Much of the email this column generates is rather critical. Recently, a reader told me electronically, “Your (sic) one sick liberal. You are the enemy of Wyoming people.” Last week’s column about the music of the 60s, however, spurred another reader to write, “Never thought I would enjoy a Rodger McDaniel column. Thank you, those definitely were the good old days.”
I knew then I needed to write a “Part 2.” So, I reached out via Facebook to ask what others recalled about the Cheyenne rock scene of those days. So many shared such great memories, there had to be a sequel.
Many recalled the Byrds, Cyrkle, Beau Brummels, and Sugar Loaf playing at the Frontier Pavilion. For those so young you never had to walk across the living room to change the TV station, be assured these bands were big deals around the country.
Remember the Kingsmen? Their hit “Louie, Louie” was a collection of such indecipherable words that we were able to shock our parents by repeating the smutty lyrics we were certain it contained. It took Snopes half a century to investigate. “Louie, Louie,” says the fact-finding website, was simply an “innocuous 1956 song about a lovesick sailor’s lament to a bartender.” Because we still thought it was about sex, when the Kingsmen came to Cheyenne, they packed the house.
One Facebook writer remembered, “We were called to the auditorium at East. Finally, all the Kingsmen in like blazers, stood up and went to the stage. They were the guests.” Another recalled the day the great band Chicago showed up at Sloan’s Lake in Lions Park. Apparently, they were passing through town and stopped there for a break.
One of the best stories came from the memory of Alan O’Hashi. He referred me to a 1970 Rolling Stone magazine interview where I learned that Leon Russell and Jerry Lee Lewis played the Pavilion. Russell was the great song writer and musician who played with everybody from the Rolling Stones to Tina Turner and Bob Dylan, wrote Joe Cocker’s “Delta Lady,” and was called a “mentor” by Elton John before being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When asked about gigs he played as he toured the country, Russell told the Rolling Stone about a night he and Jerry Lee played Cheyenne’s Pavilion. Russell said it was the “Blackboard Jungle” era.
“I remember Jerry Lee in Cheyenne, Wyoming,” Russell said. “The band was really playing and he was standing up on the piano bench singing and watching 75 people fight in the audience, just chasing around and running all over the audience. Pretty soon they all advanced on the stage, when they got tired of fighting with each other, and the curtains were pulled and we made a mad scramble out to the cars and packed up as many instruments as we could and got out of town.”
Sorry I missed that.
Others fondly recalled how “the horsey” kids gathered with their parents for teen dances at the Saddle Tramps club. Others remember summer nights dancing to local groups like Jason and the Argonauts and Charlie Brice and the Kansas City Soul Association at the band stand in Lion’s Park. The KCSA actually finished second at KIMN’s Denver battle of the bands one year. “Bobby Giles and the Lebas” can’t be left off the list. Bobby was a talented Cheyenne blues and rock musician who also played bass guitar for Jimmy Valdez and the Blues Revolution.
Rick Spencer urged we not forget how many local groups practiced their hearts out in garages around Cheyenne. Using borrowed or cheap guitars they “knew we’d all become famous if someone in the group could just remember the 4th verse to House of the Rising Sun.” Those bands existed, Rick said, from 3:30-5:15, “when the old man got home from work and wanted to park his car in the garage.”
Mary Hopkin was right, “Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end.”