Chris Daniels & The Kings: For 35 Years, It’s Been Good To Be A King

On a warm, April night, several hundred “roadhouse music” fans, gathered at the historic Boulder Theater, to celebrate the music of Chris Daniels & The Kings and a career that has spanned more than three decades.

Who would’ve thought the back up band, abandoned by their lead singer, Russell Smith (former front man for the Amazing Rhythm Aces), would end up leading the charge of amazing musicians coming out of Colorado.

Saddened at the thought of their back-up band breaking up, they decided to do “one last show” at the now defunct, Blue Note on March 14, 1984, in Boulder. Chris Daniels took lead vocals, they grabbed some friends who played horns, and had the crowd on their feet and chanting for more. They never looked back.

And now, 35 years later, the jam packed Boulder Theater was electric, and by the end of the 3-hour show, the cheering crowd was on their feet and rattling the rafters.

(Awesome photos in slider below, courtesy of Phillip Thoming)

Photo credit: Phillip Thoming

For band leader, Chris Daniels, those 35 years were filled with a lot of highs and lows.

In 1995, Daniels received a Master of Arts in History/Economic History at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He was Executive Director of Denver’s Swallow Hill Music for five years, before leaving to join the faculty at CU, as Assistant Professor of the College of Arts and Media in 2002.

Daniels was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame, alongside Judy Collins in 2012 and now serves as Executive Director for the Hall of Fame, since retiring from teaching in 2018.

Along with the success, came heartache. In 2010, Daniels was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and went through chemotherapy, in addition to having a bone marrow transplant, thanks to his sister.

The cancer slowed him down, but it didn’t stop him, and only increased his determination to keep making music.

Playing more than 120 dates per year, over two continents, the Kings have also served as back up band to greats like Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Johnnyswim, Sonny Landreth, David Bromberg, Al Kooper, Bo Diddley and Was (Not Was).

Throughout his illustrious career, Daniels has shared the stage with some of the most hallowed names in music, including B.B. King, Joe Walsh, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Oates, The Lumineers, Uncle Kracker, Blues Traveler, The Neville Brothers and many more.

Photo credit: Phillip Thoming

Many revered musicians took the stage at the Boulder Theater celebration, including notable appearances by:

Freddi Gowdy has been a staple on the Colorado music scene for decades, since his days with the renowned Freddi Henchi Band. Gowdy joined the Kings several years ago and, with them, recorded their most recent album, Blues With Horns Volume One.

The woman the Rocky Mountan News calls “a force of nature”, legendary vocalist and producer, Hazel Miller, has made her mark during her years in Denver and has joined some of the most esteemed musicians on stage over her successful career, including Chris Daniels & The Kings.

Friends since college days, Kenny Passarelli started his music career as the bass player for Joe Walsh, co-writing the Colorado anthem, Rocky Mountain Way. Passarelli went on to play and record with many other legendary musicians, including Elton John, Dan Fogelberg, Stephen Stills and Hall & Oates.

Colorado native, Todd Park Mohr, formed his band with some friends from high school, in 1984. Mohr’s band, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, went on to receive worldwide notoriety and critical acclaim.

Chris Daniels & The Kings 1984

Previous Kings, that came back for the special anniversary show were:

Bryan Grassmeyer (Nashville, TN), Randy Barker (Nashville, TN), Forest Means (Bloomington, IN), Joey Delauro (Tuscon, AZ), Carlos Chaves (Denver, CO) and Billy Hoke (Boulder, CO).

Chris Daniels & The Kings 2018
Photo credit: Phillip Thoming

The Cass Clayton Band, a favorite Colorado band in their own right, opened for the legendary Kings. 

Cass says she’s been a fan of Chris Daniels since the eighties. We asked her how it felt to open the anniversary show for the Denver icon.

Chris Daniels and the Kings were the very first band I saw when I moved to Colorado. This was 20 years before I was even thinking about making music myself. My friends and I went to hear them regularly because they were a phenomenal band with high energy and, of course, a horn section! Someone (I won’t say who) may have had a crush on the sax player. Ha!,” Cass laughs. “Back then, hearing a band I loved was a mixture of ecstasy and a slight feeling of jealousy for me. I didn’t yet know that I would be a musician someday, and Chris Daniels and the Kings were inspiring me, but I couldn’t fulfill what wasn’t yet a reality. There was a magnetic pull that I now realize was drawing me to bands I could learn from. It was all happening at a pretty unconscious level. So to come full circle and to be opening for their 35th Anniversary show at the Boulder Theater was a huge moment,” she said proudly. “I’m so grateful to Chris – what an amazing night!”

The current Kings  are  – Chris Daniels (rhythm guitar, vocals), Freddi Gowdy (vocals), Colin “Bones” Jones (lead guitar), 
Randy Amen (drums, vocals), 
Kevin “Bro” Lege (bass, vocals), 
Darryl “Doody” Abrahamson (trumpet, vocals) and  Jim Waddell (alto /tenor sax, flute & vocals).

Check out the vintage video below from 1990, of Chris Daniels & The Kings performing “Depot Street”, a song that was written by Tom Petty and brought to the band by Al Kooper of Bob Dylan and Blood, Sweat & Tears fame.

And here’s a recent video, with Freddi Gowdy doing “I Like Your Shoes,” off the Blues With Horns album.

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