Barbara Humphrey, Nederland. It was a great night for Nederland on August 13 as 10,000 people cheered the 2017 Colorado Music Hall of Fame Inductees at a sold-out concert at the Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre in Greenwood Village.
Caribou Ranch, a few miles north of Nederland and famous for its recording studio which was put together in a barn by Jim Guercio in 1971, is a member of the 2017 class that also includes Earth, Wind and Fire members Philip Bailey, Andrew Woolfolk, and Larry Dunn, Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh and his band Barnstorm, Ron Miles, Bill Frisell, Charles Burrell and his niece, Grammy Award winner Dianne Reeves.
Between 1972 and 1985, when the barn was damaged in a fire, more than 150 groups recorded singles and albums in the studio. Just a few of the most famous include Chicago, which was managed by Guercio, Billy Joel, Carole King, Dan Fogelberg, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Joe Walsh and the band Barnstorm, John Lennon, The Beach Boys, Waylon Jennings, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Blood Sweat &Tears, John Denver, Earth Wind & Fire and U2.
At the end of July, inductee Charlie Burrell who is now 97, was honored with a trip to visit Caribou Ranch. Charlie is the double bass player who is known as the “Jackie Robinson of Classical Music.” He performed not only classical music, but was well-known as a jazz bassist who recorded at Caribou with a number of bands and musicians including Boulder’s great tenor sax player, Spike Robinson.
Charlie was the first African-American musician, in the world, to have a contract with a symphony orchestra which was the Denver Symphony, now the Colorado Symphony, in 1949. After performing with the symphony in Colorado for about six years, he moved to the San Francisco Symphony, then back to Colorado where he played his bass with the symphony until retiring in 1999.
For many summers, Charlie performed with the Central City Opera orchestra. Before each show, he would go to the Black Forest Inn in Black Hawk for a delicious meal and a visit with his good friend, Bill Lorenz.
When Charlie came to Nederland to visit Caribou Ranch, he also wanted to have lunch at the Black Forest. He made it just in time before the closing. Bill was unable to come to the lunch, but Charlie had a good visit with Bill’s wife, Kay. What a day for Charles Burrell!
With the help of his friend Mitch Handelsman, Charlie has written a fascinating book about the story of his life called “The Life of Charlie Burrell, Breaking the Color Barrier in Classical Music.” A copy of this book will be donated to the Nederland Library for you to check out and enjoy.