Catching up with Old Friends
March 9, 2010
As I headed out the door to run an errand this past week, I grabbed Gary McMahan’s Goin’ My Way? I hadn’t listened to it yet and was anxious to hear his first studio album since 1992. The first recording of Gary’s that I bought was a cassette tape version of Saddle ’em up and Go! That tells you how long I’ve been listening to his music.
A Colorado native, Gary describes himself as “a singer, songwriter, yodeler, humorist, cowboy poet, and general nuisance.” He’s all that and the recipient of a National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award for “The First Cowboy Song,” co-written with Doug Green. The song appears on his album, A Cowboyin’ Day. Folks who have recorded Gary’s songs include Garth Brooks, Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, Riders in the Sky, Dave Stamey, and Juni Fisher.
But back to Goin’ My Way? It was good to catch up with Gary after so many years without a new recording. He scored a hat trick with three tracks in succession that I especially liked: “Yodel Poem,” “Okeechobee Joe,” and “Chaps.” Come to think of it, they’re the perfect combination of his talents: a yodeling poem, a song, and a poem. I also thought his arrangement of Sunny Hancock’s “The Horse Trade” was among the best I’ve heard. You can hear all 11 tracks and those from previous albums at http://www.singingcowboy.com/ under “music.”
Order Goin’ My Way? online at http://www.singingcowboy.com for $15 + shipping. To order by mail, send $17 to Horse Apple Records, PO Box 90, Bellvue, CO 80512.
It’s been too long since I’ve seen South Dakota cowboy poet Slim McNaught. We keep in touch via email, but it’s been a while since we’ve been in the same place at the same time. I hear him every now and then on Live! With Jim Thompson. Slim serves as the official cowboy poet laureate for the afternoon radio show which broadcasts from beautiful downtown Spearfish, SD.
Raised on a ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Slim started writing poetry in high school. He and wife, Darlene, ranched and raised a family in the Buzzard Basin area south of Eagle Nest Butte. Since 1976, they’ve operated a custom leather shop. Nearing his 70th birthday, Slim started reciting his Western heritage-based poetry in public. (Read several of poems at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/slimmcnaught.htm.)
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Incredibly resourceful, Slim designs and prints his own poetry books and maintains a My Space page: http://www.myspace.com/slimthe1st. I suppose a keyboard and printer aren’t that much of a challenge after carving and assembling leather projects for 35 years.
He did enlist the aid of a couple fellows when he recorded his album of cowboy poetry. His first spoken-word project, entitled Reminiscin’, was selected as the 2009 Cowboy Album of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. Preview the 11 tracks at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/slimmcnaught, where you can also order. If you prefer to order directly from him, send $18.50 to Slim McNaught, PO Box 274, New Underwood, SD 57761; 605-754-6103; http://www.slimscustomleather.com. Call or write to inquire about his selection of poetry books. He has several.
Among the folks I hope to see in Elko during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering the end of January are Belinda Gail and Kathy Musgrave. Belinda and Jim “Curly” Musgrave performed as a duo at festivals and venues across the country; Kathy and Curly were married. Curly died Dec. 13, 2009, succumbing to an aggressive brain tumor. (For more on Curly and tributes to him: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/curlymusgrave.htm)
Curly and Belinda sent me an autographed copy of Forever West in July 2008, shortly after Belinda’s husband passed away. The 14 tracks include several Western and cowboy genre standards: “Roly Poly,” “Silver Spurs,” “Wheels,” “Texas Plains,” and several you might not expect on a cowboy album: “I Gave My Love a Cherry/The Twelfth of Never,” “Last Thing on My Mind,” I’ll Twine ‘Midst the Ringlets/For Lovin’ Me.” There are also titles penned by Curly and Belinda, such as “This Cowboy’s Missing You” and “Mule Ears in the Sand.”
To order Forever West, send $17 to Curly J. Productions, PO Box 512, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352. Order online at http://www.belindagailsings.com/.
Curly and Belinda were working on a gospel album at the time of his death. The Musgrave family has announced that memorials given in Curly’s honor will go toward production of that album. I’ll let you know when it becomes available.