Arts and Culture

Meet the Colorado Music Hall of Fame's Class of 2017

Barnstorm (Joe Walsh, center)
Barnstorm (Joe Walsh, center) Daniel Mainzer
The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental will induct its seventh class on Sunday, August 13, at Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, at the Rocky Mountain Way concert to honor Colorado-tied artists and music-industry movers and shakers. The event will honor legendary singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg, world-renowned studio Caribou Ranch, and rocker Joe Walsh and his band Barnstorm, an act he fronted in the ’70s before joining the Eagles.

The evening will include performances by big-name acts including Garth Brooks; Amy Grant; Vince Gill; the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters; Michael Martin Murphey; Richie Furay of Poco, Buffalo Springfield and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band; Randy Owen of Alabama; and Joe Walsh & Barnstorm. Many of these performers were selected after participating in a not-yet-released album paying homage to Fogelberg.

It's not surprising that a Fogelberg tribute album would come about; his legacy has lived on through his compositions — including the mellifluous "Longer" — that span sixteen studio albums. "The decision was made to hold off on the induction event until the tribute album was completed in hopes that these artists who participated would come to the induction event," says G. Brown, executive director of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. "That's how it's worked out. We're finally at the juncture where the album is completed [and] a release date is being scheduled. Now [that we] put out the feelers to have those people participate, it was crucial that this be an induction event and not a tribute concert for the tribute album."

For guitar-rock fans, the biggest news surrounding the Rocky Mountain Way is that Joe Walsh & Barnstorm will perform for the first time since the ’70s, filling the venue with Walsh's legendary guitar riffs and the sounds of the celebrated rhythm section of bassist Kenny Passarelli and drummer Joe Vitale. It would be the perfect time to resurrect their song "Rocky Mountain Way."

It's not just ticket holders who are excited about the reunion. "As a fan, that rocks my boat," Brown laughs. "Joe has meant a lot to me. The music that those three guys in Barnstorm made early on really epitomized the Colorado music scene at the time."

click to enlarge Dan Fogelberg - DAN FOGELBERG
Dan Fogelberg
Dan Fogelberg
Producer Bill Szymczyk, who worked on Joe Walsh's debut solo disc at Caribou Ranch, will also be honored by the Hall of Fame; he will receive a Colorado Music Hall of Fame Award of Excellence. Szymczyk is well-recognized in classic-rock history for producing an exhaustive list of records, including the Eagles' timeless Hotel California and the Who's Face Dances.

"He's good-natured, a funny man and a genius," Brown says of Szymczyk. "The term gets tossed around, but he is a genius. He also did not come from a musician's background; he is all ears, editing, knowledge and feel."

Launched in the 1STBANK Center back in 2011, the nonprofit Colorado Music Hall of Fame later relocated to the Trading Post building at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The museum's exhibits showcase everything from the obscure to the well-known, including groups like the ’60s surf band the Astronauts and classic rockers Sugarloaf.

For music fans and the historically curious, there's plenty to enjoy here without an entrance fee. Understandably, Brown loves his work as executive director of the Hall of Fame. As someone who has been entrenched in the Colorado music scene for decades as a music journalist and author, he has lived through its history and is dedicated to its memory. His latest book, Red Rocks: The Concert Years, is a fitting celebration of the world-famous venue in words and photographs. He brings the same level of passion to his work with the Hall of Fame.

"Our mission is to celebrate everything that's great about our state's music and to honor these legacies — in this case,with Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh & Barnstorm and Caribou Ranch," Brown says. "I don't think they've been forgotten, but we're in an age where if you don't tend to legacies, they're forgotten. It used to take a generation; now it just takes a week if you're not posting on social media. So to make sure these stories don't get lost, this class has a degree of fame.

"We did a class last year, 20th Century Pioneers, that were people from the early twentieth century, going back to like 1900 to 1920 — the Michael Jacksons of their day in terms of popularity," Brown adds. "But no one remembers Billy Murray or Elizabeth Spencer. So to see the joy on people's faces when their careers are resurrected and the public is educated on what they accomplished, that brings me a lot of joy. That applies to all of them, but specifically the guys in Sugarloaf, for instance. Those guys had an incredible run, were Denver's best and brightest, had hit singles, but then they kind of put it in a box — most of the members — [and] had their lives. The Astronauts, same type of thing: They had adult lives. To dust that off, celebrate them, get the band back together if you will — that's powerful stuff. To see the joy it brings the fans and the inductees themselves is where I get my joy."

Colorado Music Hall of Fame: The Rocky Mountain Way, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, August 13, Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, $25-$125, 303-220-7000.
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Chris Callaway