Denver – More than Music in Snowmass
Denver’s adopted son – John Denver started his musical journey while living in Arizona as a young boy being a part of the “Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus” before moving on with his military father and family, landing first in Alabama and later Texas. Unhappy with his existence in Fort Worth, Denver took the family automobile and fled to California to pursue his musical interests.
That would become a short-lived experience when John’s father – Henry John Deutschendorf Sr., drive out to the West Coast to retrieve young Henry John Jr., bringing him back to complete high school. From life in Fort Worth it was off to college in Lubbock, attending Texas Tech University where he joined his first folk group called the “Alpine Trio”.
By the mid 1960’s John had changed his name to John Denver after his favorite State in Colorado at the suggestion of New Christy Minstrel founder Randy Sparks. He worked his way backed again to California this time hooking on with the Chad Mitchell Trio where he replaced non other than the leader – Mitchell.
After recording a few long plays with the Trio, members would become “Denver, Boise and Johnson” – with David Boise and Colorado native – the late Michael Johnson (“Bluer Than Blue” later on).
In 1969, Denver made the decision to go it solo and signed on with RCA Records recording the first of many albums, “Rhymes & Reasons” – a collection which just scratched the Hot 200 at number 148. That LP contained some curious titles but expected from a socially conscience folk singer including “The Ballad of Spiro Agnew” as well as “The Ballad of Richard Nixon”. But more importantly, a song would be plucked from this first RCA session, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by folk luminaries Peter, Paul and Mary which would prove to be a game changer for Denver. The PP&M track would become their only number one single and would propel John’s rise to fame.
RCA did not support the release of “Rhymes” with a tour for John and so he set off on his own without a firm tour plan in hand, stopping here and there in college towns and small venues, often playing for free, putting up his own promotional posters and working his way into small radio stations to do interviews. He brought along plenty of copies of “Rhymes” and often pelleted them when so-permitted by business and venue owners.
By his self-promoted tour’s end he got the nod from RCA executives to take a chance on the next LP, titled “Poems, Prayers and Promises” released in 1971. This long play included another game changer, “Take Me Home Country Roads” a single which rose to a lofty number 2 position on the Billboard Charts. That was that – he was on his way.
After securing financial success and becoming a star in his own right, John turned his attention to causes, social and environmental and so he would establish the “Windstar Foundation” in 1976 to provide support to “sustainable living”. The Foundation was co-founded by Thomas Crum and Denver with the original intention of conserving 1,000 acres of land in Snowmass, Colorado – where it located it’s headquarters.
This was Denver’s a non-profit endeavor to provide clout for his efforts against the conservative Republican Party, nuclear uncertainty, world hunger, the environment, and a campaign against the National Rifle Association – as well as his fund raising efforts for many causes that he was drawn to.
Denver’s next step was to form Windsong Records to provide capitol for his non-profit Foundation.
Windsong was owned by John Denver jointly with Milt Okun and Harold Thau along with the business venture groups Management III and Cherry Lane Music. Windsong accumulated a large group of eager musicians but only two of it’s acts made any noticeable recording impact – his backing group “The Starland Vocal Band” and R&B singer Maxine Nightingale who came over from United Artists most likely Denny Diante’s urging. She had logged in her biggest hit with United Artists “Right Back Where We Started From” which reached number 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1976 a song which had a definite early ‘Motown’ feel to it.
Denny Diante and Al Teller came over to Windsong from United Artists assuming A&R and Presidential duties respectively. Diante – who in his teen years was in a California surf group called “The Cornells”, brought much expertise having worked with David Gates, Colorado’s Marty Cooper providing vocal support.
He then moved on to publishing with Cooper supporting Brian Hyland, The Ventures, Jack Nitzche, Paul Anka, Bobby Goldsboro and and others.
The Windstar recordings were most likely recorded in the RCA Studios – West Coast I assume.
The Windstar Foundation continued on after John Denver’s death finally closing it’s doors in 2012 selling for $8.5 million and directing most of that to a charity located in Aspen. The sale of Denver’s protected property caused a stir at the time and caused ill feelings by then Foundation president Ron Duetschendorf (John’s brother) who was not made aware of the action.
Accusations were leveled by local residents that the sale was actually to a Texas oil billionaire – but in the long run Aspen’s privileged could finally rest again within the confines of their million-dollar plus Aspen chalets….. the property remains protected.
The snow is falling – powder on the runs – Sleep well Dear Aspen – Sleep Well…
The Starland Vocal Band
This group was headed up by Bill Danoff and his wife Taffy Nivert who came together as a composing and singing duo performing as a duo known as “Fat City” in 1969 and then breaking off to record with RCA Victor in 1973. Danoff began his musical career in high school with a group called “The Reflections”.
Next, after writing with and for John Denver, they pair would be joined by singers Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman forming the Starland Vocal Band. The Danoff/Nivert/Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was selected as an “official” West Virginia State Song as well as John Denver’s most famous song globally. The song was originally intended for Johnny Cash.
Danoff and Nivert both provided vocals on the single “Country Roads”.
Windsong 45 Discography
WS 10588 – Afternoon Delight b/w Starland – 1976
WS 10785 – Starland Vocal Band – California Day b/w War Surplus Baby – 1976
WS 10855 – Starland Vocal Band – Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll b/w Ain’t It The Fall – 1976
WS 10904 – Helen Schneider – So Close b/w Trying to Say Goodbye – 1977
WS 10992 – Starland Vocal Band – Liberated Woman b/w Fallin’ In A Deep Hole – 1977
WS 10991 – Helen Schneider – Darlin (Fallen Angel) b/w Sad Eyes – 1977
WS 10994 – Johnny’s Dance Band – Guilty b/w Roll It Away – 1977
WS 11072 – Roger Miller – Baby Me Baby Promo – 1977
WS 11146 – Helen Schneider – Until Now Promo – 1977
WS 11166 – Roger Miller – Oklahoma Woman Promo – 1977
WS 11168 – Starland Vocal Band – Mr. Wrong b/w Too Long a Journey – 1977
WS 11230 – Jimmy Thudpucker – Take Your Life b/w You Can’t Fight It – 1978
WS 11261 – Starland Vocal Band – Late Nite Radio b/w Please Ms. Newslady – 1978
WS 11290 – Renee Armand – (We’re) Dancin’ In the Dark Promo – 1978
WS 11305 – Helen Schneider – Loneliness b/w Every Step of the Way – 1978
WS 11530 – Maxine Nightingale – Lead Me On b/w Love Me Like You Mean It – 1979
WS 11552 – Corniche – Theme From Chips b/w California Hustle – 1979
WS 11729 – Maxine Nightingale – (Bringing Out) The Girl In Me b/w Hide Away – 1979
WS 11889 – Kocky – Remone Promo – 1979
WS 12046 – The Models – Yes With My Body b/w What A Lovin’ Man – 1980
WS 11899 – Starland Vocal Band – Loving You with My Eyes b/w Apartment For Rent – 1980
WS 12011 – Starland Vocal Band – (Love) Thought I Would Never Find Love b/w Love Stuff – 1980
WS 11950 – Danny Spanos – One Night Stands Promo – 1980
Windsong Long Play Discography
WS LP 1006 – Liberty – Liberty – 1975
WS LP 1351 – Starland Vocal Band – Starland Vocal Band – 1976
WS LP 1366 – Lee Holdridge Conducts the Music of John Denver – 1976
WS LP 2216 – Johnny’s Dance Band – Johnny’s Dance Band – 1977
WS LP 2239 – Starland Vocal Band – Rear View Mirror – 1977
WS LP 2589 – Doonesbury’s Jimmy Thudpucker – 1977
WS LP 2598 – Starland Vocal Band – Last Nite Radio – 1978
WS LP 2706 – Renee Armand – In Time – 1978
WS LP 2710 – Helen Schneider – Let It Be Now – 1978
WS LP 2711 – Johnny’s Dance Band – Love Wounds, Flesh Wounds – 1978
WS LP 3403 – Blind Date – Blind Date – 1979
WS LP 3404 – Maxine Nightengale – Lead Me On – 1979
WS LP 3498 – Nan Mancini and JDB – It’s A Man’s World – 1979
WS LP 3503 – Kocky – Kocky – 1979
WS LP 3642 – The Models – Yes With My Body – 1980