Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

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Monterey (California) December


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December, 2006
Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival   Monterey, California

Report by Voleta Hummel
Photos by Jack Hummel

See a special feature with Henry Benson's photos from this event here.

(See our feature about the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival here.)

2006 poster by Missy Jenkins

When I hear the names Belinda Gail & Curly Musgrave, Dave Stamey, Sons of the San Joaquin (Joe, Jack and Lon Hannah), and Sourdough Slim all listed at one venue I guarantee I will be there, because they represent some of the best talent that California has to offer. However, add to that Red Steagall, Gary & Jean Prescott, and Jill Jones & the Lone Star Chorale (Patty Clayton and Doug Floyd) then you can not keep me away. Those, folks, are the songs and voices of my homeland—Texas.

Juni Fisher and Joe Hannah of Sons of the San Joaquin

What can be better than that you ask? How about Canadian Cowboy Celtic with a new CD release, Juni Fisher (originally from California) and Californian Mike Beck added to the mix. There was also The O'Brien Family Band (whose patriarch is also from California), Paul Zarzyski from Montana, Yvonne Hollenbeck from South Dakota, Doris Daley from Canada, and Jim & Karen Ross from California (are you seeing the pattern here?)

Jim Ross

The pattern, in case you have not figured it out, is actually that the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival once again outdid itself in collecting the most amazing talent in the western poetry and music business and brought them all to Monterey on December 8-10, 2006.

Doris Daley

Staying true to their past festivals they group everyone into different and sometimes unusual subjects but the job they get done is phenomenal to say the least. For example: Friday afternoon Doris Daley hosted a special poetry workshop entitled "West Word Ho." Friday evening saw Mick Vernon, president, festival director, and cowboy poet hosting "Bunkhouse Bonanza" featuring Red Steagall, Jill Jones & Lone Star Chorale and Sourdough Slim.

Red Steagall

Patty Clayton

Sourdough Slim

Saturday morning began with host Sourdough Slim performing and introducing Red Steagall, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Mike Beck in a session called "Western Wanderings." The next session was "Two Seated Saddles" with David Wilkie & Denise WithnellBelinda Gail & Curly Musgrave, and Gary & Jean Prescott, hosted by Mick Vernon. "Prairie Wildflowers" included Jean Prescott, Juni Fisher, and Jill Jones. The "Songwriters Serenade" brought some poignant moments with Dave Stamey, Juni Fisher, David Wilkie, and Curly Musgrave. The time and effort that host Paul Zarzyski put into the preparation for this set was not only very obvious but most appreciated by the audience.

Paul Zarzyski

Denise Withnell and David Wilkie of Cowboy Celtic

The "Members Only" show was Yvonne Hollenbeck's quilt show entitled "Weave of the West" with Jean Prescott adding the music to the story. Yvonne weaves tales of her family from great-great grandmothers to her mother and herself with unforgettable displays of quilts made through the generations in Nebraska and South Dakota. All quilts except hers and her mothers were made in sod houses. If you have never had the privilege to view these beautiful handmade quilts and hear Yvonne's stories, make sure you do so very soon.

Doris Daley and husband Bob Haysom help display quilts

The Saturday night show "Northern Exposures" with host Canadian, Doris Daley, included Canadian Cowboy Celtic, and former Canadian Curly Musgrave. There was a cameo appearance with Curly's singing partner Belinda Gail who asked the question, "Does this make me an honorary Canadian?" Saturday night closed out with a western swing dance by the local band Lost Weekend. If you were not there to enjoy any or all of these activities on Saturday then you just were not in the swing of things!

Sunday morning kicked off with the popular Cowboy Church hosted by Don Fuselier. The music and poetry included songs and poems from Jill Jones & the Lone Star Chorale, Belinda Gail & Curly Musgrave, Doris Daley, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Gary & Jean Prescott. Attendees found this a very inspirational time that was talked about throughout the rest of the day. The remainder of the Sunday programs began with "Oh California!" hosted by Belinda Gail and featured Dave Stamey, Mike Beck, and Jim Ross. Poets then took the stage leading off with host, Mick Vernon, and presenting Paul Zarzyski, Yvonne Hollenbeck, and Doris Daley.

Yvonne Hollenbeck

Closing out the day and the festival was "A Family Tradition" featuring the O'Brien Family Band, Gary & Jean Prescott, and Sons of the San Joaquin with hosts Jim and Karen Ross.

There were plenty of highlights at this year's Monterey Festival: We were introduced to the new mayor of the city, Chuck Della Sala. You might remember it took several years to get the previous mayor duded out in correct cowboy clothes— boots one year, hat the next, etc. Chuck seemed to have gotten the message early on, but having attended some other event prior to this year's Monterey Cowboy Festival, he only had readily available his cowboy hat in the back of his car! He promised that next year he would be all together a cowboy! We must ask, Is this just a politician's promise?

Gerry Montgomery is taking over the Festival President's position.  Congratulations Gerry! 

Other highlights: Doug Floyd of the Lone Star Chorale sang "We Were Cowboys (If Just For a While)," Red Steagall singing his tribute to Freckles Brown and pointing out that you should always laugh only at yourself—therefore all those Aggie jokes he has told all his life—(referring to the re-naming of Texas A & M) he is now an Aggie!

Some wonderful songs were presented written by some of the greatest in western music: Jeff Gore's "Til I Saw You" sung by Belinda Gail & Curly Musgrave; Nancy Thorwardson's "Painting Up The Town" sung by Jill Jones; Steve Spurgin's "She Always Smelled Like Lilacs in the Summer Rain" sung by Jean Prescott; Paul Zarzyski in the songwriters session quoting, "Without music life would be a mistake"; Dave Stamey singing "Spin That Pony" and "The Vacquero Song"; and then Curly Musgrave sharing his heart with "Father to Father." The songwriters session was without question the most memorable of all.

Dave Stamey

I have pages and pages of notes reference the Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, including everyone who worked to produce it and those who performed for it, but the best advise I can give is—Be There Next Year!

California poet Pat Richardson came for the show, and talks with Mick Vernon and Yvonne Hollenbeck


A version of this report appears in the January-February, 2006 edition of Rope Burns


See our feature about the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival here.  


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