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  • The Astronauts


    The Astronauts



Boulder music is not often associated with surf rock, but The Astronauts made names for themselves bringing that sound to the mountains in the ‘60s.

The band’s unlikely success has earned it the recognition of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, which will induct The Astronauts during a ceremony at the Boulder Theater in September. They’ll be joined by fellow Boulderites Flash Cadillac, Denver band Sugarloaf and KIMN radio, both of which were also popular in the ‘60s.

G. Brown, the Hall of Fame’s director, said the board has been grouping inductees by era, and the ‘60s were an exciting decade to work with.

“The Astronauts were the first band to have an impact outside of the state. They were internationally known,” he said. “RCA records was looking for an act to compete with the Beach Boys on Capitol Records, so they came to The Astronauts and said, ‘Can you play surf music?’ They got signed, and 1,000 miles away from the ocean, became a surf band.”

They became the most popular band in Boulder and mainstays at Boulder’s famed late venue The Tulagi (closed in 2003), while their hit single “Baja” was charting in the U.S.  Meanwhile, in Japan, another single called “Movin” made the top of the charts and the album Surfin With The Astronauts was outselling the Beach Boys.

The band had a seven-year run before drummer Jim Gallagher and guitarist Dennis Lindsey were drafted for the Vietnam War. Gallagher, now 68 and still in town, remembers it all fondly.

“We had this amazing ride, I’ll tell ya,” he said. “When this all started for me, I was 16 or 17 and going to Boulder High and playing in the Boulder High band and always dreaming of going on to bigger and better things.”

When the band was first getting started, the guys would practice in Gallagher’s mom’s basement in North Boulder. She’d bring them hot chocolate and could tell them when even one string was out of tune because, Gallagher said, she had perfect pitch.

At first, they were playing straight rock ‘n’ roll. They loved to cover Little Richard. But when it became clear that RCA was eager to work with them, they went surf rock and found sudden fame.

“It was interesting to go from detailing cars at Boulevard Auto and then all of a sudden we’re in Hollywood and then we’re in Japan, isolated in hotels because we’re superstars,” Gallagher said. “It was really a trip. It was a really life-changing thing, but we all survived it.”

Gallagher is actually thankful that his year of military service brought things to an end. He said it helped them avoid the rapidly growing influence of psychedelics in the music world. Plus, he had a family to start.

“When I got back from service, [my wife] Carol was pregnant about 10 minutes after I got home.,” he said. “It was a long year.”

It’s actually thanks to Carol that The Astronauts have a thoroughly documented past.

“I was on the road all the time and my wife of 49 years kept a scrapbook of things out of the paper and stuff,” he said. “G. Brown found out about this trove of information and pictures of the band. It really brought things closer to this induction. When I met with him — I’m 68 years old but I’m in really good shape and I feel great and everything — I told him I would get the drums out and practice and I told him I would play if one of two of the other guys would play.”

The Astronauts haven’t played together since a reunion show at the Boulder Theater in 1989, but Gallagher said they’ll be ready to play again at the Hall of Fame induction.

“I’ve been practicing some. My wife said it sounds pretty good,” he said. “We’re really pumped about it and I know Stormy Patterson, who was the bassist then, is very pumped about it.”

But as it’s always been, Gallagher seems most excited about his family.

I’m really excited about it because we never thought we’d have grandkids and now we have two grandsons,” he said.”My grandson is eight years old and I told G. Brown the only compensation I want is a picture of me and my grandson sitting behind the drums. The original drums.”

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