Caribou Ranch was a recording studio built by producer James William Guercio in 1972 in a converted barn on ranch property in the Rocky Mountains near Nederland, Colorado, on the road that leads to the ghost town of Caribou. The studio was in operation until it was damaged in a fire in March 1985.
Guercio purchased Caribou Ranch, more than 4,000 acres (16 km2) in the Rocky Mountains, in 1971.
In 1972, Joe Walsh and Bill Szymczyk were starting work on Barnstorm at Walsh's home in Colorado when a mixer blew out on the first day. Szymczyk knew Guercio was building a new studio, visited the in-progress barn conversion at the ranch, and concluded that it would work for their project. They used the new studio to finish Barnstorm. Szymczyk next made Rick Derringer's All American Boy and the hit single "Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo" there.
Elton John's 1974 album Caribou was recorded at and named after the studio. (John also recorded the single "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" there, as well as his next two albums, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies.)
The group Chicago, managed by Guercio, recorded five studio albums there; Chicago VI, Chicago VII, Chicago VIII, Chicago X, and Chicago XI. Earth, Wind, & Fire recorded two of their albums there as well; 1974's Open Our Eyes (Produced by Maurice White & Joe Wissert) and the 1975 Grammy winning That's the Way of the World (Produced by White and Charles Stepney). By the mid 1980s, it was rumored that business was slow for the studio and their rates had dropped. That made it cost-effective for the Colorado-based band "First Born" to record their debut there in late October 1984. In March 1985 Amy Grant, who had recorded 4 albums there, including her platinum-certified mainstream breakthrough album Unguarded, was about to fly out of Nashville to return to Caribou for work on her next project when word reached her that the studio was in flames.
The studio complex was shut down and never used again after the 1985 fire destroyed the control room and caused about US$3 million in damage. According to the Nederland Fire Chief, while the fire department was doing overhaul on the fire to make sure it was out, several Gold Record plaques awarded to Guercio's group Chicago that were hanging on the wall of the studio, were damaged by a chain saw.
Guercio's interests had shifted away from music. In 1996 and 2001 transactions he sold 2,180 acres (8.8 km2) of the ranch to Boulder County and the City of Boulder, and another 1,489 acres (6.03 km2) were placed under conservation easement. A housing development by Guercio's Caribou Companies takes up much of the remainder.
In a 2008 interview with Denver PBS series Studio 12 ("Caribou Ranch", aired February 13, 2008), Guercio said the studio's control room was rebuilt after the fire. (For purposes of clarification, only the roof and structure of the control room were repaired; the actual room itself was not. The part of the studio where the musicians performed remained intact.) Guercio added, however, that he has no plans to reopen the recording facility for business.
In 2009, the Neve 8016 mixing console of Caribou Ranch recording studio was refurbished by Vintage King Audio and purchased by Prime Studio in Austria.
The remaining 1,600-acre property was sold to Indian Peaks Holdings LLC for $32.5 million.
In January 2015 the remaining Rock 'n' Roll memorabilia was auctioned in Denver. Over $800,000 was raised from more than 1500 bidders. Items sold included -Baby grand piano used by Elton John, Frank Zappa, Michael Jackson - Sold for $52,500
Hammond organ and Leslie speakers used by Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire, Steven Stills, and Rod Stewart, and others - Sold for $11,250
President Grover Cleveland's bed used by many artists including Elton John, Michael Jackson and Jerry Lee Lewis - Sold for $11,250
1985 black Corvette with custom 'CARIBU' plates was often used by celebrities visiting Caribou Ranch. Val Kilmer drove the Corvette during his run in Hamlet at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 1988. - Sold for $10,625
A Victorian Horn Chair from the Recording Studio Game Room - Sold for $2,215
Over 150 artists recorded at Caribou.