A Walk Through the Colorado Music Hall of Fame


As if the naturally perfect outdoor acoustics of the rock formations at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre weren’t amazing enough to behold, nearby stands an epic bronze statue of a familiar figure. Upon closer inspection, it’s revealed to be none other than Colorado folk-rocker John Denver, complete with his trademark guitar slung over his back as a great eagle perches on his outstretched left hand. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame acquired the statue of Colorado’s favorite son back in 2013. There used to be some push back from John Denver fans as to where the statue should be located. Today, as the statue stands right next to one of Colorado’s greatest natural treasures, it’s plain to see that John Denver himself couldn’t have picked a better spot.

This is what The Colorado Music Hall of Fame is all about. The CMHOF is a privately sponsored non-profit organization with the mission of preserving, protecting, and propagating the state of Colorado’s varied contributions to music. It contains historical exhibits that feature artifacts from, and information about, Colorado’s most outstanding and influential musicians, venues, events, and institutions. The first inductees where John Denver, followed by the Red Rocks themselves for providing a Colorado venue worthy of hosting legends like the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, and U2.

Another notable inductee to the CMHOF is the 1960s band The Astronauts, who were the first Colorado band to make it into the national charts. Despite being a landlocked surf band, their hit songs Movin’ and Baja gave the more famous Beach Boys a run for their money. Other artists featured in the exhibits include Billy Murray (also known as the Denver Nightingale), Paul Whiteman, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Firefall, Harry Tuft, and many others. The most recent inductees include legendary singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh and Barnstorm, and the Caribou Ranch studio, all of which were recognized in 2017 at an induction ceremony at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre.

Apart from artists, places, and institutions relevant to Colorado music, the CMHOF also celebrates historic events that have shaped the music of Colorado and America. You can see this in one of their exhibits called Backstage Past, which features the photos of George Kealiher, the unofficial backstage photographer of the then-newly constructed Denver Coliseum in 1952.

Kealiher captured many of the national acts booked by the Denver Coliseum, including Patsy Cline, George Jones, Faron Young, Ray Price, the Louvin Brothers, Little Jimmy Dickens, and even Johnny Cash. At the time, most of these now iconic artists were directly influenced by a then-young Elvis Presley’s fresh rockabilly sound. This is what makes Backstage Past different from other exhibits about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s musical legacy. His hardcore fans already know the stories behind billboard hits like Hound Dog, Love Me Tender, and All Shook Up. Meanwhile, Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas is hailed by many as one of the greatest poker songs of all time. Alongside it is King Creole and Jailhouse Rock, which are also already famous for being titular movie songs. What many of his most hardcore fans might not know about is how much Elvis has influenced the Colorado rock and country sound. This is what Backstage Past is bringing to the fore.

These are just some of the exhibits you’ll see while taking a walk through the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Make sure to bring a good camera – a visit to the CMHOF would be remiss without at least a couple snaps of the nearby majestic Red Rocks Amphitheatre.