SINGING COWBOYS, COUNTRY MUSIC AND ELVIS by Charlene Sands

There are more than a dozen forms of country music.  Who knew?   When researching this, because I LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC, I was amazed to learn it’s origin and how it has progressed through the decades.   Founded in the southern states, country music has its origins in the Appalachian Mountains and has roots in gospel, Celtic music, traditional folk music and old-time music.

 

Because “hillbilly music” was deemed too degrading, the name was changed to “country and western music” in the 1940’s.   Even the term “country and western” has been changed to simply “country” now.                                                

 

Think Elvis and Garth Brooks and you’ve landed on the two top selling artists OF ALL TIME.  Elvis was known as the “Hillbilly Cat” and was on the radio show Louisiana Hayride. Elvis, as you know went on to become a defining figure in rock and roll, while Garth Brooks continues to be the top-selling solo artist in US History. 

 

Early in music history, the Irish fiddle, German dulcimer, Italian mandolin, Spanish guitar and African banjo were the most common musical instruments. The interaction among different ethnic groups in the U.S. brought about string bands using primarily the banjo, fiddle and guitar.  

 

The first commercial recording of Country Music called “Sallie Gooden” by fiddler A.C. Robertson was made in 1922 for Victor Records and in 1924 Columbia Records began issuing records of “hillbilly” music.

 

The Grand Ole Opry aired on radio in Nashville in 1925 and continues to be a driving force today.  Their early stars were Uncle Dave Macon, Roy Acuff and Deford Bailey. 

 

Singing cowboys made their mark during the 1930s and 1940s and Hollywood films popularized their songs.  Gene Autry, Sons of the Pioneers and Roy Rogers were the most famous of the singing cowboys. Roy was my personal favorite. Who could forget the ending song on the Roy Rogers Show?

 

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.

 

Oh that brings back good memories.

 

 

By the 1950’s and 1960s a blend of western swing, honky tonk and country boogie were played across the country, but “rockabilly” soon took over with Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel, Johnny Cash’s, I Walk the Line and Carl Perkins’, Blue Suede Shoes. 

 

The 1970’s saw stars like Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich emerge in a pop culture that morphed into Countrypolitan aimed for more mainstream audiences.

Ray Charles turned his attention to country music with the release of his song, “I Can’t Stop Loving You.

 

Country Rock was established after the British Invasion with a desire for some to return to the old values of rock and roll.  Contributors to this form of music were the Byrds and the The Flying Burrito Brothers (? I don’t remember them) The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers and The Eagles. I love The Eagles!  Also, believe it or not, but the Rolling Stones got into the act with their songs “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Dead Flowers”

 

Some other forms of country music that emerged during the years are Outlaw Country (think Willie Nelson and Waylan Jennings), Country Pop (Glen Campbell, John Denver, Marie Osmond), Neocountry disco music (think Urban Cowboy), Alternative Country, Truck Driving Country and Bluegrass. 

 

Wow! Like I said before, who knew there were so many forms of country music?  I was never into the twang, I have to admit and I loved Elvis Presley.  But today my tastes are more for the pop culture of country with stars like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Brooks and Dunn, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Martina McBride and George Strait.  BTW- George won the 2009 Artist of the Decade Award by the Academy of Country Music.  Yay George!

 

I find country music reaches deep into my soul.  It tells a story, most often a romance and the ballads can be heartbreakingly sincere and the upbeat tunes, just plain ole fun.  It’s just about all I listen to on the radio. 

 

So, what form of music do you like?  Were you an Elvis the Pelvis fan like me?  Did you like the singing cowboys?  Who are your favorites today? 

 

My book, not released yet in stores, has been an Eharlequin Top 10 Bestseller for the first three weeks in August!   To celebrate, one commenter today will win an autographed copy and a beautiful Brighton key chain, from my heart to yours.

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 www.charlenesands.com for more contests and fun stuff!

 

 

 

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

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Oh the buzzin’ of the bees
In the cigarette trees
Near the soda water fountain
At the lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
 On the Big Rock Candy mountain

If you’re anywhere near as old as I am, you may recognize this song, attributed to Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock and made famous in a 1950s recording by Burl Ives.  Not long after the release of the song in 1928, some local wags places a sign at the base if a colorful mountain in Southern Utah, naming it “Big Rock Candy Mountain.”  They also placed a sign next to a nearby spring proclaiming it “Lemonade Springs.”  The names stuck, and the mythical Big Rock Candy Mountain of the song became one of the most recognized spots in the state. 

So why am I telling you all this?  Because the Big Rock Candy Mountain was a bigrockcandy1wonderful part of my childhood.  I grew up an hour north of the mountain, and, as a kid, it was one of my favorite places to go.  Not only was the hiking fun, but they had a campground, and a restaurant connected to a store that sold little bags of honest-to-goodness rock candy—the “rocks” were jelly beans, but they were made to look like real pebbles. 

Outside there were some animal pens with a cougar named Whiffy, a pair of lynxes named Sniffy and Spiffy, and some coyotes that would howl when the lady who ran the place came out and howled with them.  Once when we were there, they had a mother porcupine with babies.  I got to hold one of the babies—their quills don’t harden until they get older.  Looking back I realize it wasn’t a good situation for the animals, but as a little girl  I was fascinated by them. 

On Easter weekend my parents and their friends would reserve a picnic area for all their families.  It was so much fun, chasing around the mountain with a big gang of kids, rolling eggs down the slope and feasting on hotdogs and watermelon while the grownups visited.   The Sevier River ran along the road, and in the winter a wide section called Horseshoe Bend froze over—Great for sledding and ice skating.  I am smiling as I write this. 

Did you have a favorite place to go as a child?  Tell us about it.

Click on the book, HIS SUBSTITUTE BRIDE to order from Amazon.com

A Valentine’s Treat ~ Musical Guest, Nancy Ruybal

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Nancy Ruybal, along with her husband Wes, perform Western Americana, Cowboy Poetry and Gospel. With a pure, uncomplicated style, they present renditions and recitations about the American West and its people from the modern day working cowboy the to its original settlers.
Nancy, a country girl from Ohio, began writing and performing folk music at age fourteen. Wes grew up horseback, cowboying with his father and brothers. His family’s cowboy heritage dates back to the settling of the San Luis Valley in Colorado in the 1680’s. Wes’s poetry and songs reflect his many experiences as a working cowboy including the Nancy Ruybal_2folks he’s met and the places he has worked. When they came together, it was only natural their music and poetry would speak of our great American Heritage, the settling of the West and Wes’s own cowboy experiences in the modern world.

A Katy Creek Concert is an exciting adventure of life and love, laughter and tears, with a dash of murder, mayhem and mystery you won’t want to miss.

As romance authors, we are inspired by real-life romances and find it fascinating that you and your husband have strengthened your bond through music. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, can you share some of your romance with us? How did you and your husband Wes meet? 

Nancy:   Wes and I met through a letter writing service called Southwest Mountain and Country Singles. We both discovered the add for the service in Western Horseman magazine. I was a single mother of two teenage daughters and did not enjoy dating at all. I was very happy in my life and looking at a just couple more years of having my children at home then they would be gone!  I really wanted to have a companion I could enjoy; hunt, fish, write, sing, hike and grow old with. My girls would often try to fix me up with their friend’s divorced or widowed dads or someone where they worked but, the times I gave in and said OK all ended with pretty hilarious results. My youngest even tried to fix me up with a man she spotted in the produce section of the grocery, betting me a pound of grapes he was my age, she even had the nerve to asked him!  Anyway, one day I clipped the add then let it lay on my desk for months, with my girls teasing me and pressing me to do it, before I finally signed up.  It was a nice service where the responders answered through the company and not directly to you unless you gave them your information, so it felt very safe. 

          When we started writing to each other I was impressed with the content of his letters and that he took the time to hand write them. He told me about his growing up in Colorado, cowboying with his Dad and brothers and of course why he was using the service instead of the regular dating routine. At the time he was living in Wyoming and would joke that the men still out numbered the women significantly and so options were slim.  We wrote for several months before I gave him my home address and then it was a while longer before I would give him my phone number, mostly because I was really enjoying the letters and I wanted to see if he would persist.  When I did finally give him my number, we spoke nearly every night and he won me over almost right away when he began to recite poetry to me over the phone.  Bear in mind now, cowboy poetry is not often romantic in the hearts and flowers sense of the word, mostly it is about the life and adventures. After a couple of months talking on the phone, he asked if I thought we should meet in person.  Yes, I wanted to meet him ! I felt as if I had known him already and it was as if he had just been gone a long time and needed to come home.

          He told me he and his nephew were planning a pack trip into the Wind River Range late summer and would I like to go along. I blurted out Yes!, then realized I didn’t really know this guy and wondered how I would get out of it.  But, he realized the situation and a couple of conversations later he suggested he should come here to Phoenix before I went off to the wilderness with a man I knew nothing about. 

So of all the times to come to Arizona, he came in June! It was unseasonably cool with even a few little rain showers and he was actually impressed, thinking, “it’s not all that hot “. I kept trying to tell him it was not a normal summer. We rode the steam train to the Grand Canyon, visited old Tucson, hiked in the desert and up around Lake Pleasant were I was looking at some property. He proposed at Old Tucson and I accepted! Then it was in August that we went on the pack trip.  We rode in about 13 miles and spent four days in the Wind Rivers. It was rainy, snowy and cold on the ride in, and my horse slipped on the slick granite and fell, but the rest of the time in the mountains the days were beautiful with green meadows, glaciers, wildflowers and running streams everywhere filled with cut throat we would catch and eat.

         Wes was learning to play the fiddle when we first met and had been writing poetry and reciting for some time already. He recites his own material as well as some of the  classic cowboy poems. He writes about his life growing up farming and ranching with his family as well as western people of the past and present who intrigue him. Many of his poems are humorous. I had begun to play the guitar while pretty young and had been encouraged by a grade school teacher to write poems and to journal. There are stacks of notebooks in my mother’s attic with child hood scratchings and stories.  I grew up with and interest in history and especially the west because my father was so interested it. We often went to museums and historical events depicting the west. When Wes and I met and began to write together it just naturally fell into place with the love of history and his cowboy background.  I think every couple needs a glue to hold together through the tough times that always come. When you take an independent cowboy and a strong willed independent woman and put bring them together, you’re gonna need some glue! God is anchor and the music and writing are the common bond.

 

We love to hear about a writer’s call to the craft.  Was there a moment when you decided you were going to become a performing artist/musician? 

Nancy:   I dreamed of performing when I was just learning to play the guitar at about age 13 or 14 and did actually start performing while still in High School. I even had two original songs from that period that I performed for many years.  I wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember and was encouraged by a teacher to do so. 

 

Can you share some of your writing process with us?  Do you and Wes write together?  Do you put music to words or words to music? 

Nancy:   Wes and I have two very different writing styles but we often write together.  He, being a long time poet, has a different take on rhyme and meter than a songwriter. So, if it is a song he wants to write, he will put it to paper as a poem then hand it to me to make into a song. “Cowboy Willie” and “Lawman of the Trail” are examples of that kind of collaboration. 

          But, there are plenty of times we sit down side by side with an idea for a song and write it as a song, completing lyrics and melody in the same sitting.  “They’ve Called Me A Cowboy”, and “The Goodbye Promise” are two examples of songs we wrote in that manner.    “Autumn’s On Its Way”, “White Tanks” are songs I wrote alone.        For me most of the time, the words and feel of a song determine the melody. And music can change the whole flavor of a song. We lately wrote a song and while playing with the melody we ended up changing the whole basis of the story line because we felt the melody required it.

          But I do have melodies in my head that are just waiting for the right verse or story line to come along and occasionally they do come along.

 

What writers and music artists have inspired you?

Nancy:   As a writer, mostly I am inspired real people, especially women, who share their lives and stories with me.  I have gotten ideas from just being out in the desert, the countryside or wilderness, on foot or horseback and letting the landscape tell its tales. But as far as writers go, I would have say for one, Zane Grey for his deep thought and detailed descriptions of people, places and events.  I also get inspiration from biography material from people of the time like Elizabeth Champie-Cordes who was raised in the area north of Phoenix; the Champie ranch is still up there in that tremendously rough country. Ben Green who wrote “A Thousand Miles of Mustangin” and Dakota Cowboy by Ike Blasingame.  J.P.S. Brown ( The World in Pancho’s Eye)  is also one of my favorites, raised on the border lands of the Sonoran Desert and Mexico he inspires incredible mental pictures.

          As a singer, the delivery of the story in a song is what gets my attention and I always want to get my story across they way I feel it.  Janis Ian does that for me, as well as Rory Block and Emmy Lou Harris.  Jon Messenger’s voice paints pictures around the word he writes and has a quality that makes you listen. Sue Harris is an entertainer pure and simple, be it song, poem or story she can put you right where she wants you to be mentally.

 

Who have been your greatest influences?

Nancy:   My parents fostered in me a love of this Country and its great History by taking me to places across America to camp, make friends, see history re-enacted and experience first hand what the pioneers might have felt.  When you get to meet, either face to face or through books or storytelling, the people who are the life blood of this nation, it fosters an endearing and enduring connection and gives a stable, grounding and strengthening knowledge of who you are personally that can take you through dark, dismal even unimaginable times.  It would be hard to say one person in particular who influences me, but I would have to say it is the women as a whole. Women are tough, tender, fighters, lovers, romantic realists. Without their innate contradictory contrasts, this country would not exist. Tom Russel said it in “Hallie Lonnigan”, “the secret of your history is in a working woman’s soul”. 

 

You have mentioned your music and poetry are inspired by figures in the historical west. Who are some of your favorite western characters?

Nancy:   While I love to read about Annie Oakley, Miss Baldwin and the others who rode for the famed 101 Ranch and the wild west and rodeo shows, I have to differ to the ranch women who worked and rode (and still do) beside their husbands or alone. Their stories are often buried in libraries and diaries and kept unintended secret by families.  I find my inspiration in the books like The Wagon Train Diaries,  articles from publications like Range Magazine and from meeting and talking to the women in the ranching and farming community.

 

Is there a story behind the Katy Creek name?

Nancy:   Katy Creek is a creek (though now dry) running through our property near Table Top National Monument. We were riding one day and discovered a natural depression the cowboys fill with water during round-up. The water is pumped from about 300 ft down into a tank for holding, then it can be turned out into the depression to water cattle. When we asked a local about it, he told us it was at one time a running creek and quite lush but very nearly the only constant water supply in the area. Two local ranchers bickered for years over it and finally one blew it up with dynamite and drove it underground ending the fight.

True? Well, who knows? I have never found out anything one way or the other. There are two long established ranches, one on the South side, one on the West side of Table Top.

         But, as it is well known in cowboy gatherings, one never passes up a good opportunity to embellish the truth ( or otherwise ), so it became the basis for the Legend of Katy Creek and the name of our band.  You can read the Legend of Katy Creek part one on our web site. 

 

Of all the venues you have played, do you have a favorite?

Nancy:   Oh, my! I cannot think of one in particular as far as one place in time. But I love to play to an audience who is there to receive, who came to be entertained, who is hungry, open and unafraid of adventure and experiencing the gamut of emotions. They are riding right beside you and will whoop, hollar, cry and laugh out loud.  We are especially thrilled when we get to create a new enthusiast, someone who came to the show for the first time and is now hooked for good.

 

What do you enjoy most about live performances?

Nancy:   A songwriter, as with any writer, bares heart and soul.  You expose your very being to the public.  Of course you want to be accepted by your audience.  So it has to be the realization of the impact our songs and stories have on people. When they come and talk to us after and tell us what they felt during the show, about the memories brought back or “hey that exact same thing happened to me!”  To know that you have touched someone heart and soul, see it in their faces during the show, hear them gasp or laugh or wipe a tear, see them lean forward in their seat; they are in it, living it with you.  You can only know and experience this through live performance.

 

Are there any new artists you’ve been listening to, who you think other people should check out?

Nancy:   Oh, there are so many good western entertainers worth checking out!  But some of the newer faces on the scene are; Joe Green, a singer songwriter from Texas and what a stooory teller, ( that’s how Joe would say it!) He just takes command of the audience.Mike Moutoux,  New Mexico’s most enchanting cowboy sings originals and standards and can spin a yarn that will have you laughing so hard you’re gasping for air.  Diane Tribbet is a rancher and has been writing and performing a few years. She write moving and passionate poetry and is a must hear. Lauri Wood from Encampment, Wyoming is another up and comer who writes and sings with her young daughter Cora.

 

Can you tell us more about the “murder and mayhem trilogy” on your CD?

Nancy:   It all got started when we began performing “Step It Out Nancy” written by Robin and Linda Williams. It is about a young girl who is in love with a cowboy but her father wants her to marry the rich cattleman. The cattleman kills her lover and she kills the cattleman. Tremendous story! And it was an instant hit with our audiences!   Marvin O’Dell, a singer- songwriter and DJ for Heartland Public radio, heard us perform it and decided it would pair up nicely with a song he wrote called “I Guess I Better Dig Another Grave “ about a woman who goes a little crazy when she is left alone and her children die and gets pretty creative in killing anyone who ventures onto her place.  The two songs became our most requested.  While we were at a festival in Kansas, The Yampa Valley Boys heard the set and determined we should add Tom Russell’s “Hallie Lonnigan” to the mix.  Without spilling the beans, the girl wins! I had never heard it before, but when we did get a copy, couldn’t resist!

 

Where will you be performing next?  Do you have a new CD in the works.

Nancy:   Our next major public performance will be at Festival of the West, March 19-22 at West World in Scottsdale, Arizona. We have some smaller shows and local events that may be in your area and you can check our calendar for those.  www.katycreek.com

We have two very exciting things coming up in the near future.

Our next CD, titled Campfire Reflections will release this summer.  It is all original with one co-write by myself and Les Buffham ( he is the author of the song Montana Lullabye you hear play on our home page).  It will have eight songs and four poems,  2 of which I will recite, an new thing for me!  We have added more musicians too!  Jon Messenger is on lead guitar, Alice Pitts, a 19 year old newcomer on fiddle and Maxine Eldridge on double bass.  It is produced and recorded live by Kedron Porter at his Dreams Captured Studio.

Also, the title cut of our current CD, Autumn’s On Its Way, inspired Major Mitchell, a western author to write a full length book based on the song.  I never could have imagined this, and when he contacted me I was floored. He asked me scores of questions to make sure we were on the same page with the song. There are two more songs spinning off of “Autumn’s On Its Way”, one about Abby and one about the Cowboy, so I was thrilled that he had the same ideas.  Major will release the book this spring. We are hoping to be able to have the book available with a disk of the CD included

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Have a question for Nancy? She will be visiting with us throughout the day.  One lucky comment poster will win an authographed  Autumn’s On Its Way CD!

To learn more about Nancy and hear samples of her music visit the Katy Creek Website and Amazon.com (click CD cover).autumn_cover You can also listen to a selection of songs on Stacey’s MySpace page.