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Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids
Rock ‘n’ Rollers Flash Cadillac Blast Back into Boulder after 40 Years
Imagine, if you can, it’s 1969 in Boulder – the height of the Hippie Wars. Man hasn’t yet stepped on the moon, but CU students and street people are flying high. Long hair, bell bottoms, and “lids” of weed can be found on The Hill. Students are protesting the draft and the war.
Along comes this fast-talking New Yorker who has a crazy idea: He wants to start a band that plays good-times ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll. Like Dion and the Belmonts, not Dylan. Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, not the Beatles or the Byrds.
Harold Fielden, now an attorney in Boulder, had that crazy idea and he found four other CU students who were willing to grease back their hair, wear saddle shoes instead of sandals, blue jeans instead of tie-dye, and play traditional rock ‘n’ roll – with a lot of attitude. They drank beer by the buckets, spit and swore like sailors on stage, and swaggered like the Lords of Flatbush. They were outrageous.
A friend of Harold’s came up with one of the best rock ‘n’ roll band names ever: Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids.
Their first paying gig was at a frat house across from campus. It was an FAC event on March 7, 1969. The band was supposed to get $80 and all the beer they could drink, but the house was so packed with partiers – hundreds of them – that none of the Kids, or Flash, could make it back to the keg to get their share of suds. So they talked the hosts into giving them an extra 20 bucks.
In 1969 and 1970, the band played “Gross Night” at Tulagi’s, where the slogan for the requisite twist contest went “no skin, no win.” People did twist right out of their clothes. The band later was banned from Boulder for “encouraging nudity.”
Audiences ate it up. Today, they still do.
Warren “Butch” Knight, the sole player in the current incarnation of the band who also performed at that inaugural gig, is bringing the band back to Boulder March 6 at the Boulder Theater. Knight is rounding up two of the original rowdies -- Fielden, the first drummer, and the original “Flash” Mick Manresa – as well as another familiar face in the ‘60s Boulder music scene, Denny “Piano Moondogg” Flannigan, who played with The Moonrakers, to play a set at the March 6 show.
Linn “Spike” Phillips, a Flash Cadillac original and one of the best showmen ever on the musical stage, died after a Flash performance in 1993; his son, Kasey Phillips, a drummer who played in the band’s Colorado mountain studio before he was old enough to go to school, also will sit in at the Boulder Theater.
Flash Cadillac will play several original songs by their long-time keyboardist and original Flash member Kris “Angelo” Moe, who died of ALS in 2005, and by Sam McFadin, lead guitarist and “Flash” for three decades with the band, who died in August of 2001.
Members of Flash Cadillac today, in addition to Knight, are Dave ‘Thumper’ Henry, Rocky Mitchell, Bubba Fisher, Pete Santilli, and Timothy P. Irvin. Since the mid-1990s, Flash Cadillac has sold out “pops” concerts across the U.S. playing their rowdy, upbeat repertoire with symphony orchestras, billed as “the world’s only 65-piece rock ‘n’ roll band.”
Over the past four decades, highlights of Flash Cadillac’s long rock ‘n’ roll run include their appearance in two of the biggest impact motion pictures ever filmed (American Graffiti, 1973; Apocalypse Now, 1978). They received a platinum album for their work on the sound track of American Graffiti, for which they wrote the only original music in one of the classic rock 'n’ roll collections of all time (MCA Records, 1973).
In 1974, the band starred in the popular series Happy Days, the highest-rated TV program of that particular week with a script written especially for them titled “Fish and The Fins.”
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