You don’t know George Kealiher, Jr. But you know a lot of the people in his photos.
Kealiher used to work backstage at the Denver Coliseum back in the 1950s. When he did, he carried around his camera, and he captured pictures of music greats like Elvis, Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, among many others.
The photos would have been lost forever, had it not have been for a volunteer who helped George at the end of his life.
John Ferreira volunteered to sit with George a couple of days a month. He soon realized George had no family or friends. He was really a shut-in.
When John and his wife Lisa were helping George clean out his house when he moved into nursing care, they discovered the photos.
“He had them wrapped in with a grocery bag with a rubber band around them and they were stuck under the bottom of everything else he had,” Lisa said. “I grew up with these people and I just, I got goose bumps…I've got 'em now. And I went, 'Oh my God."
The collection included some of the only known photos of Elvis during his first Denver show back in 1956. That show was written up in Rocky Mountain News.They called him a musical heretic. Elvis made $5,000 for the two shows he performed at the Coliseum that day.
After George passed in January, John and Lisa donated the photos to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
“The only thing I want is for you to make sure that it says that these are the photos of George Kelaiher, Jr. … because he had nobody… he has no legacy… and this is his legacy,” Lisa said.
The photos are on display now at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame at the Red Rocks Trading Post.
Photos from George Kealiher, Jr.'s collection: