Rick Stockton was born in Mercedes, Texas, August 31, 1953 to Viola
K. Rode and Garland F. Smith. Stockton was actually Rick’s middle name,
which he later took as his stage moniker, as his birth name was Richard
Stockton Smith. Growing up in Weslaco, Texas, Rick loved the beach at
South Padre Island, a short distance from home. His lifelong love of music
and subsequent career began in elementary school when his father bought
his first guitar for him, the impetus for which was most likely influenced
when Rick watched The Beatles first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show
in the mid 1960s. He booked his first paid gig, a birthday party, when he
was in sixth grade and went on to form another band in middle school
from the mid to late ‘60s named The Avengers. Rick’s high school band,
Lemon, covered all the hits of the day, from Beatles to Led Zeppelin, until he graduated from Weslaco High School in 1971 and headed off to attend Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and later the University of Texas in Austin. After being told about the lively music scene in Denver, Rick decided to follow that dream, dropped out of college, and moved to the Mile High City in 1974, where he met Helen Highwater in 1979 at a restaurant in Larimer Square. Helen was a waitress at the popular Josephina’s where Rick had a steady solo gig. Rick had invited Helen up to sing with him after hearing her do a few songs. The two realized their vocal blend was magical and became a working duo. With one of Rick’s Texan friends on bass, the trio was a power vocal act covering country rock with crossover to sophisticated Steely Dan tunes, and adding the flavor of Rick’s originals.
In 1980, they hit the southern tour circuit for two years and after working together on the road, the dynamic duo married in August of 1982 in
Corpus Christi. Helen notes that she’s essentially still in her first band. That same year in 1982, Rick had enrolled in a one-year intensive
study at the Southwest Guitar Conservatory in San Antonio where he
studied under jazz guitarist greats Jackie King and Herb Ellis. It was there that he learned to write charts for every musical instrument in an orchestra, which came in handy years later when he was writing the instrumental parts for his studio albums, as well as engineering, mixing and mastering all the tracks. After graduating from the Conservatory, Rick and Helen moved from San Antonio to San Marcos until 1996, when they decided to make an extraordinary change in their lives. They were ready to get out of Texas and had decided to return to Colorado, however, Denver was not particularly appealing to them anymore and they took off on an adventure to explore the western slope. They basically stopped in every town from Glenwood Springs to Telluride but when they hit Paonia, it felt like home. Rick and Helen returned to Texas, put everything up for sale, packed up and moved to their new Paonia home that very year. They immediately had steady gigs as a duo in Aspen, Crested Butte, and the surrounding area. Rick opened a 24-track recording studio in their
home, recording local artists. Realizing the amount of talented musicians in Paonia, Rick put a compilation album together and a concert to promote
the product and talent but because there were so many musicians, he
concluded that they’d need two venues to accommodate the twenty-five
acts. From that first endeavor in 2001, Rick created and named the now
well attended and loved, Mountain Harvest Festival as a three-day event.
Helen helped create the organization’s not-for-profit status (501c3) and its board; Rick served on its board for nineteen years. Today, the festival has evolved into a four-day event that encompasses not only live music but crafts, markets and spoken word during the last full weekend in
September. Rick also went on to create the Black Eyed Pea Jubilee in 2001, a New Year’s Day celebration held at the Blue Sage that features
performances donated by local musicians and bands as a fundraiser for the
gallery/events venue. Always the band leader, songwriter, producer and arranger, Rick, along with Helen, had several bands. Thicker Than Thieves put out a couple albums before seeing a poster for another band with the same moniker, who were burly, huge, tattooed bodybuilders with shaved heads. Rick and Helen decided it was probably best to change the name of their band, which they renamed to Three in the Morning, with Justin Hess on drums. On New Year’s Eve 2004, the Strolling Scones debuted at the Blue
Sage, starting their decade long run. Rick produced all five of the Strolling Scones albums. The Strolling Scones’ website told the incredibly creative and comical story of how the band plunged their 1968 VW van into a frozen Blue Mesa lake enroot to a gig, instantly freezing the occupants,
who were then later thawed out in tact and ready to hit the circuit again
with their original 60’s flavored music of that era. An old friend of Rick and Helen, who was a playwright in NYC, thought the whole band concept
would make a great musical. “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s the Strolling
Scones.” had its galactic premiere at the Paradise Theatre in October of
2013. Rick wrote and produced all the new songs for the play. Afterwards,
the band name was shortened to The Scones.
All in all, Rick and Helen produced seventeen full length albums,
three EPs and one musical stage play. Rick’s life encompassed being band
leader, producer, arranger, songwriter, and studio engineer. When he
wasn’t playing music, he loved to ride his BMW F800GS motorcycle,
because in addition to Helen, that’s what Rick loved, music and
Rick is survived by his wife and musical partner of forty-two years,
Helen Highwater, his brother Randy Smith and wife Cathy of Austin,
Texas, and their two children, Stacy Todd and her hubby Kevin, their three
children Ryan, Rachel and Reed Todd. Also, nephew Justin Smith and wife
Emily, and their son Garrett Smith of Horseshoe Bay, Texas.
A Celebration of Life for Rick will be announced for a later date.
Donations in memory of Rick can be made to the Mountain Harvest
Creative, P.O. Box 1771, Paonia, Colorado, 81428, or to HopeWest Hospice
in Delta, online at hopewestco.org or any local non-profit of your choice.
Arrangements are under the care and direction of Taylor Funeral Service and Crematory.
View the internet obituary and sign the online guest registry at taylorfuneralservice.com