Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eddie Y. Eldon

Interview with Eddie Y. Eldon conducted December 2009

(NOTE - August 4, 2010: At the request of Mr. Eldon all pictures of his 45s, as well as the audio samples have been removed)

Before Eddie Yaklich had even graduated high school, he was a star. Growing up in Avondale, 15 miles east of Pueblo, he turned pro on the national rodeo circuit before he had gotten his diploma, in 1954.

After getting drafted and serving in the U.S. Army, he went back to the rodeo in 1961, where he continued to excel in bull riding, bronc riding, and bareback. Touring on the national circuit his sport took him west, where his photogenic "made for Hollywood" cowboy looks landed him a job as a TV and movie stuntman.

Under the advice of Willie Nelson’s manager Al Picinni, he also changed his name. “Al said I really needed to do it, if I was going to be a success,” he said. “I had this nickname back in Colorado, 'El Donnie,' and so I decided to shorten it, and make my last name an initial."

And so was born Eddie Y. Eldon.

“I did stunt work in Tucson, where they were shooting westerns,” he said. “I would get $15 a day and a ham sandwich.”

Eldon was soon in demand. He worked as a stunt double for Clint Eastwood on Rawhide, as well as other western-themed shows. He also did stunt work on numerous movies, including Disney’s Run Appaloosa Run.

While living in California he met Rose and Joe Maphis, who were part of the successful country music TV show Town Hall Party, which broadcast throughout the west coast in the 1960s.

At the urging of Joe Maphis, Eldon decided to try his hand at singing – something he had only previously done while working aboard his dad’s tractor in Avondale.

During his California recording career Eldon, who was also a prolific songwriter, released several self-made records on both the 3J and World Label Music labels, from 1978-1982. He would go on to tour with Bozo Darnell and Wynn Stewart.

In a unique way of distributing the discs, he would pilot his own Cherokee 235 to radio stations around the country. “Whenever I would see a radio tower, I would land the plane, get out, and drop off the record – I really didn’t have any money to get these on the charts.”

He moved back to Avondale in 1983, where he built a studio, formed his own publishing company, and continues to record.

COMING NEXT POST: The San Luis Valley Rhythms of John Overton.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The vocal talents of Cañon City High (1974)

Interview with Mark Means, John Merriam and Jeff Saviano conducted January-February 2010.

Hail the mighty black and gold, hail the Tigers brave and bold.
Hail to Cañon City High, sing her praise to the sky.
To her we will ever sing, to her highest honor bring.
In the future as of old, hail the mighty black and gold.

Long before FOX had a hit TV show about a glee club, Lou Means lived the real thing. The Cañon City High School Music Director orchestrated four different singing groups on campus - Modern Choir, Concert Choir, Girls Glee and the Tiger Tones.

In 1974, Means was known as the "King of Pop" around CCHS - teaching his students not only the archaic melodies of "Greensleeves," but also Beatles and Rolling Stones songs.

"Oh yeah, dad made choir fun," said Mark Means, who graduated from CCHS in 1976, and was a member of the school's Tiger Tones singing group. "We didn't sing the old standards, we sang what we heard on the radio."

Lou Means grew up in Nebraska, where he too was a singer and songwriter. He moved to Colorado with a master's degree in music, and made his home in Cañon City.

It was Means' idea to record an album of songs performed by the four groups. He set up a mock recording studio in the high school choir room, and convinced the school to pick up the tab for the recording equipment. The groups recorded Christmas standards, along with a mix of modern pop songs, including Righteous Brothers, Carole King, and Paul McCartney hits.

Listen to "Another Day"

"He was a pretty cool teacher, and everybody liked him," said John Merriam, who sang in the modern choir, and was one of the guitar players on the album (and who is incorrectly listed as Fred Merriam on the LP - Fred is his older brother).

The LP was given to choir members and sold around town. The success of the record prompted Lou Means to record similar releases in 1975 and 1977.

Means retired from CCHS in 1990. He passed away in 2008.

Pictured on front of album - Jeff Saviano (guitar)

Choir alumnus include Jeff Saviano, who went on to become a disc jockey at KRLN in Cañon City, and later in Colorado Springs. He is now a criminalist.

"Lou was great," said Saviano. "He was also instrumental in getting a grant for me to attend the University of Southern Colorado (now CSU-Pueblo) when I went off to study psychology. After I went to college, Lou allowed me to arrange some pop music for the CCHS choirs."

(Photo courtesy of John Merriam)

John Merriam started a long, successful career in radio, also getting his start at KRLN in Cañon City, then moving on to KDZA in Pueblo, right after graduating from CCHS, in 1975. He would go on work at Los Angeles powerhouse KHJ. He came back to Colorado to forecast weather at KOAA-TV, from 1979-1981. He then moved on to radio stations in New Mexico and Texas, before settling in Michigan, where he has a voice-over business.

Greg Eden went on to front his own successful Colorado band, Big Al and the Hi-Fis, and JoAnn Ewing, is a member of the group Sierra Gold, which includes Richard Baca profiled here.

Mark Means moved to Albuquerque and runs his own film and video production company Fire Creek.