro de la Muerte “Like A Ghost” from Dancer These Days (2011)
Megan Burtt “Got A Feeling (w/ Bop Skizzum)” from In Good Company (2013)
Selina Albright “Why Does Life” from Brighter (2013)
Rob Drabkin “Little Steps” from Little Steps EP (2013)
(D) Bonnie and The Clydes “Evening Turns To Ashes” from Music For People (2014)
Emmitt-Nershi Band “Road of Destruction” from New Country Blues (2009)
Janine Santana “Red Clay” from Soft As Granite (2008)
Flying Burrito Brothers “Colorado” from Hot Burritos! – The Flying Burrito Brothers Anthology 1969-1972 (2000)
Manassas “Colorado” from Manassas (1972)
(D) String Cheese Incident “Let’s Go Outside” from Song In My Head (2014)
Big Head Todd & The Monsters “Hey Delila” from Black Beehive (2014)
Dianne Reeves “32 Flavors” from Beautiful Life (2014)
Selasee Atiase “Pray for Me” from African Gate (2010)
Danielle Ate the Sandwich “Faith In A Man” from Like A King (2012)
Five Iron Frenzy “Into Your Veins” from Engine of a Million Plots (2013)
David Starr “Alive Again” from Alive Again (2013)
Railsplitters “Jackson Town” from The Railsplitters (2013)
The Holler! “Yellow Moon” from Gratitude (2011)
Manuel Lopez Trio “Samba Grubinho” from Searching Out (2013)

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SUPPORT FOR THE COLORADO SOUND PROVIDED BY 

CCCLogoPMS300ConvertedColorado Case Company:  Colorado made insulated soft cases, gig bags, case covers and rigid cases for most instruments.  This premium, professional grade, brand is designed, engineered and tested to provide incredible thermal protection for your valuable musical instrument.  We specialize in unusual and hard to fit instruments.  Info at www.coloradocase.com

SpokesBuzz Fort Collins logoSpokesBUZZ, a  Colorado 501C3 with a mission to DEVELOP THE PROFESSIONALISM OF ARTISTS, PROMOTE AND CONNECT PROGRESSIVE CULTURAL DESTINATIONS, AMPLIFY MUSIC SCENES and GROW LOCAL ECONOMIES.  Please visit the website for information on bands that SpokesBUZZ supports, as well as shows and more.  www.spokesbuzz.org.

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Zephyr – Heartbeat – A Lost Classic

One of the greatest bands in Colorado music history was Zephyr.  By the time lead singer Candy Givens died in 1982, the band was a trio that featured Candy (vox, harmonica), David Givens (bass, guitars), and Eddie Turner (guitar, backup vocals) with a rotating cast of drummers and other sidemen that included Ken Lark, Gordon Ray Pryor Jr, and others.

Along the way from 68-82, the band also featured the likes of Tommy Bolin on guitar, Jock Bartley (Firefall, Gram Parsons) on guitar, Otis Taylor on bass, Eddie Turner on guitar, Bobby Berge on drums and other local heroes.

wpid-img_20140415_084004_674.jpgIn 1982, the band released their final record – “Heartbeat.”  In 1982, Candy died – and with her death, so too the album.  Until now.

 

eddie turner, chris k, heartbeat recordMonday – April 14, 2014 – Eddie Turner and me at Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids with a sealed original copy of “Heartbeat.”  I’d been waiting for 20 years to get a copy.  As far as I know, I’ll be the first radio dj in CO to play cuts from this album since 1982 – if ever.

Interestingly, the band also recorded a couple of videos, as that was the early years of MTV – and Zephyr was prepared to move into the 80s with Heartbeat …

So, here’s what to expect.  Over the next couple of months “Heartbeat” will be the featured “New Album” of the month selection … for us history types, of course 😉

More to follow so stay tuned.

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SUPPORT FOR THE COLORADO SOUND PROVIDED BY 

CCCLogoPMS300ConvertedColorado Case Company:  Colorado made insulated soft cases, gig bags, case covers and rigid cases for most instruments.  This premium, professional grade, brand is designed, engineered and tested to provide incredible thermal protection for your valuable musical instrument.  We specialize in unusual and hard to fit instruments.  Info at www.coloradocase.com

SSpokesBuzz Fort Collins logopokesBUZZ, a  Colorado 501C3 with a mission to AMPLIFY THE COLORADO MUSIC SCENE, DEVELOP OUR PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS, PROMOTE COLORADO AS A PROGRESSIVE CULTURAL DESTINATION, and GROW LOCAL ECONOMIES.  Please visit the website for information on bands that SpokesBUZZ supports, as well as shows and more.  www.spokesbuzz.org.

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