They say the blues is “the source.” Yesterday, a Denver-area bluesman returned to it. Creighton (Nick) Holley passed away from melanoma and other complications on Wednesday, Jan. 4. He was 65.
Holley had performed all over the Front Range for decades, from ski resorts to Denver jazz clubs. “We played together for 14 years,” said friend and bandmate, Laura Newman, “and when we were on the road we did everything together, like family, broke bread, waited for hours outside venues for gigs, slept in cars together. And he was always upbeat, joking, fun and an encyclopedia of the blues. I’m going to miss my brother.”
After legendary Chicago blues singer Larry Nolan of Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows died in 1990, Newman said Holley was called in to sing with the band. But he missed friends and family too much and soon moved back to Denver.
Drummer Mark Emmons played in the band AOA with Newman and Holley. “I did a show with him just two weeks ago,” he said. “But it had been a year of health issues and misdiagnoses and wrong treatments.” Only in the last month of his life, said Emmons, did doctors determine Holley’s problems were connected with exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam.
“I played with him for three years,” said Emmons, “and we would do all of these cover songs that I didn’t know, songs that I really liked, that would get stuck in my head. About a year ago, he said to me, ‘Oh yeah, those are my songs.’ I’d been playing all these classic tunes without even knowing they were his. But that’s how he was, he was an old school entertainer. He was always looking sharp, talking to the ladies and making people laugh. That was his main directive — to entertain people and make them feel good.”
Newman will host a free memorial jam session for Holley at her club, Herb’s Bar,2057 Larimer, at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Denver-based writer Sam DeLeo is a published poet, has seen two of his plays produced and is currently finishing his second novel.