Friday, March 9, 2012

Several Species of Small Furry Thoughts - An Incredible Colorado Experience.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m on the board of The Colorado Music Hall Of Fame. It’s something that I’m totally weirded out by. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such an honor, but it has been a very interesting experience. I have had to learn to balance my own feelings about what is important with the agendas of a lot of different people. The result has been that I don’t do that much, but I am proud to be doing it. Yesterday I had the experience of a lifetime when I got to have lunch with the original members of future inductees, the great Denver band Sugarloaf. I moved to Denver in late ’68 and by ’69 I was aware of Sugarloaf because one of my classmates told me his cousin was in a band called Sugarloaf that was gonna be real big. Then in late ’69 “Green Eyed Lady” started hitting the airwaves and immediately caught my attention. I loved it. I bought the 45, then the album and really dug the whole thing. The song became a national hit and for a while there Sugarloaf was everywhere (at least they were on Denver AM radio). There were not a lot of bands from Denver at that point, and none that had cracked the top 10, so kids at my school were proud to have our own rock stars. After the single peaked, the band kind of disappeared for a few years. They did release a second album Spaceship Earth that was not as popular and they kind of came to be a dead issue. Then in the mid-70’s they came roaring back with another single “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” a sardonic look at the music business that also really caught my ear. I was just starting to understand that there was such a thing as the “music business” and that it might not be all sunshine and roses. After “Don’t Call Us…” ran its course Sugarloaf kind of left my radar. They became a pleasant memory. Then, as a record store owner I followed their reissues on CD and always kept a soft spot in my heart for them.

When we started talking about which bands from the 60’s would be inducted to The Colorado Music Hall Of Fame Sugarloaf was at the top of everyone’s list. So I was surprised and a little nervous after receiving a call inviting me to the Morrison Inn to meet with the band. It turns out all the members who appeared on that first album had not been together in over 30 years. As I walked in to the Morrison Inn I looked over to my left and saw seated at a table keyboardist, songwriter and singer Jerry Corbetta sitting there chatting with original guitar player Bob Webber. Unreal! I had been told that Jerry Corbetta was suffering from an Alzheimer’s-like condition. While he was a bit scattered in his thoughts, I found him to still be charming and clear on a lot of details. They were all there: bass player Bob Raymond, first and second drummers Bob MacVittie and Myron Pollock. The only major guy missing was Bob Yeazel who joined for the second album, and who I used to see perform throughout the 70’s and 80’s in town. But for all intents and purposes, this was all of Sugarloaf, embracing each other, catching up and looking like old friends from the neighborhood. It took a little while for things to loosen up, but just like any other gathering of old friends, it soon became clear that these guys had shared a great bond together and had plenty of war stories to share. They were all great. Myron Pollock, who avoided all rock-star temptation at the time, was clear as a bell and had an incredible scrapbook of memorabilia. Bob Raymond was a cool character that seemed to have just left rock and roll at some point and become a normal guy, never looking back. For me, the biggest thrill was Bob Webber, who still looked every bit the 60’s rock star - a cross between Kris Kristofferson and Jeff Bridges - but was as nice and low key as you could imagine. He told me he still played guitar and never really left music behind. He was thoughtful and sharp and it was a gigantic thrill to meet him. He had absolute clarity about what inspired him - seeing Rich Fifield with the Astronauts tear up the Fender guitar at a school dance. He said the next day he and Bob Raymond talked about buying guitars. This was in 6th grade. As Bob was relaying this story, the historical thread of this man’s life started to wind with my own and I realized the very real bonds that tie all us rock and roll people together. We all remember standing there looking up at a heroic guitar playing guy and thinking: “I could do that.” Ultimately we all can’t. But these guys sure did, and it was such a rewarding experience to get to meet them and see that they were just guys like me - touched by rock and roll and never truly free of its spell.

--- Paul

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