Verne Byers, aka Vern Byers, (né Vincent LeRoy Beyer, March 14, 1918, Denver, Colorado – December 19, 2008, Las Cruces, New Mexico) was an American bandleader of a territory band, a bassist, a concert promoter, and an owner-operator of several live music clubs and restaurants in Denver. Byers is most widely known and remembered as the man who, as executive producer and promoter, brought The Beatles to Denver — their only Denver appearance. The Beatles performed at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre on August 26, 1964.
- 1 Bandleader
- 2 Early years
- 3 Post college
- 4 Family
- 5 Las Vegas years
- 6 Former musicians
- 7 External links and suggested reading
- 8 References
Verne Byers & His Orchestra — The Band That Sings and Swings — played compositions of the World War II dance bands, including those of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Tommy Dorsey. The orchestra toured the Midwest and Rocky Mountain area in the 40's and 50's as one of many territory bands, playing in venues such as dance halls, ballrooms, and hotels — mostly in Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, and Minnesota. The band often played at Elitch Gardens; and once opened for Benny Goodman there. The band had twelve players. During the 1950s, bookings for the orchestra were handled by the Omaha office of National Orchestra Service.
- University of Northern Colorado – Greeley (1950)
- Riverside Ballroom – Estes Park, Colorado (1951)
- Pagosa Springs Lions Club; Pagosa Springs, Colorado (1952)†
- Legion Pavilion – Breckenridge, Colorado (1954)
- The Kato Ballroom; Mankato, Minnesota (1954)
- Elks Club – Helena, Montana (1954)
- St. Patrick's Hall – Neola, Iowa (1954, 1956)
- Balmoral – Fergus Falls, Minnesota (1954, 1955)
- Log Cabin Steak House and Dance Hall – Sioux Valley, Minnesota (1955)
- Danceland – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1955)†
Byers also was a concert promoter. He was best known for producing the Beatles concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre August 26, 1964 — a 32-minute affair that stands as the group's only Denver appearance. As head of Lookout Mountain Attractions, Byers said he had never heard of the Beatles before booking them. Byers also booked and promoted concerts by Peter, Paul & Mary, Otis Redding, Count Basie, James Brown, Glen Campbell.
Byers also was the owner and operator of several live music clubs in the Denver area during the 1960s and 1970s, including the "Baja" on Stout Street and the jazz nightclub, the "Robins Nest" atop Lookout Mountain.
As an undergraduate, Beyer attended the University of Denver for two years — 1937–38 and 1938-39. His transcripts, under the name Vernon LeRoy Beyer, show that he was a liberal arts major and had enrolled in several journalism classes.
At the age of 19, in 1937, Byers joined the Denver Musicians Union for $50. In his naivete, he incorrectly thought that music jobs would come to him.
Post war danceband era
Later, Byers worked with Ted Fio Rito for a year and then toured with Herb Miller, Glenn's brother. Byers likes to tell people how Herb was jealous of his more famous brother and refused to play any of his songs. He also played with Tommy Tucker, Teddy Powell, and Jan Garber.
Return to Denver in 1946
- The Rainbow Ballroom — On December 7, 1946, Byers' father, Felix Bernard Beyer, and a business partner, James Raymond Norton, purchased The Rainbow Ballroom from Orlaf K. Farr (1894–1981; Orlaf was married to Dorcas N. Farr).
- The Rainbow Ballroom was located on the SWC of 5th Avenue and Lincoln, Denver. Farr had it built, owned it, and managed it the entire time he owned it since its opening on September 16, 1933. Rudolph Michael Schindler was the architect.
- Norton was also the owner of the Lewiston Hotel at 731 18th Street, Denver, and Beyer was owner of the York Hotel, Denver (both hotels may have been more like boarding houses). According to a 1946 Billboard magazine article, The Rainbow Ballroom was one of the best known dance halls west of the Mississippi. Byers took over managing the Rainbow Room January 24, 1947.
- Byers continued the past policy of booking territory bands and name bands. The hall had a capacity of 3000 and was open six nights a week. During this era, Verne met his wife, Jeanne.
- After years of abuse and neglect, the red brick building at 38 E. Fifth Ave. was renovated in 2002 into offices by the architectural firm of Sink Combs Dethlefs.
- Club Baja — From about 1960 to 1969, Byers owned and operated Club Baja at 1346 Stout Street (at 14th St.), downtown Denver. Before the Club Baja, the building had been used by the Denver Dancing Academy (from about 1937 to 1960). Club Baja featured national and local touring acts including Glen Campbell, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, and James Brown, among many others. Club Baja was the venue that helped launch the careers of The Astronauts.
- The Thunderbird — Before owning The Robin's Nest, Byers operated the Thunderbird, a jazz dinner club atop Lookout Mountain. Byers' business partner at The Robin's Nest, Ray Iverson (a saxophonist and piano tuner), was a longtime friend and eventually became married to the owner of The Thunderbird, Betty Lou.
- The Robins Nest — Byers, and a partner, Ray Iverson (1929–2006), owned and operated a jazz club atop Lookout Mountain called the Robins Nest (across from Buffalo Bill's grave). They owned it from 1957 to 1977. The club had a spectacular nighttime view of the Denver landscape. Many local musicians congregated there for late night jam sessions. Kenny Burrell played there in 1972, along with Stanley Turrentine in 1973. Sarah Vaughn performed there, as did Stan Getz, Hank Crawford, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Mann, Dave and Don Grusin.
At the time of Byers' death, he had been married to Jeanne Byers for 58 years. Jeanne was once married to one of Verne's fellow band-mates, Jimmy Bemis, a trumpet player and college student at the University of Denver.
Before playing with Verne Byers, sometime around 1941, Bemis was a featured trumpeter — known as "the mite-sized trumpet player" — with Joe Buzze and His Orchestra, a Texas territory band. Bemis died in 1947 at the age of 27 on the band bus from a sudden illness while being rushed back to Denver a traveling gig in Kansas.
Three years after the Jimmy's death, Jeanne and Verne were urged by mutual friends to date. They married in the Summer of 1950, two weeks after their first date. They honeymooned at one of Verne's gigs in at Grand Lake, Colorado.
Byers died in Las Cruces, New Mexico, December 19, 2008, at the age of 90.
- Father: Felix Bernard Beyer (September 28, 1888, Colorado – October 4, 1977, Lakewood, Colorado), of Denver (Felix was a pianist, piano teacher, and, in 1917, an employee at the Knight-Campbell Music Company in Denver)
- Mother: Nellie E. Beyer (May 22, 1891, Kansas – May 1978, Lakewood, Colorado)
- Verne was survived by his wife of 58 years:
- Two daughters (born to the marriage of Jeanne and Jimmy Bemis, adopted by Verne Byers)
- Two sons (born to the marriage of Verne and Jeanne Byers)
- Steven Lee Byers of Denver
- Bradley J. Byers, a drummer, of Las Vegas
Las Vegas years
Verne and his wife, Jeanne, moved to Las Vegas in 1983, a time that Byers refers to as when the music industry began to fall apart in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, Byers was able to recruit high quality musicians willing to travel with his territory band.
The swing band era was at a low, and major casinos were switching from live bands to taped music, which resulted in a major musicians strike. And interest in swing bands seemed to be waning. When traveling for territory bands waned, his orchestra played regularly in Las Vegas until his move into retirement to Columbus, New Mexico, in 2002.
Verne Byers & His Bermuda Brass 1938
Verne Byers' Glenn Miller Revival (1980s)
Verne Byers & His Bermuda Brass 1972
- Bill Frisell (guitar) (1972)
Verne Byers & His Orchestra
- Raymond G. Irverson (sax, bass) (b. 1929; d. 2006)
- Barbara Kerns (featured vocalist, married to Iverson)
- Jimmy Bemis (trumpet)†
- Terry Clark
- Elaine Lawrence (singer) (1949)
- Pete Olstad
- Chuck Par-Due - Trumpet/vocals
†Jimmy Bemis (born James Henry Bemis) was a trumpet player with the Byers Orchestra. He died in 1947 on the bus, while being rushed back to Denver from a gig in Kansas. Three years after his death, Byers married his widow and adopted his two infant daughters. He had formerly been a featured trumpet with Joe Buzze and His Orchestra. A US Army veteran, Bemis had been enrolled at the University of Denver, in the College of Business Administration, during spring quarter of 1946 and winter quarter of 1948. He was a 1939 graduate of Paonia High School, Paonia, Colorado.
Relating to territory bands
Relating to the Denver Beatles concert
- List of The Beatles concerts
- Peter Michael Jones (1963- ), The Beatles at Red Rocks, It was 40 years ago today, Aug 2004, 5280, Denver's Magazine
- FBI Records, File No. 9-42653, Investigation of a threatening postcard received by Vern Byers on Aug 18, 1964, warning him to cancel the Beatles concert:
- The letter had been postmarked "GREELEY COLO. AUG 17, 1964 AM." The Denver Police Department, the FBI, an Assistant United States Attorney – James A. Clark (1931–2009) – and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, investigated the case. Clark erroneously categorized it as an extortion case. Two letters, both signed by J. Edgar Hoover, were sent to the Denver Field Office stating that (a) "no latent impressions of value" (fingerprints) were found on the threatening postcard and (b) "the results of the latent fingerprint examination will be forwarded separately." Nonetheless, there was no incident and the investigation was closed for lack of suspects.
- Bill Husted, Meet the Beatles, The Denver Post, Dec. 28, 2008
- Advertisement, Iowa City Press Citizen, p. 8, Col 5, April 22, 1955
- Pagosa Sun, Aug 29, 1952, Pagosa Springs, Colorado
- G. Brown, Beatlemania Rocked City 25 Years Ago, The Denver Post, Aug. 28, 1989
- Vernon LeRoy Beyer, Transcripts, University of Denver, 1937-38 & 1938-39
- Obituary by Mark Brown, Musician, club owner Byers brought The Beatles to Red Rocks, Rocky Mountain News, Dec. 25, 2008
- Norton, Deyer Buy Rainbow at Denver, Billboard, p. 17, col. 1, Dec. 14, 1946 (the article misspells Beyer's surname as "Deyer")
- Dick Kreck, Ballroom Takes a New Turn, The Denver Post, Sect. A, p. 2, March 20, 2002
- Obituary: Byers, The Deming Headlight, Dec. 30, 2008
- Emmily N. Bristol, Byers Orchestra: Group Enjoys Sounds of World War II Era, The View (Las Vegas) August 31, 2001
- Gary Massaro, Ray Iverson's Sax Was Heard All Over Town, The Rocky Mountain News, May 20, 2006
- Obituary by Virginia Culver, Life Stories: Love of Music Endured Through 40-Year Hiatus, The Denver Post, sect. 1A, p. 28, April 24, 2003
- James Henry Bemis, University of Denver student records
- Lawyer's Lawyer was a "Pillar of the Trial Bar," The Denver Post, Aug. 13, 2009