It was in November of 2011 that I got to meet a music legend. This particular person never played guitar on stage, and as far as I know never sang into a microphone. He was, however, responsible for the promotion of hundreds, if not thousands, of concerts over the span of several decades. Barry Fey was an icon of the live concert industry. He left an indelible mark on the world of music, and this is especially true here in Colorado. September of 2017 marks 50 years since Barry Fey began his career and changed the history of rock 'n' roll forever.
I met Barry Fey at Twist & Shout Records during the launch for his new book, Backstage Past. Anyone into the history of rock 'n' roll will love this book. While I read his memoirs, it became apparent to me that Denver had much more rock 'n'roll history than what I was aware of. I began to seek out the venues where he built his career.
MAMMOTH GARDENS (FILLMORE AUDITORIUM)
In 1969, Barry Fey unknowingly booked one of the biggest bands for their first show on the North American continent. Vanilla Fudge was playing a show at The Mammoth Gardens (which is now the Fillmore Auditorium on Colfax). The headliner asked Barry Fey to book a new band from England named Led Zeppelin. Barry Fey had already sold out the show and didn't need another band on the bill. But when Vanilla Fudge asked if they could pay Led Zeppelin from their own payment, Barry agreed to allow them to open the show. Of course, we all know the history of how they rose to become one of rocks greatest bands.
Fillmore Auditorium (wikipedia)
Mammoth Gardens (setlist.fm)
Mammoth Gardens (Denver Public Library)
Fillmore Auditorium (LiveNation)
RAINBOW MUSIC HALL (WALGREEN'S)
On Evans at Monaco was the Rainbow Music Hall. This venue hosted some mjaor performers during it's time. It was open from 1979 until 1988, and during that time it saw a huge list of major stars perform on its stage. Barry Fey joked that there are now less drugs being dispensed there since it has become a Walgreens (pharmacy). The building of course is long gone, but the Walgreen's near that corner is the locations where all the magic happened.
Rainbow Music Hall (Denver Public Library)
Rainbow Music Hall (setlist.fm)
Kim Allen Denver Photo Archives
Westword remembers the opening of the Rainbow Music Hall
RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE
Barry Fey put on some major shows at Red Rocks. The iconic one that comes to mind is U2's film Under a Blood Red Sky, which was recorded in 1983 (released in 1984). There was also a period where rock concerts were not allowed at Red Rocks due to an incident at a Jethro Tull show back in 1971. It was Barry Fey sued the city of Denver in 1975 and won the case. Rock concerts resumed in 1975, and the next summer in '76, he began his Summer of the Stars concert series. Red Rocks has always been a world-class venue, and Barry Fey's legacy is very much wrapped-up in that history.
THE FAMILY DOG (PT'S SHOWCLUB)
At 1601 East Evans is the infamous PT's Showclub, which used to be the well-known venue The Family Dog. This venue had a short run - only two years (1967-1968). But some major acts performed there in that time. The first show that The Doors ever played outside of California was at the Family Dog. Janis Joplin, Blue Cheer, Jefferson Airplane, Van Morrison, are just some of the other artists who performed there. Like his comments about Rainbow Music Hall and the Walgreens that stands in its place, Barry joked that there is less nudity at PT's Showclub than there was when it was The Family Dog. There is apparently a documentary being made, titled "The Tale of the Dog."
EBBETS FIELD (1020 15th St.)
In downtown Denver, Barry had a smaller club, called Ebbets Field, named after The Brooklyn Dodgers' home field in Brooklyn. It held about 230 people, so it was a very intimate venue. Many great acts performed there, such as: Ry Cooder, Dr. John, Peter Frampton, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Marshall Tucker Band, John Prine, and many others. The location now has residential and commercial properties.
PETER TOSH & FISH-HEAD SOUP
When I met Barry at his book-signing in November 2011, I got to ask him if he booked shows with any of the iconic reggae performers such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, etc. He said that in 1978, Peter Tosh was was opening these large stadium shows for The Rolling Stones. When the tour arrived in Denver, it was Barry's responsibility to attend to Peter's requests. Barry said that Peter demanded to have "Fish-Head Soup," which is a common meal in Jamaica, but not-so-much in Denver. So Barry ended up riding all over Denver in a car with Peter Tosh seeking out somewhere that had Fish-Head Soup.
In conclusion, this blog post only hits a few of the highlights from Barry Fey's career, and it definitely doesn't get into the details. His legacy lives on in so many ways, it is difficult to quantify. But the spirit of his desire to make great concerts happens definitely lives on in Feyline Entertainment. The best way to understand his life and career is to read his autobiography. I won't try and take away from it by telling too many stories from it, because there are some amazing ones in that book. It is still available on his website, The Rockfather.
R.I.P. Barry Fey (1938 - 2013)
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