Telluride, CO – “You never lose your boyfriend, you just lose your turn” – The Fly Me To The Moon Saloon – December 12, 1998

We played the “Fly Me To The Moon Saloon,” a low-ceilinged, mine shaft of a venue tucked under the fluffy white skirts of Telluride’s main street. It’s known to book the best bands the state has to offer and It’s the first spot I ever cut my teeth (I played there solo opening for Acoustic Junction at Jazz Fest 1994 while my dad played the main stage). “The Moon,” as it’s known by the locals, is where I wrote “Red Room” and it is the “saloon” my Tomboy Bride “..walks in the backdoor” of in verse one. 

Telluride was home to me all last year and became the backdrop for many of my songs.  I named my album after reading a book by the same name by Harriet Fish Backus, a pioneering woman who came to Telluride at the turn of the century with her husband to forge a new life.  Tomboy is a ghost town now.  Its boarded windows and sunken roofs haunt Telluride from 3,000 feet above its ski bum head.  But once, it was home to hard-working gold miners who imported wives from places like New York and Califonia to tend their houses while they went off to extract ore from the mountains.  These new brides would be left for months at a time to fend for themselves 11,500 feet above sea level, under 7 feet of snow. 

I identified with these women when I moved to Telluride and Harriet (Hattie) in particular.  I fancied myself a modern-day version of her if I’m immodest, leaving home, venturing alone into the snow-covered mountains, wild-eyed at the mercy of the unknown.  I wrote the song “Tomboy Bride about Hattie, about us.  About all pioneering spirited ladies who dare to cut their own paths across the wilderness with fearless hearts.   

Here’s some backstory about Tomboy Bride’s chorus:

“With her long hair, waterfall down” references Bridal Vail Falls, a hike with a waterfall above town that looks up, like a lover, at the town of Tomboy.

“And her wild ways, wind through the town” is about the whipping wind that busts through Telluride’s wide streets straight through the continental divide. Getting hit with a gust is like a toast made to pioneering-spirited women.

“And her pipe smoke, clouds in the sky” is about clouds that sit on the town in the mornings and remind me of a smoking badass babe who doesn’t care who she offends.

“Please marry me, be my Tomboy Bride.”  These will be my husband’s lyrics when he comes to ask for my hand.

I’d been looking forward to the show for weeks. My local friends were coming and I knew the room like the bottom of a beer can but… No one told us we were playing during “Arizona Days.”  Once a year, the mountain runs a week-long “ski free” special for Arizonans,’  who are bussed into town, wearing Aztec multicolored blanket coats and leather Akubra hats.  With more style than grace, they dive straight down steeps which churn them up and spit them out at the bottom.  Local hospitals and bars are equally full of our southern brethren during “Arizona Days” and despite casts and splints, these people want to dance.  We, my friends, are not a dance band.

The wind was hollering when we arrived in town.  I was last out of the van and managed to lock my corduroy jacket in the back while trying unsuccessfully to unstick my static-clinging skirt from my unshaven leg hair.  Guitar in hand and teeth clenched I bent my head into the wind and headed toward the saloon. 

Backstage in the green room, I scrawled the lyrics to the song I’d written there, “Red Room,”  on the wall. When we took the stage at 10:15, we were greeted by a crowd who, unable to use us to dance too, treated us like we were invisible.  They smoked and smoked and smoked and got drunk and yelled over us.  Nobody listened and nobody cared we were up there. Often no one noticed a song had ended. 

At set break, I had to run into all the boys I kissed last year (which was a few more than I’d accounted for)  In Telluride, the saying goes “You never lose your boyfriend, you just lose your turn.”  As we took the stage for a second humiliating act, the manager, Rodney pulled me aside.

“I was just told you have 45 minutes left.  That’s wrong, right?!?!”

“No, I mean, yes, we do only have 45 minutes left,”  I told him

“No.  You have to have more.  Didn’t Kipp tell you?  You’re doing 3 sets – 45 minutes a piece.”  The idea of staring out at a sea of smoke and Aztec print and old flames and beer goggled eyes for an extra set made me want to tie my guitar strings in a knot.  Instead, I said, “I guess I could ask the boys to do a 30-minute jam.” My eyebrows lifted like crane wings over my incredulous expression. Rodney simply replied,

“Yeah, do that.  It’ll help cover your guarantee.” Ouch.

At the end of an ego-bruising 30-minute jam, Rodney handed me $300 bucks plus $105 we made in CD sales and charged us for the beer.  I need a booking agent.

On the ride home, we stopped at a Safeway.  I bought carrots, hummus, and Pons blackhead strips. The whole band got in on the act.  I love my guys.

Reader interactions

9 Replies to “Telluride, CO – “You never lose your boyfriend, you just lose your turn” – The Fly Me To The Moon Saloon – December 12, 1998”

  1. Hi Sally,

    Love reading these tales from the road and your music.

    1. Thanks Bob. I’m so happy you’re diggin’ the giggin!

  2. Marianne Cancelleri March 7, 2024 at 3:18 pm

    Hey Sally!

    I admire your tenacity to have done the things that I had only dreamed of. Love these tales and love your music.


    1. Thanks Marianne. I think you have to have a bit of a screw loose in addition to tenacity so lucky you. You must be sane.

  3. Living on the coast north of Boston – Telluride truly sounds like another world – one I am so unfamiliar with. I love Tomboy Bride – and now knowing the background truly brings it to life!

    1. Telluride is a magical gem of a place. You should find a way out there if you can.

  4. You captured the spirit and feeling of Telluride perfectly! And how crazy that I took a photo of those same falls just earlier today!? Thank you for your amazingness!

    1. I love that you were just there in T-Ride Amy! Thank you for YOUR amazingness!

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