First of all, I’d like to wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
I can hardly believe a whole year has already passed since I sent out my first quarter newsletter. I feel as though time truly has flown this year. I can’t wait to see what this beautiful new year holds in store for each and every one of us!
Second of all, I want to thank each and everyone one of you for encouraging me and supporting me. Your support is felt in so many ways, the shows you come to see, the emails and facebook posts you make, the music you buy and the music you request and the DJs play. I'm so excited to see the charts that are reported by the Western Way Magazine and the Western Swing Monthly. It's been over a year since "Cowgirl Swing" was released but it still ranks in the top ten in the western and western swing charts! "She Could Ride" is still a favorite at the #2 spot on the western charts and "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" is still a favorite at #10 on the swing charts! Thank y'all so much!!!
But before we start lookin' forward, I reckon I oughta pick up where I left off with my last newsletter--the very tail end of September. (Hold onta yer hats, cuz it's been quite a ride!!) On the 29th, Mom and I loaded up the car and took off for Durango, Colorado, for the Durango Colorado Cowboy Gathering. This was my very first festival to ever perform at and so it holds such special memories for me. We arrived on the 30th just in time to attend the VIP reception held at a beautiful private ranch just outside the valley. It's something we all look forward to: outside on the patio with gorgeous views of pastures and mountains, with good food, good friends and good music and poetry. What could be better than that?
The next day, all musician and poets that are in get picked up by drivers and are taken to various places around the community to share western music and poetry to people who might not be able to come to the festival, like schools and retirement centers and nursing homes. I rode with several musicians I had never met before and we performed for 3 schools that day. That evening was the first sold out show of the festival. It's a chance for patrons to see each performer (except the headliners) for one song, woven into a short melodrama play. This event has grown in attendance each year since it's inception and is loved by everyone.
Friday I again performed for more schools and retirement centers, worked with the youth performers at a rehearsal for their showcase, and then was very honored to be a headliner performer for the night time shows at the Strater Theater. They have two night shows of 4 entertainers each for both Saturday and Friday nights. Each entertainer performs both nights but at different time slots. Both my shows Friday and Saturday were sold out. :) Too cool. Friday night I debuted two new songs....the classic "16 Tons", and an original, "One More Ride." I learned "16 Tons" specifically for my brother, Elijah, who—even at the “cool” age of 17, sweetly insisted that I learn it. He spent hours coaching me on the correct BB King impersonations and I told the audience the story. I love him so much. And I love the King, too.
Saturday was an even busier day. In addition to being hired to perform for the festival, I was also asked to organize and emcee the youth showcase: the Durango Rising Western Stars show. After months of preparation and anticipation, I was very excited for the big day to finally arrive. But, first, I went to the parade and then I had two performances of my own (one a blues session!) at a restaurant along the main street before I booked it down to the Strater Theater to get ready for the youth show. The youth performers are amazing and I was so proud at how well and smoothly the showcase went...but I was even more impressed and honored to have such incredible young talents on my stage. Let me tell you, it is awe inspiring to see a young person get out on that big stage by themselves and handle their own instruments, introductions and performance. I completely agree when I hear the comments fly that the future of Western Music and Poetry is safe in the hands of these young musicians and poets. :) My Saturday was complete for me after my final night performance to a sold out crowd.
On Sunday, I was honored to be asked to join other musicians performing for the festival's church service. It's always a special time for me and a wonderful way to end a festival. After we said our goodbyes to everyone, we headed for some fellowship and lunch at Durango Cowboy Church. They welcomed Mom and me warmly and after lunch, there was a short sermon. I was honored then to join with RW Hampton and Sam Noble to perform. We enjoyed meeting a few more people after the service was over and also visiting with Pastor, his wife and the Hamptons for a bit. Eventually, we packed up the car again and drove to Cortez, where we stayed overnight with sweet friends, Pastor Mark Baker and his lovely wife, Rozie.
The following day the Bakers showed us around their quaint town, where we visited an awesome antique store and then we were treated to a wonderful burger. Later that evening we headed to their cowboy church where Pastor preaches and performs. Once again we enjoyed a delicious meal as we fellowshipped with the congregation. It was so warm to be remembered by so many. The performance seemed to be enjoyed by everyone and I enjoyed being there. One more night with the Bakers and we all headed out the next morning. They were headed to Branson, MO and we were headed to New Mexico.
Our first stop in New Mexico we stayed overnight with dear friends Doug and Cathy Figgs in Socorro. Mrs. Figgs was so sweet and set up a gig at the Twisted Chili in Socorro so I could perform with Mr. Doug, Jim Jones, Marium Funke and Clifton--"The Cowboy Way". This was an insanely fun gig. These fellas are always such fun to play with and an honor to join. It's always sad to pack up and leave again, but this time we were headed to Ruidoso for the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium.
I was very excited for this gig, I consider it a great honor to be invited. The first morning there I headed to the local radio station for a live interview on the rockin' morning show 101.5 with Kid X and special guest DJ, Skeebo out of Texas. The three of us hit it off really well and it was a fun morning, lots of energy and fun and before we knew the show was over.
I left there to go check out the racetrack and see where everything was before the festival started. I was hired to bring my trio AND my 6 piece band for a total of 5 performances over Friday and Saturday at the Ruidoso Downs Race
Track. It's a big festival with 4 stages, big name concerts at night with a dance after, lots of vendors and outside there are chuck wagons and demonstrations going on. Mikki Daniel and Texas Wildfire performed on three different stages and had such a great time and several epic adventures....including losing our sound-system on one stage due to water getting in the system (it poured all day Friday.) We had to step off the stage and work the crowd acoustically...MUCH more fun than my typical performance, but also much more stressful on my voice. It was super fun, though, and the crowd loved it. As it happens at each festival, you meet new musicians, and this one was no different. Playing on the "Wendol Sollis Stage", I had the pleasure of meeting Wendol Sollis and his wife and band. And someone I had heard about for a long time but never met before: Ginny Mac. She is as sweet as she is talented.
Each evening ended on the main stage with Crystal Gayle a special guest performance (Suzy Boggus, Crystal Gayle, and Bill Anderson), followed by a dance played by either Jody Nix, Jason Roberts, or Billy Mata. This was an incredible venue and an incredible opportunity for me. I feel so blessed to have been recommended by Dave Alexander, and accompanied throughout the weekend by amazingly talented musicians: Jon Stutler, Nathan Phelps, Pat Bubert, Hailey Sandoz, and Mark Gheen.
Sunday, the 11th, it was time to pack up out of the hotel room and head for home. It had been just over two weeks since we were in Texas, and Mom and I were both eager to return home. It was an amazing 10 days of performances and I don’t think I’ve sung so hard in my whole life. I had sung for over 14 shows—including schools, retirement centers, theater performances, staged performances, and acoustic performance. I was definitely ready for a few days rest for my voice. :)
Once home I packed in teaching lessons, working with a new grey filly I got, and working as many hours as I could for Chad Brinlee with Bombproof Horsemanship. It was hectic...especially because I also HAD to get laundry done (not my favorite thing lol) before my next gig on the 15th: gigging with the Gimbles!
It was a neat opportunity I was given to share a few songs with Dick and Emily Gimble and Katie Shore. Thursday night was the sponsor evening for the Bob Wills Fiddle Fest in Greenville, TX. An amazing dinner was served before the evening began honoring Bob Wills and Johnny Gimble. Ray Benson was host as he shared memories of special times with them both. Then, Dick, Emily and Katie played some tunes in their honor. I got to come out for 3 songs with them! The evening concluded with a panel of 5 people associated with the Bob Wills band (including Leon Rauch and Louise Rowe!) sitting on stage being asked questions about their time with Bob Wills. It was quite an evening in the elegant Texas Theater and a fitting kick off to a two day fiddle festival and all around western swing good time held annually in Greenville, TX, called the Bob Wills Fiddle Fest.
I also had the privilege that weekend of playing with Paul Anastasio (an amazing fiddler who has played with many wonderful artists) twice at the Blue Mesquite stage on Saturday. But first, the morning began with a fun interview with radio DJ Friendleeb from the local radio station KGVL on 105.9FM. He had us on live that morning before I headed over to the Blue Mesquite for my first performance with Paul. At the first performance, Paul and I were blessed to be joined by my good friend and first lead guitar mentor, Dick Gimble. It was such an amazing gig and so much fun! We had some awesome people come listen: Susie Spencer Marshall, Louise Rowe, Teresa Anderson and Roger Adkinson (from the UK), just to name a few. I thank Joey and Sherry McKenzie for recommending me to the festival. Highlight of the weekend was meeting Bob Wills granddaugher, Carolyn Wills.
Sunday morning I really wanted to head to the Fiddle Championships but I had just enough time to head back home so I could load up the horse trailer and the truck, and take the horses down to Jacksboro, TX, for the beginning of my favorite annual tradition: the Red Steagall Trail Ride. Every year, (this was my 6th), Dad and I ride the Red Steagall Trail Ride. It starts in Jacksboro on Sunday and by Thursday afternoon, we ride--usually tired and dusty—down the brick cobblestone of Exchange Street in the Fort Worth Stockyards. This year the ride was quite pleasant and as much fun as I always remember it being...up until the last day. It began to pour and the temperature dropped 20 degrees. Thankfully, I had a slicker that covered me, my saddle, and a portion of my mare and I stayed nice and dry. My amazing Shorty's Caboy felt hat sure did get drenched, though. At the end of the day, Dad weighed it and it had soaked up so much water, it weighed nearly 11 pounds. No wonder I was starting to get a headache! The ride itself is never super pretty; to me it's all about the people, the wagons, teams, horseback riders, wagon masters and families, the smells of the horses and the sound of the authentic wagons creaking. For me, it's about them. It’s about the memories I’ve made with people who have treated me so incredibly kindly. These folks adopted me as a young, scrawny cowgirl and they have stuck with me, and been some of the best friends I could have ever asked for. :) I've made so many precious friendships on this ride and I always look forward to seeing them all again. Halfway through the ride, we always stop for the night in Weatherford, where there is a stage that has been set up for the public's entertainment, where Red Steagall himself (and a few invited guests), perform for a few hours. I was tickled pink to be invited up there for 3 songs, and since most of the audience were folks from my wagon train-and they knew I yodeled-I was asked to do 3 yodeling tunes. Gotta love requests! :)
Friday was just as wet and gloomy as Thursday had turned out to be, but after a few hours the sun started to peek out and it lit the streets just in time for the Chuckwagon Parade to officially kick off the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering. Kristyn Harris, Hailey Sandoz, and I were hired to be strolling musicians through the stockyards while the parade rolled in, and I can speak for all of us when I say we were all thrilled to see the sun come out...even though it was for such a brief period of time. That evening, the dance in the big tent was cancelled due to the 8" deep water standing on the dance floor. It didn’t just rain; it poured.
Saturday dawned dark and gloomy once again, and by the time Kristyn, Hailey and I made it to our outdoor stage where we were supposed to be performing from noon til three, it was obvious the sound equipment couldn’t be set up for fear it would be rained upon. After a brief scramble and rearrangement of musicians, we were put on the main, covered stage, for an hour amidst some of our heroes and western music’s finest. It was a wonderful day, in spite of the constant rain. My sister and nephew drove up from Austin to spend the weekend with us. It’s always wonderful to have my sister come to my gigs. It doesn’t happen very often and it’s special when it does. I'm always honored to find that people come to see me at an event. And, there are a number of people that come to Red's. Thank you! A special highlight for me was seeing my darling little cowgirlfriend, Jaycee Mae, who came down from Oklahoma just to see me. She sure is cute and one of my biggest fans. There is nothing like seeing her bright smiling face in the audience!
Saturday night was another special event. My novel, Girls & Gunsmoke, had been nominated for Inspirational Fiction of the Year by the Will Rogers Medallion Award, and the awards show was hosted down in the Stockyards that night at the Cattleman’s Steakhouse. Charles Williams and Waynetta Ausmus put on a beautiful award ceremony complete with dinner, music and award presentations. I was very surprised and honored to win a bronze medallion for my novel, and Mom was even awarded a publisher’s certificate for the excellent job she did getting it published. That was a special moment for all of us. Afterwards, Dad and I closed down the festival by staying for the dance—hosted by Red Steagall and his Bunkhouse Band. I enjoyed dancing with a bunch of new folks, and some old friends I’d made at the dance in previous years.
I finished out the last week of October by teaching yet more horseback riding and guitar/bass lessons, putting some miles on this new little grey mare I recently added to my herd, and working for my boss, Chad Brinlee. I sure enjoy riding horses for him, learning from him and training under him. It was a particularly interesting time helping him train a zebra! October sped by so fast it practically took flight!
November 6th and 7th, Mom and I traveled down to Blanco, Texas, (45 miles west of Austin), for the Blanco Western Showcase hosted at the Blanco Buggy Barn Museum. This has been one of my longest running annual gigs and I always look forward to it every year. The friends I’ve made here have been precious and priceless in so many ways: poets and musicians I've met and fans who become followers and friends. I always appreciate those of you who take time to come to see me perform. If you are looking for a fun, exciting, family friendly event to attend the first week of November, come down to Blanco. The festival is growing every year and the grounds on which it is held are being transformed into a western town. Really! Dennis Moore is building a western town, building by building, complete with its own church! It is so awesome, you really have to come see it. Mark your calendars now for next year and come watch live (with professional Los Angeles actors) old west shootouts, trick ropers and riders, western music and poetry, and educational booths featuring classic cowboy arts such as taxidermy, blacksmithing, bead working, leather working, and the like. It’s all around a fun time to be had by all!
That Saturday, the evening of the 7th, I was invited to join Alex Dormont and his Hot Texas Swing Band where they were playing a
Alex Dormont and his Hot Texas Swing Band
western swing dance at the Twin Sisters Dance Hall just outside of Blanco. That was such fun! Mr. Dormont and his band are fantastic and I joined the band for several songs, and then danced the rest of the night away until I was too exhausted to dance any more.
Early the next morning, Mom and I loaded up the car before attending the Buggy Barn Cowboy Church (in their real life old frontier town chapel), and then headed back home by way of Fredericksburg. I’m sure there are a lot of wonderful sights to be seen in this delightful old German Texas town, but I was focused on finding the legendary old west clothing store called Texas Jacks. Once we found the place, I was ecstatically trying on clothes and trying to decide what I couldn’t live without. Three outfits and several hours later, Mom and I finally called it good and jumped back in the car to finish the 4 ½ hour trek home. Many thanks to a very special friend/fan who gave me a gift card that made that spending spree possible!
We arrived home just in time for me to do the dreaded laundry thing again and work one day before loading up the car and driving to Albuquerque, NM, a day early for the Western Music Association Convention. We always go stay a day with my Aunt Sheila over her birthday, and enjoy some family down time before diving into the hectic time of WMA week. While mom was checking us into the convention hotel, I made myself a promise: whatever floor we wound up on, I would ALWAYS take the stairs DOWN, and I would take the stairs UP as many times as I honestly could, no excuses, as a way for me to get a little excercise. Little did I know that Mom booked us on the 17th floor. Apparently…..apparently, she hoped for a “good view”. LOL! Well, a promise is a promise, right? SO, I still did it and, being crazy, I went up all 17 flights 16 times and down all 17 flights 23 times….in a matter of just a few hours. I got quite the work out that weekend! And I have to admit, it was fun. Thanks, Danny, for doing the stairs with me several times!
So, the first night, Wednesday, I attended a concert with the 3 Chuck Wagon bands performing. It was an awesome concert. And although I hate to pick favorites, cuz they are all so good, I do have to say that I have a special affinity for the Flying W Wranglers just because we had such a great time together booked on the Alamosa Train gig! It was great to see David Bradley and his band again.
Thursday there were showcases and seminars all day long, which Mom attended. But I had been given the honor of being in charge of organizing, hosting, and MCing the first ever official Western Swing showcase at the WMA, which was in the afternoon. That was a little exciting—me being able to create a show involving some of my very favorite musicians: 3 Trails West, Kristyn Harris, Jeanne Cahill and Johnny Neil. The show was created as a “trial show”…to see how the Western Music audience responded, and if it would be welcomed as an addition to the convention next year. It turned out fabulous! We received a standing ovation and the show was a huge success. A huge thank you to the WMA for allowing me to have the honor of hosting the show, and a thank you to the musicians listed above for helping show people what good Western Swing music sounds like!
The next two days were jam-packed with fellowship, music jams, a showcase on Friday, the Friday Night Opry, singing on other showcases, the youth showcase, judging the Pro Ams, the harmony competition (Kristyn Harris and I entered with our own re-written version of “Dream a Little Dream of Me”), and even a live radio interview with the lovely Belinda Gail on her Equestrian Legacy Radio station called “Blessed Trails”.
The highlight of the weekend for me was spending time with the Hanson Family from Veneta, Oregon. The Hansons have grown up singing tight family harmonies and always attend the WMA with an array of intricate and beautiful classic western songs. This year was no different. Coming from a family where I am the only singer, and from a part of Texas where I have no one to sing group harmony with, I find myself always astounded and intrigued—nearly to the point of obsession, lol—with learning the “how” of harmony. They were so kind as to spend countless hours with me, teaching me to learn how to sing a harmony part on the Swing classic tune, “Dark Moon”.
Culminating the WMA Convention is the awards ceremony held Saturday night at the KIMO Theater. This year, I was so excited and honored to get into the top five nominations for Female Performer of the Year, Cowboy Swing Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. Each year the Song of the Year performers are asked to perform their song so I had the privilege of performing "She Could Ride." Judy Coder joined me with her beautiful harmony. When the winner was announced f
Red Hot Rhythm Rustlers announce the winner
or Cowboy Swing Album of the Year, I was shocked, ecstatic and humbled to hear my name called! =) WOW! SO neat! I was SO surprised and, although it is rare for me to cry, I actually burst into tears, haha! ;) It was really special that last year's winners made the presentation. THANK YOU to all of you who voted for me.
You guys are so kind, so generous and I really cannot thank you all enough for your support and sweet friendships. This year was extra special for me because my Aunt Sheila attended for the first time ever!
The next morning, after lots of goodbyes in the hotel lobby, we drove the 10 hour drive home. Time to look forward again to the next event happening in two days, the 18th of November. This was to be a VERY different experience than I have ever participated in before! We spent the next few days getting ready for RIDE TV to come to our small ranch! I had been selected as one of 10 people to be filmed for a RIDE TV commercial. The camera crews and owner came out for 5 hours and filmed some interview and action videos for a 60 second commercial. They focused on my music and my horsemanship and said they filmed enough footage to possibly make two commercials. The owner came out because he was also interviewing me for the possibility of hosting a new program they are developing. The crew was so sweet and they were wonderful about setting me at ease with all the ‘lights, camera, action’ stuff. I had a lot to learn about speaking to a camera, but they were all willing to give me advice and suggestions. We must have spent close to four hours with the crew making a day jam packed with so much fun, humor, good memories and lots of horse talk. A day to remember. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on whether I am selected as the new show’s host and when the commercials will run!
The weather during the next couple of weeks had been a bit bi-polar…thanks, Texas. We had gotten everything from low 40s and dreary gray afternoons to mid-80s and clear blue skies. But mostly…mostly we just got rain. Which obviously means tons and tons of mud…which means my horses were hopelessly “decked out” in their favorite attire............I just let them be.
On the 21st, I had another busy day planned: performing for a Cowboy Mounted Shooters Jackpot in the afternoon, and a birthday party that evening. Last minute, the birthday party was postponed, so I got to enjoy myself more thoroughly at the Shooting Jackpot. A huge thank you to Allen and Renay Watt for being some of my longest running fans. I sure do love you guys! And thank you, Ms. Renay, for letting me run some Jackpot patterns on Foxy—that sure was amazing! Makes me miss mounted shooting so much. While there, it was great to see some folks I hadn’t seen in ages; Curt and Sheila Moore—it was so special seeing y’all again. May the Lord bless you guys!
My beautiful sister Kallie and her family came in town for our family Thanksgiving and then she went with me to a breakfast gig I had for a private party on Saturday. The ladies and gentlemen were so welcoming, kind, and responsive, I can honestly say this was one of the most fun gigs I’ve done in a long time. While we were out,
Aunt Bernice and Kallie
we picked up my 92 year old great aunt and took her home with us for the afternoon. I have been blessed with an incredible family. From my aunts and uncles, grandparents and parents, down to my siblings and their children, I love my family. My great aunt is certainly no exception! She is funny and precocious, and you would NEVER know her age by looking at her or being around her. Being a dancer her whole life, she’s still in excellent shape and, (to quote her), if her heart medicine didn’t make her dizzy, she’d “still be wearing stiletto high-heels. You know, those are the only shoes that look good these days.” She makes us all laugh so hard with her stories. It was a good day. To top it off, I went dancing that night. Aunt Candy wanted to come with me and she almost did…until she found out that it didn’t end until midnight. LOL. We offered to bring her home at whatever time she wanted, but she asked for a rain check. I’m looking forward to taking her with me sometime soon.
After two months of rain, December finally rolled around bringing clear blue skies and balmy, very un-winter-like weather, but I wasn’t one to complain about it. I was hoping it would dry the mud up enough for me to get some riding in before I had to fly out with Mom on the 2nd to Phoenix, AZ. I reckon the Lord was looking out for me, ’cause it actually did dry up enough for me to put a few more miles on the gray, and for me to keep my bay mare tuned up.
Late on the 1st—I’m a packing procrastinator—I finished packing, and we flew out early the next morning for Arizona. Marvin O’Dell picked us up and he and his wife, Theresa, hosted us for a few days before my gig in Show Low, AZ. Back at the WMA a few weeks previous, I had the opportunity to meet a very talented young swing fiddler from Prescott, Arizona, named Jordan Brambila. Jordan and I hit it off right away, and since I was playing just down the road in Show Low, I invited him to come. Thursday, we got together to work up some songs for the 14th Annual Cowboy Christmas performance, and I was excited by the pieces we got worked up. The next evening, the O’Dells were kind enough to drive us to Show Low—a four hour drive—and then take us back to their home afterwards. It was a beautiful event that Stephen Harrington organized and hosted. The concert is free to the public but donations are taken to benefit a local charity. This year the proceeds went to the Salvation Army. The Mountain Saddle Band, Barry Ward, and myself (accompanied by Jordan) performed. We couldn’t have asked for a more generous crowd, or for a more special Cowboy Christmas event. I was honored to be included.
After finally making it back to the O’Dell’s home in the wee hours of the morning, I fell asleep right away, prepared to wake up and immediately fly out of Phoenix to Las Vegas, Nevada. It was a tiny plane and a very short flight and a good 80% of the passengers were wearing their cowboy hats. They were all going to the National Finals Rodeo and since I was wearing my flat hat on the plane as well, I felt right at home. You know how the saying goes, "It's a small world"? Well, it is. At the airport luggage area, we ran into (ironically enough) my good friends Jim and Lisa Peck from Oklahoma. Definitely made my day. I love how we have to run into each other halfway across the states to see each other! ;) Thank you guys so much for looking out for me and for coming to my shows. I cannot even begin to tell you how much it meant to see y’all there.
Mom and I were picked up at the airport by our VERY dear Texas friend, Joyce Foy, who had moved to Vegas a few years previous. Ms. Joyce had offered to be our hostess, chauffeur and guide during our stay. Arriving in Vegas was definitely an eye opening experience, and I was amazed at the massive hotels, numerous shows, lights, extravagance, shallow attractions and temptations. Ms. Joyce was great about showing us the beautiful and warning us of the dangers. Immediately after she picked us up from the airport, we had to make our way to the Round Up Stage at Mandalay Bay Marketplace, where I had an on-stage interview in the early afternoon with Boots Cassidy with Cowboy Christian Connection . I was one of many people being interviewed that week and the interview went really well. I enjoyed talking with Boots—she’s a fantastic interviewer, um, question asker, um, lady with the microphone. Whatever they’re called, she was good at it! :D
After the interview we just enjoyed browsing the hundreds and hundreds of booths in the marketplace, looking at all the neat and unique merchandise for sale. We didn’t even cover a fourth of the booths before we finally decided to leave and grab dinner at a local BBQ joint called Lucille’s, before getting ready for our evening plans. Then we took a drive down the strip to see all the lights and hotels before Ms. Joyce dropped us off at Treasure Island Hotel for a Cirque Du Solei show while she went on to Ceasar's Palace Hotel for a show there. I have to say while there are a lot of things about Vegas that I wouldn't enjoy and don't ever care to experience, the Solei show was not one of them. Mom and I both thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was absolutely stunning. I would definitely recommend seeing one if you have not already. After our show was over, we walked down along the strip to meet with Ms. Joyce at Caesar’s Palace. This was our only time to get to look around at the amazing architecture of the hotels, so we took the time to walk through a few on our way to Caesar's. The Venecian Hotel was probably my favorite to see with the Grand Canal and authentic Venecian gondolas. We went to sleep as soon as we got home that night since it had been such a long day and we had to get up early the next morning in order to be back at Mandalay Bay for my first performance.
The stage I performed on was sponsored by Cowboy Christian Connection and emceed by Suzie Soloman. I was happy to share my favorite material with my audience, something I always love to do. I had a second set later that afternoon giving me time to take off and see as many more booths as I could before performing again. My day took an interesting turn after the afternoon performance. Mom was looking for a place to plug her camera batteries in and she met an older gentleman wearing a badge whom she asked if he knew where she could find an outlet. He happened to have an office there in Mandalay Bay Convention center, and was generous enough to offer Mom an outlet there. When they got to talking, he mentioned that he had heard part of my set and that he would like to meet me. I later found out that this precious gentleman’s name was Lou Ragland, and that he is the band leader in the world famous, multi-generation, longest running black quartet—The Ink Spots. Needless to say, having him sit down and listen to my performance was exciting and an honor to say the very least. I was in shock for the rest of the day. LOL.
That evening we had tickets to see the National Finals Rodeo—an opportunity that so many people covet but few actually get to see. I was incredibly blessed and amazed. It was unlike any other rodeo I’ve ever seen…the caliber of riders, horses, and announcing was unbelievable. One of those you-had-to-be-there-to-believe-it kind of moments. By the end of the evening, we were all exhausted and…of course…as I was coming down the stairs out of the Thomas and Mac Center (where the rodeo was held), I twisted my bad ankle. Ouch!
Early Monday morning we packed up our suitcases again so we would be ready to go straight to the airport right after my last performance in the Mandolay Bay Marketplace. In spite of all the craziness, Las Vegas was a fun, educational weekend for me. I never thought I would have the opportunity to see the NFR and for that I'm grateful .
We made it home for a whole day and a half, long enough for me to catch up on some lost sleep, ride a pony, and get packed back up again for possibly the biggest performance of my career—Indianapolis, Indiana for the Professional Racing Industry’s national convention! This convention is only for racing professionals yet 50,000 people will come for the 3 day convention. I was proud to be invited to open the whole convention at the kick-off breakfast for 3,000 people. And believe it or not, they wanted yodeling!! Thanks to a fan who became a dear friend, Judy Kean, who recommended they consider me for the gig.
We arrived in Indy in style early afternoon of the 9th, a Wednesday. This was my first time to arrive in the luggage carousel area to find an actual chauffeur waiting for me with my name on a laminated sign. The chauffeur picked up our luggage and took us out to a sleek black car (that honestly looked like a “mafia” car because of the dark tinted windows and polished exterior, haha). Sitting in those seats was like getting lost in pillows. So comfy! Our driver took us to our beautiful hotel—the Crowne Plaza, an old railroad station converted into a hotel—located in a strategic place just across from the convention center. We freshened up and headed straight to the convention for the rehearsal. We were escorted to the banquet hall by the man who hired me, Mr. Michael George. He introduced us to all the key people and gave us a brief tour (including my personal dressing room!). The banquet hall was filled with a sea of tables, a huge stage and 5 big screens across the front wall so everyone could see the morning program. It was pretty amazing. After sound checking with the awesome sound man, running through the schedule for the morning and rehearsing, Mom and I went out to dinner with our sweet friend, Ms. Judy, who was the sole reason for us being there. Then, we turned in a little early since we all had a big, early morning the next day.
Bright and early Thursday morning, I was dressed and ready—hair curled and voice warmed up—by 6:30 am. After settling into my very own dressing room, I was brought a 3 course breakfast by the staff and then suited up with a head mic and battery pack. I was more than ready for the mariposas to settle their wings in my stomach. With only a few minutes until I was supposed to wake the whole crowd of 3,000 ladies and gentlemen up with western swing and yodeling, I couldn’t get rid of the pesky butterflies! Roy Rogers once said: “Nervous simply means that you care.” I really love this quote because I’m certain that he was right!
At 7:55 sharp, they escorted me the back way to the rear of the room and dimmed the lights. Then, I was cued to start playing as spotlights circled the room and then finally found me. When the lights blinded me I knew it was time to make the walk from the back of the room, down the broad aisle and up to the stage—singing and engaging folks along the way. I sang four of my favorite songs—Thank Heavens for Dale Evans, She Could Ride, 16 Tons and Whatever Happened to the Yodeling Cowgirls. Thankfully, the audience was fantastic and a GREAT morning crowd. I had been initially hesitant about the idea of starting the day off with sleepy people and yodeling. LOL. I'm thinking this is definitely not a crowd of people who would typically come to a western music concert. These are all people from the NASCAR racing world which probably means rock and roll....But! Yodeling is what they were hiring me for! And you know,
yodeling is an art form that people either REALLY like or REALLY dislike. There aren’t a lot of in-betweeners. Since I was hired specifically for my yodeling because it “woke people up”, I knew it was bound to either make me some friends or make me some enemies. :) It all seemed to be enjoyed, though, and that set my butterflies at ease. The crowd really was great and the people that hired me were thrilled. That is what really makes me happy!
After the performance, we stayed for the speakers and then were given VIP passes to the convention. Mom walked the convention while I went back to the room to rest up for my evening performance. Then we met up, walked downtown a little and had lunch at a local brewery.
We were killing time until 3:00 when we needed to be at sound check at Lucas Oil Stadium, where I was going to have the opportunity to perform for the PRI Happy Hour with the legendary Mr. Tim Wright (of the Wright Brothers Band)! When I met Mr. Wright, I was so impressed. He is one of the most humble, kind, and unselfish people I’ve ever met. Getting to run through the songs with him and his drummer and lead guitar player was also one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. They were so talented, welcoming, easy to work with and willing to perform Western Swing and classic country stuff, and we only had to take 15 minutes to work out everything for the evening. You know you’re playing with high class musicians when they make things so easy! At just a few minutes before the Happy Hour started, they hustled us downstairs to the green room to get ready. Then we were escorted back up and when we got set on the stage, the guests started pouring in. Mr. Wright and his boys played for 20 minutes or so before he called me up, and by that time an estimated 2500 people had poured into the stadium. There were a LOT of people. I sang “Blue”, “Walking After Midnight”, “Across the Alley from the Alamo” and “Cowboy’s Sweetheart”. It was an intense amount of fun and I was so honored to be a part of the evening! A huge thank you to Mr. George and to Mr. Wright, for allowing me to perform with someone I respect and admire so much. It was a fabulous day.
As much fun as that all was, the next morning, Friday the 11th of December, I was ready to head home again. You guys know me well enough to know by now I’m basically a homebody. :
The next morning I slept in and took a day off before gearing up for one last gig for the weekend: my wonderful Red Oak Opry. You've heard me say before how much this Opry means to me. In fact, it’s the only Opry I do anymore. All that to say, I always look forward to seeing the special folks there that are like family to me and getting to play with one of the best bands this side of the Mississippi! Thank you, Eddie, for always accommodating my schedule and being so great about having me back! Thank you to my Red Oak family, you know I love y’all!
I had a few days off before my next gig: a private party in Abilene, Texas. I became good friends with the Kennedys on the Red Steagall Trail Ride and am honored to play for their Christmas parties each year. They pick the coolest places for their parties! This year it was at the Frontier Museum in Abilene, TX. That was my first time to be there and it was totally cool. Thank you, Mr. Jim, for the honor of playing for your guests!
The last fun thing we did this year, before our annual family holiday vacation, was go to the Anson Cowboy Christmas Ball.Our road trip-buddy and good friend, Janice, came with us last year and we decided to to it again, so we all loaded up the car and headed out. I love the Anson dance—it’s a fun way to get to dress up and dance to classic swing music, while having fun and hanging out with people who are really cool. Plus, Michael Martin Murphy and his Rio Grande Band were playing the dance…..how do you pass THAT up!? If you don’t know anything about the Anson Cowboy Christmas, I suggest you look it up and hope to attend next year! It’s a memory worth making.
The next few days were filled with hasty laundry-doing, packing, and getting ready for our next trip just 4 days out. The last trip of the year is my favorite trip of the year: my family’s special tradition. We always spend the Christmas and New Years’ season in New Mexico at our family ranch. This time my older sister and her family were able to come as well. Getting ready to leave is always something of a hectic ordeal, no matter how much time we have to prepare. Coggins for the horses, check. Four-wheelers loaded, check. Trunks packed and loaded on the flatbed, check. Baby goats delivered……no check! We planned on leaving on the 21st of December, but we had two does due and only one had delivered. That meant we had to delay our departure time indefinitely until both mamas had kidded and we knew they were doing okay. Fortunately, we only had to wait one day. After causing us some significant delay, our favorite mama goat, Blue, kidded 2 big healthy babies. Now we have 5 rambunctious young things bouncing all over the barnyard while their placid mothers watch on with careful attention.
We took two days to drive to our cabin—what with us taking two trucks and driving two full trailers, and three horses.
But the time spent there and the memories made were worth the long drive. We rode horseback in the mountains, drove the four-wheelers to our heart’s content, had more than our fair share of adventures, made lots of popcorn over our wood burning stove, played a LOT of games of cards…spades especially, spent a lot of time drying out our skiing gloves by the fireplace and got very muddy.
I love my family, and I have been so blessed to have been raised among such amazing people.
I hope your Christmas and New Year's Eve were as exciting and filled with special moments as ours were, and I hope that this new year of two-thousand-and-sixteen brings you as many blessings and happiness as you’ve prayed for!
Until my next newsletter…May the Lord bless you and keep you, and keep your riggin’ tight!