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A Northern Colorado Icon: Boots Jaffee 

We've been honored to share the stage a number of times at the last few shows with Boots Jaffee.  A few years back there was this game that people played - Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon.  The premise was that everyone in the world could, in six steps, have a direct link to actor Kevin Bacon. That got morphed to Six Degrees to "just about anyone".  Including The Grateful Dead.  In Boot's case he is 0 degrees to the Dead, having done pyrotechnics for them in the late 60's to late mid-70's. Aside from being a huge link to the Grateful Dead, Boots is probably one of the most versatile, accomplished, knowledgeable and just plain nice people we've had the pleasure of knowing and jamming with. 

One thing you may not know about Boots is that he called the late great folk singer and civil rights activist, Odetta "Mom" and she called him "Son". According to an article about Boots in the May 11, 2011 issue of The Greeley Tribune, this incredible relationship began when "he was 15 and attending a workshop at Shaker Village in New Lebanon, N.Y., when he first met Odetta. One of the special activities there was when you would get “arrested,” taken in the middle of a stack of hay bales, and you had to do something to get out. He was teamed with Odetta, and to get out of jail, she sang “Wayfaring Stranger,” wowing both the small crowd and the teenage boy. 

To this day, that song is the one that “gets” Boots every time. 

It was about a year later that the pair’s relationship was permanently cemented. He was with her in Greenwich Village one afternoon, and they walked into one of Odetta’s favorite watering holes. She was going to leave him at the bar for a few moments, and he worried out loud that, as just a 16-year-old, he’d be asked to leave. 

If anyone hassled him, she said, “Just tell them you’re my son.” And from then on, he was. Boots came from a stable, two-parent home, and they welcomed Odetta as part of the family. 

“We had an incredible connection,” Boots said. Read the whole article about Odetta and Boots here.


Living in a COVID world  

Well, 2020 was stacked up to be our best year ever, with gigs lined up from February through November.  Our Feb. gig with All Night Train, a fun near capacity show on a Sunday afternoon at Avos had us all pumped up for the future. And then COVID hit, and one show after another was canceled. We were luckier than many bands, in that we were able to play outdoors at Avos in July, September and October, and a street show  in Loveland in September (during the huge fires that consumed so much of Rocky Mountain National Park and dropped ash on us all night long.)

But when the going gets tough...the tough still practice and learn new songs and make some personnel changes.  We are really happy to have James Paul laying down his funky beats on bass guitar.  Fresh out of Chicago, James was running a Blues Jam in Fort Collins when we first met him in January of 2019.  We were surprised when he whipped out a raucous version of Love Light - it's not too often you hear someone playing Dead at a Blues Jam!   So when Doug Salmon left in January to pursue other musical interests, our rhythm guitar player, Ken Duran, saved the day and filled in on bass, while Jeff Bassler temporarily took over on rhythm.   But we knew we needed a new bass player...

James was by this time playing bass for the Buzz Brothers, but he was keen to play more Grateful Dead music.  By late Spring he was practicing regularly with us, and played his first gig as a member of Cowboys Dead on July 24, 2020. With James on board, we've been exploring a wider repertoire of music, adding in some R&B and funk overtones, as well as expanding our vocals to include James and more of drummer Dave White.

We've also been incorporating more blues and traditional songs, creating new arrangements and really finding our own voice while staying true to the vintage Grateful Dead sound that we've become known for.  So we're pretty excited to roll all this out for you on April 25 at our first gig of 2021 on the patio at Avo's, 1-4PM.

Beyond Cowboy, beyond the Dead 

When we chose the bands name 5 or 6 years ago, we wanted to differentiate ourselves from other Dead bands out there who play mostly the "newer" Grateful Dead of the late 80's, early 90's.  Our interest and passion was, and still is, the early 70s era,  of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. Over time, we've expanded on that sound, and introduce today's Deadheads to music they might not be familiar with. That's why, when you come to one of our shows, you'll hear some of the more bluesy Dead material like Smokestack Lightning and It Hurts Me Too, Alligator, the Rub, Mr. Charlie.. .


Current Events 

Hey Deadheads -

We've got some exciting new changes coming to our website so please stop back soon to check them out. For now, check out the music page, we've adding some live recordings - great long jams!

Cowboys Dead