Throughout most conversations he has these days, longtime Denver concert promoter Barry Fey enjoys the chance to relive his countless relationships with music industry icons.
Want to hear about Mick Jagger and Keith Richards? No problem. Dealing with Bruce Springsteen? Sure. Diana Ross, U2, the Who, Ozzy Osbourne? Just sit back and listen to the man known as "Rockfather."
What about his memories of Colorado Springs? Well, they're not in his new book, Backstage Past, but ask and you'll find that the rambunctious Fey has a humble side.
"One of my earliest shows, about 2,000 years ago, was bringing [San Francisco band] Blue Cheer to the City Auditorium there," Fey says of a 1968 booking. "They sold out, but that was a dangerous place to do Blue Cheer. They were so loud, they even set off the alerts in the mountain at NORAD. Let's just say it was a less-than-dainty introduction for Colorado Springs into the psychedelic era."
Through his next three decades of staging mega-concerts in Colorado and, most notably, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Fey was always aware that a healthy chunk of his paying customers were making the drive north on Interstate 25.
"We always knew that we would get a good 10, 11 or 12 percent of our crowds from the Springs," Fey says. "And the Acme Ticket Co. there, which was run by a guy named Art Chambers, was the first ticket company we used."
In fact, Fey recalls a very low-tech strategy in those days for distributing concert tickets.
"My first wife and I would drive to the Springs to pick up the tickets at Acme," Fey says. "We'd put our kid in the carseat, get the tickets at 8 a.m., and start taking them to music stores. I remember our first stop in the Springs was always a place called Miller Music. We'd drop off tickets there, go to places in Denver, over to Boulder and then up to Fort Collins, where we'd finish the day. That was how our ticket distribution worked, even for a lot of the huge shows."
Fey was jealous of the Springs for one unusual reason — fried chicken.
"I never could believe it that your city got Popeyes chicken before we did in Denver," he says. "So whenever I was down there, I would load up. And I made sure that whenever [longtime radio station manager] Lou Mellini of KILO was coming up this way, he would bring me Popeyes."
As much as Fey's adult life and business focused on music, he says he feels proudest of bringing oldtimers baseball games to Denver's former Mile High Stadium in 1983 and 1984, drawing crowds of more than 50,000 to see the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and many others. Denver's response to those events helped build the case for bringing Major League Baseball to the city in the 1990s.
These days, Fey no longer cares about the music scene, insisting, "There'll never be anything close to the superheroes like the Beatles, the Stones and the Who. I don't think there's been a single great album by anybody since 1987. I only listen to classic rock now, and it's still so great, I think 20 years from now it'll basically be the same as it is today. It never will go bad."