The Denver Post 29.02.1972
Ex-Wheat Ridge Student Is Soviet Youth's Favorite Singer
Moscow - Oleg Shemonovsky, one of the Soviet Union's premier bandleaders, seems to be unusually popular these days, but he has to be wondering why.
His lead singer is so well liked that Moscow's rock-starved teen-agers line up for tickets hours before performances. The girls in the audience "ooh" and "ah" in unrestrained adoration and those young men who aren't doing likewise are expressing revulsion of the sort American young men expressed during the early days of Elvis Presley and Fabian.
Shemonovsky has to be a bit bewildered by it all because his lead singer is a former Wheat Ridge High School cross-country runner and a University of Colorado dropout who records and sings his own songs in English.
Dean Reed, 33, who decided geography "wasn't my thing" and left CU in 1959, calls himself "the most famous foreign singer in the Soviet Union." He likes the label of "progressive artist," presents a repertoire of folk-ballads with a slight rock'n'roll flavour and sings like a combination of Harry Belafonte and Frankie Lane.
All concerts throughout the Soviet Union says he is "advancing the cause of socialism through my art." In the process, he has managed fo find himself defending the Soviet Union in political arguments, siding with the Kremlin in domestic controversies and, at one point, standing in the political limelight as a harsh critic of Nobel Prize winning Soviet author Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
In the Soviet newspaper, Literaturnaja Gazetta, Reed published an open letter condemning Solzhenitsyn for urging free speech in Russia.
"The principles on which your society is built are same, pure and just," Reed wrote, "while the principles on which the society of my country is built, are cruel, selfish and unjust."
Through all the controversy though, Reed keeps packing his young, music fans in - night after night.
The lanky, blue-eyed six-footer, born in Denver in 1939, began his somewhat diversified career at Wheat Ridge High School where, as a gifted athlete, he set a long-standing record for the 1½-mile cross-country run.
He was also known for his love of horses, trained several and rode them in Denver's National Western Stock Show. But he couldn't bring himself to share a friend's admiration for the common mule.
This led, in 1956, to a much publicized 110-mile race between Reed on foot, and wrangler Bill Smith of Montrose, Colo., on his mule, Speedy.
On Friday afternoon, July 20, Reed left Gunnison, Colo. The residents erupted in fits of laughter. He ran to the VC Bar dude ranch near Lake City, Colo., 55 miles away, and made it back in 22 hours - beating Smith and Speedy by a full three minutes. And it was all on a 25-cent bet.
But Reed's main interest all the while was music. In his teens, he wrote a dozen ballads and sang them at summer concerts in Estes Park, Colo., and elsewhere in the state.
He signed a seven-year contract with Columbia Records and two of his early releases, "Pair of Scissors" and "I Kissed A Queen," brought him a substantial following in the Rocky Mountains region, including 6.000 members of a fan club which had 10 chapters in the Denver area.
HAD SCREEN TEST
In 1961 Reed appeared on the Dick Clark television show in Philadelphia and soon was on his way to Hollywood for screen test with Warner Bros.
To promote his latest release, "Our Summer Romance," Capitol Records sent Reed on a 40-day tour of South America in 1962. In Chile and Argentina, sales of the record skyrocketed. "It was a smash," Reed recalls. He was overwhelmed that he remained in South America for five years.
For a brief time during his stay, Reed was billed as Chile's most popular singer. He still has a copy of a Santiago newspaper poll to prove it. During one concert stopover in Peru more then 5.000 teen-agers turned out at the Lima airport to greet him, and a 58-man police guard was called out to escort him through the city.
But Reed developed pro-Soviet political views during his travels which eventually got him into some unexplained trouble with Argentine authorities. "I almost gave up singing," he says. He left the continent, flew to Italy and soon earned roles in 11 Italian Western films. They became his springboard into the Soviet Union.
Reed is on his third tour of Russia, where one of his compositions, "We Are Revolutionaries," is a top hit.
He hopes someday to return to the United States, but says he will do so only when he is famous back home. Reed admits, "Nobody knows me there." But he's optimistic that one of his films will eventually catch on his native country.
Asked of his singing could regain him the notoriety he briefly enjoyed in the Rocky Montain region Reed says, "I don't sell my voice. It's my personality."