Lessons Learned: Chuck Morris

This is the favorite story of my career, and I learned a quick lesson from it.

I was right out of school. I had opened up my first club, called Tulagi’s, in Boulder. It was sort of like The Troubadour of Boulder or kind of like Don Strasburg’s Fox, but it was 30 years ago. Everybody played there, from the The Doobie Brothers to Linda Ronstadt to ZZ Top – everybody who was breaking in the early ’70s.

I got a call in early December 1970 from Geffen/Roberts. I can’t remember who it was, but it wasn’t Irving (Azoff). This somebody said he had a brand new band he had just signed and they were called the Eagles.

Don Henley was from Shiloh. Glenn Frey was from Longbranch Pennywhistle. Bernie Leadon was from the Flying Burrito Brothers. Randy Meisner was from Poco.

They didn’t have an album out yet but they wanted to play for two weeks before they made their record. And their producer, Glyn Johns, was going to fly in.

They wanted to play a weekend in Aspen at a place called The Gallery, which I had nothing to do with, and they wanted to play in Boulder. It was two weeks before Christmas and I said, “Well, I usually take my vacation and it’s Christmas break; nobody’s in town.”

He said, “We don’t care. You can pay them $100 a night. And they’re going to be huge. When the record comes out, we’ll come play for you.”

I said OK. It gave them an opportunity and I was impressed by their previous bands so I booked them for five nights at $100 a night.

About 12 people showed up a night in this 500-capacity club. Glyn Johns sat at the bar and took notes next to me and about eight of my friends. I lost a good deal of money, even paying them only $500.

And they were tremendous! They blew my mind. You could tell by the first time they walked in and did soundcheck that they were going to be huge. So I was real excited even though I lost money and killed my vacation.

Frey reminded me recently that, on one of the nights when there were six people in this club, the heater broke down during a snowstorm and they had to play while wearing gloves.

Of course, a year later the record came out and I called Geffen/Roberts to bring them back to the market. That’s when I learned they were coming back to play for Barry Fey.

I learned two things: One, don’t take the word of anyone; put what you want in the contract.

Two, at least in those days, you better go with the big guys. So I called Barry Fey. We started a club together in Denver called Ebbets Field.

Once I did that, my career started to change vertically real quick, and it’s all because of the Eagles. I still love them and I consider Irving my closest friend in the business. I took him to a Broncos game on Sunday.

I still laugh about it with the guys. Joe Walsh and I eventually became good friends. He moved to Boulder after the James Gang, started his solo band there and eventually joined the Eagles.

I also learned what a great band was all about, even before they made a record.

I learned my lesson well. In 1981, U2 visited Denver on their first U.S. tour, and played at the Rainbow Music Hall with a $2 ticket. The show is listed in Rolling Stone as one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s 50 greatest moments.

The next day, I took them up to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in my Jeep and said, “You’re going to be filling this place up soon.” (This time, Morris as senior VP of Feyline, landed the historic 1983 concert that became part of the”Under A Blood Red Sky” film and album.)

I’m not knocking the independent, alternative promoters, by the way. There’s a lot of ways to catch fish and you don’t have to go to the big guys to make it. That’s my success story but there have been people who’ve made it all on their own. Certainly my good friends Coran Capshaw, Arny & Jerry from Jam, Don Fox and Doug Kauffman come to mind. And God bless ’em.