G Brown: Colorado Music Experience Founding Director and Author
It was a great honor to talk with Colorado Music Experience founding director and author, G Brown. G covered popular music at The Denver Post for 26 years, interviewing well over 3200 musicians, including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, and Kurt Cobain. He's also amassed an archive of close to 150 rare promotional photos, and he's put them all into a new book series called On Record. Click to listen to his immense wealth of knowledge of music history.
Paul (Voiceover) 00:00:03
You're listening to Denver Wine Radio, the podcast about Colorado wine. My name is Paul
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:00:33
This week on Denver Wine Radio, I'm joined by Colorado Music Experience founding director and author, G Brown. G covered popular music at The Denver Post for 26 years, interviewing well over 3200 musicians, including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, and Kurt Cobain. He's also amassed an archive of close to 150 rare promotional photos, and he's put them all into a new book series called On Record. Please welcome to Denver Wine Radio, G Brown.
G Brown (Guest) 00:01:04
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:01:04
Welcome, everybody, to Denver wine radio. In studio today, our special guest, G Brown.
G Brown (Guest) 00:01:11
What's the G stand for?
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:01:13
What does it? I didn't know until I got your email. That it's, Gary.
G Brown (Guest) 00:01:19
It's not a secret. I tell people. Golden. Golden brown. Do you buy that, Paul?
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:01:24
Yeah. Golden brown. I like that. The color of your old hair.
G Brown (Guest) 00:01:29
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:01:32
Hey, man, tell everybody who you are and what you do, man, because you have an amazing history in Denver.
G Brown (Guest) 00:01:41
Well, I appreciate that. I've been a very lucky boy. I grew up here in Nevada and attended Cu, but ended up writing for The Denver Post, contracting with them to COVID popular music for 26 years. Back when newspapers meant something. Kind of an antiquated notion these days, but also use that opportunity to do a lot of radio work in the market. I think I work for pretty much every station in one configuration or another.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:02:12
Yeah, I remember you at Ka Z Y.
G Brown (Guest) 00:02:16
That was a lot of fun with Joe Myers and the crew there.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:02:20
Yeah, that was way back. I was in high school.
G Brown (Guest) 00:02:24
Late. Eighty s, I believe.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:02:25
Yes, late eighty S. I guess I was out of high school by then. What about early 80s?
G Brown (Guest) 00:02:29
Where were you writing for the paper? I delved into radio little bit, but mostly just earning my bones, as they say. To be writing about popular music. Got to meet and interview so many incredible people over the decades. In recent years 2011, I was the founding director of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and these days I run Colorado Music Experience, which is a repository for Colorado music history. We do podcasts, many documentaries, interview based profiles, photo galleries, blogs. It's my passion and no one else is doing it.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:03:12
It is, and it is an amazing website. I found the section on the Rainbow Music Hall and just started listening to the cuts that you have on there.
G Brown (Guest) 00:03:22
Yeah. We're creating content that makes us a rather unique nonprofit, but should be said, we're 501 C three educational and cultural organization nonprofit, not only on paper, but there's no money coming in, Paul, so we have it on both fronts. Okay.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:03:40
Okay. Well, I'm right there with you then. Okay. Let's go back to writing for the Denver Post. And how did you get that gig? How did you convince them? Hey, I'm the guy that needs to interview every artist that comes to town, every concert and review it.
G Brown (Guest) 00:04:00
Well, it was interesting. I started out I'll give you a little pretext if I could. Growing up in Nevada, it was apparent that my high school band wasn't going to be playing at Red Rocks anytime soon. I aspired to be in Python deity. Don't even think about it. It's taken. Okay. Okay. I channeled my passion into wanting to write about music. Rode my bike down to the Arvada Citizen, which was one of the suburban chain of sentinel newspapers. There was the Cherry Creek model, the Lakewood model, and 26 and all and went down there with a horrible column I had written about something I'd read in Stereo Review where you could actually wash your vinyl records if they were dirty with mild detergent and warm water. Right. Oh, my God.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:04:57
Now there's machines that do that for $100 they cost.
G Brown (Guest) 00:05:00
Yeah. The editor at the time was a gentleman named Mark Wolf, who went on to have a fantastic career with the Rocky Mountain News. Sports writer, cityside reporter. He was fresh out of college, he was 22, I'm 15. And I think he just enjoyed having someone sit at the edge of his desk so he could regale me with the Tales of the Yardbirds playing his senior prompt back in Illinois. He's a big music fan and he's in an office with middle aged women covering city council meetings. I was, I guess, an oasis. He let me start reviewing records. And at that point when you were published, when you were in print, you were a writer. Those were your credentials at that point. And after a few months, I parlayed that into an interview with the Guess who Denver Coliseum.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:05:53
G Brown (Guest) 00:05:54
And it's just a more innocent time. I don't know how I pulled it off in retrospect. I just sent a letter, made a phone call and, okay, they're not doing anything else. Show up backstage in my 8th grade, brown wool graduation suit, orange shirt and matching tie in the middle of July. So I'm here for the interview and I'm sure Burton Cummings, who was the guest, who's lead singer and my idol at the time, I thought he had the greatest voice in rock and roll. He must have taken someone aside and said, who the hell sends this kid to do the interview? But he talked to me. He picked his toes the entire time. It was great. I hadn't gone to journalism school yet. There was that demystification, if you will, of meeting celebrity. You realize he's just a guy. Don't ask him about the middle east situation. Just music, right? And so after that, I parlayed that experience into an interview with a guy named Joe Walsh, who had just moved to Colorado from Cleveland, where the James gang had broken up. He relocated to the mountains outside of Netherland, was a ham radio operator for a tad while he got his pins under him. He was going to debut his new band barnstorm at some now forgotten bar on Colfax. Just a cinder block. Edifice that was going to be their first gig. I show up for in the afternoon, go and say, I'm here to interview Mr. Walsh. And they wouldn't let me in. I was obviously and woefully underage, right. Probably 16 at this stage. And I said, well, if you tell Mr. Walsh I showed up, I'd appreciate it. Went back out in the parking lot. Only car there, right? Dirt parking lot and kicking the floorboard, wondering what to do, getting ready to take off. And the door of the club opens up and Joe wallsticks his head out, sees I'm sitting there, walks over, gets in the passenger side and proceeded to talk to me for an hour and 15 minutes, just pouring his heart out about launching a solo career after his previous experiences. Unbelievable.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:08:07
G Brown (Guest) 00:08:08
I tell these stories, Paul, because it's just instructive to me. If I'd have been shut down at that age, no matter what I was doing, what anybody is doing, you're devastated, right? You don't know what to do. But I was encouraged. Those two guys talk to me, Burton and Joe, and I will always be indebted to them for that because all of a sudden, I just had the zeal of the newly converted. I was like, well, sheesh, I'm going to interview everybody. Yeah, I kind of did that's, right?
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:08:39
I mean, you had two big ones under your belt right there.
G Brown (Guest) 00:08:43
I was just so lucky and I'm so grateful. So sorry to be bloviating here, Paul.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:08:50
No, that's wonderful. And I just want to say, the personality you have is just inviting and you have a natural attraction. Likability. Well, just from the couple of times I've met you, so I could see where Joe Walsh would just sit down with you. Even at a young age, you were.
G Brown (Guest) 00:09:10
Well, I don't know that I'm a great writer, but I've turned into a pretty good interviewer. I think it's just a matter of doing your homework. As long as you're not asking people inane questions that you could read in their bio or whatever, just have genuine interest in what they do. Everybody likes to talk about themselves, even the most obdurate rock star. If you get through all the sycophants and stuff, you just got to treat them the way you'd want to be treated conversationally. But I appreciate you saying that. I went to see you got a degree in journalism on the seven year program and in the middle of that approached The Denver Post. Their writer, who was a freelancer, had a weekly column about popular music that was invariably about the band that had played the 32 bar down the block that would break up the following Tuesday. Or a SCREET about what crappy review tickets he got to the concert that he went to. It really wasn't very compelling. And I just went down Dick Creek, who was well known as a Denver Post columnist. He was the entertainment editor at the time. And I probably came off as pretty cocky. I just said, hey, I can do better. And I had at that point a feature on Genesis that I had done. And he says, wow, you got more of this stuff. Yes, I do. And we were off to the races. I was there for 26 years, and that's how I built my empire.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:10:46
Yeah, absolutely. An empire of 3200 artists or so you interviewed over the years. Or more than that.
G Brown (Guest) 00:10:55
I ended up counting it because I'm doing a series of books now called On Record. It's a little ambitious, kind of an encyclopedia of the year 1978 to 1998, each taken individually with the album releases of that year. Very proud that it's first person bloviating essays on what it all meant. It's the bands talking about that album in that year. I'm fiercely proud of it. But yes, the idea that 3248 interviews is what I added up. Yeah, the first step was to go back. I had collected all of the archival photography, the press photos, eight by ten s over the years. 50 Bankers boxes were, as it turned out, and someone said, well, gee, there's a book here. And I didn't disagree, but I didn't think that the 100 greatest Prescott of all time coffee table book would have that much cachet. So then I looked to my writing, which I own. I was a contractor with the Post. And yeah, that's when I added it up. 3248 interviews, just with the paper. There was ancillary stuff, too. So having that to provide the editorial mix, if you will, to the photography.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:12:16
So On Record, the books, you've got three out and they're set by years. So you started with 1978, you got 1984 and 1991. And how did you decide on those years?
G Brown (Guest) 00:12:29
1978 kind of planted the flag. That was my first full year at The Post where I had these resources to draw upon. So I figured I'd start there kind of arbitrarily went six years to six years in eternity in pop music. I figured that would give it a difference. I didn't want to do things chronologically because if a kid was in to say, grunge music, I didn't want them to have to wait till I wrote 13 books to get to that point. So leapfrog to 1984, which was the MTV era. Right, right. Hughie and Madonna, cindy and Van Halen.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:13:11
And all that stuff.
G Brown (Guest) 00:13:13
So we had 78, which is classic rock central, right. 84 MTV stuff, go, another six years and we hit 90. And I realized that if I just fudge one more year, I'll hit the sweet spot with Grunge, Pearl Jam, Nirvana Soundgarden, Allison Chains, all that. So I did. So these first three volumes that we launched with A Kind of a Murderer's Row, I did have a concern that maybe I was leading with the best stuff, that maybe I was shooting everything out into the world at once. And I'm happy to report being well into it now that every year has its value. There's no slow years, even though there might be to someone's individual consideration. But it kind of just brings up something I've been ruminating on, Paul, but there's been enough written about the these are kind of nostalgia my generation. I'm so tired that there are still people putting out their content about which was the best Beatles album. Yes. The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show was seismic. Yes, the Beatles were the greatest band of all time, but I guarantee you, there's so many generations there's kids metallica is more important to them than the Beatles. Dave Matthews Band is more important.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:14:40
I'm going to personally thank you for doing that, just because I have respect for The Beatles, but I didn't grow up on them. So, yeah, I don't care to hear about the Beatles.
G Brown (Guest) 00:14:52
I'm not going to say that it's wrong. No, I think The Beatles were the greatest band of all time, but it's just selfish to just keep living there with all these aging out people.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:15:05
Yeah, of course. You know. But I have the three copies of the books here at the winery, and I've had them here for a month or so and just showing them to people as they come in and they're tasting wine. And it's funny that the younger they're not even that young people in their late 30s would flip through the 1978 and just kind of go, no. Or they were bands that they'd never seen, never had an opportunity to it may have picked out four or five, but then when they flipped to 1984 or even 1991 oh, yeah, exactly.
G Brown (Guest) 00:15:45
We all hear music differently. And the music that resonates is the music when we were roughly 18. Right. I mean, when you had the time and the allowance to support your record habit back in the day, it's great. I'm sorry, Paul.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:16:04
No, that's okay.
G Brown (Guest) 00:16:05
It's not worth mentioning a flip side to that, though. I don't think it's an absolute. But we won an award for the books and I took it down to the frame shop in the neighborhood and a couple of 20 somethings were there. And I brought in a copy of the book so they would get an idea what they were dealing with. And they were over the moon. The exact opposite of what you're saying. No, they were like wow. And I wasn't sure why. So when I asked them about it, they just said, oh, man, this is when music was good. This is what our parents played. For us, music today sucks. This whole thing. Again, that's not an absolute, but it does exist, which is kind of great to younger folks who are in, as Stephen Colbert would say, the youth. There are some of them that do care about music and legacy, because music is a fabric, right? There's no stopping and starting points. It all just kind of weaves as far as influence does and brings us to different places. So that's fun to tap into that. I think music is one of the last things that unites us all. We're so divisive on every other level. But most people have a place in their heart to varying degrees, for music and wine.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:17:25
And wine, yes. Brings people together. In fact, here at the winery, the live music events we've hosted over the years, and I see, just to echo what you said, like, the people that come in and it doesn't matter who you voted for, and it just brings everyone together. It's fun to see and then to talk about that. There's people that come in here that I know and how do I want to put it? They're well aware of the neighborhood they're coming into and the majority of the people's political view that come in. But everybody gets along. They're amazed at how everybody just gets along. I'm going back to what you were just saying about generational music. I was looking at the red rocks. They just got released of what's coming next year in 2023. And I was looking over those bands and I went, wow, I don't know that band. I didn't know any of them.
G Brown (Guest) 00:18:37
It just gets better, Paul, I'll tell you that. It's interesting. I am kind of, by default, Red Rocks historian. The city doesn't have one, an archivist. And I've done a book about Red Rocks that actually will be coming out in an upgraded, updated edition oh, nice. In the spring with Volume Four on record. And it's great. This is a book that deserves to be in print. And it also provides a nice denument, if you will, to have the pandemic years when they were just streaming out of there and come back from that, where they're doing more shows up there than ever before. Just won an award from Billboard Magazine, the most used venue in the world. They're like 230 odd ticketed events in 2021, and we'll probably break that this year. It's just an amazing legacy. It's now world renowned, not just our little favorite outdoor venue up in the foothills of Morrison.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:19:42
True, it is world renowned. And is there a particular show? I mean, I have one in mind that I think kind of made it world renowned, but which one is it for you?
G Brown (Guest) 00:19:51
It's you, too.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:19:52
G Brown (Guest) 00:19:53
There's no doubt about it. And it's great to have that chronicled in great detail in the book. The Bandit played the aforementioned Rainbow Music Hall a couple of times in 1980 and 81. And when they were in town, they were taken up to Red Rocks and they got it. So we're going to play here someday. June 5, 1983. They put every nickel they had into filming the performance there. And it turned out to be a night that you wouldn't put the proverbial dog out in, right? Misty, rain, cold, just no place to be having an outdoor concert. And to those guys'credit, the voluble Bono got on the phone and called every radio station in town asking kids to come out. They vowed to do a free show the following night indoors, but they need people to fill the seats because they were filming this thing and they turned it into an advantage. It looked like a Scottish moor with all the fog, and they had bomb fires on the rocks. And the Edge always had the comment, he said, I thank the guy who invented the wide angle lens or the fisheye lens because it made the 5000 kids who showed up look like 10,000. Double that. And they put on the performance of a lifetime, the iconic image of Bono waving the white flag during Sunday Bloody Sunday. And that was in the nascent days of MTV. And that got shown internationally. So it not only introduced the world to you, too, it introduced them to Red Rocks. So that was a nice symbiosis.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:21:37
G Brown (Guest) 00:21:38
It's interesting to me, Paul. I certainly celebrate the more generous use of Red Rocks. I mean, it should be available to everyone to see and experience the show there. But I missed those days of when it was a career benchmark. Playing Red Rock was like playing Madison Square Garden in New York. I mean, that was the apex of a band's career you worked to get there. And these days, to your point, seeing the schedule where it's tribute bands and EDM, it's just letting people use the park who can pay the rent as opposed to a career benchmark. As I say, and I don't want that to sound like sour grapes, but I'm just very grateful and nostalgic for those days when they were only doing 50 shows a summer up there. That was headline news, right? That was 50 shows at Red Rocks instead of 230. But all 50 of them were people who had it still means a ton to the artists. There's nothing like standing on that stage.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:22:44
It does. In fact, Tower Power played this past summer, and it was their first time performing at Red Rocks.
G Brown (Guest) 00:22:51
Yeah, I put an asterisk next to that because the Horns, which is their main feature, they toured with Hughie Lewis in the news back in the 80s. So those guys got to be on that stage. Heck, I got to be on that stage back in high school, I used to go up there and pound on the sound boards during the day to Santana's Soul Sacrifice just to say that we were playing Red Rocks.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:23:17
That's cool. Okay, so some of the interviews we got books full of interviews, but who are some of the most memorable?
G Brown (Guest) 00:23:29
A hugely unfair question, but no.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:23:32
Who rubbed you? The next question is, who rubbed you the wrong way?
G Brown (Guest) 00:23:35
Well, I'll answer both, starting with the latter. It harkens back to the idea of interviewing someone. Everyone always wants to know who's the worst interview? Who is the jerk. I never had that experience. I don't want that to sound coy, but it's just if you do your homework and be professional most people like to talk about themselves. The most memorable? Hard to pick just one, but one I was fiercely proud of was Marilyn Manson. Post Columbine. He was going to come through town and there were protests, picketing. One gentleman in particular was trying to make a big deal out of him being the cause of the killer's renovation. The usual devil's music stuff. And I put it out there that instead of coming to town and doing a sound bite for the evening news and trying to state his position in 30 seconds, that he should do a sit down interview and lay it out, do something a little more extensive. And they bought it. I went out to Los Angeles. He had a home in Hollywood Hills, actually, where the Rolling Stones recorded Satisfaction back in 1965, and it was quite the scene. He had his contact lenses in for me and the colored ones. Right, that make him look like the Walking Dead or whatever. And his clothing with the Frankenstein stitching he's in a stage gear for to sit in his parlor had what was ostensibly a human skull. This is illegal. It was pretty funny. But he was so well versed in First Amendment rights. Dennis Miller had an old joke I liked him better when he was Alice Cooper. That was kind of my attitude going in musically. But I got to give the guy credit. He very bright. Like even the most ostensibly dopey rock stars are they're all really smart on some level or they wouldn't be in that position.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:25:46
G Brown (Guest) 00:25:46
To drive some people crazy and make others go bananas.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:25:50
Yeah. And some artists like that, where I think they're writing lyrics and so, yeah, they have some deep beliefs. And like you said, first Amendment right.
G Brown (Guest) 00:26:01
Some sort of vision, if it's not everyone's cup of tea. But that was just instructive to me at that late stage. I was guilty of being slightly judgmental going into it, which I shouldn't have been. He was really smart.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:26:14
Yeah. He was an artist that I never really got into. Wasn't my thing at that time. But then it was great learning about him post Columbine, knowing that the music wasn't the music is not the cause.
G Brown (Guest) 00:26:31
Yeah. That was a long running debate. He just happened to be caught in a crossfire.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:26:41
G Brown (Guest) 00:26:41
No pun intended, but just the idea that music is the motivation or the cause of this went back to the Eisenhower era, probably to my inspiration. Can we close with the anecdote?
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:26:56
G Brown (Guest) 00:26:57
Circling back to that, little Richard okay, was the same guy to a degree 40 years earlier. In that late 50s, Richard took all the boxes. Right. Gay, black, flamboyant. You know, I mean, I've said you could take Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper and any other shock rocker, put them all together and they still don't match up to what Richard was doing and facing at that juncture in rock history. He was something. So little Gary Brown. There you go. Bring it a full circle, Paul.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:27:35
G Brown (Guest) 00:27:36
Little Gary Brown in Arvada on Sunday nights at the Brown household. Saturday was hamburger night and Sunday was steak night. Steak. What mom could come up with. And Bonanza Wonderful World of Disney on the Tube and The Ed Sullivan Show. And I'm five or six. Little Richard comes on and does Lucille, which is one of his squealers. Right, Lucille?
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:28:05
G Brown (Guest) 00:28:05
Crazy. My old man wasn't for all his faults, he wasn't demonstrative around us kids with language I never heard, a damn much less an F bomb. That was probably Mom's doing, right? Just laying down that law. He was a man's man, undoubtedly around the fellas. But it made it all the more surprising when we're watching Little Richard and he sets down his TV train, says, Get that screaming N word off the television. I didn't know rock and roll from a hole in the ground, but I just the light bulb went off. I don't know what got such a rise out of the old man, but this bears further investigation. I need this arrow in my quiver. Right. If he had kept his mouth shut, I'd have probably been an accountant.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:28:54
G Brown (Guest) 00:28:55
But he didn't. And that always kind of instructed me. That's what does it.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:29:02
G Brown (Guest) 00:29:03
We had our battles in future years. He was pretty militant about that stuff. If your hair touched your ears, you were a Tommy Hippie pant. That was its own level of hysterical behavior. All right.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:29:20
Do you still go to live shows?
G Brown (Guest) 00:29:23
Not so much. I'm not going to sandbag anyone. I put in my time. My joy comes from listening at home. My buddies that listen up, I did some trade with them, wrote something for their catalog and they set me up with these incredible focal speakers made in France. And to listen to the music that I love. Right. I spent my whole life chasing the next thing, reporting on it. And now just to go back and spend time with my favorite music and hearing the sonic detail and the craft of record making and stuff, I'm going to go do it right now.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:30:05
All right. Thanks, G, for coming down.
G Brown (Guest) 00:30:09
Anytime. I hope we do it again.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:30:10
Yeah, for sure. We're definitely going to do it again.
G Brown (Guest) 00:30:13
We're going to drink wine next time.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:30:15
Yeah, we did. We forgot about that today. But we'll drink some wine next time and we'll get your opinion on wine.
G Brown (Guest) 00:30:24
Well, thank you for all you do for the music community.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:30:27
Oh, thank you.
G Brown (Guest) 00:30:28
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:30:29
You do so much for the music community. So I encourage everyone to check out the Colorado Music Experience and just see the archive of music history.
G Brown (Guest) 00:30:40
Yeah, if I may callmusic.org, C-O-L-O Music.org is our site, and I hope you go down the rabbit hole. There's some fun stuff there for sure.
Paul Bonacquisti(Host) 00:30:53
Yeah, next time we could just talk about Rainbow Music Hall.
G Brown (Guest) 00:30:56
Paul (Voiceover) 00:30:59
That'S our show for this week. Thank you so much for listening to Denver Wine Radio. Your homework for the week is to go out and taste some Colorado wine. If you have any questions or comments or just want to let us know what you're drinking, go to Denverwindradio.com Up where you can email us or leave us a voice message. We'd love to hear from you. And remember, put some altitude in your glass.