The Leadville Connection: Mountain Music, Part Two
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
When it comes to music, Leadville has other mountain towns beat in some unusual ways. The Leadville Connection shines through in the melodies and lyrics of music produced long ago, and today. In Part One of this series was the story of “Home on the Range,” and the Leadville Connection to this popular sing-along and American cowboy classic. Part Two brings the conversation into the 20th century and discusses some contemporary musical pieces that have The Leadville Connection.
While it may have been born in the old mining camps, Leadville’s musical clout continued into the 20th century and by the 1980s, The Leadville Connection can be found at the top of Independence Pass. This song-writing troubadour was en-route from his Aspen show to the Denver Airport, deciding to take the long, scenic drive. Upon reaching the top of the highest paved crossover of the Continental Divide, he hears the news that actor John “The Duke” Wayne had died.
He expresses his feelings in the song “Incommunicado” recorded on his 11th studio album, Coconut Telegraph which was released in 1981. Yes, it’s the one-and-only Jimmy Buffet and here’s his Leadville Connection:
“Now on the day that John Wayne died
I found myself on the continental divide
Tell me where do we go from here?
Think I’ll ride into Leadville and have a few beers
Think of “Red River,” “Liberty Valence”
Can’t believe the old man’s gone.”
Of course, the next question regarding this song is, where did Jimmy Buffet have that Leadville beer? Locally, the battle rages on, was it the Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon or The Grill (sadly closed in October 2019). Who knows, maybe it was both?! Regardless, it’s another mention in the Leadville hits parade. And one Jimmy Buffet can still be found playing today! Thanks, buddy, hope to see you in Leadville for a cold one soon!
Next up, is a completely instrumental piece that continues to be played across the country, although its Leadville Connection is a bit more veiled. But now you’ll have the inside information!
Over the past decade, according to their official website, String Cheese Incident (SCI) has emerged as one of America’s most significant independent bands. Born in 1993 in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, SCI has since released 10 albums, 6 DVDs and countless live recordings from their relentless tour schedule.
Their 20-year history is packed full of surreal experiences, epic moments, groundbreaking involvement and huge accomplishments. So yes, of course, there’s a Leadville Connection. And this one, believe it or not, has to do with The Golden Burro.
It was 1993 and historic Harrison Avenue’s “Brass Ass Saloon” was a happening, hippie joint, under the ownership of Stephanie and Dudley Duel. Yes, this Harrison Avenue eatery’s backroom had been turned into a music venue that was drawing in acts like SCI, Leftover Salmon and even Bobby Dixon, son of the legendary bluesman Willie Dixon, to name a few.
It was the early days for this band that now headlines in big venues all across the country. Those were also some lean years for Americas highest city, so naturally, these shows usually involved a lot of couch-surfing and playing for tips. But the Leadville audience was always grateful when the bands made the trek up the hill to the ‘Ville after their better-paying gigs down in Summit or Vail.
From those after-hours, haze-filled jam sessions in Dudley’s Kitchen (aka The Golden Burro’s kitchen) came SCI’s audience-pleasing instrumental piece, appropriately titled “Dudley’s Kitchen.” Some swear they recorded it for the first time in one-take, playing on the pots and pans in that Harrison Avenue kitchen.
Here’s a video of String Cheese Incident jamming out their tune with the Leadville Connection during a concert at the Electric Forest. Hey boys, feel free to #represent for this old mining town with a background intro for America’s highest city!
One of the good things that comes from sharing these stories is that there’s always another musical Leadville Connection that someone shares – and I encourage it! That’s one of the many cool things about living in a place like Leadville; it’s been around for so long, it has a lot of great stories, about great people. So, if you have a story, share it! firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of years ago, someone told me that in his early years, the musician Beck worked at Copper Mountain in the late 1980s, and lived in Leadville (of course!). Supposedly, one of his songs makes a reference to his Leadville Connection. That one has not yet been verified; no word back from Beck’s people.
That’s a wrap for now about the Leadville Connection for 20th Century Mountain Music. But stay tuned for Part Three as things come fully into the 21st century, where the Leadville Connection can be found on a t-shirt in a rock-n-roll video that has been seen by millions of people since its debut at the end of last year. Until then, keep those emails (email@example.com) and posts coming, so that there can be even more uncovered Leadville Connections about Mountain Music . . . In The ‘Ville.
Night Train – An Oldie from 2014