GEORGE LAYTON, 80, LEADER OF STOCK SHOW BAND
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Author: Dahlia Jean Weinstein, Rocky Mountain News
George Layton mastered the concert violin as a pre-teen and excelled on the clarinet and saxophone later in life. But he spent his formative years in the halcyon days of vaudeville, which gave this lifelong musician a taste of the tuneful career that lay ahead.
Mr. Layton died March 10 in -Brighton. He was 80.
"Grandfather was in vaudeville," said Mr. Layton's daughter, Donna. "Dad traveled with him as a child, and that was his initial exposure to music."
Mr. Layton was born Dec. 19, 1923, to Alvin Layton and Marie (LeVeque) Layton, who died when Mr. Layton was a teen.
So the lifetime resident of North Denver and Brighton was raised by his father, who instilled an appreciation of music in his son early on.
Mr. Layton continued his music education, graduated from Brighton High School in 1942 and joined the Navy, where he played the clarinet and saxophone in the Navy band on the warship USS Wasp during World War II.
After his military service, he returned to Colorado, where he met Edna Drovez and married her in 1945. He continued his music education at the University of Denver's School of Music.
"When I was a child (5 years old), my father brought me to DU to hear the band play," Donna said. "He was first chair, and he would always have me sit up front and on the aisle. It would scare me to death when the band played because it was so loud."
Among Mr. Layton's long list of impressive gigs were performances with the Barnum & Bailey circus when it came to town; at the local dog track, where live music once was a mainstay; and with the Denver Broncos Band from 1960 to 1995. He also played for 50 years at the National Western Stock Show, Rodeo & Horse Show with his 16-piece band, starting on the saxophone in 1947 and becoming conductor in 1978.
A January Rocky Mountain News story said the band played the music of Glenn Miller, Count Basie and other big bands until former stock show general manager Chuck Sylvester, who loved big-band music, decided the rodeo needed a change of tune to meet the musical taste of its modern demographic.
Mr. Layton was honored at last year's rodeo with a stagecoach ride around the arena and a plaque in appreciation of his years of service with the band.
Mr. Layton also played with many big bands in the Denver area, most prominently at the Trocadero Ballroom at Elitch's and with the Dean Bushnell Orchestra.
"My first association with George was in 1960, when I started teaching in the Denver Public Schools," Bushnell said.
"We played together in the Directors Jazz Band, which was made up of instrumental teachers. I hired George to play in my band, which he played in from the middle '60s to about three years ago.
"He was probably the finest lead alto player we ever had. We called him 'Mr. Consistent' since he hardly ever made a mistake, which is something as musicians we all strive for.
"George was a very likeable person with a cool, calm demeanor - not just with his music but with -everything he did. He was just a marvelous person."
Mr. Layton is survived by four children: Michael Layton and his wife, Michelle, of Pueblo; Barry Layton and his wife, Peggy, of Arvada; Kim Layton Padgett and her husband, Gary Padgett, of Thornton; and Donna Layton, also of Thornton; eight grandchildren; and two great- grandchildren.
A memorial service for Mr. Layton was held last week. Memorial contributions can be sent to the University of Denver Scholarship Fund, c/o Colorado State Bank and Trust, 1600 Broadway, Denver, CO 80202.