Old West tunes and humor mark Cowboy Jubilee
Even as they paid for their tickets, the attendees knew the risk – yodeling could break out at any moment.
And indeed it did Saturday at the Carson City Community Center, along with sweet three-part harmonies, horseback humor and sentimental love songs about four-footed critters instead of two-legged fillies.
The sixth annual Cowboy Jubilee and Poetry featured former rodeoer Pat Richardson spinning tall tales and fireside poems, the Sons of the San Joaquin evoking the musical spirit of Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, guitarist Kay Hansen singing country and western tunes and accordion-packing Sourdough Slim in his umpteenth attempt at teaching Carson City how to yodel.
The jubilee is a fund-raising project of the Carson-Tahoe Hospital Auxiliary. This year’s proceeds will be used to enhance the infant abduction protection system of the hospital’s pediatric unit.
In his saner weekday moments, Sourdough Slim is Rick Crowder of Paradise, Calif.
But most weekends he tucks the legs of his striped pants into his boots, straps a polka-dotted bandanna around his neck and plops a wide-brimmed Stetson on his noggin. With ukulele, harmonica and accordion in tow, he sets out in search of a bright spotlight and a hot mike.
“I’m gonna yodel my way to heaven,” Slim sang, and the audience knew he meant it. Nobody does that to his own vocal chords unless he’s dead serious about it.
A good portion of the audience had seen Slim before, either at prior jubilees or the summer Carson City Rendezvous. When he invited them to echo the refrain, “Way Out West!” they knew they had better join in or he’d put them to yodeling themselves.
Hansen’s repertoire included “When It’s Nighttime in Nevada” from her 1997 compact disc.
Richardson used to travel the rodeo circuit with his brother Jess, a champion bull rider. Now they collaborate on cowboy poetry and, for the past 10 years, the poetry circuit has taken Pat Richardson far from his Merced, Calif., bunkhouse.
Even New York City welcomes cowhand rhymers these days. Richardson was the winner at the International Cowboy Poetry competition in Cedar City, Utah, last year.
This year, he has a new poem describing the invitation sent out for a reunion barbecue for the Donner Party survivors. After the writer reminisces about how the group got creative with its recipes during the winter isolation and comments that the cannibalism jokes were in poor taste, he reminds everyone to bring along a friend – for dinner.
Much of the performance of the Sons of the San Joaquin was an homage to the Sons of the Pioneers, the musicians who backed up Roy Rogers and had a popular hit with “Cool Water.”
Brothers Jack and Joe Hannah, Joe’s son Lon and “cousin” Richard Chong blended vocal versatility with instrumental expertise on traditional tunes like “Streets of Laredo” and “Shenandoah.”
“Join us as we celebrate the greatest folk hero in the world, the American Cowboy,” Joe invited the crowd. He explained that the group had traveled to many countries to perform and the cowboy is universally known.
The cowboy music they performed, whether the old songs like “Home on the Range” or the nostalgic originals they have written themselves, owed more to Roy, Gene Autry and Bob Wills than to Nashville’s headliners. There was no country rock backbeat to the songs – there wasn’t even a drummer.
And the love expressed in the songs wasn’t any lament about a good girl gone bad. When these fellas sing, they’re talking about saddles and horses.
And there was the fiddler Wong, whose bow drew swing and blues from the strings and repeated applause from the listeners.
Between the early and later shows, the auxiliary put on a barbecue of camp beans and roast beef. A dozen members of the Northern Nevada Bluegrass Association serenaded with some good ol’ mountain music.