If you picked up a newspaper on January 27th, 1984, the big news was Michael Jackson's head catching fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. A less splashy story was the accidental death of Candy Givens, the 37-year old singer, songwriter and harmonica player of the bluesy Boulder hard rock band Zephyr.
Born in 1947, Candy Ramey came from a family of gamblers and small-time outlaws. They lived in a cabin near Evergreen, but moved to Applewood, a suburb near Golden, when Candy was in the 7th grade. Smart and popular, she was voted most likely to become a famous singer her senior year.
By 1967, Candy had moved to Aspen and performed in a local jug band. She met her future husband, bass guitar player David Givens, and in 1968 the couple moved to Boulder, where they formed the band Brown Sugar. The incredibly gifted guitarist Tommy Bolin and keyboardist John Faris began jamming with the group, and, after the recruitment of Denver drummer Robbie Chamberlain, Zephyr was formed.
Givens had a magnetic stage presence, and a powerful voice in a tiny body. "Candy Givens was a unique musical star that streaked across the Colorado sky and disappeared unexpectedly," observes rock journalist and educator Gil Asakawa. "She had a powerful, throaty voice that could scream the highest rock and roll notes but swoop down to the lowest moaning blues. Her recording with the Colorado band Zephyr are her main legacy, but her voice -- and stories about her -- are scattered here and there within and throughout the local music scene."
Though never a commercial success, Zephyr produced 3 albums and performed live often, including the 1969 Denver Pop Festival, before breaking up in the early '70s. They reunited briefly around 1980, four years after the drug overdose death of Tommy Bolin.
Four years later, Candy drowned in her apartment's Jacuzzi. The toxicology report showed alcohol and Quaaludes in her system.
Years later, in the Tommy Bolin Archives, Candy's ex-husband David wrote:
"Despite her problems, she continued to improve until the last time I heard her sing, in 1983. She was so good by then, that she held a drunken, rowdy party of international rugby players spellbound for the entire time she was on stage. That’s hard."
This is such a beautiful remembrance of Candy. I just loaded 3 songs from Zephyr's first album on to my mp3. I remember her powerful voice when I first heard their first album. I was in High School. My thoughts and my respect for her amazing talent are with me. I am listening to St. James Infirmary now. Goodnight Candy. You will always have a place in heart.
'Sunset Ride' Plz
When I was 12, I bought the first Zephyr album. My sister use to go to the Fillmore East every weekend. So I would vicariously live through the paper programs she brought home. Zephyr were in one. The opened up for Cactus or Led Zep I think. I like the cover of their album so I bought it. When I brought it home I was floored. Could not believe how great it was and what excellent musicians the band were. I was into Guitar back then and this guy Tommy Bolin was my new Jimmy Page or Jim McCarty. I bought the "Going Back To Colorado" and though some of it was more subdued than the first album, I still loved every note. Years went by and I bought my friend the Billy Cobham - Spectrum album for his birthday. I knew the name Bolin sounded familiar but it took time for me to realize that it was the guitar guy from Zephyr. I followed all he did until the end. A true talent. Listening to the 1st Zephyr as I type. I have been lead singer in many bands in my life but I have always been influenced by this great and very under rated band Zephyr. Some things are too good for Hall of Fames. They are on a different level. I hope you are happy and well David.
Thanks, Dino. All's well.
In the wind and in my mind today for some rrason.Songs from Colorado teen years and sneaking into clubs. What talent. Remembering . Not missed .There is still music they left behind. Still playing.
This is to David Givens:
David, I will never forget the time my girlfriend Yvonne cooked for you all and we hosted the band at our place in San Francisco when Zephyr played the Avalon Ballroom in '69. I can still picture you all sitting cross-legged on our floor -- especially Candy -- in our tapestry-lined room as we ate and talked. You were all such sweet, humble good and beautiful people. We all were.
I stood at the feet of Janis Joplin as she belted out her best with Big Brother. She made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, but she had nothing on Candy. And although so young, I totally realized what Tommy was. You guys were the real deal.
We all were like family that night as Yvonne and I hosted an out-of-town 3rd billing band in a strange city, and I still feel that way about you all now. All of us so young, so innocent... I'm so sad for Candy and Tommy. God bless you and keep you, David.
Thanks for this reminder of a moment I hadn't thought about for many years. Your kindness and hospitality were just what we needed to feel welcome as we prepared to play at the legendary Avalon. It was a big step for us and I thank you and Yvonne once again for taking us into your home. DG
I always wondered, I thought that David was her brother, lol. She had a lot of impact on me as did the rest of Zephyr. Dope has led many to the point of relying on them just to get by, I have done that also but I am still here. Too bad that the excess of so many talented people were overcome by it's power. I feel for David, he must still miss this hard chargin' woman, small but powerful, making fist in my eyes. Thanks for all of the music my friend. Only now can I say that I'm so sorry for your loss, and that you are a good bassist. God bless you and keep you, keep your face to the sun my brother.