Published: Dec. 1, 2016 By

Judy Collins

Before there was Wi-Fi, there was Hi-Fi.

The year was 1959.

A folk music craze was sweeping America.

The High Fidelity/Long Playing record, which had been invented in 1948, was (as we would say today) going viral.

There were no hippies.

But there were beatniks, and a lot of them were into folk music.

And there was a bar in Denver called the Exodus, which had tapped into the folk music craze.

All this prompted some enterprising CU students and alumni to produce a record titled Folk Song Festival at Exodus.

The guys behind the project were Pat Young (PolSci’60) and Hank Fox (Bus’59). Young was managing editor of the Colorado Daily in 1959. Fox was a recent CU grad who had started a record company in Boulder called Sky Lark.

Somehow they convinced the Exodus owner to put up $500 for the project. They paid a bartender $10 to design an album cover. Young wrote the album notes.

All the artists on the album were CU affiliates — students, alums and at least one young employee, a woman. One featured group would achieve national success and the employee true superstardom.

But first the album had to see light of day, and  finding places to do the recording proved hard.

Young and Fox had a pal who was a late night DJ at KBOL, Boulder’s radio station. He agreed to let them use the station’s studio during his shift. They were almost arrested when the assistant station manager dropped by unexpectedly.

They tried to record the album’s lone female vocalist at the Glory Hole, a bar in Central City, but it was too noisy. They eventually succeeded in an apartment with blankets on the walls for soundproofing.

No one got rich off the album. Dave Wood (MSpan’69), who had the last track on it, said the musicians used to joke that “We all got a check for $7.50, and the check bounced.” (Young said they did better than that.)

The group that made the national charts was the Harlin Trio, which included Buffs H. Brooks Hatch (A&S’63) and Bryan Sennett (PolSci’63). They eventually reinvented themselves as a nine-member group called the Serendipity Singers and made it onto the national charts — No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1964 — with “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down.”

Then there was the girl they had such a hard time recording. She’d been working at CU while her husband finished his degree. Her name was Judy Collins. The three tracks she performed for the album — “House of the Rising Sun,” “Tell Old Bill” and “Two Sisters” — are her earliest known recordings. 

Keystone Pictures USA / Alamy Stock Photo