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We're pleased to have an occasional column about cowboy poets, poetry, and music, "Poets and Songwriters," in the monthly Backforty Bunkhouse newsletter.

Below:

November 2008Jay Snider and Mag Mawhinney

October 2008Eli Barsi and Doris Daley

August 2008: Les Buffham and Michael Fleming

July 2008: Robert "Bob" Fletcher

April 2008: Badger Clark

February 2008: Curly Fletcher

January, 2008: Don Edwards, Joel Nelson

August, 2007: Jim Jones, Rick Huff

June, 2007:  The Western Music Association Welcomes Cowboy Poets
see this article here

April, 2007 Virginia Bennett, Curly Musgrave, and Belinda Gail

February, 2007Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jean Prescott

January, 2007: DW Groethe, Wiley & the Wild West, Jean Prescott

 

Award-winning radio disk jockey Joe Baker presents The Backforty Bunkhouse Show, on two 100,000 watt stations covering New Mexico and West Texas: "New Mexico's Bear" KNMB 96.7FM and "W-105" KWMW, 105.1FM. 

The Backforty Bunkhouse Show plays Western Swing, Classic Country, Cowboy Music, Texas Honky Tonk, Cowboy Poetry and Texas Music. Independent Artists and record labels are always showcased on the show, along with live special guests.

The Backforty Bunkhouse also offers the Backforty Roundup, a monthly compilation of single tracks sent to radio stations, distributes CDs for poets and musicians, and more. 

Joe Baker welcomes music and poetry recording submissions for airplay and reviews.

Backforty Bunkhouse Promotions
Joe Baker
106 Roswell Street
Ruidoso, New Mexico  88345
(505) 257-3955
Request Line:  1-877-396-W105
backfortybunkhouse@valornet.com
www.BackfortyBunkhouse.com

Read more in our feature here and visit the Backforty Bunkhouse Promotions web site to subscribe to the free monthly newsletter and for more information.


November, 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

California's Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival (www.montereycowboy.com) marks its tenth year in 2008 (December 5-7). It's a celebration with top-notch entertainment, including Mike Beck, Baxter Black, Juni Fisher, Linda Kirkpatrick, Wally McRae, Jay Snider, Sourdough Slim, Dave Stamey, Paul Zarzyski, and others.

Oklahoma rancher and poet Jay Snider—just named "Male Poet of the Year" by the Academy of Western Artists—makes his first California appearance at the Monterey Gathering. This poem was inspired by a drawing by Kansas artist Don Dane (
www.dondanestudio.com) and says a lot about why Jay is a respected horseman.

Minor Adjustments
For Don Dane

He's grown half a hand in stature
Since I turned him out last May
To rid his tail of cockleburs
Took nearly half a day

He's fat and slick and gentle
Just the way I knew he'd be
He's had some time to let it soak
The saddle, the bit, and me

I watched him from a weanling
How he'd run and buck and play
His actions told me early on
He'd be a champ one day

I'd like to take the credit
For all the things he knows
But his bloodlines tell the story
His heritage, it shows

His gentleness and kindness
And his pride are plain to see
These attributes, I'm hopin'
Are the ones he learned from me

© 2005, Jay Snider, All Rights Reserved

Jay Snider's recent CD, Of Horses and Men, is available for $19 postpaid from: Jay Snider, Route 1, Box 167, Cyril, Oklahoma 73029; http://www.jaysnider.net.

British Columbia's Mag Mawhinney's poem was inspired by moving cows on a November day at Meadow Springs Ranch. She says, "The beauty of that meadow and surrounding forest, the contrast between the inquisitive actions of the  dogs and the other animals grazing peacefully on grass  stubbles protruding through the snow, gave me a feeling of pure joy, a completeness beyond words. The scene was God's winter masterpiece! And it's moments like that when I understand why a cowboy is willing to work for short pay."

Winter Range

The gauge measured four below zero
with a dustin' of snow on the ground.
We bounced through the meadows in a flatbed truck
to a lake with a fence all around.

Sittin' on the truck was a big water drum,
a shovel and four ranch dogs.
When the pump started up, all the dogs ran off,
sniffin' tracks through the bush and the bogs.

We rattled on past a big rail gate
and sidled up to the water trough tanks,
with a dog runnin' point, another on drag
and two closin' in on our flanks.

 Ice was scooped out and the tanks topped up
 from the drum on the back of the rig,
 while the dogs played about with their tongues hangin' out,
 flappin' 'round like four whirligigs.

 Then the cows and the calves were all counted
 as they grazed on the rich meadow grass
 and pretty horses with thick, heavy coats
 turned their heads to watch as we passed.

 It was a scene of Christmas card beauty
 that can't be expressed in a word—
 happy dogs in a snow-covered meadow
 and a cowboy out waterin' the herd.

 
© 2006, Mag Mawhinney, All Rights Reserved

Mag Mawhinney's recent CD, Passin' it On, includes 27 original poems and 4 original songs, co-written and sung by the award-winning singer Abe Zacharias. It is available for $20 postpaid from: Mag Mawhinney, 835 Chapman Rd., Cobble Hill, B.C., Canada V0R 1L4;
www.magmawhinney.com.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                 

A version of this article appears in the November/December 2009 edition of Rope Burns


  Read more about Jay Snider here and at this web site:  www.JaySnider.net

  Read more about Mag Mawhinney here and  visit her web site:  www.MagNawhinney.com


 

October, 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

The tuneful lilts of a fine glass harmonica, bodran, bass, and acoustic guitar haunt Eli Barsi’s recording of “Shades of the West (Rainbows).” There’s a certain Celtic magic in the way the tune, the tempo, the lyrics, and the voice meld. However, the images conjured are unmistakably the West. Under the irresistible spell of the artful words, it’s easy to imagine yourself as “royalty riding the range, with a kingdom of grass at your feet.” 

The words were crafted by a sort of magician, Albertan poet Doris Daley, celebrated for her word wizardry. The song comes from her original poem, “Rainbows.” She tells about the poem’s inspiration, “I wrote this piece one summer when I came back from a seven-day pack trip in the bush. I had been offered a tempting job in Winnipeg but my week in the Rockies only intensified my love affair with Alberta. Yet I wasn’t living ‘out West’—I was living in Calgary and trying to figure out how to make my life more rural and less urban. I wanted to write a love poem to the places and lifestyle I loved the most, knowing that how I felt about the West would never change, no matter where I lived or what job I held. ” 

Daley says she often writes a poem “the way a builder constructs a house.” In this poem, her “scaffolding” was the colors in a rainbow, “the 2x4’s, and the descriptive verses became the walls and roof.” She tells that she had a forthcoming writers’ workshop in mind as she wrote, “I tried a little extra hard on the figures of speech in this poem… I absolutely love to be surprised/shocked/startled by a good figure of speech in cowboy poems by other writers and I didn’t want to let the team down. If there’s one verse in the whole poem I’m proud of, it’s: 

Violet is crocus and lupines. Violet tastes saskatoon sweet.
Violet is royally riding the range with a kingdom of grass at your feet.

The alliteration and the symbolism (associating the color purple with royalty/the kingdom of grass) was the result of several rewrites and much, much serendipity during the writing process.”

Eli Barsi heard Doris Daley recite “Rainbows” at a Canadian cowboy festival and was immediately impressed. She says, “I was taken by the beautiful, vivid picture it painted as she rolled through her delivery… I especially did not want the music to drag down or take away from the descriptive bouncy flow …I went with a three-quarter time Celtic/Western Roots sound that just seemed to lend itself naturally to the lyrics...we used acoustic guitar, bass, glass harmonica and a bodran for percussion, keeping the instrumentation sparse, which really let the song breathe.” Barsi adopted the last line of the poem for the song title and used it as the title of an acclaimed album as well.

Eli Barsi, a Saskatchewan native now living in Branson, has been writing songs since she was child. She says, “ I’ve always enjoyed the time I’ve spent writing songs on my own, however,  the opportunities I’ve had throughout the years to work with other writers has been especially rewarding and worthwhile.”

Canada has given the world countless exports, as Doris Daley tells in her poem, “North of the Medicine Line”:  “ I come from the land that gave you zippers/ Gingerale and Alberta clippers./Labatts for the inside of your neck/ Raymond Burr and Alex Trebek….”

Count Eli Barsi and Doris Daley as two more of Canada’s contributions to life in our Western world—right up there with zippers.

Shades of the West

Out where the wind sweeps the prairie
Out where the wild eagles fly
When God sends a rain to scrub the world clean
A rainbow gets hung in the sky

But look and you might see another
And you'll find yourself doubly blessed
It's a rainbow you see with your heartstrings
Painted in shades of the west.

Red is a hot iron flaming
Red is a cow on the prod
Red is a ribbon of paint in the sky
Brushed on by the hand of God

Orange is Indian Summer
With leaves twirling gold somersaults
Orange is whirling in three quarter time
When the band plays the harvest moon waltz

Yellow is slickers on saddles
Yellow is spuds with the roast
Yellows a golden October sun
That butters the prairie like toast

Indigo lights up the heavens
Indigo night shrouds the trees
Indigo flaps on the clothesline in spring
When Levi’s blow stiff in the breeze

Violet is crocus and lupines
Violet tastes saskatoon sweet
Violet is royalty riding the range
With a kingdom of grass at your feet

Blue is the mist in the valley
Blue is a sapphire dome
Blue is the worry and lonesome you feel
When riders are late getting home

Green is the sweet smell of April
Green is the frost in the ground
Green is the jingle and jig in your step
When beef brings a dollar a pound

Out where the wind sweeps the prairie
Out where the wild eagles fly
When God sends a rain to scrub the world clean
A rainbow gets hung in the sky

But look and you might see another
And you'll find yourself doubly blessed
It's a rainbow you see with your heartstrings
Painted in the shades of the west.

©  2005, Eli Barsi/Doris Daley, CopperStar Publishing/Fiddle DD Enterprises, Socan
All rights reserved

                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

  Doris Daley photo by M. Knowler

Read more about Doris Daley here and visit her web site:  www.DorisDaley.com

  Eli Barsi

Visit Eli Barsi's web site: www.EliBarsi.com

 

 

A version of this article appears in the Fall, 2008 edition of The Western Way.


 

August, 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

To borrow a phrase: "'Covering' is the sincerest form of flattery." Les Buffham and Michael Fleming have certainly been flattered by the number of people who have covered their song, "Below the Kinney Rim," including New West, Craig Chambers, Belinda Gail, Butch Falk, George Dickey, Trails and Rails, STAMPEDE!, and others. "Below the Kinney Rim" received the Western Music Association's 1997 "Song of the Year" award and the Academy of Western Artists’ 1998 “Song of the Year” award.

Les Buffham has received numerous other awards and tributes, and is the current WMA Male Poet of the Year. That poetic talent has led him to many collaborations with other top songwriters and singers. His recent album, Writes & Co-Writes, showcases the results with selections such as "Spin That Pony" (Dave Stamey), "Queen of Diamonds" (Jean Prescott), "Eyes of a Windmill Man" (Kip Calahan), "Woman of the Wind" (the late Paul Hendel), "Amigo" (Belinda Gail), and others.

 

Michael Fleming, one of today's most respected songwriters, is known for his incisive, innovative compositions. He's a popular performer, most recently associated with the group, New West, and just back from solo performances at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Mike's songwriting has earned him awards from the Western Music Association and the Academy of Western Artists. He also heads the annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.

 

Conversations with Les and Mike uncovered some of the unique ingredients that account for their success in collaborating in general, and for the popularity of "Below the Kinney Rim" in particular. Since both are articulate and engaging storytellers, it's a pleasure to let them tell their own stories.

 

Les describes what inspired the piece: "'Below the Kinney Rim' was conceived in 1993 when I was traveling to Montana to see my daughter and my first grandchild. I had just left the old ranch in Colorado where I grew up. I'd stopped for a visit with my aunt and uncle, who were running the ranch at that time.

 

"I was passing through Wyoming, headed north on Highway 430, about ten miles past the Colorado line, when I noticed a high mesa far to the east. Immediately, I knew it was the Kinney Rim, and it began to bring back memories. One in particular was from when I was about five, on a trip to Wyoming with my parents and Uncle Kirk. 

 

"My uncle was getting up in years and had a severe hearing problem and he spoke rather loudly at times. He had been gazing intently out the passenger window when he suddenly raised himself up over the front seat, pointed to the east and declared to my folks, 'There's the Kinney Rim!'  Well, I went to lookin' for it, but when Mom and Dad didn't pay him any attention, he reared up over the seat and this time he really bellered it out, 'THERE'S THE KINNEY RIM!'  I don't know why but that sure struck me funny and I had a laughin' fit.

 

"That's what I was remembering that day some fifty years later. Then I began to wonder what my uncle, who had been quite a wild horse runner in his day, would think if he could see that range, now devoid of the wild horses it had held some years before. My Dad told me stories about how Kirk would strike out with salt and pepper and rice and beans and get on the trail of those wild ones and stay with them for days. He would rope a few, hobble them, or tie them to a tree if there was one available. After he had captured what he figured he could handle, he would back track and pick them up.


"I let those words, 'the Kinney Rim,' roll off of my tongue a few times. I liked the ring of them and began to put the lyrics together. The next spring, I showed them to Mike Fleming. He grabbed on to them and the rest is history."

 

Mike Fleming met Les at a California music festival in the early 1990s. Mike tells, "At that point I hadn't been collaborating with anyone, but I immediately liked his poetry and afterward made a point of speaking with him. We decided to get together and exchange ideas. It proved to be a great writing partnership.”

 

Mike has collaborated with others, but tends to be a solitary writer. He says, "I tend to lock myself in an emotional room and write alone, but Les is one person I feel comfortable working with. In later collaborations, I would write melodies and partial lyrics and Les would come in and finish the ideas, many times put the winning touch to the lyrics. In retrospect, I think we did some good work together and I'm proud of it.

 

"Les is humble enough to allow the songwriter to change or edit his words. That's not an easy thing to do. He also has a gift for storytelling that is hard to match. He knows poetic structure. He writes in a conversational style that lends well to songs. I've always felt that song lyrics should be conversational. You should be able to speak them and have them flow naturally.


"Another talent Les has is something I've always tried to achieve, and that's economy of words. With songwriting, it's important to leave a little room for the listener to fill in the blanks. You don't necessarily have to give every detail. You can paint in broad strokes and let the music and the listener's imagination complete the story."

 

"Below the Kinney Rim" has a chicken-and-egg aspect. Which came first, the poem or the song?  Mike Fleming says that it was a complete poem when Les first brought it to him. He comments,  "There were very few actual changes. When I write melodies I tend to follow a musical pattern, stretch it, and see how it comes out on the other end. With 'Below the Kinney Rim,' I just flipped some phrases to fit the melody I was creating, especially in the last two lines of the chorus, which took it out of rhyme and meter, but worked. Sometimes you get lucky."

 

Les says that he conceived the words as a song, and after Mike set it to music he began to think of it also as a piece to be performed as a poem. He has recorded it in that form on his album of the same name, Below the Kinney Rim (produced by Dave Stamey). Each singer who has covered the song has his own interpretation, and the lyrics have the expected, slight variations across renditions.

 

Below is the version that Les Buffham performs as a poem. The captivating story, the poem's careful crafting, and the economy of words confirm Michael Fleming's comments about Les Buffham's talents, and the powerful poem makes clear the reasons for the popularity of the award-winning, often-covered piece.

 

 

Below the Kinney Rim


Hey Sam, do you remember a long time ago
when we rode together where the Wyomin' winds blow
set high on a ridge top, there just you and me
and watched the wild horses that were runnin' free

When it was jerky and coffee about half alkali
and a biscuit or two that we downed on the fly
Oh that old mustang fever sure ran in our veins
and it seemed liked the devil was a-holdin' the reins

Now I'm chasin' old memories o'er trails that's grown dim
through the cedars and
piñons below that old Kinney Rim
when it was just you and me and them mustangs
there in the blue shadows below that old Kinney Rim.

We'd rope them old broomies and hobble them fast
and then back on the trail until the very last
of our daylight had faded and then bed on the ground
get up before daybreak, and go one more round

Now Sam them old ponies are just about gone
there's a few left like us that are still holdin' on
One of these days well they'll catch the last one
I reckon by then we'll have finished our run.

And it'll just be those memories and trails grown dim
through the cedars and
piñons below that old Kinney Rim
where it was just you and me and them mustangs
there in the blue shadows below that old Kinney Rim

© 1993, Les Buffham, All rights reserved 

 


Read more about hundreds of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 
 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. People like you make the site and other Center programs such as Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible through their tax-deductible contributions.  Please join us and be a part of it all. Celebrate the West!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                 

A version of this article appears in the Spring, 2008 edition of The Western Way.

 

   Les Buffham  Photo by Jack Hummel

 Read more about Les Buffham here.


  Michael Fleming  Photo by Jeri Dobrowski;

 Read more about Michael Fleming here.

 


July, 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

 

“Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, don't fence me in” are words that some Westerners would rank right up there with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in their own declaration of independence.

 

Recorded by many—from Roy Rogers to David Byrne, with hundreds in between—“Don’t Fence Me In” was written by the unlikely Cole Porter, who was inspired by a poet’s words. Porter is known for his Broadway and Hollywood musicals and his contributions to the era of the “Great American Songbook.”  

 

Porter purchased a poem in 1934 for $250, as the basis of a song for a musical (Adios Argentina) that was never produced. Ten years later, “Don’t Fence Me In” was sung by The Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby in the movie Hollywood Canteen, and the following year, by Roy Rogers in the film Don't Fence Me In. The Bing Crosby recording sold over a million copies.

The poem that caught Porter’s attention was “Open Range,” by Montana engineer, writer, poet, and cattleman’s son, Robert "Bob" Fletcher (1885-1972). The poem is included in Fletcher's 1934 book, Corral Dust:

Open Range

Western land was made for those
Who like land wild and free,
For cattle, deer, and buffalo,
For antelope and me;
For those who like a land the way
That it was made by God
Before men thought they could improve
By plowing up the sod.

I want the rivers running clean,
I want a clear, blue sky,
A place to draw a good, deep breath
And live, before I die.
I want the sage, I want the grass,
I want the curlew's call,
And I don't want just half a loaf,—
I've got to have it all.

These cities seem to wear me down
And I can't stand their roar,
They make me have the itching foot
To get back West once more.
I hate the milling herds in town
With all their soot and grime,
I wouldn't trade a western trail
For Broadway any time.

Just give me country big and wide
With benchland, hills and breaks,
With coulees, cactus, buttes and range,
With creeks, and mountain lakes,
Until I cross the Great Divide,
Then, God, forgive each sin
And turn me loose on my cayuse
But please don't fence me in.

Initially, Cole Porter's music publishers did not credit Fletcher as a co-writer. Through legal action, Fletcher's name was eventually added, but not until 1954.

Fletcher knew well of what he wrote, from firsthand knowledge (his father lost all of his cattle along the lower Yellowstone during the harsh winter of 1886-1887), and from the stories he collected from early settlers and others he met while working on engineering projects. Those stories and experiences inspired another notable pursuit.

While working for the Montana Department of Highways, Fletcher came up with the idea for detailed roadside historical markers. A good number of the lively-written markers still stand, including one in Broadus, titled “Big Sky Country,” which displays the lyrics to “Don’t Fence Me In.” The original signs are collected in a 1938 book, Montana's Historical Highway Markers, which has been reprinted several times in expanded editions.

Fletcher wrote other books and pamphlets, including Free Grass to Fences: The Montana Cattle Range Story, published in 1960 and illustrated with Charles M. Russell sketches, L. A. Huffman photos, and additional art and photography.

Many of Fletcher's publications featured the art of his friend, Montana native Irvin "Shorty" Shope (1900-1977), a member of the Cowboy Artists of America. Charlie Russell admired Shope’s work and gave him this advice about studying art "back East": “Don’t do it. The men, horses, and country you love and want to study are out here, not back there.”

Hollywood made “Don’t Fence Me In” famous, but its message came from “out here,” out West, from a poet who had experienced land that was still “wild and free…the way that it was made by God / before men thought they could improve / by plowing up the sod.” 

 


Read more about hundreds of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 
 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. People like you make the site and other Center programs such as Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible through their tax-deductible contributions.  Please join us and be a part of it all. Celebrate the West!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                 

A version of this article appears in the Summer, 2008 edition of The Western Way.

 Read more about Robert Fletcher here.

 


 

April 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Charles "Badger" Clark (1883-1957) wrote a number of poems that remain popular today,  including “A Cowboy’s Prayer,” “The Glory Trail (High-Chin Bob),” “A Bad Half Hour,” “The Legend of Boastful Bill,” and  “A Border Affair (Spanish is a Loving Tongue).”

Many of Clark ’s poems have been put to music. “A Border Affair (Spanish is a Loving Tongue)” has been recorded by such diverse artists as Bob Dylan, Emmy Lou Harris, and Michael Martin Murphey. Among the recent songs created from his poems are the romantic “To Her,” by Wylie Gustafson of Wylie & the Wild West; and “Ridin’,” “The Old Cow Man,” and “The Christmas Trail” by Don Edwards. Some of the highly-regarded reciters of his work include Jerry "Brooksie" Brooks of Utah, Randy Rieman of New Mexico, Linda Hasselstrom of South Dakota, and Dick Morton of Colorado and Arizona.

Badger Clark’s father was a Methodist minister in the Dakota Territory. Clark grew up in the Black Hills and after a year of college, he went to Cuba to work on an agricultural colonization project

Two years later he returned to South Dakota where he had a variety of jobs, including work as a newspaper reporter. When he developed the symptoms of tuberculosis--a disease that had claimed his mother and brother--he was advised to relocate to a warm, dry climate. That lead him to the Arizona Territory in 1906, where he was hired as a caretaker for the Cross I Quarter Circle Ranch. 

Clark spent four productive writing years there, and he began writing poetry, saying that prose was inadequate to express his experiences. Clark wrote his step-mother regularly. She submitted some of his poems to the Pacific Monthly, and they were immediately accepted, launching Clark ’s reputation and publishing career.

When the Arizona ranch was sold, Clark returned to South Dakota. He lived there the rest of his life, writing poetry, short stories, and essays, and giving lectures. His first collection of poetry, Sun and Saddle Leather, published in 1915, has never gone out of print. He was named South Dakota ’s Poet Laureate in 1936, a distinction he held until his death in 1957.

A Cowboy's Prayer
(Written for Mother)

Oh Lord, I've never lived where churches grow.
    I love creation better as it stood
That day You finished it so long ago
    And looked upon Your work and called it good.
I know that others find You in the light
    That's sifted down through tinted window panes,
And yet I seem to feel You near tonight
    In this dim, quiet starlight on the plains.

I thank You, Lord, that I am placed so well,
    That You have made my freedom so complete;
That I'm no slave of whistle, clock or bell,
    Nor weak-eyed prisoner of wall and street.
Just let me live my life as I've begun
    And give me work that's open to the sky;
Make me a pardner of the wind and sun,
    And I won't ask a life that's soft or high.

Let me be easy on the man that's down;
    Let me be square and generous with all.
I'm careless sometimes, Lord, when I'm in town,
    But never let 'em say I'm mean or small!
Make me as big and open as the plains,
    As honest as the hawse between my knees,
Clean as the wind that blows behind the rains,
    Free as the hawk that circles down the breeze!

Forgive me, Lord, if sometimes I forget.
    You know about the reasons that are hid.
You understand the things that gall and fret;
    You know me better than my mother did.
Just keep an eye on all that's done and said
    And right me, sometimes, when I turn aside,
And guide me on the long, dim, trail ahead
    That stretches upward toward the Great Divide.

by Charles Badger Clark, Jr. from Sun and Saddle Leather

 


Read more about hundreds of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 
 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. People like you make the site and other Center programs such as Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible through their tax-deductible contributions.  Please join us and be a part of it all. Celebrate the West!

                                                                                                                                                                                   

A version of this column appeared in the April, 2008 edition of The Backforty Bunkhouse Newsletter and the Summer, 2006 edition of Cowboy Troubadour.

 

   Read more about Badger Clark in our feature here.


 

February 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

"Curley" Fletcher was born in San Francisco in 1892 and grew up in Bishop, California. His many occupations included cowboy, poet, musician, rodeo promoter, publisher, prospector, and actor (he appeared as a rancher in the movie "Gunsmoke," in 1947).

Fletcher's best-known work, "The Strawberry Roan," became popular everywhere, from bunkhouses to Hollywood. The influential 1930s songwriters and radio personalities Fred Howard and Nat Vincent ("The Happy Chappies") reworked the lyrics and the song quickly became one of the most-often recorded cowboy songs.

Hollywood did not suit Fletcher. John I. White, in his book, "Git Along, Little Dogies..." wrote about him, "In Hollywood's world of make-believe, the cowboy poet was out of his element and often an unhappy man. One day when he was fed up with the film capitol and lawsuits, he wrote me a letter which concluded with these nostalgic lines: 'Hell, I was born and reared here in the West. My earliest  memory is of cowmen and cattle. I spent my best years as a cowboy of the old school...And I still look back to long days and nights in the saddle, at $30 a month, as the happiest of my existence.'"

Among Fletcher's other well-known songs and poems are "The Saddle Tramp,""The Pot Wrassler," "The Saga of Borax Bill," "Yavapai Pete," "Wild Buckeroo," and "The Ridge-Running Roan," a takeoff on "The Strawberry Roan."

Fletcher published "Rhymes of the Round-up" in 1917, a now-rare little booklet with nine poems. His 1932 "Ballads of the Badlands" was a songbook, and much of his poetry is collected in his 1931 book, "Songs of the Sage" (there was a "reprint edition" of that book in 1986, edited by Hal Cannon and published by Gibbs-Smith).

Fletcher died in 1954.  


The Strawberry Roan

  I wuz hangin' 'round town just uh spendin' muh time,
  I wuz out of a job an' not makin' uh dime,
  When uh feller steps up an' he sez,
  "I suppose you're a bronc ridin' guy from the looks uh yure clothes."

  "Well yuh guesses me right, I'm a good un I claim,
  Do yuh happen tuh have any bad uns tuh tame?"
  An' he sez he's got one, an' uh bad un tuh buck,
  An' fer throwin good riders he's had lots uh luck.

  An' he sez that this pony has never been rode,
  That the boys that gits on him is bound to git throwed,
  Well, I gits all excited an' asks what he pays
  Fer to ride that old pony uh couple uh days.

  Well, he offers uh ten-spot—Sez I, "I'm yure man,
  'Cause the bronc never lived that I couldn't fan
  That no hoss never lived, nor he never drew breath
  That I just couldn't ride till he starved plum tuh death.

  Now I don't like tuh brag but I got this tuh say,
  That I ain't been piled up fer uh many uh day;
  And sez he, "Git yure saddle an' I'll give yuh uh chance,"
  So I gits in his buck-board an' drifts tuh his ranch.

  There I stays until mornin' an' right after chuck
  Then I steps out tuh see if that outlaw kin buck,
  An' I spots the corral an' uh' standin' alone
  There I sees this caballo, uh strawberry roan.

  An his laigs is all spavined, he's got pigeon toes,
  He's got little pig-eyes and a big Roman nose.
  He's got little pin-ears an' they touch at the tip,
  An' a double-square iron it was stamped on his hip.

  He wuzs yew-necked an' old with uh long lower jaw,
  I kin see with one eye he's uh reg'lar outlaw,
  So I puts on muh spurs an' I'm sure feelin' fine
  An' I turns up muh hat an' I picks up muh twine.

  Now I throws the loop on him an' well I knows then
  That before he gits rode I will sure earn that ten;
  Then I gits my blinds on an' it sure wuz uh fight,
  an' a-next comes my saddle an I screws it down tight.

  Then I up an' piles on him an' raises the blind,
  I am right in his middle tuh see him unwind,
  An' I spots the corral an uh stand-in' alone
  There I seems tuh quit livin' down here on the ground.

  And he goes toward the east an' he goes toward the west,
  An' tuh stay in the middle I'm doin' my best;
  Now he's sure walkin' frog an' he heaves uh big sigh
  And he only lacks wings fer tuh be on the fly.

  Then he turns his old belly right up tuh the sun
  An' he sure is a sun fishin' son uv uh gun,
  He's the worst buckin' bronc that I've seen on the range,
  He kin turn on a nickle and give yuh some change.

  While he's buckin' he's squealin' he sounds like a shoat,
  An' I tells yuh that pony has sure got muh goat;
  An' I claim that, no foolin' that bronc could sure step,
  An' I'm still in the saddle uh buildin' up rep;

  Then he hits on all fours an' he suns up his side,
  I don't see how he keeps from a sheddin' his hide.
  An' I loses muh stirrups an' also muh hat
  An' I'm grabbing the leather ez blind ez a bat.

  With a phenomenal jump then he goes up on high,
  An' I'm settin on nuthin' way up in the sky,
  An' it's then I turns over an' I comes back tuh earth,
  An' I lights in the tuh cussin' the day of his birth.

  Then I knows that the hosses I ain't able tuh ride
  Is some uv 'em livin—they haven't all died;
  But I bets all muh money thar's no man alive
  That kin stay with that bronc when he makes that high dive.

  by Curley Fletcher, from "Ballads of the Badlands," where it is labeled "The Original Strawberry Roan."

 


Read more about hundreds of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 
 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. People like you make the site and other Center programs such as Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible through their tax-deductible contributions.  Please join us and be a part of it all. Celebrate the West!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    

A version of this column appeared in the February, 2008 edition of The Backforty Bunkhouse Newsletter and the January, 2007 edition of Cowboy Troubadour.

 

curleyfletcher.JPG (7242 bytes)  Read more about Curley Fletcher in our feature here.


 

January 2008

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

It’s no surprise that one of the best recent anthems to cowboy life, “Here’s Looking at You,” comes from a man who has spent most of his life in the saddle.  How it came to be recorded did involve a few surprises.

A stirring paean to the trail-driving cowboy, “Here’s Looking at You,” recorded by Don Edwards on his  Saddle Songs II, Last of the Troubadours, was written by top poet and respected horseman Joel Nelson. With that rare, timeless quality of taking the listener back in time while staying firmly rooted in the present, the song only enhances the sweep of the cowboy heritage. Like Michael Burton’s “The Night Rider’s Lament,” it resonates with so many of today’s cowboys’ shared sense of having been born more than a hundred years too late, and leaves no question about what inspires a modern cowboy to follow the challenging, iconoclastic trail.

While “Here’s Looking at You” came from the pen of an extraordinary poet,  it emerged as a song, not a poem. No one was more surprised than Don Edwards, who tells of his friendly skepticism when Joel Nelson told him he had written a song that he wanted Don to hear. Don admits he was thinking “A song? Joel’s a poet,” and before he knew it, Joel had another surprise:  he pulled out his guitar. Don says, “I’ve known Joel for twenty-five years, and I didn’t know he played the guitar.” His expectations weren’t high. He went from skeptic to believer quickly.

What followed was what Don describes as a song of “marvelous purity, akin to the works of Don Hedgpeth, JB Allen, Badger Clark, Bruce Kiskaddon,” writers able to make words with “a hundred years wrapped into now.”  Don says that he couldn’t get the song out of his mind, and he soon was in touch with Joel to talk about working with the song, saying that he didn’t want to do anything to take away from the near-perfect words.  Don's skillful arrangement makes it impossible to imagine any other tune working with the inspired lyrics.

Known for his care in all of his work--with horses as well as words--Joel Nelson had honed the lyrics before Don heard them.  His original title was “The Prototypes,” and the handwritten first draft, written on a manila envelope, gives a telling view into how much of his own life and experiences are a part of the song. The first line in the recorded song is “You rode the Goodnight-Loving.” On the original draft, it is written first as, “I rode the …” and then penciled in as “We rode the..”  But, as the lyrics go on, even in the first draft, fewer of them are changed. You can see that once the idea took hold, the story flowed. And it flows, likewise, from the voice and guitar of Don Edwards, gripping listeners and leaving them with the lasting echoes of its rich message, strong and true.

Joel says that he began working on the song right after the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada in 2001. He said that “As often happens, I leave Elko full of inspiration. It is the catalyst that makes inspiration come into fruition.”  He says that he wanted to pay tribute to and to recognize writers such as Charlie Siringo, Andy Adams, “Teddy Blue” Abbott, and Larry McMurtry.

The last lines of the song were inspired by the passage by T. K. Whipple that introduces Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, “All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.”

The song reflects Joel Nelson’s working life, expressing his spirit and that of the many others who’ve taken their individual stand as cowboys and ranchers, choosing a life that might be hard to explain to many in today’s world, but never to those who live it:

It was a poor way to make a living
And you threatened to quit—but then
When the herd bedded down at the shank of evenin’
You knew you’d do it over ag’in
    Through the thick and the thin
    You’d do it ag’in

To all those keeping that life alive and sharing their stories in poetry and music, here’s looking at you.

Here’s Looking at You

You rode the Goodnight-Loving
Went up the Chisholm too
You trailed three thousand to Kansas City
And you wintered with Teddy Blue
     Here’s looking at you
     Here’s looking at you

You rode with Ranger Goodnight
You helped him tame the land
You learned the Llano Estacado
Just as well as the back of your hand
     When you rode for the brand
     You rode for the brand

You’ve been three times to Sedalia
With a cook and six-man crew
You came dang near losing the herd and your hair
To a passel of renegade Sioux
     But you saw it through
     You saw it through

And you courted the dancehall beauties
‘Till they picked your pockets clean
If it happened once you let it happen twice
Up in Dodge and Abilene
     And places between
     Every place in between

From a heat wave in Palo Pinto
To the frostbite on Raton Pass
You looseherded cattle through a Southwestern drought
In the quest for water and grass
     Alack and alas
     Huntin’ water and grass

Then you trailed home the fittest survivors
When the word came of late summer rain
And you reveled in respite for weary riders
And three pounds a day in gain
     The respite of rain
     And three pounds of gain

You drove ‘em up to Montana
Over rivers swollen outta the bank
You started out helping the wrangler’s helper
But you rise right up through the rank
     Through the dark and the dank
     You rose through the rank

It was a poor way to make a living
And you  threatened to quit—but then
When the herd bedded down at the shank of evenin’
You knew you’d do it over ag’in
    Through the thick and the thin
    You’d do it ag’in

Now a half-dozen generations
Have mourned your passin’ on
But you were just startin’ what still isn’t over
And your spirit saddles up in the dawn
     For you are not gone
    No you are not gone

We see you in the Steeldust
In the spark flyin' offfa the show
Maybe we are here livin' what you never dreamed of
But you lived what we never know
     Here's looking at you
     Here's looking at you

     Here's looking at you—Cowboy
    Here's looking at you.

 

©  Copyright 2001, Joel Nelson, Night Horse Songs, BMI, All Rights Reserved


Read more about hundreds of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 
 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. People like you make the site and other Center programs such as Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible through their tax-deductible contributions.  Please join us and be a part of it all. Celebrate the West!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    

A version of this column appeared in the January, 2008 edition of The Backforty Bunkhouse Newsletter and the Winter, 2007 Western Way.

   Don Edwards  Photo by Donald Kallaus

 Read more about Don Edwards here.


  Joel Nelson  Photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller

 Read more about Joel Nelson here.


August 2007

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Inspirations for collaborations among poets and musicians come from many sources. Several years ago, a competition gave life to some excellent songs and poems, many of which were later recorded. Active members of the Academy of Western Artists (AWA) put together a "Cowboy Poetry/Songwriting Team Roping Challenge," which was renamed in its second year (by poet Pat Richardson) as the "Team Penning Challenge."  A theme was announced a month prior to the event, and poets and musicians paired up to create poems and songs, which were presented at the then-annual AWA meetings. Songwriting teams included a poet and a songwriter.
 
The competition's 2005 theme was "All My Trails Lead Home," and longtime New Mexico friends and collaborators Jim Jones and Rick Huff produced a song that is included on Jim Jones' recent, well-received CD, The West...Then...Now...Next. 
 
ALL MY TRAILS LEAD HOME

The cowboy saddled up, tightened his cinch, turned around to tell his wife goodbye
He saw her tremble tryin' to be brave, she didn't want to let him see her cry
They both knew he'd be gone awhile pushin' a herd, headin' up that trail from San Antone
He brushed away her tears, took her in his arms, told her, "All my trails lead home."

CHORUS 1
All my trails lead home, all my trails lead home
He said, "Home is where my heart is, but sometimes hearts must roam.
Darlin', all my trails lead home

There was a driftin' cowboy filled with wanderlust, his address.just the West...simple truth
Wherever he was headed would take him to his home with canyon walls and blue sky for his roof
Or maybe open plains in the saddle with his pals or ridin' distant mesas all alone
Just let him see no fences so he'll be free to say, "All my trails lead home."

CHORUS 2
All my trails lead home, all my trails lead home
Whichever way the wind blows, that's the way I'm goin',
All my trails lead home
 
INSTRUMENTAL TURNAROUND

BRIDGE

Some like their trails clearly marked, some clearly not
Clearly there's different points of view
But a trail runs two directions and if no sign points the way
How will you know the way that's right for you?

By the campfire one old cowhand, a twinkle in his eye, gave his answer 'neath the stars so bright
He said, "I've found my way from east and west, north and south, so I don't believe that just one way is right.
The great plan has many colors, many shapes, many sounds, good folks travel many different roads
If we're good neighbors to our neighbors and we steward land and life..clearly....

All our trails lead home.

CHORUS 3
All my trails lead home, all my trails lead home
There's trails enough for everyone, you can choose your own,
May all your trails lead home

Copyright 2005, Jim Jones and Rick Huff, All rights reserved.
These words may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
 
Jim commented on the writing of the song, "When we received the topic, we sat down and talked about wanting to write something that made a broad statement about 'all trails leading home.' The more we talked, the more we realized that this is a very individualized and personal issue...what 'home' is to me can be something very different to another person and the 'trails' we take to get there are also very individualized.  We wanted our song to reflect this diversity so we decided to write a verse about a cowboy who was sort of a 'homebody" with a family and strong ties to a specific place, then follow it with a verse about a drifting cowboy whose home was anywhere in the West where he could lay his head.  We used the bridge and the final verse to wrap it up, with a 'wise old cowpoke' summing it up and tying together the universal message we wanted to impart."
 
The two have collaborated on many other projects. Rick Huff tells, "So far in our songwriting collaboration, I haven't found a way we can't work together. Sometimes one of us brings an idea or some lyrics to the table, the other will take it and work it to a point, then the first may "finish" it or we talk it through to completion... Another one of us may write the bulk of it and the other does the polishing, yet a third time may find us face-to-face, firing lines back and forth to each other. And all of it seems equally easy and natural." 
 
Rick comments that "All My Trails Lead Home" was a true writing collaboration, with each of them having equal input in the writing. He does note one challenge, "I remember we had a slight difference of opinion on one line. I had it "if we're neighbors to our neighbors" meaning what's truly neighborly and all it implies. Jim wanted it to be "if we're GOOD neighbors to our neighbors." In that kind of situation, he wins the vote if it "sings" better, because he's the one of us who has to perform the thing!!"
 
A number of others recorded their poems and songs from that "team penning" competition, including: Jean Prescott and Doris Daley's "All My Trails" on Jean Prescott's Sweethearts in Carhartts CD; Rod Nichols and Mislette the Singing Cowgirl's "All My Trails" on their In God's Hands CD;  Woody Woodruff and Linda Kirkpatrick's "All My Trails Lead to Home" on Linda Kirkpatrick's Beneath a Western Sky CD; "Home," by Trey Allen and Ed Nesselhuf on Ed Nesselhuf's CD, Reflections; and others. The previous year's competition theme of "Only a Cowboy Knows" also spawned a number of recordings.
 
Mutual respect seems to be the foundation of the best collaborations. Rick Huff comments, "I enjoy Jim tremendously, and I've found him to be a truly genuine and caring guy. He has no tolerance for people who are self-serving and he is the living embodiment of his lyrics in 'That's What Cowboys Do,' even if he isn't a cowboy who drags calves to the branding fire." 
 
And Jim counters, "Rick has been a great mentor and facilitator, helping me understand  what Western music is...and isn't!...and introducing me to a lot of  wonderful people. As a songwriting team, our strengths seem to complement each other and we both have a sort of off-beat sense of humor. Rick is a very honest person as well as a very nice person, so he'll tell you exactly what he thinks without beating you up...too much.."
 
Joe Baker adds his praise for Rick Huff, "My hat is always off to Rick Huff for his values, preservation, productions, and promotions. He's a credit to our industry. 'Real deals' are hard to come by and Rick Huff is the real deal."
 
Rick Huff is a poet, writer, radio and television host, and producer. His column, "Western Air," covers the Western radio scene and is a regular feature of the Western Music Association's quarterly magazine, The Western Way, and can also be found at CowboyPoetry.com and in Cowboy Troubadour. Rick reviews cowboy poetry and Western music releases for CowboyPoetry.com, The Western Way, Rope Burns, and other publications.
 
Jim Jones is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who has entertained across the West. He has produced several CDs (including Western Takes and Breakin' Even) and videos, and his non-profit organization, Values Through Music, Inc., works with students in projects that have included the writing of songs about the problems and solutions to the violence in their lives. Visit his web site, www.jimjonesmusic.com, for more about him and his latest CD, The West...Then...Now...Next.
 

Read more about hundreds of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 
 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. People like you make the site and other Center programs such as Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible through their tax-deductible contributions.  Please join us and be a part of it all. Celebrate the West!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        

A version of this column appeared in the August, 2007 edition of The Backforty Bunkhouse Newsletter.

 

  Jim Jones www.jimjonesmusic.com

  Rick Huff

                              Read Rick Huff's columns at CowboyPoetry.com: Western Air here, and Rick's Roundup Reviews here.


April 2007

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

A great collaboration between a poet and a songwriter transcends "art" and "craft," and sometimes even goes beyond a good combination of story and talent. In the case of "El Fuego," a poem by Virginia Bennett turned into a song by Curly Musgrave, the exceptional result was blessed by the writers' special bonds of friendship and respect for each other's work, along with another ingredient: some sort of inexplicable magic.
 
Poet Virginia Bennett and songwriter Curly Musgrave reveal some of the magic and their friendship as they comment on their collaboration that resulted in the heralded song, which is included on the recent Red Rock Moon CD by Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail.
 
Virginia Bennett tells how she wrote the poem some years ago while working on a ranch in Twisp, Washington. She explains, "I listened to a recording of passionate music from a Mexican guitar. The music seemed to pulse through my pen as I wrote. Easily recognizable in the back of my mind somewhere was my childhood dream horse, "Fury"...It didn't take much to imagine a mare who would be his equal. Not a mare who would bend to his will, but one who also demanded that her own desires 'would not be denied.'"

She comments, "I always wanted a true musician to try and find a song within these lyrics. I played and sang this song for years as something slow, sexy, with simple music, 3/4 time and two chords. Possibly seven years after I wrote 'El Fuego,' I thought of my friend Curly Musgrave and his ability to create intellectual music, his grace with the Spanish language, and his partnership with
Belinda Gail. For if anyone is perfect to play and sing the part of the palomino mare, 'La Luz de Oro,' it is Belinda."
 
Here's Virginia Bennett's original poem:
 

EL FUEGO 

Each night he comes to the ridgetop
     Overlooking the rancho below.
Sparks fly from his hooves, dark and flashing,
     And lightning reflects in the blaze of his coat.
 
The hot wind carries his summons
     To the mare of the wife of the rancho's patron.
With wild eyes, she paces the fenceline
     As her answers ring off that rocky ca
ňon.
 
He's on fire, and the Mexican sunset
     Gleams in the sweat of his chestnut hide.
Ann they call him El Fuego de Sonora.
     For they know his desires will not be denied.
 
His sire escaped Pancho Villa
     And his dam once served in Zapata's band.
He was born on el Cinco de Mayo
     Never once has he known man's cruel, iron brand.
 
And the mare of the wealthy Seňora
     Has won all the races down Fiesta's lanes
Warhorses of the conquistadores,
     Their blood courses through her hot, royal veins.
 
She's on fire, and the Mexican sunrise
     Gleams in the sweat of her golden hide
And they call her La Luz de Oro
     For they know her desires will not be denied.
 
On the eve of the summer solstice
     El Fuego calls to that palomino mare.
And she flies to obey his every command
      No corral on earth could hold her down there.
 
Now, on cool nights, out on the desert,
     He races the wind with the mare at his side.
With blood-soaked flanks, their teeth slashing,
     They're out there tonight for the angels to ride.
 
They're on fire, and the Mexican sunset
     Gleams in the sweat of his chestnut hide.
And they call him El Fuego de Sonora
     For they know his desires will not be denied.
 
 © Virginia Bennett, All rights reserved
These words may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
 
With his usual combination of eloquence and humility, Curly Musgrave shares his experience in working with Virginia Bennett's words. He comments that the resulting song is a "wonderful model of a poet/musician/performer collaboration...though an intriguing notion for me to entertain is that neither of us, individually, could have produced the sum total of what the song is."
 
As to taking it from a poem to a song, he tells, "With a minor tweak or two, the poem was set up as the personification of El Fuego and La Luz De Oro and it just fell into place. Both Belinda and I busted our butts with our respective guitar parts in live performance, but putting that 'sweat' into it brings the musical passion the horses inspire."
 
In an essay, "Fine Lines," at CowboyPoetry.com, respected poet Rod Miller comments that the poem "...demonstrates its writer’s expertise with sensuousness...Virginia Bennett forces you to fan yourself to ward off the heat, squint in the glare of the searing light, even wrinkle your nose at the stench of sizzling sulphur..."   
 
In their electric performances on stage, Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail ignite that passion of the poet's words. The results of the collaboration go beyond words, music, and instruments.  Audiences experience a magical something that approaches "other-worldly," under the spell of their stunningly powerful and skillful instrumental accompaniments and forcefully delivered lyrics that set the steamy song on fire. 
 
Curly comments, "If it were just my own composition and performance, I certainly wouldn't put the words, 'Western masterpiece' to it, but as the collaboration it has become--in my view as a life-long songwriter--it lays down about as well as a song can, from its inspired poem through the music and the performance. I'm so delighted and proud to be connected to it and honored that Virginia would entrust me with her wonderful poem. She certainly deserves to be recognized for her work with it as well as for the body of work she has contributed to the genre. I think history will see it, and her, as very significant."

A recent American Cowboy magazine review by Mark Bedor singles out the song as a "standout." "El Fuego" is on Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail's  Red Rock Moon  CD ($17 postpaid from Curly J. Productions, PO Box 512, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352).  "El Fuego" is in Virginia Bennett's most recent poetry collection, In the Company of Horses ($18.95 postpaid from Virginia Bennett, PO Box 268, Goldendale, WA 98620). 

Read more about Virginia Bennett, Curly Musgrave, Belinda Gail, and hundreds of other of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 
 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. People like you make the site and other Center programs such as Cowboy Poetry Week and the Rural Library Project possible through their tax-deductible contributions.  Please join us and be a part of it all. Celebrate the West!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        

A version of this column appeared in the March, 2007 edition of The Backforty Bunkhouse Newsletter.

 

   Virginia Bennett

vbcompbk.jpg (12582 bytes)  In the Company of Horses

Read more about Virginia Bennett in our feature here.


 

 

 

   Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail
Photo by Lori Faith Merritt, Photography by Faith

           Red Rock Moon

Read more about Curly Musgrave in our feature here, and more about Belinda Gail in our feature here.

 

 


 

February, 2007

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The 2006 first-ever Western Music Association (WMA) Female Poet of the Year Yvonne Hollenbeck's (www.YvonneHollenbeck.com) new CD, What Would Martha Do? is at the top of the charts. One of the album's poems, "Dining Out," is a favorite of her many fans. It is also a real audience pleaser when sung by Jean Prescott (www.JeanPrescott.com), in the song with the same name on Jean's own recent best-selling CD, Sweethearts in Carhartts. Yvonne and Jean are good friends and frequent collaborators, and they took home the WMA's first-ever award for Best Poet and Songwriter Collaboration in 2006, with their song, "How Far is Lonesome."

Yvonne first included "Dining Out" in her Will Rogers Medallion Award-winning book, From My Window. She tells that as she and Jean worked on the poem, Jean wanted one more, final verse. Yvonne's rancher and champion roper husband Glen, who inspires much of her poetry, had a birthday coming up, and that was the spark for the final verse.  Here's the original poem and the song's added final verse:

DINING OUT
When you live out in the country, it's really quite a treat
when, maybe once or twice a year, you might go out to eat.
It happened once last summer after helping put up hay,
my husband asked if I would like to eat in town that day.

Well, I was quick to answer "Yes," then hurried to prepare;
I changed into my best old dress and fixed my windblown hair.
In nothing flat, our pickup truck was headed down the lane;
a dinner date with hubby was like lighting an old flame!

I'm visualizing candlelight as music softly plays.
imagining the kindly things to me he just might say!
And as the pickup bounced along, I dreamed of even more;
when at the edge of town we pulled up to the old feed store.

I told him I would wait outside while he picked up some feed
'cause the guy that usually waits on him don't have a lot of speed.
Besides my shoes were killing me, I thought I'd rest my feed.
He said:  "You'd better come on in if you would like to eat."

Then pointed to a banner on the door that I could read
for the annual pancake supper at the local Feed and Seed!

With headlights shining out, we went back to the ranch,
and we both laughed and talked about our evening of romance.
But next week is his birthday and instead of grilling steaks,
I'm gonna have his buddies out and fix 'em all pancakes!

 © 2006, Yvonne Hollenbeck,  All rights reserved.
These words may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
 
Yvonne notes that Jean added the chorus words: "Dining out; dining out; I'm all dressed up and I'm dreaming about...dining out, oh dining out at a restaurant with an address that's not a rural route," and "other little tidbits that really dressed the song up!. Then Rich O'Brien added the clarinet on the recording, which really made the song."

 
Read more about Yvonne Hollenbeck, Jean Prescott, and hundreds of other of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 
 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. Your contributions are tax-deductible and we're supported by people like you.  Please join us!

                                                                                                                                                                                                               

A version of this column appeared in the February, 2007 edition of The Backforty Bunkhouse Newsletter.

 

   Yvonne Hollenbeck

ywhatwouldcdmed.JPG (6022 bytes)  What Would Martha Do? and other poems  

yh.htm1.jpg (9513 bytes)   From My Window and other poems

 Read more about Yvonne Hollenbeck in our feature here.


  Jean Prescott
photo: Shelly Kay Studios

Sweetheartscoverjsm1.JPG (7168 bytes)  Sweethearts in Carhartts

Read more about Jean Prescott in our feature here.


January, 2007

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

Western poet, singer, songwriter, and cowhand DW Groethe's "The Carhartt Song" was a quick hit with listeners and dj's when released on his Tales From West River CD in 2002. Top cowboy poet Baxter Black said of that recording, "There's not hardly a song on this CD I wish I hadn't written."

Two of today's most popular singers and songwriters have recorded versions of the song on their new CDs:  Wylie & the Wild West on Bucking Horse Moon (www.Wyliewebsite.com) and Jean Prescott--who uses a phrase from the song as her album title-- on Sweethearts in Carhartts (www.JeanPrescott.com).  The two first-rate and distinctly different versions are perfect examples of how talented artists put their individual marks on good material.

THE CARHARTT SONG

Them big city gals are a natural
At turnin' good cowboys around.
Dressed in their big city finery
They'll drop a good man to the ground.

I know 'cause I've been there myself boys
So please take a word from the wise.
There's far more to beauty, I'm certain,
Far more than what meets the eye.

Consider the gal that you're hitched to.
She'll be there when you make a stand.
Maybe them bibs ain't from Paree'
But who cares she's one heck of a hand.

      Chorus:     
      My sweetheart's the gal in the Carhartts.
      She's a one-of-a-kind kind of gal.
      Helps with the calvin' in springtime
      And gathers the herd in the fall.

      There's no one I'd rather depend on
      And the' them bibs don't look like much,
      Underneath that brown duck
      Is most of my luck, and I'll love her
      Till the day that I die.

It ain't that she looks like this always.
Just when there's work to be done.
Whenever we can we pull slack time
And we're off to go dance and have fun.
 
She'll put on a tight pair of bluejeans
A shirt with some frills on the side.
And she'll outclass them big city sweethearts
As across that ol' dance floor we glide
 
      Chorus:
      (underneath that brown duck
      is a gal that can chuck
      square bales with the best of the guys.)

© 2002, DW Groethe, from Tales from West River, All rights reserved.
These words may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

 
On DW Groethe's own version, he notes that the chorus melody was "purloined from a fiddle tune by P. I. Tchaikovsky."
 

Read more about DW Groethe, Wylie & the Wild West, Jean Prescott, and hundreds of other of cowboy poets and Western musicians in features at CowboyPoetry.com. It's an on-going gathering, with continuous news, features, event calendars, the best in classic and contemporary cowboy poetry and Western music lyrics, and a free email newsletter. 

 
CowboyPoetry.com is a project of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. Your contributions are tax-deductible and we're supported by people like you.  Please join us!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

A version of this column appeared in the January, 2007 edition of The Backforty Bunkhouse Newsletter..

   DW Groethe
photo: Jeri L. Dobrowski

  Tales from West River

dwwestriverfront.jpg (16235 bytes)  West River Waltz

Read more about DW Groethe in our feature here.


  Wylie Gustafson of Wylie & the Wild West

wwbuckinghorselg.jpg (24000 bytes)  Bucking Horse Moon, which features original songs

Read more about Wylie Gustafson and Wylie & the Wild West in our feature here.

 


  Jean Prescott
photo: Shelly Kay Studios

Sweetheartscoverjsm1.JPG (7168 bytes)  Sweethearts in Carhartts

Read more about Jean Prescott in our feature here.


 

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