Earlier this week we wrote about the complexities regarding nominations and inductions into the Long Beach Music Hall of Fame.
Here’s a semi-tough one: John Denver.
We don’t generally think of John Denver and Long Beach in the same thought bubble. When we think of John Denver, we think of Colorado, then we think of snow, then we think of that snow melting and spawning crisp, clear streams rolling over river rock. Then we think of Coors beer, so we have a bottle of Coors beer and put on a Lemonheads album.
Reader Glenn Clark connects Long Beach and John Denver for us by writing, “When you are considering people to include in your artistic museum, one of the very first names should be a fellow named John Denver.
“John went to school in Long Beach,” continues Clark. “He would go down to the water in the evening, sit in a lifeguard tower and compose and sing songs for several hours.”
We initially figured Clark was referring to Bob Denver, the star of “Gilligan’s Island.” Bob did go to school here (Jordan High), but we don’t picture him sitting in a lifeguard tower and singing for hours, although the water part makes sense because he was a swimming and water polo guy for the Panthers.
John Denver would have still been called Henry John Deutschendorf at the time, but we still could find no mention of him attending any Long Beach schools. In fact, we didn’t think there was any connection at all until we found a piece in the April 28, 1974 Press-Telegram about the young man blowing into town in a 1955 Chevy in 1964, freshly dropped out of Texas Tech where he was studying architecture, to find work as a singer-songwriter in L.A.
Failing that for a while, Denver lived in Belmont Shore and reportedly worked for a bit as a lifeguard in Long Beach and as a draftsman for architect Carl Hart.
Eventually, his perseverance as an entertainer paid off and he landed a job replacing Chad Mitchell in the Chad Mitchell Trio (renamed the Mitchell Trio for obvious reasons), and that was the end of our man in Long Beach.
Enough for Hall of Fame? Probably not. We could find no indications that he ever performed, other than at a lifeguard tower, in Long Beach. Most of his appearances were in Hollywood and L.A. at clubs like Ledbetters (founded by Randy Sparks of the New Christy Minstrels, and who convinced the young Deutschendorf to change his name). Still, it’s a pretty cool entry for the hall’s “Brushes With Fame” wing.