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Colorado songs #1
Hi John: As a music teacher of 30 years with a specialty in folk music, I enjoyed reading your article about Colorado songs (“Colorado Songs,” Smoke Signals, MG #185). I have an addition for you and a clarification.
First: “Cripple Creek” is a folk song with many verses that celebrates the lifestyle of the miners in Cripple Creek:
“Goin’ up to Cripple creek. Goin’ in a whirl.
Goin’ up to Cripple Creek to see my girl. (Who really would have been in the red-light district of Old Colorado City.)
Goin’ up to Cripple Creek. Goin’ on a run.
Goin’ up to Cripple Creek to have a little fun.”
If you google Cripple Creek and John Lomax collection of American folk songs, you can find more verses.
Second: It is my understanding the “Colorado Trail” is about an old wagon trail they came through Colorado. The trail was not as popular as the Santa Fe Trail or the Oregon Trail, but the song was supposed to be a cattle lullaby sung by cowboys. When I grew up in the ’50s, our family had a wonderful record of “The Songs of the West,” by the Norman Luboff Choir, which had a gorgeous arrangement of “Colorado Trail.” The trail was definitely created long before the footpath that crosses our state nowadays.
So that’s my contribution to your song collection. Blasts from the way-back past. I have been frustrated that there are not many folk songs mentioning our state. I think many of the pioneers were passing through here to the west coast, or else they had hypothermia and altitude sickness and died before they could write any songs!
Good luck with your collection,
Colorado songs #2
John: Great Smoke Signals. The only two songs I can think of that you missed, probably because they don’t actually include “Colorado,” is the song “Denver” on Willie Nelson’s “Redheaded Stranger” album and “Wolf Creek Pass,” by CW McCall (I think — I loved truck songs as a kid and still do).
As far as greater Rocky Mountain regional tunes naming specific places, these come to mind:
• “Let Me Die in My Footsteps,” by Bob Dylan (“Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho”).
• “Taos,” by Waylon Jennings.
• “Santa Fe,” by Bob Dylan.
• “Billy,” by Dylan (“The businessmen from Taos want you to go down … ”).
• “Big City,” by Merle Haggard (“Somewhere in the middle of Montana …”).
• If Cheyenne counts, then there are two: “Jack Straw,” by the Grateful Dead and “Grievous Angel,” by G. Parsons.
Songs that mention the Great Divide or Rocky Mountains or something along those lines:
• “Blue Canadian Rockies,” by the Byrds.
• “Night Rider’s Lament,” by Jerry Jeff.
• “Great Divide,” by Neil Young.
As it happens, I was just listening to “Spike Driver’s Blues” (this version an oldie by Mississippi John Hurt) and it says this:
“It’s a long way from east Colorado, honey, to my home.”
Also, for generic Rocky Mountain songs, there’s “Rocky Mountain Music,” by Eddie Rabbit.
As I peruse my music (all on the computer these days, I’m sad to say), I see a billion-and-one songs about the South, the prairie and California, but so very few about the Rockies. Seems like there must be some mining-era songs out there somewhere on some Smithsonian folk collection or something.
Colorado songs #3
John: I enjoyed your recent column on Colorado songs. A particular favorite of mine, especially when driving home on Highway 9 at night with a full moon illuminating the Gore Range, is “Colorado,” by Grizzly Bear.
Colorado Songs #4
John: The Band … “Up on Cripple Creek.” Well, it’s a maybe, at least to the extent that I could not find a reference that was definitive. It could be Cripple Creek, Virginia.
Very good writing … I enjoyed it very much.
Editor’s note” The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek” is definitely about Cripple Creek, VA.
Colorado Songs #5
John: Off the top of my head, you forgot:
• Danny Holien, “Colorado.”
• Rusty Weir, “Coast of Colorado.”
• Michael Stanley, “Denver Rain.”
But the some of the best mountain songs don’t mention a place name:
• The Monroe Doctrine, “Time and a River Flowing” — one of the proto- new-grass bands.
• Frummox, “High Country Caravan/Song for Stephen Stills” (Steve Fromhotlz and Dan McCrimmon).
• The Dirt Band, “Rippin’ Waters.”
I’m sure there are many more in the gray matter, those floated to the top.
Colorado Songs #6
Dear MJ: While it does not have the word “Colorado” in it, one song is a huge memory …
November 1982, a newly single mother, embarking on a new adventure … driving my Olds Delta 88 with my toddler daughter and all my worldly possessions over Berthoud Pass in a driving blizzard … thinking I was absolutely crazy!!! … song comes on the radio … Bob Seeger’s “Get Out of Denver.” “Baby go go.” Thirty years later, 10 in Grand County, 10 in Summit county and now a grateful resident of the Roaring Fork Valley … best decision I ever made … I still hear that song any time I head west.
Long-time reader … actually made your acquaintance many years ago in Summit.
Thanks for all you do.
Colorado Songs #7
Mr. Fayhee: Thanks for another great Smoke Signals article. I’d like to add the song “Denver” from the classic album “Red Headed Stranger,” by Willie Nelson to your list of Colorado songs.
R. J. Vik
Colorado Songs #8
John: Smoke Signals has again exceeded my expectations. “Colorado Songs” also depleted my monthly budget for new song downloads. My feedback is to laud, not be critical with “how could he not include (such and such) or at least something by (fill in the blank).” A heartfelt thanks for sharing the songs of Colorado from your research. I volunteer as a DJ for Radio Free Minturn, a non-profit community radio station broadcasting throughout the Vail Valley. I research and compile songs with similar themes for my shows. One of my shows five years ago was themed Colorado. Though, at that point I did not easily find songs that were the right genre fit.
Your article revealed songs that I believed to be long forgotten. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils … wow … a true blast! And, surely, their song, “If You Want To Get To Heaven,” was referring to Colorado since “you got to raise a little hell!” Other songs from my past include The Marshall Tucker Band’s “A New Life,” depicting a man being shot in Denver and landing in jail there. Even though Charlie Daniels sang a lot about Tennessee and Texas, whenever I hear “Saddle Tramp” or “Long Haired Country Boy,” Colorado is where I am in my mind through those songs.
The Colorado River deserved mention in songs by Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the McKay Brothers. My mind takes me to the Colorado River when I hear Colorado’s own Leftover Salmon playing “Rivers Rising” or The Colorado Playboys’ “River Song.” No mention of Colorado is needed, because my heart is always on that river. Then check out a soulful song by Railroad Earth, called … “Colorado.”
Thank you for citing Chevy Chase’s “Colorado” from the 1973 National Lampoon’s “Lemmings.” Welcome to a place where matter doesn’t when listening to Red Sovine’s “Colorado Kool-Aid.” And, as you get “Across The Rocky Mountains,” by Bruce Hornsby & Ricky Skaggs, you reach “The King of Colorado,” by The Band of Heathens. And, I did not know that Firefall was founded by Rick Roberts from The Flying Burrito Brothers … both these groups recorded “Colorado.” Emmylou Harris was not the only one singing about leaving Colorado in “Boulder to Birmingham.” The Hillbilly Hellcats are “Leavin’ Colorado” and The Woodys are going from “Telluride To Tennessee,” as well.
Thank you for re-introducing me to the music of Judy Collins. “The Blizzard” is destined to be included in an upcoming playlist for the air. Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle spawned a life long friendship to produce two “Colorado” songs and naming of a son, Justin Townes Earle, after a dear friend. Not only does Bowling For Soup “Surf Colorado,” but Robert Burkhardt is “Surfin’ Colorado.”
I respectfully disagree that “Rocky Mountain Way,” by Joe Walsh “makes no sense at all.” It makes very good sense to me because “the Rocky Mountain way is better than the way we had.” Was the late, great Dan Fogelberg singing about the tree or the city in his song, “Aspen/These Days,” from his “Captured Angel” album? I heard it in 1974 in a barracks in Okinawa, Japan. Again, who would have thought that this Tennessee boy would know the difference by moving to the Rocky Mountain? I have a song in my heart and my heart is in Colorado. By the way, I miss Dan … cancer sucks.
Music bonds us to one another and kudos to you for a departure from your ab-normal Smoke Signals. I hope to hear of your future music discoveries from throughout our mountains.
Ya’llternative music, brother. Thank you, man!
Radio Free Minturn DJ
Colorado Songs #11
Master Fayhee: A listener called me during my radio show last week to mention your article on Colorado songs and suggest the challenge of adding to your list.
I have done so and will be playing a set on air tomorrow, should you care to listen.
I humbly will only make three additions, two of note.
Thanks for inspiring a quest.
Here is the playlist for that segment:
1. “Colorado”/Rebecca Zapen/Nest
2. “Colorado Girl”/Steve Earl /Townes
3. “My Secret Place”/Joni Mitchell & Peter Gabriel/Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm
4. “Me & That Train”/Patty Larkin/not sure of the CD … just downloaded it.
Lynette O’Kane, Assistant Music Director
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