R.I.P. Creighton Holley

Categories: In Memoriam

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Some sad news to report today: We've received word that bluesman Creighton Holley passed away yesterday. The news is devastating to the scene, in general, but particularly for the blues community, which is still grieving the loss of John-Alex Mason, who passed away this past fall at the tragically young age of 35.

While Holley, who just turned 65 last month, had some health concerns related to his heart, he died from a blood-borne form of cancer. Over the summer, Holley was involved in a car accident that damaged a pacemaker that had been installed in his heart the previous year.

Just before the holidays, during a routine checkup to monitor his recovery from that accident, doctors discovered the cancer. And while they made efforts to treat it through medicinal means rather than through radiation, those efforts ultimately proved to be unsuccessful, and Holley ended up passing away yesterday.

Holley, a beloved and longtime member of the local blues community, leaves behind two daughters and a slew of admirers. From his time fronting the Creighton Holley Band and performing with AOA to collaborating with Dan Treanor and hosting Herb's Hideout's famed Monday-night jams, Holley was a highly active member of the scene. For a time, he was also a member of the Rhythm Kings out of Chicago. Beyond bolstering his pedigree, his time with that act proved to be a significant part of his legacy.

"When he joined the Rhythm Kings, at that time people from Colorado just were not taken seriously as blues artists," notes Kai Turner, local blues aficionado and longtime host of Strictly Blues on 103.5/The Fox. "And here comes Creighton Holley, walking into a band that, really, was one of the premier backing bands in Chicago, featuring people like Gene Barge, who just had an incredible blues lineage. These were people who had backed some of the biggest names in Chicago, and they asked Creighton to be their lead singer. So it was sort of a real acknowledgement of the charisma and power that he had."

"Since he's been sick," says Turner, "he hasn't played much, but he's always been one of the great local blues players. His album, Survivor, really sort of set the standard as to what blues from Colorado was supposed to sound like. He was always an energetic and compassionate man, and he always put on a great show.

"He had a very energetic feel for the way that he did his music, and he kind of lived it," Turner goes on. "You know, Survivor was sort of biographical in the sense that that's what he did. He did what he had to do in order to keep playing that music, even if it meant working a 5 a.m. shift at UPS and then doing gigs until three in the morning. He was a hard worker and a great blues artist."

"Hands down, he was the most talented singer/guitar player I've worked with," says drummer Kyle Borthick (aka Kyle Roberts), who played with Holley off and on for more than a decade. "I really can't say enough about his talent. I mean, the guy was astoundingly good. His ear for harmony -- if you were singing a song, you couldn't ask for a better person to back you up, as far as coming up with great parts. His own original material was really, really good. The guy was just a fountain of creativity and great ideas."

"One of the beautiful songs he wrote is called 'Day In, Day Out' -- it's on his solo CD," Borthick recalls. "I remember when he got the idea for it. We were riding around in his car, and he had this old Buick or Oldsmobile, and the turn signal made this kind of metallic sound, like dink-dank-dink-dank -- something like that, you know -- and he goes, 'Wow,' and then he starts humming to himself. And he ended up writing this beautiful song, 'Day In, Day Out,' which is like a Marvin Gaye-style love ballad, based on the idea that he got from hearing the two notes this funky little turn signal made. That's the kind of creativity we're talking about.

"I did the booking for the Creighton Holley Band in the '90s, and when I'd be talking to club owners, telling them about what kind of music it was, I'd describe it like, 'Well, it's like George Benson meets James Brown with a little B.B. King thrown on top of it,'" Borthick continues. "He was as good -- I mean, James Brown is kind of a phenomenon as a performer -- but Creighton's ideas and the horn parts he would come up with were on that caliber. And his guitar playing? He could stand toe-to-toe with anybody. And his soulfulness...not just single-note stuff, but he could play chord solos and he could scat sing-a-long with his single-note stuff in harmony. And he was totally self-taught. He was just one of those phenomenal talents that you don't meet every day. It's a big loss, for sure."

"I think he's influenced just about everybody who's ever seen him," Turner concludes. "Musically, I think, his guitar-playing style was just a very powerful, clean style. And he influenced a lot of guitar players. I think anybody who started playing blues or was introduced to playing blues, especially in the 1990s, was most definitely influenced by Creighton Holly."

As far as we know, no services for Holley are planned at this time. If that changes, we'll certainly let you know. In the meantime, this Sunday, January 8, at 5 p.m., Herb's Hideout is hosting a celebration of his life, which will include an open jam. Players are invited to bring their instruments and a side dish. Clearly he'll be solely missed. "Many of us have lost a very valued friend," says Chris Kresge, host of the Colorado Sound, "and a brilliantly accomplished musician in our community."

We've reached out to several friends of Creighton for more reflections, and we'll be adding those as we get them. Also, please feel free to offer your condolences or share your favorite memory of Creighton in the comments section below. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to Creighton's friends and family.



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Herb's Hideout

2057 Larimer St., Denver, CO

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16 comments
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Randon David
Randon David

AndonFinally its starting to hit me that I won't be playing gigs with my friend anymore...thank you for showing me not only music but life itself...we played so much together over the last 11 yrs you are like a brother that I've just lost...thanks for all of your funny anectdotes from the past and thanks for the music we played I will always cherish it all may god bless you creighton...dave

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use freshmozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economycheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to befrozen.--Agedate. ℃⊙M--a nice and free placefor younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact witheach other.

Scott (Dayton Ohio)
Scott (Dayton Ohio)

I was living in Colorado in the 90's when Jim McGinnis(Ginley ) first introduced me to Creighton up at Lindens in Fort Collins Co. and you were instantly drawn to his music..Jim and I were Best friends at that time, and Jim is the one who actually put the money up to help produce the Survior album..Jim just recently passed away over a year ago from Cancer too, and now again here is another one of my friends that we have lost to Cancer...RIP Chreighton...Love You Bro! Scott (Dayton Ohio)

Chriskings
Chriskings

Creighton was such an amazingly sweet player and man. He used to come sit in with the Kings at the Little Bear and Herman's Hideaway and he was so damn good. We loved it - any time he wanted to play with us -- it was a party for us and a treat. I will miss his voice and his warm heart and his sweet guitar style. Damn, life is so short. Sending love and prayers and thanks for the gift of knowing such a wonderful man ... sending it out to his daughters. Big hugs, Chris Daniels

Maggie Kunze
Maggie Kunze

I hired Creighton's band in the late 80's in Old Town Fort Collins--what a sweet,very talented, fun guy--I lost touch with him in the last 10 years-so sorry to hear his passing-condolences to his family

margaretta holley
margaretta holley

Hi I am Creighton's younger sister, I spent my childhood with my brother. We had some of the best times of our lives in the place where we grew up Chapel Alley. We never had much, but the love bond and being surrounded by nothing but family was priceless. we couldn't have asked for anything more. I'll miss my brother, but I'll see him again. Keep your heads high, he wasn't fond of mourning. peace  Sis Holley

Dorothy_g
Dorothy_g

I remember growing up in Carlisle, Pa and enjoying Nick's music at many high school dances. He sure was an upbeat person and could make anyone laugh. I will miss him but so glad I got to listen to his outstanding talent once again. God Bless his family.

Jude DeLorca
Jude DeLorca

Really gracious write-up Dave  - he was indeed funny, soulful, spiritual and one of Denver's great rock and blues musicians - music won't be the same without him - Vaya son los angeles - Nick -  Jude

Paul Matthew Lobato
Paul Matthew Lobato

Nick and I were co-partners, along with singer, Dianne Moore, for nearly a decade (70s and 80s) in a popular Denver club band - Boulevard. As frontman, lead-singer, and guitarist, his eclectic stylings integrated well - to our great advantage - in those transitional years of Disco, Pop, New Wave, and Rhythm and Blues.  Instantly noticeable to fellow players and many in the audience, Nick's voice and musical talents were uncannily natural and primed for success.  Plus, he was an extraordinary harmonist and arranger, and a talented song writer.  Nick was a gregarious and eager communicator who made friends easily and complimented others generously.  His charm was matched with a broad, genuine smile. 

We were also good friends and fellow road travelers - literally and proverbially - pursuing dreams musicians often share.  Nick was my Best-Man at my wedding, which now seems a millennia ago, and my memories of him in those younger years have remained frozen in time (we lost touch after the band relocated to Southern California).  What has endured of my old friend are those things that are timeless, indelible:  echoes of song, laughter and applause; recollections of friends, families, and loves found and lost; reflections on the lyrics of one's life.  And music...always the music.

This may resonate with many who knew him:  Nick's laugh was an infectious, engaging, sincere explosion of song itself.  Such was the soul of this quintessential, self-made musician-singer.  Nick exposed his spirit in his voice, and wore his heart on the strings of his guitar.

Mssims86
Mssims86

R.I.P uncle nick you have left many memories for us to cherish always looking to humor everyone with your silly personality ill never forgot u how could i tho im your only eskimo baby i love you uncle nick may you rest in peace

ReginaHolley
ReginaHolley

Rest In Peace Dad I love you and you are truely missed. gone but never forgotten.

Blues Vassal
Blues Vassal

Thanks for the nice write up Dave. Heartbreaking to see my dear old friend leave us.

Rootsrhythmband
Rootsrhythmband

Creighton was my main man.  We used to sit in my house and garage in the summer and trade licks.  He was always such a sweet and deeply spiritual person.  Sure am sad to see hi go.

Jesús
Jesús

This is incredibly sad news. Creighton was a such a great, soulful blues player and singer. I had the privilege of playing with him on a few occasions, and I'll never forget it - he was a true gentleman and a class act. My condolences to his family and his band mates. Rest in peace, Creighton. You are already very much missed. Yours truly, Jesús Vázquez

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