So tonight's the night when the Centennial state finally gets a place of its own to recognize all the great musicians who've helped put our fine state on the map over the years. And while there's a lengthy list of worthy inductees, it's pretty fitting that John Denver is the first musician being inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, which opens its doors tonight at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield. And that's not just because of his chosen stage name.
Fact is, the singer-songwriter, born Henry John Deutschendorf, embodied the spirit of Colorado with his songs and notably laid back demeanor. And given his admirable environmental conservation efforts, it's he's being inducted on Earth Day. Although the landscape of Colorado music has changed over the years, there was a time when John Denver was indisputably synonymous with music from this state.
Denver's musical legacy is being celebrated with performances tonight at 1STBANK by Olivia Newton-John, along with members of John Denver's Band and the Boulder Philharmonic (conducted by Lee Holdridge), plus Lee Ann Womack, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Michael Martin Murphey, Richie Furay, John Oates of Hall and Oates, and other surprise guests. If you haven't already, be sure to check out our take on Denver's Top 5 Songs and our list of Five Things You May Not Know about the singer.
Ironically (or maybe not so ironically), several of the men spearheading the efforts to get the Colorado Music Hall of Fame off the ground are arguably worthy of induction themselves -- even if both would likely deflect such an assertion -- Chuck Morris and G. Brown.
For his part, the Hall's Chairman, Morris, has played a pivotal role in Colorado music for four decades. From his storied club days at Ebbets Field to his time with Feyline (and later on his own with Bill Graham Presents/Chuck Morris Presents) to his tenure with Live Nation and now as AEG Live Rocky Mountain's honcho, Morris has been at the center of Colorado music. Beyond just promoting concerts, Morris has helped revitalize several venues, from the Fillmore, which he took from a time-ravaged roller rink to a premier concert hall, to 1STBANK Center, which he helped transform from a once cavernous, concrete-encased arena into something that feels more like an intimate theater. The Hall's Director/Curator, former Denver Post music critic and radio host G. Brown, meanwhile, wrote the words that most people read about Colorado music for the better part of three decades. It's no coincident that Brown and Morris are working together on this project. Brown's as old school as Morris, which is presumably why the former was tapped to help curate Listen-Up's Live From Ebbet's Field series, as well as pen its liner notes. (To get a glimpse of Brown in his heyday, look for scenes of the young critic hanging out with the Cars in their hotel room on their DVD.)
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Needless to say, between Brown, who's written one book on the subject of our state's music (Colorado Rocks! - A Half Century Of Music In Colorado) and is reportedly working on another about Red Rocks -- the Hall's other inductee this evening -- and Morris, we can hardly think of two people more qualified to help tackle such a massive project.
Similar to other like-minded, music-centric hall of fames across the country, the non-profit organization's goal is to introduce a new class of inductees every year at an awards dinner and then celebrating their contributions by collecting artifacts and putting them on display in the hall at an annual concert.
Backbeat will be on hand at 1STBANK for the inaugural induction tonight and the tribute concert, which is now sold out. Check back tomorrow morning for pictures and a full rundown of the proceedings.
In the interest of full disclosure: Westword publisher and Village Voice President and COO, Scott Tobias, sits on the Colorado Music Hall's board with Morris and Brown and nearly a dozen other folks, including Twist & Shout's Paul Epstein, Eryk Dyce of Theaters and Arenas, attorneys Aaron Friedman, Craig Umbaugh, Brad Farber, Colorado music historian George Krieger, Dave Plati, Phil Lobel, Kathryn Keller, Jeffrey Azoff and Mark Hartley.