Longtime Aspen musician headed back to California | VailDaily.com

Longtime Aspen musician headed back to California

Aspen Times photo/Paul ConradAspen musician Bobby Mason plays to a crowded hillside during Easter Sunrise services on Aspen Mountain Sunday morning March 27, 2005. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

After 36 years in Aspen, it was time for Bobby Mason to play a different tune yesterday.Mason, one of the best-known musicians in the Roaring Fork Valley, packed his car and headed back to California.

“I think I’ve taken it about as far as I can in Aspen,” he said during an interview on his cell phone while driving away on Highway 82.The popular, outgoing and easygoing Mason moved to Aspen from California in 1969. During his nearly four decades in town, Mason brushed with big-time recording success with the group Starwood and performed tirelessly. Mason was legendary for volunteering to play at the seemingly never-ending benefits for people and causes.He said a number of factors led to his decision to leave. Among them is the changing music scene: Gigs are getting fewer and the pay ain’t exactly great.

“The pay is about the same as when I came in 1969,” he said.Mason said the local live-music scene is at one of the lowest levels it’s been since he’s lived here. He suspects many places no longer have the money to hire a band because they are scraping by to pay the rent.”The whole town feels pretty corporate right now,” said Mason, noting decisions that affect the music scene are being made by business people living far away who are concerned most about the bottom line.

“Bean counters in Nebraska don’t know about the heart and soul of the town,” he said.Mason said he did a “little bit of that, a little bit of this” as far as work while living in Aspen, but for the most part he made a living as a professional rock ‘n’ roll musician. With that becoming increasingly difficult, he thought he would try something new.”He puts his heart and soul into his music,” said his longtime friend Sandy Munro, a musician and owner of the Great Divide music store. “He plays it like he means it and he means it.”

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