Cowboy strummer Twirp Anderson returns for Snowmass Club show
You could say it’s been quite a ride, but Twirp Anderson isn’t one to brag.
The guitar-picking cowboy who’s done everything from horseshoeing to apres-ski entertaining to mining made a special appearance last week at the Snowmass Club. The small affair in the upstairs Club Room was attended by many longtime locals and part-time residents who came to see Anderson and his current band Timbermill play.
Up until this year, Anderson has almost always had a regular gig in Snowmass, starting just a couple of years after the resort was founded. Anderson started entertaining in Aspen with a group called the Hustlers in 1966, and after they disbanded in 1969, he moved here permanently from Boulder.
“I had spent more time (during those years) in Aspen than in Boulder,” Anderson said. “I loved the area.”
He became acquainted with Reed Harris, who was the superintendent of an iron mine at Ashcroft. Anderson had experience hauling logs on trucks and got a job from Harris hauling iron to the railroad station in Woody Creek.
Shortly after, Anderson began playing music at the legendary Timbermill on the Snowmass Village Mall. Opened by Michael Shore and Paul Lurch with some financing from John Denver, the Timbermill bar and restaurant occupied the entire building of the same name at the end of the mall.
“It was a fun place,” Anderson said. “It truly was.”
Cash Cashman, who still plays bass with Anderson in the Timbermill band, also began performing there with Anderson in 1970. The two have been joined by varying musicians under different band names over the years, but today they are joined by Randall Utterback, who he says is “probably one of the most accomplished people I’ve ever worked with.”
Anderson does the lead singing, a talent he says he learned gathering with his family around his mother’s piano while growing up on a ranch in Idaho. He later would learn the guitar, banjo and fiddle, too.
Anderson has put his ranch skills to use over the years, too. In the early ’70s, another of his jobs was at Snowmass Stables, working for Doug McLain, who founded the Snowmass Rodeo in 1973. Anderson helped dig the first holes for the fence posts of the old arena and was the rodeo announcer for about 35 years. He still plays music at the rodeo every week. He also used to compete as a bronc rider.
“We thought we were cowboys,” Anderson quipped.
The rodeo isn’t the only community organization Anderson helped build. Harris had a deaf child, and he was responsible for creating what is now known as the Aspen Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Anderson was working for Harris then, and he and other mine employees donated their time on weekends to build the original camp structure, still on the grounds at the Old Snowmass property today. Harris, who had seen Anderson play with the Hustlers, also asked him to organize entertainment for a picnic fundraiser at T Lazy 7 Ranch.
That was the beginning of a 15-year mission for Anderson. He started out by forming a group himself to entertain at the picnics and eventually recruited names like John Denver, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Jimmy Buffett for what became known as the Deaf Camp Picnic, growing from an attendance of about 100 people the first year to more like 7,500.
“Once John Denver and the stars began to come, everyone wanted to get on the bill,” Anderson said. “It began to get a lot of notoriety.”
Over the years since the closure of the Timbermill, Anderson and his counterparts have brought their mix of country, Celtic, bluegrass and John Denver covers to various bars around the village, including a long stint at the Silvertree Hotel and most recently a couple of seasons at The Edge restaurant at Timberline Condominiums. This is the first season they haven’t had a regular gig, making their appearance last week at the Snowmass Club that much more special.
In the audience were many of their longtime friends and fans. Shore was there, as well as Gracie Oliphant, who used to cater and run sleigh rides out of her cabin. Anderson shod her horses and also entertained her guests.
“You made it great, Twirp,” Oliphant said when he acknowledged her during the show last week.
Also in the audience were Jim Ward, who used to run snowcat tours on Snowmass before the lifts were built, and John McBride, who helped develop the resort as well as the Aspen Business Center. He also happened to be another of Anderson’s farrier clients.
Ken Roberts, who used to put on the John Denver tributes at the Wheeler Opera House, organized last week’s affair, which benefited the Bridging Bionics Foundation, after he and a few others decided “it was time to bring Twirp back.” Roberts even sang a few songs with Timbermill.
And one very special guest was Jan Garrett, who was part of the Hustlers all those years ago. Anderson pointed Garrett out and told the crowd the story of how he first came to Aspen.
“I get a little choked up when I think of those days,” he said.
Anderson, who has relocated to Grand Junction to be closer to his grandchild, says he doesn’t know if Timbermill will be back in Snowmass anytime soon. The band plays lots of private parties and events but hasn’t been successful setting up something regular in the village again.
“Maybe they’re just a little tired of us,” he said.
The crowd at the Snowmass Club last week seemed anything but, especially when Timbermill ended with the song Anderson wrote for the resort’s 40th anniversary, called “Snowmass.” Everyone stood, and most quietly sang along:
“We’ve skied her mountain majesty; we’ve walked her many trails … ”
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Spend enough time on the trails and slopes of Snowmass Village and you’ll probably see Brandon Hawksley at some point — or his handiwork, anyway.