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Firefall

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Beginnings

In the early 1970s, Rick Roberts and Jock Bartley first crossed paths when Bartley was on tour with Gram Parsons as a member of his backing band The Fallen Angels. Both The Fallen Angels and Roberts were performing in New York City at the same venue on consecutive nights. Roberts was impressed by Bartley’s guitar work. The duo soon began practicing together. Encouraged to form a band, they contacted bassist-singer Mark Andes (a former member of the bands Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne who had temporarily retired to the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado) and Washington D.C. singer-songwriter-guitarist Larry Burnett and coaxed them into joining their band, which they christened Firefall in 1974. Roberts got the name from a tradition at Yosemite National Park in California where a woodpile would be set aflame and slowly pushed off a cliff, the burning logs forming a blazing cascade as they fell.

For the drum chair the group auditioned several local musicians but eventually decided to phone Roberts’ former band mate from Flying Burrito Brothers, Michael Clarke, who was most famous for his time spent in the ’60s folk-rock band The Byrds. Clarke, who had recently relocated to Hawaii, agreed to come aboard.

The band tightened up their act performing in clubs in Colorado for over a year, mainly in Boulder and Aspen. In early 1975 the band recorded a demo tape consisting of three songs produced by Chris Hillman. They then began taking it around to major labels, but were unsuccessful at first.

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