One of many recurrent themes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American popular music is that of place. Songs have honored streets, cities, rivers, mountains, and states. A few examples include Stephen Foster's "Kentucky Home," James Bland's "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," George M. Cohan's "Give My Regards to Broadway," and Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind." When published in the sheet music format, the music, lyrics, and illustrations of songs about Colorado combine to form unique expressions of the state's history and natural beauty.
Colorado has inspired many composers and lyricists. Perhaps the best known story is that of Katharine Lee Bates drafting her most famous poem "America the Beautiful" at the summit of Pike's Peak during the summer of 1893. After revising the poem in 1904 and again in 1913, it was set to the tune "Materna" composed by Samuel A. Ward. Of course neither the poem nor the resulting beloved patriotic song are just about Colorado, rather they are a tribute to the whole country. However the "purple mountain majesties" that started it all are Colorado's own.
The Colorado Rockies inspired many others as well, including popular singer/songwriter John Denver. His story is also well known; the man who chose his stage name for the state's capital. Denver lived for many years in Aspen, and time and again he wrote and recorded songs about the mountains. The best known is "Rocky Mountain High," but others include "Aspenglow," "I Guess He's Rather Be In Colorado," and "Starwood in Aspen." In 1975 John Denver was named Colorado's poet laureate.
While Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" has become so well known that it has been suggested as a more appropriate state song than A.J. Fynn's "Where the Colmbines Grow," other songs about Colorado remain only in manuscript. Many Colorado songs were composed by local musicians who published the music themselves or were issued by small Colorado firms. Others were picked up by major Tin Pan Alley houses such as Shapiro, Bernstein & Company, Jerome Remick & Company, and Leo Feist. While some composers such as Charles L. Johnson. Ernest Ball, and Richard A. Whiting are still remembered, others are long forgotten.
Some of the more ephemeral songs were also a tribute to Colorado's beauty. Most all illustrate the state's history through the years. Some are simply love songs set in the state. Many were composed for a special local event or for a Colorado school or association. Another theme was the peacefulness of life in the mountains. Reading through the lyrics of these songs, one is struck by their overwhelmingly positive tone.
A final recurring theme is the pleasure of coming home to Colorado. Compare the following songs, written nearly sixty years apart. The cover of "Back to Dear Old Denver Town" (1912) shows a man running to catch a train. The lyrics by Oscar Olson state, "You can have your dear old Broadway, and your Coney Island too?For I'm going back, back, back to that dear old Denver Town. far from the sea, but a dandy place to be." John Denver's 1971 song about a plane ride to Colorado in "Starwood in Aspen" is strikingly similar. "It's a long way from LA to Denver?.It's a long way home to Starwood in Aspen, A sweet Rocky Mountain paradise, oh my sweet Rocky Mountain paradise."
The bibliography below includes Colorado songs in the CU Music Library collection which are not in the public domain and therefore cannot yet be digitized.
Post 1922 Colorado Sheet Music
Adams, Frank. Out in Denver. Mss., n.d.
Anderson, Lebert H. Colorado Midgets Waltz. N.p.: Lebert H. Anderson, 1930.
Ball, Ernest R. West of the Great Divide. Words by George Whiting. New York: M. Witmark & Sons, 1924.
Bashor, May. In Beautiful Colorado. Loveland: May Bashor, 1964.
---. In Dear Old Denver. Words by Fred L. Quaite. Loveland: Creative Arts, 1963.
Beaumont, Albert. Where Rails End and Trails Begin. Words by Edgar H. Fourt. Lander, Wyo.: E.H. Fourt, 1924.
Beek, Joseph Allan. My Colorado Plains. Balboa Island, Calif.: Western Classics Pub. Co., 1964.
Belcher, Reginald. Where the Rio Colorado Goes Rushing to the Sea. Words by Dan O'Leary. Denver: Dan O'Leary, 1939.
Belfils, Kamie. Dreamy Rocky Mountain Moon: Waltz Ballad. Words by Harry Leonard. New York: Leo Feist, 1930.
Benskin, Harley. Rush to the Rockies. Mss., 1959.
Bernstein, Morey. Lakewood Colorado. Lakewood: New Red Door Restaurant, 1956.
Berrien, Bertha Archer. I'm Going Back to Colorado. Denver: B.A. Berrien, 1929.
Berry, Catherine E. Colorado Skies. Words by Dennis Tenney. Denver: House of Song, 1953.
Bierman, Bernard, and Jack Manus. Hills of Colorado. New York: London Music, 1947.
Brown, Esther M. Colorado Moon. Hollywood, Calif.: Nordyke Music Publications, 1959.
Brown, Jack Glenn. Colorado Skies. Words by Mary Hale Woolsey and Milt Taggart. Salt Lake City: Taggart-Woolsey-Brown, 1931. Krolek Collection.
Brown, Russell J. Hail Colorado! Denver: Denver Lions Glee Club, 1930.
Buerkle, Russell C. The Colorado River. Arranged by Robert Browne. N.p.: Russell C. Buerkle and Robert Browne, 1963.
Burns, Johnny. Colorado: Heart of the West. Denver: Johnny Burns, 1934.
Canon, Dorothy. Colorado's Calling. Words by Mason O. Brouse. Craig: Brouse & Canon, 1934.
Carlisle, Cliff. My Rocky Mountain Sweetheart. Arranged by Nick Manoloff. Chicago: Calumet Music Co., 1932.
Chance, Phyllis. Valentine from Loveland. Loveland?: n.p., 1960.
Collier, Henry M. Columbine Special. Denver: Henry M. Collier, 1927.
---. God's Country. Denver: Henry M. Collier, 1927.
Colorado. Mss., n.d.
Cooper, Jay. I Long to Be Back Home in Colorado. Salida, Jay Cooper, 1955.
---. Those Weary Western Blue's. Salida: Jay Cooper, 1955.
Cooper, Walter, B. Colorado's Calling. Fort Collins: Cooper Music Co., 1947.
---. Where the Purple Lilacs Grow. Fort Collins: Walco Music Publishing Co., 1951.
Cuthbertson, Stuart. Colorado (Alma Mater). Harmonized by Rowland W. Dunham. Boulder: Stuart Cuthbertson, 1937.
Cowles, Leon W. Happy Colorado. Words by William O. Rogers. Denver: Leon W. Cowles Co., 1926.
Denver, John, and Mike Taylor. Rocky Mountain High. New York: Cherry Lane Music, 1972.
Fore, Leslie J. My Colorado Home. Denver: Success Music Publishing Co., 1954.
Glassford, J.C. Loving Colorado. Grand Junction: Jesse Crandall Glassford, 1929.
Groll, Ignatius. Colorado Onward!: March Song. Canon City: The Benedictine Society, 1925.
Healy, Lon. Colorado Rose. New York: Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., 1925.
Hirsch, Walter, and Harold A. Dellon. Colorado. New York: Edwards B. Marks Music Co., 1924.
J.P.L. Old Prep School of Boulder. Words by H.W.C. [Boulder: Old Prep School of Boulder], n.d.
Jerome, M.K. Rocky Mountain Rose. Words by Joan Jasmyn and William Tracey. New York: Davis, Coots & Engel, 1931.
Jones, Alida Hall. Wonderful Colorado. Denver: Knight-Campbell Music Co., 1923.
Jones, Frank C. Dear Old Denver Town: The Denver Ballad. [Denver: Frank C. Jones], 1925.
Joy, Josephine Guretzky. Dear Old Denver. Words by Frank McCarthy. Denver: The Smith-Brooks Printing Co., 1923.
Kemm, Ernie. Here's to Colorado. Denver: Jack Blue Enterprises, 1958.
Kessler, Horace A. Colorado Moon. Words by Grace Davis. LaJunta: Kessler Music, 1957.
King, Robert A. Moonlight on the Colorado. Words by Bill Moll. New York: Shapiro, Bernstein and Co., 1930.
Laughlin, Christopher. My Colorado Cabin in the Mountains. N.p., 1933.
Lewis, Elmer B. Our Colorado. Brighton: E.B. Lewis, 1947.
Little, Rosamond L. Denver. N.p., 1940.
Lontus, Mina. Colorado Golden Sunshine. Denver: Mina Lontus, 1930.
Marshall, Henry I., and Richard A. Whiting. Rocky Mountain Moon. Words by Raymond B. Egan. New York: Jerome H. Remick and Co., 1923.
Moret, Neil. Call of the Rockies. Words by Harry Tobias. Los Angeles: Western Songs, 1934.
Nelson, Adolph John. Colorado River. Mss., 1940. Krolek Collection.
O'Day, Marguerite. Let's Go Back to Loveland. Words by Marian Kistler. Longmont: Mrs. George L. Kistler, 1952.
Old Dolores. Arranged by Mark Wessel. Words by James Grafton Rogers. N.p., n.d.
Pendleton, Emmet. Columbine. Words by Loring Eugene Williams. Mss., n.d. Krolek Collection.
Pherson, O.P. The Buffalo. Mss., n.d.
Philleo, Estelle. Colorado! Denver: Charles E. Wells Music Co., 1924.
---. Colorado Cabin. Denver: Baldwin Piano Co., 1930.
Pickard, J. Andrew, and C.L. Philippus. Colorado My Home. Denver: Imperial Music Publishing Co., n.d.
Raffa, Joseph. Give Me that Colorado Moon. Piano arrangement by Max Di Julio. Mss., 1948.
Rhea, Adelaide Culp. Western Welcome. Littleton: Adelaide Culp Rhea, 1925.
Rogers, Eddy. Colorado Skies. Words by Chuck Collins. New York: Broadway Music Corp., 1953.
Rowland, Verner H. Central City Days: A Mining Ballad. Hollywood: Nordyke, 1932.
Rutherford, Althea Jewell. Hymn to Colorado. Words by Lilian White Spencer. N.p., 1923.
Sauer, Robert, and Milt Taggart. When It's Springtime in the Rockies: A Charming Waltz Song. Words by Mary Hale Woolsey. San Francisco: Villa Mor?, 1929.
Sims, D.P. Columbines. Words by O.J. McCorkle. Collbran: O.J. McCorkle, 1929.
Smith, Bill. Back in the Hills of Colorado. Words by Larry O'Dowd. San Francisco: Sherman, Clay & Co., 1930.
Smith, Glyndon. Colorful Colorado. Denver: Plains Music Publishing Co., 1937.
Speer, Grace. In Colorado We Met. Arranged by A.S. Lohmann. Denver: Grace Speer Flickinger, 1931.
Spencer, Paul R. Hail Colorado! Words by Marcia Spencer. Mt. Vernon, N.Y.: American Guild of Composers and Lyricists, 1946.
Stockton, Roscoe K. C-O! HelLO! hooRAy! D-O! Denver: Charles E. Wells Music Co., 1926.
Thomason, Leslie C. Back to Colorado. San Francisco: Morrison Music Co., 1925.
Tice, Blanche M. In the Shadow of the Rockies. Words by Gene Lindberg. San Francisco: Villa Mor?; Denver: B.M. Tice, 1931.
Wilson, J.J. Under a Blue Colorado Sky. Words by Michael Cavallo. Denver: Michael Cavallo, 1933.
Witmer, Marie J. Housen. Colorado, My Colorado. Agate, Colo.: M.J.H. Witmer, 1923.
Wright, Frank. I Love You, Colorado. Arranged by Max Di Julio. Grand Lake: F. Wright, 1950.