Frey had strong ties to Aspen ‘partytown’
January 21, 2016
News of Glenn Frey's death was met with surprise and sadness Monday by Aspen residents who remembered the Eagles earning their chops by playing at a long-gone club at the base of Little Nell.
Frey and his original band mates played their first extended appearance as The Eagles at the Gallery in 1971. Frey recalled the time for the late Stewart Oksenhorn in a Sept. 3, 2010, article in The Aspen Times.
"I remember the first night, there were 40 people for the first set, then 80 people for the second set," Frey told Oksenhorn. "By the fourth show of the night, it was packed. The word spread pretty quickly."
Frey's recollection was that they played several shows in October 1971 and then returned to Aspen the next month.
"It was all because of Irving Azoff," said Tim Mooney, who got to know the members of the Eagles while bartending at the Hotel Jerome.
Azoff, also the manager for Jimmy Buffett, knew the scene in Aspen and brought the Eagles in to develop their live show.
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"They basically rehearsed a lot of songs when they got together here," Mooney said. "They were as green as the audience was."
He got to know the band members when they started coming to the Hotel Jerome hoping to meet Hunter S. Thompson. A few years later, Buffett hired Mooney as a roadie. Buffett opened for the Eagles, who were on their way to super stardom.
"We started partying and hanging out with those guys," Mooney said.
Bobby Mason, the dean of the Aspen music scene, also met Frey when the Eagles first played the Gallery. Mason was a regular player there with the group Black Pearl. He had a chance to sit in once with the Eagles, he said.
The Eagles had a fast rise and then an implosion. Squabbling among the band members led to a breakup in 1980, but Frey, a guitarist, singer and songwriter for the group, retained ties to Aspen, as did drummer, songwriter and singer Don Henley.
Henley purchased a home in Woody Creek and got immersed for a time in local politics. Frey purchased a home on Snowmass Creek Road next to his buddy Buffett. Buffett made a reference to his neighbor in the 1985 song "Gypsies in the Palace" about caretakers who throw legendary parties.
Frey was a frequent visitor to Aspen in the 1970s and 1980s and part of the party scene.
"Everybody was into Bordeux red wine and blow back then," Mooney said.
Frey confirmed to Oksenhorn that his 1982 song "Partytown" was partially inspired by Aspen.
Frey also got involved in the local golf scene. Tim Cottrell, the former proprietor of the Smuggler Land Office restaurant and bar, said the joint was the headquarters for celebrities in Ed Podolak's High Country Shoot-out golf tournament and fundraiser. Buffett was initially the big-name star in the event. Frey later took over, Cottrell said. He recalled ribbing both Buffett and Frey at some of the tournaments for being on the wrong side of the ball, as they were lefthanders.
Buffett and Frey also sdfd competitors on the softball diamond, sort of. Buffett sponsored a team in the Aspen recreational league called the Downvalley Doughboys. Their logo resembled the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Frey was more competitive. He sponsored the "Werewolves" in Aspen's A League, Mooney recalled.
"They played to win," he said.
Frey eventually purchased Buffett's house on Snowmass Creek Road, but as the years went on, he spent less time in Old Snowmass. Both properties are listed for sale through Aspen Realtor Craig Morris.
Frey played with Joe Walsh, who joined the Eagles well after their earlier appearances in Aspen, in a 2010 show at the Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival. Oksenhorn had an excellent interview with Frey before that show.
Mooney was shocked to hear of Frey's death Monday.
"He was a sweetheart. He was really kind and really happy. He knew he had a gift," Mooney said. "He knew they were destined to be the biggest rock band on the planet."
Mason said Frey's death is yet another reminder to live every day like it's your last.
"I'm sorry to lose a friend," he said.