I used to go dancing to the Moonrakers at different clubs in Denver during the sixties. A friend (Bart) and I used to promote rock dances in Denver and promoted the Moonrakers and Astronauts at the Moonlight Gardens Ballroom at Lakeside Amusement Park. We had over 3,000 kids at the dance. It was 3 days after the Beatles concert at Red Rocks.

Bart and I were college kids trying to have fun, make money, meet girls, and drink beer and not necessarily in that order. We put on 3-4 dances and made some money and yes, met some girls and drank a lot of beer. It was fun. We knew the Astronauts better than some of the other bands in Denver. They actually encouraged us to do this.

The Moonrakers did 3 dances with the Astronauts that I am aware of. The one that we promoted, another at Denver University (I think Bob Holben promoted that one) and a dance at Wheat Ridge H.S.  Denver was a hotbed of good bands. The Moonrakers, Astronauts, Soul Survivors, Rainy Daze, Fogcutters, Bakersfield Charter, etc.  I met with Joel Brandes at La Pitche' (The Pitcher) on Mississippi and Santa Fe to finalize the contract for the dance. The Moonrakers used to play there periodically. It was a club similar to the Galaxy.

It was the end of summer 1964. The Beatles had just performed at Red Rocks on a Wednesday night (I went on a free ticket - it was the only concert on the tour that did not sell out) and our dance was on Saturday just before school was supposed to start. Ted Atkins from KDAB radio, he went to KIMN radio later, was our emcee and he thought we would lose big time because it was too close to the Beatles concert. We banked on the fact it was the last big dance before school started. We gave him a choice of $50 or 3% of the gate. He chose $50. Big mistake on his part.

 

 The Astronauts were the top draw or billing (RCA recording stars) and the Moonrakers were the best of the current local bands. They hadn't left Denver for greener pastures yet like some other bands had. The Astronauts were paid $850 and the Moonrakers were paid $400. The owner of Lakeside liked us because we were young guys trying to make an honest buck, so he only charged us $125 for the ballroom (it has since been torn down). We charged $3 per couple and $2 per person. We drew over 2000 kids and grossed over $4000. Our costs were under $2000. By the way, if we had used the Tracadero Ballroom at Elitch's, it would have cost us $750 plus 5% of the gate. Lakeside was a much better deal. The Moonrakers and Astronauts played together several times in Denver. The Astronauts looked at it as a payday when not on the road or doing TV or movies and the Moonrakers looked at it as a way to build their name and to prove they were as good or better than a name act. The money wasn't bad either. During the dance, the power went out during one of the Astronauts' sets and we had to run an extension chord from the back of the ballroom to the stage. The show must go on. Ted Atkins couldn't believe we drew this big of a crowd and he tried to get us to pay him more. Needless to say, we said no. The Moonrakers were great and so were the Astronauts. This just encouraged us to promote more dances. We did OK and it helped pay for college. The Moonrakers were a class act and always put on a good performance. You knew they were going to do well.

 

Below is a pretty good history of Denver bands from 1963-68 from the prospective of a college kid going to listen and dance to these groups. I put this together for my son who writes for the Denver Post and used to be the program director for KVCU 1190 AM in Boulder. He never used it other than to refer to it when he was on the air. (The Local Shakedown Show - KVCU)

 

Denver/Boulder Sixties Rock Scene

 

The following are thoughts as I remember from the Sixties about the music scene in Denver/Boulder.

BOULDER

 

The Astronauts ruled Boulder. From 1962-63, they were it. Later, a lot of bands who were popular in Denver and the club scene there, were students at C.U., but Denver was their home.

 

Astronauts

Tulagi’s – Astronauts (1961-63). After they went to California, a series of bands played there but never had the impact the Astronauts had. The Astronauts would play there periodically until 1966.

 

In 1967, King Louie and the Laymen started playing there regularly. In 1968, The Bakersfield Charter displaced King Louie and played there regularly until the summer of 1969 when they graduated from C.U. Three of them were roommates of mine for a year. Great time. Good band. Had a sound similar to the Young Rascals. Would open for the Rascals in concert in Denver. They never recorded anything which is unfortunate. John Essman, the drummer, remembers playing at the Junction in the Springs. He recently reminded me that the Bakersfield Charter played the Galaxy on Sunday nights for months. Swan Records had an interest in them and wanted the band to go on the road opening for big name acts that were on tour, but the draft kept them in school. They all got drafted anyway.  

   

King Louie and the Laymen

Buff Room – Folk music venue. Judy Collins, Joe & Eddie, Smothers Bros., etc. 1962-64. In 1964 became a rock club for a short time then went out of business. It was located across from the Colo. Bookstore on the Hill. It is now a pizza place, I think.

 

Honey Bucket – Located on 30th Street. Sawdust on the floor and peanut shells. Only notable band was “The Police” (not the 80’s group). They had a flashing light and siren that would go off periodically. Fun place and good band. Band disappeared and so did the club. 1964-66 (I think)

 

Sink – Strictly drinking place, greasy burgers – great place to hang out.

 

Boulder became a magnet for bands during the seventies. Flash Cadillac, Zephyr, Poco, Eagles (yes the Eagles).  Some people think that Zephyr may have been the best band to come out of Boulder. I know this, I saw them and they were special. Candy Givens was great and so was Tommy Bolin. Flash Cadillac was just plain fun. They were worth the price of admission. I was at Tulagi’s the night the place got raided by the cops during one of their twist contests when all the couples stripped nude to win the prize. I’ll never forget that.  

Click here for an excellent interview from 1988 with Zephyr bassist David Givens. Doing this will take you off this site.  You will have to use your back button to return.

 

DENVER

 

From the period 1962-68, Denver was a hotbed of great Rock and Roll bands. They were not referred to as garage rock, in those days it was just good old R & R. Denver was also a big folk music city. Not so much for producing folk singers (exception - Judy Collins) but it was a stop off point for acts working their way to the west coast – Smothers Bros., Joe & Eddie, etc. Red Rocks was a big draw for folk music – Kingston Trio, New Christy Minstrels, Back Porch Majority, Joan Baez, Smothers Bros.

Back Porch Majority 

Colorado was an 18 yr. old state for drinking beer. A proliferation of 3.2 beer clubs sprung up in Denver, providing venues for local bands to develop their sounds. They all featured live music. You might say beer had a lot to do with the growth of rock bands in Denver.

 

It actually started in the high schools in 1960-62 timeframe. A lot of H.S. especially in the suburbs went from sock hops to after game (football, basketball) dances with live bands. It seemed like every H.S. had their own band. The Astronauts were one of them (Boulder H.S.) An example was Wheat Ridge H.S. which had what they called “Farmer Barns”. It was located in the basement of a restaurant. They would start at 10:00 p.m. and last till midnight. School officials would chaperone and they would serve soft drinks. Lakewood H.S. had the “Tiger’s Lair”. From these dances, the bands would graduate to the 3.2 beer clubs. Folk singing groups would sing at coffee houses such as the “Green Spider” on 16th Ave. east of the downtown area. From there they would electrify their sound and play R & R. By the way, the Green Spider was a true beatnik coffee house with beat poets, etc.

 

3.2 BEER CLUBS

 

There were numerous 3.2 beer clubs and what I will try to do is list the main ones and the bands that performed at them on a regular basis.

 

THE GALAXY – Sheridan & Alameda – The best or most popular of the 3.2 clubs (my observation). Mainly because of the bands that played there. 1962-66 were the best years. After that it lost popularity with the kids. Two main bands played there.  The Viscounts who later became the Rainy Daze. This band led the way in Denver after the Astronauts became popular. Some of the members started out as folk singers, singing in places like the Green Spider or at school “Hootenany’s". They were excellent musicians and songwriters. Mac Ferris (lead guitar/singer) was a great folk singer. I knew him in H.S.

Rainy Daze

The other band and the most popular was the Esquires who later became the Soul Survivors. As the Soul Survivors, they had a recording contract with Dot Records. They were real popular and KIMN radio picked up on that and would help promote them (Certain KIMN deejays had an interest in a number of bands at that time-anything for a buck). Their single “Hung Up on Losin” became  #1 in Denver in 1965 or 66. Good song. They introduced the song at a concert at the Trocadero  at Elitches. Freddy Cannon was the headliner. They went to California and became the “Poor”.

  

THE LA PITCHE’ (THE PITCHER) Santa Fe & Mississippi – Next to the Galaxy it was the most popular club. The Moonrakers played here a lot as I remember. I know they had a lot to do with its popularity as a club. It was the first club to install GO-GO cages and have GO-GO dancers. They were on either side of the bandstand. Famous for dance contests where the couple had to dance in the cages and be voted on by the crowd. Yes, I did win one night. I was drunk and had more friends in the audience than anyone else. I won free beer - just what I needed. The Moonrakers worked hard to develop their sound and promoted themselves well. They became at that time, the most popular band in Denver.  They would play dances, clubs and concerts, honing their sound and developing a great stage presence. 

 

THE EXODUS CLUB – 19th & Lincoln – They had what was called the “catacombs” downstairs with tables and piped in music. Upstairs was a dance floor and stage. Great place to go and have fun. Started out as a folk club and was very popular. Smothers Bros., Judy Collins, Joe & Eddie, etc. It was “the” folk venue in Denver. In 1964, they switched to R & R. This upset a lot of people, but for a couple of years it took off as a rock club. There wasn’t a home band like other clubs but some top local bands played there. 

The Fogcutters and the Daniels were the most notable bands who played there.  The Fogcutters recorded for Liberty Records and had one minor hit. They were a bubblegum band in Denver and left for Chicago where they played for six months as the opening act for Howlin' Wolf in a club there. Their sound evolved into the Chicago Blues sound and when they came back to Denver, they had changed for the better. A great sound. We promoted them in a battle of the bands dance with a group called the Daleks who played at SAM’S on Lookout Mountain. They left Liberty Records and started recording for Verve Records but I lost track of them after that. The Daniels were kind of an interesting band. They didn’t stay together that long but had a great sound.  

 

SAM’S (On Lookout Mtn.) – I have fond memories of Sam’s. Best beer, cheapest also. Sam was a character. The Daleks played there for two years. They all went to Regis University. I became good friends with them. They weren’t the best band, although they were good, but they were the most fun. They would play their guitars behind their backs, get up on each others shoulders, go into the audience, and they would play 10 minute versions of Satisfaction, Louie Louie, and Gloria and ad lib suggestive lyrics. At the battle of the bands dance with the Fogcutters (at Lakeside) they paid a bunch of girls to mob them on stage, tearing their clothing off. The Fogcutters cracked up over it. When they went on stage, they wanted to know when the girls were going to mob them. The Daleks were in it for the fun and money to pay for college. They did pack them in, though.  

Fogcutters

 

SOME LESSER CLUBS

 

PUSSYCAT A GO GO – So. Santa Fe – Rough place but a band played there called the Rendon Bros. They were a Latino Rock band and very good. They had a big following. They also played at a club called the TIGER A GO GO on East Colfax Ave. A real dive. There was also a teenybopper place called the RUGGED ROOM. Very popular dance place. No alcohol. KIMN deejays owned it.

 

Another notable band in Denver was the Boenzee Cryque. They had a single that was popular in Denver called “Still In Love With You Baby”. It was a cover of the Beau Brummels hit. It came out in 1967 and did well in Denver only.  

   

Boenzee Cryque

I left some things out. I could go on forever. There were a lot of good musicians in Denver at that time. It was a great time to be 18-21 yrs old. Boulder gets a lot of play for spawning great bands in the seventies. It is true, but I’ll take the sixties anytime and I’d rather listen to the Moonrakers, Soul Survivors, etc. over anything in the seventies. I’m sure I’m aging myself. Ha! Ha!

 

ROBERT GROKE  

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