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Brunkow, 54, ushered in Boulder's rock 'n' roll era

Published August 7, 2006 at midnight

Upon taking the stage at Red Rocks a week ago today, former Doobie Brothers member Michael McDonald started the show with the song Peace, dedicated to Doug Brunkow, a longtime Boulder music fan who brought rock 'n' roll to that music scene. Mr. Brunkow died July 20 from complications from surgery at age 54.

McDonald also called Mr. Brunkow's family to express his condolences.

Mr. Brunkow was "a key player in making Boulder and the University of Colorado what they were in the early days of rock 'n' roll in Boulder," said J.C. Ancell, who worked with Mr. Brunkow for years as part of CU's program council. "You'd never meet a nicer or more caring person. He was such an anomaly in the rock 'n' roll shark pool. He avoided all that corruption and hoopla, and stayed Doug all the way through."

Born in Denver in 1952, Mr. Brunkow graduated from Hinkley High School before attending CU. Mr. Brunkow was a volunteer when he was a freshman at CU in the early '70s. At the time the CU program council brought in low-key acts such as The Association.

Mr. Brunkow was instrumental in changing that, making the program more professional and businesslike. It culminated in bringing huge names to Folsom Field such as the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and a 1975 Doobie Brothers concert. Other legendary concerts, including Neil Young at Mackey Auditorium, were Mr. Brunkow's doing as well.

"He really took the thing from an amorphous free-form volunteer organization and built it into an entertainment and promotion company at CU," said Ancell, who retired last year as assistant director of the University Memorial Center. The organization Mr. Brunkow formed continues to this day, with latter-day concerts from the likes of Crowded House, Wilco and Annie Lennox.

Phil Lobel, a publicist in Los Angeles, saw a Leon Russell concert that Mr. Brunkow put on and immediately wanted to get into the music industry.

"Doug put me right to work hanging up posters to promote the next show he was doing at the CU Fieldhouse - New Riders of the Purple Sage with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen," Lobel said.

"He brought the program council into the rock 'n' roll age. They went from doing middle-of-the-road stuff to doing things like Leon Russell and the Grateful Dead," Lobel said.

After booking Tulagi's for a time with Marty Wolf, Mr. Brunkow eventually took to the road with the Doobie Brothers as part of their lighting crew.

The band remained loyal to Mr. Brunkow; besides McDonald's dedication, the rest of the band brought him out to some recent Atlantic City shows for several days.

"It was really cool the way they all kept in touch with each other. If you wanted to know where someone in the Doobies were, Doug could tell you," Ancell said.

Years of kidney problems deteriorated Mr. Brunkow's health. A year ago he finally received a transplant, which greatly improved his health. Despite losing a leg, he was taking dance lessons and working to line up charity organizations with parties in need.

As a transplant recipient, Mr. Brunkow had to take immune-suppressing drugs, which weakened his ability to fight off disease.

An unrelated recent surgery caused Mr. Brunkow to develop the infection that eventually took his life.

"He had been doing really well," said photographer Dan Fong, who knew him for years and toured alongside him with the Doobies. "It's kind of a shock. He was totally getting better."

Mr. Brunkow attended a recent reunion of program council leaders with his sister.

"They both had big smiles on their faces, delighted to see people, some of whom he hadn't seen in 30 years," Lobel said.

Mr. Brunkow is survived by his mother, Louverta Brunkow; his father, Almond S. Brunkow; brothers Gary and Kevin Brunkow; and sister Elisa Brunkow.

Friends and family will gather at 4 p.m. Saturday to honor Mr. Brunkow's life.

Send any pictures to Louverta Brunkow, 1534 S. Locust St., Denver, CO 80224. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation in Mr. Brunkow's name to The National Kidney Foundation.

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