On The Square

Elton John at Caribou Ranch and the Piano Used to Write "Philadelphia Freedom"

By Kimberly Blomquist, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

Jan 13,2015 | 12:00 EST

Caribou Ranch was a recording studio built in the Rocky Mountains by Grammy award-winning musician and producer James William Guercio. The ranch hosted over 150 music legends, including Elton John, during the 70s and 80s.

John worked on three albums at Caribou Ranch: Caribou, Rock of the Westies and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. His 1974 Caribou album was named after the ranch. The mahogany Steinway & Sons grand piano used while recording “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” among other tracks from the album, is now available at auction.

Elton John at Caribou Ranch, where he recorded three albums, with a porcelain dinner service available at auction by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on January 24. The dinner service includes 189 items total, including the pitcher, plate and bowl pictured here. Both the indoor and outdoor furniture used in the Mess Hall and Lodge are also for sale. The Lodge is where artists such as Al Green and Billy Joel stayed while at Caribou Ranch.


A second piano, the Wm. Knabe & Co. baby grand used by Elton John to write the majority of Rock of the Westies and “Philadelphia Freedom” is also available for purchase.

The Wm. Knabe & Co. baby grand piano, circa 1925, used by Elton John to write Rock of the Westies, “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Don’t Let the Sun go Down on Me.” This piano was housed in Caribou Ranch’s Ouray cabin and used by other artists such as Michael Jackson, Frank Zappa, Stephen Stills, Dan Fogelberg, Peter Cetera and many more. The piano is one of many for sale at auction by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on January 24.

“I consider him one of the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. I think all of the work he did there will stand the test of time,” said James Guercio, Caribou’s founder.

Caribou has been considered the first destination recording studio. Elton John not only recorded there but also enjoyed the private, rustic atmosphere. He spent time with John Lennon on the ranch while recording his “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” cover. This trip is referred to as Lennon’s “lost weekend” with May Pang.

These instruments are part of the upcoming auction conducted by Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on January 24 at the Denver Design Center, featuring over 400 lots. View the full catalogue on Bidsquare and register to bid.
Caribou Ranch is being inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2015. A portion of the proceeds will benefit this non-profit organization.