Dolan Ellis moved from Kansas to Phoenix in 1959. He had been working there as a jazz singer while completing his journalism degree. He was attracted to the vibrant atmosphere of Phoenix and Scottsdale, and recognized the opportunity to grow with a growing community. Numerous gigs in coffee houses led to the big prize, a long-term contract at Portofino's Coffee House in Scottsdale. The venue soon became so popular that it was attracting all the big-name stars, and Dolan was the opening act, learning from the best. He also opened a folk music club, Dolan's, featuring new and unknown talent and even hiring a young John Denver, long before he became a major star.
Portofino's led to doors opening for Dolan from the Mississippi River to the West Coast. Touring brought his talents to the attention of Randy Sparks, and when Randy formed The New Christy Minstrels in the early 1960s, Dolan was one of the solo artists who was recruited to join this large and innovative group.
Money and fame were great, but Dolan sorely missed the Arizona he had already begun to think of as home, and he left the group in1963 while they were at the top of the heap with gold records, a Grammy, prestigious concert dates, and weekly appearances on the nationally televised "Andy Williams Show."
As a preservationist, he has traveled most of the state of Arizona, documenting and preserving historical sites. He will tell you he had a "feeling in his soul" that Arizona was the place for him to be long before he made the state his home. A favorite goal was met when he helped conceptualize and build the Arizona Folklore Preserve in Ramsey Canyon near Sierra Vista in southern Arizona.
If you've ever had the chance to be entertained by Dolan Ellis, it is an unforgettable experience. This man truly loves what he does, which is to entertain while educating, leaving the listener with a sense of wonder about the Grand Canyon State. He has written and recorded over 300 songs about his experiences and Arizona.
As Dolan had long been writing and performing songs that spotlighted the Arizona desert Southwest, it was only natural that in 1966 he was first appointed the official state balladeer by then-Governor Sam Goddard. He has since been re-appointed by all ten subsequent Arizona governors.
Dolan is once again performing with The New Christy Minstrels as well as presenting his solo concerts at the Arizona Folklore Preserve, where he is artist-in-residence. He also appears elsewhere around the state. Singer, songwriter, musician, storyteller and balladeer: Dolan Ellis is part of the entertainment fabric of Arizona and truly a Renaissance man.