Some of Colorado’s most notable musicians will be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Tuesday.
The induction ceremony and concert at the new Mission Ballroom in Denver will honor late guitarist Tommy Bolin; Boulder bluesman and Trance Blues Festival founder Otis Taylor; Colorado’s “Crown Princes of Funk,” Freddi Gowdy and Henchi Graves; 70s Boulder hard rock band Zephyr; late music journalist Wendy “Rock & Roll” Kale, whose music writing is said to have fueled the careers of Big Head Todd & The Monsters and The Samples, among others; and Tony Spicola, credited as Colorado’s first concert promoter.
“By honoring some of the trailblazers, that’s what we’re about,” said musician and Colorado Music Hall of Fame executive director Chris Daniels. “Now with this class we’ve finally reached a place where we got the groundwork laid for this group of innovators so we can start to move into the modern era.”
Founding director and music historian G. Brown, who now directs the nonprofit Colorado Music Experience, said the hope with the Hall of Fame was to “establish a permanent institution in service of Colorado music history.”
“We have a more vibrant scene than ever in Colorado, but we’re standing on the shoulders of giants,” Brown said. “We wanted to make sure the giants got their due.”
One of those giants was Tommy Bolin, who “came up in the era of the guitar gods,” Brown said.
“He was truly one of the most gifted musicians to come out of Colorado,” he said. “Tommy could play anything, electric, acoustic, rock or jazz.”
Bolin played with Zephyr, Deep Purple and had success as a solo artist before he died from a drug overdose at age 25 in 1976.
“If he were still alive, he would be Eric Clapton today,” music promoter and CMHOF co-founder Chuck Morris told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “He was the best there was, and I have promoted most of them.”
Otis Taylor is acclaimed all over the world and is known as an educator from his work to bring blues history into schools. He’s won multiple W.C. Handy awards, one of the highest honor for a blues musician.
“[Some people] think I’m a little too out there,” Taylor told Westword about his distinctive sound. “Some people think I don’t have a genre. I call myself a trance blues guy. If I feel like a blues guy, then I am. I can be whatever I want to be.”
Then there’s Zephyr, the once Colorado “it” band that made a national splash in the 1970s.
Frontwoman Candy Givens was a “brass, ballsy singer,” often compared to Janis Joplin. Brown recalls the time she played the Denver Pop Festival.
“Maybe Candy’s greatest moment as a performer,” he said. “People were tear-gassed and instead of letting things evolve into a full-fledged riot, she quelled the crowd by saying, ‘Might as well play some blues.’ And sang through the tear gas and kept it going.”
The Freddi Henchi Band was known as a great party band.
“[Freddi Gowdy] still sings like a canary,” Brown said. “One of the best voices in Colorado music history.”
Puebloan Tony Spicola brought The Who to Colorado for their first show in the state. He also booked acts like Ike & Tina Turner, the Everly Brothers and Black Sabbath.
Journalist Wendy Kale was considered a great champion for Colorado musicians.
“Wendy Kale was the love of all of our lives,” Chris Daniels said. “She made all of these incredible acts available to a national audience by the articles she wrote.”
These latest inductees join Swallow Hill Music, The Mother Folkers, Dick Weissman and Walt Conley as part of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame’s 2019 class. Previous inductees include Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves, promoter Barry Fey, Glenn Miller, legendary folk singer Judy Collins and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.