Joe Cocker’s old 1995 Jaguar shows up for sale in Aspen classified ads
Editor’s note: this story originally ran in The Aspen Times.
Those in the market for a used car recently might have noticed an unusual choice in the classified ads.
A listing in The Aspen Times offers a 1995 Jaguar XJ-12 sedan with just 33,000 original miles, but that’s not the unusual part. It’s called “Joe Cocker Jaguar” in bold print, and purports to have been the only car ever owned by the late British singer.
Even for Aspen, that’s an unusual option.
An interview with the seller — Tom Kelley, of Grand Junction — revealed a little piece of Western Slope rock ’n’ roll history.
Joe Cocker had a string of hits in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s and was known for his distinctive, bluesy voice and spastic body language during performances. His first big hit was a cover of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which he sang at Woodstock.
The late comedian John Belushi did a memorable imitation of Cocker singing the song during the first season of “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 that ended with Belushi writhing on the stage floor. The song also was the theme to the popular 1980s TV show “The Wonder Years.”
Cocker and his wife, Pam, built a large Colorado ranch in Crawford, near Paonia, in the 1990s, which became known as “Mad Dog Ranch” after his popular early-’70s record, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.” At that time in 1995, his record company and members of his band chipped in to buy him the Jaguar, perhaps overlooking the fact that a British Range Rover might have suited the Colorado climate better than a British rear-drive sedan, Kelley said.
The only problem was that Cocker had lived in cities all his life and didn’t know how to drive, he said. So he learned on the new Jaguar, Kelley said.
During their 20 years in Crawford, the Cockers became fans of the Paonia public radio station, KVNF, said Jon Howard, the station’s current general manager.
“He was a major benefactor,” Howard said. “Our control room is named after him. There’s a big picture of him hanging outside it.”
When Cocker died of lung cancer in 2014, the car was donated to the radio station and later auctioned off, Howard said.
That’s where Kelley and his wife come in.
Kelley’s wife is from England and both are big fans of Cocker’s music. He said she urged him to bid on the car in December 2016 and keep bidding on it when they got into a bidding war with another party. They put in their last bid with seven seconds left on the clock and bought the car for their final bid of $25,705, he said.
“It was absolutely crazy that we got it,” Kelley said. “I loved his music. He, in my opinion, was the first and only ’60s rock ’n’ roll artist able to pair blues with rock ’n’ roll.”
One of the coolest things about their new ride was that the radio station included the three CDs that were originally in the Jaguar’s trunk CD changer when it received the car after Cocker died, he said. The three selections were records by Ray Charles and Eric Clapton and a Motown mix.
Kelley has put about $5,000 more into the car, which is British racing green and in excellent condition, he said. He decided to sell it because he’s 70 years old and said he and his wife are “scaling down” their lives.
He’s listed the car for $36,000 in the newspaper and has taken it to area car shows to try to sell it. Three car collectors have told him it’s worth between $43,000 and $100,000, he said.
“I hope to make a few dollars on it,” Kelley said. “But if it doesn’t sell, … I don’t really need the money.”
Anyone interested Joe’s Jag can call Kelley at 970-242-6164.