Hotel Colorado history in music
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” When Jon Chandler was approached to make a CD for the Hotel Colorado, he asked himself the same kind of question any creative type would.
In his words, “Is there artistic expression involved, or is it a bunch of jingles?”
Luckily for the singer, the answer was the former. Come on ” gimmicky isn’t the cowboy way. Instead, “The Grand Dame of the Rockies” is a 10-song album that’s meant to give a meaty sense of Glenwood Springs and its signature hotel. It runs the gamut from an upbeat, general tune about the valley’s natural features (title track) and a dark song about one of Glenwood’s most infamous residents, Doc Holliday (“Linwood”). As Chandler sees it, this isn’t just for locals or tourists, but for everyone who loves this little part of the world.
He definitely does. Just read how he described Glenwood Canyon:
“You’ll never find anything like that anywhere,” he said, in his deep voice. “There might be wider canyons and more famous canyons, but I don’t think there’s a more spectacular canyon in America.”
A native of the Front Range, Chandler’s relationship with this area began long before he ever started writing songs about it. As a kid, this was the place he’d come to fish or soak in the famous hot springs. As he got older, it was solace from the busy Front Range. Over the years, he developed a relationship with the hotel and played special shows and the like there. So, its old general manager, Larry MacDonald and Providence Hospitality’s David Storm (president of the hotel’s managing company), knew well of Chandler’s country sound. When they asked him to start on this new project, he did so with relish.
For the last decade, writing stories and songs about the history of the West has been his life, after all.
Maybe this really all started when he was little, though. As a boy, he wasn’t going on cattle drives and shoeing horses, but he did get to know his mother’s grandfather, Morgan Patterson, a true pioneer. This was a guy who knew Buffalo Bill personally, a “living legend,” as Chandler put it, who died at the age of 99. As Chandler got older, he learned more about his family history, about how one side had lived in Colorado for seven generations and the other had soldiers in the Civil War. Something about all those stories spoke to him. He kept that curiosity about the past with him as he got older. It even crept into his music, which helped him get through college. Even after school, when he’d left much of his singing and guitar playing behind, he enjoyed whenever an aspect of history entered his job. For 15 years, he made his living in PR, and in a lot of ways, he liked the work. Yet, he still had this gnawing desire to write and sing and tell stories, to be creative in front of a crowd.
And just how often did he think about performing?
“Every day. Every single day,” he admitted.
Then, about 14 years ago, a publishing company out of California he’d worked with before asked him about narrating some Zane Grey novels. He did, and then started writing historical Western fiction of his own. It only took a few years for him to take up his music again. By now, he’s written numerous books, with three more slated to come out in the next few years. This newest CD marks his seventh. He frequents writers conferences and cowboy poetry festivals, and does 60-65 music and storytelling gigs a year. He keeps his PR clients, not surprisingly, down to a handful.
The funny thing is, he talks about this new life of his with such knowledge and comfort, you’d think he’d always lived this way.
“When you write a good song, it’s probably about as gratifying as you can get,” he said. “You can encapsulate someone’s life in 200 words.”
What’s potent and so obvious is how much he loves what he does. It doesn’t matter if he’s writing a book or singing a song ” his focus doesn’t change. He’s a storyteller, through and through. He’s steeped in history, and he’s steeped in Colorado. He feels half of him actually lives in a turn-of-the-century world of cow pokes and settlers and frontier towns.
“To keep that tradition alive is so important, I think,” he said, “and it slips away so easily.”
This new CD, like all his work, is all about combating that. It’s supposed to give people a sense of what brought this area to where it is now, and it’s a celebration of what it has become. Chandler believes he’s just one of many who wish they could have lived 100 years ago. Of course, he admitted, so many of the harsh aspects of the past would have been no walk in the park, though.
“But it sure is a romantic notion,” he went on, “and a lot of people sure love the idea.”
Forget the hotel. This album is really for those folks.
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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