Band Box is On the Air!
I had the privilege of tuning into “Bobby G’s” podcast on “MixIr” on Saturday (February 24th). Bobby’s program featured Denver’s Band Box Records with the label’s family members Valerie Hightower and her mother Francis present in the studio along with area music historian Jeff Leppard.
Valerie brought along a great batch of vintage Band Box recordings – some great vintage rocking classics including:
- Crazy Little Old Feelin’ by Cee Cee Carol
- Surf City by Jim Perry and the Hesitations
- Fever by Dave and the Saints
- Who Was the Fool by Chuck Mills and the Monarchs
- Rocket Trip by Jackie Lowell
- Walking Slowly From You Darling by Buddy Miller
- Honey Walk by the Crazy Crickets
- Tree Top by the Blue Rhythms
- Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey by Sonny Covington and the Original Valiants
- Tightnin’ Up by Royal and the Shades
- Ebony by Marvin Ross (of the Blue Rhythms)
- Sinners by Freddie and the Hitch-Hikers
- Once Upon a Time by Royal and the Shades
- Twist and Freeze by Orlie and the Saints
Francis had some great Band Box tales to share – Here are a few:
Band Box Beginnings
Band Box founder/owner and mother/grandmother of Francis and Valerie respectively – Vickey Morosan – came across an advertisement in a Denver newspaper in the early 1950’s offering the sale of a recording studio located at 6th and Ogden. Around this time Vicky would make the acquaintance of Clifford Mitchell who was a graphic artist and apparently also connected to the music industry around the Denver area. Mitchell would be the artist who would design the Band Box logo and all the various subsidiary label designs as well as providing artwork for many of the 45 rpm picture sleeves and long play record jackets.
Broadway and Columbine
Next, Vicky would locate and move into a recording studio on south Broadway (220 South) but that venture would end sadly when the building burned down and the recording equipment was lost. The Band Box label would have it’s roots in a Denver label called “Columbine” owned by Karl Zomar – which Vicky purchased.
The resilient Vicky would regroup, starting by launching a search for local recording talent and working out of her Lakewood home. Francis explained how – as the word spread – groups and solo musicians would find their way to Vicky’s home where they would audition for her. Dave Barhite of the Band Box group “The Saints” told me that he visited Vicky at her home on more than one occasion trying out songs for her.
One of the musicians who came to Vicky’s home was singer Chuck Mills who fronted the Monarchs and was one of the very first musicians to record for Band Box.
The 41st Avenue Studio
When it was time to record, according to Francis – acts would be taken to various studios including the “Hughes” studio located in Denver’s Polo Grounds as well as the KIMN radio station studio located near Sloans Lake in west Denver. Sometime in 1961 Vicky was able to set up a studio of her own located at 5136 West 41st Avenue on the far outreaches of north west Denver close to the historic Lakeside Amusement Park.
(SIDE NOTE: Vicky would record a lady who’s name is lost to time – doing a hearty ‘belly laugh’ – The recording would be used for “Laughing Sal” or “The Laughing Lady” at perched atop the Lakeside “Fun House”. Apparently on occasion the recording would have to be redone and ‘Laughing Sal’ would reenter the Band Box studio for a fresh copy!)
Cee Cee Carol’s Eastern Journey
Teenage Cee Cee Carol was gifted with quite a voice and Vicky was set on helping her get started in the music business beyond Denver’s boundaries. And so Vicky and Francis provided her with outfits appropriate for auditioning and Vicky and Cee Cee set off for the East Coast. They were both very hopeful but their hopes were dashed when music men (DJ’s) in the Philadelphia area began to hint for certain illicit ‘favors’ in return for air-play. Without hesitation Vicky put the brakes on – gathered up Cee Cee and headed back to the Rocky Mountains – very sad for the hopeful and talented Cee Cee Carol.
Off to the South West on a “Rocket Trip”….
One of Vicky’s promotion trips was a swing down through Arizona and Nevada – visiting radio stations – and dropping of promotional copies of several Band Box recordings. For the most part the DJ’s indicated they would ‘get around’ to giving the disks a listen. Vicky returned to Denver and then Francis recalls that several months later the phone rang. It was an Arizona DJ on the other end. He told Vicky that he had eventually played one of the Band Box singles, “Rocket Trip” by Jackie Lowell. He told Vicky that he had not been able to locate any contact information for Band Box and said that – at the time if he had – “Rocket Trip” would possibly have shot to the top based on audience reaction to the spins. But the moment had passed…..
Time Marches On…
Vicky would eventually close down the Band Box operation – She shopped it around for a time but decided in the end to hold onto the masters and such which now reside with the Valerie and Francis.
Francis related that well into the 1970’s they were contacted to provide additional copies of many Band Box recordings which they provided. Valerie and her husband Mark make regular appearances the the twice-a-year Denver Record Expo where they offer rare Band Box recordings and memorabilia.
Next Record Expo by Big K Productions (click photo below for web site):
Sunday, May 3, 2020, 10am – 4pm
Ramada Plaza Northglenn
10 E. 120th Ave., Northglenn, CO 80233
Bobby “G” is the owner of “Bobby G’s Record Rack” located on west Colfax. Bobby is a long-time Denver area DJ and music historian.