NEDERLAND, Colo. (KDVR) – The Caribou Ranch recording studio only lasted 15 years, but during that time James Guercio and those overseeing the secluded studio in Nederland helped musicians record songs and albums that won 18 Grammys, 45 Top 10 albums, 20 No. 1 Billboard hits, and over $100 million in record sales.
But musicians didn’t just visit the ranch to put their songs on wax; some simply visited to decompress among the Rocky Mountains.
You might have heard some of these musical creations that came out of the Caribou Ranch, but in case you haven’t, we’ve expedited your digital crate digging by putting together a discography of albums and songs that were produced and recorded at the studio.
Music created at the Caribou Ranch
By Carole King
While King was recording at the Nederland adjacent recording studio, she found herself in need of a new backup band. According to Colorado Music Experience, Dan Fogelberg, who himself recorded at the Caribou Ranch, told King to check out Navarro, a band based in nearby Boulder.
Simple Things would go on to reach the No. 17 spot on the Billboard pop album chart.
I’ve Always Been Crazy
By Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings was waiting for his ride to the Denver airport when tech Tom Likes decided to ask the country outlaw about his role in the Buddy Holly plane crash.
“I’ve always heard you were supposed to be on the plane with Buddy Holly, but you didn’t get on it for some reason. What really happened?” Likes pried.
“Yes, I was supposed to be on the plane, but one of the roadies had a girlfriend, whom he hadn’t seen for a while, waiting for him in Fargo. The ‘roadies’ traveled by truck, so it would take them a lot longer to get there than it would in the plane. So I let him have my seat, and I rode in the truck.”
By Billy Joel
The basic tracks were completed in New York, according to the Colorado Music Experience, but aspects of the recording process, like locking down the overdubs, the mixing and most of the vocals, were all completed at the Caribou Ranch.
“While we were at Caribou Ranch, it was time to start playing live,” Joel said. “What I remember about Boulder is a lot of Earth shoes and hippie hair. It was the first incarnation of the touring band that I would keep in place for 17 years,” Joel said of his trip to Guercio’s property.
Caribou – Captain Fantastic and Brown Dirt Cowboy – Rock of the Westies
By Elton John
“We were under unbelievable pressure to finish the album in just over a week because we had to go right into a tour of Japan and Australia,” Elton John said, according to the Colorado Music Experience. “We wrote and recorded Caribou in eight days—14 tracks in all.”
The album would go on to be his first of three recorded at the studio. Caribou would also reach the top of the charts in Europe and in North America, maintaining a spot in the Billboard Top 200 albums for more than a year.
Even in the Quietest Moments…
You’ve likely heard the rather recognizable first few moments on the opening track on this album, “Give a Little Bit,” but did you know that it too was recorded in the Caribou Ranch? Its 45th anniversary was back in May, and following its release, the band’s fifth album reached the No. 16 slot on the Billboard Pop Albums chart.
The album cover shows a piano covered in snow at the top of a mountain. According to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, that piano was dragged up to the top of a peak at Eldora Mountain Resort by the band before being blanketed in snow.
That’s the Way of the World
By Earth, Wind & Fire
One night while Earth, Wind and Fire was staying up at the Caribou Ranch, singer Maurice White was walking and looking up at the stars. According to Songfacts, he saw a distinct singing star in the sky above Nederland and was inspired to write “Shining Star,” which would be the first track on the album.
“That’s The Way Of The World,” which was a soundtrack to a movie with the same name, would go on to be the No. 1 album on the charts. This was the first time that an R&B group would simultaneously top the U.S. Album and Pop charts.
You Could Have Been With Me
By Sheena Easton
The single “You Could Have Been With Me” stayed a grand total of 18 days on the charts, peaking out at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
She also received Best New Artist Award at the 1982 Grammy Awards.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
By John Lennon and Elton John
In 1974, during the 14-month stretch when Lennon was separated from Yoko Ono, he made a stop up in Nederland to help fellow artist Elton John wrap up a recording of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
“It was very funny. There were a lot of stars up here,” ranch manager John Carsello said to the Rocky Mountain News. “But when John came up, we all couldn’t believe it.”
15 Big Ones
By The Beach Boys
This 1974 recording was the first album that the Beach Boys put out featuring a classic five-piece lineup, according to Music Fandom.
Some of the tapes that were kept in the studio from these sessions were lost when the Caribou Ranch was partially destroyed in a fire.
Countdown to Ecstasy
By Steely Dan
The band chose to record their second studio album at the ranch while they were maneuvering a lead singer change, which left Donald Fagen replacing the original vocalist David Palmer.