About a year after Dan King and his business partners took over the Overlook Hotel in Boulder, bassist Mark Diamond started hosting weekly jazz jams in the back of the hotel's restaurant, before there was a stage set up. Four months later, King started bringing in local and nationally known blues acts, and along with jams, there was music five nights a week. But nearly ten years later, King and his partners have sold the hotel, and it will be torn down to make way for student housing. The hotel's music venue/restaurant Blues & Greens, dubbed "Boulder's Home of the Blues," is closing at the end of the month; one final jam will take place there on Sunday, October 26.
Not too long after those jazz jams started a decade ago, legendary pianist Henry Butler, a New Orleans resident who'd moved to Boulder after Hurricane Katrina, sat in. King then thought about doing more music in the restaurant, but he knew he wanted to keep it blues-centric, since that's what he listened to. He says it started organically and in a really low-key sort of way.
"There was probably a six-month period where I thought, 'Well, I'm not really a big enough room to compete with the big guys, so I'll just start doing a Thursday-night thing," he explains.
King says the first guy he booked was Sammy Dee, who plays Louisiana/Texas style blues (and will be at the venue this Saturday, October 18). Weekends were added next, and at one point there were two weekly jam nights. Delta Sonics frontman Al Chesis helped bring in guitarist Bob Margolin, who was one of the first national acts to play in the venue.
Owning a hotel also made it easier for King to bring in national acts, as he'd sometimes put musicians up in the Outlook for free, even if they weren't playing at Blues & Greens. King recalls a Tuesday night where he put up Bay Area-based guitarist Tommy Castro, harmonica player and singer Jason Ricci (who was based in Memphis and has lived in New Orleans since 2011) and Portland-based act The Insomniacs.
"They all happened to be here on a Tuesday night, and I was putting them up for free, and we turned it into a jam at the last minute," King says. "We packed the place and tore the roof off the house. That was a pretty special night."
King says he didn't care if he didn't make any money with the shows. "I was making money selling hotel rooms," he adds, "so I could bring these national bands in here and really pay them every penny that was coming in that door that night and not worry about it and just have a good time with it."
The final jam, which will run from 2 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, October 26, will be a fundraiser for two local bands going to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January. The Colorado Blues Society will send Eef & the Blues Express, while the Mile High Blues Society is sending Boa & the Constrictors.
"I'm going to give each of the bands $500 out of my pocket, and then we're not going to have a cover," King says. "We're going to pass the hat, ask people to chip in and we're going to give that money to the bands to get them down to Memphis. So each one of those bands will kind of do their 25-minute IBC set, and after that, it's just going to be a free-for-all jam."