With the help of a psychic, Barry Fey reconnects with some old friends and one bitter adversary
Dan Fong Barry Fey and Michelle Houchens at Red Rocks
Barry Fey on that time that he held a gun to Axl Rose's head
Harry Tuft and Barry Fey inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame
Red Rocks' famous hidden tunnel: A peek at the rock star signatures
Dan Fong's unpublished rock photos on display this Friday at the Gallery
This year, Barry Fey was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Last year, he published his first book, Backstage Past, which gave the legendary promoter a chance to relate some of his best stories from the past. It's that past that psychic medium Michelle Houchens attempted to reconnect him with recently at Red Rocks. We were on hand with photographer Dan Fong to document the exchange between Houchens and Fey, who channeled some of his old friends and one particularly noteworthy adversary.
As Fey looks down from the top row of Red Rocks at a staging crew that's busy setting up, he says, "Get off my stage." Fey views the musical community around him with a sense of entitlement, and rightly so. While John Shear booked the East Coast and Bill Graham handled the West Coast, for nearly three decades Fey owned everything in between: He was the first promoter to book Black Sabbath in 1971, he booked the Doors before anybody knew who they were, and he threw parties for the Rolling Stones, during which Mick Jagger once even tucked Fey's son into bed.
Among his many other accomplishments, Fey helped make Red Rocks one of the most revered venues on the planet when he brought U2 there to perform. He also saved Denver's historic Paramount Theatre when it faced certain destruction, and he stepped in to help keep the Colorado Symphony Orchestra afloat. "I am something special," declares Fey, adding that's he's also had a lot of luck. "How I got here, if you don't think that's an accident, you're out of your mind.... I am the quintessential person being at the right place at the right time."
Fey was a fierce businessman, readily proclaiming his willingness to crush other promoters, especially rival Bill Graham. But he was also able to put business aside, booking Ringo Starr repeatedly even though he never made any money (he jokes about listing Ringo as a dependent).
Jon Solomon Barry Fey at his Colorado Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony earlier this year.
Ultimately, though, Fey is fiercely loyal and deeply compassionate. His main priority when he was calling the shots was the people he served. He likens himself to the Pied Piper. "I never went out and said, 'You people should like this,'" he explains. "I went out and found out what they did like, and I brought it." Like happy mice, the people of Colorado gladly followed. And he always made an effort to look out for them in return.
"I remember when I used to do a show at Mile High Stadium," Fey recalls. "We used to go in the neighborhoods and pass out fliers -- we might have a fireworks show -- that said, 'Please keep your dogs inside.' And we would make arrangements with the city that the people wouldn't be charged if the dogs ran away." As for the bands: "I didn't get 'em dope and I didn't get 'em chicks, 'cause I wasn't a pimp, and I wasn't a dealer, but I sold tickets, which, after all, was what they came for.... It was like we were friends, brothers, sisters -- whatever you want to call it. We belonged to each other."
This is the type of loyalty that Fey is unable to find in the contemporary music business, a deficiency that he credits to the evolution of the music scene into a money-first mentality not possible when he was around. In his time, if you took a chance on a group and "you were right and they got big and you treated them right, you got big with them," Fey says. "Now, if you do that, one of the monsters swoops up, and they offer them 120 million dollars for a tour." The bands he promoted, Fey contends, would never have done that. "I couldn't be Barry Fey today," he adds.
Perhaps not. But on this day, with the help of Houchens, Fey was able to reconnect to the past. Houchens, an expert at communicating with "beings who have transcended over," says that the same way we recognize the vibrations of each other's voices, so is the vibration different for the voices of the dead. "I can audibly hear them, and it's just an innate voice."
As you'll see below, we were fortunate enough to listen in while Houchens channeled some of Fey's dearest friends who had long passed away and also gave him some insight into his heated and bitter rivalry with Bill Graham. The conversation became poignant when, through Houchens, Fey reconnected with Tommy Bolin and Jimi Hendrix. The channeling touched on Fey's relationships with both of them, and even included some advice from passed icons Richard Pryor, Janis Joplin and Tupac Shakur.