National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Performers

Introducing the invited artists for the 32nd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 25-30, 2016. It is with sadness that we note the passing of Wayne Nelson, an invited artist for 2016.  Coming Soon: audio samples.

3hattrio, courtesy of the artists
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3hattrio plays "American Desert Music."
Their songs are mostly original and even their
old-time cowboy and pioneer songs have an
unusual twist. The trio hails from the Zion
Canyon area of southern Utah and includes
Hal Cannon, a cowboy music scholar and
no stranger to the Gathering, Greg Istock,
a phenomenal bass player with a Caribbean
music background and Eli Wrankle, a fine
violinist who is starting college this year in
Cedar City. Living in the same neighborhood
surrounded by an inspiring landscape of red
cliffs is what makes this group thrive. Their first
album, Year One, was hailed by cowboy poet Baxter Black as a “profundo Gregorian sagebrush chant.” Their new CD, Dark Desert Night, will be available at the Gathering.  http://www.3hattrio.com 
   
Adrian, courtesy of the artist
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Adrian Buckaroogirl lives and works on a cow/calf operation in northern California. Writing cowboy music since the age of 14, she takes her listeners deep into the lives and challenges faced by cowboys and ranchers. Her songs reflect her experiences growing up on ranches throughout the West. Western Horseman magazine called her the “buckaroo’s Taylor Swift” and chose her song, “The Will James Daysas” as one of the 13 "…best western songs of all time." Tom Russell, producer of Adrian’s second CD, Boots and Pearls, said, “Adrian is the breath of strong fresh air that the cowboy music scene needs.” Her third CD, Buckaroogirl, was released in 2012 and features a duet with Waddie Mitchell, “Branding Pen of My Father.” http://www.buckaroogirl.com
   
 Gary Allegretto and Ian Espinoza, photo by Peter Svenson
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Gary Allegretto
and Ian Espinoza are, with good reason, winners of the Academy of Western Artists’ Duo/Group of the Year and Western Music Radio chart toppers. With peerless mastery of their respective instruments (harmonica and guitar), seamless harmony vocals and spellbinding songwriting, they create music that is timeless yet remarkably unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. American Cowboy magazine raves “…quality Western music put out by quality people who truly embody cowboy values.” Indeed, every time they hit the stage this powerhouse duo delivers captivating performances of virtuoso musicianship, soulful vocals, deep harmonies and fun, engaging songs that leave audiences at once breathless and cheering for more. Don’t miss them!  http://allegrettoespinoza.com
   
 Amy Hale Auker, courtesy of the artist
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Amy Hale Auker cowboys for Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona. She is the author of Rightful Place, 2012 WILLA winner for creative non-fiction, and two novels, Winter of Beauty and The Story Is the Thing. The writing and the riding go together, one feeding the other. Just when she’s tired of following slow-moving cows, it is time to retreat to the page where she guides readers to a place where lizards do pushups on rocks, bears leave barefoot prints in dirt, and poetry is in chrysalis and cocoon. Amy’s poetry is about the real world where things grow up out of the ground, where the miracle of life happens over and over again. http://www.amyhaleauker.com
   
 Jerry Brooks, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Jerry Brooks has loved and recited poetry since she was young. Known to friends simply as “Brooksie,” she learned to love the spoken word from family and has become one of the finest reciters of classical and modern cowboy poetry. Not only does she have a knack for recognizing a great poem when she hears one, Jerry can recite for hours on end from a huge personal collection of memorized works. At home both in a saddle and under her “miner” hat, “Brooksie” now takes care of 80 acres along Clear Creek in south-central Utah. Her CD is Shoulder to Shoulder. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/brooksie.htm
   
 Marleen Bussma, courtesy of the artist
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Marleen Bussma was raised on a small farm in North Dakota where horses and cows were part of daily life. As a young girl, herding cattle on horseback stirred her imagination to want to be just like Dale Evans. Farm stories and intriguing tales of the old West have had a big influence on her writing. She crafts verses on the plight of women of the West from frontier days to modern farm and ranch times. Marleen has been included in cowboypoetry.com's exclusive Art Spur feature ten times, and served as the director for the annual Mesquite, Nevada Western Roundup in 2014 and 2015. She is retired and now lives in Dammeron Valley, Utah. Her current CD is Scrapin’ By. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/marleenbussma.htm
   
 Maria Campbell, courtesy of Athabasca University website
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Maria Campbell is a Métis/Cree writer, artist, storyteller, filmmaker and activist. Her seminal 1973 book, Halfbreed, is a Canadian classic. Maria’s body of work challenges stereotypes of Indigenous women, contributes to the oral traditions and histories of aboriginal life, and engages with issues of women, youth and community development. She explores how identity is tied to land, for both urban and rural folks, and shapes her narrative and song with this in mind. Maria was inducted into the Saskatchewan Theatre Hall of Fame, received the 1996 National Aboriginal Achievement Award, holds three honorary doctorates, taught at the University of Saskatchewan and is an Elder at the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge and Research at Athabasca University. Among many community projects, she coordinates writers’ workshops and operates Gabriel’s Crossings Foundation – a First Nations arts school.  http://canadian-writers.athabascau.ca/english/writers/mcampbell/mcampbell.php
   
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 Doris Daley, courtesy of the artist
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Doris Daley is an Alberta-born, ranch-raised, grass-fed, hale and hearty, happy-trailed, award-winning western poet. She comes from a self described gene pool that includes “mounties, ranchers, sorry team ropers, intrepid homesteaders, petticoated bushwhackers, grain elevator operators and Irish stowaways.” Doris was twice named top female cowboy poet in North America, is the subject of a 60-minute poetry documentary, and the only cowboy poet (that she knows of) to be invited to give a TED talk. She was also the recipient of the 2013 Texas Cowboy Poetry Heritage Award. Doris makes her home in Black Diamond, Alberta. http://www.dorisdaley.com
   
 Stephanie Davis, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Stephanie Davis is a fourth-generation Montanan known for her well-crafted songs and poetry. Her songs have been covered by many artists, from Garth Brooks to Joey and Rory. In addition to opening shows for and playing in Garth's band, she has been a frequent guest on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. These days Stephanie hangs her hat in the Texas hill country near Austin, where she writes, sings, and attempts to co-exist with the astounding variety of varmints inhabiting her place. http://www.stephaniedavis.net
   
 John Dofflemyer, photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller
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John Dofflemyer is a fifth-generation rancher in the southern Sierra Nevada foothills. His creative work as a writer and editor reflects a deep connection with the land and contemporary ranch life. John edited the Dry Crik Review of Contemporary Cowboy Poetry from 1991–1994, and has also produced numerous poetry chapbooks through Dry Crik Press. He has received Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for two of his books of poetry, Poems From Dry Creek (2008) and Proclaiming Space (2012). John and his wife Robbin maintain an online journal called Dry Crik Journal: Perspectives from the Ranch. http://drycrikjournal.com/
   
 Elizabeth Ebert, photo by Sue Rosoff
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Elizabeth Ebert, a South Dakota native, is a widely admired writer who admits that she was a closet poet until 1989. Elizabeth still lives on the home place near Thunder Hawk, South Dakota. She has been called the “Grand Dame of cowboy poetry” by fellow poet Yvonne Hollenbeck. Elizabeth’s work focuses on the challenges, pride, courage and tragedies of living on the land. Among her current publications are two books, Prairie Wife and Crazy Quilt, and a CD, Live from Thunder Hawk. In 2011, the High Plains Western Heritage Center awarded her The Badger: Excellence in Poetry Award.  http://www.cowboypoetry.com/elizabethebert.htm
   
 Don Edwards, courtesy of the artist
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Don Edwards is a GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter well versed in cowboy lore and musical traditions, which gives tremendous depth to his performances. A member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame, Don celebrates over 50 years as a musician. He has been influenced by a wide cross-section of American music and has recorded numerous award-winning albums of original and traditional songs that express the realities and romance of cowboy life. His most recent album is Just Me and My Guitar. Don is one of the great cowboy troubadours.  http://www.donedwardsmusic.com/
   
 Thatch Elmer, courtesy of the artist
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Thatch Elmer is a 12-year-old cowboy poet from Bear River, Wyoming, who has been reciting cowboy poetry since he was old enough to speak a complete sentence. He enjoys writing and reciting originals along with the classics, when he’s not riding his horse, going to brandings, or roping and riding mini-bulls throughout Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. Thatch has been influenced by his father, grandfathers, and family friend Don Proffit, as well by as his 88-year-old great-grandpa who has been a cowboy all his life. Thatch was the 2014 co-recipient of the Rod McQueary/Sue Wallis Memorial Scholarship at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. His poetry has been published in Cowboy Rhymes-N-Dreams of Other Times, and his first CD is titled The First Go Round. http://cowboythatch.com/
   
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 Dom Flemons, courtesy of the artist
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Dom Flemons, “American Songster,” sings and plays banjo, guitar, harmonica, fife, bones, bass drum, snare drum and quills. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Dom was a major producer and performer in the Arizona folk music scene, as well as a slam poet and founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a North Carolina-based, GRAMMY-winning African-American string band. Dom focuses on music rooted in history, but with a contemporary approach, creating old-time folk music with a new sound. In July 2014, Dom released his third solo record, Prospect Hill, an informed and invigorated take on ragtime, spirituals, jug band music, Piedmont blues, fife and drum music, country music and ballads.  http://www.domflemons.com
   
 Dan Flores, photo by Jim McLaughlin Dan Flores, our Keynote Speaker, is a cultural and environmental historian of the American West. Currently residing outside of Santa Fe, he has authored eight books, including The Natural West and Visions of the Big Sky. Flores’ work takes a longue durée approach, encompassing both history and the present so that today's westerners can strive to make decisions that promote the long-term health of the land. He held the A.B. Hammond Chair in Western History at the University of Montana from 1992 to 2014 and has been honored by the Western History Association, the Western Writers of America and others. Flores, already an expert on bison ecology, has two books forthcoming: American Serengeti and Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History. http://www.cas.umt.edu/casweb/faculty/facultyDetails.cfm?ID=628
   

 Ryan Fritz, courtesy of the artist
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Ryan Fritz plays guitar and writes songs every night, something he’s done since he left home at 17 to live in a remote cowcamp. Growing up in Alberta, Ryan has worked on Canada’s biggest cattle outfits and now runs his own. While working for The Douglas Lake Cattle Co., Ryan’s fellow crew funded the recording of his first album. His fourth CD, Wind Blown Buckaroo, was released in 2013. From up-tempo ear-catchers to sit-down-and-listen ones, Ryan writes ranching type songs with a working cowboy’s flavor, trying to keep in mind the listener who never got to live this kind of lifestyle. An award for new material at the Kamloops Cowboy Festival was inspired by his song “Keeper of the West.” http://www.facebook.com/ryanfritzthetruecowboy
   
 Patricia Frolander, courtesy of the artist
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Patricia Frolander, Wyoming's fifth Poet Laureate, garnered the coveted Wrangler Award, given to honor excellence in literature, from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and Women Writing the West Best Poetry Book of 2012 for her second book Married into It. She was named Best Woman Writer of 2012 by the High Plains Book Awards. Patricia nurtures young authors and presents her work in a four-state area. She is currently at work on her third collection of poems. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/patfrolander.htm
   
 Pipp Gillette, courtesy of the artist
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Pipp Gillette lives and works on the family ranch near Lovelady, Texas, where his grandfather started raising cattle and cotton in 1912. Pipp and his late brother Guy opened the Camp St. Café & Store, a live music venue featuring performers from around the world. Drawing on a lifelong interest in western history and music, Pipp plays traditional cowboy music on guitar, banjo, harmonica and bones. Pipp and Guy received two Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum—Best Traditional Western Album of 2010, and, in 2012,  Best Outstanding Original Western Composition for their musical performance of the Waddie Mitchell poem, "Trade Off.” Pipp’s newest CD, Singing Songs by Waddie and Pipp, was released in 2015. http://www.campstreetcafe.com/guy&pipp.htm
   
 DW Groethe, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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DW Groethe was born and raised in western North Dakota. Along the way, he learned to play the guitar and started writing songs and poems about life out West. In 1991, he pulled stakes, moved to Bainville, Montana, and started working as a ranch hand. Renowned for his wry sense of humor and offbeat observations, DW has been invited to perform his eclectic assortment of poems and tunes at two National Folk Festivals, the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center. He has recorded three CDs and written four books of poetry. One of these, West River Waltz, won the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Excellence in Cowboy Poetry. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/dwgroethe.htm
   
 Wylie Gustafson and Sam Platts, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Wylie Gustafson is a native Montana singer-songwriter who finds inspiration in ranch life, in punching cattle and in the wide-open spaces of the West. When not touring, he still gets up every day and tends to the livestock on his quarter horse ranch near the town of Conrad, Montana. A singer, songwriter, rancher, horseman, and the original, world-famous Yahoo yodeler, Wylie comes from a fourth-generation ranching family on the empty sprawl of the northern high plains. A seasoned songwriter with over a dozen nationally distributed albums, his music is uniquely Montana. Wylie will be joined by fifth-generation Wyoming native Sam Platts on guitar. http://www.wyliewebsite.com
   
 Andy Hedges, photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller
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Andy Hedges is a songster, reciter and guitarist. His varied repertoire includes classic cowboy recitations, old cowboy songs, dust bowl ballads and blues. Andy taught himself to play the guitar when he was 14 and began collecting classic cowboy poems and traditional cowboy songs. He has released eight albums including four joint projects with songwriter Andy Wilkinson. In 2010, the two Andys received the Wrangler Award for Outstanding Traditional Western Music from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. His latest album is titled Cowboy Songster. Andy lives in Lubbock, Texas, with his wife and children. http://www.andyhedges.com/
   
 Yvonne Hollenbeck, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Yvonne Hollenbeck and her husband, Glen, own and operate a working cattle ranch near the tiny town of Clearfield, South Dakota, where they raise Angus beef cattle and quarter horses. Whether helping outside with the livestock, putting up hay, paying the bills, or feeding a crew, Yvonne finds inspiration for her award-winning poetry, and oftentimes makes humor out of situations that are not so humorous when they happen. From homesteading to the present, she habitually writes about women on the ranches of the Great Plains and turns real life experiences into poetry, delighting audiences of all ages. Yvonne is also a prize-winning quilter. In 2015, she released her latest book and CD, Rhyming the Range. http://www.yvonnehollenbeck.com/
   
 Hot Club of Cowtown, courtesy of the artists
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Hot Club of Cowtown
has been stunning audiences worldwide with electrifying shows for almost 20 years. Their trademark blend of hot jazz, western swing, Gypsy music, American songbook standards, and music from 1930s Paris and the American West, is unmistakable. Vocalist and classically-trained violinist Elana James is a sometimes Montana and Colorado horse wrangler. She discovered western swing with bandmate Whit Smith (vocals and guitar) whose first memories also include folk and acoustic blues music. Jake Erwin completes the trio with tight vocal harmonies and jaw-dropping double bass. Together, their trademark sound keeps dancers on their toes as the band  improvises their way through what The Independent calls “…that crossroads where country meets jazz and chases the blues away.” http://www.hotclubofcowtown.com/
   
 Mike Hurwitz and The Aimless Drifters, courtesy of the artists
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Mike Hurwitz and the Aimless Drifters have been playing and recording together for over 30 years. Tom Broderick is one of the most original and soulful pedal steel players anywhere, and Jerry Linn picks the bass with finesse and grace. Mike, a fourth-generation Wyoming cowboy, has worked as a logger, surveyor, bronc stomper and guide. He grew up with the cowboy music of the West, along with southern country blues and Cajun tunes learned from his Mississippi mother. His performances are a compelling mix of classy musicianship and songwriting with stories and humor from a life well-spent. Mike has released five widely acclaimed albums in his signature “Prairie Blues” style. http://www.mikehurwitz.com
   
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 Ross Knox, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Ross Knox first aspired to be a cowboy as a little boy, when he watched his father work their ranch in central Oregon. At 16, he quit school and moved to Nevada to buckaroo, where he also began writing poetry to occupy his time alone. He has worked at both the Grand Canyon and Saguaro National Parks in Arizona, packing in supplies and tools for trail and fire crews. Ross now leads pack trips in Yosemite and lives in Midpines, California. Known for reciting the classics, Ross also writes original poetry from his life experiences and has more than 100 poems committed to memory.  http://www.cowboypoetry.com/rossknox.htm
   
 Bonnie Krogman, courtesy of the artist
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Bonnie Krogman enjoys making people laugh. Her poetry, mostly humorous, is based on 45 years of ranching in South Dakota with her jovial husband, Kenny. Bonnie has been trampled by a rampaging cow, bucked off green colts she was breaking, and suffered heat stroke in the hayfield. She feels fortunate to have raised her three children in ranching and rodeo, and hopes that her grandchildren can continue their style. Bonnie has appeared at poetry gatherings in Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming.
   
 Bill Lowman, courtesy of the artist
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Bill Lowman and his family own and operate a 20,000-acre ranch deep in the rough and rugged Badlands of extreme western North Dakota. An accomplished visual, literary and performing artist, Bill has been inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, and as a Local Legacy in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and director of the long-running Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering.  http://www.lowmanslodge.com/Bill.html
   
 Slim McNaught, courtesy of the artist
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Slim McNaught was raised in a log house on Bear Creek on a cow outfit on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He spent his life on and around ranches with horse and cattle people. He and his wife Darlene raised their family on the Buzzard Basin ranch. They now run a hand-tooled leather business, Slim’s Custom Leather. Slim’s second CD, Reminiscin, was selected 2009 Cowboy Poetry CD/Album of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. Four of his poems have been set to music by cowboy singers. He performs an in-school program, “Cowboy Poetry/Texas Trail Herds: Origin, History & Development,” which is primarily utilized by elementary instructors. Slim also recruits and emcees for the Dakota Western Heritage Festival. http://www.slimscustomleather.com
   

 Wally McRae, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Wally McRae is a third-generation Montana rancher and president of the Rocker Six Cattle Company, the family ranch in Rosebud County. He’s been reciting poetry since he was four years old and began writing poetry and prose to record the value, humor and plight of the cowboy occupation. Wally has received the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Montana, and  the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, and served on the NEA’s National Council on the Arts in 1996. His prose book about growing up on a ranch, Stick Horses and Other Stories of Ranch Life, was honored with the 2009 Montana Book Award. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/mcrae.htm
   
 Waddie Mitchell, photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller
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Waddie Mitchell was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining as a boy on the Nevada ranches where his father worked. The art of spinning tales in rhyme and meter about a rich lifestyle of pushing cows and living off the land came to be called cowboy poetry. Waddie recites the older classics as well as his own, eloquently expressing moments grand and common, humorous and tragic. In 1985, Waddie helped organize Elko’s first Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Since then, he has kept busy writing, publishing and recording. Waddie was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame in 2011, and was honored in 2012 with the Nevada Heritage Award from the Nevada Arts Council. http://www.somagency.com/waddie-mitchell/
   
 Michael Martin Murphey, photo by Charlie Ekburg
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Michael Martin Murphey is a proud son and life-long resident of Texas, where his family settled in 1858. He divides his time between ranches in the Panhandle of West Texas, Northern New Mexico, Southern Colorado and the Oocooch Mountains of Wisconsin. Michael's music blends many genres, including pop, country, western, Celtic, jazz and bluegrass, and focuses on his personal life as a Southwestern “pilgrim.” He has released over 35 albums. This year marks the 40th anniversary of his song “Wildfire,” which is among the most-aired songs in radio history. Murphey’s most recent release, Red River Drifter, continues to bust fences between genres, while telling timeless stories about love, loss and living in the West.  http://www.michaelmartinmurphey.com
   
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 Terry Nash, photo by Karen Gilbride
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Terry Nash owns and operates a ranch in western Colorado, which provides him with inspiration for poems about modern-day cowboying. He recites classics and writes and recites original poems about his upbringing on the High Plains and experiences ranching in the Colorado mountains. Terry believes that folks need to be exposed to the classics; his own poems are authentic and done with feeling. His most recent CD, December Stragglers, has won acclaim in the Western Music Association and from reviewers Tim Huff and Jeri Dobrowski. He’s been a top-five nominee in 2013 and 2014 for the Western Music Association’s Male Poet of the Year.  http://www.terrynashcowboypoet.com
   
 Joel Nelson, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Joel Nelson has been a cowboy since age six when he helped on a cattle drive to the railroad. For more than 30 years, Joel made his living working on cow outfits in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Hawaii, specializing in breaking colts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Forestry and Range Management, has built custom saddles, and served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. He is a founder of the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas, and a 2009 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship. Joel’s poem “Equus Caballus” was selected to be a part of the national Poetry Out Loud program for high school students. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/joelnelson.htm
   
 Rodney Nelson, photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller
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Rodney Nelson and his wife Teri live in Sims, North Dakota. Rodney raises a few Red Angus cattle, is a brand inspector and trains horses. He has been on the banquet circuit performing cowboy poetry since 1987, and has written a humor column for the Farm and Ranch Guide since 1995. Rod started his rodeo career with a bang when he won third in the calf riding at a North Dakota rodeo in 1956. Following a serious slump of 50 years, he won the 50+ steer wrestling average at the Senior Pro National Finals Rodeo in 2006. At this rate he hopes to win a major bronc riding title, somewhere, by the time he is 80 years old. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/rodneynelson.htm
   
 Ed Peekeekoot, courtesy of the artist
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Ed Peekeekoot grew up on the Ahtahkakoop Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan where his family was involved in ranching, farming and music. He describes growing up in a “rough and tumble world, riding young bulls, dreaming of being in the rodeo, and playing cowboys and Indians.” Now Ed makes his home in British Columbia, enjoying life as a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and storyteller. His performances include original songs, Chet Atkins and Travis-style guitar tunes, foot-stomping fiddle, Native American flute, and a good dose of Cree humor and philosophy. http://peekeekoot.ca/
   
 Shadd Piehl, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Shadd Piehl is a fourth-generation North Dakotan and third-generation rodeo cowboy who grew up near the Mouse River south of Minot. He has been a ranch hand, stockyard bird, hog hide shaver, warehouse lumper, teacher, and rodeo cowboy. As a saddle bronc rider, he competed mostly through the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in various amateur rodeo associations and the PRCA. He was named an associate poet laureate by North Dakota State Poet Laureate Larry Woiwode and published a chapbook of poetry, Towards Horses: Poems, published by Aluminum Canoe. Currently Academic Dean at Rasmussen College in Bismarck, North Dakota, Shadd lives in Mandan with his wife Marnie and sons Owen, Wyatt and Ryder. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/shaddpiehl.htm
   
 Sam Platts and the Kootenai Three, courtesy of the artists
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Sam Platts and the Kootenai Three play the kind of classic country, blues and honky-tonk tunes that make for smooth, get-up-and-dance music. Sam leads this four-piece with silky steel guitar playing and a deep baritone voice. A Wyoming native and second-generation luthier whose family has lived within sight of Elk Mountain for five generations, Sam's grandparents met at a Hank Thompson dance in Wyoming in the 1950s, so his passion for traditional country and western swing was inevitable. The band plays music that people used to dance to in grange halls on Saturday nights, but with a modern twist and original lyrics. Joining Sam are J. Kane on bass, Eric Lee on guitar and Joel May on drums. https://www.facebook.com/samplattsmusic
   
 Vess Quinlan, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Vess Quinlan began writing poetry and prose when he was confined with polio in 1951. His grandma brought him shoe boxes of J.R. Williams cartoons and cowboy poems cut from years of livestock papers. Uncles brought him Will James books to read. Vess survived with one leg shorter than the other, but never recovered from the effect of these poems, cartoons and stories. His grandpa said, “Now he’s ruined. You can make a cowboy out of pretty near anything but you can’t make hardly nothing out of a cowboy.” The fourth generation to raise livestock and feed, Vess became a working partner on a “rundown outfit” in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where he raised alfalfa, cattle, kids, dogs and sheep.
   
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 Henry Real Bird, photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller
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Henry Real Bird, a native Crow Indian, grew up ranching on the battlegrounds of the Little Big Horn on the Crow Reservation in Montana. A former rodeo cowboy, now a renowned poet, Henry still lives in and draws inspiration from the land of the Little Big Horn Valley. Horses picture large in Henry’s creative work, and he still rides eight to nine hours a day. In January 2012, this former Montana poet laureate was named Cowboy Poet of the Year at the 16th annual Academy of Western Artist’s Will Roger Awards. Published in 2013, his latest book is Wolf Teeth. http://www.cowboypoetry.com/henryrealbird.htm
   
 Luke Reed, courtesy of the artist
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Luke Reed ’s songs have been recorded by Michael Martin Murphey, Red Steagall, Don Edwards, George Strait and others. The memory of his parents dancing to “San Antonio Rose” rooted western swing in his life—an influence evident in Luke’s original songs. Murphey called him "one of the finest contemporary western songwriters we have." Reed’s new collection of songs reflects his life in New Mexico and early days in Oklahoma; he will release the album to coincide with this year’s Gathering. In addition to his music, Luke founded the Learning Horse Program at the Santa Fe Indian School for at-risk Native youth. He has also appeared on “Ask This Old House,” demonstrating the ancient art of Zuni waffle gardening.
   
 Brigid Reedy, courtesy of the artist
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Brigid Reedy is a 14-year-old musician and reciter who has grown up home-schooled on ranches in Colorado and Montana. Raised in a musical and artistic household, Brigid learned to yodel at the age of two and began playing the fiddle a few years later. Her musical repertoire runs the full gamut of the American West, from the most traditional cowboy tunes to new songs by contemporary singer-songwriters. Brigid first entertained crowds at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2003 by yodeling for the crowd at the Pioneer Saloon. http://brigidreedy.com/
   
 Randy Rieman, photo by Charlie Ekburg
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Randy Rieman has spent much of his life making a living “a-horseback,” working on ranches in Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, California and Hawaii. He has spent years learning from legendary horsemen and now teaches horsemanship clinics on problem-solving and colt-starting. Randy is also a talented rawhide braider, a skill he learned from the late Bill Dorrance. He is best known for his classic recitations of poetry from the American West and the Australian Bush. Randy established and runs the Pioneer Mountain Ranch, a horse training facility and destination horsemanship school just outside Dillon, Montana. http://pioneermountainranchhorses.com/
   
 Trinity Seely, courtesy of the artist
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Trinity Seely grew up in the heart of cow country in the Chilcotin region of British Columbia. Inspired at an early age by this rugged sea of jackpine forests and grasslands, she learned to work hard from kitchen to corral on the family’s guest ranch. As a teen, Trinity moved to California to attend The Thacher School and her love affair for the vaquero way was born. With humbling honesty and a honey-smooth voice, Trinity sings about loving cowboys, horses and living “in the middle of nowhere.” Trinity was awarded the Western Music Association and Academy of Western Artists’ Song of the Year. She flourishes in the Nebraska Sandhills as a cowboy’s wife and mother to three buckaroos and a buckarette. http://www.trinityseely.com
   
 R.P. Smith, courtesy of the artist
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R.P. Smith “comes from a long line of stubborn and persistent people,” being the fourth generation to raise cattle on the Pine Crest Ranch near Broken Bow, Nebraska. He supports his ranching habit by entertaining folks with his cowboy poetry and commentary—something he considers a by-product of the beef industry—which has been processed reciting for ruminates, relatives and ranchers. R.P. has been a featured performer at some of the largest cowboy poetry gatherings in the country. http://rpsmith.us
   
 Sourdough Slim and Robert Armstrong, courtesy of the artists
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Sourdough Slim and Robert Armstrong are a hoot to say the least. Their lively performances of traditional and original western music have taken them from cowboy events throughout the West to Carnegie Hall and The Lincoln Center in New York. You'll hear virtuoso yodeling, hilarious off-beat stories and heartfelt singing, along with tasty accompaniment on accordion, guitar, banjo, ukulele, musical saw, harmonica and national steel guitar. Sourdough, aka Rick Crowder, grew up on his family’s cow ranch in the Sierra Nevada foothills and is now a full-time entertainer. Robert Armstrong has passionately played American string band music for over 40 years. He works as an illustrator, painter and cartoonist when not performing. http://www.sourdoughslim.com/ and http://www.armstrongartandnoveltyhut.com/
   
 Dave Stamey, photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller
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Dave Stamey learned to play the guitar at age 12. He performs his share of classic cowboy songs and original compositions about the West and the plight of the rancher trying to maintain in these modern times. He has been bucked off and stomped on by many horses and mules, and he's been dragged around branding pens by angry cattle of various sizes. Dave is now an entertainer and finds that he prefers it to being stomped on. He's been awarded Male Performer of the Year, along with Entertainer of the Year and Songwriter of the Year several times by the Western Music Association. He lives in Orange Grove, California, with his wife Melissa, three horses and several dogs. http://www.davestamey.com
   
 Gail Steiger, photo by Kevin Martini-Fuller
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Gail Steiger is a songwriter, filmmaker, cowboy and foreman of the remote Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona, since 1995. He has been playing guitar and writing songs for over 30 years, and often recites works by his grandparents, Delia Gist Gardner and Gail I. Gardner. Gail also collaborates with his brother Lew on various film and multimedia projects, including the acclaimed documentary, Ranch Album. He’s released two CDs, The Romance of Western Life in 1999 and A Matter of Believin’ in 2015. He is currently the chairman of the Western Folklife Center’s Board of Trustees. http://www.gailsteigermusic.com
   
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 Ian Tyson, courtesy of the artist
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Ian Tyson is 81 years old and he’s still going strong. Still touring. Still running the Tyson ranch in Western Canada. Still writing about love, horses and the landscape he loves. Now recovered from a torn and damaged voice that drastically changed his vocal sound in 2008, he’s singing with the strength and range of his earlier years, when he had the hits “Four Strong Winds,” “Someday Soon,” “Summer Wages” and more. Tyson doesn’t look backwards at five decades of a career that’s earned him countless awards, the Order of Canada, and a devoted following; he faces the future with a mixture of optimism and resignation. "Your 80s," Tyson tells people, "is not a time for sissies." His latest CD is Carnero Vaquero (2015). http://www.iantyson.com/
   
 T. Scot Wilburn, courtesy of the artist
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T. Scot Wilburn and the Shut Up -N- Playboys, with their honky-tonk sprinkled vintage western swing, make it hard to do anything but shut up-n-listen—except for maybe step up-n-dance. T. Scot Wilburn was raised in a century-old log cabin on the banks of northwest Montana’s Kootenai River, the fourth generation of a family rooted in ranching and western music. His dad Harold and uncle Vernon Wilburn were members of the Snake River Outlaws, a legendary ’40s and ’50s cowboy band. Scot has been performing professionally since age 15, and today, he proudly shares the stage with the talented Paul Anastasio on fiddle, Duane Becker on steel guitar, Rick Bryceson on drums and Eugene Jablonsky on bass. http://www.shutupandplayboys.com
   
 Paul Zarzyski, photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland
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Paul Zarzyski, a rodeo poet, has spurred the words wild across the open range of the page for 40 years, 15 of which he competed as a bareback bronc rider. The recipient of the 2005 Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature, four Spur Awards from Western Writers of America (two for poetry, two for song), and a  Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum  Paul deems his 30 consecutive Elko Gatherings as his “most esteemed honor of all.” His ten books and four CDs include, 51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview (2011) and Steering With My Knees: Zarzyski Lite (2013). http://www.paulzarzyski.com/
   
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