"Rocky Mountain Way" (1973)
I had left the James Gang, left Cleveland and gone to Colorado because Bill Szymczyk was there and so were a whole bunch of other people I knew. We had the Smoker album pretty much done [1973's The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get] except we had this one track that was an instrumental. I couldn't think of any words and everybody was patiently waiting for me to come up with something.
One day I was in my backyard in Boulder mowing the lawn and I was thinking, "Boy, I sure hope leaving the James Gang was a good idea!" Because I hadn't really surfaced as a solo act yet. I was almost there, but not quite. And then I looked up ... and there were the Rocky Mountains. It was summer but you could still see snow on the back range. It just hit me how beautiful it all was, 5,000 feet up. And that was it – the words came: "Spent the last year Rocky Mountain way/Couldn't get much higher." And the second verse is about my old management – telling us this, telling us that, time to change the batter. I got all of that at once. And I ran inside to write it down before I forgot it.
Only problem was, I forgot to shut off the lawnmower. It kept moving and went into the neighbor's yard and ate her rose bushes. Cleared a little path straight through. So those lyrics wound up costing me, I don't know, maybe 1,500 bucks. But it was well worth it. The neighbor, though, she was pissed. I said to her, "You don't understand! I got the words!" But she just looked at me.