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July 31, 2015

A tribute concert to a West Virginia icon

John Denver impersonator Chris Collins to play ‘Country Roads,’ more in Morgantown

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Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 5:53 pm

MORGANTOWN — When John Denver released “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in 1971, he elevated West Virginia to “almost heaven” status in the minds of its economically depressed people.

Nine years later, Denver came to Morgantown to perform the song at the dedication of WVU’s Mountaineer Field, and athletes and fans alike now sing along with the late singer-songwriter’s recording after WVU home football games.

On May 11, Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon will perform “Country Roads” and other John Denver hits during a tribute concert at Morgantown’s Metropolitan Theater. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re really looking forward to playing for the folks there,” Collins said. “It will be our first time playing in West Virginia.”

Collins, an award-winning singer and songwriter in his own right, said he began playing John Denver concerts on a whim.

Early in his career, a friend suggested that Collins perform a tribute concert, given his resemblance to Denver, who died in 1997 in an airplane crash.

About 300 people turned out for the concert in a small Texas bar, and buzz about it led to an invitation to perform at a John Denver celebration in Aspen, Colo., Collins said.

“It sort of snowballed” from there, he said.

Collins said he enjoys performing Denver’s songs.

“As simple as his music was, both melodically and lyrically, there’s a certain elegance in that simplicity that touches a lot of people,” Collins said. “We have people anywhere from ages 5 to 95.”

Besides “Country Roads,” Collins and Boulder Canyon perform some of Denver’s biggest hits, including “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

Boulder Canyon consists of Kevin Delmolino, bass; Paul Swanton, guitar; Mark Nelson, percussion; Alex Mitchell, mandolin and fiddle; Bill Powell, keyboards; and Lindsey Burda, vocals.

Besides the physical resemblance and interest in music, Collins also shares Denver’s love of the outdoors, and a portion of the concert’s proceeds will go to the Peaceful Blue Planet Foundation, an environmental organization.

Joe Kaehler, manager and technical director at the Metropolitan Theater, said the remodeled, 89-year-old entertainment venue is the perfect place for the tribute concert.

The 900-seat-facility has state-of-the-art sound equipment and lighting, Kaehler said.

“John Denver’s music in this venue on a Saturday night in the spring is a recipe for a heck of a lot of fun,” Kaehler said.

Tickets are $22 and are available at www.bouldercanyonband.tix.com or (800) 595-4849.

Staff writer Jim Davis can be reached at (304) 626-1446 or by email at jdavis@exponent-telegram.com