National Heritage Fellows Featured at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

January 3, 2007
Contact: Darcy Minter
Photos available on request.

501 Railroad Street
Elko, Nevada 89801
phone: 775.340.4240


National Heritage Fellows
Featured at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Elko – Each year the Western Folklife Center welcomes recipients of the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship award presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. Four Heritage Fellows will perform at the 23rd National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 27 to February 3, 2007 in Elko, Nevada. Swing fiddler Johnny Gimble, poet Wallace McRae, musician and storyteller Glenn Ohrlin and Basque poets Martin Goicoechea and Jesus Goñi are coming to Elko and will perform together Saturday, February 3, at 11:00 am in the Elko Convention Center Auditorium.

The National Heritage Fellowships are awarded to master folk and traditional artists in recognition of lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage. Nominees must be worthy of national recognition and have a record of continuing artistic accomplishment.

Johnny Gimble is the embodiment of the Texas swing legacy. He is best known for his work with Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys, but he has also recorded with Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Chet Atkins, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Rodriquez, Connie Smith, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Joan Baez and Paul McCartney and Wings. In addition to his 1994 National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA, Gimble has won two Grammy awards and been named instrumentalist of the year by the Country Music Association four times and Fiddler of the Year by The Academy of Country Music eight times.

Johnny Gimble will appear at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering with his son Dick and granddaughter Emily. Joining the Gimbles on steel guitar is Bobby Koefer, who also played with Bob Wills and received many awards for his unique style of playing. Rounding out the band is guitarist Kenny Frazier and Joe Bullock on drums.

Glenn Ohrlin left home at age 16 to become a rodeo bronco rider in Nevada. He worked as a ranch hand and rode the rodeo circuit for a number of years. Today, he ranches and runs a cow outfit in the Ozark hills near Mountain View, Arkansas. Ohrlin has spent a lifetime absorbing cowboy lore and traditions. He is a superb teller of tall tales, and an illustrator who draws cowboys and their paraphernalia with loving attention and detail. He is best known, however, as a collector and performer of cowboy songs, range ballads, stories, and poems, and has authored a book called The Hell-Bound Train - A Cowboy's Songbook. Ohrlin has an immensely varied and extensive repertoire. He sings in a laconic, unadorned style accompanied by a simple rhythm guitar technique; in performance, he mixes his music with storytelling and classic recitations. His humorous performances have made him a favorite at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering each year. Ohrlin, who recently turned 80, received his National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA in 1985.

Wallace McRae is a third-generation Montana rancher and president of the Rocker Six Cattle Company, a 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. And he leaves no subject uncovered. McRae is a founding member of the “Coal and Cattle Country Players” theater group in his hometown of Colstrip, Montana, and has been involved in many of the group’s productions. He has attended the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every year since its inception in 1985. In addition to the National Heritage Fellowship, which he received in 1990, McRae has received the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Montana and was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the National Council of the Arts in 1996. Most recently, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Montana State University. McRae also serves on the Western Folklife Center’s Board of Trustees.

Martin Goicoechea and Jesus Goñi are two of the best-known practitioners of the Basque poetic tradition known as bertsolaritza. This improvisational poetry tradition is one of the most revered forms of Basque artistic expression. Bertsolariak are given a theme and must make up a song on the spot. Goicoechea started performing this competitive art at age 12. When he was 17 he immigrated to Wyoming from the Basque Country on the Pyrenees borderlands between France and Spain, on a sheepherding contract. Goicoechea says it is always frustrating to translate his poems into English because the real meaning and the beauty of the poetry is lost in translation. He received the National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA in 2003 along with three collaborative bertsolaris: Jesus Arriada and Johnny Curutchet of California and Jesus Goñi of Nevada.

Jesus Goñi was born in Oronoz, Nafarroa (Navarre) in 1947 and came to the United States in 1965 to work in Arizona. He went back to his home country and returned to Idaho to herd sheep again in 1970 and stayed involved in that business until 1985, when he moved to Reno. He has worked in construction ever since and lives outside Reno. He has participated in almost all the bertsolari events in the West, and in the Old Country he competed with the great ones. In 1988, in the first and only Bertsolari Championship in Gardnerville, Nevada, he won first prize.

In addition to the Heritage Fellows, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will feature performances by more than 60 poets, musicians and musical groups, including new faces and returning favorites. The 2007 performers are listed below along with their hometowns. Special exhibits, workshops, films, lectures, ranch dances and late-night jam sessions, all contribute to the depth and richness of this one-of-a-kind event. The Elko Gathering is the first and largest of hundreds of cowboy poetry gatherings across the country. Produced by the Western Folklife Center, its purpose is to present and preserve the contemporary and traditional arts created by people living close to the land in the American West. Poetry, music, stories, handcrafted gear, film, photography, food – all contribute to the texture of an event that has become an annual ritual for thousands of people who value and practice the artistic traditions of the region, and are concerned about the present and future of the West.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was conceived in 1985 by a small group of folklorists, poets and musicians, and quickly became the go-to event celebrating the contemporary West. Over the last 22 years, the Elko Gathering has reinvigorated a tradition that never ceased to be a part of the lives of cowboys, ranchers and rural westerners. In 2000, the U.S. Senate recognized the cultural value of this tradition and the event responsible for its renaissance when it passed a resolution naming the Elko Gathering the “National” Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

For more information about ticketed shows and workshops at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, please refer to the Western Folklife Center website at If you are interested in applying for press credentials, complete the Media Credential Application Form and submit it online. If you have questions or need more information, please contact Darcy Minter at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 775-340-4240.

Special thanks to the Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Humanities, Nevada Commission on Tourism, Elko County Recreation Board, Wallace Foundation, MetLife Foundation, and International Game Technology, and Wells Fargo Bank.

The mission of the Western Folklife Center is to enhance the vitality of American life through the experience, understanding, and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the American West.

2007 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Performers

Oscar Auker, Clarendon, TX
Bar J Wranglers, Driggs, ID
Baxter Black, Benson, AZ
Jerry Brooks, Sevier, UT
Dave Bourne, Agoura, CA
Bimbo Cheney, Spring Creek, NV
Ken Cook, Martin, SD
Doris Daley, Alberta, Canada
Stephanie Davis, Columbus, MT
John Dofflemyer, Lemon Cove, CA
Don Edwards, Hico, TX    
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Marshall, CA
Trudy Fair, Weatherford, TX
Leon Flick, Plush, OR
Dennis Gaines, Kerrville, TX
The Gimbles, Austin, TX
The Gitano Family, Arles, France
Skip Gorman and Connie Dover, Grafton, NH
D.W. Groethe, Bainville, MT
Alice Hancock, Lakeview, OR
Yvonne Hollenbeck, Clearfield, SD
Linda Hussa, Cedarville, CA
Jill Jones and the Lone Star Chorale,
      Driftwood, TX
Ross Knox, Tucson, AZ
Stephen Lindsey, Elgin, AZ
Lowell Long, Granby, MO
Gary McMahan, Bellvue, CO
Wallace McRae, Forsyth, MT
Dawn and Michael Moon, Rowe, NM
Clark Morris, Likely, CA
Michael Martin Murphey , Westbury, WI
Joel Nelson, Alpine, TX
Rodney Nelson, Almont, ND
Glenn Ohrlin, Mountain View, AR
J. Parson, Bakersfield, CA
Bob Petermann, Wibaux, MT
Lorraine Rawls, Talent, OR
Henry Real Bird, Garyowen, MT
Pat Richardson, Merced, CA    
Randy Rieman, Lamy, NM
Ringling 5, Wilsall, MT
Sandy Seaton, Emigrant, MT
Georgie Sicking, Kaycee, WY
Jesse Smith, Cora, WY    
Jay Snider, Cyril, OK
Dave Stamey, Nipomo, CA
Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns, Newcastle, WY
Gail Steiger, Prescott, AZ
Colen Sweeten Jr., Springville, UT
Milton Taylor, New South Wales, Australia
Ian Tyson, Alberta, Canada
Jack Walther, Lamoille, NV
Wylie and the Wild West, LaCrosse, WA
Paul Zarzyski, Great Falls, MT

Participants in Workshops, Discussion Panels and Special Programs

Mike Beck, Spreckels, CA
Judy Blunt, Missoula, MT
Robin Boies, Wells, NV
Muzzy Braun, Clayton, ID
Al Bruno, Las Vegas, NV
Rachel Buzzetti, Lamoille, NV
Dave Carroll, Austin, TX
Jack & Jill Chatfield, Mosquero, NM
John Collett, Spring Creek, NV
Duane Coombs, Austin, NV
Tuda & Jack Crews, Bueyeros, NM
Guy de Galard, Buffalo, WY
Robbin Dofflemyer, Lemon Cove, CA
Devere Dressler, Gardnerville, NV
Carolyn Dufurrena, Winnemucca, NV
Linda Dufurrena, Winnemucca, NV
Richard Elloyan, Dayton, NV
Martin Goicoechea, Rock Springs, WY
Jesus Goni, Reno, NV
Bob Groves, Lamoille, NV
Doug Groves, Wellington, NV
Chirsten & Rick Holmes, Mosquero, NM
Adam Jahiel, Story, WY
Karla Chapin, Carlin, NV
Nancy Kern, Hailey, ID
Patrick and Estelle Laurent,
     The Camargue, France
Richard Louv, San Diego, CA
Mick Lucey, Modesto, CA
Deborah Madison, Galisteo, NM
Kevin Martini-Fuller, Wayne, PA
Craig Miller, Salt Lake City, UT
Fred Newman, New York, NY
Pat & Sharon O'Toole, Slater, CO
Rick Philipp, Steamboat Springs, CO
Bette Ramsey, Amarillo, TX
David “Redboy” Schildt, Wyola, MT
Kraig Sundberg, Sun Valley, ID
Eric, Christine & Colton Trigg,
     Farmington, NM
Sally Trigg, Albuquerque, NM
Andy Wilkinson, Lubbock, TX
Joe Wolter, Aspermont, TX