What: Kenny Weissberg, “Off My Rocker” reading and signing
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-447-2074
Cost: $5 (dedcuted from cost of book)
Kenny Weissberg has a story to tell, and much of the action goes down in Boulder.
Weissberg’s book, “Off My Rocker” chronicles his long and varied career in music. The short version is that he came to Boulder in 1971, spent six years as a KRNW DJ, wrote for the Colorado Daily, started Cake Eaters magazine, became an original on-air personality at KBCO and KGNU, got hired as the first rock critic for the Daily Camera in ‘76, starred his own band in ‘80. In ‘83, he moved to San Diego as a concert promoter, which he did for 23 years while hosting an award-winning radio show.
Of course, it’s better to hear him tell it, and it started long before 1971.
“The common thread is probably that I actualized a lot of my childhood dreams,” Weissberg said. “When I was 8 years old … we’re talking 1955, ‘56, ‘57, when rock ‘n’ roll was just in birth, I listened to it on a transistor radio. I immediately got the rock ‘n’ roll bug and I’ve had it ever since.”
But aside from the DJ gigs, there was no plan. One thing simply lead to another. Starting a band was the only other part of his career that he’d ever thought about before, and that was still unexpected.
“I put that band together on a dare. It came from a Daily Camera column,” he said. “I wrote a negative review and I’d run into musicians on the street … when I wrote things that might be construed as negative and they’d say, ‘I read your review. I’d like to see what you can do.’ I’d never been in a band, so I decided that I was gonna put a band together.”
He took voice lessons and landed Firefall bassist Mark Andes (who later played for Heart). Soon he had a full band and a gig at the Blue Note, a now-gone club on Pearl Street.
“Because I had Mark Andes as the first member in my band, everyone else was the best guitarist in Boulder and the best drummer in Boulder, and then there’s inexperienced me.”
Inexperience never stopped him, though. Weissberg lied to get his first DJ gig back in New Jersey, and learned how to do it by himself on his first six-hour shift. Years later, he’d become a wildcard in Boulder radio.
“[KBCO] was playing John Denver and Jerry Walker and Pure Prairie League. I was playing demos from the Sex Pistols and The Clash before they came out,” he said. “[At KGNU] I was playing rock ‘n’ roll and the program director said to me, ‘Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have a place in public radio.’ So I had to fight that battle for many years, and it was a battle that I eventually won.”
Eventually, Weissberg and his wife, artist Helen Redman, left for San Diego, where a friend was offering Weissberg a job in concert promotion. He’d always held promoters in “total disdain,” but he moved west and produced Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay for 23 years and did his Music Without Boundaries show for 14 years.
But Weissberg grew tired of concert promotion and the radio program was canceled during a station consolidation. Here’s where his mother’s dreams come true.
“On her death bed, I think her final words to me were, ‘So when are you gonna write your book?’ he said.
She’d always wanted him to write a book, so he compiled all of these stories and more. Scattered throughout are his interviews with stars like Miles Davis, Fats Domino, Elvis Costello and Bill Murray.
Now Weissberg and his wife are considering a move back to Boulder, and while they’re in town for a reading of “Off My Rocker,” Weissberg’s life seems to be coming full-circle.
“I arrived for the first time in Boulder as a 23-year-old without direction. I end up getting into radio, getting into journalism, being a performer. Boulder was so magical for me. In 12 years I barely eked out an existence and I was lured into San Diego with a salary of $27,000 dollars, which was just unbelievable to me at the time,” he said. “Now I’m back in boulder, I’m on Medicare, I’m on Social Security, I just turned 65 and I’m talking to the music writer for the Daily Camera and Colorado Daily. I find it ironic and I love it.”