Swallow Hill Music moves into its 42nd year with all of our programming currently online due to COVID-19 restrictions. We realize how much our community of music lovers misses being at our home at 71 East Yale, and we look forward to bringing everyone back together as soon as it is safely possible.
In the meantime we want to bring more of Swallow Hill Music and our rich history to you. In 2021 we’ll be highlighting items from our archives online – concert posters, photos, memorabilia and more. When possible we will try to share thoughts from the artists and instructors and staff members who have behind-the-scenes recollections of the events.
We stand on the shoulders of the countless people responsible for building Swallow Hill and making it what it is today. In recent years, no one was more responsible for maintaining our archives than our former Associate Concert Director Dustin Perricone. Wanting to celebrate Dustin’s legacy and hold up his contributions, we asked him which archival item he wanted us to share first.
His immediate response was the April 1978 Denver Folklore Center concert poster. When asked why this poster in particular, Dustin told us he believed the April 6 Tim O’Brien concert was the first solo concert of Tim’s storied career.
With that in mind, we got in touch with Tim right before winter break to see if he had any memories of that show. We were hoping for a sentence or two, and Tim enthusiastically responded with so many nuggets of information about the people who performed at the Denver Folklore Center in April 1978, we have to share it all. Tim told us:
Thanks for sending the pics of the April 1978 calendar. It brings back so many memories, although I can’t remember anything specific about the show I played that month at the DFC. I probably played completely solo even though I had a lot of local friends I liked to play with. I might have hoped some of them would pay to see me play!
The other names on the calendar are significant though. Those were some heady days, a lot of things forming, a scene I was a small part of was bubbling and cooking.
Hot Rize had just formed in January of ‘78. Jon Pushkin was our booking agent, and his partner in the Baby Watson Brothers, Mike Scap, was also a member of Hot Rize. Regarding the name of the act – Baby Watson is a brand of NJ made Cheesecake favored by Pushkin. Scap had been my replacement in the Ophelia Swing Band which didn’t last much past the summer of ‘77. I had left that band, gone to Minnesota, returning to Denver in early ‘78 to start Hot Rize.
April ‘78 was the last month Scap played with Hot Rize, as he quit just before a gig we had in early May. Hot Rize recruited Nick Forster (who’s also on the calendar as part of the teacher’s concert) to fill in on a week-long gig in Jackson WY the first week of May. He worked out! We kept on playing for another 12 years full time, and kept playing intermittently after. Nick and Charles worked in the DFC shop then, and Pete and I taught lessons. The DFC was a great folk incubator.
I remember seeing the Bluegrass Cardinals that month at the concert hall – their bass player kept up a running gag as their show went on – announcing that the bus had arrived outside in case anyone in the audience was waiting for it. He’d look at his watch and “Folks, the 8:35 bus is here if you need to get on it.” I think I sat next to Bill Millet at that show – he was playing banjo with Monroe Doctrine then. If I remember, The Cards were in the process of making a real mark on the bluegrass scene.
My listing says I’m a Biscuit City recording artist, and I guess I was. My album had just come out then. Pete Wernick and Charles Sawtelle had played on it, so it contained a Hot Rize prelude or premonition. Charles and I had played some on Pete Wernick’s record “Doctor Banjo Steps Out” and Pete had called me the previous October suggesting we form a band to promote our new records.
Dino Arthur who did a show that month, ran the concert hall, and it would have been him who booked me. The Skiffle Band included DFC employee Geoff Withers, and DFC teachers Mary Flower and David Metch, and quite possibly Nick Forster who was a teacher as well as instrument repairman in the DFC shop.
I probably attended the Norman Blake concert. He’s no longer touring though I am in contact with him and Nancy Blake who was likely there as well. Happy to report that they are well and still playing and writing music. John Hammond still performs. Sorry I missed his show that month. I know that because I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen him live. I guess the folks listed on that calendar who still perform include myself, Mr Hammond, Nick, Pete, and our spiritual folky godfather Harry Tuft. He’s still a force, and he deserves a standing ovation for starting all of this.
Swallow Hill and the Denver Folklore Center were and continue to be integral to my makeup as a musician and as a person. Best of the season to all the followers of MASH.
Thank you Tim!
One final note about the poster, Harry Tuft told us it was designed by Bev Schware, who he calls “a gifted artist.”
Below is the highest quality scan of the poster we currently have available, please click on it to see a larger image. We have added the Swallow Hill logo to it to reflect that this copy is part of our archives.