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The making of a legend

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Title:
The making of a legend Walt Conley and Colorado's popular folk revival
Portion of title:
Walt Conley and Colorado's popular folk revival
Creator:
Campbell, Rose Victoria ( author )
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English
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1 electronic file (121 pages) : ;

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Folk music -- Colorado ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Review:
Despite the vast historiography on the American popular folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, Colorado's early folk scene has largely been ignored. With newly available primary sources regarding Walt Conley, a Denver-based folksinger who participated in the popular folk revival, a new perspective of Colorado's folk scene emerged. Conley's career, including the legends that surround him posthumously, sheds considerable light on the social and political tensions involved in the development of folk music in Colorado. Conley's later career provides insights into the collective memory of Colorado's folk scene and how it has been shaped
Review:
In the late 1950s, folk singers, venues, and festivals emerged in cities across the United States. Contrary to national trends, however, Colorado's burgeoning folk music scene developed in conjunction with the nascent ski and tourism industries in mountain towns like Central City, Georgetown, and Aspen. Conley's career, in particular, intersected the popular folk revival and tourism as evidenced by his participation in projects commissioned by Colorado's Department of Public Relations in the early 1960s that specifically targeted tourists. In the 1980s, Conley opened a venue, Conley's Nostalgia, dedicated to folk music of the 1950s and 1960s. The venue reflected the national surge of folk music-related nostalgia that appeared throughout the decade.
Thesis:
Thesis (M.S.)--University of Colorado Denver.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
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System requirements: Adobe Reader.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Rose Victoria Campbell.

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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995175751 ( OCLC )
ocn995175751

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Full Text
THE MAKING OF A LEGEND: WALT CONLEY AND COLORADOS POPULAR
FOLK REVIVAL by
ROSE VICTORIA CAMPBELL B.A., Regis University, 2012
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts History Program
2017


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2017
ROSE VICTORIA CAMPBELL
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Rose Victoria Campbell has been approved for the History Program
by
Rebecca Hunt, Chair Ryan Crewe, Advisor William Wagner William Convery
Date: May 13, 2017


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Campbell, Rose Victoria (M.A., History Program)
The Making of a Legend: Walt Conley and Colorados Popular Folk Revival Thesis directed by Associate Professor Rebecca Hunt
ABSTRACT
Despite the vast historiography on the American popular folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, Colorados early folk scene has largely been ignored. With newly available primary sources regarding Walt Conley, a Denver-based folksinger who participated in the popular folk revival, a new perspective of Colorados folk scene emerged. Conleys career, including the legends that surround him posthumously, sheds considerable light on the social and political tensions involved in the development of folk music in Colorado. Conleys later career provides insights into the collective memory of Colorados folk scene and how it has been shaped.
In the late 1950s, folk singers, venues, and festivals emerged in cities across the United States. Contrary to national trends, however, Colorado's burgeoning folk music scene developed in conjunction with the nascent ski and tourism industries in mountain towns like Central City, Georgetown, and Aspen. Conleys career, in particular, intersected the popular folk revival and tourism as evidenced by his participation in projects commissioned by Colorados Department of Public Relations in the early 1960s that specifically targeted tourists. In the 1980s, Conley opened a venue, Conleys Nostalgia, dedicated to folk music of the 1950s and 1960s. The venue reflected the national surge of folk music-related nostalgia that appeared throughout the decade.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Rebecca Hunt


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To my parents and sisters for their support, compassion, and love of "Campbell music


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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
My thesis topic directly resulted from my Koch Fellowship at the History Colorado Center in the 2015-2016 academic year. As a fellow, I researched Walt Conley and Colorados early folk scene for the development phase of a forthcoming exhibit. With the permission and encouragement of Exhibit Developer Megan Friedel, who initially gave me the task of researching Conley, I was able to dive deep into the Conley story. The rest of the exhibit development team served as the encouraging audience to my presentations, provided positive feedback, and asked pointed questions that helped narrow my focus and shape my conclusions. After the fellowship, I remained on the exhibit team as a researcher and continue to serve in the position. The position has enabled me to combine two of my passionsmusic and historyand I am very grateful for the opportunity. The interviews with Harry Tuft and Judy Collins used in my thesis were conducted for the exhibits research and development phase.
Many thanks to Dr. Rebecca Hunt and Nathan Matlock for pushing me to finish my thesis. Dr. Hunt offered encouragement and patience throughout the thesis processes and for that I am grateful. I would also like to thank Dr. Bill Convery and Dr. Bill Wagnerthe two Billswho helped me succeed on my comprehensive exams and in finishing my thesis. And, finally, thanks to Kaitlin for offering insightful and enthusiastic comments after listening to me talk about my topic over and over again.


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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION.......................................................1
II. WALT AND COLORADO IN THE FOL REVIAL HISTORIOGRAPHY.......................7
Scope of Analysis.................................................12
Organization, Sources, and Interpretive Framework.................18
Historiographical Themes in the Scholarship of the American Folk Revival.21
III. CONLEYS EARLY LIFE AND CAREER....................................33
Childhood and Adolescence, 1929-1948..............................33
Navy, New Mexico, and Colorado State College: 1949-1957..................37
IV. THE PETE SEEGER LEGEND AND "COMMUGRESSIVES"..............................45
New Mexico, the Progressive Party, and Communism..................53
V. FOLK MUSIC AND MOUNTAIN TOWNS.....................................63
Aspens Folk Music Scene in 1940s and 1950s..............................64
Folk Music, Tourism, and the Ski Industry in Colorado....................68
Folk Singers as Skiers, Skiers as Folk Singers...........................72
VI. THE POPULAR FOLK MUSIC BOOM IN DENVER AND BOULDER........................82
Public versus Personal Life.......................................90
VII. CONLEYS NOSTALGIA AND COLORADOS CULTURAL HERITAGE......................97
The Bob Dylan Legend..............................................99
VIII. CONCLUSION: CONLEY AND COLORADOS CULTURAL HERITAGE.............105
BIBLIOGRAPHY..........................................................110


LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE
1.1. Walt Conley, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
2.1. Unidentified marquee featuring a Walt Conley performance, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
3.1. Walt Conley as captain of the Manual High School golf team. 1948 Manual High School Yearbook, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado.
3.2. Walt Conley in the Navy. Photo taken in Genoa, Italy. Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado.
4.1. Jenny Vincent, folk singer and political activists, playing guitar at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in 1949. Elizabeth Cleary, Taos News.
4.2. Walt Conley as a camp counselor at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in the summer of 1950. Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
5.1. Advertisement for the Limelite, Aspen Daily Times, March 11,1960, Colorado Historic Newspapers.
5.2. Walt Conley singing at the Abbey in Aspen, Aspen Times, 1963, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
5.3. Ski Songs: Sung by Bob Gibson, Elektra Records, 1959, authors collection.
5.4. Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers, Raynote Records, 1960, authors collection.
5.5. A Snow Job for Skiers by Oscar Brand, Elektra, New York, 1963, authors collection.
6.1. Little Bohemia, "Folk Songs by Walt Conley, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
6.2. Conley performing with Smothers Brothers at the Exodus, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
6.3. Walt Conley with Hal Neustaedter, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
6.4. Advertisement for the Exodus, Walt Conley and Judy Collins, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.


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6.5. Announcement for "Folk Song Fest at University of Colorado-Boulder, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
6.7. Walt Conley in advertisement for guitar and banjo sell, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
6.8. Walt Conley, acting press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
7.1. Walt Conley, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.
7.2. Conleys Nostalgia, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.


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CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION
Each November, friends and family of Colorado-based entertainer Walt Conley fill the Sheabeen Irish Pub in Aurora, Colorado for the annual "Waltfest. The event memorializes Conley as the "founding father of the Denver folk scene as Conleys son, Joel, asserted in the introductory speech in November 2016. Waltfest, which marked its thirteenth consecutive year, emphasizes that "Walt was and remains a Colorado legend.1 The celebratory claims used to describe Conleys influence on Denvers folk scene at Waltfest were echoed in a Westword article published by Timothy Fritz in November 2016. Fritz, who published his article to promote the event, credits Conley as "the grandfather of Denver folk.2
Following Conleys death in 2003, musicians with Colorado connections used similar language to describe Conleys contribution to Denvers folk scene. Harry Tuft, founder of the Denver Folklore Center and well-known local musician, asserted that Conley was "Mr. Folk Music in Denver when Tuft arrived in the 1960s.3 Tuft composed an original tribute song and performed it at Conleys funeral. Conleys funeral guest book, furthermore, included condolence letters from folk icons Judy Collins and Tom
1 Timothy Fritz, "Waltfest 2016! (Youtube video), posted November 28, 2016, accessed December 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxET9aWJb_A&feature=youtu.be.
2 Timothy Fritz, Walt Conley, 'Grandfather of Denver Folk, Celebrated at WaltFest, Westword, November 16, 2016, accessed November 18, 2016, http://www.westword.com/music/walt-conley-grandfather-of-denver-folk-celebrated-at-waltfest-8502603.
3 Claire Martin, "Musician Conley a longtime figure on local folk scene, Denver Post, 5B, November 23, 2003, accessed September 2016, 2016, Digital Newspaper Collection, Denver Public Librarys Western History and Genealogy, Denver (hereafter cited as DPL).


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Smothers of the Smothers Brothers.4 With such an outpouring of admiration, it is apparent that Conley left an important legacy in Denvers folk music history.
Obituaries and articles written about Conley in local newspapers accentuate many of the same attention-grabbing stories. The brief biographies convey what I call the "usual story of Conleys life. I use "usual story because the articles follow a similar traj ectory and convey almost the exact information with only slight variations. The accounts, for example, include Conleys start in folk music in the 1950s where he reportedly received his first folk lesson and guitar from Pete Seeger. After co-headlining and sharing stages with Judy Collins, Conley managed the Satire Lounge on East Colfax Avenue. Conley frequently performed in Aspen where he met the up-and-coming Smothers Brothers. As manager of the Satire, Conley "literally gave the Smothers Brothers their start in the business here (in Denver), according to the Rocky Mountain News obituary.5 Other accounts emphasize Conleys tumultuous encounter with a young Bob Dylan in the summer of 1960.
After a successful folk career in the 1960s, Conley moved to California and pursued acting. In the 1970s, he received recognition from President Nixon for his narration of the "Lords Prayer in a video featuring Native American sign language on Denver TV.6 He moved back to Denver and opened Conleys Nostalgia, a venue primarily dedicated to music of the folk revival, in 1983. By the 1990s, Conley started to perform Irish music and played at several pubs and festivals. When asked "how a black
4 "Walts Farewell Party, Funeral Procession Book, November 28,2003, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center, Denver (hereafter cited as HCC).
5 Gonzales, "Local Music pioneer performed, owned club, Rocky Mountain News, 16B, November 19, 2016, HCC.
6 9 News, Walt Conley, Denver, November 22,2003, VHS, HCC.


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man became a singer of Irish rebel songs? Conley responded, *"[i]f the band U2 from Ireland can sing American blues, then I sure as hell can sing Irish folk songs!7 The "usual story regarding Conleys life and career undoubtedly illustrate Conleys charisma, his contribution to the early folk scene, and his lifelong career as an entertainer in a celebratory tone; a tone perpetuated at the recent Waltfest and in Fritzs Westword article.
These stories validate the notion that Conley played a central role in "developing the robust Colorado music scene we know today, as Fritz asserted.8 I, too, was captivated by Conleys connections to Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, and Bob Dylan. While researching Conley during my fellowship at History Colorado in 2016, my interest focused on why Conleyan apparent Colorado legendhad largely been left out of the public memory and scholarship regarding Colorados music history.
Conley appears only as a trace in Paul Malkoskis The Denver Folk Music Tradition: An Unplugged History, from Harry Tuft to Swallow Hill and Beyond and in Dick Weissmans Which Side Are You On?: An Inside History of the Folk Music Revival in America.9 Weissman, for example, asserts that Conley was "another pillar of the Denver folk scene without providing much evidence for the claim.10 Malkoski, like Weissman, suggests that "Walt Conley played a pivotal role in the 1960s.11 Instead of expanding
7 Walt Conley & Company, 'Walt Conley, Folk Singer, 2003, accessed November 2015, http: //waltconley.Ocatch.com/index.html.
8 Timothy Fritz, 'Walt Conley, 'Grandfather of Denver Folk, Celebrated at WaltFest, Westword, November 16, 2016, accessed November 18, 2016.
9 Paul Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition: An Unplugged History, from Harry Tuft to Swallow Hill and Beyond (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012), 29; Dick Weissman, Which Side Are You On?: An Inside History of the Folk Music Revival in America (New York: Continuum, 2005), 120.
10 Weissman, Which Side Are You On?, 120.
11 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 20.


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on their claims regarding Conleys importance, however, Malkoski and Weissman provide the same brief information about Conley. Conley, according to Malkoski and Weissman, performed at and managed the Satire Lounge. He was a talented storyteller and comedian who later pursued an acting career. Conley appears fleetingly in biographies of Bob Dylan and the Smothers Brothers, but Malkoski and Weissman remain the only scholars of the American folk revival to provide information on Conley.
Perhaps Malkoski and Weissman did not expand on their Conley claims because, until recently, primary sources detailing Conleys life and career were limited to newspaper articles and anecdotes from Conleys family and friends. In the summer of 2016, Conleys widow, Joan Holden, donated seventy-five pounds worth of photographs, letters, yearbooks, newspaper clippings, and curated scrapbooks created by Conley to History Colorado. The collection also includes transcribed oral histories from Swallow Hill Music Association publications and eleven microcassettes filled with interviews between Conley and his biographer, Joann Littman, describing his career. Littman and Conley never completed the biography, but Littman took detailed notes during her interviews with Conley. The primary sources, oral histories, and multiple hours of interviews offer significant insights into Conleys experiences.
As the first researcher to sift through the collection and digitize the interviews, I realized that there was much more to Conleys life and career than the "usual story.
The newly available primary sources and oral sources shifted my research approach dramatically. I initially attempted to construct a comprehensive biography of Conley and sought to determine why Conley has largely been ignored in accounts about the folk revival in Denver. After examining the primary sources, I noticed that many of the


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sources expanded, clarified, and even challenged the existing narratives about Conley. Instead of assuming and accepting that Conley was indeed a "Colorado legend who founded Denvers early folk scene, I began to take a more critical approach beyond the celebratory posthumous recognition.
After taking a closer look at the sources, I discovered that Conleys life and career had the potential to shed considerable light on the development of popular folk music in Colorado in the 1950s and 1960s. Conleys later career also prompts an analysis of the collective memory of the popular folk revival in the 1980s. Conleys legacy reflects a trend in the construction of popular memory where musicians are posthumously rediscovered, reinterpreted, and redefined as "folk forefathers and foremothers as Benjamin Filene astutely observes in Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music.12 The myths surrounding Conleys life and career have grown larger since his death and, as a result, have blurred a more accurate understanding of his influence on and involvement with Colorados folk scene. This examination places Conleys career in historical context and offers a new interpretative framework to better understand folk music and popular culture in Colorado.
12 Benjamin Filene, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2000), 8.


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Figure 1.1. Walt Conley, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.


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CHAPTER II
CONLEY AND COLORADO IN THE FOLK REVIVAL HISTORIOGRAPHY
In December 1959, Blade Bibber of the Rocky Mountain News asserted that the "folk song craze has spread like wildfire in Denver.13 Denver, like many other American cities, served as a focal point of the popular folk music revival in the late 1950s and 1960s. Denver in particular and Colorado as a whole, however, do not receive much attention in the most frequently cited books regarding the history of the American folk music revival.
When scholars have mentioned Colorado, it is usually for differing reasons. For Ronald Cohen, the most prolific scholar and participant of the folk revival, Colorado serves as merely the childhood home of folk music star Judy Collins and as a stopover for a young Bob Dylan in The Roots of the Revival: American and British Folk Music in the 1950s co-authored with Rachel Clare Donaldson.14 Cohen, in Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival & American Society, applauds John Greenway of the University of Colorado-Boulder for his influence on the folk revival with Greenways 1953 American Songs of Protest.15 For Robert Cantwell, another seminal participant-turned-scholar, Colorado only appears as a reference in certain folk songs in When We Were Good: The Folk Revival.16 Colorado, as demonstrated, does not emerge as a significant place in the seminal texts in the American folk revival historiography.
13 Blade Bibber, "Lingo Charms an Audience, Rocky Mountain News, December 18,1959, microfilm, p. 100, DPL.
14 Ronald Cohen and Rachel Clare Donaldson, Roots of the Revival: American and British Music in the 1950s (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 54 and 147.
15 Ronald Cohen, Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival & American Society (Boston-. University of Massachusetts, 2002), 87.
16 Cantwell, Robert, When We Were Good: The Folk Revival (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1996), 97 and 229.


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Denver in particularas opposed to Colorado as a wholeappears in the historiography of the folk revival for two reasons. The scholars that mention Denver group the city with other urban places as the primary locations for the popular folk music boom in the 1950s. According to Cohen and Donaldson, for example, "folk and Beatbohemian communities emerged in Greenwich Village, San Franciscos North Beach, as well as selected neighborhoods in Chicago, Denver, and other urban centers.17 The scholars do not expand on Denvers scene, but include it in the overarching "urban postwar revival as Stephen Petrus and Ronald Cohen coined it in Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival. Denver, like many cities across the United States, represented another urban place with a visible folk scene in the 1950s and 1960s.
Denvers location is the second reason for its inclusion in seminal texts. For Cohen, Denver functioned as the "outpost of the Middle West for folk music.18 "Outside of Denver, as Cohen states in Rainbow Quest, "there was little folk activity between Chicago and the West Coast.19 Denver, in other words, served as the only place between the major hubs of the revival with a folk scene. Again, scholars who include Denver in the 1950s and 1960s urban folk revival history do not expand on the citys scene, but simply characterize the city as a place between New York and California where the popular folk music revival emerged.
17 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 81.
18 Ronald Cohen and Stephen Petrus, Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival (New York: Oxford University, 2015), 31.
19 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 118.


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Malkoski and Weissman, in contrast, provide significant insights into Denvers folk scene. Malkoskis Denver Folk Music Tradition traces the evolution of Denvers folk music community from the opening of the Denver Folklore Center (DFC) in 1962 by Harry Tuft to the formation of the Swallow Hill Music Association. Malkoski focuses primarily on Denvers folk scene, but also offers insightful context into the national folk trends. Malkoski, for example, incorporates brief explanations for the emergence of folk music in popular culture with its often-controversial ties to leftist politics in the 1940s, influential musicians of the 1940s and 1950s, and the commercial successes in the folk music industry. Aside from brief descriptions of local venues and folk singers prior to the opening of the DFC, Malkoskis account examines the post-1962 folk scene. Malkoskis book nevertheless remains the most comprehensive study of Denvers folk music history.
Dick Weissman also incorporates Denvers folk scene in the 1960s and argues that the DFC served as the central location for folk music in Colorado. Weissman integrates Denver into his overarching history of the folk revival by deeming Denver a city outside of New York where folk music thrived. Like Malkoski, Weissman emphasizes the importance of Tuft and the DFC as the "key to the folk revival in Denver.20 By the mid-1960s, Weissman asserts, "Denver was a hotbed of folk music and people from both coasts knew about it.21 Weissman also provides a brief explanation of Boulders folk scene and its connection to Denver, but primarily focuses on the DFC in the 1960s and 1970s.
20 Weissman, Which Side Are You On?, 120.
21 Weissman, Which Side Are You On?, 122.


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Interestingly, Malkoski and Weissman, the only scholars to substantially include Denver, have strong connections to the city. Weissman first participated in the New York folk scene in the 1960s and performed with the Journeymen, a popular folk-rock group. In the 1970s, Weissman moved to Colorado and taught at the University of Colorado-Denver in the Music and Entertainment Industry program. Weissman remains close friends with Tuft and has published several books about the music industry. Malkoski also lived in New York in the 1960s, moved to Colorado in the 1970s, and attended the University of Colorado-Denver for his undergraduate and graduate careers.
With these comparisons, it seems likely that Weissman and Malkoski approached their research and shaped their arguments from similar perspectives. Perhaps Malkoski and Weissman formulated their interpretation from personal experiences and enthusiasm for the local scene. Weissman, for example, provides historical context alongside his personal experiences in Which Side Are You Are On?. Malkoski, too, conveys the enthusiasm of a local folk music scene. They are not alone, however, in bringing their folk experiences to scholarly pursuits as many published accounts have been written by participants of the folk revival.22
Malkoski and Weissman both explain that the opening of the DFC, furthermore, was directly influenced by Izzy Youngs Folklore Center established in New York in 1957. The Folklore Center "became the heartbeat not just of the local folk scene, but also of the nations, according to Petrus and Cohens Folk City: New York and the
22 Gillian Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival: Nation and Identity in the United States and Canada, 1945-1980 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007), 2.


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American Folk Music Revival.23 As Malkoski notes, Tuft visited Young, discussed his ambitions, and bought his first inventory from Young before traveling to Denver to start the DFC.24 With this information, the DFC evidently emulated Youngs Folklore Center not only in name, but also in purpose by providing a space for folk enthusiasts to buy instruments and songbooks, to learn about local and national folk happenings, and to socialize with like-minded people.
Malkoskis and Weissmans accounts suggest that the DFC essentially helped Denver develop a perceptible folk music scene by serving as the collecting point for musicians and enthusiasts. The DFC certainly influenced Denvers folk scene in many ways, but perhaps Weissman and Malkoski perceived the DFC as the epitome of Colorados folk scene since it directly emulated New Yorks Folklore Center. Most scholars of the folk revival agree that the folk revival started in New York in the 1950s and remained a hub throughout the 1960s and 1970s.25 Malkoski and Weissman, who both were in New York in the 1960s, may have deemed Denvers scene viable when it replicated the New York scene. Denvers folk scene, however, was burgeoning before the DFC opened as evidenced by Conleys early career.
Weissman and Malkoski also offer brief insights into Denvers folk scene before 1962. Both scholars agree that the Exodus, a venue opened by Hal Neustaedter in 1959, helped cultivate the early folk scene in Denver. For Malkoski, the Exodus served as the "most notable folk club in the city.26 Weissman also asserts that the folk scene in
23 Ronald Cohen and Stephen Petrus, Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival (New York: Oxford University, 2015), 95.
24 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 19.
25 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City 21.
26 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 41.


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Denver "began to crystallize at the Exodus.27 After the Exodus "faded in memory in the early 1960s, as Malkoski explains, other venues like the Satire on East Colfax Avenue and the Green Spider filled the folk music gap until the DFC opened.28 Weissman and Malkoski echo Cohen by suggesting that Denver served as a convenient stopping place for touring musicians who traveled from coast to coast in the 1960s.29
Focusing primarily on the influence of the DFC and its replication of urban folk trends ignores much of Colorados early popular folk music history. Before the opening of the Exodus in August 1959 and Tufts opening of the DFC in 1962, folk singers, venues, and festivals appeared in other parts of the state. Conley performed in Denver and beyond well before the 1960s. By emphasizing the DFC, Weissman and Malkoski omit earlier developments not only in Denver, but also in Colorado as a whole. Exploring Colorados earlier manifestations of popular folk music is crucial to understanding its evolution into the 1960s.
Scope of Analysis
Conleys life and career serve as the lens for my examination of folk music in Colorado in the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike Colorado performers such as Judy Collins, the Smothers Brothers, and the Limeliters, each of whom left for opportunities in New York and California, Conley remained in Colorado throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Since Conley remained in the state, his career provides significant insights into the Colorado folk scene.
27 Weissman, Which Side Are You On?, 120; Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 27.
28 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 29.
29 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 41; Weissman, Which Side Are You On?, 120.


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As I stated in the Chapter 1, the existing narratives about Conley have largely celebratory and anecdotal. I, in contrast, will approach his professional life critically by taking a closer look at the newly available sources. I will also contextualize aspects of Conleys personal life as they demonstrate significant correlations to larger themes in the popular folk revival history and in the historiography of the subject. Placing Conleys life and career in context enables an understanding of how national popular music trends played out on a local level and how local manifestations differed, in some cases, from national trends.
My analysis incorporates interviews with Harry Tuft, who knew Conley personally and provided insightful observations about the 1960s folk scene in Colorado. Tuft explained that there were two distinct aspects in Denver: the entertainers and the traditionalists. Conley, according to Tuft, was "clearly an entertainer who played "the most popular music of the day, sprinkled with jokes, [and] fought noise in bars from the audience.30 Tuft, in contrast, considers himself and the musicians he associated with as "traditionalists. Entertainers focused on the "popular side of folk and played in bars, Tuft noted, whereas traditionalists performed in coffeehouses and at the DFC.
Tuft clarified that the entertainment segment of folk music should not be "denigrated because clubs "that allowed that kind of music were a part of the scene. Conley never performed at the DFC, according to Tuft, but nevertheless was a "collecting point for folk musicians at the Exodus and the Satire. "His magnet was West Coast, Tuft explained, "ours was East coast. Tuft noted that he socialized with a different crowd than Conley, but admired Conleys confidence and stage personality.
30 Harry Tuft, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017.


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Despite their differences, Conley was "encouraging to the growth of the scene and Tuft considers the entertainers and traditionalists as two aspects of Denvers scene.
Unlike Tuft, Malkoskis and Weissmans accounts regarding Denvers folk scene do not elucidate the commercial-oriented aspects of folk music in the 1950s and 1960s. Malkoski acknowledges that the Exodus represented "a segment of the music business that booked folk performers who "possessed a certain commercial appeal.31 He explains that the Exodus featured national acts, but "also gave opportunities to promising locals.32 Rather than focusing on the commercial aspect of the Exodus, Malkoski emphasizes the chances it provided for local musicians emerging at the height of the folk revival. At Conleys "Almost-Retirement Party in 1995, the invitation stated that "in the beginning of the Folk Era, Walt was Denvers only paid contemporary folk singer.33 Conley evidently stressed the commercial aspects of his early career. What, then, is missed by leaving the commercial forces of Denvers early folk scene unexamined?
Tufts interview therefore helps to place Denvers folk scene in a more comprehensive context. Malkoski argues that Denver largely "mirrored that of other American cities, yet it proved unique in many ways.34 The "unique aspects that Malkoski uses as evidence for his argument predominantly involve the DFC, Tuft, and Swallow Hill Music Association. The distinctive aspects of Denvers folk scene, however,
31 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 27.
32 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 27.
33 Walt Conley, 'Walt Conleys 35th Anniversary/Almost-Retirement Party, Rocky Mountain Music Association, January 22,1995, HCC.
34 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 21.


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can be found in Tufts differentiation between commercialism and traditionalism, between the entertainers and traditionalists.
As Cohen, Filene, and Donaldson demonstrate, folk musics urban evolution followed a similar trajectory from "authentic and "traditional to more commercially-oriented performers and venues. Denver had both forms, but not in the same order. The scene first was entertainment and commercial-based with Conley and the Exodus, and then, with the arrival of self-prescribed "traditionalists, it became a base for musicians interested more in tradition and authenticity. Evidently, Denvers folk scene evolved in a pattern opposite of national trends.
Tufts interview also offers a perspective of folk music in Colorado that has largely been ignored by historians of the subject. Tuft explained that mountain towns including Georgetown, Aspen, and Central City greatly influenced the folk scene. "Ski areas, Tuft asserted, not only "employed folk singers, but also influenced the Denver scene.35 Conley and Tuft both performed gigs and received contracts in mountain towns before and during their careers in the Denver. Aspen, in particular, had a visible folk scene with national and local acts before the opening of the Exodus in 1959. By broadening the scope to include places outside of Denver and exploring the formative development of folk music before and during the 1950s, a more complete picture of Colorados folk music history emerges.
Conleys career, then, represents two unexamined and rather influential aspects of Colorados folk music history: commercialism and mountain towns. I argue that Conleys career in particular and Colorados popular folk scene in general developed in
35 Harry Tuft, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017.


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conjunction with the states burgeoning tourism and entertainment industry. Conleys career in the late 1950s and 1960s intersected with concerted marketing campaigns to entice tourists to the ski areas and mountain towns.
Conley performed at clubs in Aspen, Central City, and Georgetown which, as advertisements from the time demonstrate, specifically targeted tourists and skiers.
The white and middle- to upper-class demographic who vacationed and skied in Colorado in the 1950s and 1960s examined by Annie Gilbert Coleman in "The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing represent the same type of people who fueled folk music in popular culture. "Taking advantage of a growing middle and upper class ready to spend their money on tourism and recreation, Coleman argues, "the skiing and advertising industries worked together to market destination ski resorts.36 In Folk City, furthermore, Cohen and Petrus explain that in the 1950s and 1960s, "business and consumer trends noticed of the new spending power of the white, middle- to upper-class and began marketing folk music directly to them.37
The development of popular folk music in Colorado in the 1950s and early 1960s intersected with the processes of tourism and infrastructure development. "In the late 1950s, as William Philpott demonstrates, "Colorado officials began experimenting with [recreation planning] as a way to enhance the states visitor appeal.38 By that time, Philpott explains, Colorado had cultivated a "recreational reputation and a big-market tourist industry.39 In Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West,
36 Annie Gilbert Coleman, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing," Pacific Historical Review, vol. 65, no. 4, Tourism and the American West (November 1996]: 589.
37 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 70.
38 William Philpott, Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country (Seattle: University of Washington, 2013), 212.
39 Philpott, Vacationland, 211.


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Hal Rothman asserts that a "more widespread distribution of wealth in American society gave greater numbers of people the means to travel, and previously inaccessible places were more easily reached because of new and better roads in the 1950s.40 As Colorados tourist industries expanded, so too did folk music in popular culture.
Three specific examples illustrate the claim that popular folk music in general and Conley in particular were used to entice tourists to consume Colorados heritage and landscape. Colorados Department in Public Relations commissioned Conley, for example, to perform on the "Official State Souvenir celebrating the centennial of the Gold Rush in 1959. The souvenir, entitled Colorado Story, included two songs on a 45-vinyl record conveying Colorados "proud heritage. "Now, a hundred years after gold was discovered at Gregory Gulch, Conley narrated, "Colorado had progressed from a struggling frontier territory to a bustling, jet-age state.41 The souvenir represented another form of consumption for tourists to buy while visiting Colorado.
Conley appeared in the short film, Colorado Legend, funded by the Department of Public Relations in 1960. The film depicts a mythical rendering of Colorados mining history and ghost towns.42 Colorado Story and Colorado Legend were marketing tools created to perpetuate Colorados heritage tourism and as a vacation destination. Tourist agencies specifically propagated the "Old West appeal as a marketing tactic in the 1950s and 1960s as Philpott and Coleman demonstrate.43 The Limelite, a venue in
40 Hal Rothman, Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1998], 202-203.
41 Walt Conley, The Colorado Story (Denver: Band Box Records, 1959), authors collection.
42 Colorado Legend, directed by Stan Brakhage (Western Cine and Colorado Department of Public Relations, 1960), 16mm, from HCC, YouTube video, accessed November 2016,
http s: //www.y o utub e. com/ watch?v= 0 P K Vs uyAtA.
43 Philpott, Vacationland, 68.


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Aspen where Conley frequently performed, featured folk music in advertisements aimed at tourists and skiers.
My aim therefore is threefold: to examine the roots of Colorados popular folk music scene and the importance of mountain towns in its development; to contextualize aspects of Conleys life and career that have been left out of other narratives and his contribution to Colorados "official heritage; and to place Conleys Nostalgia, the venue Conley opened in the 1980s, in a larger context as a reflection of the national commoditized "nostalgia market, as Bill Hustead of the Rocky Mountain News coined in in 1984.44 What can be gained from this approach is a more comprehensive understanding of Conley as an entertainer and as a person in all his complexity as well as a more complete picture of Colorados popular folk scene.
Organization, Sources, and Interpretive Framework
As previously stated, the newly available primary sources detailing Conleys life and career provide an opportunity for a new interpretive framework of Conleys career in the context of Colorados folk music history. I relied on the Walt Conley Collection at History Colorado, Conley's albums that fortunately appeared on Amazon and EBay during my research, interviews with musicians who knew Conley, and local newspaper archives for the majority of my research.
Some of the cassettes recording the conversations between Conley and Joann Littman from the early 1990s have been ruined. I therefore rely on the Littmans descriptive notes she took while interviewing Conley. I acknowledge that Littmans
44 Bill Husted, "Folk-singing troubadour corners nostalgia market, Rocky Mountain News, July 6,1984, DPL.


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notes may be subjective and try to use Conleys own words as expressed on the cassettes and in transcribed oral histories. I have, however, compared Littmans notes with the cassettes that still work and Littman appears to have stayed close to Conleys narrative.
The interviews, oral histories, and primary sources help to straighten out the kinks in the "usual story about Conley. I say "kinks because the sources provided additional and contradictory information regarding the most legendary of stories about Conley. "The stories about Walt Conley, as the Washington Park Profile obituary noted, "truly are the stuff of legend.45 And I agree. The stories do make a strong case for remembering Conley as a Colorado legend. Legends, however, often contain elements of both truth and fiction. The legendary tales regarding Conleys career certainly are no exception. This is not to suggest that Conleys legacy is somehow tainted and his career discredited, but rather suggests that much can be gained by analyzing the legendary stories. Studying the myths and attempting to uncover where they originated offers a more nuanced perspective of Conleys life. Since Conleys career reflected national trends in popular culture, it can help to reveal when and why the stories about Conley morphed into myths. In other words, examining how legendary stories were created, both deliberately and inadvertently, offer insights into the particular time, place, and social climate in which they emerged.
Louis S. Warren addresses the issues of exaggerated stories and falsified memory in his biography of William Cody in Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show. Warren frames his interpretation "less with an air of categorizing Cody
45 Obituary for Walt Conley, Washington Park Profile, December 2003, HCC.


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as real or fake, but as a means of understanding how and why reality and fiction were mixed.46 The "true and false stories written about Cody and the ones Cody told himself, Warren asserts, "can point the way to deeper truths.47 Warrens framework connects to Conleys case and serves as one of the theoretical underpinning of the analysis. The myths about Conley represent larger cultural meanings regarding the ways in which he was placed and how he placed himself in the popular culture and collective memory of the folk revival.
I rely on the oral histories Conley recorded in the 1990s and 2000s as valuable sources that provide significant insights into his life and career. In some cases, Conleys memory of the events confused timelines, omitted details, or were conveyed with nostalgia. Oral historians acknowledge the fallibility of memory, the capacity for inadvertent falsified recollections, and the influence of nostalgia on memory recall. Nonetheless, oral histories offer valuable information into a persons experiences. According to Donald Ritchie, preeminent scholar in the oral history field, the "memories of direct participants are sources far too rich for historical researchers to ignore. In Doing Oral History, Ritchie further asserts that "interviewers must be aware of the peculiarities of memory, adept in their methods of dealing with it, conscious of its limitations and open to its treasures.48
The chapters are organized thematically and generally follow a chronological timeline. I weave together aspects of Conleys life and career with larger themes.
46 Louis S. Warren, Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 7.
47 Warren, Buffalo Bill's America, 7.
48 Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral History, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University, 2015), p. 18-19.


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Chapter 3 focuses on Conleys early life and career from 1929 to 1957. Chapter 4 examines the Pete Seeger legend and Conleys association with the Communist Party U.S.A. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Chapter 5 analyzes the intersection of popular folk music and tourism in Aspen, Georgetown, and Central City where Conley frequently performed. Chapter 6 covers Conleys career in Denver and Boulder throughout the 1960s as folk music exploded in American popular culture. Chapter 7 integrates Conleys Nostalgia and the surge in folk music-related nostalgia in the 1980s. The conclusion comments on Conleys participation in "official state heritage and the shaping of popular memory and cultural heritage.
Historiographical Themes in the Scholarship of the American Folk Revival
My analysis of Walt Conley and the Colorado folk scene of the 1950s and 1960s contains several themes apparent in the historiography of the American folk revival. Historians of the subject provide multiple interpretations regarding when, where, and why the American folk revival occurred. Historians also emphasize which groups of people and individuals influenced the development of popular folk music. In many ways, Conley and Colorados folk scene reflect the historiographical trends that historians have established since the 1970s.
I use "folk music revival and "popular folk music interchangeably to define the time period when Conley was an active folk music entertainer and when folk music flourished in popular culture and mass media. Tracing the evolution of the American folk revival and deciphering when it occurred, however, has been the subject of much debate within the scholarship. For Robert Cantwell, the oft-cited participant and scholar, the American folk revival began in 1958 when the Kingston Trio topped the


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popular music charts with the folksong, "Tom Dooley, and ended in 1965 after the British Invasion had "colonized American popular music.49 Cohen, in contrast, dates the revival from 1940 to 1970 in Rainbow Quest. The "roots began in 1940, according to Cohen, with the concerted effort to bring folk songs to mass audiences and ended in 1970 with the rise of rock music in popular culture.50 In Folk City, however, Cohen and Petrus trace the beginning of the "urban postwar revival to the 1920s with the advent of radio and record industries.51
Rachel Clare Donaldson distinguishes the early 1930s as the starting period for the wide dissemination of folk music to the American public in "I Hear America Singing": Folk Music and National Identity. For Donaldson, folk music "constituted a critical component of the nations cultural heritage and emerged in the Depression-era when "traditional American values were challenged. Donaldson focuses on the folk revivalists who recognized a need to return to the "essence of American identity through folksongs.52 Benjamin Filene furthers Donaldsons argument by explaining that the Roosevelt administration "embraced folk songs as Americas true musical heritage in the 1930s with government-funded initiatives including the Federal Music Project and the Library of Congresss Archive of American Folk-Song.53
In The North American Folk Revival: Nation and Identity in the United States and Canada, 1945-1980, Gillian Mitchell also explores the relationship between the folk revival and national identity. Mitchell delineates 1945 as the pivotal year for the
49 Cantwell, When We Were Good, 2.
50 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 8 and 289-299.
51 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 21-23.
52 Rachel Clare Donaldson, "I Hear America Singing": Folk Music and National Identity (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2014), 2 and 3.
53 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 134 and 135.


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American and Canadian folk revival. After World War II, according to Mitchell, Americans and Canadians renegotiated aspects of national identity. Folk music developed into a means of expressing and connecting to a sense of a cohesive national identity. Mitchell also traces the evolution of folk music into the 1980s with the growth of "world music.54
Mitchell also provides a comprehensive historiography of the folk revival and observes that scholars argue "when exactly [the folk revival] began and ended, but also "whether the revival was really several revivals or one movement.55 Molly Beer and David King Dunaway demonstrate Mitchells observation by asserting that three American folk revivals occurred between 1910 and 1970. In Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Music Revivals, Beer and Dunaway explain that folk song collectors initiated the first revival in the 1910s and 1920s. The second revival began in 1930s-era with researchers and academics sought obscure songs, recorded them, and disseminated them to the American public through publications. The popularity of folk music defines the last revival from 1958 to 1972.56 The majority of scholars, however, combine Beer and Dunaways three stages into a singular folk music revival movement that lasted from the early- to mid-twentieth century.
Why such discrepancies in the historiography when it is readily apparent that folk music burst into popular culture and the national mainstream spotlight in the midtwentieth century? The different interpretations regarding the time period of the folk
54 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival, 11-13 and 16.
55 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival, 2-3.
56 Molly Beer and David King Dunaway, Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Music Revivals (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 2,17, 45,107, and 108.


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revival reflect larger questions in the historiography. The questions of why, how, and who fostered the folk revival emergence shapes how scholars designate when the movement happened. Donaldson convincingly argues that using "popularity as the litmus test for determining the chronological parameters of the movement excludes the nuances and causes that facilitated the gradual inclusion of folk music in American popular culture.57 Historians of the subject essentially base their periodization on certain causes and effects in the development of the folk revival(s).
Scholars, for instance, stress different groups of people and individuals who influenced the growth of folk music in the twentieth century. For Beer, Dunaway, and Donaldson, folklorists of the 1910s "helped to pave the way for the folk revival by preserving and studying the songs and culture of the folk in rural and minority communities.58 Filenes asserts that the first academic folklorists in the 1920s and 1930s essentially "professionalized folklore by creating an intellectual discipline.59 Filene, like Cohen, Donaldson, and Weissman, include the political Left and members of the Communist Party as the "core constituency of the folk revival in 1930s and 1940s.60 Folk music then became a staple for political activists in the 1950s and 1960s as Cohen and Cantwell acknowledge. Entrepreneurs and "cultural workers, as Filene calls them, including record producers, venue owners, storeowners, and magazine publishers, also play a significant role in folk revival history narratives.61
57 Donaldson, "I Hear America Singing, "183.
58 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival, 25; Donaldson, "I Hear America Singing/'!.
59 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 164.
60 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 68.
61 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 78; Filene, Romancing the Folk, 8.


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The majority of scholars, furthermore, incorporate the same influential individuals who participated in and shaped the history of the folk revival movement. Most scholars include Francis James Child, Cecil Sharp, and Olive Dame Campbell as the initial folk song collectors who largely influenced the revival(s) through their songbook publications.62 Scholars also emphasize the influential song collector Carl Sandberg who published the seminal American Songbag in 1927. Scholars credit John and Alan Lomax, perhaps two of the most recognizable names of the early folk revival, with redefining song collection and preservation methods with their phonograph and research trips funded by the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress.63 Much has been written about the father-son Lomax team and historians largely credit them with ushering folk songs and musicians into mass media through radio and records in the 1930s and 1940s.64
Scholars also credit folk musicians like the Almanac Singers, Woody Guthrie,
Pete Seeger and the Weavers for spreading folk music along with the influence of leftist politics on their song selections. After McCarthyism blacklisted many folk singers in the 1950s, other folk groups emerged in the newfound folk market including the Kingston Trio, the New Lost City Ramblers, and the Limeliters. By the 1960s, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan popularized folk for the Civil Rights Movement and became stars at the height of the revival.
62 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 17; Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 9-19; Filene, Romancing the Folk, 12-46; Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival, 27.
63 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 17; Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 9; Filene, Romancing the Folk, 12; Mitchell, The North American Folk Re vival, 2 7.
64 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 57.


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In many seminal texts, historians assert that college- and high school-aged Americans in the 1950s and 1960s fueled the growth of folk music.65 With the "expanding consumer culture in the 1950s, as Cohen argues, increased teenage spending drove the folk music market.66 Mitchell, furthermore, credits the intersection of commercialism and folk music to the "baby boom children who were "considerably more economically and socially secure than their parents and cultivated a "new culture of independent young adulthood.67 Cohen and Petrus note that "business and consumer trends noticed the new teenage spending power and began marketing directly to them.68 Beer and Dunaway also comment that "emergent recording and distribution technology allowed for a large supply and demand in the folk market and "meant that ever-widening audiences had access to, and generated a demand for, commercially recorded music.69
In Roots of the Revival, Cohen and Donaldson argue that young Americans were attracted to folk music not only because they could afford record players and vinyl disks, but also because folk music represented a countercultural movement.70 By singing the "songs of the marginalized and forgotten folk, folk music served as an "antidote to the blandness of mass culture, according to Cohen and Petrus in Folk City.71 In Singing Out, Beer and Dunaway quote Judy Collins description of the "cultural aesthetics of the folk revival. Collins asserted that the folk revival represented "[yjouth
65 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival, 100.
66 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 102; Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 133.
67 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival, 71.
68 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 70.
69 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 107.
70 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 80.
71 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 106.


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struggling against power. Young people confronting middle-class wealth, middle-class standards, middle-class acceptable modes of behavior.72 In a similar vein, Mitchell argues that the folk revival created an "in-crowd mentality for suburban and urban "young people who considered themselves discerning and sophisticated.73
Grace Elizabeth Hale focuses specifically on the inclusion that folk music offered middle-class youth in A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America. Hale makes an important distinction by arguing that white middle-class Americans were searching for an alternative away from the "fake, plastic, slick, mass-produced, usually segregated, and new mass culture.74 Listening to folksongs, Hale argues, "enabled some middle-class whites to cut themselves free of their own social origins and their own histories. Hale continued that folk music allowed them to identify with "others to imaginatively regain what they understood as previously lost values and feelings.75
Hale explains that mass culture helped to spread the popularity of folk music. Mass media, Hale asserts, provided the "knowledge of people not living middle-class suburban lives.76 Hale convincingly argues that white youth then started to "romanticize the outsiders represented in the folk songs. With the advent of festivals, hootenannies, cafes, and clubs, as Hale asserts, the folk revival then "helped democratize bohemian cultural rebellion and enabled "middle-class whites to see themselves as different and alienated too. According to Hale, folk music facilitated
72 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 136.
73 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival, 107.
74 Grace Elizabeth Hale, A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America (New York: Oxford University, 2011), 5-6 and 86.
75 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 3.
76 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 5-6


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inclusion through a collective feeling of exclusion and alienation from American mainstream culture that was essentially (and ironically) fostered through mass media and popular culture.77
Hale, furthermore, argues that the "romance of the outsider perpetuated by young, white Americans in the 1950s and 1960s changed "the meaning of ideas like authenticity and community.78 Authenticity was a hotly debated issue during the folk revival and continues to spark conflicting interpretations in the historiography. According to Cohen, the "recurring controversy over authenticity was initiated in the 1930s.79 John and Alan Lomax "romanticized the people, in their search for songs of the "pure folk who were seemingly untouched by modernizing influences.80 Filene argues that the Lomax team essentially created a "cult of authenticity in the 1930s and 1940s regarding folk songs and performers. By stressing that the performer was "the real thing, for instance, the Lomax team and other entrepreneurs capitalized on the notion of "purity and cultivated a hierarchy of sorts for folk performers.81 Donaldson, Filene, and Cohen point out that most collected songs did not have a particular owner as the songs were passed down orally. The lack of direct ownership caused many issues in regard to copyright and royalties which essentially stripped the song of its original communal intent. Folk song collectors, producers, and musicians profited as a result.82
Authenticity became a major component of the popular folk revival in the late 1950s and 1960s. Moses Asch, for example, the owner of Folkways Records, advertised
77 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 5-6.
78 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 4.
79 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 14.
80 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 12.
81 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 58, 75, and 131.
82 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 11, 72,132,141.


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in 1957 that "only folk artists of authentic standing will build the Asch list.83 Asch, as Cohen suggests, capitalized on the concept of authenticity even though the songs originated in rural communities. As Cohen explains, the "profit-oriented mass media sought to exploit the popular culture and sparked a "looming conflict of "authenticity versus commercialism.84
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, new folk performers began to saturate the music industry. In response, David DeTurk and Alfred Poulin, Jr. published a collection of essays by scholars and participants to comment on the folk revival in The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival. In "Why I Detest Folk Music, Robert Resiner observed that folk music was "the shortcut to becoming an entertainer by the mid-1960s.85 For Gershon Legman, folklore scholar, the folk performers who emerged in the 1950s and 1960s were all out for the money, plus a goodly bit of cheap public attention and acclaim.86 As folk music pervaded popular culture and mass media, purveyors of authenticity and tradition disparaged its commercialism.
Filene places the issues of commercialism and authenticity in historical context and argues the words "folk and pure have been imbued with meanings that have changed over time. Filene suggests that the words, nonetheless, have cultural relevance and power to them. Exploring how the dichotomies of "authentic versus inauthentic have been constructed and "how they have shaped the way American music has been understood shapes Filenes approach and offers much insight into the
83 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 47.
84 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 219.
85 David DeTurk and A. Poulin, Jr., eds., The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival (New York: Dell Publishing, 1967), 58.
86 DeTurk and Poulin, The American Folk Scene, 342.


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public memory of folk music.87 Filene attributes the "cult of authenticity and its change over time to the "cultural middlemen of "folklorists, record company executives, producers, radio programmers, and publicists who ultimately shaped what was and was not considered authentic to public audiences.88 Filene astutely observes that these "cultural brokers shaped our nations sense of its musical heritage.89
Hale and Cohen also trace the changing notions of authenticity, but in a different way. Cohen argues that the notion of tradition created a version of authenticity in the folk revival. Cohen incorporates a quote from Pete Seeger, who struggled with the question of authenticity in folk music throughout his career. Seeger asserted that he believed "strongly in the value of maintaining an idiom, a tradition, in its strength and homogeneity.90 Hale illustrates the tradition-as-authenticity concept in a review of Bob Dylan by Robert Shelton, the acclaimed folk critic. Hale explains that Shelton held high regard for Dylan in the early 1960s precisely because Dylan was emulating Woody Guthrie. In this way, Sheldon "was using an understanding of authenticity as a perfect copy.91 Dylan, however, began to veer from the "perfect copy authenticity by writing his own songs. In doing so, as Hale argues, he created a "new kind of authenticity. Hale convincingly argues that Dylan "helped create a new kind of obsession with authenticity.92 Authenticity, it appears, is subject to construction and renegotiation by folk performers themselves and scholars who study them.
87 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 3.
88 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 5.
89 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 5.
90 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 90.
91 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 123
92 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 123


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Several aspects of Conleys life and career align with the historiographical trends of the American folk revival. For my analysis, I define 1957 to 1969 as the "popular folk music and the "folk music revival specifically due to Conleys involvement and the growth of Colorados popular folk scene. White, middle- to upper-class youth largely comprised Conleys audiences and fellow folk performers in Colorado. Conley also experienced many issues related to commercialism and authenticity throughout his careers as he attempted to stay relevant in a changing industry. Placing Conley into the historiography enables a better understanding of the processes and aspects of the popular folk revival and allows for new perspectives to emerge in the scholarship.


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Figure 2.1. Unidentified marquee featuring a Walt Conley performance, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.


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CHAPTER III
CONLEYS EARLY LIFE AND CAREER Childhood and Adolescence, 1929-1948
In May 1929, Walt Conley was born in Denver and adopted shortly thereafter by Wallace and Ethel Conley of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Conleys childhood has largely been unexamined due to the assumed lack of sources.93 In the oral histories, however, Conley discussed his childhood at length. His father, Wallace, was born in Georgia in 1885 and, according to Littmans interview notes, hitched cross-country to Butte, Montana where he became a "shotgun rider on [the] last of [the] stagecoaches.94 His mother, originally from Colorado, met Wallace in Montana. It is not clear as to why Conleys parents moved to Scottsbluff, but they did so in the 1910s.95 Walts father worked as a janitor in Scottsbluff and built a home with the "only indoor toilet in the town.96
Conley grew up in a predominantly white, lower- to middle-class neighborhood. Conley recalled that most of his neighbors were German, but that they "all called themselves Russian to cover up being German in the post-World War I social and political climate.97 In an interview with the Irish Eyes in Denver, Conley explained that his family had little money. "My ghetto was the banks of the Platte River, Conley described. "When I wasnt in school or doing chores for my parents, I spent my time on the river-hunting, fishing, swimming, and ice skating.98
93 Timothy J. Fritz, "Walt Conley: The Founding Father of Denver Folk Scene, Washington Street Media, November 16, 2016, p. 3, http://www.washingtonstreetmedia.com/, accessed November 18, 2016.
94 Walt Conley, interview by Joann Littman, notes, November 18,1999, HCC.
95 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18,1999, HCC.
96 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18,1999 and January 1,2001, HCC.
97 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 16, 2001, HCC.
98 'Why Do Ya Sing Irish Music, Irish Eyes in Denver, February 1994, p. 14, HCC.


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Conley, at the age of ten, inadvertently discovered that he was adopted." Conley remembered attending the movies with his parents. They ran into acquaintances and since the families had not seen each other in a long while, one of the acquaintances introduced Conley as the little boy they adopted.99 100 He later recalled crying on his fathers lap. Conley did not remember a warm embrace, but rather a threatened spanking.101 Conley commented that he felt "separation from his "firm father throughout his childhood.102
Conley acknowledged that his father also left a lasting impression on him regarding his racial identity. The Conley family was one of only six or seven African-American families in Scottsbluffroughly fifty people out of an estimated twelve hundred.103 Around age ten, he started to learn about the notorious racism in the American South, but that it was "too far away to seriously consider it.104 Conley said he knew he was "negro or colored, but "wasnt rejected hardly at all.105 "White kids, Conley said, "were my friends.106 Conley became fully "aware of prejudice and discrimination by time he was thirteen or fourteen.107 He also began to notice that his parents were "not accepted by [the] black community, Conley explained, due to divisions in the "light-skinned, upper-class negro communities.108 Conley said that his father believed that "you had to be better if you were colored to be accepted by white
99 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 16,2001 and December 6,2001, HCC.
100 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, December 6, 2001, HCC.
101 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, December 6, 2001, HCC.
102 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18,1999, HCC.
103 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, July 31, 200, HCC.
104 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 16,2001, HCC.
105 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 16, 2001, HCC.
106 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 19,200, HCC.
107 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, July 31,2002, HCC.
108 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 19, 2001, HCC.


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men. Conley felt that he, too, "fell into that trap of thinking that "you had to do so much better due to his race throughout his life.109
After Conleys father died of kidney disease in 1944, Conley and his mother moved closer to relatives in Los Angeles. Conley started a summer job at a car wash, but then "got in a lot of trouble when he was caught drinking heavily with friends. In the fall, he enrolled in high school and joined the freshman football team. He "got in trouble again because he "roomed [the] streets and started smoking and stealing.
Ethel apparently experienced enough of young Conleys troublemaking and moved back to Scottsbluff with fifteen-year old Conley.110
Conley and his mother only stayed in Nebraska for one year since there were "too many memories there.111 They then moved to Denver in May of 1945. Conley began working in the rail yards loading and unloading boxcars for $2.50 per day. Conley explained that he gave half of his earnings to his mother and the rest was spent visiting Scottsbluff on the weekends to "hang out with friends looking for girls.112 After a few months of spitefulness towards Denver, Conley began to feel as though "Denver had gotten to be a pretty good town.113 Conley recalled the enjoyment of riding the streetcar around town and his job changing the marquee at a downtown theater. At the time, Conley and his mother lived in Five Points near 26th and Glenarm.
In Five Points, Conley "started to run with all-black crowd for the first time in his life.114 Conley described his social life in Five Points in detail with Littman. "When I
109 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 16, 2001 and January 19, 2001, HCC.
110 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18,1999 and January 19,2001, HCC.
111 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18,1999 and January 19,2001, HCC.
112 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18,1999 and January 11, 2002, HCC.
113 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 11, 2002, HCC.
114 Conley, interview by Littman notes, January 19, 2001, HCC.


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moved to Denver, Conley explained, "I was in a group of black and Chicano guys. The group was "pretty athletic and "ran the streets. The group generally stayed in Five Points according to Conley, but occasionally visited Lakeside and Elitch Gardens. Conley also noted that his "rough gang would crash movies and "fight or steal some stuff off 16th Avenue.115
Conley repeated his sophomore year at Manual High School due to his multiple school transfers. By junior year, he had "assimilated with whites and began to "date white girls.116 The social change prompted his "black friends to pick on him as Littman noted. Conley, furthermore, was "considered Uncle Tom by some classmates.117 While Conley was navigating personal issues related to his race outside the classroom, he began discussing racial issues in class and joined the Student Relations club dedicated to working on "minority problems.118 According to his high school yearbook, Conley also became active in the chorus, newspaper, football, track, and was captain of the golf team.119
During Conleys senior year, his mother moved back to California. Conley stayed in Denver and enjoyed "lots of freedom as a result. Conley lived in a studio apartment at 2359 Lafayette and delivered papers before school.120 Conley explained that he and his first girlfriend, an Italian-American, enjoyed attending dances at Lakeside. Conley explained that they "would have gotten married, but her parents had a "racial problem with their relationship. His girlfriends parents took her out of Manual and
115 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
116 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 19,2001, HCC.
117 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, July 31, 2002, HCC.
118 Manual High School Yearbook, 1948, HCC.
119 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 19,2001; Manual High School Yearbook, 1948, HCC.
120 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2,1994, HCC.


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she transferred to North High School. When Conley was caught a block from North, her mother involved the police.121
By the time Conley graduated high school in May of 1948, he had experienced significant life changes. After losing a parent at fourteen, he switched schools in three different states. He first tried vices and then started to participate in several extracurricular activities. All the while, young Conley navigated complex racial relationships and deliberately engaged in dialogue about racial issues in class. With these rather dizzying experiences that marked his early life, Conley responded by changing his actions and experimenting with different social outlets. It is apparent that Conley adapted to the differing cultural and social landscapes he encountered as an adolescenta pattern that seemingly continued throughout his life.
Navy, New Mexico, and Colorado State College: 1949-1957
The chronology of events following Conleys high school graduation are tangled in the sources. It is clear that, in the fall of 1949, a Catholic priest assisted Conley in attending junior college in Sterling, Colorado on a football scholarship. Conley said he had "no money to eat and "dropped out at [the] end of the quarter.122 In the summer of 1949, Conley started to work on a ranch in New Mexico. Jenny Vincent, a folk singer and human rights activist, owned the ranch. In multiple sources, Conley explained that he first became interested in folk singing after an alleged interaction with Pete Seeger at the ranch in New Mexico.123 Conleys interactions with Seeger will be discussed in detail in the next chapter.
121 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18,1999, January 19, 2001, and July 31, 2002, HCC.
122 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2,1994, HCC.
123 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, April 2,1994, HCC.


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In October of 1950, Conley performed his first public performance at an event honoring Denvers Mayor James Quigg Newton, Jr. B'nai B'rith, a Jewish organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, hosted the event.124 At the same time, Conley worked multiple jobs including a packinghouse as well as working for the Colorado Statesman newspaper as the sports editor. Conley originally delivered the newspaper during high school and started writing a column called "News and Happenings at Manual High School. The Statesmen, according to Conley, was the "only media that the blacks had in Denver.125
While working multiple jobs, Conley reportedly started "running with a rough gang again.126 For reasons not entirely clear, Walt said that he was "headed to jail," but was "saved by [the] U.S. Navy.127 Conley enlisted in the Navy in December of 1950. He completed boot camp at the Naval Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. Conley, stationed on the U.S.S. Coral Sea, traveled to ports in Haiti, France, Italy, Algeria, and Portugal. As his Navy scrapbook documents, Conleys experience was filled with cleaning the ship, visiting tourist destinations, and meeting women in the various countries. After his discharge in January 1953, Conley "made it a point to see and meet such folk artists as Cisco Houston, Josh White, and Woody Guthrie in New York according to Fritzs Westword article.128
124 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, February 2,1994, HCC; Walt Conley, Listen What He's Sayin' (Minneapolis: Studio City, 1964), authors collection.
125 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
126 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2,1994, HCC.
127 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2,1994 and July 31, 2002, HCC.
128 Timothy J. Fritz, 'Walt Conley: The Founding Father of Denver Folk Scene, Washington Street Media, November 16, 2016, p. 4, http://www.washingtonstreetmedia.com/, accessed November 18, 2016.


39
When he returned to Denver in 1953, Conley said he "became a bum.129 That summer, he returned to New Mexico to work as a camp counselor at Vincents ranch. Inspired by a short stint on the Salt of the Earth film set while in New Mexico, Conley used his G.I. Bill to study drama at Colorado State College in Greeley.130 Many accounts written after Conleys death note that Conley financially supported himself in college by performing folk music, but no evidence has been found to support the claims.
In a 1959 article by Marjorie Barrett in the Rocky Mountain News, for example, Barrett stated that Conleys "folk signing paid his college expenses through all four years.131 The interviews with Littman and oral histories do not mention the college folk gigs. Conley was earning money, however, in a jazz combo as the bass player in 1956 when the "modern jazz swept the nation.132 In a 1958 article, Shirley Sealy of the Denver Post also noted that in college, Conley "became the bass man for a combo in a local nightclub.133
His folk music interests in college, whether he was paid to perform or not, led to a meeting with a then-teenage Judy Collins. Conley recalled that he heard a poem on a KOA radio show hosted by Judys father, Chuck Collins, and called the station to obtain a copy of it. While on the phone, Chuck mentioned that his daughter was also a folk singer and invited Conley over to dinner. Conley remembered "playing guitars with Judy after the "family went to bed and "stayed up [until] 4 in the morning playing songs.134
129 Conley, Littman interview, December 6,2001.
130 Fritz, "Walt Conley, 4.
131 Marjorie Barrett, "Young Folk Singer No Stranger Here, Rocky Mountain News, HCC.
132 Fritz, Walt Conley, 4; Barrett, "Young Folk Singer No Stranger Here, Rocky Mountain News, HCC.
133 Shirley Sealy, "Two Denverites Climb Musical Ladder, The Denver Post, September 19,1958, p. 39, DPL.
134 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, May 17,1994, HCC.


40
When asked about her interactions with Conley, Judy Collins responded that she "knew Walt Conley very well, very well, very well in an interview in January 2017. "He came to Thanksgiving dinner at my house in 1956 Collins explained. Collins grandmother was visiting for the holiday and "was so appalled at seeing a black man in the house. After laughing about the anecdote, Collins explained that it was "revolutionary for her grandmother to meet Conley who eventually "gave him a big fat embrace and it changed her life.135
Three years after their initial meeting, Collins and Conley began playing at the same folk venues in Denver, Aspen, and Boulder. Collins remarked that she "loved Walt during the interview.136 Conley, however, painted a different picture of their interactions in an interview with Littman in 1993. Conley explained that he and Collins were "never...very good friends after about a year or two knowing one another.137 Regardless of whether the two enjoyed each other, the early careers of Collins and Conley followed a similar trajectory until Collins left for New York to record on the Elektra label in the early 1960s.
While Conleys music career was in its nascent stages, intimate relationships also preoccupied Conley. Conley married a woman named Beverly in the summer of 1954. Due to the anti-miscegenation laws in Colorado, they went to New Mexico to marry.138 Shortly thereafter, Conley started "running around with other women in the theater department and Beverly divorced him.139 Conley also had an affair with a married
135 Judy Collins, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017.
136 Judy Collins, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017.
137 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
138 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, April 2,1994, HCC.
139 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, April 2,1994 and August 23,2002, HCC.


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woman who became pregnant with Conleys first son, Joel, who Conley met later in life.140 To add to his tumultuous interpersonal relationships during college, Conleys mother died in 1955.141
Conley graduated from college in the spring of 1957. That summer, he experienced the "poorest days of his life. Conley recalled that he did not eat much, but "would drink until [he] passed out. After moving back to Five Points, Conley said he was "trying to survive and felt "lost. At that point, he decided to try "to get [a] career as a folk singer according to an interview with Littman.142 In the summer of 1957, Conley played his first gig as a professional musician in the opening night of the Showagon. The Showagon was "Denvers popular under-the-stars variety program hosted at different Denver parks.143 The program provided "entertainment to suit all tastes, according to the Rocky Mountains News. "For folk-song fans, the article continued, "Walter Conley will present many numbers.144
Conley started to teach at a junior high in Gilcrest, Colorado after unsuccessfully looking for jobs in Wheat Ridge and Denver. He allegedly lost his job "when his superintendent learned that he was also moonlighting as a musician at Denver bars according to the Rocky Mountain News.145 In Conleys 1993 interview with Littman, however, Conley explained that he "taught for six months and came back to Denver for the Christmas vacation and got a job at the Windsor Hotel singing and never went back
140 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, April 2,1994 and June 6, 2003, HCC.
141 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, August 23,2002, HCC.
142 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, August 23, 2002.
143 Blade Bibber, "Night Club Feature, Rocky Mountain News, May 6,1960, p. 86, HCC; Marjorie Barrett, "Young Folk Singer No Stranger Here, Rocky Mountain News, HCC.
144 "Big Crowd Expected As Showagon Opens, Rocky Mountain News, July, 25,1957, p. 16, DPL.
145 Erika Gonzales, "Local Music pioneer performed, owned club, Rocky Mountain News, 16B, November 19, 2016, accessed May 2016, DPL.


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to Greeley for 22 years.146 Liftmans notes, furthermore, convey that Conley "didnt want to go back to teaching.147 Conley, whether he was fired or did not return after break, started to focus on a full-time career in music by the late 1950s.
Conley worked at the Windsor in the winter and spring of 1958 for six months.148 Conley performed as a calypso singer at the Windsor due to the immense popularity of the genre. Conley also fit the calypso mold through his race and emulation of Harry Belafontes voice. According to Conleys obituary in the Denver Post, Conley remembered the Windsor as the "Belafonte era where he performed "barefooted and [wore] cut-off pants.149 Conley worked in three bars in the hotel and often ran to each one to provide entertainment to the customers. "It was a crazy way to perform, Conley noted, "but I sure learned a lot of calypso songs.150 In a 1993 oral history interview with Bob Tyler of the Swallow Hill Music Association, Conley called the Windsor the "first folk room in Denver.151
By the late fifties, Conleys life had taken many twists and turns. From 1949 to 1958, Conley had participated in gang activity in Five Points, joined the Navy, and finished college. He had also married, divorced, and fathered his first child. While Conley was feeling "so lost after college, his interest in music developed into something more than a hobby. Conley evidently followed the popular music trends by performing
146 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
147 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, June 6, 2003, HCC.
148 Marjorie Barrett, "Young Folk Singer No Stranger Here, Rocky Mountain News, HCC.
149 Claire Martin, "Musician Conley a longtime figure on local folk scene, Denver Post, 5B, November 23, 2003, accessed September 2016, DPL.
150 Martin, "Musician Conley a longtime figure on local folk scene, Denver Post, 5B, November 23, 2003, accessed September 2016, DPL.
151 Bob Tyler, 'The Roots of the Urban Folk Music Movement in Colorado, Swallow Hill Music Association, Summer 1993, p. 7, HCC.


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first in a jazz trio, then as a calypso singer, and finally in folk music. By 1958, Conley started to pursue a folk music career full-time.
While researching the time period in Conleys life, subtle discrepancies in the sources and stories emerged. Judy Collins, for example, expressed fond memories of Conley while he, in turn, remembered Collins with a hint of antagonism later in life. The end of Conleys teaching career, too, involves subtle, but important inconsistencies. In interviews with Littman, Conley noted that he simply did not return after winter break. Newspapers and obituaries, in contrast, explain that the superintendent fired him due to his burgeoning music career. These subtle discrepancies about Conleys past denote a pattern that continued into Conleys folk career discussed in the next chapter.
In some cases, the way Conley and the people who wrote about him shaped the stories about his past and often concealed or blurred the realities to construct a certain narrative conducive to career ambitions. In other words, Conley perhaps glossed over or changed the stories around certain aspects of his life and career for a more positive narrative regarding his start in folk music. As the following chapter demonstrates, the discrepancies also suggest that the actual events may have differed from the way Conley recalled and verbalized it during his oral history interviews in the 1990s.


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Figure 3.1. Walt Conley as captain of the Manual High School golf team. 1948 Manual High School Yearbook, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado.
Figure 3.2. Walt Conley in the Navy. Photo taken in Genoa, Italy. Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado.


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Chapter IV
Crafting an "Authentic" Persona
This chapter explores Conleys experiences at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At the ranch, Conley reportedly met Pete Seeger who sparked his folk music interests. I have separated and magnified the Seeger story from the chronology because it emerged with renewed significance after the event purportedly took place. The event happened in 1949 or 1950, for example, but surfaced with greater significance starting in 1959. Conley and the people who wrote about him emphasized Conleys interactions with Seeger in almost every account about his life. Examining the Seeger legend closely and critically enables a better understanding of Conleys participation in popular culture and the larger sociopolitical climate in the 1950s.
The story remains one of the most legendary aspects of Conleys early career. Following Conleys death in 2003, journalists and family members continued to spread the Seeger anecdote. "It was during one of those summers, Fritz wrote in November 2016, "that Conley met Pete Seeger and other members of the Weavers.152 At the ranch, Seeger allegedly gave Conley his first guitar, as the Denver Post obituary noted, and taught Conley to use his "rich baritone to his "advantage in folk songs.153 Conleys fraternizing with Seeger and Seegers alleged advice helped paint a celebratory picture of Conleys folk career.
152 Fritz, "Walt Conley: The Founding Father of Denver Folk Scene, 3.
153 Fritz, Walt Conley: The Founding Father of Denver Folk Scene; Claire Martin, "Musician Conley a longtime figure on local folk scene, Denver Post, 5B, November 23,2003, accessed September 2016, DPL.


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Discrepancies in the story, however, emerged in the sources and prompted further investigation. In a 1963 Rocky Mountain News, for example, Pat Hanna reported that Conley first became interested in folk music at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch owned by Jenny and Craig Vincent. "Guests included Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger and the Weavers and Alan Arkin, one of the original Tarriers, Hanna explained. "All were generous with help and advice for the young singer.154 Conleys 1961 album, Passin' Through with Wait Conley, and concert pamphlets from 1963 convey a similar encounter with Seeger and other folk legends in New Mexico.155 A pamphlet for the Evergreen Festival in August of 1966, furthermore, noted that Conley "learned his first folk music from Pete Seeger and Cisco Houston in personal contact in the late 40s.156 The sources that convey the 1960s version of the Seeger story therefore agree that Conley met Seeger in the late 1940s and 1950s and sparked Conleys folk interest.
Other sources published before the 1960s, however, tell a different Seeger story. In an article published in September 1958, Shirley Sealy of the Denver Post noted that Conley met Seeger in New York. "Seeger encouraged Conley in pursuing the folk field, Sealy reported, "and Conley dutifully began to play around with the guitar.157 According to a Rocky Mountain News article published in 1959 that Conley cut and pasted in one of his scrapbooks, Conleys Navy experience "convinced Conley that he wanted to be in show business and that maybe folk music was the medium. The writer,
154 Pat Hanna, "Its a Fun Show for the Exodus, Rocky Mountain News, 1963, HCC.
155 Pat Hanna, "Its a Fun Show For the Exodus, Rocky Mountain News, 1963, HCC; Walt Conley, Passin' Through with Walt Conley (Denver: Premiere Recording, 1961), authors collection; Omaha Hootenanny, SeptemberIII1963, advertisement, HCC.
156 Evergreen Festival Pamphlet, August 14,1966, HCC.
157 Shirley Sealy, "Two Denverites Climb Musical Ladder, The Denver Post, September 19,1958, p. 39, DPL.


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Marjorie Barrett, continued by explaining that "[ajfter his discharge, he hung around New York, meeting and working with such folk artists as Pete Seeger, the Weavers, and numerous others.158 On the back cover of the 1959 Folk Song Festival at Exodus album, furthermore, it states that "Conley began singing folk music in New York ten years ago with Pete Seeger and Earl Robinson.159
Which variation of the Pete Seeger story is correct then? Did Conley meet him in New Mexico before the Navy or in New York after the Navy? As the primary sources suggest, the story changed between 1959 and 1961. What happened during those years to prompt such discrepancies? Analyzing when and how the Seeger story morphed allows important insights into the burgeoning popular folk music industry in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Perhaps Conley and the people who wrote about him felt pressure to stand out in the growing popularity of the folk revival both locally and nationally. In Rainbow Quest, Cohen refers to 1960 and 1961 as the "Heart of the Revival. In 1960 and 1961, Cohen asserts that "folk music became increasingly commercial and lucrative demonstrated by the dramatic increase in folk records and singers.160 In 1960, Cohen notes, the Kingston Trio, a folk group, had a bestselling album on the Billboard charts. Many folk venues, performers, and festivals, Cohen explains, appeared in urban America with "appeal to mass audiences.161 Denver, too, experienced its own folk boom with a
158 Marjorie Barrett, "Young Folk Singer No Stranger Here, Rocky Mountain News, HCC; Fritz, "Walt Conley: The Founding Father of Denver Folk Scene, 4.
159 Folk Song Festival at Exodus (Denver. Sky Lark Recording, 1959), authors collection.
160 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 157.
161 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 158.


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wave of folk venues and festivals, all of which Conley played at. In 1960 and 1961, Conley and folk music were evidently in high demand.
In 1960 and 1961, new folk performers and records began to saturate the popular music market. According to prominent folklorist Gershon Legmen in The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival, the folk music industry experienced an "overcrowding of the field in I960.162 In response to the widespread popularity of folk music, Alan Lomax, a seminal figure in folk music history, asserted that "commercial forces poised to assume expanding control of the folk revival.163 Lomax stressed that performers and fans of the popular folk music fad needed to remember "its roots.164 The backlash by many of folks prominent members reinvigorated the debate over authenticity and commercialism in folk music in the early 1960s.
To have such a personal connection to the folk revival roots represented by Seeger and the Weavers, therefore, would seemingly validate Conley as a verified folk singer and justify his folk persona in a saturated market. The evident change in the Seeger story between 1959 and 1961 suggests that perhaps Conley and the people who wrote about him strategically adapted the story to construct a folk identity that served certain career goals. In other words, Conleys associations with Pete Seeger, Cisco Houston, and Earl Robinson served as a great marketing tool in the early 1960s folk industry.
162 G. Legman, "Folksongs, Fakelore, and Cash, in The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival, David DeTurkand A. Poulin, Jr., eds. (New York: Dell Publishing, 1967), 314.
163 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 158.
164 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 158.


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Conleys 1964 album, Listen What He's Sayiri, provides additional insights into his attempt to remain relevant and appear authentic in the popular folk revival. Conley stressed his New Mexico experience, without the Seeger anecdote however, as the starting point for his interest in folk music. "My style and presentation were set thirteen years ago, Conley explained on the back cover of the album, "when I sang my first song around a campfire at a ranch in New Mexico. Conley suggested that he "set a pattern at that time, and its my own and refused to change in the "raging new thing called folk entertainment.165 In essence, Conley expressed discontent with the way folk music had changed by the mid-1960s due to its mainstream appeal on his album. Conley, as he claimed, remained true to his roots and to the roots of folk music in general by refusing to adapt and conform. In 1963, however, a year prior to his albums release, the Omaha Star interviewed Conley about the contemporary folk industry. Conley explained that folk music had "run into a commercial snag and that he had to "change just a little to sell to the public.166
Conleys accumulation of his folk song repertoire also served as a way to validate him as an authentic folk singer at the height of the commercial folk scene. On the back cover of the 1959 Folk Song Festival at Exodus, it states that Conley collected songs "around the world during a stint in the Navy.167 Conleys scrapbook of his Navy experiences created in the mid-fifties, however, does not include any mention of folk songs. Instead, the scrapbook includes personal and professional photos of tourist
165 Conley, Listen What He's Sayiri, authors collection.
166 "Folk Songs of the Folk, Omaha Star, August 16,1963, HCC.
167 Shirley Sealy, "Two Denverites Climb Musical Ladder, The Denver Post, September 19,1958, p. 39, DPL; Folk Song Festival at Exodus (Denver: Sky Lark Recording, 1959), authors collection.


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destinations and women in the several countries he visited. In the brief biography
published on the back cover of his 1961 album, Passiri Through with Walt Conley, it
states that Conley visited New York before he deployed in the Navy and "made it a point
to see and meet such folk artists as Cisco Houston, Josh White, and Woody Guthrie.168
The short biography on the album made no mention of collecting songs in the Navy.
Conley also claimed that he traveled far and wide to collect folk songs. On
Conleys 1964 album, Listen What He's Sayin', Conley wrote that he had "listened to, and
talked with folk people from New York to Alaska, and back down to Mexico. All across
Canada I looked for new songs, different styles and methods of presentation.169 Conley
did perform in Winnipeg, but any evidence of Conley traveling "all across Canada and
into Mexico has yet to be found. Conley perhaps was channeling the early folk song
collectors in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who traveled great lengths
to document songs in rural communities. Conleys assertion that he traveled to collect
songs, then, further sought to validate him as a genuine folk singer when popular
culture and mass media appropriated folk music as the newest fad in the mid-1960s.
The people who wrote about Conley also helped propagate his authenticity.
Adina L. Rahm, who wrote an excerpt on the back cover of Conleys 1964 album,
differentiated Conley from the other folk singers at the time with the following claim:
Walt has been collecting and singing folk songs for thirteen years, and he has earned the right to be called a folksinger. The term is widely applied today, and often wrongly. In all fields there are leaders and followers (and copiers of both)those who warp the true thing into a grotesque parody of itself...Walt knows that folk music is not just a branch of entertainment (though it is that too), but a heritage which must be preserved, respected, and passed on.170
168 Conley, Passiri Through with Walt Conley, authors collection
169 Conley, Listen What He's Sayin', authors collection.
170 Conley, Listen What He's Sayin, authors collection.


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Like knowing Seeger and meeting Woody Guthrie, Conley used song collecting as a status symbol for his authenticity. In order to separate Conley from the rest of the folk performers at the time, Rahm and the album asserted that 1) Conley was a folk singer long before the surge in national popularity, 2) he cared about the preservation of folk music heritage, and 3) he was not just another commercial entertainer. All three points attempt to market Conley as the "real thing in an industry where commercialism dominated.
Reviews of Conleys gigs during his national tours provide valuable observations into the popular culture climate and the folk music market. In a review of Conleys 1961 show at the Padded Cell in Minneapolis, the author noted that "with the overabundance of folksingers, Conley may have trouble attracting attention. The author continued to suggest that the "current rash of folksingers is a tall barrier for many young, rising troubadours. The author suggested that his "vocal talent and appearance could help him make the grade in in other entertainment fields including TV and musical comedy.171
Another review of Conleys performance at the Padded Cell by Will Jones of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune expressed disappointment in the show. "I had come in with the old-fashioned notion that the singer was there to entertain the customer, Jones explained, "when he made it clear that we, instead, were supposed to entertain him, I did the only honorable thing a non-singer could do, I left.172 The reviews
171 Padded Cell, Minneapolis, July 5,1961, HCC.
172 Will Jones, "They Sing Tight Lipped, Minneapolis Morning Tribune, June 22,1961, HCC.


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demonstrate Conleys embeddedness in entertainment and the popular folk music market and, as the reviews suggest, he needed to find ways to stand out.
Conley pasted several out-of-town reviews in his scrapbooks that demonstrate his appeal, or lack thereof, to folk music fans and critics. In the Los Angeles Times, for example, a review described Conleys performance as entertaining, but mentioned that a few songs were "out of place and whole act [needed] tightening and reducing to halftime.173 Conley, the author concluded, "overextended himself in comparison to Don Crawford, a seasoned folk singer, who performed after Conley.174 A review of a show in Minneapolis echoed a similar critique. Conley provided an entertaining show, but his "repertoire included too many off-beat numbers and his "material needs culling. The reviewer also recommended that Conley "polish his between-songs patter.175 These reviews suggest that Conleys live performances alone did not have the capacity to attain widespread notoriety. Conley, then, most likely relied on marketing materials to stress his folk music credentials.
Reviews of Conleys gigs also included opinions of his vocal performances. Ann Henry of the Winnipeg Tribune suggested that Conley "needs cold, logical discipline in his vocal performance. Henry noted that Conleys voice was "rough and husky and much too loud for the folk song and one must reluctantly admit that it is Walter himself and not his voice that is most appealing.176 Harry Tuft, furthermore, echoed a similar sentiment regarding Conleys voice. According to Tuft, Conley "didnt have that much of
173 LA Times, October 2,1965, HCC.
174 LA Times, October 2,1965, HCC.
175 Padded Cell, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 5,1961, HCC.
176 Ann Henry, "Senor Wences Act Has Class and Taste, Winnipeg Tribune, April 3,1961, p. 4, HCC.


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a voice, but his performance was a lot of energy. Conleys "affable personality made listening and watching him "easy as Tuft described it.177 Conleys voice, then, did not differentiate him as a talented singer. Instead, Conley evidently relied on his personality, his supposed song collecting history, and his Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie connections to succeed in the folk field outside of Denver.
In the 1990s, Conley provided perhaps the most accurate Seeger story in an interview with Popular Folk Music Today. Conley explained that he worked at the San Cristobal Mountain Valley Ranch in 1950. "Pete Seeger was hired to play solo gigs there, Conley explained. "There was already The Almanac Singers collaboration, Conley noted, "but I got to hear some early Weavers material. Conley said that he "really got interested in the music and "took a few guitar lessons from a local guy named Earl Robinson. Then I went into the Navy.178 Suggesting the validity of his 1990s explanation does not dismiss the inherent fragilities of memory recall in oral history interviews. Rather, it suggests that when his folk career ambitions were in retrospect, the Seeger story changed to a less magnified story.
New Mexico, the Progressive Party, and Communism
There are aspects of the New Mexico and Pete Seeger legend that can be proven true however. Photographs of Conley as a camp counselor at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch surrounded by children and playing a guitar with "Summer 1950 were donated to History Colorado in 2016. As camp counselor, Conley sang with the children as the photo suggests. In Craig Smiths Sing My Whole Life Long: Jenny Vincent's Life in Folk
177 Henry Tuft, interview by Megan Friedel and author, Denver, January 2017.
178 Conley, interview by Bob, Popular Folk Music Today, HCC.


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Music and Activism, the most compressive history about the San Cristobal Valley Ranch, Smith quotes Kim Chernin, bestselling author, who visited as a child. "Music and singing were integral component of the ranch culture, Chernin recalled, with a "strong sense of children being included in all activities.179
Conleys presence at the ranch also appears in Smiths Sing My Whole Life Long.180 Smith traces the life of Jenny Vincent, folk singer and political activist, and her husband, Craig Vincent, who she owned and operated the ranch. As political activists, Jenny and Craig hosted the Progressive Partys presidential nominee, Henry Wallace, during the 1948 campaign. In 1949, Jenny and Craig opened the ranch to guests from the public and advertised the ranch as "interracial which reflected their ideals of racial equality. In response, Counterattack, "a part gossip, part conspiracy newsletter founded by ex-FBI agents, according to Smith, accused Jenny and Craig of propagating a "Commugressive agenda at their ranch. Shortly thereafter, the national fervor of the second Red Scare fueled conspiracy theories and accusations against the ranch. In 1949, the same year that Conley worked there, the FBI investigated the ranch and suspected that it served the "headquarters for the Communist party in New Mexico.181
Folk musician and composer, Earl Robinson, began working at the ranch in 1949. Robinson, according to Smith, was "an early casualty of the Red Scare.182 In Robinsons autobiography, Ballad of an American: The Autobiography of Earl Robinson, he explained that "in the early blacklist years...Craig and Jenny Vincent hired me as a sort of social
179 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long, 71 and 84.
180 Craig Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long: Jenny Vincent's Life in Folk Music and Activism (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 2007), 84.
181 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long, 226.
182 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long, ix.


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director, concentrating on music. Those two beautiful lefty people...gave sanctuary to me.183 Along with Robinson, the FBI investigated Jenny and Craig Vincent and other visitors, but nevertheless the ranch remained open to leftist visitors and employees.
Alan Arkin, Robinsons nephew who eventually became a successful musician and actor, also stayed at the ranch. Arkin became a "regular performer at ranch hootenannies and community nights, where he joined his uncle, Jenny, and such visiting folk singers as Walt Conley and Ernie Lieberman.184 Arkin also recalled that Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers visited during one of the summers.185 Conley, as Arkins accounts verified, participated in folk music at the camp with notable singers.
Robinson and Arkins memories of the ranch provide two insights into Conleys New Mexico experiences. Smith, who provides the most comprehensive history of the San Cristobal Valley Ranch, makes no mention of Seegers visit. Smiths evidence, then, suggests that Seeger never performed at the ranch. In all of Seegers autobiographies and biographies, furthermore, there is no mention of Seegers visit to the ranch. Jenny Vincent performed with Seeger at Progressive Party functions in Denver and Philadelphia, but there remains no record of a show at the ranch. Robinson and Arkins accounts as described by Smith, then, further validate the 1990s version of the Conleys story. He most likely received guitar lessons from Robinson and perhaps heard Weaver material from Gilbert, but not Seeger.
183 Earl Robinson and Eric Gordon, Ballad of an American: The Autobiography of Earl Robinson (Landham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998), 225.
184 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long 84.
185 Smith, Sing my Whole Life Long, 84.


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Conleys experiences at the ranch also provides valuable insights into his exposure to Progressive and Communist sentiments. It was not the first place that Conley participated in or was exposed to Progressive and Communist ideology. In high school, he joined the Student Relations Club, which specifically focused on issues of racial equality. He also joined American Youth for Democracy (AYD) which met near 38th and Sheridan in 1949. Two years prior, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) "denounced the American Youth for Democracy as a soviet controlled organization which has had tragic success in spreading communism among some of the nations young people according to the Chicago Daily Tribune in April of 1947.186 The University of Denver and the University of Colorado at Boulder banned the AYD due to its potential as a "communist front.187 Conley referred to the AYD as the "young adult Communist party in an interview with Littman in October of 1994.188
Conley discussed his associations with the AYD, the Progressive Party, and the Communist Party U.S.A. during his interviews with Littman. "Later on when the Progressive Party and the Communist Party were forming in Denver and [were] very strong, Conley explained in a 1994 interview, "I became a super left-wing teenager or young adult and I joined these people and joined the Communist Party for, I dont know, a year.189 Conley noted that racial equality was the "only reason he joined because the "people accepted me socially 100 percent.190 At the time, Conley lived intermittently with families involved with the Progressive Party and it is likely that Conley learned
186 William Strand, "Probers Assail American Youth for Democracy, Chicago Daily Tribune, April 16, 1947, p. 18, Chicago Tribune digital archive.
187 The Christian Century, April 16,1947, p. 510, Ebscohost.
188 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2,1994, HCC.
189 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
190 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994; Littman, notes, December 6, 2001, HCC.


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about the San Cristobal ranch or sought out the camp for the very reason of its political and social ideals.
Conley received contradicting opinions about his association with the
Communist and Progressive parties from his friends and family. Conleys mother, for
example, scolded Conley for his attendance at the Communist meetings.191 Conleys
gang in Five Points also ridiculed him for his involvement with the Communist party.
Conley explained that he "was a part of the gang of kids, you know, but they were
always on me about my relationship with, you, know the Commies or the pinkos.192
With the "beginning of the McCarthy years, Conley felt that the "pressure was so
heavy and contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Conley, in his own words, explained his interactions with the FBI:
I told them that I really didn't believe, the only thing I believed in was, you know, fighting for my rights as a colored person and that I shouldn't, you know, that I really shouldn't be with these people. And you know what the FBI did? They took me in and they said, "Don't you worry about it. We understand. Well, you know what their next move was? "You just keep going to those meetings. Well, I did...from 1950 until 1956. I was an informant, you know, even paid. They paid what they felt. Every once and awhile I'd meet with them and they'd give me $25. Do you know what $25 meant particularly to a guy like me?
They contacted me when I was in the Navy and asked me what I knew. And they were prettywell, the thing with the FBI is they were really convinced that I really didn't believe. They had pretty well read me and they knew that I was not dangerous as far as, you know, being a Communist...If I would have gotten any break, I think, in life at that time, I would've walked away from, you know, even the FBI and the whole mess. I would have walked away from it because I didn't know. I spied on those people for all those years.193
191 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
192 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
193 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.


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Conley not only spied on people associated with the Progressive and Communist party, but he also lived with them. When Conley returned to Denver after his discharge from the Navy, he lived alone until "once again one of those families from the Progressive Party took me in.194 Conley evidently capitalized on his relationships with both the FBI and the Progressive Party as he received payment for spying on the people he lived and interacted with.
The FBI hired an estimated five thousand paid informants according to James David in Spying on America: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program. Fifteen hundred, including Conley, spied on the Communist and Progressive parties in particular.195 It remains unclear whether or not Conley spied on members of the early folk music scene and informed the FBI of their doings, but it is clear the FBI targeted folk singers and organizations throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
In Singing Out, Beer and Dunaway illustrate the targeting of folk organizations and singers by the FBI. "From 1940 through 1968, Beer and Dunaway explain, "the FBI, the CIA, and a half-dozen other intelligence agencies...illegally collected information on Americas folk musicians.196 To demonstrate the anti-Communist sentiments directed toward folk music in the 1950s, Beer and Dunaway quote the John Birch Societys American Opinion. "Along with the handclapping, the guitar strumming, the banjo picking, the shouting and the howling, the bulletin claimed, "comes a very subtle, but highly effective, presentation of stand Communist Party propaganda.197 The FBI
194 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
195 James Kirkpatrick David, Spying on America: The FBI's Domestic Counterintelligence Program (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992), 30 and 49.
196 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 83.
197 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 79.


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scrutinized well-known folk singers including Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Earl Robinson, Richard Dyer-Bennett, and Oscar Brand. As a result, the accused folk singers were blacklisted or "graylisted as Robinson described it. Robinsons name, for example, "didnt get in any papers, but he "stopped being able to find jobs.198
The FBI also investigated Peoples Songs, a leftist organization for folk singers and enthusiasts, in the 1950s. The FBI recruited members of Peoples Songs by appealing to "the individuals patriotism, to his or her good reputation, and occasionally to private information at their disposal.199 The informant often disguised themselves as volunteers at functions and would "report on meetings and steal documents.200 Some informants, according to Beer and Dunaway, "went on to have small and large careers in music.201
Harry Matusow, perhaps the most infamous anti-Communist witness who later recanted his testimonies, became a paid informant in Peoples Song in 1950the same year Conley started as an informant.202 Matusow had joined AYD in 1946 and then the Communist Party U.S.A. in the following year. In 1949, Matusow worked as an administrative assistant at the Peoples Songs headquarters.203 Matusow then became an informant in 1950. The FBI sent Matusow to the San Cristobal Valley Ranch as an to investigate Communist activities. Matusow stayed for a week in the summer of 1950 and provided the FBI with "names, license plate numbers, and other information as
198 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 84.
199 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 88.
200 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 88.
201 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 88.
202 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 83; Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long, 73.
23 Walter Goodman, "Who Promoted Matusow? New Republic, March 7,1955, p. 12-14, Ebscohost.


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Smith explains.204 The FBI files of Earl Robinson and Jenny and Craig Vincent, Smith notes, grew with photographs and documents provided by Matusow.205
By 1955, Matusow officially recanted his testimonies to the HUAC. Conley, too, ended his stint as an informant in the mid-fifties. By that time, the Communist Party U.S.A. had decreased substantially in membership as David points out in Spying on America.206 In 1956, the Supreme Court, according to David, "reduced the power of the government to investigate and prosecute those it deems subversives under the authority of the Smith Act.207 By the mid-1950s, HUAC completed its investigations of folk singers, but, as Beer and Dunaway suggest, "many effects of the anti-Communist scourge were lasting for many folk singers.208 Conley, in contrast, benefited financially from the Red Scare and began his folk career with a clean record. Folk music, despite its leftist association in the 1940s and 1950s, "recovered and flourished in the aftermath.209
In an oral history interview with Bob Tyler of the Swallow Hill Music Association, Conley acknowledged the FBI activity in Denver the late 1950s. The "McCarthy Era investigations were in full swing, Conley relayed, "and the FBI would stand outside taking pictures and names of folk music fans at the Windsor Hotel in 1958. Conley recalled that college students largely comprised the audience and "were not part of the so-called Red Menace, they just loved folk music. According to Conley,
204 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long, 73.
205 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long, 73.
206 David, Spying on America, 30 and 49.
207 David, Spying on America, 31.
208 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 105.
209 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 106.


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"[t]his was in the mid-fifties and went on for about three years.210 Conleys explanation is intriguing as he explicitly mentions the "Red Menace and FBI surveillance activity, but not his involvement in it. It is impossible to determine whether Conley informed the FBI about his folk music companions and audience members. By the time Conley performed at the Windsor in 1958, he no longer received payment as an FBI informant based on the information he told Littman.
As demonstrated, placing the Seeger legend in context allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the larger social and political climate in the 1950s.
The emphasis on the Seeger story told in almost every account about Conley ultimately shifted focus away from how Conley adapted to the sociopolitical climate by turning himself in and becoming a paid FBI informant. Conley perhaps knew that the college students who attended shows at the Windsor were not Communists as he noted in an oral history because Conley had embedded himself in Denvers Communist and Progressive communities. Meeting Seeger, Cisco Houston, and Woody Guthrie, as many newspapers and his albums claimed, is much more conducive for a burgeoning folk singer who profited on singing "songs of protest and struggle.211 Admitting that he participated as a spy during the Red Scare that specifically targeted folk singers had the potential to damage Conleys "direct, fresh, honest approach as a performer in the late 1950s and 1960s.212
210 Bob Tyler, "The Roots of the Urban Folk Music Movement in Colorado, Swallow Hill Music Association, Summer 1993, p. 7, HCC.
211 Barry Morrison, Denver Post, November 26,1965, p. 36, HCC.
212 Ann Henry, "Senor Wences Act Has Class and Taste, Winnipeg Tribune, April 3,1961, p. 4, HCC


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Figure 4.1. Jenny Vincent, folk singer and political activist, playing guitar at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in 1949. Elizabeth Cleary, Taos News.
Figure 4.2. Walt Conley as a camp counselor at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in the summer of 1950. Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.


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Chapter V
Folk Music and Mountain Towns
The scholarship of the American folk revival focuses predominantly on urban places. Colorados popular folk scene, however, initially emerged in mountains towns.
In Aspen, Central City, and Georgetown, Colorado-based folk performers found work in venues dedicated to the skiing and tourist crowds. Once Denvers scene was established, folk performers often played a circuit that included Denver and the mountain towns. The mountain town-Denver circuit essentially created one widespread Colorado popular folk scene. The nationwide popularity of folk music in the late 1950s and early 1960s, furthermore, coincided with the development of Colorados ski and tourism industries.
After Conley started his music career in Denver, he started to play in Georgetown. Bill and Annette Holmes, owners of Georgetowns Red Ram, offered Conley an engagement at their venue after watching him perform at the Windsor in 1958. The Red Ram catered to the Loveland ski crowd and Conley soon became popular with skiers. According to Shirley Sealy, the Red Ram was a "ski crowd hangout and "claimed Conleys talent for the last year.213 He performed there throughout 1958 and 1959 and received $20 per weekend with three-hour sets.214 The Red Ram represented Conleys first of several long-term engagements in a mountain town.
213 Shirley Sealy, 'Two Denverites Climb Musical Ladder, The Denver Post, September 19,1958, p. 39, DPL.
214 Marjorie Barrett, "Young Folk Singer No Stranger Here, Rocky Mountain News, HCC; Conley, interview by Littman, notes, February 2,1994, HCC.


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Aspens Folk Music Scene in 1940s and 1950s
In 1960, Conley began performing in Aspen at the Limelite and the Red Onion. In March of 1960, Conley, along with Judy Collins and the Smothers Brothers, replaced the Colorado-based folk group, the Limelitersnamed after the Aspen venueand folk singer Don Crawford. The Limeliters and Crawford were on the path to national notoriety with bookings on the west coast. "Like the Limeliters, the Aspen Daily Times reported, "the new troupe performs in the folk music vein for which the bistro is famous.215
The Limeliters formed in 1959 and consisted of Glenn Yarbrough, Alex Hassilev, and Lou Gottlieb formerly with the Gateway Singers. Yarbrough, who had moved to Aspen in the late 1950s, eventually purchased the Limelite and hired Conley along with other Denver-based folk singers at the time to play the club. The Limeliters had ascended "rapidly to fame and toured the nation, as the Aspen Daily Times reported, catapulted by an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.216
Before the popular folk scene in Denver began to crystallize in 1959which will be discussed in detail in the next chapterthe Limelite featured folk music acts for over two years. Lariy Tajiri of the The Denver Post reported on the Limelite in 1962 and asserted that it "was one of the first in the country to be devoted wholly to folk talent, at least in the present renascence of folk songs as entertainment.217 In Roots of the Revival, furthermore, Cohen and Donaldson credit the Limelight, along with venues in
215 Aspen Daily Times, March 4,1960, p. 16, Colorado Historic Newspaper Collections (hereafter cited as CHNC).
216 Aspen Daily Times, January 20,1961, p. 9, CHNC.
217 Larry Tajiri, "Folk Music Big in Denver, Denver Post, March 13,1962, p. 34, DPL.


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other cities, with hosting folk music "even before the Kingston Trios leap into surprising popularity that signified the beginning of the popular folk revival.218 The Limelite therefore reflected the nascent popular folk scenes of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco despite Aspens relative isolation from a major urban hub.
In the summer of 1957, Yarbrough booked nationally known performers including Marilyn Child and Cynthia Gooding. The Aspen Daily Times reported on the opening of the Limelite in June 1957 as a venue with "quality continental and American food and will offer entertainment of folk songs and music.219 The article also mentioned the performances of "renowned folk-song artists Marilyn Child and Glenn Yarbrough throughout July 1957. The newspaper considered Yarbrough and Child as "seasoned stars and "two of the nations best folk singers. The two folk singers, according to the Aspen Times, "both have acquired a reputation as authentic folk-artists on radio and TV.220 Cynthia Gooding later joined Yarbrough at the Limelite in late July 1957. Gooding, too, received "rave notices from publications throughout the country for her folk music performances according to the advertisement for the Limelite in the Aspen Daily Times.221
Yarbrough and the Limelite sponsored Aspens "First Folk Music Festival in July of 1959. Yarbrough organized the four-day festival "featuring six balladeers.222 Yarbrough invited Gene and Francesco from New York, a husband and wife duo, who sang and played "satiric material they [wrote] themselves. Sandy Paton, who was
218 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 99.
219 Aspen Daily Times, June 27,1957 p. 7, CHNC.
220 Aspen Daily Times, July 11,1957, p. 16, CHNC.
221 Aspen Daily Times, July 25,1957 p. 8, CHNC.
222 Aspen Daily Times, July 16,1959 p. 16, CHNC.


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considered "the best interpreter of traditional singing in the English-speaking world by professor John Greenaway from the University of Colorado, joined the festival along with the newly-formed Limeliters. The folk festival also sponsored a free childrens show to integrate a family-friendly aspect of the folk festival.223 Shortly after the festival, the Limeliters began an engagement at San Franciscos Hungry i nightclub and began their path to national fame.224
Like the Limeliters, the Smothers Brothers, who later became iconic folk music satirists, began their professional career in Aspen in 19 59.225 Yarbrough offered them an eight-week engagement with a $200 a week salary with room and board according to David Bianculli in Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.226 Bianculli explains that part of the Smothers Brothers rapid growth in Aspen was due to the deep talent pool there, and the folk music tradition of swapping and sharing songs.227 In the "close-knit folk community in Aspen, the Smothers Brothers met Judy Collins and she opened for them during their first few shows. "Also hanging around, during those salad days of harmony and harmoniousness, Bianculli explains, "was Walt Conley. Conley was, according to Bianculli, "a black folksinger who also played and hosted folk events in nearby Denver.228 As Biancullis account demonstrates, Yarbrough and the Limelite gave the Smothers Brothers, Judy Collins,
223 Aspen Daily Times, July 16,1959 p. 2, CHNC.
224 Aspen Daily Times, July 16,1959 p. 16, CHNC.
225 David Bianculli, Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009), 21 and 23.
226 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny, 21.
227 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny, 25-26.
228 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny, 27.


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and Conley opportunities to perform by hiring them for long-term engagements and provided a space for folk singers to share songs.
The connections Conley made during his time in Aspen proved immensely beneficial to his career. His job as the Satire Lounges manager in Denver, for example, was predicated on Conleys ability to book the Smothers Brothers. The owner of the Satire, as Bianculli explained, "offered Conley the chance to run the place and perform thereespecially if he could book that hot new group from Aspen, the Smothers Brothers. He could, and did...229 Conley also formed a group, the U.N. Trio, in 1963 in Aspen and continued to intermittently perform there until 1967.
Yarbrough and the Limelite were not the first to host and promote popular folk music in Aspen. In 1947, Richard Dyer-Bennett, the well-known "minstrel of folk songs, established a summer school in Aspen dedicated to minstrelsy and folk music. Dyer-Bennett hosted noteworthy folk song collectors and invited renowned musicians to teach at the school until it closed in 19 50.230 In Richard Dyer-Bennett: The Last Minstrel Paul Jenkins interviewed a student who attended the school. Ruthie Baker, aged seventeen at the time, was "determined to become a folksinger and enrolled in Dyer-Bennetts summer school.231
Jenkins also explains that Dyer-Bennett invited Burl Ives to perform in Aspen in 1947.232 Cohen largely credits Ives with popularizing folk songs to a wide audience as a "celebrity and a "popular singer and actor in the 1940s.233 In Aspen in May of 1947,
229 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny, 28
230 "Folk Song Collector Coming to Aspen, Aspen Daily Times, December 25,1947, p. 1, CHNC.
231 Paul 0. Jenkins, Richard Dyer-Bennet: The Last Minstrel (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010), 58-59.
232 Jenkins, Richard Dyer-Bennett, 58-59 and 60.
233 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 45.


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Ives performed at Aspens Opera House during the first-ever fishing festival. A review of his show in the Aspen Daily Times explained that Ives planned to return in October of that year to perform and to "possibly buy property.234 The newspaper asserted that he "would be a welcome addition.235 Ives returned to perform in Aspen again in 1950 and 1952. The Ives example demonstrates that Aspen hosted and attracted folk musicians as early as 1947 and continued to do so throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Folk Music, Tourism, and the Ski Industry in Colorado
On the same page in the Aspen Daily Times that reviewed Ives performance in 1947, the newspaper reported on the growth of visitation to the Colorado. Colorado experienced "an increase of 75% over the '46 season in number of visitors and represented a rise "from 96,000 to 171,000.236 According to Annie Gilbert Coleman in Ski Style, the post-World War II "consumer culture and the nationwide growth of tourism influenced places like Colorado.237 Visitation to Colorados national forests, as Coleman illuminates, "more than tripled from 1945 to 1947 and doubled again by the mid-1950s.238 Coleman also explains that "an accompanying unprecedented flood of traffic swamped Colorados roads after 1945, forcing the state government to reorganize its highway system.239 By 1955, tourism was "Colorados second largest industry which prompted Governor Johnson to ask for federal funding for the construction of a highway over the Continental Divide.240 The completion of 1-70
234 Aspen Daily Times, May 29,1947 p. 5, CHNC.
235 Aspen Daily Times, May 29,1947 p. 5, CHNC.
236 Aspen Daily Times, May 29,1947 p. 5, CHNC.
237 Annie Coleman, Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 124.
238 Coleman, Ski Style, 124.
239 Coleman, Ski Style, 124-125.
240 Coleman, Ski Style, 151.


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promoted Colorado as a "reasonable destination for middle-class Americans across the country.241 As this section demonstrates, the expansion of tourist industries in Colorado coincided with the advent of folk music in popular culture.
Yarbrough and the Limelite targeted tourists with advertisements about their folk shows starting in 1957. Less than a decade after Dyer-Bennett closed his school which attracted academics and musicians of folk music, the Aspen Daily Times marketed the Limelite as an attraction for tourists. "One of the towns newest after-dark meccas is the Limelite, the Aspen Daily Times published in July 1957, "which supplements the regular musical fare available to tourists by presenting top folk song artists.242 Another advertisement in July of 1957 proclaimed "Music Day and Night from some of the worlds greatest artists is available to Aspen visitors during the summer months on the front page. The advertisement included a full-page photo of Yarbrough and Child performing together.243
Yarbrough and the Limelite evidently followed the marketing and tourist trends apparent in Colorado at the time. Coleman and Philpottboth elucidate on the growth of Colorados tourism industry in the 1950s. Philpott, for example, argues that the concerted marketing campaigns and "tourist dynamics unleashed an entirely new model of economic growth.244 Tourists visited Colorado due to the "vacation mystique based on leisure and recreation with modern amenities and accessibility.245 In effect, tourists were "consuming places.246 Aspen became one of those packaged locations of
241 Coleman, Ski Style, 125.
242 Aspen Daily Times, July 11,1957, p. 8, CHNC.
243 Aspen Daily Times, July 25,1957, p. 16, CHNC.
244 Philpott, Vacationland, 7.
245 Philpott, Vacationland, 8.
246 Philpott, Vacationland, 10.


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leisure and recreation along with offering popular entertainment. Yarbrough and the Limelite therefore aligned with the advertising agenda and marketed folk music toward tourism and consumer culture.
Judy Collins worked in the tourist industry in the late 1950s. In 1958, Collins and her husband "ran a lodge in the Rocky Mountain National Park where she did some singing for guests according to a 1959 Rocky Mountain News article.247 Collins learned how to cook on a wood stove and served lunch to hikers. The lodge included eleven cabins with "fully operated wood stoves and four chefs...every kind of thing you could think of.248 The lodge represented the processes that had taken root in Colorado for tourists that made, as Philpott observes, "recreational amenities more easily accessible and marked "the high country as "a natural place for a vacation.249 Collins explained that she would sing folk songs like "This Land is Your Land for lodge guests and hikers.
In the summer of 1959, Collins worked in Central City at the Gilded Garter.250 The Gilded Garter attracted a large tourist crowd during the summers according to a Denver Post article written in 1986 by David McQuay. McQuay explained that the owner of the Gilded Garter "wanted a folk act because folk music was becoming the rage.251 Collins had "played there and done pretty well according to McQuay.252
Conley also performed at the Gilded Garter. He told McQuay that it "was a horrible room to work. Conley described weekends at the venue as a "sideshow because it was a "tourist thing. Dave Hamil, another Denver-based folk singer recalled
247 Pat Hanna, "She Sings Hubby Through College, Rocky Mountain News, November 21,1959, p. 33, DPL.
248 Judy Collins, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017.
249 Philpott, Vaca tion I and, 126.
250 Hanna, "She Sings Hubby Through College, Rocky Mountain News, November 21,1959, p. 33, DPL.
251 David McQuay, "Dylans music left sour notes in '60 stopover, Denver Post, July 23,1986,1C, HCC.
252 McQuay, "Dylans music left sour notes in '60 stopover, Denver Post, July 23,1986,1C, HCC.


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that that Gilded Garter was "a tourist trap. Local folk singers "all worked the place.
They paid $15 a shift. It was place you knew you could work at if you needed the money.253 With the Gilded Garter in Central City and the Limelite in Aspen, tourist destinations deliberately hired and promoted popular folk music in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The mountain town venues, in turn, provided paid opportunities for musicians and entertainers wanting to make a career out of folk music.
While Rocky Mountain National Park and the Gilded Garter appealed to summer tourists, the ski industry proved beneficial to wintertime tourism. Colorados ski industry stimulated considerable tourist numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. The Red Ram and Holy Cat in Georgetown and Aspens Limelite and Red Onion all catered specifically to ski crowds during the winter seasons. Like the Gilded Garter, owners of ski bars and lodges sought out folk music due to its national growth in popularity.
The owners of the Red Ram opened their venue as the ski industry began to boom. In a 1962 Rocky Mountain News article by Pat Hanna, the Red Ram was "Denver skiers No. 1 watering spot.254 When asked how well the business was doing, owner Bill Holmes responded by explaining that "when we bought this place in 1957, the ski business was just ready to take off in Colorado. We took off with it. Weve had good business since the day we opened.255 At Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, and Berthoud ski area, Red Ram employees advertised to skiers with windshield leaflets. As a result, the Red Ram succeeded with food and alcohol sales during the weekends.256 "With food
253 McQuay, "Dylans music left sour notes in '60 stopover, Denver Post, July 23,1986,1C, HCC.
254 Pat Hanna, "Ski Hangout Gay 90s Style, Rocky Mountain News, December 22,1962, p. 43, DPL.
255 Hanna, "Ski Hangout Gay 90s Style, Rocky Mountain News, December 22,1962, p. 43, DPL.
256 Mark A. Hogan, "Red Ram, Denver Post, December 15,1974, p. 36, HCC.


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and drink skier-approved, Hanna stated, "it followed that there soon would be skier music.257 Conley participated in the so-called "skier music as the Holmes hired him specifically to entertain the ski crowds on the weekends in 1958 and 1959.
The growing popularity of folk music coincided with the improved ski technologies. The improved ski technologies, as Coleman elucidates, attracted many more people to try skiing. According to Coleman, ski resorts "built trails, lifts, and lodges to accentuate the attractive aspects of that experience and simultaneously make it accessible to as many skiers as possible.258 Coleman also argues that "powerful marketing strategies were "geared to bring skiers to Colorado mountain towns. The ski industry then became an "engine of tourism in Colorado.259 Promoting folk music in the evenings therefore served to keep skiers and tourists entertainedand spending money.
Folk Singers as Skiers, Skiers as Folk Singers
Bob Gibson, a dominant figure in the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, helped promote the popularity of folk music and skiing. In 1959, Gibson released Ski Songs on the Elektra label. According to Gibsons memoir co-written with Carole Bender, Ski Songs was the "biggest selling album Gibson ever recorded. "It was a major album for Elektra, Gibson commented. "It sold real well.260 Gibson wrote the album in Aspen where he lived from 1957 until 1961. "I loved to ski, and I would spend all day long on the slopes, Gibson recalled, "and then sing every night to support myself and my family
257 Pat Hanna, "Ski Hangout Gay 90s Style, Rocky Mountain News, December 22,1962.
258 Coleman, Ski Style, 126.
259 Coleman, Ski Style, 152 and 142.
260 Bob Gibson and Carole Bender, I Come For To Sing. The Stops Along the Way of a Folk Music Legend (Minneapolis: Firebird Press, 2001), 77.


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in the ski lodges.261 Yarbrough offered Gibson many gigs at the Limelite and recorded a version of Gibsons "In This White World from Ski Songs. Yarbroughs cover of "Super Skier from Gibsons Ski Songs was a success. The Chad Mitchell Trio also covered "Super Skier which made the Top 40 in 19 62.262 The success of Ski Songs evidently helped to expose a wider public to skiing through a folk music album. According to Tariji of The Denver Post, Gibson "helped spread the folk gospel and "attracted a number of other folksingers to the state while he was in Aspen.263
Ski Songs may not have been a concerted marketing effort, but it certainly helped popularize ski humor and culture to a mainstream audience. Colorados Department of Public Relations, however, directly advertised folk music during a promotional film entitled Colorado Skis released in 1962. The film illuminates the many Colorado ski areas and includes the nightlife and cuisine available in Aspen at the Limelite and Red Onion. The video shows clips of the Limelite with people around tables singing with arms around each other. The following excerpt accompanies the depiction of entertainment at the Limelite:
Skiing is more than mountains and snow for it is people too. Its friendship and good fellowship. Here in the Colorado Rockies gathers the brotherhood of the world on skis for a day, a week, a lifetime. The nights might include some lively dancing or perhaps a more quiet cabaret show of music with some fun added in. Entertainment is varied and there certain to be something for everyones taste and food to please the gourmet.264
261 Gibson and Bender, I Come For To Sing, 76.
262 Gibson and Bender, I Come For To Sing, 77.
263 Larry Tajiri, "Folk Music Big in Denver, Denver Post, March 13,1962, p. 34, DPL.
264 Colorado Skis, directed by Hal Haney (United Film Industries and Colorado Department of Public Relations, 1962), 16mm, from HCC, YouTube video, accessed February 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoAflaCeKp8.


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The promotional film explicitly ties recreation, leisure-based amenities, gourmet food, and cheerful music venues together to entice visitors to states ski areas.
Conley also participated in the popular integration of skiing and folk music. In an article announcing Conleys performance at Denver Universitys Civic Center Campus, the advertisement described Conley as an "an avid skier who "usually performs at ski resorts and lodges during the winter.265 In the mid-sixties, furthermore, Conley had long-term engagements at Aspens Abbey Cellar and performed at the Wheeler Opera House. In the Illustrated Aspen News, the author celebrated Conleys "well-deserved popularity with the ski crowd. Conley was "a favorite with skiers of all ages and "his mixture of songs and humor meet with skier approval.266
In the 1960s, folk singing and skiing became increasingly intertwined in Colorado. Paul and Keith Wegeman, for example, exemplify the skiers-turned-folk singers. The Wegeman brothers were born in Denver, attended the University of Denver, and both participated in the 1952 Olympics. Paul participated in the Nordic combined while Keith competed in ski jumping. The brothers "turned to folk music instead of competitive skiing in the late 1950s according to Megan Friedel of History Colorado.267 Paul and Keith released a folk album, Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers, in 1960.
Gentlemen Skiers included picturesque photos of mountains and skiers. The back cover featured the question, "Why Do Gentlemen Ski? The Wegeman album attempted to appeal to the listener with an invitation to "join us in song and take your first giant-
265 "Folk Singer To Perform at CCU, Civic Center Campus, November 2,1960, HCC.
266 "Abbey Star Has Urge for Acting, Illustrated Aspen News (vol. 1, no. 4), January 7,1965, HCC.
267 Megan Friedel, e-mail message to author, March 4, 2017.


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step across the snow-covered mountains where you, too, may be captivated by the most
irresistible enchantress of a lifetime...and youll know then just why it is that gentlemen
ski.268 The album ostensibly sought to share the thrill and beauty of skiing with a folk
music audience. "With the music of the mountains and a language all their own, the
album stated, "skiers sing of their true love.
The album also demonstrated the dominant gender stereotypes of the late 1950s
and 1960s that pervaded both skiing and folk music. Another answer to the question of
why "gentlemen ski included the following language:
Because gallantry demands their attention to elegant ladies, and this most popular winter sport is like a spirited damsel in more ways than the sound of her nameshe. She is so captivating and graceful as to lure the heart of any aristocrat. Like any woman, she provides mystery and paradox in the romance.269
The albums gendered language validates Colemans assertions in the "Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing regarding the construction of gender stereotypes in ski culture. Coleman explains that "socializing with members of the opposite sex was practically required in [the ski] culture.270 Increasingly, Coleman argues, ski advertisements featured "blonde women and handsome white men achieving fulfillment by skiing.
An article in the Rocky Mountain News exemplified the very processes that Coleman observes. "Folk Singers Learn All About Skiing declared the headline on the front page of the Weekend Living section in February of 1965. The article primarily provided a celebratory and humorous description of a day on the Breckinridge ski
268 Paul and Keith Wegemen, Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers (Raynote Records, I960], authors collection.
269 Paul and Keith Wegemen, Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers, authors collection.
270 Coleman, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing, "p. 589.


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slopes with the Back Porch Majority, a nationally popular folk group. Pat Hanna, the author of the article, described how the "seven folk singers gave an impromptu performance on the sun deck during their ski runs. Hanna noted that one of the male musicians had broken an ankle on his last fall of the day, but "was the most determined to get back on the slopes again.271 The folk singers perhaps played along as inept skiers for the sake of humor, but the article also demonstrates the gendered ski culture as Hanna focused on what the female skiers wore. Hanna labeled one of the female group members as a "ski bunny. The article also provides insights into how skiing and folk music had shifted into mainstream popularity with a predominantly white, middle- to upper-class culture.272 Hannas article demonstrates what Coleman described as "an easily recognizable ski culture built on beauty, fashion, leisure, health, and athleticism.273
In Ski Style, Coleman sheds considerable light on the increased elitism of ski culture in the 1960s. As a result, the archetypal "ski bum was created. In an increasingly wealth-driven industry, Coleman suggests that "the people who held the lowest jobs managed to become icons of ski culture rather than its drudges.274 Ski bumming, furthermore, "put their regular lives on hold, moved to resort towns, and took whatever jobs they could in order to ski and "built their reputations by distinguishing themselves from the mere tourists who stayed for a short while.275
271 Hanna, "Folk Singers Learn All About Skiing, Rocky Mountain News, February 27,1965, p. 49, DPL.
272 Hanna, "Folk Singers Learn All About Skiing, Rocky Mountain News, February 27,1965, p. 49, DPL.
273 Coleman, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing, "p. 589.
274 Coleman, Ski Style, 173.
275 Coleman, Ski Style, 173 and 176.


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Oscar Brand, a widely acclaimed folk singer in the 1950s and 1960s, released an album on Elektra Records in 1963 with the backup singers and musicians, the Ski Bums. Brands album, A Snow Job for Skiers: Ribald Songs for the Stretch Pants Set, exemplified the gendered aspects of ski culture and accentuated the archetypal ski bum as a popular culture icon. In the song, "Ski Instructor, Brand sang, "Impress her with your ability, dont let her answer no. Remind her that skiing with no sex involved in nothing but cold, cold snow.276 On the back cover, Brand explained that the album was sparked by his many ski lodge performances in Canada, New York, and Colorado. Brands album, like Gibsons Ski Songs, propagated aspects of the ski culture and disseminated them to a wide audience.
Whereas Brand used the ski bum archetype to sell albums, Harry Tuft, who later opened the Denver Folklore Center in 1962, exemplified the real-life ski bum. After visiting Colorado in 1960 from his home state of Pennsylvania, Tuft "decided to try ski-bumming and folk singing in the Rockies as Pat Hanna published in a 1963 Rocky Mountain News article.277 The Holy Cat in Georgetown first hired Tuft. He worked as "a dishwasher, busboy, waiter, cook, bartender, and janitor according to a 1983 Westword article. "If things quieted down in the bar at night, Harry also got to singhis first real, paying job. He earned $30 a week, room and board, and a ski pass.278
Tuft met Hal Neustaedter, a major funder of folk music in Denver, at the Holy Cat. Tuft explained that Neustaedter "was looking for someone to open a place like the
276 Oscar Brand, A Snow Job for Skiers: Ribald Songs for the Stretch Pants Set (Elektra: New York, 1963], authors collection; Micheal Maginn, "Super Skier: Skiing Songs of the Sixties, Senios Skiing, August, 8, 2014, accessed February 2017, http://www.seniorsskiing.com/skiing-songs-sixties/.
277 Pat Hanna, "Ivy Leaguer Backwoods Balladeer, Rocky Mountain News, April 27,1963, p. 47, DPL.
278 Julie Hutchinson, "Thats All, Folks, Westword, vol. 6, issue 14, March 10,1983, p. 3, DPL.


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Folklore Center in New York where kids could develop an interest in folk music. I was interested, but I still had wandering feet.279 Tuft left Georgetown and moved on to the Berthoud Pass Lodge where he was able to perform folk music. After the ski season,
Tuft relocated to Aspen for three months before heading to California in the summer of 1961.280 When Tuft returned to Colorado in 1962, he opened the DFC and started a successful career in the folk music industry.
As the folk scenes in on the East and West coast grew increasingly commercialized and tourist-oriented, Colorado became a hub for "traditionalists like Tuft and Weissman. The other hubs of folk music, New York, Chicago, and California, soon became too expensive and touristy for folk musicians and entrepreneurs. Colorado represented a place with "cheap rents, cheap dive bars, quick access to the mountains according to Alan Prendergast of Westword.281 Colorado evidently offered opportunities in the folk music industry. Tuft, furthermore, epitomizes the "permanent tourist described by Philpott in Vacationland. Colorado, as Philpott argues, became a "magnet not only for tourists, "but for hordes of permanent new residents seeking to live a vacation-like lifestyle full-time.282 Tuft was not only seeking a "vacation-like life, but also a career in folk music.
Tuft also represented the demographics of the majority of skiers and folk music enthusiasts. Young, white, and middle- to upper-class Americans powered the popular folk revival in the late 1950s and 1960s and consumed popular culture including
279 Hutchinson, "Thats All, Folks, Westword, vol. 6, issue 14, March 10,1983, p. 3, DPL.
280 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 19.
281 Alan Prendergast, "How Renick Stevenson Survived the Wild Beat Scene and Helped Transform Denver, Westword, November 8, 2016, accessed February 2017, http://www.westword.com/arts/how-renick-stevenson-survived-the-wild-beat-scene-and-helped-transform-denver-8482389.
282 Philpott, Vacationland, 10.


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Gibsons Ski Songs and Brands .<4 Snow Job for Skiers. The same demographics were also able to vacation as tourists and skiers. The mountain towns capitalized on both industries with concerted efforts to market folk music to skiers and tourists. Performing in ski areas and tourist destinations enabled folk singers from Colorado or temporarily living in Colorado to make a living. In a sense, Colorado-based folk singers profited from the tourist industries just as the tourist industries profited off folk music in the 1950s and 1960s.


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New Program
THE LIMELITE
The Sensational
SMOTHERS BROTHERS
plus
Judy Collins Don Crawford
Dinner from 6 to 9 PM
Watch for the Limelite's horse-drawn sleigh. It will bring you here free of charge.
Figure 4.1. Advertisement for the Limelite, Aspen Daily Times, March 11,1960, Colorado Historic Newspapers.
Figure 4.2. Walt Conley singing at the Abbey in Aspen, Aspen Times, 1963, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.


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Figure 5.3. Ski Songs: Sung by Bob Gibson, Elektra Records, 1959, authors collection.
Figure 5.4. Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers, Raynote Records, 1960, authors collection.
Figure 5.5. A Snow Job for Skiers by Oscar Brand, Elektra, New York, 1963, authors collection.


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Chapter VI
The Popular Folk Music Boom in Denver and Boulder
The popular folk scenes in Denver and Boulder emerged in the late 1950s. Folk performers based in Denver often played in Boulder and Boulder-based folk performers, in turn, frequented the Denver venues. Tracing Conleys career in Boulder and Denver provides insights into where the scenes started, who was involved, and how the scenes changed throughout the 1960s. As an early participant, Conley experienced many shifts as folk music moved from the periphery to the forefront of popular culture by the early- to mid-1960s.
Hal Neustadter financially sparked the popular folk scene in Denver as an investor and proprietor. Neustaedter used the mountain town circuit to recruit both Tuft and Conley to his Denver endeavors. During Conleys gig at the Red Ram, for example, Neustaedter invited Conley to try out for his new folk club, Little Bohemia. Little Bohemia was located near 38th and Lipan in Denver. After auditioning, Neustaedter offered Conley a position at the venue for $20 per day.283 Neustaedter also hired Judy Collins at Little Bohemia in 1959. Neustaedter later sold the Little Bohemia to Louis Constant to pursue other folk venue options.
The Little Bohemia, according to Fritz, "quickly became a Beatnik headquarters and the folk venue in Denver.284 Fritzs comment exemplifies the conflation of the beatniks and the "folkniks by the media. In smaller cities like Denver, the two scenes did often emerge together.285 In bigger cities like New York and Chicago, however, the
283 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2,1994, HCC.
284 Fritz, "Walt Conley, 5.
285 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 31; Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 81-82.


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Beats and the folkniks were distinct subcultures. Cohen, in Rainbow Quest, differentiates the beatniks from the folkniks. "The real Beats liked cool jazz, bebop, and hard drugs, Cohen explains, "and the folkniks would sit around on the floor and sing songs of the oppressed masses.286 Despite their differences, the mainstream media grouped the beatniks and folkniks together as a bohemian counterculture.
Denver served as a special place for the early beatniks. Neal Cassady, the inspiration for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouacs On the Road, grew up in Denver and met Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in New York. During Kerouacs road trip in the late 1940s that became the basis for his novel, Kerouac stopped many times in Denver to visit Cassady. Kerouac frequented Five Points at the same time when a teenage Conley "ran the streets there.287
Kerouac published On the Road in 1957. By 1959, Kerouacs novel appealed to a widespread audience. In A Nation of Outsiders, Hale delineates 1959 as "the year of the beatnik in popular culture.288 The novel appealed to young, white Americans and prompted a young Bob Dylan living in Minnesota to visit Denver as a folk singer. In Chronicles, Volume One, Dylan stated:
I suppose what I was looking for was what I read about in On the Roadlooking for the great city, looking for the speed, the sound of it, looking for what Allen Ginsburg had called the 'hydrogen jukebox world.' Folk music was a reality of a more brilliant dimension. It exceeded all human understanding, and if it called out to you, you could disappear and be sucked into it.289
286 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 108.
287 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3,1994, HCC.
288 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 82.
289 Bob Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One (New York, Simon and Schuster, 2004J, p. 235-236; Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 147.


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Dylan therefore combined Kerouacs descriptions of Denver and folk music as a "more brilliant dimension. Dylans comments exemplified Hales concept of the "outsider romance where white, middle-class Americans sought to escape popular culture through exposure to "otherness disseminated by mass media.290
"Being black and a performer was cool, Walt Conley explained to Littman in 2002. When Conley started as a folk singer in the late 1950s, racial strife permeated the American sociopolitical landscape. The "beatniks and "hip people, as Conley called them, were "fighting racial intolerance and used folk songs to shed light on minorities and oppressed populations. By the early 1960s, folk music moved out of the countercultural underground and burst into popular culture and mainstream media. Conley explained that he was a "standout in the field since there "were not many blacks in folk music.291 The white, middle-class audiences at Denvers new folk clubs and coffeehouses not only accepted Conley, but celebrated and encouraged him. As Conley understood it, his blackness was an asset.
Not everyone enjoyed and emulated the Denver beatniks however. A September 1959 article in the Rocky Mountain News provided a spiteful and sarcastic review of the Exodus Gallery Bar, a folk music venue. According to Bob Whearly, the patrons "sit around in the smoky half-light, refilling their beer glasses from steel buckets and trying hard not to appear too enthusiastic about anything. Whearly described Conley as "a husky Negro in tight blue breeches and ragtag shirt who "sits and strums a guitar. Whearly then asked, "These are the beatniks? A patron responded, "Some of them
290 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 4.
291 Walt Conley, interview by Joann Littman, notes, August 23, 2002, HCC.


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think they are...They just want to be characters.292 The article represents the mainstream reaction to the Beatnik scene. As Weissman noted in his excerpt about the Denvers counterculture, the Denver police in particular did not "want them beatniks in [their] cowboy town.293
Conley encountered the police on a few occasions. His folk music performances often took place in bars and Conley frequently fought the audiences drunken noise. In his interviews with Littman, he told stories of bar fights and alcohol issues. The bartender at Little Bohemia invited Conley to perform at a bar, the Last Resort, on South Broadway. According to Conley, the venue catered to two diverse crowds: working-class men from the Gates Rubber factory in the early evenings and college students by night. One evening, the crowds overlapped and a conflict ensued that led to a "full war between the two factions. Conley said that he threw a shot glass at a man who yelled "nigger at him. The glass hit and blinded the man in one eye. The police issued Conley an assault citation which "depressed Conley. At his court date, the citation did not appear on the docket by happenstance. Instead, Conley was only fined $20 for disturbing the peace.294 Conley stopped performing at the Last Resort after the brawl.
Conley started to regularly appear at folk venues in Denver and Boulder. Judy Collins, who was also starting her folk career, played at the same clubs. At Neustaedters new folk venue, Exodus Catacombs and Gallery Bar at 1999 Lincoln, opened in August of 1959, Collins and Conley both signed a one-year contract. Collins and Conley each
292 Bob Whearly, "Our Rebels Without a Cause Are Nix Without the Beat, Rocky Mountain News, September 6,1959, p. 2, DPL.
293 Weissman, Which Side Are You On?, 120.
294 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, December 6,2001, October 2,1994, and February 8,2001, HCC.


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received a six-month headline. The Exodus soon became the hub for folk music in Denver and hosted its first "Folk Song Festival in December of 1959. According to Collins, the Exodus "was the club in the Rockies for folk music295 Collins and Conley appeared on the album, Folk Song Festival at Exodus, released soon after the event.296
By 1962, college campuses in Colorado hosted multiple folk music performers and festivals which demonstrated that young, middle- to upper-class college students fueled the popular folk revival. According to music critic, Lariy Tariji of the Denver Post, "interest in folk music took root on university and college campuses in Colorado.297 The University of Colorado at Boulder had a vibrant folk music scene in particular. In 1959, for example, the University of Colorado at Boulder yearbook noted that an increase in the "popular party pastimefolk singing.298 In the 1960 and 1961 yearbooks, furthermore, multiple pictures of banjos and guitars started to appear in the photos. By 1962, the yearbook stated that "guitar-picking could still be found any sunny afternoon on the quad which demonstrates how ubiquitous folk music had become by the early 1960s in Boulder.299
Conley, Judy Collins, and the Limeliters frequently performed in Boulder on campus and in venues like Michaels Pub, the Huddle, and the Attic in the late 1950s and early 1960s. According to a comment on Conleys online obituary, Conley was a regular at Michaels Pub. The commenter, a Boulder student at the time, spent "hundreds of delightful hours (and drank vats of 3.2 beer) listening to Walt Conley. Conley "invited
295 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 148.
296 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, February 2,1994, HCC.
297 Larry Tajiri, "Folk Music Big in Denver, Denver Post, March 13,1962, p. 34, DPL.
298 University of Colorado-Boulder, yearbook, 1959, Norlin Library Yearbook Collection.
299 University of Colorado-Boulder, yearbook, 1962, Norlin Library Yearbook Collection.


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us to bring instruments and have a hootenanny. As the comment demonstrates, Conley and participatory folk music was a success in the Boulder college student scene.300
In Denver, Neustadters Exodus essentially had a monopoly on the folk scene. Tariji of The Denver Post, noted that the "home of folk music entertainment in Denver is the Exodus.301 Sam Sugarman, owner of the Suggies on East Colfax, realized the business potentials of the folk music industry and hired Lingo the Drifter, another local folk performer, to manage his club. Lingo and Sugarman changed the name to the Satire Lounge to reflect the change to folk music. Blade Bibber of the Rocky Mountain News, furthermore, reported that the "folk song craze has spread like wildfire in Denver. And one of the reasons in the performance of Lingo the Drifter at The Satire Lounge in 19 59.302
Sugarman began to dislike Lingos style and attitude. Sugarman then asked Conley to manage the Satire and wanted to, as Conley put it, "compete with Exodus.303 Conley broke his contract at Exodus and accepted the Satire management offer. Lingo and Conley had several "unfriendly interactions because Conley replaced Lingo at the Red Ram, Exodus, and then the Satire. Despite their inimical relationship, Conley credited Lingo with "really started folk music here in Denver in the mid-fifties during his 1993 oral history interview with Bob Tyler from Swallow Hill Music Association.304
3 WKG, "Obit: Walt Conley, Denver Post, November 28, 2003, HCC.
301 Larry Tajiri, "Folk Music Big in Denver, Denver Post, March 13,1962, p. 34, DPL.
302 Blade Bibber, "Lingo Charms an Audience, Rocky Mountain News, December 18,1959, microfilm, p. 100, DPL.
303 Conley, interview by Bob, Popular Music Today, HCC.
304 Bob Tyler, "The Roots of the Urban Folk Music Movement in Colorado, Swallow Hill Music Association, Summer 1993, p. 7, HCC.


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As manager at the Satire, Conley quickly booked the up-and-coming Smothers Brothers whom Conley had met at the Limelight in Aspen. Sugarman offered Conley and the Smothers Brothers an "open-ended engagement at his club for $200 per week.305 The Smothers Brothers, as Bianculli asserts, "soon turned the Satire into one of Denvers most popular night spots.306 While Conley was manager in the summer of 1960, a young Bob Dylan, discussed in detail in the next chapter, arrived in Denver Conley managed the Satire until Neustaeder lured the Smothers Brothers back to the Exodus with a promise of a higher salary. Neustaeder smoothed over Conleys ruffled feelings by offering the folk singer a chance to open for the popular siblings. No longer tied to a single venue, the veteran performer sought the best opportunities in a competitive market, shifting between clubs in pursuit of the highest bidder, while working to maintain his "authentic folk credentials.
Throughout the early 1960s, Conley appeared regularly at venues in Denver and Boulder. He appeared with Dean Reed, a Colorado musician who was gaining international fame, in 1961.307 Conleys appointment as the master of ceremonies at the third annual folk festival in 1961 at Exodus represented his central role in Denvers folk scene.308
In 1962, however, the Denver scene started to change significantly. Harry Tufts Denver Folklore Center (DFC) opened that year and quickly became a gathering place of folk enthusiasts and musicians. The DFC represented a more traditional approach to
305 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, December 6, 2001, HCC.
306 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny, 28.
307 "A New Reed, Denver Post, August 25,1961, p. 24, DPL; "Folksingers Set for Talent Showcase, Denver Post, July 26,1961, p. 28, DPL.
308 Barry Morrison, "Folksingers Set for Talent Showcase, Denver Post, July 26,1961, p. 28, DPL.


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folk music that stood in contrast to the pervasive commercial folk music that Conley performed.309 Artists such as Tuft and Dick Weissman had fled the increasingly tourist-oriented folk scenes in New York and California in search of smaller populations and a more manageable costs of living. Boasting both amenities, Denver emerged as an appealing city for folk music traditionalists. The DFC garnered much attention throughout the early- to mid-1960s for booking national touring acts. Yet Conley never performed there.
In 1962, the folk music boom had exploded in Denver and Boulder as evidenced by the increase in folk performers, venues, and the formation of the DFC. "Folk Music Big in Denver proclaimed a headline in the Denver Post in March of 1962. Lariy Tajiri, the articles author, asserted that the sellout of the Limeliters show at the Denver Auditorium provided "additional proof that the Denver area is currently one of the most receptive in the country to folk music.310 The article mentioned the national celebrities who shaped Colorados folk cultureJudy Collins, Lingo the Drifter, the Limeliters, Bob Gibson, and the Smothers Brothers. Conley failed to make the list.
By 1963, Colorados folk scene was making national waves. Denver newspapers regularly covered performances of local acts such as the Limelighters, Judy Collins, and the Serendipity Singers at Red Rocks and elsewhere. Meanwhile, their performances at eastern "bistros, on television, and on widely-played records were turning many local stars into national sensations.311 But even as several local performers achieved national fame, Conleys star seemed to fade. He continued to perform widely on the college
39 Harry Tuft, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017.
310 Larry Tajiri, "Folk Music Big in Denver, Denver Post, March 13,1962, p. 34, DPL.
311 Tarjiri, "Serendipity Singers Began at CU, Denver Post, May 18,1964, p. 10, DPL.


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campus and coffee house circuit, traveling to more than a dozen cities in 1963 alone. His performances received uneven reviews, and his one shot at national television exposure, on the ABC folk music program "Hootenanny fell flat when the series was abruptly cancelled.312 Public versus Personal Life
In the early 1960s, Conley was advertised as "simply real and credited with having a "direct, fresh, honest approach.313 With such language, Conley evidently appealed to audiences looking for authentic folk experiences, but it doing so, he also capitalized on the persona in the process. Conley acknowledged this dichotomy in a 1964 newspaper article. Folk music, according to Conley, had "run into a commercial snag and that folk singers had to "change just a little to sell to the public.314 As the distinction between traditional authenticity and commercial imitation in folk music was hotly debated, Conley successfully constructed a "real folksinger identity.
While Conley was performing in Minnesota, his girlfriend at the time, Jackie, gave birth to his second child, Troy. Conley must have married Jackie after Troys birth because the news release notifying the public of Conleys death stated that Conleys ex-wife "remarried a man who didnt like kids. Liz Neustaedter, who owned the Exodus after Hal died, "took Walts son and raised him as her own while Walt followed his career on the road.315 At his celebration of life ceremony, it was mentioned that Conley was "very excited when his son, Troy, was born in 1964, and he knew that he had
312 "FolkSongs of the Folk, Omaha Star,v ol. 26, no. 5, August 16,1963, HCC; Donaldson, "I Hear America Singing, "133-134.
313 Ann Henry, "Senor Wences Act Has Class and Taste, The Winnipeg Tribune, April 3,1961, HCC; Omaha Hootenanny, concert advertisement, 1963, HCC.
314 "Folk Songs of the Folk, Omaha Star, August 16,1963, Walt Conley Collection, HCC.
315 Joan Holden, "Folk Singer Walt Conley Dies, November 18,2003, HCC.


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several other children with other women he loved, but he wasnt a part of their lives.316 With this information, it appears as though there was a division between Conleys folk persona and his personal life. The public and the private seem to have been blurred on stage as Conley was successful in constructing a "simply real interaction with audiences while simultaneously experiencing fraught relationships with the women and children in his life.317
By the end of the 1960s, the popular folk craze and Conleys folk career had waned. The Exodus, for example, stopped booking folk acts and, with new management, started to book rock and psychedelic rock acts. The College Inn in Denver continued to book Conley until 1969, but did not maintain a steady following as the Satire and Exodus had in the early 1960s.318 The late 1960s also saw the emergence of the "diehard traditionalists in folk music. Denver Friends of Folk Music, for example, organized in 1967. "Folk music, itself, isnt the popular rage it was a few years ago, Arlynn Nellhaus of the Denver Post wrote, but Denver Friends of Folk Music "insist its traditions be kept alive.319 In response to the waning popular of folk music and not interested in the traditional side of folk music, Conley made a career move. In a 1969 Denver Post article, Conley said that he was "tired of singing for drunks and that music was "secondary. Acting, as Conley remarked, had "always been my ultimate goal and desire.320 Conley then pursued an acting career in Hollywood throughout the 1970s.
316 Master of Ceremonies, "Walts Farewell Party, November 28,2003, HCC.
317 Ann Henry, "Senor Wences Act Has Class and Taste, The Winnipeg TribuneApril 3,1961, HCC; Conley, interview by Littman, notes, August 23,2002, July 23,2003, April 2,1994, and December 6, 2001.
318 Gordon McKnight, "Folk Singing, Night Clubbing Give Way to Acting for Conley, Denver Post, October
31.1969, p. 43, HCC.
319 Arlynn Nellhaus, "Folk Musicians Die-Hard Unit, The Denver Post, February 2,1972, p. 15, DPL.
320 Gordon McKnight, "Folk Singing, Night Clubbing Give Way to Acting for Conley, Denver Post, October
31.1969, p. 43, HCC.


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DISS_title The Making of a Legend: Walt Conley and Colorado’s Popular Folk Revival
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DISS_abstract
DISS_para Despite the vast historiography on the American popular folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, Colorado’s early folk scene has largely been ignored. With newly available primary sources regarding Walt Conley, a Denver-based folksinger who participated in the popular folk revival, a new perspective of Colorado’s folk scene emerged. Conley’s career, including the legends that surround him posthumously, sheds considerable light on the social and political tensions involved in the development of folk music in Colorado. Conley’s later career provides insights into the collective memory of Colorado’s folk scene and how it has been shaped.
In the late 1950s, folk singers, venues, and festivals emerged in cities across the United States. Contrary to national trends, however, Colorado's burgeoning folk music scene developed in conjunction with the nascent ski and tourism industries in mountain towns like Central City, Georgetown, and Aspen. Conley’s career, in particular, intersected the popular folk revival and tourism as evidenced by his participation in projects commissioned by Colorado’s Department of Public Relations in the early 1960s that specifically targeted tourists. In the 1980s, Conley opened a venue, Conley’s Nostalgia, dedicated to folk music of the 1950s and 1960s. The venue reflected the national surge of folk music-related nostalgia that appeared throughout the decade.
DISS_supp_abstract
DISS_binary PDF Campbell_ucdenver_0765N_10827.pdf
DISS_restriction
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FOLK REVIVAL by ROSE VICTORIA CAMPBELL B.A., Regis University, 2012 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Co lorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts History Program 2017

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ii 2017 ROSE VICTORIA CAMPBELL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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iii This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Rose Victoria Campbell has been approved for the History Program by Rebecca Hunt, Chair Ryan Crewe, Advisor William Wagner William Convery Date: May 13 2017

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iv Campbell, Rose Victoria ( M.A., History Program) The Making of a Legend: Walt Conley a Thesis directed by Associate Professor Rebecca Hunt ABSTRACT Despite the vast historiography on the American popular folk revival of the With newly available primary sources regarding Walt Conley, a Denver based folksinger who participated in the popular folk revival, him posthumously, sheds considerable light on the social and political tensions involved in the development of folk music in Col orado into the collective In the late 1950s folk singers, venues, and festivals emerged in cities across the United States. Contrary to national trends, however, Colorado's burgeoning folk music scene developed in conjunction with the nascent ski and tourism industries in mountain towns like Central City, Georgetown, and Aspen. in particular, intersected the popular folk revival and touri sm as evidenced by his participation in that specifically targeted tourists. Nostalgia, dedi cated to folk music of the 1950s and 1960s. The venue reflected the national surge of folk music related nostalgia that appeared throughout the decade. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Rebecca Hunt

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v To my parents and sisters for their

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vi ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My thesis topic direct ly result ed from my Koch Fellowship at the History Colorado Center in the 2015 2016 academic year. As a fellow, I researched Walt Conley With the permission and encouragement of Exhibit De veloper Megan Friedel who initially gave me the task of researching Conley, I was able to dive deep into the Conley story. Th e rest of the exhibit development team served as the encouraging audience to my presentations, provided positive feedback, and ask ed pointed questions that helped narrow my focus and shape my conclusions. After the fellowship, I remained on the exhibit team as a researcher and continue to serve in the position The position has enabled me to combine two of my passions music and histo ry and I am very grateful for the opportunity. The interviews with Harry Tuft and Judy Collins used in my thesis were conducted for the Many thanks to Dr. Rebecca Hunt and Nathan Matlock for pushing me to finish my thesis. Dr. Hunt offered encouragement and patience throughout the thesis processes and for that I am grateful I would also like to thank Dr. Bill Convery and Dr. Bill Wagner the two Bills who helped me succeed on my comprehensive ex ams and in finish ing my thesis. And, finally, thanks to Kaitlin for offering insightful and enthusiastic comments after listening to me talk abo ut my topic over and over again.

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vii TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 1 I I. WALT AND COLORADO IN THE FOL REVIAL HISTO RIOGRAPHY ................................ ..... 7 Scope of Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 12 Organization, Sources, and Interpretive Framework ................................ ......................... 18 Historiographical Themes in the Scholarship of the American Folk Revival ............ 21 I I I EARLY LIFE AND CAREE R ................................ ................................ ....................... 33 Childhood and Adolescence, 1929 1948 ................................ ................................ ................ 33 Navy, New Mexico, and Colorado State College: 1949 1957 ................................ .......... 37 IV THE PETE SEEGER LEGE ................................ .................. 45 New Mexico, the Progressive Party, and Communism ................................ ...................... 53 V. FOLK MUSIC AND MOUNT AIN TOWNS ................................ ................................ .................... 63 ................................ ................................ ..... 64 Folk Music, Tourism, and the Ski Industry in Colorado ................................ ..................... 68 Folk Singers as Skiers, Skiers as Folk Sing ers ................................ ................................ ........ 72 V I THE POPULAR FOLK MUS IC BOOM IN DENVER AN D BOULDER ................................ ... 82 Public versus Personal Life ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 90 V I I. AL HERITAGE ............................. 97 The Bob Dylan Legend ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 99 VIII. CONCLUSION: CONLEY A AL HERITAGE ......................... 105 BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 110

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viii LIST OF FIGURES FIGURE 1 .1. Walt Conley, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 2 .1. Unidentified marquee featuring a Walt Conley performance Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 3 .1. Walt Conley as captain of the Manual High School golf team. 1948 Manual High School Yearbook, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado. 3 .2. Walt Conley in the Navy. Photo taken in Geno a, Italy. Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado. 4 .1. Jenny Vincent, folk singer and political activists, playing guitar at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in 1949. Elizabeth Cleary Taos News 4 .2. Walt Conley as a camp counselor at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in the summer of 1950. Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 5 .1. Advertisement for the Limelite, Aspen Daily Times March 11, 1960, Colorado Historic Newspapers. 5 .2. Walt Conley singing at the Abbey in Aspen, Aspen Times 1963, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 5 .3. Ski Songs: Sung by Bob Gibson 5 .4. Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers, R aynote Records, 1960, 5 .5. A Snow Job for Skiers by Oscar Brand 6 History Colorado Center. 6 .2. Conley performing with Smothers Brothers at the Exodus, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 6 .3. Walt Conley with Hal Neustaedter, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 6 .4. Advertisement for the Exodus, Walt Co nley and Judy Collins, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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ix 6 University of Colorado Boulder, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 6 .7. Walt Conley in advertisement for guitar and banjo se ll, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 6 .8. Walt Conley, acting press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 7 .1. Walt Conley, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. 7 Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Each November, friends and family of Colorado based entertainer Walt Conley memorializes Joel, as serted in the introductory speech in November 2016. Waltfest, which marked its thirteenth consecutive year, emphasizes that legend 1 scene at Wal tfest were echoed in a Westword article published by Timothy Fritz in November 2016. Fritz, who published his article to promote the event, credits Conley as 2 with Colorado conn ections used founder of the Denver Folklore Center and well known local musician asserted that Conley was 3 Tu ft composed an original tribute song book, furthermore, included condolence letters from folk icons Judy Collins and Tom 1 28, 2016, accessed December 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxET9aWJb_A&feature=youtu.be. 2 Westword November 16, 2016, accessed November 18, 2016, http://www.westword.com/music/walt conley gr andfather of denver folk celebrated at waltfest 8502603. 3 Denver Post 5B, November 23, 2003, accessed September 2016, 2016, Digital Newspaper Collection, Denver Public Library West ern History and Genealogy, Denver (hereafter cited as DPL).

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2 Smothers of the Smothers Brothers. 4 With such an outpouring of admiration, it is Obituaries and articles written about Conley in local newspapers accentuate many of the same attention grabbing stories. The brie f biographies convey what I call trajectory and convey almost the exact information with only slight variations. The accounts for example, in folk music in the 1950s where he reportedly received his first folk lesson and guitar from Pete Seeger. After co headlining and sharing stages with Judy Collins, Conley manage d the Satire Lounge on East Colfax Avenue. Conley frequently performed in As pen where he met the up and coming Smothers Brothers A s manager of the Satire, Conley Brothers their start in the business here (in Denver) Rocky Mountain News obituary. 5 multuous encounter with a young Bob Dylan in the summer of 1960. After a successful folk career in the 1960s, Conley moved to California and pursued acting. In the 1970s, he received recognition from President Nixon for his Denver TV. 6 primarily dedicated to music of the folk revival, in 1983. By the 1990s, Conley started to perform Irish music and played a 4 November 28, 2003, Walt Conley Coll ection, History Colorado Center, Denver (hereafter cited as HCC). 5 Rocky Mountain News 16B, November 19, 2016, HCC. 6 HCC.

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3 man became Conley responded, [ i ] f the band U2 from 7 The charisma, his contribution to the early folk scene, and his lifelong career as an entertainer in a celebratory tone; a tone perpetuated at the recent Waltfest and in Westword article. These the robust Colorado music scene we know today 8 I, too, was researching Conley during my fellowship at History Colorado in 2016, my interest focused on why Conley an apparent Colorado legend had largely been left out of the public memory and scholar ship regarding Colorado Conley appears only as a trace in Pa The Denver Folk Music Tradition: An Unplugged History, from Harry Tuft to Swallow Hill and Beyond and in Dick Which Side Are You On?: An Inside History of the Folk Music Revival in America. 9 Weissman for example, asserts that Conl pillar of the Denver folk scene without providing much evidence for the claim. 10 Malkoski, like Weissman, 11 Instead of expanding 7 http://waltconley.0catch.com/index.html. 8 Timothy Westword November 16, 20 16, accessed November 18, 2016. 9 Paul Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition: An Unplugged History, from Harry Tuft to Swallow Hill and Be yond (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012), 29; Dick Weissman, Which Side Are You On?: An Inside History of th e Folk Music Revival in America (New York: Continuum, 2005), 120. 10 Weissman, Which Side Are You On? 120. 11 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music T radition 20.

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4 owever, Malkoski and Weissman provide the same brief information about Conley. Conley, according to Malkoski and Weissman, performed at and managed the Satire Lounge He was a ta lented storyteller and comedian who later pursued an acting career. Conley appears fleetingly in biographies of Bob Dylan and the Smothers Brothers, but Malkoski and Weissman remain the only scholars of the American folk revival to provide information on Conley. Perhaps Malkoski and Weissman did not expand on their Conley claims because, until recently primary sources detailing Conley were limited to newspaper article s and Joan Holden, donated sev enty five pounds worth of photographs, letters, yearbooks, newspaper clippings, and curated scrapbooks created by Conley to History Colorado The collection also includes t ranscribed oral histories from Swallow Hill Music Association publications and eleve n microcassettes filled with interviews between Conley and his biographer, Joan n Littman, describing his career. Littman and Conley never completed the biography, but Littman took detailed notes during her interviews with Conley. The primary sources, oral histories and multiple hours of As the first researcher to sift through the collection and digitize the interviews, I er than the The newly available primary sources and oral sources shifted my research approach dramatically. I initially attempted to construct a comprehensive biography of Conley and sought to determine why Conley has largely been ignored in accounts about the folk revival in Denver. After examining the primary sources, I noticed that many of the

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5 sources expanded, clarified, and even challenged the existing narrative s about Conley. Instead of assuming and accepting that Conley was i scene I began to take a more critical approach beyond the cele bratory posthumous recognition. After taking a closer look at the sources career had the potentia l to shed considerable light on the development of popular folk music in Colorado in the 1950s and 1960s analysis of the collective legacy reflects a trend in the construction of popular memory where musicians are amin Filene astutely observes in Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music. 12 The my have grown larger since his death and, as a result, have blurred a more accurate understanding of his influence on ntext and offers a new interpretative framework to better understand folk music and popular culture in Colorado. 12 Benjamin Filene, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2000), 8.

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6 Figure 1.1. Walt Conley, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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7 CHAPTER I I CONLEY AND COLORADO IN THE FOLK REVIVAL HISTORIOGRAPHY In December 1959, Blade Bibber of the Rocky Mountain News asserted that the 13 Denver, like many other American cities, served as a focal point of the popular folk music revival in the late 1950s and 1960s. Denver in particular and Colorado as a whole, however, do not receive much attention in the most frequently cited books regardi ng the history of the American folk music revival. When scholars have mention ed Colorado, it is usually for differing reasons. For Ronald Cohen, the most prolific scholar and participant of the folk revival, Colorado serves as merely the childhood home o f folk music star Judy Collins and as a stopover for a young Bob Dylan in The Roots of the Revival: American and British Folk Music in the 1950s co authored with Rachel Clare Donaldson. 14 Cohen, in Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival & American Society a pplauds John Greenway of the University of Colorado 1953 American Songs of Protest. 15 For Robert Cantwell, another seminal participant turned scholar, Colorado only appears as a reference in cert ain folk songs in When We Were Good: The Folk Revival. 16 Colorado as demonstrated, does not emerge as a significant place in the seminal texts in the American folk revi val historiography. 13 Rocky Mountain News December 18 1959, microfilm, p. 100, DPL. 14 Ronald Cohen and Rachel Clare Donaldson, Roots of the Revival: American and British Music in the 1950s (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 54 and 147. 15 Ronald Cohen, Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival & American So ciety (Boston: University of Massachusetts, 2002), 87. 16 Cantwell, Robert, When We Were Good: The Folk Revival (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1996), 97 and 229.

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8 Denver in particular as oppos ed to Colorado as a whole appears in t he historiography of the folk revival for two reasons. The scholars that mention Denver group the city with other urban places as the primary locations for the popular folk music boom in the 1950s. According to Cohen and Donaldson, for example, Beach, as well as selected neighborhoods in Chicago, Denver, and other urban 17 Stephen Petrus and Ronald Cohen coined it in Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival. Denver, like many cities across the United States, represented a nother urban place with a visible folk scene in the 1950s and 1960s. De the second reason for its inclusion in seminal texts. For 18 Rainbow Quest Chicag o and the 19 Denver, in other words, served as the only place between the major hubs of the revival with a folk scene. Again, scholars who include Denver in the 1950s and 1960s urban folk revival history do not expand on scene but simply characterize the city as a place between New York and California where the popular folk music revival emerged. 17 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival 81. 18 Ronald Cohen and Stephen Petrus, Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival (New York: Oxford University, 2015), 31. 19 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 118.

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9 Malkoski and Weissman in contrast, folk Denver Folk Music Tradition trace music community from the opening of the Denver Folklore Center (DFC) in 1962 by Harry Tuft to the formation of the Swallow Hill Music Association. Malkoski focuses l context into the national folk trends Malkoski, for example, incorporates brief explanations for the emergence of folk music in popular culture with its often controversial ties to leftist politics in the 1940s, influential musicians of the 1940s and 19 50s, and the commercial successes in the folk music industry. Aside from brief descriptions of local venues and folk singers prior to 1962 folk scene. nevertheless remains the mos t comprehensive study music history. that the DFC served as the central location for folk music in Colorado. We issman integrates Denver into his overarching histo ry of the folk revival by deeming Denver a city outside of New York where folk music thrived. Like Malkoski, Weissman 20 By the mid a hotbed of folk music 21 Weissman also provides a brief and its connection to Denver, but primarily focuses on the DFC in the 1960s and 1970s. 20 Weissman, Which Side Are You On? 120. 21 Weissman, Which Side Are You On? 122.

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10 Interestingly, Malkoski and Weissman, the only scholars to substantially include Denver, have strong connections to the city. Weissman first participated in the New York folk scene in the 1960s and performed with t he Journeymen a popular folk rock group. In the 1970s, Weissman moved to Colorado and taught at the University of Colorado Denver in the Music and Entertainment Industry program. Weissman remains close friends with Tuft and has published several books about the music industry. Malkoski also lived in New York in the 1960s, moved to Colorado in the 1970s, and attended the University of Colorado Denver for his undergraduate and graduate careers. With these comparisons it seems likely that Weissman and Malkoski approached their research and shaped their arguments from similar perspectives. Perhaps Malkoski and Weissman formulated their interpretation from personal experiences and enthusiasm for the local scene. Weissman, for example, provides historical context alongside his personal experiences in Which Side Are You Are On ? Malkoski, too, conveys the enthusiasm of a local folk music scene. They are not alone, however, in bringing their folk experiences to scholarly pursuits as many published accounts have been written by participants of the folk re vival 22 Malkoski and Weissman both explain that the opening of the DFC, furthermore, a Folk City: New York and the 22 Gillian Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival: Nation and Identity in the United States and Canada, 1945 1980 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007), 2.

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11 American Folk Music Revival 23 As Malkoski notes, Tuft visited Young discussed his ambitions, and bought his first inventory from Young before traveling to Denver to start the DFC. 24 With this information, the DFC evidently not only in name, but also in purpose by providing a space for folk enthusiasts to buy instrument s and songbooks, to learn about local and national folk happenings, and to socialize with like minded people. ts suggest that the DFC essentially helped Denver develop a perceptible folk music scene by serving as the colle cting point for musicians and enthusiasts. The DFC certainly influenced ways but perhaps Weissman and Malkoski perceived the DFC as the epitome of Folklore Center Mos t scholars of the folk revival agree that the folk revival started in New York in the 1950s and remained a hub throughout the 1960s and 1970s. 25 Malkoski and Weissman, who both were in New York in the 1960s, Weissman and Malkoski also offer brief ne before 1962. Both scholars agree that the Exodu s, a venue opened by Hal Neustae dter in 1959, helped cultivate the early folk scene in Denver. For Malkoski, the Exodus served as the 26 Weissman also asserts that the fo lk scene in 23 Ronald Cohen and Stephen Petrus, Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival (New York : Oxford University, 2015), 95. 24 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition 19. 25 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City 21. 26 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition 41.

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12 27 the early 1960s, as Malkoski explains, other venues like the Satire on East Colfax Avenue and the Green Spider filled the folk music gap until the DFC opened. 28 Weissman and Malkoski echo Cohen by suggesting that Denve r served as a convenient stopping place for touring musicians who traveled from coast to coast in the 1960s. 29 F ocusing primarily on the influence of the DFC an d its replication of urban folk trends ignores much of Colora popular folk music history Before the opening venues, and festivals appeared in other parts of the state. Conley performed in Denver and be yond well before the 1960s. By emphasizing the DFC, Weissman and Malkoski omit earlier developments not only in Denver, but also in Colorado as a whole. popular folk music is crucial to understanding its evolution into the 1960s. Scope of Analysis Colorado in the 1950s and 1960s Unlike Colorado performers such as Judy Collins, the Sm others Brothers, and the Limel iters, each of whom left for opportunities in New York and California Conley remained in Colorado throughout the 1950s and 1960s Since Conley remained in the state, his career provides significant insights into the Colorado folk scene 27 Weissman, Which Side Are You On? 120; Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition 27. 28 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition 29. 29 Ma lkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition 41; Weissman, Which Side Are You On? 120.

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13 As I stated in the Chapter 1 the existing narratives about Conley have largely celebratory and anecdotal I, in contrast, will approach his professional life critically by taking a closer look at the newly available sources I will also con textualize aspects of the popular folk revival history and in the historiography of the subject. Placing how national popular music trends played out on a local level and how local manifestations differed, in some cases, from national trends. My analysis incorporates interviews with Harry Tuft who knew Conley personally and provided insightful observations about the 1960s folk scene in Colorado. Tuft explained that there were two distinct aspects in Denver: the entertainers and the in bars from the audience. 30 Tuft, in contrast, considers himself and the musicians he associated with Entertainers focused on the lar side of folk played in bars, Tuft noted, whereas traditionalists performed in coffeehouses and at the DFC. Tuft clarified that the entertainment segment of folk music should not be Conley never performed at the DFC, according to Tuft, but nevertheless was a Tuft noted that he so cialized with a 30 Harry Tuft interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, Ja nuary 2017.

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14 Despite their differences, and Tuft considers the entertainers and traditionalists a s two aspects of De Unlike Tuft, do not elucidate the commercial oriented aspects of folk music in the 1950s and 1960s segment of the music bus that 31 He explains 32 Rather than focusing on the commercial aspect of the Exodus, Malkoski e mphasizes the chances it provided for local musicians emerging at the height of the folk revival. At Co n 1995, the invitation stated paid contemporary folk 33 Conley evidently stressed the commercial aspects of his early career. W hat, then is missed unexamined? helps to compre hensive context. 34 Malkoski uses as evidence for his argument predominantly involve the DFC, Tuft, and Swallow Hill Mu 31 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition, 27. 32 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition 27. 33 Walt th Anniversary/Almost Association, January 22, 1995, HCC. 34 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition 21.

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15 can be found in differentiation between commercialism and traditionalism, between the entertainers and traditionalists. As Cohen, Filene, and Donaldson demonstrate, folk musi oriented performers and venues. Denver had both forms, but not in the same order. The scene first was entertainment and commercial based with Conley a nd the Exodus, and then, with the arrival of self a pattern opposite of national trends. also offers a perspective of folk music in Colorado that has largely been ignored by historians of the subject. Tuft explained that mountain towns scene. 35 Conley and Tuft both performed gigs and received contracts in mountain towns before and during their careers in the Denver. Aspen, in particular, had a visible folk scene with nation al and local acts before the opening of the Exodus in 1959. By broadening the scope to include places outside of Denver and exploring the formative development of folk music before and during the 1950s, a more complete picture of Colorado ory emerges. then represents two unexamined and rather influential aspects commercialism and mountain towns. I argue that 35 Harry Tuft interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017.

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16 career in the late 1950s and 1960s intersected wi th concerted marketing campaigns to entice tourists to the ski areas and mountain towns. Conley performed at clubs in Aspen, Central City, and Georgetown which, as advertisements from the time demonstrate specifically targeted tourists an d skiers. The w hite and middle to upper class demographic who vacationed and skied in Colorado in the 1950s and 1960s examined by Annie Gilbert C oleman in The represent the same type of people who fueled folk music in popular culture. Taking advantage of a growing middle and upper class ready to spend their money on tourism and recreation, the skiing and advertising industries worked together to market destination ski resort s 36 In Folk City furthermore, Cohen and Petrus explain that in the 1950s and 1960s, d of the new spending power of the white, middle to upper class and began marketing folk music directly to them. 37 The development of popular folk music in Colorad o in the 1950s and early 1960s intersected with the processes William [recreation planning] as a way to enhance the state 38 By that time, market 39 In Century American West 36 Annie Gilbert C The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing vol. 65, no. 4, Tourism and the American West (November 1996): 589. 37 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 70. 38 William Philpott, Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country (Seattle: University of Washington, 2013), 212. 39 Philpott, Vacationland 211.

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17 Hal Rothman asserts istribution of wealth in American society gave greater numbers of people the means to travel, and previously inaccessible 40 As folk music in popular culture. Three specific examples illustrate the claim that popular folk music in general and Conley in particular were used to entice tourists to consume Colorado heritage and landscape. commissioned Conley for example, Gold Rush in 1959. The souvenir entitled Colorado Story included two songs on a 45 vinyl record conveying heritage Now, a hundred years after gold was discovered at Gregory Conley narrated had progressed from a struggling frontier territory to a bustling, jet age state. 41 The souvenir represented another form of consumption for tourists to buy while visit ing Colorado. Conley appeared in the short film, Colorado Legend funded by the Depart ment of Public Relations in 1960 history and ghost towns. 42 Colorado Story and Colorado Legend were marketing tools created to perpetuate Colorado heritage tourism and as a vacation destination Tourist agencies specifically propagated the as a marketing tactic in the 1950s and 1960s as Philpott and Coleman demonstrate 43 The Lime lite, a venue in 40 Hal Rothman Century American West (Lawrence, KS: University Pres s of Kansas, 1998), 202 203. 41 Wa lt Conley, The Colorado Story (Denver: Band Box Records, 1959 42 Colorado Legend directed by Stan Brakhage ( Western Cine and Colorado Department of Public Relations, 1960), 16mm, from HCC, YouTube video, accessed November 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= 0PKVsuyAtA 43 Philpott, Vacationland 68.

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18 Aspen where Conley frequently performed, featured folk music in advertisements aimed at tourists and skiers. popular folk music scene and the importance of mountain towns in its development; to contextualize Conley opened in the 1980s, in a larger context as a reflection of the national arket as Bill Hustead of the Rocky Mountain News coined in in 1984. 44 What can be gained from this approach is a more comprehensive understanding of Conley as an entertainer and as a person in all his complexity as well popular folk scene. Organization Sources, and Interpretive Framework As previously stated, the newly available primary sources and career provide an o pportunity for a new interpret ory. I relied on the Walt Conley C ollection at History Colorado, Conley's albums that fortunately appeared on Amazon and EBay during my research int erviews with musicians who knew Conley and local newspaper archives for the majority of my research. Some of the cassettes recording the conversations between Conley and Joann Littman from the earl y 1990s have been ruined. I therefore rely on the Littm 44 Bill Rocky Mountain News July 6, 1984, DPL.

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19 notes may be subjective and try to wit narrative. The interviews, oral histories, and primary sources help to straighten out the about Conley. ided additional and contradictory information regarding the most legendary of stories about Conley Washington Park Profile obituary noted, 45 And I agree. The stories do make a strong case for remembering Conley as a Colorado legend. Legends, however, often contain elements of exception. This is not to sugge discredited, but rather suggests that much can be gained by analyzing the legendary stories. Studying the myths and attempting to uncover where they originated offers a more nuanced perspective of C trends in popular culture, it can help to reveal when and why the stories about Conley morphed into myths. In other words, examining how legendary stories were created, both deliberately and inadverten tly, offer insights into the particular time, place, and social climate in which they emerged. Louis S. Warren addresses the issues of exaggerated stories and falsified memory in his biography of William Cody in e Wild West Show 45 Obituar y for Walt Conley, Washington Park Profile, December 2003, HCC.

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20 mixed. 46 himself, 47 connects to one of the theoretic al underpinning of the analysis. The myths about Conley represent larger cultural meanings regarding the ways in which he was placed and how he placed himself in the popular culture and collective memory of the folk revival. I rely on the oral histories Conley recorded in the 1990s and 2000s as valuable sources that provide significant insights into his life and c memory of the events confused timelines, omitted details, or were conveyed with nostalgia. Oral historians acknowledge the fallibility of memory, the capacity for inadvertent falsified recollections, and the influence of nost algia on memory recall. According to Donald Ritchie, of direct participants are sources far too rich for histori cal researchers to ignore. Doing Oral History Ritchie nterviewers must be aware of the peculiarities of memory, adept in their methods of dealing with it, conscious of its 48 The chapters are organized thematically and generally follow a chronological 46 Louis S. Warren, (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 7. 47 Warren, 7. 48 Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral Histo ry 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University, 2015), p. 18 19.

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21 Chapter 3 focuses on eer from 1929 to 1957. Chapter 4 examines the Pete Seeger leg end U.S.A. and the Federal Bu reau of Investigation. Chapter 5 analyzes the intersection of popular folk music and tourism in Aspen, Georgetown, and Central City where Conley frequently performed. Chapter 6 and Boulder throughout the 1960s as folk music exploded in American popular culture Chapte r 7 related nostalgia in the 1980s. shaping of popular memory and cultural heritage. Historiographical Themes in the Scholarship of the American Folk Revival My analysis of Walt Conley and the Colorado folk scene of the 1950s and 1960s cont ains several themes apparent in the historiography of the American folk revival. Historians of the subject provide multiple interpretations regarding when, where, and why the American folk revival occurred. Historians also emphasize which groups of people and individuals influenced the de velopment of popular folk music. In many historian s have established since the 1970s. music erchangeably to define the time period when Conley was an active folk music entertainer and when folk music flourished in popular culture and mass media. Tracing the evolution of the American folk revival and deciphering when it occurred however, has been the subject of much debate within the scholarship. For Robert Cantwell, the oft cited participant and scholar, t he American folk revival began in 1958 when the Kingston Trio topped the

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22 ded in 1965 after the 49 Cohen, in contrast, dates the revival from 1940 to 1970 in Rainbow Quest to Cohen, with the concerted effort to bri ng folk songs to mass a udiences and ended in 1970 with the rise of rock music in popular culture. 50 In Folk City, however, Cohen and of radio and record industries. 51 Rachel Clare Donaldson dist inguishes the early 1930s as the starting period for the wide dissemination of folk music to the American public in Folk Music and National Identity era when challenged Donaldson focuses on the folk through folk songs. 52 Benjamin Filene furthe in the 1930s with government funded initiatives including the Federal Music Project erican Folk Song. 53 In The North American Folk Revival : Nation and Identity in the United States and Canada, 1945 1980 Gillian Mitchell also explores the relationship between the folk revival and national identity. Mitchell delineates 1945 as the pivotal y ear for the 49 Cantwell, When We Were Good, 2. 50 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival 8 and 289 299. 51 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City 21 23. 52 Rachel Clare Donaldson, (Philadelph ia: Temple University, 2014), 2 and 3. 53 Filene, Romancing the Folk 134 and 135.

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23 American and Canadian folk revival. After World War II, according to Mitchell, Americans and Canadians renegotiated aspects of national identity. Folk music developed into a means of expressing and connecting to a sense of a cohesive national i dentity. Mitchell also traces the evolution of folk music into the 1980s with the growth 54 Mitchell also provides a comprehensive historiography of the folk revival and began 55 Molly Beer and that three American folk revivals occurred between 1910 and 1970 In Singing Out: A n Oral Beer and Dunaway explain that folk song collectors initiated the first revival in the 1910s and 1920s. The second revival began in 1930s era with researchers and academics sought obscure songs, recorded them and disseminated them to the Ameri can public through publications. The popularity of folk music defines the last revival from 1958 to 1972. 56 The majority of scholars, however, combine three stages into a singular folk music revival mov ement that lasted from the early to mid twentieth century. Why such discrepancies in the historiography when it is readily apparent that folk music burst into popular culture and the national mainstream spotlight in the mid twentieth century? The differen t interpretations regarding the time period of the folk 54 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival 11 13 and 16. 55 Mitchell, The North American Folk Reviva l 2 3. 56 Molly Beer and David King Dunaway, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 2, 17, 45, 107, and 108.

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24 revival reflect larger questions in the historiography. The questions of why, how, and who fostered the folk revival emergence shapes how scholars designate when the movement happened. Donaldson convi the nuances and causes that facilitated the gradual inclusion of folk music in American popular culture. 57 Historians of the subj ect essentially base their periodization on certain causes and effects in the development of the folk revival(s). Scholars, for instance, stress different groups of people and individuals who influenced the growth of folk music in the twentieth century. F or Beer, Dunaway, and preserving and studying the songs and culture communities 58 asserts that the first academic folklorists in the 1920s and 59 Filene, like Cohen, Donaldson, and Weissman include the political Left and members of l in 1930s and 1940s. 60 Folk music then became a staple for political activists in the 1950s and 1960s calls them, including record producers, venue owners, storeowners, and magazine publishers also play a significant role in folk revival history narratives. 61 57 Donaldson, 183. 58 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival 25; Donaldson, 2. 59 Filene, Romancing the Folk 164. 60 Filene, Romancing the Folk 68. 61 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City, 78; Filene, Romancing the Folk 8.

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25 The majority of scholars, furthermore, incorporate the same influential individuals who participated in and shaped the history of the folk revival movement. Most scholars include Francis James Child, Cecil Sharp, and Olive Dame Campbell as the initial folk song collectors who largely influenced the revival(s) through their songbook publications. 62 Scholars also emphasize the influential song collector Carl Sandberg who published the seminal American Songbag in 1927. Scholars credit John and Alan Lomax, perhaps two of the most recognizable names of the early folk revival, with redefining song collection and preservation methods with their phonograph and research trip s funded by the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress. 63 Much has been written about the father son Lomax team and historians largely credit them with ushering folk songs and musicians into mass media through radio and records in the 193 0s and 1940s. 64 Scholars also credit folk musicians like the Almanac Singers, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Weavers for spreading folk music along with the influence of leftist politics on their song selections. After McCarthyism blacklisted many folk singers in the 1950s, other folk groups emerged in the newfound folk market including the Kingston Trio, the New Lost City Ramblers, and the Limeliters. By the 1960s, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan popularized folk for the Civil Rights Movement and became stars at the height of the revival. 62 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 17; Cohen, Rainbow Quest 9 19; Filene, Romancing the Folk 12 46; Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival 27. 63 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 17; Cohen, Rainbow Quest 9; Filene, Romancing the Folk 12; Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival 27. 64 Filene, Romancing the Folk 57.

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26 In many seminal texts, historians assert that c ollege and high school aged Americans in the 1950s and 1960s fueled the growth of folk music. 65 With the spending dr ove the folk music market. 66 Mitchell, furthermore, credits the intersection of indepe 67 d the new teenage spending power and began marketing directly to them. 68 a large supply and demand in the folk market and widening audiences had access to, and generated a demand for, 69 In Roots of the Revival, Cohen and Donaldson argue that young Americans were attracted to folk m usic not only because they could afford record players and vinyl disks, but also because folk music represented a countercultural movement. 70 By Folk City 71 In Singing Out Beer and Dunaway quote Judy Collins outh 65 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival 100. 66 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City 102; Cohen, Rainbow Quest 133. 67 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival 71. 68 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City 70. 69 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City 107. 70 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival 80. 71 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City 106.

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27 struggling agains t power. Young people confronting middle class wealth, middle class standards, middle 72 In a similar vein, Mitchell onsidered themselv 73 Grace Elizabeth Hale focuses specifically on the inclusion that folk music offered middle class youth in A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America Hale makes an important distinction by arguing tha t white middle class Americans plastic, slick, mass 74 Listening to folk songs Hale argues, class whites to cut themselves free of their own social origins and their own histories continued that folk music others to imaginatively regain what they understood as previously lost values and 75 Hale explains that m ass culture helped to spread the popularity of folk music Mass media, Hale asserts, provided the ng middle class 76 Hale convincingly argues that white youth then started to class whites to see themselves a 72 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out, 136. 73 Mitchell, The North American Folk Revival 107. 74 Grace Elizabeth Hale, A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America (New York: Oxford University, 2011), 5 6 and 86. 75 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders 3. 76 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders 5 6

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28 inclusion through a collective feeling of exclusion and alienation from American mainstream culture that was essentially (and ironically) fostered through mass media and popular cult ure 77 78 Authenticity was a hotly debated issue during the folk revival and continues to spark conflicting interpretations in the historiography. was initiated in the 1930s. 79 in their search for songs of 80 Filene argues that the Lomax team real t hing, and other entrepreneurs capitalized on the 81 Donaldson, Filene, and Cohen point out that most collected songs did not have a particular owner as the s ongs were passed down orally. The lack of direct ownership caused many issues in regard to copyright and royalties which essentially stripped the song of its original communal intent. F olk song collectors, producers, and musicians profited as a result 82 Authenticity became a major component of the popular folk revival in the late 1950s and 1960s. Moses Asch, for example, the owner of Folkways Records, advertised 77 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders 5 6. 78 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders 4. 79 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 14. 80 Cohen Rainbow Quest 12. 81 Filene, Romancing the Folk 58, 75, and 131. 82 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 11, 72, 132, 141.

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29 83 Asch, as C ohen suggests, capitalized on the concept of authenticity even though the songs originated in rural communities. ver 84 In the late 1950s and early 1960s, new folk performers began to saturate the music industry. In response, David DeTurk and Alfred Poulin, Jr. published a collection of essays by scholars and participants to comment on the folk reviva l in The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival. Why I Detest Folk Music Robert Resiner observed that by the mid 1960s. 85 For G ershon Legman, folklore scholar, the folk perfo rmers who emerged all out for the money plus a goodly bit of cheap public 86 As folk music pervaded popular culture and mass media, purveyors of authenticity and tradition disparaged its commercialism. F ilene places the issue s of commercialism and authenticity in histori cal context and argues the words s that have change d over time. Filene suggests Exploring rican music has been understood and offers much insight into the 83 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 47. 84 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 219. 85 David DeTurk and A. Poulin, Jr., eds., The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival (New York: Dell Publishing, 1967), 58. 86 DeTurk and Poulin, The American Folk Scene 342.

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30 public memory of folk music. 87 u ltimately sha ped what was and was not considered authentic to public audiences. 88 Filene astutely observes that these 89 Hale and Cohen also trace the changing notions of authenticity, but in a different way. Cohen argues that the notion of tradition created a version of authenticity in the folk revival. Cohen incorporates a quote from Pete Seeger, who struggled with the question of authenticity in fo lk music throughout his career. Seeger a sserted that he 90 Hale illustrates the tradition as authenticity concept in a review of Bob Dylan by Robert Shelton, the acclaimed folk critic Hale expl ains that Shelton held high regard for Dylan in the early 1960s precisely because Dylan was emulating Woody 91 authenticity by writing of obsession with 92 Authenticity it appears, is subject to construction and renegotiation by folk performers themselves and scholars who study them. 87 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 3. 88 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 5. 89 Filene, Romancing the Folk, 5. 90 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 90. 91 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders 123. 92 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders 123.

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31 popular folk to upper class youth largely ey also experienced many issues related to commercialism and authenticity throughout his careers as he attempted to stay relevant in a changing industry Placing Conley into the historiography enables a better understanding of the processes and aspects of the popular folk revival and allows for new perspectives to emerge in the scholarship.

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32 Figure 2.1. Unidentified marquee featuring a Walt Conley performance, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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33 CHAPTER II I EARLY LIFE AND CAREER Childhood and Adolescence, 1929 1948 In May 1929, Walt Conley was born in Denver and adopted shortly thereafter by unexamined due to the assumed lack of sources. 93 In the oral histories, however, Conley discussed his childhood at length. His father, Wallace, was born in Georgia in 1885 and, country to Butte, Montana where 94 His mother, originally from Colorado, met Wallace in Montana. It is not clear as to why parents moved to Scottsbluff, but they did so in the 1910s. 95 in Scottsbluff and bui lt a 96 Conley grew up in a predominantly white, lower to middle class neighborhood. themselves Russian to cover up being Germ World War I social and political climate. 97 In an interview with the Irish Eyes in Denver Conley explained that described. chores for my parents, I spent my time on the river 98 93 Washington Street Media, November 16, 2016, p. 3, http://www.washingtonstreetmedia.com/, accessed November 18, 2016. 94 Walt C onley, interview by Joann Littman, notes, November 18, 1999, HCC. 95 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18, 1999, HCC. 96 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, Novembe r 18, 1999 and January 1, 2001, HCC. 97 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, Ja nuary 16, 2001, HCC. 98 Irish Eyes in Denver February 1994, p. 14, HCC.

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34 Conley, at the age of ten, inadvertently discovered that he was adopted. 99 Conley remembered attending the movies with his parents. They ran into acquaintances and since the families had not seen each other in a long while, one of the acquaintances 100 He later recalled crying on his spanking. 101 throughout his childhood. 102 Conley acknowledged that his father also left a lasting impression on him regarding his racial identity. The Conley family was one of only six or seven African American families in Scottsbluff roughly fifty people out of an estimated twelve hundred. 103 Around age ten, he started to learn about the notorious racism in the Ame 104 Conley said he 105 106 discrimin 107 He also began to notice that his skinned, upper 108 Conley said that his father belie 99 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 16, 2001 and Decem ber 6, 2001, HCC. 100 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, December 6, 2001, HCC. 101 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, December 6, 2001, HCC. 102 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18, 1999, HCC. 103 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, July 31, 200, HCC. 104 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 16, 2001, HCC. 105 Conley, in terview by Littman, n otes, January 16, 2001, HCC. 106 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 19, 200, HCC. 107 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, July 31, 2002, HCC. 108 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 19, 2001, HCC.

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35 Conley 109 ease in 1944, Conley and his mother moved closer to relatives in Los Angeles Conley started a summer job at a car wash, but fall, he enrolled in high school and joined to Scottsbluff with fifteen year old Conley 110 Conl ey and his mother only stayed in Nebraska for one year s ince there were there. 111 They then moved to Denver in May of 1945. Conley began working in the rail yards loading and unloading boxcars for $2.50 per day. Conley explained that he g ave half of his earnings to his mother and the rest was spent visiting 112 After a few months of spitefulness towards Denver, Conley began to feel as though gotten to be a p 113 Conley recalled the enjoyment of riding the streetcar around town and his job changing the marquee at a downtown theater. At the time, Conley and his mother lived in Five Points near 26th and Glenarm. In Five Points, Conley his life. 114 109 Conley, interview by L ittman notes, Januar y 16, 2001 and January 19, 2001, HCC. 110 Conley, interview by Littman notes, Novembe r 18, 1999 and January 19, 2001, HCC. 111 Conley, interview by Littman notes, Novembe r 18, 1999 and January 19, 2001, HCC. 112 Conley, interview by Littma n, notes, November 18, 1999 and January 11, 2002, HCC. 113 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 11, 2002, HCC. 114 Conley, interview by Littman notes, January 19, 2001, HCC.

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36 generally stayed in Five Points according to Conley but occasionally visited Lakeside and Elitch Gardens. Conley also noted that his crash movies and 16th Avenue 115 Conley repeated his sophomore year at Manual High School due to his multiple 116 lack friends to pick on him no 117 While Conley was navigating personal issues related to his race outside the classroom, he began discussing racial issues in class and joine d the Student Relations club dedicated to w 118 According to his high school yearbook, Conley also became active in the chorus, newspaper, football, track, and was captain of the golf team. 119 at 2359 Lafayette and delivered papers before school. 120 Conley explained that he and his first girlfriend, an Italian American, enjoyed attending dan ces at Lakeside. Con ley explained 115 Conley, interview by Littman, m icrocassette, January 3, 1994, HCC. 116 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 19, 2001 HCC. 117 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, July 31, 2002 HCC. 118 Manual High School Yearbook, 1948, HCC. 119 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, January 19, 2001; Manual High School Yearbook, 1948, HCC. 120 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2, 1994, HCC.

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37 she transferred to North High School When Conley was caught a block from North, her mo ther involved the police. 121 By the time Conley graduated high school in May of 1948, he had experienced significant life changes. After losing a parent at fourteen, he switched schools in three different states. He first tried vices and then started to par ticipate in several extracurricular activities. All the while, young Conley navigated complex racial relationships and deliberately engaged in dialogue about racial issues in class. With these rather dizzying experiences that mark ed his early life, Conley responded by changing his actions and experimenting with different social outlets. It is apparent that Conley adapted to the differing cultural and social landscapes he encountered as an adolescent a pattern that seemingly continued throughout his life. Navy, New Mexi co, and Colorado State College: 1949 1957 The chronology of events are tangled in the sources. It is clear that, in the fall of 1949, a Catholic priest assisted Conley in attending junior college in Sterling, Colorado on a football scholarship. Conley said he 122 In t he summer of 1949, Conley started to work on a ranch in New Mexico. Jenny Vincent, a folk singer and human rights activist, owned the ranch. In multiple sources, Conley explained that he first became interested in folk singing after an alleged interaction with Pete Seeger at the ranch in New Mexico. 123 in the next chapter. 121 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, November 18, 1999, Janua ry 19, 2001, and July 31, 2002, HCC. 122 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2, 1994, HCC. 123 Conley, interview by Littm an, notes, April 2, 1994, HCC.

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38 In October of 1950, Conley performed his first public performance at an event honoring Denver Mayor James Quigg Newton, Jr. a Jewish organization dedic ated to combating anti Semitism, hosted the event. 124 At the same time, Conley worked multiple jobs including a packinghouse as well as working for the Colorado Statesman newspaper as the sports editor. Conley origina lly delivered the newspaper during high school appenings at Manual High School The Statesmen according to Conley, that the blacks had in 125 While working multiple jobs, Conley rep ortedly 126 by [the] U 127 Conley enlisted in the Navy in December of 1950. He completed boot camp at the Naval Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. Conley, stationed on the U.S.S. Coral Sea, traveled to ports in Haiti, France, Italy, Algeria, and Portugal. As his Navy scrapbook docum visiting tourist destinations, and meeting women in the various countries. After his Cisco Houston, Josh Wh Westword article. 128 124 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, February 2, 1994, HCC; Walt Conley, 125 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994, HCC. 126 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2, 1994 HCC. 127 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2, 1994 and July 31, 2002 HCC. 128 Washington Street Media, November 16, 2016, p. 4, http://www.washingtonstreetmedia.com/, accessed November 18, 2016.

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39 129 That summer, he returned to New Mexico ranch. Inspired by a short stint on the Salt of the Earth film set while in New Mexico, Conley used his G.I. Bill to study drama at Colorado State College in Greeley. 130 Many accounts note that Conley financially supported himself in college by performing folk music, but no evidence has been found to support the claims. In a 1959 article by Marjorie Barrett in the Rocky Mountain News for example, 131 The interviews with Littman and oral histor ies do not mention the college folk gigs. Conley was earning money, however, in a jazz combo as the bass player in 1956 when th 132 In a 1958 article, Shirley Sealy of the Denver Post also noted that in 133 His folk music interests in college, whether he was paid to perfor m or not led to a meeting with a then teenage Judy Collins. Conley recalled that he heard a poem on a KOA radio show copy of it. While on the phone, Chuck mentioned that his daughter was also a folk singer the 134 129 Conley, Littman interview, December 6, 2001. 130 131 Rocky Mountain News, HCC. 132 Rocky Mountain News, HCC. 133 The Denver Post September 19, 1958, p. 39, DPL. 134 Conley, interview by Littman notes, May 17, 1994, HCC.

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40 When asked about her interactions with Conley Judy Collins responded that she very well, very in an interview in January 2017 came to Thanksgivi Collin s grandmother was visiting for the holiday the anecdote, Collins explained that it was grandmother to meet Conley who eventually 135 Three years after the ir initial meeting, Collins and Conley began playing at the same folk venues in Denver, Aspen, and Boulder during the interview. 136 Conley, however, painted a different picture of their interactions in an interview with Littman in 1993. Conley explained that he and Collins 137 R egardless of whether the two enjoyed each other, the early careers of Collins and Conley followed a similar trajectory until Collins left for New York to record on the Elektra label in the early 1960s. intimate relationships also preoccupied Conley. Conley married a woman named Beverly in the summer of 1954. Due to the anti miscegenation laws in Colorado, they went to New Mexico to marry. 138 Shortly thereafter, omen in the theater department and Beverl y divorced him. 139 Conley also had an affair with a married 135 Judy Collins, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017. 136 Judy Collins, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017. 137 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994, HCC. 138 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, Apr il 2, 1994, HCC. 139 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, April 2, 1994 and August 23, 2002, HCC.

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41 woman who became pre Conley met later in life. 140 To add to his tumultuous interpersonal relationships during college, mother died in 1955. 141 Conley graduated from college in the spring of 1957. That summer, he After moving back to Five Points, Conley said he get [a] career as a folk singer according to an interview with Littman. 142 In the summer of 19 57, Conley played his first gig as a professional musician in the opening night of the Showagon. The Showagon was the star hosted at different Denver parks. 143 Rocky Mountains Ne ws 144 Conley started to teach at a junior high in Gilcrest, Colorado after unsuccessfully according to the Rocky Mountain News 145 In taught for six months and came back to Denver for the Chr istmas vacation and got a job at the Windsor Hotel singing and never went back 140 Conley, interview by Littman notes, April 2, 1994 and June 6, 2003, HCC. 141 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, August 23, 2002, HCC. 142 Conley, interview b y Littman, notes, August 23, 2002. 143 Rocky Mountain News May 6, 1960, p. 86, HCC ; Marjorie Barrett, Rocky Mountain News, HCC. 144 Rocky Mounta in News, July, 25, 1957, p. 16, DPL. 145 Rocky Mountain News, 16B, November 19, 2016, accessed May 2016, DPL.

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42 146 convey 147 Conley, whether he was fired or did not return after break, started to focus on a full time career in music by the late 1950s. Conley worked at the Windsor in the winter and spring of 1958 for six months 148 Conley performed as a calypso singer at the Win dsor due to the immense popularity of the genre Conley also fit the calypso mold through his race and emulation of Harry Belafonte Denver Post Conley [wore] cut 149 Conley worked in three bars in the hotel and often ran to each 150 In a 1993 oral history interview with Bob Tyler of the Swallow Hill Music Association, Conley called the Windsor the 151 From 1949 to 1958, Conley had participat ed in gang activity in Five Points, joined the Navy, and finished college. He had also married, divorced and fathered his first child. While r college, his interest in music developed into something more than a hobby. Conley evidently followed the popular music trends by performing 146 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994, HCC. 147 Conley, interview by Littman notes, June 6, 2003, HCC. 148 Rocky Mountain News, HCC. 149 Denver Post 5B, November 23, 2003, accessed Sept ember 2016, DPL. 150 Denver Post 5B, November 23, 2003, accessed September 2016, DPL. 151 Bob Folk Music Movement in Colorado, Swallow Hill Music Association Summer 1993, p. 7, HCC.

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43 first in a jazz trio, then as a calypso singer, and finally in folk music. By 1958, Conley started to pursue a folk music career full time. subtle discrepancies in the sources and stories emerged. Judy Collins for example, expressed fond memories of Conley while he in turn, remembered Collins with a hint of antagonism later in life. The subtle but important inconsistencies. In interviews with Littman, Conley noted that he simply did not return after winter break. Newspapers and obituaries in contrast, explain that the superintendent fired him due to his burgeoning music career. These subtle d In some cases, the way Conley and th e people who wrote about him shaped the stories about his past and often concealed or blurred th e realities to construct a certain narrative conducive to career ambitions. In other words, Conley perhaps glossed over or changed the stories around certain aspects of his life and career for a more positive narrative regarding his start in folk music. A s the following chapter demonstrates, the discrepancies also suggest that the actual events may have differ ed from the way Conley recalled and verbalized it during his oral history interviews in the 1990s.

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44 Figure 3.1. Walt Conley as captain of the Manual High School golf team 1948 Manual High School Yearbook, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado. Figure 3 .2. Walt Conley i n the Navy. Photo ta ken in Genoa, Italy. Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado.

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45 Chapter IV New Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At the ranch, Conley reportedly met Pete Seeger who sparked his folk music interests. I have separated and magnified the Seeger story from the chronology because it emerged with renewed significance after t he event purportedly took place. The event happened in 1949 or 1950, for example, but surfaced with greate r significance starting in 1959. Conley and the people who wrote about him in almost every account about his life Examining the Seeger legend closely and critically enables a better understanding of popular culture and the larger sociopolitical climate in the 1950s. y members continued to spread the Seeger anecdote. November 2016 te Seeger and other members of t 152 At the ranch, Seeger allegedly gave Conley his first guitar, as the Denver Post obituary noted and 153 152 153 Denver Post 5B, November 23, 2003, accessed September 2016, DPL.

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46 D iscrepancies in the sto ry, however, emerged in the sources and prompted further investigation In a 1963 Rocky Mountain News for example, Pat Hanna reported that Conley first became interested in folk music at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch owned by Jenny and Craig Vincent. ests included Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger and the Weavers and Alan Arkin, one of the original Tarriers All were 154 Through with Walt Conley and concert pamphlets from 1963 convey a similar encounter with Seeger and other folk legends in New Mexico. 155 A pamphlet for the Evergreen Festival in August of 1966 folk music from Pete Seeger and Cisco Houston in pe 156 The sources that convey the 196 0s version of the Seeger story therefore agree that Conley met Seeger in the late 1940s and 1950s and sparked interest Other sources published before the 1960s however, tell a different Seeger story. In an article published in September 1958, Shirley Sealy of the Denver Post noted that Conley met Seeger in New York Sealy reported, 157 According to a Rocky Mountain News article published in 1959 that Conley cut and pasted in one of his scrapbooks 154 Rocky Mountain News 1963, HCC. 155 Rocky Mountain News 1963, HCC ; Walt Conley, Through with Walt Co nley SeptemberIII 1963, advertisement, HCC 156 Evergreen Festival Pamphlet, August 14, 1966, HCC 157 The Denver Post September 1 9, 1958, p. 39, D PL.

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47 Marjorie Barrett, co fter his discharge, he hung around New York, meeting and working wit h such folk artists as Pete Seeger, the Weavers, and 158 On the back cover of the 1959 Folk Song Festival at Exodus album, furthermore, with Pete Seeger and Earl Robin 159 Which variation of the Pete Seeger story is correct then ? Did Conley meet him in New Mexico before the Navy or in New York after the Navy? As the primary sources suggest, the story changed between 1959 and 1961. What happened during those years to prompt such discrepancies ? Analyzing when and how the Seeger story morphed allows important insights into the burgeoning popular folk music industry in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Perhaps Conley and the people who wrote about him felt pressure to sta nd out in the growing popularity of the folk revival both locally and nationally. In Rainbow Quest In 1960 and 1961, Cohen asserts that demonstrated by the dramatic increase in folk records and singers. 160 In 1960, Cohen notes the Kingston Trio a folk group, had a bestselling album on the Billboard charts. M any folk venues performers, and festiva ls, Cohen explains, appeared in urban Ameri ca 161 Denver, too, experienced its own folk boom with a 158 Rocky Mountain News, HCC 159 Folk Song Festival at Exodus ( Denver: 160 Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 157. 161 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 158.

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48 wave of folk venues and festivals, all of which Conley played at. In 1960 and 1961, Conley and folk music were evidently in high demand. In 1960 and 1961, new folk performers and records began to saturate the popular music market. According to prominent folklorist Gersho n Legmen in The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival the folk music industry in 1960. 162 In response to the widespread popularity of folk music, Alan Lomax, a seminal figure in folk music history, asserted that 163 Lomax stressed that performers and fans of the popular folk music fad needed to its roots 164 The reinvigorated the debate over authenticity and commercialism in folk music in the early 1960s. To have such a personal connection to the folk revival roots represented by Seeger and the Weavers, therefore, would seemingly validate Conley as a verified folk singer and justify his folk persona in a saturated market The evident change in the Seeger st ory between 1959 and 1961 suggests that perhaps Conley and the people who wrote about him strategically adapted the story to construct a folk identity that served certain career goals. In other words, Pete Seeger, Cisco Houston, and Earl Robinson served as a gr eat marketing tool industry. 162 The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival David DeTurk and A. Poulin, Jr., eds. (New York: Dell Publishing, 1967), 314. 163 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 158. 164 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 158.

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49 provides additional insights into his attempt to remain relevant and appear authentic in the popular folk revival. Conley stressed his New Mexico experience without the Seeger anecdote however, as the style and presentation were set thirteen years ago on the back cover of the album when I sang my first song around a cam that time folk entertainment. 165 In essence, Conley expressed discontent with the way folk music had changed by the mid 1960s due to its mainstream appeal on his album Conley, as he claimed, remained true to his roots and to the roots of folk music in general by refusing to adapt elease, the Omaha Star interviewed Conley about the contemporary folk industry. Conley explained that folk music had he change just a little to sell to the public. 166 song repertoire also served as a way to validate him as an authentic folk singer at the height of the commercial folk scene On the back cover of the 1959 Folk Song Festival at Exodus i t states that Conley collected songs he Navy. 167 experiences created in the mid fifties however, does not include any mention of fol k songs. Instead, the scrapbook includes personal and professional photos of tourist 165 Conley, 166 Omaha Star August 16, 1963 HCC. 167 The Denver Post September 19, 1958, p. 39, DPL ; Folk Song Festival at Exodus ( Denver:

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50 destinati ons and women in the several countries he visited In the brief biography published on the back cover of his 1961 album, with Walt Conley it states that Conley visited New York before he deployed in the Navy to see and meet such fo 168 The short biography on the album made no mention of collecting songs in the Navy. Conley also claimed that he traveled far and wide to collect folk songs. On 1964 album, Listen What H 169 Conley did perform in Winnipeg, but any evidence of Conley travelin into Mexico has yet to be found. Conley perhaps was channeling the early folk song collectors in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who travel ed great lengths to document songs in rural communities. to collect songs, then, further sought to validate him as a genuine folk singer when popular culture and mass media appropriated folk music as the newest fad in the mid 1960s. Th e people who wrote about Conley also helped propagate his authenticity. Adina L. Rahm who wrote an excerpt on the differentiated Conley from the other folk singers at the time with the following claim : Walt has been coll ecting and singing folk songs for thi rteen years, and he has earned idely applied today, and often wrongly. In all fields there are leaders and followe rs (and copiers of both) those who warp the true thin g into a grotesque parody knows that folk music is not just a branch of entertainment (though i t is that too), but a heritage which must be preserved, respected, and passed on. 170 168 Conley, 169 Conley, Listen What 170 Conley,

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51 Like knowing Seeger and meeting Woody Guthrie, Conley used son g collecting as a status symbol for his authenticity In order to separate Conley from the rest of the folk performers at the time Rahm and the album asserted that 1) Conley was a folk singer long before the surge in national popularity, 2) he cared about the preservation of folk music heritage, and 3) he was not just another commercial entertainer. All three points a ttempt to market Conley as the where commercialism dominated. rs provide valuable observations into the popular culture climate and the folk music market 1961 show at the with the overabundance of folksingers, Conley may have trouble suggest that th is a tall barrier for many young, rising T he author suggested him make the grade in in other enterta inment fields including TV and musical comedy. 171 A nother review of Padded Cell by Will Jones of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune expressed disappointment in the show. with the old fashioned notion that the singer him, I did the only honorable thing a non 172 The reviews 171 Padded Cell, Minneapolis, July 5, 1961, HCC. 172 Minneapolis Morning Tribune June 22, 1961, HCC.

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52 embedded ness in entertainment a nd the popular folk music market and, as the reviews suggest, he needed to find ways to stand out. Conley pasted several out of town reviews in his scrapbooks that demonstrate his appeal, or lack thereof, to folk music fans and critics In the Los Angeles Times for example, a review described ed that a few songs 173 Conley, the author concluded, n to Don Crawford, a seasoned folk singer, who performed after Conley. 174 A review of a show i n Minneapolis echoed a similar critique. Conley provided an entert aining show, but his included too many off 175 These live performance s alone did not have the capacity to attain widespread notoriety. Conley then, most likely relied on marketing materials to stress his folk music credentials. gigs also included opinions of his vocal performances Ann Henry of the Winnipeg Tribune suggested his vocal performance. Henry noted 176 Harry Tuft, furthermore, echoed a similar sentiment e 173 LA Times October 2, 196 5, HCC. 174 LA Times, October 2, 1965, HCC. 175 Padded Cell, Minnea polis, Minnesota, July 5, 1961, HCC. 176 Winnipeg Tribune April 3, 1961, p. 4, HCC.

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53 177 voice then, did not d ifferentiate him as a tale nted singer Instead, Conley evidently relied on his personality, his supposed song collecting history and his Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie connections to succeed in the folk field outside of Denver. In the 1990s, Conley provided perhaps the most accu rate See ger story in an interview with Popular Fo lk Music Today Conley explained that he worked at the San Cristobal Mo untain Valley Ranch in 1950 hired to play solo gigs there, here was already The Almanac Singers collaboration, Conley noted, 178 Suggesting the validit y of his 1990s explanation does not dismiss the inherent fragilities of memory recall in oral history interviews Rather, it suggests that when his folk career ambitions were in retrospect, the Seeger story changed to a less magnified story. New Mexico, t he Progressive Party, and Communism The re are aspects of the New Mexico and Pete Seeger legend that can be proven true however P hotographs of Conley as a camp counselor at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch surrounded by children and playing a were donated to History Colorado in 2016. As camp counselor, Conley sang with the children as the photo suggests In 177 Henry Tuft, interview by Megan Friedel and author, Denver, January 2017. 178 Conley, interview by Bob, Popular Folk Music Today HCC.

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54 Music and Activism the most compressive history about the San Cristobal Valley Ranch, Smith quotes Kim Chernin, bestselling author, who visited as a child. were integral children 179 Sing My Whole Life Long 180 Smith traces the life of Jenny Vincent, fol k singer and political activist, and her husband, Craig Vincent, who she owned and operated the ranch. As political activists, during the 1948 campaign. In 1949, Jenny and Craig opened the ranch to guests from the public and h reflected their ideals of racial equality. In response Counterattack, by ex according to Smith, accused Jenny and Craig of propagating a at their ranch. Shortly there after, the national fervor of the second Red Scare fueled conspiracy theories and accusations against the ranch. In 1949, the same year that Conley worked there, the FBI investigated the ranch and suspected that it served the 181 Folk musician and composer, Earl Robinson, began working at the ranch in 1949. Robinson, 182 In Robinson autobiography Ballad of an American: The Autobiography of Earl Robinson he explained 179 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long, 71 and 84. 180 Craig Smith, and Activism ( Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 2007), 84. 181 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long 226. 182 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long ix.

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55 183 Along with Robinson, the FBI investigated Jenny and C raig Vincent and other visitors, but nevertheless the ranch remained open to leftist visitors and employees. who eventually became a successful musician and actor also stayed at the ranch Arkin hootenannies and community nights, where he joined his uncle, Jenny, and such visiting 184 Arkin also recalled that Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers visited during one of the summers. 185 verified, participated in folk music at the camp with notable singers. memories of the ranch New Mexico experiences Smith, who provides the most comprehensive h istory of the San Cristobal Valley Ranch, makes suggests that Seeger never performed at the ranch. In all of and biographies, furthermore, there is Jenny Vincent performed with Seeger at Progressive Party functions in Denver and Phi ladelphia, but there remains no record of a show at the ranch. accounts as described by Smith, then, further story. He most likely received guitar lessons from Robinson and perhaps heard Weaver material from Gilbert, but not Seeger. 183 Earl Robinson and Eric Gordon, Ballad of an American: The Autobiography of Earl Robinson (Landham, MD: Scar ecrow Press, 1998), 225. 184 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long, 84. 185 Smith, Sing my Whole Life Long 84.

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56 also provides valuable insights into his exposure to P rogressive and Communist sentiments. It was not the first place that Conley participated in or was exposed to Progressive and Communist ideology. In high school, he joined the Student Relations Club which specifically focused on issues of racial equality. He also joined American Youth for Democracy (AYD) which met near 38th and Sheridan in 1949. Two years prior, the House Un American Activities Committee (HUAC) controlled organization which has had tr agic success in spreading communism among Chicago Daily Tribune in April of 1947. 186 The University of Denver and the University of Colorado at Boulder banned the AYD 187 Conley referred to the AYD as the young adult C ommunist party in an interview with Littman in October of 1994. 188 Conley discussed his associations with the AYD, the Progressive Party, and the Communist Party U.S.A. during his interviews with Lit tman. Progressive Party and the Communist Party were forming in Denver and [were] very wing teenager or young adult and I joined these people and joined the Communist 189 190 At the time, Conley lived intermittently with families involved with the Progressive Party and it i s likely that Conley learned 186 Chicago Daily Tribune April 16, 1947, p. 18, Chicago Tribune digital archive. 187 The Christian Century April 16, 1947, p. 510, Ebscohost. 188 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2, 1994, HCC. 189 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994, HCC. 190 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994 ; Litt man, notes, December 6, 2001, HCC.

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57 about the San Cristobal ranch or sought out the camp for the very reason of its political and social ideals. Conley received contradicting opinio ns about his association with the example, scolded Conley for his attendance at the Communist meetings. 191 gang in Five Points also ridiculed him for his involvement with the Communist party Conley 192 tacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Conley, in his own words, explained his interactions with the FBI: I told them that I really didn't believe, the only thing I believed in was, you know, fighting for my rights as a colored person and that I shouldn't, you know, that I really shouldn't be with these people. And you know what the FBI did? They took I I was an informant, you know, even paid. They paid what they felt. Every once and awhile I'd meet with them and they'd give me $25. Do you know what $25 meant particularly to a guy like me? They contacted me when I was in the Navy and asked me what I knew. And they were pretty well the thing with the FBI is they were really convinced that I really didn't believe. They had pretty well read me and they knew that I was not dangerous as far as, you know, being a Communi break, I think, in life at that time, I would've walked away from, you know, even the FBI and the whole mess. I would have walked away from it because I didn't know. I spied on those people for all those years. 193 191 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994, HCC. 192 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994 HCC. 193 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994 HCC.

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58 Conley not only spied on people associated with the Progressive and Communist party, but he also lived with them. When Conley returned to Denver after his discharge from the Navy, he lived alone until Party took 194 Conley evidently capitalized on his relationships with both the FBI and the Progressive Party as he received payment for spying on the people he lived and interacted with. The FBI hired an estimated five thousand paid informants according to Jame s David i n Spying on America: T Fifteen hundred, including Conley, spied on the Communist and Progressive parties in particular. 195 It remains unclear whether or not Conley spied on members of the early folk music scene and informed the FBI of their doings but it is clear the FBI targeted folk singers and organizations throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. In Singing Out Beer and Dunaway illustrate the targeting of folk organizations the CIA, and a half 196 To demonstrate the anti Communist senti ments directed American Opinion e, but 197 The FBI 194 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994, HCC. 195 James Kirkpatrick David, Spying on America: T (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992), 30 and 49. 196 Beer and Duna way, Singing Out, 83. 197 Beer and Duna way, Singing Out, 79.

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59 scrutinized well known folk singers including Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Earl Robinson, Richard Dyer Bennett, and Oscar Brand. As a result, the accused folk singers were blac name for example, 198 The FBI also a leftist organization for folk singers and enthusiasts in the 1950s. 199 The informant often disguised themselves as volunteers at functions and would 200 went on to have 201 Harry Matusow, perhaps the most i nfamous anti Communist witness who later recanted his testimonies the same year Conley started as an informant 202 Matusow had joined AYD in 1946 and then the Communist Party U.S.A. in the following year. In 1949, Matusow worked as an 203 Matusow then became an informant in 1950 T he FBI sent Matusow to the San Cristobal Valley Ranch as an to investigate C ommunist activities. Matusow stayed for a wee k in the summer of 1950 198 Beer and Duna way, Singing Out, 84. 199 Beer and Duna way, Singing Out, 88. 200 Beer and Duna way, Singing Out, 88. 201 Beer and Duna way, Singing Out, 88. 202 Beer and Dunaway, Singing Out 83; Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long 73. 203 New Republic March 7, 1955, p. 12 14, Ebscohost.

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60 Smith explains. 204 The FBI files of Earl Robinson and Jenny and Craig Vincent, Smith notes, grew with photographs and documents provided by Matusow 205 By 1955, Matusow officially recanted his testimonies to the HUAC Conley too, ended his stint as an informant in the mid fifties. By that time, the Communist Party U.S.A. had decreased substantially in membership as David points out in Spying on America 206 In 1956, t he Supreme Court according to David, government to investigate and prosecute those it deems subversives under the 207 By the mid 1950s, HUAC completed its investigations of folk singers, but, as Beer and Dunaway suggest, Communist scourge were lasting 208 Conley, in contrast, benefited financially from the Red Scare and began his folk career with a clean record. Folk music, despite its 209 In an oral history interview with Bob Tyler of the Swallow Hill Music Association Conley acknowledged the FBI activity in Denver the late 1950s. The and the FBI would stand ou tside taking pictures and names of folk music fans at the Windsor Hotel in 1958. Conley recalled that college stude nts largely comprised the audience and not part of the so called Red Menace, they just loved folk music. 204 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long 73. 205 Smith, Sing My Whole Life Long 73. 206 David, Spying on America, 30 and 49. 207 David, Spying on America 31. 208 Beer and Duna way, Singing Out, 105. 209 Beer and Duna way, Singing Out, 106.

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61 his was in the mid 210 but not his involvement in it. It is impossible to determine whether Conley informed the FBI about his folk music companions and audience members By the time Conley performed at the Windsor in 1958 he no longer received payment as an FBI informant based on the information he told Littman As demonstrated, p lacing the Seeger legend in context allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the larger social and political climate in the 1950s. The emphasis on the Seeger story told in almost every account about Conley ultimately shifted focus away from how Conley adapted to the sociopolitical climate by turning himself in and becoming a paid FBI informant. Conley perhaps knew that the college students who attended shows at the Windsor were not Communists as he noted in an oral history because Conley had embedded himself in Denver Communist and Progressive communities. Meeting Seeger, Cisco Houst on, and Woody Guthrie, as many newspapers and his albums claimed, is much more conducive for a burgeoning folk singer who profited on singing songs of protest and struggle 211 Admitting that he participated as a spy during the Red Scare that specifically t argeted folk singers had the potential to damage 1950s and 1960s. 212 210 Bob Tyler, Folk Music Movement in Colorado, Swallow Hill Music Association Summer 1993, p. 7, HCC. 211 Barry Morrison, Denver Post November 26, 1965, p. 3 6, HCC. 212 Winnipeg Tribune April 3, 1961, p. 4, HCC

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62 Figure 4.1. Jenny Vincent, folk singer and political activist, playing guitar at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in 1949. Elizabeth Cleary Taos News Figure 4.2. Walt Conley as a camp counselor at the San Cristobal Valley Ranch in New Mexico in the summer of 1950. Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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63 Ch apter V Folk Music and Mount ain Towns The scholarship of the American folk revival focuses pr edominantly on urban places. popular folk scene however, initially emerged in mountains towns In Aspen Central City, and Georgetown, Colorado based folk performers found work in venues dedicated to the skiing and tourist crowds. established, fo lk performers often played a circuit that included Denver and the mountain towns. The mountain town Denver circuit essentially created one widespread Colorado popular folk scene. The nationwide popularity of folk music in the late 1950s and early 1960s furthermore, coincided wit ski and tourism industries. After Conley started his music career in Denver, he started to play in Geo rgetown. Bill and Annette Holmes, owners of Red Ram offered Conley an engagement at their venue after watching him perform at the Windsor in 1958 The Red Ram catered to the Loveland ski crowd and Conley soon became popular with skiers. Accor ding to Shirley Sealy, the Red Ram was a and 213 He performed there throughout 1958 and 1959 and received $20 per weekend with three hour sets. 214 first of several long term engagements in a mountain town. 213 The Denver Post September 19, 1958, p. 39, DPL. 214 Rocky Mountain News, HCC ; Conley, interview by Littman, notes, February 2, 1994, HCC.

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64 Folk Music Scene in 1940s and 1950s In 1960, Conley began performing in Aspen at the Limelite and the Red Onion. In March of 1960, Conley, along with Judy Coll ins and the Smothers Brothers, replaced the Colorado based folk group, the Limeliters named after the Aspen venue and folk singer Don Crawford. The Limeliters and Crawford were on the path to national notoriety with bookings on the west c oast. Aspen Daily Times report 215 The Limeliters formed in 1959 and consisted of Glenn Yarbrough, Alex Hassilev, and Lou Gottlieb formerly with the Gateway Singers. Yarbrough, who had moved to Aspen in t he late 1950s, eventually purchased the Limelite and hired Conley along with other Denver based folk singers at the time to play the club. The Limeliters had Aspen Daily Times reported, catapulted by an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. 216 Before the popular folk scene in Denver began to crystallize in 1959 which will be discussed in detail in the next chapter the Limelite featured folk music acts for over two years. Larry Tajiri of the The Denver Po st reported on the Limelite in 1962 and asserted that it 217 In Roots of the Revival furthermore, Cohen and Donaldson credit the Limelight, along with venues in 215 Aspen Daily Times March 4, 1960, p. 16, Colorado Historic Newspaper Collections (hereafter cited as CHNC). 216 Aspen Daily Times January 20, 1961, p. 9, CHNC. 217 Denver Post March 13, 1962, p. 34, DPL.

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65 218 The Limelite therefore reflect ed the nascent popular folk scenes of New York, Chicago, and In the summer of 1957, Yarbrough booked nationally known performers including Ma rilyn Child and Cynthia Gooding. The Aspen Daily Times reported on the opening of the Limelite in June 1957 as a venue with quality continental and American 219 The article also mentioned the performances of song artists Marilyn Child and Glenn 1957 The newspaper considered Yarbrough and Child as folk singers The two folk singers, according to the Aspen Times authenti c folk artists 220 Cynthia Gooding later joined Yarbrough at the Limelite in late July for her folk music performances according to the advertisement for the Limelite in the Aspen Daily Times 221 Yarbrough and the First Folk Music Festival in July of 1959. Yarbrough organized the four 222 Yarbrough invited Gene and Francesc o from New York, a husband and wife duo, who 218 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival 99. 219 Aspen Daily Times June 27, 1957 p. 7 CHNC. 220 Aspen Daily Times July 11, 1957, p. 16, CHNC. 221 Aspen Daily Times July 25, 1957 p. 8, CHNC. 222 Aspen Daily Times July 16, 1959 p. 16 CHNC.

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66 considered "the best interpreter of traditional singin g in the English professor John Greenaway from the Univer sity of Colorado, joined the festival along with the newly friendly aspect of the folk festival 223 Shortly after the me nightclub and began their path to national fame 224 Like the Limeliters, t he Smothers Brothers, who later became iconic folk music satirists, began their professional career in Aspen in 1959. 225 Yarbrough offered them an eigh t week engagement with a $200 a week salary with room and board according to David Bianculli in Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. 226 Aspen was due to the deep talent pool there, and the folk music tradition of swapping 227 Brothers met Judy Collins and she opened for them during their first few shows. Also hanging around, during those salad days also played and h 228 demonstrates, Yarbrough and the Limelite gave the Smothers Brothers, Judy Collins, 223 Aspen Daily Times July 16, 1959 p. 2 CHNC. 224 Aspen Daily Times July 16, 1959 p. 16 CHNC. 225 David Bianculli, Dangerously Funn y: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009), 21 and 23. 226 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny 21. 227 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny 25 26. 228 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny 27.

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67 and Conley opportunities to perform by hiring them for long term engagements and provided a space for folk singe rs to share songs. The connections Conley made during his time in Aspen proved immensely beneficial to his career. His job as the Satire manager in Denver for example, of the there especially if he could book that hot new group from Aspen, the Smothers 229 Conley also formed a group, the U.N. Trio in 1963 i n Aspen and continued to intermittently perform there until 1967. Yarbrough and the Limelite were not the first to host and promote popular folk music in Aspen. In 1947, Richard Dyer Bennett, the well established a summer school in Aspen dedicated to minstrelsy and folk music. Dyer Bennett hosted noteworthy folk song collectors and invited renowned musicians to teach at the school until it closed in 1950. 230 In Richard Dyer Bennett: The Last Minstrel, Paul Jenkins interviewed a student who attended the school. Ruthie Baker, aged seventeen at the time 231 Jenkins also explains that Dyer Bennett invited Burl Ives to perform in Aspen in 1947. 232 Co hen largely credits Ives with popularizing folk songs to a wide audience as a in the 1940s 233 In Aspen in May of 1947, 229 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny 28 230 Aspen Daily Times December 25, 1947, p. 1 CHNC. 231 Paul O. Jenkins, Richard Dyer Bennet: The Last Minstrel (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010), 58 59. 232 Jenkins, Richard Dyer Bennett 58 59 and 60. 233 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 45.

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68 I the first ever fishing festival. A review of his show in the Aspen Daily Times explained that Ives planned to return in October of that year to perform and to 234 The newspaper asserted that he 235 Ives returned to perform in Aspen again i n 1950 and 1952. The Ives example demonstrates that Aspen hosted and attracted folk musicians as early as 1947 and continued to do so throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Folk Music, Tourism, and the Ski Industry in Colorado On the same page in the Aspen Dai ly Times 1947, the newspaper reported on the growth of visitation to the Colorado. Colorado experienced and represented a rise 236 Acc ording to Annie Gilbert Coleman in Ski Style the post consumer culture and the nationwide growth of influenced places like Colorado. 237 1947 and doubled again by the mid 238 Coleman also explains that 239 By 1955, second largest construction of a highway over the Continental Divide. 240 The completion of I 70 234 Aspen Daily Times May 29, 19 47 p. 5, CHNC. 235 Aspen Daily Times May 29, 1947 p. 5, CHNC. 236 Aspen Daily Times May 29, 1947 p. 5, CHNC. 237 Annie Coleman, Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies (Lawrence, KS: Uni versity Press of Kansas, 2004), 124. 238 Coleman, Ski Style, 124. 239 Coleman, Ski Style, 124 125. 240 Coleman, Ski Style, 151.

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69 class Americans across the 241 As this section demonstrates, the expansion of tourist industries in Colorado coincided with the advent of folk music in popular culture. Yarbrough and the Limelite targeted tourists with advertisements about their folk shows starting in 1957. Less than a decade after Dyer Bennett closed his school which attracted academics and musicians of folk music the Aspen Daily Times marketed the Limelite dark meccas is Asp en Daily Times regular musical fare available to tourists by presenting top folk 242 Another front page The advertisement included a full page photo of Yarbrough and Child performing together 243 Yarbrough and the Limelite evidently followed the marketing and tourist trends apparent in Colorado at the time. Coleman and Philpott both elucidate on the growth of Philpott, for example, argues that the tourist dynamics unleashed an entirely new model of economic gro 244 Tourists visited Colorado due to the based on leisure and recreation with modern amenities and accessibility. 245 In effect, t 246 Aspen became one of those packaged locations of 241 Coleman, Ski Style, 125. 242 Aspen Daily Times July 11, 1957, p. 8, CHNC. 243 Aspen Daily Times July 25, 1957, p. 16, CHNC. 244 Philpott Vacationland 7. 245 Philpott, Vacationland 8. 246 Philpott, Vacationland 10.

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70 leisure and recreation along with offering popular entertainment. Yarbrough and the Limelite therefore aligned with the advertising agenda and marketed folk music toward tourism and consumer culture. Judy Collins worked in the tourist industry in the late 1950s. In 1958, Collins and her husband Rocky Mountain News article. 247 Collins learned how to cook on a wood s tove and served lunch to hikers. The l odge included eleven 248 The lodge represented the processes that had taken root in Colorado for tourists that made as Philpott observes, 249 Collins explained that she would sing folk songs like In the summer of 1959, Collins worked in Central City a t the Gilded Garter. 250 The Gilded Garter attracted a large tourist crowd during the summers according to a Denver Post article written in 1986 by David McQuay. McQuay explained that the owner 251 252 Conley also performed at the Gilded Garter. He because it based folk singer recalled 247 Rocky Mountain News November 21, 1959, p. 33, DPL. 248 Judy Collins interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017. 249 Philpott, Vacationland 126. 250 Hanna, Rocky Mountain News, November 21, 1959, p. 33, DPL. 251 Denver Post July 23, 1986, 1C HCC. 252 Denver Post July 23, 1986, 1C, HCC.

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71 They paid $15 a shift. It was place you knew you could work at if you needed the 253 With the Gilded Garter in Central City and the Limelite in Aspen, tourist destinations deliberately hired and promoted popular folk music in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The mountain town venues, in turn, provided paid opportunities for musicians and en tertainers wanting to make a career out of folk music. While Rocky Mountain National Park and the Gilded Garter appealed to summer tourists, the ski industry proved beneficial to wintertime tourism. industry stimulated considerable tourist numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. The Red Red Onion all catered specifically to ski crowds during the winter seasons. Like the Gilded Garter, owners of ski bars and lodges sought out folk music due to its national growth in popularity. The owners of the Red Ram opened their venue as the ski industry began to boom. In a 1962 Rocky Mountain News 254 When asked how well the business was doing, owner Bill 255 At Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, and Berthoud ski area, Red Ram employees advertised to skiers with windshield leaflets. As a result, t he Red Ram succeeded with food and alcohol sales during the weekends 256 253 Denver Post July 23, 1986, 1C, HCC. 254 Rocky Mountain News De cember 22, 1962, p. 43, DPL. 255 Rocky Mountain News December 22, 1962, p. 43, DPL. 256 Post, December 15, 1974, p. 36, HCC.

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72 and drink skier d be skier 257 Conley participated in the so called the Holmes hired him specifically to entertain the ski crowds on the weekends in 1958 and 1959. The growing popularity of folk music coincided with the improved ski technologies. T he improved ski technologies, as Coleman elucidates, attracted many more people to try skiing. lodges to accentuate the attractive aspects of that experience and simultaneously make it accessible 258 259 Promoting f olk music in the evenings there fore served to keep skiers and tourists entertained and spending money. Folk Singers as Skiers Skiers as Folk Singers Bob Gibson, a dominant figure in the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, helped promote the popularity of folk music and skiing. In 1959, Gibson released Ski Songs on the Elektra labe co written with Carole Bender, Ski Songs 260 Gibson wrote the album in Aspen I loved to ski, and I would spend all day long on the slopes and then sing every night to support myself and my family 257 Rocky Mountain News December 22, 1962. 258 Coleman, Ski Style, 126. 259 Coleman, Ski Style, 152 and 142. 260 Bob Gibson and Carole Bender, I Come For To Sing : The Stops Along the Way of a Folk Music Legend (Minneapolis: Firebird Press, 2001), 77.

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73 in the ski lodges. 261 Ya rbrough offered Gibson many gigs at the Limelite and recorded a Ski Songs of Ski Songs was a success. The Chad Mitchell Trio also covered which made the Top 40 in 1962. 262 The success of Ski Songs evidently helped to expose a wider public to skiing through a folk music album. According to Tariji of The Denver Post number of other folksingers to t 263 Ski Songs may not have been a concerted marketing effort, but it certainly helped Public Relations, however, directly advertised folk music during a promotional film entitled Colora do Skis released in 1962. The film illuminates the many Colorado ski areas and includes the nightlife and cuisine available in Aspen at the Limelite and Red Onion The video shows clips of the Limelite with people around tables singing with arms around eac h other The following excerpt accompanies the depiction of entertainment at the Limelite: Skiing is more than mountains and snow for it is peopl e too. Its friendship and good fellowship. Here in the Colorado Rockies gathers the brotherhood of the world o n skis for a day, a week, a lifetime. The nights might include some lively dancing or perhaps a more quiet cabaret show of music with so me fun added in. Entertainment is varied and there certain to be something for every and food to please t he g ourmet. 264 261 Gibson and Bender, I Come For To Sing 76. 262 Gibson and Bender, I Come For To Sing 77. 263 Denver Post March 13, 1962, p. 34, DPL. 264 Colorado Skis directed by Hal Haney (United Film Industries and Colorado Department of Public Relations 1962), 16mm, from HCC, YouTube video, accessed February 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoAflaCeKp8

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74 The promotional film explicitly ties recreation, leisure based amenities, gourmet food, Conley also participated in the popular integration of skiing and folk music. In an er performs at ski 265 In the mid sixties, furthermore, Conley had long House. In the Illustrated Aspen News deserved m 266 In the 1960s, folk singing and skiing became increasingly intertwined in Colorado Paul and Keith Wegema n, for example, exemplify the skiers turned folk singers. The Wegeman brothers were born in Denve r, attended the University of Denver, and both participated in the 1952 Olympics. Paul participated in the Nordic Megan Friedel of History Colorado. 267 Paul and Keith released a folk album, Gentlemen Skiers : Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers in 1960. Gentlemen Skiers included picturesque photos of mountains and skiers. The back cover featured join us in song and take your first giant 265 enter Campus, November 2, 1960, HCC. 266 Illustrated Aspen News (vol. 1, no. 4), January 7, 1965, HCC. 267 Megan Friedel, e mail message to author, March 4, 2017.

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75 step across the snow covered mountains where you, too, may be captivated by the most irresistible 268 The album ostensibly sought to share the thrill and beauty of skiing with a folk music audience. of the mountains and a language all their own, album s tated skiers sing of their true love The album also demonstrated the dominant gender stereotypes of the late 1950s and 1960s that pervaded both skiing and folk music. Another answer to the question of the following language : B ecause gallantry demands their attention to elegant ladies, and this most popular winter sport is like a spirited damsel in more ways than the sound of her name she. She is so captivating and graceful as to lure the heart of any aristocrat. Like any woman she provides mystery and paradox in the romance. 269 ociali zing with members of the opposite sex was practically required in [the ski] culture 270 Increasingly, Coleman argues, ski advertisements An article in the Rocky Mountain News e xemplified the very processes that Coleman observes Folk front page of the Weekend Living section in February of 1965 The article primarily provided a celebratory and humorous description of a day on the Breckinridge ski 268 Paul and Keith Wegemen, Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers (Raynote Records, 269 Paul and Keith Wegemen, Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers, 270 C The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing p. 589.

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76 slopes with the Back Porch Majority, a nationally popular folk group. Pat Hanna, the performance on the s noted that one of the male musicians had broken an ankle on his la was the most determined 271 The folk singers perhaps played along as inept skiers for the sake o f humor, but the article also demonstrates the gendered ski culture as Hanna focused on what the female skiers wore. Hanna labeled one of the female group members as a provides insights into how skiing and folk music had shift ed into mainstream popularity with a predominantly white, middle to upper class culture. 272 easily recognizable ski culture built on beauty, fashion, leisure, health, and 273 In Ski Style Coleman sheds considerable light on the increased elitism of ski culture n an increasingly wealth lowest jobs managed to 274 Ski distinguishing themselves from the 275 271 Rocky Mountain News, February 27, 1965 p. 49, DPL. 272 Rocky Mountain News, February 27, 1965 p. 49, DPL. 273 C The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing p. 589. 274 Coleman, Ski Style, 173. 275 Coleman, Ski Style, 173 and 176.

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77 Oscar Brand, a widely acclaimed folk singer in the 1950s and 1960s, released an album on Elektra Records in 1963 with the backup singers and musicians, the Ski Bums. album, A Snow Job f or Skiers : Ribal d Songs for the Stretch Pants Set exemplified the gendered aspects of ski culture and accentuated the archetypal ski bum as a popular her that skiing with no sex involved in nothing but cold, 276 On the back cover, Brand explained that the album was sparked by his Ski Songs propagated as pects of the ski culture and disseminated them to a wide audience. Whereas Brand used the ski bum archetype to sell albums, Harry Tuft, who later open ed the Denver Folklore Center in 1962, exemplified the real life ski bum. After visiting Colorado in 196 0 from his home state of Pennsylvania, Tuft decided to try ski Rocky Mountain News article. 277 The Holy Cat in Georgetown first hire d Tuft. Westword his first real, paying job. He earned $30 a week, room and board, and a ski 278 Tuft met Hal Neustaedter, a major funder of folk music in Denver, at the Holy Cat. 276 Oscar Brand, A Snow Job f or Skiers : Ribald Songs for the Stretch Pants Set (Elektra: New York, 1963), Senios Skiing August, 8, 2014, accessed February 2017, http://www.seniorsskiing.com/skiing songs sixties/ 277 Rocky Mountain News April 27, 1963, p. 47, DPL. 278 Julie Hutchinson Westword vol. 6, issue 14, Marc h 10, 1983, p. 3, DPL.

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78 Folklore Center in New York w h ere kids could develop an interest in folk music. I was 279 Tuft left Georgetown and moved on to the Berthoud Pass Lodge where he was able to perform folk music. After the ski season, Tuft relocated to Aspen for three months before heading to California in the summ er of 1961. 280 When Tuft returned to Colorado in 1962, he opened the DFC and started a successful career in the folk music industry. As the folk scenes in on the East and West coast grew increasingly commercialized and tourist oriented, Colorado became a Tuft and Weissman The other hubs of folk music, New York, Chicago, and California, soon became too expensive and touristy for folk musicians and entrepreneurs. Colorado cheap rents, cheap dive bars, according to Alan Prendergast of Westword 281 Colorado evidently offered opportunities described by Philpott in Vacationlan d Colorado, as Philp vacation like lifestyle full 282 also a career in folk music. Tuft also represented the demographics of the majority of skiers and folk music enthusiasts. Young, white, and middle to upper class Americans powered the popular folk revival in the late 1950s and 1960s and consumed popular culture including 279 Hutchinson Westword vol. 6, issue 14, March 10, 1983, p. 3, DPL. 280 Malkoski, The Denver Folk Music Tradition 19. 281 How Renick Stevenson Survived the Wild Beat Scene and Helped Transform Denver Westword November 8, 2016, accessed February 2017, http://www.westword.com/arts/how renick stevenson survived the wild beat scene and helped transform denver 8482389 282 Philpott, Vacationland, 10.

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79 Ski Songs A Snow Job for Skiers The same demographics were also able to vacation as tourists and skiers. The mountain towns capitalized on both industries with concerted efforts to market folk music to skiers and tourists. Performing in ski areas and tourist destinations enabled folk singers from Colorado or temporarily living in Colorado to make a living. In a sense, Colorado based folk singers profited from the tourist industries just as the tourist industries profited off folk music in the 1950 s and 1960s.

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80 Figure 4.1. Advertisement for the Limelite, Aspen Daily Times March 11, 1960, Colorado Historic Newspapers. Figure 4.2. Walt Conley singing at the Abbey in Aspen, Aspen Times 1963, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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81 Figure 5 .4 Gentlemen Skiers: Ski Songs by the Wegeman Brothers, collection. Figure 5.3. Ski Songs: Sung by Bob Gibson Figure 5 .5. A Snow Job for Skiers by Oscar Brand

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82 Chapter V I The Popular Folk Music Boom in Denver and Boulder The popular folk scenes in Denver and Boulder emerged in the late 1950s. Folk performers based in Denver often played in Boulder and Boulder based folk and Denver provides insights into where the scene s started, who was involved, and how the scenes changed throughout the 1960s. As an early participant, Conley experienced many shifts as folk music moved from the periphery to the forefront of pop ular culture by the early to mi d 1960s. Hal Neustadter financially sparked the popular folk scene in Denver as an investor and proprietor. Neustaedter used the mountain town circuit to recruit both Tuft and Conley to his Denver endeavors. for example, Neustaedter invited Conley to try out for his new folk club, Little Bohemia. Little Bohemia was located nea r 38 th and Lipan in Denver. After auditioning, Neustaedter offered Conley a position at the venue for $20 per day. 283 Neustaedter also hired Judy Collins at Little Bohemia in 1959. Neustaedter later sold the Little Bohemia to Louis Constant to pursue other f olk venue options The Little Bohemia, according to Fritz, and the 284 mplifies the conflation of the b by the media. I n smaller cities like Denver the two scenes did often emerge together 285 In bigger cities like New York and Chicago, however, the 283 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, October 2, 1994, HCC. 284 285 Cohen and Petrus, Folk City 31; Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 81 82.

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83 Beats and the folkniks were distinct subcultures Cohen, in Rainbow Quest differentiates the b eatniks from the folkniks. bebop, and hard drugs, and the folkniks would sit around on the floor and sing songs of the oppressed masses 286 Despite their differences, th e mainstream media grouped the b eatniks and folkniks together as a bohemian counterculture. Denver served as a special place for the early beatniks. Neal Cassady, the On the Road grew up in Denver and met Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in road trip in the late 1 940s that became the basis for his novel, Kerouac stopped many times in Denver to visit Cassady. Kerouac frequented Five Points at the same time when a ran 287 Kerouac published On the Road el appealed to a widespread audience. In A Nation of Outsiders 288 The novel appealed to young, white Americans and prompted a young Bob Dylan living in Minnesota to visit Denver as a folk singer. In Chronicles, Volume One Dylan stated: I suppose what I was looking for was what I read about in On the Road looking for the great city, looking for the speed, the sound of it, looking for what Allen Ginsburg had called the 'hydrogen jukebox world.' Folk music was a reality of a more brilliant dimension. It exceeded all human understanding, and if it called out to you, you could d isappear and be sucked into it. 289 286 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 108. 287 Conley, interview by Littman, m icrocassette, January 3, 1994, HCC. 288 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders, 82 289 Bob Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One (New York, Simon and Schuster, 2004), p. 235 236; Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 147.

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84 Dylan therefore combined re exemplified class Americans sought to escape popular culture 290 2002. When Conley started as a folk singer in the late 1950s, racial strife permeated the and oppressed populations. By the early 1960s, folk music moved out of the countercultural underground and burst into popular culture and mainstream media. 291 The white, middle coffeehouses not only accepted Conley, but celebrated and encouraged him. As Conley understood it, his blackness was an asset. No t everyone enjoyed and emulated the Denver b eatniks however. A September 1959 article in the Rocky Mountain News provided a spiteful and sarcastic r eview of the Exodus Gallery Bar, a folk music venue. around in t he smoky half light, refilling their beer glasses from steel buckets and trying Whearly described Conley as husky Negro in tight blue breeches and ragtag shi r t 290 Hale, A Nation of Outsiders 4. 291 Walt Conley, interview by Joann Littman, notes, August 23 2002 HCC.

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85 292 The article represents the mainstream reaction to the Beatnik scene. As Weissman noted in his e xcerpt about the Denver poli ce 293 Conley encountered the police on a few occasions. His folk music performances often took place in bars and Conley frequently f In his interviews with Littman, he told stories of bar fights and alcohol issues. The bartender at Little Bohemia invited Conley to perform at a bar, the Last Resort on South Broadway. According to Conley, the venue cat ered to two diverse crowds: working class men from the Gates Rubber factory in the early evenings and college students by between the two factions. Conley said that he threw a shot glass at a man who yelled appear on the docket by happenstance. Inst ead, Conley was only fined $20 for disturbing the peace. 294 Conley stopped performing at the Last Resort after the brawl. Conley started to regularly app ear at folk venues in Denver and Boulder. Judy Collins, who was also starting her folk career, played at the same clubs. new folk venue, Exodus Catacombs and Gallery Bar at 1999 Lincoln, opened in August of 1959, Collins and Conley both signed a one year contract. Collins and Conl ey each 292 Rocky Mountain News September 6, 1959, p. 2, DPL. 293 Weissman, Which Side Are You On?, 120. 294 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, December 6, 2001, October 2, 1994, and February 8, 2001, HCC.

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86 received a six month headline. The Exodus soon became the hub for folk music in Denver and hosted its first Folk Song Festival in December of 1959. A ccording to Collins, the Exodus was the 295 Collins and Conley appear ed on the album, Folk Song Festival at Exodus released soon after the event. 296 By 1962, college campuses in Colorado hosted multiple folk music performers and festivals which demonstrated that young, middle to upper class college students fueled the popular folk revival. According to music critic, Larry Tariji of the Denver Post 297 The University of Colorado at Boulder had a vibrant folk music scene in particular In 1959, for example, the University of Colorado at Boulder yearbook noted that an increas folk singing 298 In the 1960 and 1961 yearbooks, furthermore, multiple pictures of banjos and guitars started to appear in the photos. picking could still be found any sunny afternoon the early 1960s in Boulder. 299 Conley, Judy Collins, and the Limeliters frequently performed in Boulder on Pub, the Huddle, and the Attic in the lat e 1950s and early 1960s. 295 Cohen and Donaldson, Roots of the Revival, 148. 296 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, February 2, 1994, HCC. 297 Denver Post March 13, 1962, p. 34, DPL. 298 University of Colorado Boulder, yearbook, 1959, Norlin Library Yearbook Collection. 299 University of Colorado Boulder, yearbook, 1962, Norlin Library Yearbook Collection.

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87 and participatory folk music was a success in the Boulder college student scene. 300 Tariji of The Denver Post 301 business po tentials of the folk music industry and hired Lingo the Drifter, another local folk performer, to manage his club. Lingo and Sugarman changed the name to the Satire Lounge to reflect the change to folk music. Blade Bibber of the Rocky Mountain News furthe has spread like wildfire in Denver. And one of the reasons in the performance of Lingo the Drifter 1959. 302 Sugarman began to dislike style and attitude Sugarman then asked Conley t o manage the Satire 303 Conley broke his contract at Exodus and accepted the Satire management offer. Lingo Red Ram, Exodus, and then the Satire. Despite their inimical relationship, Conley fifties during his 1993 oral history interview with Bob Tyler from Swallow Hill Music Association. 304 300 Denver Post November 28, 2003, HCC. 301 Denver Post March 13, 1962, p. 34, DPL. 302 Rocky Mountain News December 18 1959, microfilm, p. 100, DPL. 303 Conley, interview by Bob, Popular Music Today HCC. 304 Swallow Hill Music Association Summer 1993 p. 7, HCC.

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88 As mana ger at the Satire, Conley quickly booked the up and coming Smothers Brothers who m Conley had met at the Limelight in Aspen. Sugarman offered Conley and 305 The Smothers Brothers, 306 While Conley was manager in the summer of 1960, a young Bob Dylan, discussed in detail in the next chapter, arrived in Denver Conley managed the Satire until Neu staeder lured the Smothers Brothers back to the feelings by offering the folk singer a chance to open for the popular siblings. No longer tied to a single venue, the vetera n performer sought the best opportunities in a competitive market, shifting between clubs in pursuit of the highest bidder, while Throughout the early 1960s, Conley appear ed regularly at venues in Den ver and Boulder. He appeared with Dean Reed, a Colorado musician who was gaining international fame, in 1961. 307 the third annual folk festival in 19 61 at Exodus represented his central role in Denver folk scene 308 In 1962, however, the Denver scene started to change significantly. Harry Tuft Denver Folklore Center (DFC) opened that year and quickly became a gathering place of folk enthusiasts and musicians. The DFC represented a more traditional app roach to 305 Conley, interview by Littman, notes, December 6, 2001, HCC. 306 Bianculli, Dangerously Funny 28. 307 Denver Post, August 25, 1961, p. 24, DPL Denver Post July 26, 1961, p. 28, DPL 308 Denver Post July 26, 1961, p. 28, DPL.

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89 folk music that stood in contrast to the pervasive commercial folk music that Conley performed. 309 Artists such as Tuft and Dick Weissman had fled the increasingly tourist oriented folk scenes in New York and California in search of smaller populati ons and a more manageable costs of living. Boasting both amenities, Denver emerged as an appealing city f or folk music traditionalists. The DFC garnered much attention throughout the early to mid 1960s for booking national touring acts. Yet Conley never p erformed there. In 1962, the folk music boom had exploded in Denver and Boulder as evidenced by the increase in folk performers, venues and the formation of the DFC Denver Post in March of 1962. Larry Tajiri 310 The article mentioned the national celebrities who shaped Colorado Judy Collins, Lingo the Drifter, the Limeliters, Bob Gibson, and the Smothers Brothers Conley failed to make the list. r egularly covered performances of local acts such as the Limelighters, Judy Collins, and the Serendipity Singers at Red Rocks and elsewhere. Meanwhile, their performances at played records were turning many lo cal stars into national sensations. 311 But even as several local performers achieved national 309 Harry Tuft, interview by Megan Friedel, Denver, January 2017. 310 Larry Tajiri, Denver Post March 13, 1962, p. 34, DPL. 311 Tarjiri, Denver Post May 18, 1964, p. 10 DPL

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90 campus and coffee house circuit, traveling to more than a dozen cities in 1963 al one. His performances received uneven reviews, and his one shot at national television abruptly cancelled. 312 Public versus Personal Life In the early 1960s, Conley was adve 313 With such language, Conley evidently appealed to audiences looking for authentic folk experiences, but it doing so, he also capitalized on the persona in the process. Con ley acknowledged this dichotomy in a 314 As the distinction between traditional authenticity and commercial imitation in folk music was While Conley was performing in Minnesota, his girlfriend at the time, Jackie, gave birth to his second child, Troy. Conley must have m after er own while Walt followed his 315 At his celebration of life ceremony, it was mentioned that Conley excited when his son, Troy, was born in 1964, and he knew that he had 312 Omaha Star vol. 26, no. 5, August 16, 1963, HCC; Donaldson, 133 134. 313 The Winnipeg Tribune, April 3, 1961, HCC ; Omaha Hootenanny, concert advertis ement, 1963, HCC. 314 Omaha Star August 16, 1963, Walt Conley Collection, HCC. 315 2003, HCC.

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91 several other children with other women he loved, but he 316 persona and his personal life. The public and the private seem to have been blurred on audiences while simultaneously experiencing fraught relationships with the women and children in his life. 317 waned. The Exodus, for example, stopped booking folk acts and, with new management, started to book rock and psychedelic rock acts. The College Inn in Denver continued to book Conley until 1969, but did not maintain a steady following as the Satire and Exodus had in the early 1960s. 318 The late 1 Nellhaus of the Denver Post wrote, but De 319 In response to the waning popular of folk music and not interested in the traditional side of folk music, Conley made a career move. In a 1969 Denver Post 320 Conley then pursued an acting career in Hollywood throughout the 1970s. 316 M HCC. 317 The Winnipeg Tribune, April 3, 1961, HCC ; Conley, interview by Littman notes, August 23, 2002, July 23, 2003, April 2, 1994, and De cember 6, 2001. 318 Denver Post October 31, 1969, p. 43, HCC. 319 The Denver Post, February 2, 1972, p. 15, DPL. 320 Denver Post October 31, 1969, p. 43, HCC.

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92 Colorado Center. Figure 6.2. Conley performing with Smothers Brothers at the Exodus, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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93 Figure 6.3. Walt Conley with Hal Neustaedter, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. Figure 6.4. Advertisement for the Exodus, Walt Conley and Judy Collins, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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94 Boulder, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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95 Figure 6 .7. Advertisement, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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96 Figure 6.8. Walt Conley, acting press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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97 Chapter V I I From 1983 to 1987, Conley owned a venue dedicated to folk music of the mid twentieth century. Conley nam ed the 1984 Rocky Mountain News article. In the same article, Conley described his venue as a c that takes you back to the days of yesteryear Peter, Paul and 321 With the Seeger and Dylan references to entice customers, Conley promoted the very connections that defined the most legendary stories about his career. Nostalgia for the folk revival and promoting his not only in the 1960s, but also in the 1 980s. In the Denver Post 322 Conley invited patrons to relive the folk revival, but he was also doing something else. With Conley Nostalgia, Conley was harkening back to his own career successes in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the mid 1960s, as Conley explained to Bill Husted of The Denver Post 323 continuous Rocky Mountain News 324 To supplement his 321 Rocky Mountain News July 6, 1984, DPL. 322 Denver Post, May 17, 1986, p. 10B, HCC. 323 Rocky Mountain News July 6, 1984, DPL. 324 Rocky Mountain News May 9, 1975, p. 103 and 104, HCC

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98 acting income, Conley began performing at Holiday Inn lounges and clubs around the 325 contextualized it is evident that Conley essentially re created the time period when his notoriety and fo lk career were arguably at its peak. Conley was not alone in capitalizing on memories of the folk revival however. reflected larger trends in what Denver Post journalist Bill Husted called the of the 1980s. 326 In 1985, for example, the Newport Folk Providence Journal as its 327 The magazine, Sing Out!, the seminal magazine about traditional and contemporary folk music of the 1950s and struggling in the 1970s. 328 Television networks also started to feature folk musici ans from the 1960s in the Rocky Mountain News suggested and scheduled a Smothers Brothers reunion show in 1988. 329 e viewers and 325 Rocky Mountain News July 6, 1984, DPL. 326 Rocky Mountain News July 6, 1984, DPL. 327 Providence Journal, HCC. 328 Cohen, Rainbow Quest 287. 329 Rocky Mountain News, January 15, 1988, p. 32 W, HCC.

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99 Weissman in Which Side Are You On? 330 national trend of commoditizing nostalgia. The Bob Dylan Legend The 1980s ma received renewed interest. 331 fame. 332 In the interviews with Harry Tuft and Judy Collins, for example, the Bob Dylan story came up soon after they were asked about Conley. 2016 to corresp 333 The article mentioned Conley and his interactions with Dylan. The Dylan legend, like the Seeger story, received much attention after the event took place. Before the 1980s, however, the interactions between Dylan and Conley had yet to be published. 1960 Denver experience first appeared in Anthony Bob Dylan: An Intimate Biography in 1971, but made no mention of Conley. 334 The Denver story and Conley in particular appeared No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan Dylan: A 330 Weissman, Which Side Are You On ? 287. 331 Westword, June 15, 2016, Westword June 14, 2012, http://www.westword.com/ music/twenty fabled moments in denver music 11 bob dylan crashed in the mile high city 1960 5712891. 332 Westword, June 15, 2016, nts in Denver music: #11: Bob Dylan crashed in Westword June 14, 2012, http://www.westword.com/music/twenty fabled moments in denver music 11 bob dylan crashed in the mile high city 1960 5712891. 333 ob Colorado Public Radio December 9, 2016, accessed December 10, 2016, https://www.cpr.org/news/story/that time bob dylan was run out of denver. 334 Anthony Scaduto, Bob Dylan: An Intimate Biography (Castle Books, 1972), 37 a nd 48.

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100 Biography first published in 1988. 335 The Denver Post first reported on the story in 1986 and it has continued to be of interest to the public a s evidenced by popular history articles in Westword In 1986, David McQuay of the Denver Post published an articl Conley and Dave Hamil, a Denver musician who also interacted with Dylan, each told the s 336 It has been 337 Colorado visit, therefore, tells a slightly different story by exaggerating, blurring, or omitting certain particulars. With the variations aside, it is clear that Conley and Dylan had an interesting and fraught encounter. Conley lived in a house at 1736 East 17th Avenue which served as 338 Dylan stayed there and received poor reviews from the audience and the Smothers Brothers after his Satire performance. The Smothers Brothers lived with Conley at the time and, a ccording to Branculli, biographer of the Smothers Brothers, 339 Tom and Dick Branculli also at the time, would have been nineteen years old, a totally 335 Robert Shelton, No Direction Home (New York: William Morrow, 1986), 64; Bob Spitz, Dylan: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1991), 102 109. 336 Denver Post July 23, 1986, 1C, HC C. 337 Denver Post July 23, 1986, 1C HCC. 338 Conley, interview by Bob, Popular Folk Music Today HCC. 339 Branculli, Dangerously Funny 28 29.

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101 unknown and scruffy out of towner, so he may have flown beneath the radar of the 340 Despite the poor rev iews from the audience and t he supposed bad reviews from As a result, Conley recommended Dylan to the owner of the Gilded Garter in Central City. 341 342 No Direction Home out over a girl they both were after 343 McQuay in contrast, reported that Dylan stole he two. 344 said in an oral history interview with Popular Folk Music Today 345 Conley and Hamil noticed records missing They accused Dylan, who had rented a hotel room downtown, of stealing them. Once the police arrived to settle the matter, Dylan allegedly tossed the records out the Coast, 346 In his interview with Popular Folk Music Today tion of the interactions implied that he h 340 Branculli, Dangerously Funny, 28 29. 341 Conley, interview by Bob, Popular Folk Music Today HCC. 342 Spitz, Dylan, 106. 343 Shelton, No Direction Home 64. 344 Denver Post July 23, 1986, 1C, HCC. 345 Conley, interview by Bob, Popular Folk Musi c Today HCC. 346 Conley, interview with Bob, Popular Folk Music Today HCC.

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102 talent even with the poor reviews. 347 Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan then famous Bob 348 As the slight differences in the primary and secondary sources demonstrate, the events of the story are muddled depending on the perspective. Conley was interviewed multiple times about t he Bob Dylan story in the 1980s yet to be found. When the story had renewed interest from Dylan biographers and Denver journalists over two decades after it originally hap pened, Conley emphasized his role in visit memory and master narratives of the 1960 s folk revival movement, it is likely that Conley wanted to insert his role into the popular memory of folk music. Conley emphasized the Dylan connection and modified its telling to suit his role in it. Reiterating that Conley gave a young, undiscovered Dylan his first gig in Denver like the Pete Seeger legend, in the local and national folk music history. Those who hav e sought to accentuate local ties to a music superstar and used Conley as one of the major connections. In doing so, Conley and those who have published the story in local ne wspapers and magazines have participated in the construction of a local legend that 347 Denver Post July 23, 1986, 1C, HCC. 348 Howard Sounes, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan (New York: Grove Press, 2001), 67.

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103 Bob Dylan connection, it is clear that personal and commodified exaggerations have

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104 Figure 7.1. Walt Conley, press photo, Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center.

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105 CHAPTER VIII Cultural Herita ge As a folk preservation and heritage of folk songs. On his 1964 album, it states that that folk music is not just a branch of entertainment (though it is tha t, too), but a 349 Conley ostensibly participated in the preservation of American heritage through his folk singing as his album asserted. The popular folk revival of the 1960s, however, appropriate d nostalgic heritage and in interviews from the 1960s. In Reds, Whites, Blues: Social Movements, Folk Music, and Race Roy William asserts that the popular folk revival ultimately reverted to its a division between performance and audience, most often mediated by 350 Through m ass media and popular culture of the 1960s the popular folk revival essentially defined its legacy while it was happening Folk musicians and promoters publicized folk music as the vanguard of the preservation and dissemination of American heritage through folk songs. Conley directly participated in the dis In 1959, Conley appeared on The Colorado Story released ts foundation as a frontier, Gold Rush settlement to 349 Conley, 350 Roy, William. Reds, Whites, Blues: Social Movements, Folk Music, and Race in the United States Princeton University: Princeton, NJ, 2010, 232.

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106 351 Conley repeatedly sings 352 The Colorado 353 In 1961, furthermore, Co nley served as the musician and narrator in Stan Brakhage s short film, Colorado Legend The film was funded by the Colorado State Department of Public Relations. 354 The film offered a mythological rendering of owns with a tragic story about immigrant miners. H istorian William Philpott explains that the s to the state. 355 frontier past. 356 heritage used for promoting tourism. 351 Conley, Colorado Story (Denver: Band Box Records, 1959), Colorado Legend directed by Stan Brakhage ( Western Cine and Colorado Department of Public Relations, 1960), 16mm, from HCC, YouTube video, accessed November 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= 0PKVsuyAtA 352 Conley, The Colorado Story 353 Conley, The Colorado Story 354 Colorado Legend directed by Stan Brak hage ( Western Cine and Colorado Department of Public Relations, 1960), 16mm, from HCC, YouTube video, accessed November 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= 0PKVsuyAtA 355 Philpott, Vacationland 72. 356 Philpott, Vacationland 72.

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107 example, are seemingly scene as evidenced by their continued popularity in local newspapers and magazines. When I first set out to determine why Conley had largely been l eft out of the narratives commercial imitator. While I was sifting through the archival boxes and the seemingly countless primary sources, I realized how many fans and friends Conley had connected with during his life and their real admiration for Conley. I quickly realized that determining whether Conley was authentic or inauthentic would be a fruitless debate because Conley evidently made people feel as if they were experienci ng authenticity throughout his entertainment career It is clear that he was a talented entertainer and that his contribution to the early folk scene is undeniable. provided insight into his complicated legacy however As Conley a nd Littman discussed the direction of his biography Conley described how he thought he was perceived by others: There are people who look at me, you know, as an e ntertainer and a talent and an actor and a singer. And there are people who looked as the, y ou know, the playboy, fucking everything. There were women who looked at me as, you know, as I guess a sex emblem of some kind. There were men who couldn't stand me because they thought that I was fucking more people than I ever even thou ght of you know. T here were, I guess, people who respected me because I was a pioneer. 357 Conley and Littman were concerned with the future readers of the biography and 357 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994, HCC.

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108 successes were not enoug h to attract a large audience. Conley wanted to add the salacious details to attract a wide readership. Littman, on the other hand, asserted that 358 And rightfully so. His name does come u even appear s at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in Morrison, Colorado, but as a supporting figure in seems, the more his name and career are included in folk music narratives. This inclusion, however, has already been and perhaps will continue to be focused on the most legendary and mythical aspects of his career as opposed to a realistic interpretation. Conley is slated to be included in History inclusion of Conley without the accentuated legendary connections to famous folk icons and based instead on his folk career merits folk music history. 358 Conley, interview by Littman, microcassette, January 3, 1994, HCC.

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109 BIBLIOGRAPHY Rocky Mountain News Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado Center. Beer, Molly and David King Dunaway. Singing Out: An Oral Music Revivals. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Bianculli, David. Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009. Cantwell, Robert. When We Were Good: The Folk Revival. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1996. Cohen, Ronald. Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival & American Society Boston: University of Massachusetts, 2002. Cohen, Ronald. The Basics: Folk Music New York: Routledge, 2006. Cohen, Ro nald and Rachel Clare Donaldson. Roots of the Revival: American and British Music in the 1950s Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2014. Cohen, Ronald and Stephen Petrus. New York and the American Folk Music Revival New York: Oxford University, 2015. Coleman Annie Gilbert. Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2004. The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing Pacific Historical Review vol. 65, no. 4, Tourism and the American West (November 1996): 583 614. Conley, Walt. Interview with Bob. Popular Folk Music Today Walt Conley Collection, History Colorado. Conley, Walt, interviews by Joann Littman. Walt Conley Colle ction, History Colorado Center, Denver. Conley, Walt. Ballad of a Walking Pos tman Chicago : All American Records, 1963. Conley, Walt. Colorado Story Denver: Band Box Records, 1959. Conley, Walt. Folk Song Festival at Exodus Denver: Sky Lark Recording, 1959. Conley, Walt. Minneapolis, MN: Studio City Rec ords, 1964. Conley, Walt. Denver: Western Cine Records, 1961.

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110 David, James Kirkpatrick. Program Westword, CT : Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992. DeTurk, David an d A. Poulin, Jr., editors. The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival New York: Dell Publishing, 1967. Donaldson, Rachel Clare. Philadelphia: Temple University, 2014. Donaldson, Identity, 1930 August 2016. Dylan, Bob. Chronicles: Volume One New York, Simon and Schuster, 2004. Filene, Benjamin. Rom ancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2000. Westword November 16, 2016, accessed November 18, 2016, h ttp://www.westword.com/music/walt conley grandfather of denver folk celebrated at waltfest 8502603. Washington Street Media November 16, 2016, p. 4, http://www.washingtonstreetmedia .com/. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxET9aWJb_A&feature=youtu.be. Gibson, Bob and Carole Bender. Bob Gibson: I Come For To Sing : The Stops Along the Way of a Folk Music Legend. Minneapolis: Firebird Press, 2001 New Republic. March 7, 1955, p. 12 14. Rocky Mountain News 16B, November 19, 2016, accessed May 2016, Denver Public Library Western History Microfilm Newspaper Collection. Hale, Grace Elizabeth. A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America New York: Oxford University, 2011. singing troubadour cor Rocky Mountain News July 6, 1984, accessed March 2016, Denver Public Library Western History Microfilm Newspaper Collection. Jenkins, Paul O. Richard Dyer Bennet: The Last Minstrel Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 20 10.

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