B.B. King jams with Muddy Waters — and ListenUp was there to record it!
A recent post on the Facebook page “Oldskool Denver” referenced this 1974 Muddy Waters/B.B. King concert, which ListenUp recorded live at Ebbets Field, Denver’s legendary downtown nightclub. We thought you might like to actually hear the show, so here it is! Just click on the video embedded directly below — then read more about the history of Ebbets Field and ListenUp…
Ebbets Field: a Denver legend
Ebbets Field, located on the first level of Brooks Towers near 15th and Curtis streets, was Denver’s premier music venue of the seventies. Founded by concert promoter Chuck Morris, the tiny club’s four-year run saw an amazing array of star power – J.J. Cale, Ry Cooder, Dr. John, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Peter Frampton, Dan Hicks, Kraftwerk, Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Don McLean, John Prine, Bob Seger, Robin Trower, Tom Waits, Jerry Jeff Walker, Muddy Waters and scores more.
The ListenUp connection
Our founders, Walt Stinson and Steven Weiner, opened ListenUp in late 1972. Working with limited capital, a store location without a lot of foot-traffic, and no advertising budget to speak of, the pair faced a formidable challenge: how to get the word out about their new venture. Soon, however, an opportunity presented itself. Walt was disgusted with the poor sound quality of a local radio station’s regular weekend concert broadcasts from Ebbets Field, a downtown Denver nightclub. “I called Don Zucker, KFML’s general manager, and told him that I could dramatically improve the quality of the broadcasts, and I would do it in exchange for advertising — he wouldn’t have to pay us. Well, he thought that was a great idea – especially the part about not having to pay us. We tagged all the shows with the line ‘Sound by ListenUp’ and they ran a ton of radio spots for us.”
Eventually the strategy worked wonders…
The live concert broadcasts became a radio mainstay in the area, generating much-needed exposure for the fledgling firm (as well as Ebbets Field, which was named Billboard magazine’s “Club of the Year” in 1975 and 1976), and the phrase “Sound by ListenUp” became a badge of honor for both commercial venues and residential systems. In the short term, however, there was a lot of sweat-equity contributed by the young entrepreneurs.“We were open from 10 ’til 10 seven days a week,” says Steven, “and when we got the Ebbets Field gig we either traded off going down there or we had to close early. We’d broadcast and tape the show, then go back to the shop and listen to the tape, because we were so busy during the actual show we didn’t have a chance to enjoy it. It was a pretty hectic schedule.”
The best demo material
This treasure trove of tapes also provided source material that was much more sonically advanced than LPs of the day. “Although there’s a lot to love about LPs,” says Walt, “they have a tendency to get noisy and they have a fairly limited dynamic range. They couldn’t match the fidelity of reel to reel. Those tapes fed our passion for trying to get closer to the performance, and they gave us a better source that allowed us to evaluate equipment – they helped us hone our views about exactly what equipment was audiophile-quality and what was just run of the mill. We had been at the live performance and we made the tapes ourselves, so we knew exactly what they were supposed to sound like.”
It was just such a recording that was eventually made into this historic blues album. We invite you to sit back and have a listen.