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Don Meets: John Denver

It must have been 1969-70 when I walked into the Music Room at KFJZ in Ft Worth, and saw kind of a small dude with bangs wearing a hat that made him appear smaller. The legendary Morning Man and Music Director George Irwin, (George was virtually deaf, but he had single ear pod he'd listen to the records on...the gag was he often heard hits and played them right away).

 

"John this is the Record Man, Don Sundeen, Don this is Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., his dad is a pilot at the SAC Base." We shook hands he said, "I'm changing my name to JOHN DENVER, I concurred that was a good move, his real name wouldn't fit on a record label. He bid farewell to George and I to hear my goods and left for Colorado; but as the years went on I watched his career as a Singer/Songwriter blossom, and his tunes were all over the radio: "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "Annie's Song", "Rocky Mountain High", "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", and "Sunshine on My Shoulders".

 

Mr. Denver's songs hit the spot with the segment of the population that wasn't furious about the Vietnam War, and enraged the anti-war protesters. John wrote and sang about his joy in nature, disdain for city life, and troubled relationships. By 1974 he was established as America's best selling performer racking up sales of some 33 million discs and benefited from his music showing up on the Country Music, the Billboard Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary Charts.

 

John Denver spent some of his happiest years at his beloved Aspen Ranch, where he said he got the inspiration for the over 200 songs he wrote, and had secure solitude from the madding crowd, but his meteoric rise in popularity was too much for a young marriage and eventually they divorced, and John sold the Ranch.

 

He was something of a Renaissance Man: John's paintings and photographs were considered by many at the professional level, and he was also an accomplished skier and golfer. Then there was Denver's love of airplanes; he bought a Lear Jet and flew it to Concert dates, two Cessna 210's and an experimental, amateur-built Rutan Long-EZ. (His was built by someone else from a kit).

 

It all came to an end for John Denver on October 12, 1997. He was flying his new Long-EZ over Monterrey Bay off the Coast of Pacific Grove California, perhaps too low over the waves, and crashed. It was pretty much a disaster and an autopsy showed no drugs or alcohol in his body (He was a recovering alcoholic).

 

Fun Fact: John Denver was a guest on the "Muppet Show" in the mid-1970's, sparking a friendship with Jim Henson that culminated in two TV Specials titled, "John Denver with the Muppets" that was perfect family-watching fare and drew big audiences.

 

So here is John Denver on top of the world in a TV special with great video and HQ Sound, doing his signature song, "Rocky Mountain High." (unfortunantely with lyrics) @therealdonrocks

 

A version of this post originally appeared on The Don Rocks Facebook page. For more stories like these every day, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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