Jamboree

Gayway Park is located in Beulah, Colorado, a natural valley at the edge of the Colorado Rockies west of Pueblo. The Denver Post once called it “The most beautiful valley in Colorado” and we agree. In the late 1800’s it also had been known as “Mace’s Hole” after an outlaw who’d lived there. In what at one time had been a lake, in probably the 1930’s, was built a large dance hall/restaurant with lots of surrounding land right in the middle of the small town of about 500 permanent residents. This was Gayway Park, our home for almost a decade.

Gayway Park a few years before Dad bought it in 1953. The main building was an interesting octagonal building. The large cottonwood trees in the background surrounded the entire property of what had once been the edges of a lake.

Dad probably proudly painted the sign on the front window on a summer day in 1953. Earlier in his life he had been a painter for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation (CF&I) in Wyoming and Crested Butte and later for St. Mary Corwin Hospital. It was the beginning of a wild, fun ride for us and the valley.

A rare color photograph which show one of the early versions of the band, many musicians played with Buddy and The Rangers for years. Left to right: Russ Hayes steel guitar (21 years), Duke Farrin violin (21 years), Buddy on drums, Dan Knezevich guitar (4 years), Red Fanning piano (15 years). From 1945 to 1986 Buddy employed dozens and dozens of fine musicians. The band played Gayway countless times.

A typical 1950’s Saturday night dance crowd. Gayway was Buddy Johnson and the Colorado Rangers home and they performed there often. When Buddy was playing elsewhere around the region, other bands, often run by friends like Jim Lacy and the "Melody Rangers", Milo Youngman and "The Vagabonds", or “Arkie” of the "Greehorn Valley Boys" kept things jumping. Gayway was a destination which Buddy advertised on his numerous TV and radio shows.

Lots of events were held at Gayway during these years; dances, large parties and celebrations of all types, but Buddy’s Sunday Gayway Jamborees stood out. It was similar to today’s open mike session, but with most of the performers true professionals. Lots of people performed during the three years Dad held the Jamboree including some who went on to wider success. This sign was attached to the side of the band’s instrument trailer which went everywhere the band went. Buddy advertised Gayway, Beulah and all its events in all his venues: TV, radio, at dances elsewhere and in personal appearances, he loved the valley and its people and liked spreading the word as widely as possible.

The Sunday Gayway Jamboree hosted a wide variety of performers and bands of all types, here Buddy acts as master of ceremonies, a role he frequently performed. Gayway’s decorations changed with the season’s events everything from Valentine’s Day dances to Halloween parties and Christmas balls.

This is a list of performers for an evening’s performance at Gayway. He broke the acts down into S (singers) and M (musicians) trying to achieve a balance of the acts in the show. Interestingly, this appears to be a Jamboree list for the Valentine’s Day show which is seen in the next photograph. Notice on line 6 on the left hand page it lists my sister “Kitty Johnson Lynn Genge -Beulah”.

Kitty Johnson and friend Lyn Genge sing for a 1954 Valentine’s Day crowd. The Rangers were backing them up, as Roy Leatherman can be seen at left. The band is playing without Dad though who can be seen on the right side dressed as a clown as he sometimes did, with a banjo slung behind him here.

In 1955, Sheldon Downer a local singer performs here with one of the many other bands that played Gayway, in this case, “Arkie" and the Greenhorn Valley Boy’s. All the walls of the original Gayway building were decorated with Western items, old antique guns and livestock tack.

Here’s a rare color photograph from the 1950’s of one of the many Sunday Jamborees. Buddy is dressed as a clown which always got the crowd laughing and enjoying themselves. The young singer is unknown, if anyone recognizes her, email me. In the background are long time Colorado Rangers Roy Leatherman on guitar and Duke Farrin who usually played violin, shown here taking the drums.

The Sunday Jamboree at Gayway. Here Buddy entertains with Jim Ed Brown. Jim Ed was stationed at Camp Carson at the time, he would later become famous performing with his sisters. A number of Western stars got started on the Gayway Jamboree.

Beulah resident and jamboree regular Mr. Porter clowns around with Dad (who didn’t play the guitar) while Jimmy Lacy (a long time friend) and his band The Melody Rangers look on laughing. Dad was what he called “a live wire” always funny and inventive, anything to entertain.

The Rangers join in for harmony with Maureen McKenna. Left background is Russ Hayes, Roy Leatherman (without an eye patch), Maureen McKenna, and Chet Lee Calcote, notice the guitars both have Colorado Ranger covers. Maureen was Roy Leatherman’s niece, she later married Chet and now they live in Texas. This is before Roy hurt his eye in an accident.

Buddy clowns with Arkie, leader of the Greenhorn Valley Boys.

Buddy and some of The Rangers in the background as other performers crowd the stage, everyone wanted to perform on the Jamboree.

Two longtime Beulah residents and Gayway Jamboree regulars, left to right: Mr. Arend, LeRoy Meyers standing with violin, and seated Mr. Porter, as others wait their turns. They were both regulars on the Sunday Gayway Jamboree shows.

Two brothers? play an accordion tune with the Green Horn Valley Boy’s band in the background.

A 1954 newspaper ad, not for the Sunday Jamboree, but for a Wednesday night dance, so Gayway was hoping even during the week.


Buddy adjusts the mike for singer Doris Lessenden while musicians wait. The hall had lots of deer and elk heads along the walls.

In 1955, an unknown lady sings her heart out, one of many performers in the Gayway of long ago.

The Jamboree provided many special Sunday nights for about 3 years. Left to right: Russ Hayes, Roy Leatherman, Buddy and Duke Farrin with another unidentified band member off the right side. Image courtesy the Beulah Historical Society Museum.

And a Great time was had by all!

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