Colorado Hits the Charts!
Here are the 45’s (for the most part – a few LP cuts here) which managed to find their way onto either the national Billboard Charts – including Hot 100, R&B, Country and Bubbling Under charts- In addition I have included a group of strange extras which was concocted by Jerry Osborne – taking songs which placed below the Top 100 and were listed as ‘on the way up’ by Music Vendor and Record World Magazines – Osborne with his never ending ranking formulas came up with a formula to assign a number to these – for what that is worth. Those listings can be found in his book “Hit Records 101-150”.
I have listed singles which first and foremost made it onto any of the national’s and then listed the second highest chart listing be it another national or a local radio survey listing – highest selected – regardless of State or origin – Where there is no national chart position for a song – then I list the two highest local radio survey listings (when there are two). There are nearly 500 songs listed here which I was able to track down.
I was very surprised to see just how many radio stations from all across the mainland of the United States (as well as Hawaii and Alaska) charted so many of our musicians and often higher than our own local stations.
What is missing is Glenn Miller, Billy Murray and Paul Whiteman charting records – Those three along would surpass this total list – Maybe another time. I also listed songs which charted by non-Colorado musicians but were composed by a Colorado composer – Think the Strawberry Alarm Clock with “Incense and Peppermints” composed by CU students Tim Gilbert and John Carter.
I listed Earth, Wind and Fire but only singles which charted during the presence of East High musicians Larry Dunn, Philip Bailey and Andrew Woolfolk – I included groups like Firefall and Poco which both have very strong ties to Colorado but omitted the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – who came around for a time. I did include Mary MacGregor who wasn’t born or raised here but spent a good amount of time in Steamboat – and also because I simply wanted to. My Blog my decision! I couldn’t resist including Jody Reynolds of “Endless Sleep” fame because he was born in Denver – He left as a little boy but so what? I had to include him because he is so cool.
One and Done on Billboard
The coveted crown jewel – a number 1 ranking on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart – is elusive indeed and in the modern era has scarcely been achieved by any artist based in Colorado – musician or composer. The Murray/Whiteman/Miller triumvirate is a different story of course – and from a very different set of times. Billy Murray, who moved to Denver at age 5 and grew up here – placed more than 250 songs on the charts in the early part of the 20th century and hit the top spot a couple dozen times. Paul Whiteman had several number one’s and placed nearly 200 records on the charts. Glenn Miller enjoyed more than 2 dozen top hits.
But for everyone else number 1 in the nation was a rare event. During the Bailey/Woolfolk/Dunlap era of Earth Wind and Fire – the highly successful group achieved 8 number one’s on the Billboard R&B charts and one of those went to number 1 Hot 100. Wayne Thompson – who became known as Wayne Carson – and who had briefly played with Denver’s Freddie and the Hitchhikers” – had a biggie – He composed “The Letter” which hit number one for the Box Tops (the Arbors would chart with the Carson song as would England’s Joe Cocker who took it to number 7 – Cocker eventually moved to Colorado living near the town of Crawford on Colorado’s western slope near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.)
The late Michael Johnson who grew up in Alamosa, Colorado, enjoyed some nice Hot 100 presence but it would take a move to country music for Johnson to hit the top spot – twice on the country charts. The one-time mayor of Ouray, Colorado – Chad a monster number 1 Country song with “Convoy”. That one was played to death. Another Colorado artist who went country was Gary Morris who came out of Texas to settle in the Denver area – first performing as part of the duo “Gary and Eddie (Johnson)” and appearing often at Taylor’s Supper Club – sometimes appearing as “Taylor’s Cowboys”. Gary and Eddie would team up with Colorado musician Teri Hernandez to form a country/folksy type group called “Tomorrow’s Time”.
Morris would move as a solo and would enjoy four number 1 country hits. Steamboat resident Mary MacGregor hit the top spot with 1977’s “Torn Between Two Lovers”. Denver’s Kenny Passerelli was in demand as a session player by many prominent artists including Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg, Stephen Stills and Elton John, all musicians who made their way to Colorado’s Caribou Ranch recording studio. Kenny co-wrote Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” (which Passerelli composed) and played on Elton Johns’ number 1 hit “Island Girl”. Kenny appeared on many Hall and Oates charting singles (and LP’s) as a regular part of their band for a time.
And finally, University of Colorado students Tim Gilbert and John Carter penned the monster hit “Incense and Peppermints” at the request of producer Frank Slay for The Strawberry Alarm Clock.
Number 1 On Fabulous KIMN (or KTLK)
The Moonrakers and Boenzee Cryque share the distinction of having two number one hits in Denver on Denver radio. Firefall had one, The Soul Survivors one and Sugarloaf one.
Everyone But Them
The Astronauts, had one number one hit on KIMN “Baja” and just three singles which charted nationally, but just barely, “Baja” made it to number 94 on the Billboard Hot 100 and “Hot Doggin'” managed a number 101 ranking. “Competition Coupe” just made a cameo appearance with a Bubbling Under rank of 124. Denver’s favorite local band chosen by many, they did much better in Japan!
Going Local Around the U.S.A
Five Colorado musical acts who did not hit the top spot on a Colorado radio station but managed one each out of state include the Arizona to Colorado transplant Cornerstone on KFXM in San Bernardino, CA (“Holly Go Softly”). Flash Cadillac on WDNG in Anniston, AL (“Did You Boogie with Your Baby”), Bob Lind on KACY in Orlando, FL (“Elusive Butterfly”), The Serendipity Singers on WAKY Louisville, KY (“Don’t Let The Rain Come Down”), and Randy Van Warmer KOOK, Billings, MT (“Just When I Needed You Most”).
Beloved Band Box Records
Nineteen Band Box label recordings managed to chart either here or in another state. Three songs broke into the national charts – two by Van Trevor and one by Penny Starr (Dehaven) – both edging onto the Billboard Country charts and both times kicking off those two performers country recording careers. Both musicians have passed away.
So that’s it – a total of six songs which hit the ‘toppermost of the poppermost’ – A damn rare thing as it turns out!
There are no doubt other tune I have missed as far as the total comprehensive charts go, and I welcome any additions or corrections.
The Chart History Colorado
Presented alphabetically by artist.