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High Notes

Pioneers who will be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame this month.

Paul Whiteman —Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Elizabeth Spencer

Denver, 1871–1930

Spencer, the stepdaughter of the first governor of Colorado Territory, took to the radio in its infancy and performed on Thomas Edison’s traveling show in the early 1900s.

Billy Murray

Denver, 1877–1954

This turn-of-the-century singer recorded the hit “Yankee Doodle Boy” in 1905.

Paul Whiteman

Denver, 1890–1967

In the 1920s and 1930s, the bandleader and son of the music director for Denver Public Schools was known nationally as the “King of Jazz.”

Glenn Miller

Fort Morgan, 1904–1944

The big-band musician, bandleader, and composer’s jazz tune “Chattanooga Choo Choo” sold more than a million copies and became the first gold record in 1942.

Max Morath

Colorado Springs, 1926–present

“Mr. Ragtime” banged the piano keys in Cripple Creek’s Gold Bar Room. He went on to write educational music programming for what’s now PBS and star in a one-man off-Broadway show.

—Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain PBS

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High Notes

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High Notes

Glitz and glamour are at the heart of this month’s Grammy Awards in Hollywood, but the winners each have a little more bling than everyone else thanks to one small-town Colorado sculptor. Since 1992, John Billings and his three-man team have handmade nearly 9,000 Grammy statues out of their Ridgway workshop, Billings Artworks. They typically send close to 250 polished gramophones west to California each year, but that number can balloon to more than 400 when a winning artist has a throng of producers
and sound engineers (e.g., Carlos Santana). The coveted awards take 15 hours of labor apiece and are made of a zinc-aluminum alloy known as “grammium”—a term Billings coined himself. “I heard the Oscars were made of britannium. I looked that up and found out it was just tin,” he says. “But britannium, like grammium, sounds so much more regal.”