Chuck Morris is a name synonymous with the Front Range music scene. From promoting such acts as Joni Mitchell, The Eagles and the Doobie Brothers, to now acting as the CEO of AEG Live Rocky Mountains, his influence on the region's entertainment scene has been monumental. On Monday, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee returned to The Sink — an establishment he once managed — to autograph the wall above his latest caricature painted by artist Sean Bailey.
"When I saw he was being inducted, I thought it would be a great opportunity to honor him," said The Sink's marketing manager Gwynedd Bailey. "We are going to be adding some famous faces to the walls and I thought he would be the perfect person to get it started."
The beloved dive bar, in the heart of University Hill, is known for having the best burger in Boulder and also is known for employing Robert Redford as a janitor, prior to his cinematic career. It has been a watering hole where Barack Obama, Guy Fieri and the late-Anthony Bourdain have dined, and it continues to be a place where both families and students share baskets of fries and pitchers of beer. The mural-covered, low-light haunt also is the place where musicians plugged in and captivated audiences — some for the very first time — thanks to Morris.
The first band Morris booked at The Sink was Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids, who later went on to appear in the 1973 classic film "American Graffiti" and on episodes of "Happy Days."
At just 16, Brooklyn-born Morris graduated from high school. At 20, he earned his undergrad degree from Queens College. He relocated to Colorado and attended the University of Colorado Boulder to pursue his doctorate in political science. After clocking long hours in the Norlin Library, he said he'd blow off steam by having a beer with Sink owner Herbie Kauvar. One night, Kauvar suggested Morris fill the shoes of a manager who had quit.
"I've always loved music and people and Herbie gave me my break," said Morris. "It was fate."
With Tulagi's nightclub, another legendary now-shuttered venue, Morris gave Boulder its first real concert hall experience, booking acts like ZZ Top and Bonnie Raitt. Morris' children also reaped the benefits of their hard-working father.
"All five of my kids are very much into music," said Morris. "They grew up backstage."
While Morris savors the rich musical landscape of the past, he doesn't discredit the talent that continues to surface in The Centennial State. AEG Live Rocky Mountains books more than 800 shows in Colorado and 100 at Red Rocks Amphitheater each year.
"I think the Colorado music scene is just as vibrant as ever," said Morris. "Look at The Fray, OneRepublic, The Lumineers and all the bands that have come out of this area."
Morris credits his staying power within the industry to his unrelenting love for an art form he's adored since he was child. At age 10, Morris saw American folk group The Kingston Trio in concert — an experience he said would stick with him for years.
"I always had a passion for music, but I didn't think I could make a living at it," said Morris. "I never had managed a bar. I never even took a business class. But, I learned right away that I was a natural promoter."
Monday at The Sink, Morris rolled the sleeve up on his Avett Brothers T-shirt to reveal a bicep tattoo with the words "Born to Folk" around a banjo. It's obvious from his ink and his more than 50-year career in an ever-changing market, the commitment he has to music is unwavering.
"Ever since I was a kid, I spent every penny I earned baby-sitting — when I was 12 and 13 — on records, EPs and going to concerts," said Morris.
Soon Morris will add yet another accolade to his robust legacy. Come August, Mission Ballroom — a 3,950-seat indoor venue Morris has dreamed up — will open its doors in Denver. The site will anchor the mixed-use project North Wynkoop — 175,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space in the RiNo District. Mission Ballroom, a collaboration between AEG and Westfield Company, Inc., will offer an innovative flexible stage, allowing the space to morph to accommodate a more intimate set.
"It's going to be the best concert experience in Colorado," said Morris. "You'll be very pleased with who we bring in. Big names."
Kalene McCort: 303-473-1107, email@example.com