Caribou Ranch was a musical mecca. Unfortunately, a 1985 fire in the control room caused extensive damage and took Caribou out of the recording business. Not all of the good stuff was in the studio when it burned, and that wasn’t, is going up for auction this Saturday

Some of the greatest music acts in the world made some of their best music in a secret location less than two hours from here. 105 miles from Cheyenne, outside of Nederland, Colorado is a 1,600 acre piece of music history that some of music’s royalty knew about.

Elton John, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Chicago, Joe Walsh, Steven Stills, Billy Joel, Supertramp, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and a long list of others found refuge from the distractions of L.A. and New York.

Caribou Ranch was a secluded and isolated recording facility built by legendary writer, arranger and record producer, Jim Guercio. He made a lot of hits and a lot of money. But instead of buying in Beverly Hills, Jimmy bought a ranch up the canyon from Boulder where sequestered artists could focus on making music with state of the art equipment, although at first, it was with dirt floors and horse stalls. Joe Walsh recorded the first hit to come out of Caribou Ranch, Rocky Mountain Way. Many others would follow. Now, some of the artifacts of this iconic studio are going up for auction this Saturday, January 24th in Denver, Colorado.

 

Personal story time, for anyone interested:

In the early 80s, I was called to Caribou Ranch to consult on a couple of different recording projects. I was awestruck upon arrival. Standing in the center of the ranch, everything you could see, right up to the National Forrest Land of The Continental Divide was Caribou Ranch.

Staying in a guest cabin that had housed so many stars, sleeping in a bed that Jane Fonda had just slept in on her last visit, and that had been owned by a former king of England, was a bit heady. Dining in a hall with 24 hour access with a professional chef who made amazing creations while you were out making music or… fishing, riding an ATV, hiking, checking out the gold mine and waterfalls. I had a chance to run some cattle with Jim to get them to summer pastures. But wait, I said something about being at the ranch to avoid distraction…. Well, at least you didn’t have to drag your band out of bars or bail them out of Jail.

At the heart of Caribou Ranch was the studio. I was there one day with Ranch Manager John Carsello while he was straightening out the main studio, wrapping mic cords as I sat down at one of 3 pianos. He said, “That’s the piano Simon & Garfunkel recorded ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ on. Chicago used it for ‘Saturday In The Park.’” I played a few chords and could hear those songs. “Jimmy bought that one from CBS Studios in New York.”

The next piano was a weapon of choice for Elton John. I heard ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ as I lightly played a few chords.  Then, in the center of the room, was a third piano. As I started playing, a chill went down my spine. I stopped and said “Don’t tell me, Supertramp used this one for their 1977 album, ‘Even In The Quietest Moments,’ one of my top-5 favorites of all time. John casually continued wrapping mic cords with an almost dismissive “Yeah.” I soaked it in. Later John told me how the cover for that album was shot just south of there at Sunlight Ski Area. He and a few others had hauled an empty piano shell on to the slopes there and used a snow making machine to dress it up for the cover and it features Longs Peak in the background. So many stories, so many experiences, so much learned.

To me, Caribou Ranch was a musical mecca. Unfortunately, a 1985 fire in the control room caused extensive damage and took Caribou out of the recording business. Not all of the good stuff was in the studio when it burned, and that wasn’t, is going up for auction this Saturday, January 24th in Denver, Colorado.

178 artists, 45 top-10 albums, 18 Grammys and 20 #1 Billboard Hits. Impressive for any studio, let alone the first ever destination studio. The gates to Caribou are closed after $32.5 Million of WalMart money purchased the ranch as a retreat. You can get a catalogue for the upcoming auction to get your own music memories. My greatest memories were sitting by the fireplace listening to stories of the bands, casually bumping into Sheena Easton in a doorway, having coffee on a big wooden deck while the early morning sun warmed a most beautiful part of God’s creation and being part of a cattle drive with Mr. Guercio. Thanks for having me up. Thanks for the music.