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Albuquerque (New Mexico) November 



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November, 2005
17th Annual Western Music Association Festival 
Albuquerque, New Mexico

from a WMA media release by Rick Huff

all photos below by Lori Faith Merritt of Photography By Faith


The Western Music Association's 17th annual International Western Music Festival is now history!  Held November 17-20 at the brand new Embassy Suites Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, attendees seemed to feel the adjective used in the WMA's promotional announcements describing itself was justified:  "Revitalized!"

The crowd was treated to performances by 65 different Western acts from 18 states and Canada plus vendors offering a wide selection of jewelry, art, nostalgia, pottery, fashion, even sterling silver guitar picks and slides!  Daily showcases on three stages provided constant variety and plenty of talent, affirmed by the seven talent buyers attending this year's festival. "I'm really impressed with what I'm seeing here," D.A. Callaway,
Entertainment & Events Supervisor of Branson's Silver Dollar City, told us, "and I'll be looking for ways to place more WMA artists with us."  Gary Cook, on hand from Durango's Bar D Chuckwagon Dinner Show, agreed: "This is a wonderful show!" And Tennessee producer and performer Rick Hines of the group ISOP revealed he is co-producing an upcoming TV series dubbed "That Western Show" and said "The professionalism is there . . . we're looking forward to tapping into it."

Thursday night's concert, hosted by festival director Rick Huff ("The Best of the West Revue") and Joe Baker ("The Back Forty Bunkhouse  Show"), was a tribute to the late Chris LeDoux taking the form of a "Toast
and Jam."  Performing one song each that LeDoux either wrote or recorded, along with many personal memories, participants included Gary Pratt, Open Range, Patty Clayton, David Boyd, Judy Coder & Pride of the Prairie, Bill Barwick, Donnie Blanz, Tony Reed & Bruce Coe, Stampede!, Jon Messenger, and
Jim Jones.  The evening was climaxed with an appearance by Lynn Anderson, sounding better than ever, and Mentor Williams, who wowed the standing-room-only crowd, especially with his take on "Paint Me Back Home In Wyoming."  Lynn also came with exciting news of a soon-to-be-released CD collaboration with her famous singing/songwriting mom, Liz Anderson.  It features many great new Western songs and is scheduled for a January, 2006 release.  True to its name, the "Toast and Jam" ended in a massive jam session spilling out into all parts of the hotel.

Friday's sold-out Awards Luncheon hosted by C.O.W. Radio's Jim and Andy Nelson with special guest presenters, revealed the year's top-voted songs, CD's, artists and writers.  Performances of the Best Song nominees kept the music flowing.  The handcrafted glass awards went to Riders In The Sky, both for Entertainers of the Year and Traditional Album ("Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier") and The Texas Trailhands also scored a two-fer with wins for Western Swing Group and Swing Album ("San Antonio
Waltz") and their superfine fiddler Rodeo Kate Howell took Instrumentalist of the Year honors.  Additional awards were presented to Stampede!'s Terri Taylor for "Colors" (Best Song),
Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail (Best Duo/Group), and Belinda Gail (Best Female Vocalist), Don Edwards (Best Male Vocalist), Juni Fisher (Crescendo Award! ), and Dave Stamey (Songwriter of the Year).  Radio Station of the Year honors went to KRLC of Lewiston, Idaho.  The Bill Wiley Award for Exemplary Service to the WMA was awarded to Robert Fee.  The Harmony Contest winners were KG & The Ranger. Top yodeler was Paula (Cravens) Press and the youth yodeling winner was Daniel Hanson.

The wildly popular WMA Barndance Broadcast took the stage Friday evening with legendary performer and DJ Johnny Western along with Rick Huff hosting.  Patterned after Chicago's classic WLS Barndance that launched Rex Allen, Sr., Gene Autry, Patsy Montana and others, the two-hour show was filmed for a documentary being prepared for PBS by New West Productions and featured 23 top Western acts in rapid-fire rotation.  They included: Skeeter Mann of the Lost Canyon Rangers, Carin Mari and Pony Express, KG &
The Ranger
, Tony Reed & Bruce Coe, Stampede!, The Pards, Glenn Moreland & Washtub Jerry, Paula (Cravens) Press & Ermal "John Wayne" Williamson, Dave Boyd, Judy Coder & Pride of the Prairie, Buck Howdy, Trails & Rails, Donnie Blanz, Ball Family Singers,
Juni Fisher, Rick "Mavric" Hines, Luke Reed's Modern Western Civilization, Bill Barwick, Sons of the Rio Grande, Open Range, Syd Masters with "Uncle Bob" & Kip Calahan, and Jim & Jeanne Martin.

The annual WMA Hall of Fame inductions, hosted by Jim and Andy Nelson with Rick Huff, Hugh McLennan ("The Spirit of the West"), Joe Baker, O.J. Sikes, Al Krtil, and Johnny Western, occurred Saturday night during the also sold-out "Best of WMA" dinner and show which honored many of the association's past award winners.  Red Steagall and
Don Edwards performed and received inductions into the Western Music Hall of Fame.  Posthumous inductees were the prolific Western movie songwriter Jack Elliot and Ken Maynard, the sound era's first singing cowboy.  A new Hall of Fame honor, the Pioneer Trail Award, was presented to Janet McBride for her many years of innovation and success in education and promotion of the Western ideal. Additional performers on the show included Mike Fleming, Patty Clayton, Sheriff Jim Wilson, Janet McBride, Kip Calahan, Johnny Western, R.W. Hampton, Belinda Gail and Curly Musgrave.  Another unique feature of this show was presented in conjunction with top choreographers and dancers from the international United Country Western Dance Council.  Participants from the newly-popularized genre of competition ballroom dancing are seeking out Western as a source of new rhythms and beats for their needs.  Voting occurred in six different cities to arrive at the WMA's "most danceable song."  Deciding that at least four different dances can be performed to it, the nod and the award went to Open Range's Ric Steinke and Linda Hausler for their creation "Blue & Lonesome."  To that song ballroom champion and TV actress Mary Ann Harvey with student Tim Vaudrin performed an impressive multi-dance presentation center-stage. The Saturday show ran late but didn't dampen the enthusiasm of those who attended The Curio Cowboys' terrific
vintage Western Swing dance that followed.

Sunday morning's Cowboy Church and Gospel Concert saw Troy Bateson officiating with performances by him,
Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail, Dave Boyd, Skeeter Mann, The Circuit Riders, and R.W. Hampton with a highlight being a rare performance by Marilyn Tuttle harmonizing wonderfully with Belinda Gail!

Seminars ranged from Writing for Dance, Promotion & Press Packets, Songwriting & Breaking Though With Western, to CD Duplication Secrets, Youth Groups, and Theme Presentations That Are Fundable Through Grants.  All in all attendees seemed to feel it was an energized festival and that the WMA event has rekindled its original feeling of a family reunion, reconnecting with old members and welcoming new ones!  The membership also expressed approval and excitement at the WMA's commitment to increase participation by cowboy poets as well.  The WMA's international Western Music Festival will return to Albuquerque, November 16-19, 2006.


Lori Faith Merritt shared these photos from the event.  See many, many more photos on the Photography By Faith web site.

Lori Faith Merritt writes, "Howdy!  I'm Lori Faith Merritt of Photography By Faith, and I served as the official photographer for the 2005 WMA Awards and Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Hundreds of images per day were acquired, with an emphasis on candid and rare moments as well as the height of performances, and there are many images to enjoy in the WMA galleries on my website, Galleries from other western gatherings and events may also be viewed.  I specialize in Equine and Western Culture photography, and am passionate about promoting Western musicians, artists, and poets. Please lope on over to my website and click on the contact page to say Howdy, and I hope to see you down the trail."


All photos by Lori Faith Merritt of Photography By Faith

WMA President Steve Taylor


Andy Nelson

Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail


Don Edwards

Johnny Western


Juni Fisher

Terri Taylor


Jim Jones and Lynn Anderson


All photos by Lori Faith Merritt of Photography By Faith

See many more images from the event in the WMA galleries at








  Western Music Association (WMA)  Executive Director Roger Banks announced the WMA Awards in a November 25, 2006 message:

If you missed this year's event of Western Music and entertainment celebration, you missed a great one!  The Board of Directors would like send our heartfelt thank you to of the WMA performers, DJ's, workshop hosts, poets and our posse of volunteers that helped make this an event people will be talking about for some time to come!  Listed below are all of the WMA award winners for 2005.

Traditional Duo/GroupCurly Musgrave and Belinda Gail

Traditional Album: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, Riders in the Sky

Instrumentalist:  Rodeo Kate (Texas Trailhands)

Western Swing Duo/Group:  Texas Trailhands

Western Swing AlbumSan Antonio Waltz, Texas Trailhands

CrescendoJuni Fisher

Female VocalistBelinda Gail

Male VocalistDon Edwards

Songwriter of the Year:  Dave Stamey

Song of the Year:  "Colors (of the West),"  Terri Taylor

Entertainer of the Year:  Riders in the Sky

Male Yodeler Award:  Michael Porter

Female Yodeler:  Paula Press

Youth Yodeler:  Daniel Hanson

Harmony Yodeling Duo:  KG and the Ranger

Harmony Duet:  Trails and Rails

Harmony Trio/Quartet: Open Range,
Judy Coder & Pride of the Prairie

Hall of Fame:  Ken Maynard, Jack Elliot, Don Edwards, Red Steagall

Pioneer Trail Award:  Janet McBride

Radio Station of the Year: KRLC, Lewiston, ID

Bill Wiley Award:  Robert Fee

Dancer's Choice Award: "Blue and Lonesome" written by Ric Steinke, performed by Open Range

Visit the Western Music Association web site for more information about the organization.

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