Legendary Colorado concert promoter Barry Fey dies - Reverb

Legendary Colorado concert promoter Barry Fey dies

Barry Fey

The colorful promoter who made Colorado a destination for the biggest names in music died Sunday. Barry Fey was 73. Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post.

By Joey Bunch and Ricardo Baca
The Denver Post

The colorful promoter who made Colorado a destination for the biggest names in music died Sunday. Barry Fey was 74.

The cause of death was not immediately available, but an unusually downtrodden Fey told The Denver Post last week that he was recovering from hip-replacement surgery.

“Barry Fey is one of the giants of a generation,” said William Dean Singleton, chairman and publisher of The Denver Post and a close friend of Fey’s. “He brought the music scene to Colorado, and every part of the music scene you see here today has his fingerprints on it.”

Fey promoted tens of thousands of concerts and other events from the 1960s until he retired his Feyline corporation in the late-’90s. (He even dipped his toes back into the waters with a consulting gig with House of Blues in the 2000s.) He was friends with acts he promoted, a list that included the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, the Who, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and other big-time acts.

Chuck Morris, the head of AEG Rocky Mountains, was a longtime colleague and friend of Fey’s.

“When he was into it, there was nobody close to him as a promoter,” Morris said. “When his head was around promoting a rock ‘n’ roll band, there was nobody better, and I knew ‘em all — Bill Graham, you name it. But there was nobody better at selling tickets. Father’s Day baseball games, for God’s sakes? He was a magician.”

Singleton recalled planning his 50th birthday in 2001. He talked to Fey and told him who he would like to have perform.

“The next day he called and said, ‘Done.’ ”

Fey got up with the Four Tops at the celebration, wearing a matching suit, and sang the last four songs with the group. He did the same thing with the Beach Boys at Singleton’s 60th birthday party.

Fey was raised in New Jersey. His family moved to Chicago when he was 11. Fey served in the Marine Corps between Korea and Vietnam. He went to the University of Pennsylvania with plans to become a lawyer, according to his interviews with the newspaper.

He became a concert promoter in 1965, booking Baby Huey and the Babysitters, his favorite college band, at the American Legion Hall in Rockford, Ill. Soon after, he booked the Association for a fraternity party at the University of Denver and never left the city.

In February 2012, Fey was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. In March 2013, Fey was inducted into the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame, “the highest award given by Denver’s travel industry, honoring outstanding individuals who have played a significant role in making Denver and Colorado world-class convention and tourism destinations.”

Former Denver Post columnist Dick Kreck was friends with Fey since the 1960s. An editor at Rolling Stone magazine asked Kreck to interview the young producer, who was putting together an outdoor rock festival at Mile High Stadium. They met at Fey’s Congress Park apartment and remained close through the decades.

Kreck said he spoke with Fey on Friday and they spoke about Fey’s recent hip surgery.

“He wasn’t depressed, but he was kind of disheartened about it,” Kreck said. “He said, ‘I’m not getting well.’ That concerned me.”

Morris also had visited Fey in the last week, spending three hours with the old friend he’s been somewhat estranged from in recent years.

“We talked about old times, about his hip replacement, and he was happy I was there,” Morris said. “But I don’t think Barry ever loved himself, and that was his problem.”

Kreck said he and Fey always sought out the best barbecue restaurants, so Kreck told him he would pick up some barbecue in the next few days and come for a visit. Morris, too, planned on visiting Fey again soon.

“But he was a tortured soul,” Morris said, “and I wish he’d be sitting in his beach house in Maui enjoying the sun and his older age, but he could never get there. He had too may demons, like many of us.”

Fey had told The Post last week that his post-hip-replacement physical therapy was rough but progressing. Friends and industry colleagues said they’d noticed a definite decline in Fey’s stature as the years passed.

“Barry was an interesting guy, that’s for sure, but he hasn’t looked good in recent years,” said Jerry Kennedy, a retired Denver Police division chief who worked closely with Fey during his heyday. “Age has a way of taking its toll on all of us. He seemed to have lost his zest for life. He’s had some real reversals, from a millionaire many times over at the pinnacle of the industry, and he ended up without much.”

Dan Steinberg, a Denver-reared promoter who is now the owner of Square Peg Concerts in Washington state, said Fey’s personality was “bigger than the bands he promoted.”

“He’s the second-biggest celebrity in Colorado next to John Elway for the last 30 years,” Steinberg said. ” You think of Red Rocks, the Summer of Stars and you think of Barry Fey — he was rock ‘n’ roll in Colorado.”

In 2011, Fey published a memoir called “Backstage Past” with forewords written by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne and the Who’s Pete Townshend.

“Barry was the first promoter to book Black Sabbath in 1971,” Osbourne wrote. “He was the first one to believe in us.”

Steinberg said “Backstage Past” was the most involvement Fey had had with the music industry in a decade.

“He dabbled (in concert promotions recently) because he loved it, but the book was a big thing, because he said whatever he was thinking, no matter how nice it was,” Steinberg said. “There was some rawness in there …”

Fey is survived by his sons, Tyler, Jeremy, Geoffry and Alan.

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