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Coors sings an old tune

Brewer buys rights to 'Rocky Mountain High' by John Denver

Published December 13, 2005 at midnight

From bikini-clad twins to John Denver's Rocky Mountain High, Coors Brewing Co. is returning to its Rocky Mountain roots.

The Golden brewer - known for using the Coors twins to pitch its Coors Light beer - has bought the rights to Denver's 1972 hit song. The company is once again employing its own version of the upbeat Rocky Mountain High in Coors Light commercials now airing on TV.

"We did indeed buy the rights to Rocky Mountain High, " said Coors spokeswoman Kabira Hatland. She declined to discuss how much the company paid, although it is estimated in the "six-figure" range.

The commercial is also notable for featuring Pete Coors as chief pitchman, underscoring his return to the company following his failed U.S. Senate bid last year.

Coors, who is vice chairman of Molson Coors Brewing Co., is shown among the snow-capped Rocky Mountains touting the unique quality of Coors Light's taste.

As vice chairman, Pete Coors gets an annual base salary of $800,000. He also is eligible for an annual bonus.

Coors Brewing used Rocky Mountain High several years ago in a commercial in which a man whistled the tune in a bar, and others there soon joined in singing.

Denver died in 1997 after the small plane he was flying crashed into Monterey Bay, off the California coast.

But Rocky Mountain High has lived on, a song that pays tribute to Colorado's mountains and beauty.

"I love it," said local concert promoter Barry Fey, who handled concerts for Denver.

Fey said the song particularly strikes a chord with him. The first line - "He was born in the summer of his 27th year . . . " - refers to a young man moving to Colorado when he was 27. Fey was the same age when he moved here.

Fey also acknowledged that Rocky Mountain High can strike listeners differently.

"It became very, very hip not to like John Denver," he said.

Sixteen-year-old Ben Kennedy, of Arvada, who works at Wax Trax Records in Denver, is among those who isn't a fan.

"It's kind of annoying," said Kennedy. "I really don't like that."

Kennedy recalled the his uncle liked to play the song several years ago while having a drink.

Hatland, the Coors spokeswoman, noted the ad is not intended for a 16-year-old such as Kennedy, who is too young to consume beer.

Foote Cone & Belding in Chicago produced the Coors ad.

The agency's music director, Gregory Grene, noted that older hits such as Rocky Mountain High have become popular in ads. Another Coors ad uses the The O'Jays' 1973 hit song Love Train.

"These songs mean something to people," Grene said of the older music.

He also noted the older songs are the most expensive to license.

Asked how much the songs typically cost to license for a year, he replied: "six figures."

Coors also is using contemporary music in its various ads, one of which features Jane's Addiction Mountain Song.

Steve Sander, principal of Pure Brand Communications, a Denver advertising and marketing company, said the use of Rocky Mountain High shouldn't hinder Coors' ability to sell its beer in Colorado - even though not all people are fans of the tune.

"Overall, Rocky Mountain High and John Denver have a positive legacy in Colorado," he said.

Coors Light spots

Pete Coors: "Windows," "Up Here," "Memory" and "Rockies" - Foote Cone & Belding, Chicago

Music: John Denver's Rocky Mountain High, by Emoto Music

"Ice City" - Re-edit by Foote Cone & Belding, Chicago

Music: Jane's Addiction, Mountain Song

"Silver Bullet Train" - Foote Cone & Belding, Chicago

Music: The OJays, Love Train

Molson Coors TAP: NYSE

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