From the Land of Band Box Records

From Farmer to Socialist

April 4, 2017

Dean Reed – Early On in Wheat Ridge, Colorado

Dean Reed – Wheat Ridge High School – 1955

Colorado’s Dean Reed would find his way to a recording contract with Capitol Records in the late 1950’s and released a handful of 45’s.  His only chart success came with a song called “The Search” in 1959, reaching a meager number 94 with a short 3-week run.  From there he found his way to Latin America where he gained a good deal of fame and a big following.  He would eventually be dubbed “The Red Elvis” due to his liberal-socialist leanings.  Later, he would migrate to Eastern Europe and take residence in East Germany.  He was oft-recorded and enjoyed a good deal of success in the Eastern Bloc, including in the Soviet Union.

But he dreamed of returning to the U.S. and becoming a legitimate recording star.  His trip back was one big disappointment.  His day had passed him by.  He returned to Europe, led an isolated life and came to a sad ending.  His body was found floating in an East German lake.

Today while browsing through a local antique mall in Arvada, I came  across a copy of a local high school’s newspaper, “The Husker” published by the Wheat Ridge Farmer’s, a school situated about 1 mile and a half from my current home in Wheat Ridge.  When I saw the date of the edition, , April, 1955, I thought, well what the heck, Wheat Ridge High was the school that several local musicians attended, including Gary Stites and Dean Reed.

Lo and behold on the front page is a rather stark black and white image of a student minstrel strumming his guitar.  Sure enough, it is the Dean Reed: (from the paper) “The talent from the class of 1956 was enjoyed by all.  First on the program was Dean “Slim” Reed, singing “Company’s Comin'” a song that charted for Porter Wagner 1954 – his very first company hit topping off at number 7,  and “What Are You Goin’ To Do Now?”.

I combed the issue for any other mentions of the young Reed (he was a junior) and found that he also served on the Junior-Senior Prom committee.  A group called “The Blue Notes” provided music at the dance that year.

So, a very early appearance for a young man who’s journey would end surrounded by mystery and a sad ending.

One Comment

  1. Dean Reed was a decent singer who, I think, could have used some stronger material. Of the several tracks I heard, the teen-pop “Annabelle” is probably the strongest:

    He certainly was on a major pop label (Capitol) with a top-level producer, Voyle Gilmore, plus, from the photos I’ve see on line, he was very good looking as a young man. I would bet that idealism drew his political feelings to the left, but it was a tough time for that kind of idealism!

    Reed may not have been a US rock star, but apparently his influence overseas was at least significant, if not more. I haven’t watched it, but here’s a link to a 90-minute historical documentary about him from 1985, the year before he died:

    Country Paul

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