Mad Dog Ranch – and the English country house at the center of its 243 acres – is for sale. Tucked into the North Fork Valley, just two hours from the cosmopolitan towns of Aspen and Telluride, outside the tiny town of Crawford, it’s the longtime residence of rock ‘n’ roll legend Joe Cocker and his wife, Pam.
The couple, deeply entrenched in the community where they’ve lived for two decades, plan to build a smaller home nearby once their current home sells (the asking price is $7.85 million, turnkey; $7 million, unfurnished).
“It takes a lot of maintenance to keep up,” says Pam Cocker, of the nearly 16,000 sq. ft. house at the heart of the sprawling property they found in 1991 and bought a year later, planning to build what they thought would be a second home.
Visitors to the main house first pass the gatehouse, one of several outbuildings (which include a horse barn, equipment shed and two greenhouses, where Joe grows tomatoes, as did his father, in Sheffield, England).
A pack of dogs gathers at the driveway entrance, and housekeeper Jane Seitz distributes biscuits from a garbage-can container to quiet them.
“Yeah, well, it’s called Mad Dog Ranch,” she says drily, letting Joe and Pam’s labradoodle, Fernie, into the house through the well-used mudroom.
Longtime family friend Bob Pennetta says it was only after Joe lamented – “Isn’t there a place that I could go, where nobody would bother me, and be a regular guy?” – that he steered the couple to Crawford in 1991. On an early visit, Pennetta recalls, Cocker bought “a late 70s Bronco and cut the seats out” in back, installing a cage for his dogs in their stead.
“Pam wouldn’t let him bring it up to the house,” Pennetta, a regular at Cocker’s weekly snooker games, says of the odd-looking vehicle.
‘With a Little Help From My Friends’
On the ground floor, at the seven-bedroom, ten-bath home’s westernmost end, plaques and photos on the game-room walls reveal Cocker’s snooker games to be something of a local legend. “The Rules of the Game of Snooker,” framed on the wall next to the ornate green-felted billiards table, holds a place of honor at the center of a needlepoint wall hanging of heraldic symbols and coats of arms. A backlit display case offers a further glimpse into the life of this Yorkshire boy whose first gig came in his early teens singing with his older brother’s skittle band. As the gritty-voiced gas-pipe-fitter-turned-bluesman/cover artist, who turned 70 in May, told the London Daily Mail last year, “Making pop records gets harder at my age. I was never much of a songwriter, so I rely on other people. A lot of the tracks I get sent are too teen-oriented. The sexual lyrics are too much for me, because I need to make my songs believable.” Bobbleheads of the four Beatles are on the top shelf; Cocker, a favored interpreter of their music, released “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” before their softer version, making it his own. Cocker’s radically rearranged rendition of “With a Little Help From My Friends” hit number one in 1968 in the United Kingdom, eventually landing him in the Grammy Hall of Fame. He sang it again in 1969; it was perhaps the most memorable of the five songs he performed at Woodstock.
Busts of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Schubert are displayed below, alongside an array of mementos, from toy soldiers to daggers to miniature sailing ships. A Swarovski crystal rose is in front of the Order of the British Empire Cocker received in 2007 on the Queen’s Birthday, for his “services to music.” The bar at the opposite end of the room displays commemorative bottles (a “Welcome to the Millennium” cabernet the couple sent to friends at the turn of the century, a “Blues Passions de Cognac Specially Bottled for Joe Cocker” from his 2005 performance at the Afro-American blues festival held annually in the Cognac region of France) as well as collectible skull-shaped tequila and vodka bottles, and a skull-stamped martini shaker and glasses (Cocker has been sober for 13 years). A pair of reading glasses rests in an ashtray.
Next up, heading south from the billiards room, is the library/music/television room, where Pam, a devotee of movies and long-form television dramas (both Joe and Pam were astonished by an eye-popping episode from Game of Thrones), spends a lot of time. It’s here that the curious visitor will probably linger longest, its tall bookshelves home to an inconceivable range of printed information, from Stieg Larson’s “Millennium Series” to the 18th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette (edited by her descendants) to Dennis Hopper Photos 61-67. A commemorative Woodstock book-and-memento set is on the coffee table. But the true showpieces in this room are the quartet of sculptures by outsider artist William Potts, the grandson of a former slave and son of a janitor who, using found and scrap materials including lumber and paint, has been carving full-time since his 1978 retirement from the U.S. Army. The Cockers picked up their first Potts piece – “I Got a Woman,” with its not-quite-life-sized Ray Charles – at an Aspen gallery, acquiring two more sculptures (James Brown and Stevie Wonder) before commissioning the Denver-based artist to create a sculpture of Cocker.
Cocker likes to spend time in the morning room, at the southern end of this seven-bedroom, ten-bath house, where toys for the dogs spill out from a basket next to the fireplace (“I wish they’d pick up after themselves,” Seitz mock-grumbles).
“He’s an incredible history buff” with an especially deep knowledge of World War I and II history, says Pennetta. The living and dining rooms are relatively formal, bracketed by tall, north-facing windows looking out past the house-length deck to the West Elk mountains. A baronial dining room table that seats 20 is flanked by floral paintings and a china cabinet on one wall, an Oriental-style screen depicting a herd of horses by Robert Crowder on the other. Bright pink sofas dominate the living room, Larousse Gastronomique and an art book simply titled Paris on the coffee table between them.
‘A Real Country Boy’
The turreted entryway with a fleur-de-lis-patterned marble floor divides the two wings on the ground floor, and leads to the grand staircase heading up to the second floor. It’s home to three guest rooms (floral-, organic- and Oriental-themed), a room each for Simon and Eva, Pam Cocker’s 13- and 15-year-old grandchildren (who “spend the whole summer with us,” Pam says), the Cockers’ bedroom suite and Pam’s office.
Back on the ground floor, in the home’s well-used mudroom (just off the kitchen), steps lead downstairs into the basement, its walls lined with pictures of Cocker over the years and too many gold and platinum albums to count. There’s a desk each for Pam and her assistant, who run the Cocker Kids’ Foundation from here. “Any child, age birth to 21, can apply if they need funding to help them realize some kind of dream,” Pam says of the nonprofit community foundation that’s given more than $1 million to children in the North Fork Valley for everything from glasses and braces to band uniforms to scholarships for summer camp.
“If every cat that was in that position became that involved just in their own community,” Pennetta says, standing in front of a photograph of Great Britain’s Prince Charles bestowing the OPE on Cocker, “it would change the whole world.”
It’s a full life, and the couple relish their privacy – and relative anonymity (Pennetta tells a story about being chastised by his daughter for not greeting Joe, wearing sweatpants and rubber Wellies, at the local City Market. “I didn’t recognize him,” he says, with a wide grin).
“Joe and I really love cold weather and snow,” Pam says, and after living in the two-bedroom gatehouse that first year on the ranch, Pam says, “We just loved it, and we decided to make it our permanent residence.”
To that end, they sold their house in Santa Barbara, Calif., and in 1994 moved into the big house.
“He’s just a real country boy,” she says of her husband of nearly three decades, who turned 70 in May. “He loves to be able to walk out the door and take a three-mile hike and not see anyone.
“We both feel really most at home out in the country, with our dogs.”
When Mad Dog Ranch sells, she says, they’ll build a smaller house nearby. “We’re not in any hurry, really,” says Pam.
“We kind of expect to have a couple more years in this house, but whatever happens, happens.”