Vail Valley Voices: For you, Dana DelBosco
Vail, CO, Colorado
Tonight we are playing Red Rocks. This venue has been in my “bucket” list for years. The time I spent on stage was filled with reflection and some tears for a good friend who was instrumental in my musical journey.
Almost 20 years ago, I left Greenville for Vail with hopes of landing a steady gig and a place to live as I practiced the way of the traveling troubadour.
I battled my way across the country through some pretty crazy snowstorms and found myself in the arms of the Vail Valley. I have heard all the criticisms of Vail and its proximity to the freeway, but to me it was the shining promise of an independent life in music.
My good friend Don was merciful and let me sleep on his couch for a few days with the very strict understanding that I would be there no more than five days. Vail had an unusually high number of couch surfers because of the lack of work-force housing.
I tried frantically to find a gig and a place to live, but was stymied. I even answered an ad for a room to rent in Red Cliff. The room was OK except for the bullet hole in the only window. When asked about the battle damage, the owner of the house dismissed it based on the fact that “it was only a .22.” I started selling nonessential pieces of my PA equipment (mostly to Don) so I would have money to survive. I slept in my car in the parking deck a couple of nights as my situation became more desperate.
Dana DelBosco owned a company called Resort Entertainment. She was basically in charge of booking musicians in all of the restaurants and venues in town.
I had dropped off demo tapes and promo packets, but truthfully, I was not nearly the caliber of musician that she regularly booked into her venues. Most of her artists could easily play hundreds of songs by request and were skilled at working crowds of tourists. I was equipped with a handful of original songs supplemented by some Jimi Hendrix and Jane’s Addiction covers. She had always been very nice to me but never offered me a gig.
One night, I ran into her at Don’s regular gig in Lionshead. I was down to my last 50 bucks and I was desperate. She led me outside and we sat at a picnic table. I told her with tears in my eyes that I couldn’t face the prospect of returning to Greenville with my tail between my legs. I had to find a gig and I was willing to do anything.
She took my hand and said, “Let’s go.” Dana drove me over to the Gold Peak bar. This was a locals bar that was strategically placed above the ski school on the eastern side of the resort. This building and its bar were state of the art in 1970. It had huge cathedral windows facing the Gore Range and the carpet was a burnt red shag that had been matted down from years of trampling ski boots, and the smell was courtesy of the oceans of stale beer and cigarettes that had been consumed in the three decades it had been open. Every wooden railing and stair had been rounded off at the edges and the neon lights hummed and flickered through the caked-on dust.
I loved it immediately.
Dana persuaded the band to let me get up and play. I was handed a Takamine and told to play a few songs. I watched as she pulled the manager of the bar over and directed his attention towards me. I realized that I was in a ambush audition and if I wanted to stay in Vail, I would have to make it count.
I have always clung to the memory of that night. In my ego-filtered retelling of that moment, it was the amazing way I played and the soul that I poured into the songs that landed me that gig.
The real truth is they were paying the band $300 a night and Dana offered me up for $125. The manager of the bar was a pragmatist and the gig was mine. I eventually found a place to live and realized my dream of working as a musician.
My local notoriety grew with an article in the Vail Daily, and my friendships grew among the ski instructors and snow cat drivers alike.
One afternoon, Dana called me and asked me if I would like to open for REO Speedwagon at the the Dobson Ice Arena. I don’t remember much about that gig except for terror and how nice Kevin Cronan was to me.
Dana passed away in 2004. In the months leading to her death, she continued to smile and tirelessly worked promoting shows in spite of her terminal diagnosis.
Stories from Dana’s life continue to make me laugh. I was unable to attend her memorial service and I have always regretted the decision to stay on tour and play the shows. I take some solace because I know what she would have said if she knew I was considering canceling shows.
This afternoon, a nice simple rain shower politely showed up after sound check and very gently cleaned off all the seats at Red Rocks. A breeze dried them off an hour later.
I smiled to myself because I knew that Dana was there. That’s exactly what she would have done. Over the years, I thanked her many times for the gift that she gave me that night at Gold Peak. She always waved off the credit graciously, but she always had a twinkle in her eye that let me know she was proud of me.
Thank you, Dana DelBosco. Red Rocks was for you.
Edwin McCain opened Wednesday night at Red Rocks for REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar.