ceiling the sky, my carpet the grass,
My music the lowing of herds as they pass;
My books are the brooks, my sermons the stones,
My parson's a wolf on a pulpit
--The Cowboy Soliloquy, Alan McCanless
The cowboy's job has always been dangerous, lonely, dusty,
gory and low-paying. So why do cowboys make music, and why
do they need to tell their story? "Why the Cowboy Sings"
is a journey across the open West to explore this unique genre
of folk art.
Co-producer Hal Cannon has been chasing this question for
30 years. He is a founder of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering
in Elko, Nevada and has played cowboy music in a traditional
band since the early 1970s. In this journey he travels to
four ranches, in the middle of winter, to visit cowboys
during a season when they have more time to sing.
Larry and Toni Schutte live on a remote ranch on Nevada's
sagebrush ocean. Their songs reverberate with faith and
spirituality. Glenn Ohrlin ranches in the hills of Arkansas,
and is thought to be the greatest traditional cowboy singer
alive. Henry Real Bird is a Crow Indian cowboy who says
that today's cowboys are being squeezed out-just as Indians
were in the last centuries. Songwriter Stephanie Davis left
Nashville and is now confronting the dichotomy of a rancher
who used the popular cowboy myth to buy back the authentic
"Most people in our dizzying modern lives have precious
little to sing about. The cowboy does, and with such passion
that maybe it's a life worth examining. Not for the hackneyed
and cliched, but for what is real and authentic," says
Cannon. "On the journey, we meet true cowboys and hear
their songs and stories. In the end we discover American
values that have been drowned out by modern urban life.
"Why the Cowboy Sings" was produced by Hal Cannon
and Taki Telonidis. Doug Monroe was director of photography;
Bill Lauer, editor; William Montoya, sound mix; Scott Chaffin,
John Howe and Elizabeth Searles, executive producers.
A concert by the same title was presented Tuesday, February
12, 2002, at the Capitol Theater and is a signature event
of the 2002 Olympic Arts Festival. Hosted by cowboy poet
Waddie Mitchell, this event includes performances by the
four cowboys featured in the documentary, as well as Texas
poet Joel Nelson and Navajo cowboy humorist Vincent Craig.
|"Why the Cowboy Sings"
went beyond the TV screen
as part of the 2002
|Read about the 2002 event
from the makers of
"Why the Cowboy Sings."
"Why the Cowboy Sings," a Western Folklife Center
film produced in conjunction with KUED-7, was funded by
the George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Foundation,
the R. Harold Burton Foundation, the Dick Burton Foundation,
Anne Pattee, and Wes and Sue Dixon.