Sunday, August 1, 2010

Norbie Larsen

Interview with Paul “Norbie” Larsen conducted June 2010.


Paul Norbert ("Norbie") Larsen was born and raised in the mining town of Cripple Creek. The year of his birth, in 1936, miners had extracted over half a billion dollars in gold from the nearby Cresson Mines (now known as the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine).

"Dad was a miner, and I worked in the mines when I was in high school," Larsen said. "It was pretty wild back then, but we didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary - miners would get drunk and fight every night. They used to throw silver dollars, and kids would be out there collecting them."

While in high school Larsen would dabble in music, playing with friends, and serenading the cattle on his grandparents' homestead. "It was just something to do, before I joined the Navy."

While serving, he continued to sing, and looked forward to returning home to Cripple Creek, which he eventually did in 1961.

"I got married, had kids, and hit the road playing."

Larsen went on to appear on the last season on Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee weekly television show. He also added professional rodeo star to his resume. As a Brahma bull and bareback rider, he became a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

In 1962 he saw a help wanted advertisement in the Colorado Springs Gazette. The ad was for The Grand Ole Opry show. Seeing an opportunity to be heard by a national audience, he took his guitar and applied in person.

"The job was actually for a telephone salesman."

Refusing to be denied a chance to play, he told the interviewer that he came with his guitar and wanted to show them his talents.

"He told me to play him a tune - and I got hired on the spot to play at the Colorado Springs stop of the Opry's traveling show."

After the gig, Larsen was invited to stay on, performing with the likes of Loretta Lynn, Marty Robbins, and Sonny James.

Returning home, Larsen booked time at KCMS (later KIIQ) radio, outside of Colorado Springs, to record his first single - a record he envisioned while serving in the Navy.

"I wanted to sing about what I knew - and what I knew about was Cripple Creek," he said.

Listen to "The Legend of Cripple Creek"



Larsen said he recorded a number of singles (unfortunately details were unavailable) throughout his music career, and even dabbled in the movie business.

"I knew this woman, who was a friend of a friend, and they were hiring folks to be in this moving filming in Cañon City," he said.

The movie was Cat Ballou, staring Lee Marvin and Jane Fonda.

Scenes were being filmed at Buckskin Joe's Frontier Town, and Larsen fit the bill as an extra.

"I'm the guy who is milking the cow, and I also appear in some street scenes - I didn't have any lines."

In the early 1980s Larsen was elected mayor of Cripple Creek.

In 1983 Larsen released I'd Rather Be in Colorado, a nine song LP, produced by Jay Angelo (formerly of The Impacs and Lobo). The album was released on the Florida-based Aanco record label.

After spending the next 20 years performing the nightclub circuit, he moved to Cañon City where he works at a nearby rock quarry.

In 2003, he released the CD Colorado Cowboy, also on the Aanco label.

COMING NEXT POST: Lou Amella

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