2003 Obit: Walt Conley (Denver, Colorado)
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2003 Obit: Walt Conley (Denver, Colorado)

Joe Offer 01 Sep 18 - 03:00 PM
Nxtstplnkn 31 Aug 18 - 10:41 PM
Rex 02 Dec 03 - 12:27 PM
WKG 28 Nov 03 - 02:59 PM
Cluin 27 Nov 03 - 06:27 PM
GUEST 27 Nov 03 - 01:14 PM
GUEST,theballadeer 20 Nov 03 - 12:39 AM
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Subject: RE: 2003 Obit: Walt Conley (Denver, Colorado)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 03:00 PM

The first post had a link to the obituary in the Rocky Mountain News. That link is dead, but here's an archive copy of the obituary at

Local folk music pioneer performed, owned club
By Erika Gonzalez, Rocky Mountain News
November 19, 2003

Walt Conley, a founding father of Denver's folk scene who shared local stages with Judy Collins, opened his home to a young Bob Dylan and introduced Denver to the Smothers Brothers, died Sunday. He was 74.

"I've been referred to by some friends as the godfather of folk music. But if I'm the godfather, then (Mr. Conley is) the grandfather," said friend and Swallow Hill Music Association founder Harry Tuft.

Mr. Conley took an unconventional path into the folk world. A graduate of Manual High School, he played football for Northeastern Junior College and served a stint in the Navy during the Korean War. After majoring in theater at Greeley's Colorado State College, he became a schoolteacher. But he'd venture to Denver bars for singing gigs - a sideline that cost Mr. Conley his job.

"Somebody ratted on him," said his wife, Joan Holden. "And at that time, they weren't about to have a bar singer teaching their kids."

The incident forced Mr. Conley to make a living through music. He landed his first professional gig in 1957 at Denver's Windsor Hotel, where he entertained in the hotel's three bars.

He moved on to Little Bohemia, an upscale north Denver club, where he met Judy Collins.

Some friends say that Mr. Conley met a young Bob Dylan (then just Bob Zimmerman) through Collins. It's rumored that on his first visit to town, Dylan crashed on Mr. Conley's couch and later stole a number of Mr. Conley's records.

"One night he just disappeared with several of Walt's albums," confirmed Bob Turner, a longtime friend. "I think Walt felt that when he (Dylan) got big, he could have at least returned a few."

Through the '60s, Mr. Conley served as a regular opener for the Exodus, Denver's leading folk club, and also booked acts at the Satire Club, where the Smothers Brothers made their Denver debut. ("He literally gave them their start in the business here," Turner said.)

When folk faded, Mr. Conley moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. He landed some minor TV roles and lent his voice to a few movies, including The Longest Yard, which features Mr. Conley's fierce grunts during a bruising football game.

In 1984, he returned to Denver and opened his own folk club, Conley's Nostalgia, which enjoyed a three-year run.

Mr. Conley continued to perform, embracing Irish music later in life. Though he retired in 1995, Mr. Conley and his band performed monthly at Aurora's Shea-been Pub.

"He called himself black Irish," laughed Tuft. "He had a great sense of humor."

A celebration of Mr. Conley's life will be at 3 p.m. Nov. 28 at Cameron United Methodist Church, 1600 S. Pearl St.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the American Diabetes Association.

He is survived by Holden; sons Troy Conley, of Denver, and Joel Conder, of Salem, Ore.; daughter Michele Melnick Bond; stepson Robert Holden, of St. Helena, Calif.; and eight grandchildren.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Walt Conley
From: Nxtstplnkn
Date: 31 Aug 18 - 10:41 PM

Hello Folks! - I'm new here at Mudcat. I live in Denver and have been doing some recent research on Walt Conley and was happy to find people talking about him here, albeit some time ago. Just posting this to see if you folks are still on here and perhaps pick your brains for more Walt Conley info. - Tim Fritz

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Subject: RE: Obit: Walt Conley
From: Rex
Date: 02 Dec 03 - 12:27 PM

I used to drop in at Walt's Nostalgia back in the 80's. It was like a throwback to the 60's when there wasn't much else happening in Denver. Things were very open and folks could play whatever genre of song or tune they wanted. Or recite poetry, or tell a story. Thanks to Walt for keeping the music alive.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Walt Conley
From: WKG
Date: 28 Nov 03 - 02:59 PM

In the sixties, friends and I spent hundreds of delightful hours (and drank vats of 3.2 beer) listening to Walt Conley. He was a regular draw at Michael's Pub in Boulder, and he was excellent at involving the crowd in the music. We loved the bawdy (In China they do it for chili, Waltz me around, Willy) where we could toss verses in, but he was at his best with heartfelt songs of work, patriotism, and race (Passin' through, Ira Hayes, Buddy, can you spare a dime, The Klan ...)
Early on he invited us to bring instruments and have a hootenanny. I brought my dad's tenor banjo, on which I could make three chords and manage 2.5 bars of what might have been Malaguena. Back in Denver for a visit (late 1980s?), my old roomie dragged me down to Walt's South Broadway club, and by god Walt remembered the Flamenco Banjoist.
His songs are still with me, and I'll think of him whenever I sing 'em.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Walt Conley
From: Cluin
Date: 27 Nov 03 - 06:27 PM

Looks like he was a very interesting individual. Wish I'd met him.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Walt Conley
Date: 27 Nov 03 - 01:14 PM


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Subject: Obit: Walt Conley
From: GUEST,theballadeer
Date: 20 Nov 03 - 12:39 AM

I just received news of the passing of my friend and Denver Folk guru Walt's a nice tribute to Walt.

Rest in peace my friend.


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