A well-known singer-songwriter in Durango died in a head-on crash Tuesday morning north of town.
The victim was identified as 67-year-old Greg Ryder, said Capt. Adrian Driscoll, with the Colorado State Patrol.
Ryder was a longtime, regular performer at the Diamond Belle Saloon and The Office Spiritorium in the Strater Hotel. He was also a former member of the Bar D Wranglers, playing with the iconic cowboy band for about a decade starting in 1989.
“He was a really talented guy, great singer and guitar player,” said Gary Cook, who played with Ryder in the Wranglers. “He was a great musician for sure. People really liked him and appreciated when he would come out and sing, and I know in later years, that was the case, as well, playing downtown.”
The crash occurred at 6:41 a.m. near mile post 32 of U.S. Highway 550, in the Hermosa area.
Highway 550 was closed for about 3½ hours while law enforcement investigated and cleared the scene. Traffic was rerouted on County Road 203.
Nathaniel Andrew, 24, of Durango, was driving north on Highway 550 when he ran off the right side of the road, hit a guard rail, came back across the road and hit an oncoming vehicle being driven by Ryder, Driscoll said.
Andrew was taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center with “moderate” injuries, where he was treated and released; Ryder died on scene, Driscoll said.
Andrew was driving a 2012 white Ford F-350. Ryder was driving a 2006 blue Chevy pickup.
No drugs or alcohol are suspected in the crash, but law enforcement suspect fatigue on the part of Andrew may be a factor, Driscoll said.
Ryder was raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and moved to Vail in 1971 to ski and play music, ultimately ending up in Durango in 1979. He was a singer and guitarist who played Western, country and cowboy music.
Rod Barker, president and CEO of the Strater, said the hotel is flying its flags at half-staff for the rest of the week to honor Ryder. There will also be a musical tribute at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Diamond Belle Saloon.
“I’ve known him for a very long time. He’s played in the Belle for a lot of years,” Barker said, adding that while there are a number of things that Ryder will be remembered for, a couple stand out to him.
“First of all, his wonderful, silky smooth baritone voice that was so Greg Ryder,” he said. “He came to town as sort of a ski bum trying to get into the music world to kind of support his desire to ski and play golf. And yet, that’s what we all remember him for – we know he skied and played golf, but, damn, he was good at music.”
The other thing is that he was not a quitter, Barker said.
“He would work on something until he got it. He worked so hard at things to make them right,” he said. “I remember our music show, when he had to remember some poems and lines, and he wasn’t the guy who was good at lines, but he worked and worked and worked until he memorized those poems. He was not a quitter; he was a go-getter.”
Herald Deputy Editor Shane Benjamin contributed to this report.