Tom Ross: Barry Fey's many concerts attracted Steamboat residents to Red Rocks Amphitheater

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

— If the most memorable live rock concert of your life took place at Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison, or perhaps, the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field, there is a good chance that the late Barry Fey, of Feyline Presents, was the promoter.

“He basically put Denver and Colorado on the map as a major stop for concert tours,” Steamboat concert promoter John Waldman, of Great Knight Productions, said Monday. “In those days, Feyline did everything.”

Fey died in Denver on Sunday at age 73, and with him passed a significant chapter in the history of live rock music in the Rocky Mountain region. Fey successfully promoted concerts by the Eagles, the Who, U2, Bruce Springsteen Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, Cream and so many Rolling Stones shows the band and promoter both have lost track of them.

Starting with a humble nightclub in southwest Denver, The Family Dog, and a breakthrough booking of The Doors just as “Light my Fire” was released, Fey established himself as the go-to guy for band managers trying to line up shows between Chicago and California.

But Fey’s greatest contribution to Denver and the region may have been helping to establish Red Rocks as one of the most sought-after concert venues by the artists themselves.

In his 2011 memoir, “Backstage Past,” he recounted how he first booked regional bands into a small college gym in Rockford, Ill. Before long, he was signing The Byrds and the Kingsmen to play in the same venue.

Through a chance acquaintance, Fey booked The Association (“Along Comes Mary”) to play a frat party at the University of Denver, a city he had never visited. Fey moved to Colorado where he earned a reputation with touring musicians for making them feel appreciated and inviting them to his home for a spicy shrimp dinner.

Waldman told me Monday that he can’t really claim to have known Barry Fey. However, they did collaborate on some concerts involving major acts that wanted to gig in a mountain town.

One of the dates they collaborated on involved filling in a date for Crosby, Stills and Nash after some of their shows fell out just two or three weeks before the date.

Waldman booked CSN into Vail’s Gerald Ford Amphitheater and sold it out, no problem.

I’ve been to some pretty cool concerts at Red Rocks — how about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opening for Bob Dylan, then remaining on stage to perform as his band? But I can’t tell you definitively if Feyline Presents was behind that mind-blowing concert or not.

What I can be certain of is that Fey promoted the 1981 show with George Thorogood and the Destroyers opening for the Rolling Stones in Folsom Field. I know because RollingStone magazine interviewed Fey about that very concert.

What I remember best, in addition to how animated the Stones were on stage, is that a gentle rain fell for perhaps 15 minutes in the midst of the concert, and afterward a brilliant rainbow appeared in front of the Flatirons.

It was far out, man. Apparently the Stones dug it, too.

Fey related in the November 1981 interview that as he walked off stage after the show, guitarist Ronnie Wood said he didn’t think the band would ever do a better outdoor show. I know I’ll never forget it.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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