By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Barry Fey and Chuck Morris met in 1972, when Fey was the undisputed king of Denver concert promotion. After Morris joined Fey's company, Feyline, in 1975, they became all but inseparable. Fey was the best man at Morris's wedding, and he bankrolled the start-up of Morris's management house, Chuck Morris Enterprises, in 1986. But their relationship soured in recent years, and it won't be getting better anytime soon: On July 20, Fey filed a lawsuit against Morris, now the head of Bill Graham Presents/Chuck Morris Presents, in Denver County District Court, demanding $36,000 in allegedly unpaid consultancy fees.
When contacted by Westword, Morris had neither seen nor heard about the suit, drawn up for Fey by two attorneys from the law firm of Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, and responded to questions about it with a terse "no comment." But Fey is more than willing to tell his side of the story. "It's not really about the money," he says, "and I wouldn't have been inclined to do it if things hadn't changed--but they definitely have. Chuck and I were best friends; there couldn't have been any two people closer. But obviously he doesn't feel that way anymore."
According to Fey, Morris was a "brilliant" employee, but during the mid-Eighties, he became more interested in management than promotion. Fey gave Morris permission to manage the career of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band while still on his payroll, and he says he offered his full support once Morris decided to hang out his own shingle--even though Feyline was in financial trouble. "We owed Chuck forty or fifty thousand dollars, and the company couldn't pay him," Fey maintains. "So I reached into my own pocket to pay him--and then I took out another fifty to help him get Chuck Morris Enterprises going. The first $49,000 of that gave me 49 percent of the company, and I loaned Chuck the other $1,000 so he would have 51 percent."
As part of the partnership pact, Morris was to pay his mentor $12,000 per annum as a consultant, and although Fey says Morris generally did so late or in piecemeal fashion, he came through consistently until 1997. But Fey says no payment was made that year, when he sold Fey Concerts to Universal Concerts and went into semi-retirement, and to date he's received nothing for 1998 and 1999. Moreover, Fey feels that his personal rapport with Morris has deteriorated: "We used to talk on the phone five, six, seven times a day, but no more. He called a lot early last year, when people found out that I'd been diagnosed with cancer, but that was about it."
Fey claims not to know what he did to anger Morris, but speculates that his onetime apprentice blames him for his failure to land the top spot at Universal following Fey's departure. (The position ultimately went to Mark Norman, a former executive with Universal's Canadian wing.) In Fey's view, this accusation is unfair. "I truly believed that the best thing was for Chuck Morris and Pam Moore [another longtime Fey Concerts lieutenant] to take over, and when Pam resigned, I naturally assumed that Chuck would get the job. When he didn't, things with us didn't just cool; he started treating me like a stranger. Three weeks ago, I called him at home, and he acted like I was some supplier--the Acme Linen Company or something. He said the management company wasn't doing well, and because he was living off his salary from the promotion company, he didn't have the money to pay me. And then he had nothing more to say."
At this point, Fey says there's only one way for Morris to resolve the lawsuit--"to pay me what he owes me." But he seems more upset to have lost Morris as a pal. "It's a shame. I wouldn't have thought that this business, as miserable as it is now--and to be a promoter now is unbelievably bad--would have ever come between us. But it did."
I'm headed to the last local-recording roundup.
The expiration of their student visas forced the Japan-bred members of Electric Summer to leave Denver a couple of months back, and Love Me Destroyer, the band's second salvo for Boulder's Soda Jerk Records, underlines how much the local scene lost when they split. The songs on the disc are more developed than those on its previous EP: Hell, "Blue Blanket" ("If you look up, blue sky/You will whisper sky is blue/Blue blanket!") actually has a hook--and a good one at that. The Electric ones' untutored singing and frenzied guitar torturings come across louder and clearer than ever, and they're smart enough to avoid overstaying their welcome: The title cut clocks in at a mere twenty seconds. It's time well spent (available in area music stores). By calling their debut disc Call Me Average, the Speedholes are practically daring naysayers to point out that what they're doing isn't as fresh as this morning's batch of Wonder bread. Truth be told, it's not: The power chords the musicians employ have been easily available in this area since the first time Fluid plugged in, if not earlier. But enthusiasm counts for a lot, and the Speedholes have it. Lead vocalist Dan Merrick's singing sounds a lot like gargling, especially on "City of the Walking Dead," but he's not shy about tossing notes around, and bassist Kelly Knutson's background vocals on "She's Got the Booty" and elsewhere add a welcome hint of garage cheesiness. It's predictable, sure, but suckers for this stuff will probably still walk away grinning. I know I did (available in area music stores).