Charlie Burrell turns 101, don’t really like your whippersnapper music

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He visited the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, which he was inducted into in 2017, to celebrate.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Denver resident and bassist Charlie Burrell has long been known as the “Jackie Robinson of music.” Although he may not have been the very first A black musician to play with a great American symphony, his employment with the Denver Symphony Orchestra in 1949 absolutely made him a pioneer in this country. He is also one of the last living musicians to play at the Rossonian hotel of Five Points, when the area was a hub for jazz in the west.

Burrell turns 101 on Monday. To celebrate, her family organized five days of tours and meetings; COVID-19 has made it difficult to go anywhere for his 100th birthday. On Saturday, they went to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, which inducted Burrell in 2017. It was his first trip to the Hall of Fame, so he finally got to see his face on the floor. ‘screen honoring him.

At this time, Burrell’s presence in space is limited to one side of the Red Rocks gift shop. Karen Radman, Executive Director of the Hall of Fame, told us that the organization is planning a larger exhibit to open next spring. During his visit, Burrell brought one of his signature Kangol hats, photos and a handmade wooden bass stand to donate for the upcoming exhibit.

Charlie Burrell sits on one of the original wooden benches he painted at Red Rocks when he was young.  Seats now line the walls of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.  October 2, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Charlie Burrell picks up a Kangol hat from his great-granddaughter, Victoria, on a visit to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.  October 2, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Radman said Burrell’s impact on several Colorado musical stages and breaking the color barrier in classical music made him a “perfect match” when it came to selecting him as an inductee.

Burrell has a special connection to Red Rocks, which Radman said she only learned about in recent weeks. When he was young, Burrell performed in a summer evening orchestral series at the Amphitheater. The gig didn’t pay much, so he also had a day job to make ends meet. While many of his colleagues taught music, Burrell took a stand painting the benches of Red Rocks.

“I used a brush and painted 9,000 seats at Red Rocks, from bottom to top. It took me three months, but I did it, ”he said, sitting in one of the original wooden seats, which now line the Hall of Fame space. “It’s definitely one of the benches. I think he still remembers me!

Charlie Burrell sits on one of the original wooden benches he painted at Red Rocks when he was young.  Seats now line the walls of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.  October 2, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame at the Red Rocks Amphitheater.  October 2, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Burrell may be over a century old, but his sense of humor is still in full swing.

Someone in the crowd around him on Saturday asked him if he liked “today’s” music.

– No, he said categorically. “This is my philosophy on the music of today and the music of yesterday. I am from yesterday and thank goodness.

Here is a short document we did on Burrell in 2017:


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