Local band Leaner, Lunker, and Betsy reunites for show at The Press, brings wedding love story full circle
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — During Thanksgiving weekend of 1971, recent University of Colorado graduate Joe Ghiglia found himself in Steamboat Springs for the first time, visiting friends of friends.
“I fell in love with this town,” Ghiglia said.
He asked a friend if they thought he could make $25 a night playing music here, and they did. Two weeks later, he was back to stay, his car filled to the brim with everything he owned.
“I didn’t have a coat; I didn’t have snow tires,” Ghiglia said with a chuckle.
The second person he met in town was Rick Bear, a guitarist, banjo player and photographer known for skiing down the mountain backwards. With Bear playing lead guitar and Ghiglia fingerpicking, their music together worked, right from the start.
Soon enough, Ghiglia had work playing in the upstairs aprés ski bar at The Inn at Thunderhead. During breaks, he’d wander downstairs to The Rat Cellar, where another musician about his age caught his ear. It was Mary MacGregor, also a brand-new Steamboat transplant, playing in the band she’d come to town with.
MacGregor began going upstairs during her breaks to hear Ghiglia, too. They became friends and started singing together.
Eventually, MacGregor’s band broke up, and she and Ghiglia asked Bear to be their third. All three had been raised on folk music, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. They played the tunes of Peter, Paul and Mary, Crosby, Stills and Nash, old Westerns and cowboy music — songs with three-part harmonies.
“That’s when we really became adults, really grew up,” Ghiglia said. “There was such an intense community camaraderie then.”
What: Leaner, Lunker and Betsy at The Press
When: 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, July 19
Where: The Press, 1009 Lincoln Ave.
They named their trio after their dogs: Leaner, Ghiglia’s lab who was in the habit of leaning on humans so committedly that if the human moved, he’d fall over; Lunker, Rick’s huge Newfoundland; and Betsy, MacGregor’s springer spaniel.
“People would come up to me after a show, calling me Betsy,” MacGregor said. “That’s always funny.”
The group played all around town, gaining fans, sometimes joined by friends including Randy Kelley.
They were playing a local show when a young man and woman met. Later, Leaner, Lunker and Betsy played at their wedding. The song of the wedding was “Wine and Glass,” which begins:
“You are the wine, I am the glass. You fill my heart to overflowin’, and I know, darlin’, without knowin’, we fit together like fine old wine in crystal glass.”
The musicians of Leaner, Lunker and Betsy eventually went their separate ways. In late 1976, MacGregor released her debut single, “Torn Between Two Lovers,” which topped pop and adult contemporary charts and sold more than a million copies. MacGregor headed west to the California coast, Bear headed east to Cape Cod, and Ghiglia left Steamboat until the Yampa Valley curse brought him back in 2012. They remained close friends and met up periodically to play reunion concerts, at venues including Strings, the Sheraton and the Chief.
This weekend, the group members will reunite from across the country in Steamboat to play at the wedding of the daughter of the couple whose wedding they played at four decades ago. “Wine and Glass” will be part of the setlist.
“Being able to come back and reconnect with these old friends is important and nostalgic,” Ghiglia said. “And being asked to play at this wedding feels kind of like a fairy tale.”
“This event tying in something that happened 40 years ago, us singing the same song — it’s really exciting,” MacGregor said.
The group will also play a show at The Press on Friday.
“Anytime I get to work with Joe and Rick, it’s really fun,” MacGregor said.
“It’ll be a lot of nostalgia music,” Ghiglia said.
The Press show runs from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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It was a love story that brought Jason Erwin to Steamboat Springs from Nashville, Tennessee.