Chris Kresge knows Colorado music like few others. The rootsy songwriter and tenacious radio host, a resident of Brighton who is about to be a great-grandfather, first came to the Denver area in 1973, when he was briefly stationed at Lowry Air Force Base. Kresge returned three years later at the age of 21 to begin what would become a long career on the airwaves and the microphones of the Front Range.
Local radio listeners know him as the brains and personality behind the radio show The Colorado Sound, which is now called The Colorado Playlist on 105.5 FM KJAC. As a longtime student and booster of the local music scene, Kresge — who, among other gigs, lectures at the University of Colorado Denver and emcees local music events including the Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, has also logged time in a few bands over the course of his career and has, at the age of 64, released a debut EP with his band GOATZ!
Kresge is dedicating his Americana-based release, Sweet Inspiration, to his late wife, Patricia Kresge, aka "Miss Pattie," who died of metastatic melanoma in 2016.
Westword caught up with "Goat," as he is known to his friends, families and colleagues, to talk about his life and music.
Westword: How's it going?
Chris Kresge: How the hell are you doin'? Tuesday and Wednesday are my show production days, so I wind up sitting here and listening to nothing but music for two days while planning the show.
That's not bad, is it?
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[Laughs heartily.] No, not considering it's how I make most of my living. I can't complain one bit. I do The Colorado Playlist, which originally was called The Colorado Sound, but I sold the name three years ago this past January to KJAC 105.5/The Colorado Sound, and then I rebranded as The Colorado Playlist after that. The Colorado Sound then hired me on staff, so I do Saturdays for them now, and they also air my Colorado Playlist program twice a day on Sundays. And it's also aired on many other stations.
So you're listening to what you're going to play on your show this week?
Yeah, I'm building this week's show, which will air statewide this Friday through the following Saturday.
Does The Colorado Playlist have to contain music that is strictly from Colorado?
It has to have a direct connection to Colorado. For example, I'll play the Wood Brothers. Chris and Oliver [Wood] grew up in Boulder. I'll play Katie Herzig, who went to high school in Fort Collins and then to college in Boulder. Or SHEL, who I've known for a long time. I've known them since they were little, and I've known their dad for thirty years. So it has to have a direct connection, but it's not just bands that are playing in our local rooms.
I do a Colorado music history segment at the top of hour, where I might talk about Stephen Stills and Manassas or the Colorado Music Hall of Fame or Dan Fogelberg. A lot of my music history knowledge came from [former Denver Post music critic] G. Brown. I try to put the whole history of the state together going back to the late ’50s and early ’60s, and I'll talk about bands that have legitimacy within the state. Like Reed Foehl, who was in Acoustic Junction: I'll play a track, "American Miles," from Reed's new album, that he co-wrote with Gregory Alan Isakov and who he roomed with. I'll bring in all of those pieces and tie it all up. The show airs on a bunch of stations all over Colorado.
How old were you when you moved to Colorado?
I was first here [for about eight weeks] in 1973, while I was at Lowry Air Force Base when I was eighteen. I came back in 1976, when I was 21. I moved to Colorado from Connecticut, where my family had settled in 1969. I went to high school in Connecticut, and I joined the military in 1973. After I got out of the service, I went home for a bit, and then I decided to move to Colorado.
How was Denver in 1973?
I went to my first porn movie in Denver in 1973. I went to see Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door at some place on Colfax, and I fell asleep. Another remarkable story from that time was when I was walking downtown one day on what is now the 16th Street Mall, which didn't exist in those days — but I had my khakis on and was on my way to the USO Club with my head down, which was the custom in New York City, where you didn't look people squarely in the face. I got stopped by a man, and he said, "Young man, I don't know where you're from, but here in Denver, when we walk down the street, we hold our heads up high and we say hi to people as they pass us." I never forgot that, and it was one of the reasons I came back. I liked the friendliness of the people here.
You were in a Southern-rock band for a while, right?
Yeah in the ’80s, I hooked up with a band called JAB (Just Another Band) while I was working at a radio station in Fort Collins. It was a classic-rock group. The lead guitar player and I spun off from that band to create a Southern rock and a jam-band-influenced group called Alien Cowboy. We did a lot of Allman Brothers and Little Feat, that kind of thing. We carried that band through the end of the ’90s, when we did a tour of Great Britain for five weeks, and then I came home and said, "I don't want to do this anymore."
What was it about the touring that made you say no thanks?
It just wasn't fun. It was also incredibly expensive to do an overseas tour, and it just never all came together. The playing part of it was fun, and the rest of it was bullshit. And there were some internal problems, some of the standard personality conflicts. I was getting up into my mid-forties, and I was getting more into Americana and alternative country rock. At that point, I was playing more acoustic guitar, and my partner wanted to get harder and faster. So that was the end of that.
That segues us into your new release with your band GOATZ! Can you tell me a bit about it?
The album was just released on March 1. It is inspired by and dedicated to my late wife, Miss Pattie, aka Mrs. Goat, aka Patricia Kresge. It's straight-up Americana. My favorite music growing up was the Stones, and especially their country-rock-influenced stuff by guys like Gram Parsons. I liked the [Flying] Burrito Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival. You know, roots rock and American trad rock, country rock — those were my big styles. I wrote three of the songs while she was sick and then a couple after she passed away, and there's one by John Fogerty. A lot of people are surprised and cheering me on. They're like, "Holy shit, Goat. You're 64, and you've got this rocking show and this killer band, and you just put out your debut EP!" I think they look at it and go, "Hey, if he can do it, maybe I can do it, too."
Do you want to say anything about any of the songs on the EP?
I co-wrote a couple with Pattie. "Country in My Soul" came about when I was hanging out in my living room and Johnny Cash was on TV. It was some kind of documentary, and I was in the living room just watching and playing my black Strat along with it, and Miss Pattie comes out of the office and goes, "You're not Johnny Cash." Then she went back into the office, and an hour later she came out and handed me the lyrics and said, "Here, here's your song." I wrote [title track] "Sweet Inspiration" about a month and a half before she died. I wrote "She's Gone" and "I'm Sorry" after she died. The lone cover on there is kind of a reimagining of an old John Fogerty tune called "Lodi." The words kept rattling in my head. I was sixty years old at the time, and I was like, that's my story. I never liked the original arrangement of it, so I changed it a bit. I was plunking around on my guitar one day, and it just fell into place.
Has performing music always held an appeal for you?
Yeah, though I figured out when I was a teenager that I didn't have the technical skills or the X-factor to be Eric Clapton, so my attitude was more practical. I've always played music, but I did a lot of beat-mixing at bars and worked as a DJ in clubs for a long time. I ended up in radio. It will be 41 years ago this April that I graduated from broadcast school in Denver.
Are you playing out a lot these days?
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I'll play anywhere from once a month to six times a month. I teach, I emcee, I lecture at UCD. I'm a DJ. I've been emceeing the Bohemian [Nights at] NewWestFest since 2003. I do a lot of different stuff, so I play depending on when I can fit it in. The core lineup of our band is a trio made up of myself and my longtime partner Chris Jackowski on guitar and a bass player who we've had for the last three years, Janeen Bogue, who got into playing later in life. She started playing when she was 48. We also bring in some fiddle, mandolin and pedal steel.
How'd you get the name Goat?
My adorably cute and ravishingly beautiful late wife, Pattie, gave it to me. When I got back from a British tour, I was despondent. I had quit my band, and I was being a real prick, but I recorded a bunch of instrumentals in my apartment. So she created an album cover where she took a goat's body and superimposed my face onto it, and she titled it The Picky, Grumpy Old Goat Does Wonderful Instrumentals. She put it up online and showed it to me, and I cracked up and said, "Can you make that my caricature?" So she made a caricature of the image with the goat head, which is still my logo to this day. She started calling me the picky, grumpy old goat, and then my grandkids started calling me that, and then my friends picked up on it and shortened it to goat. I'm a Capricorn, so it made sense. I named my band GOATZ! with the z and the exclamation point, so it's like a stampede of old goats. Now everyone in the industry knows me as Goat.