A Cowboy at the Longmont Museum

Longmont Museum Photo courtesy of Longmont Museum

Red Grooms’ Ruckus Rodeo exhibition continues at the Longmont Museum, and on Thursday, November 7 is another cowboy related event is on offer at the Stewart Auditorium.  An Evening of Cowboy Poetry and Song showcases Gary MacMahan, once described by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott as “the king of the cowboy singers”.

Painting by Willy Matthews of Gary McMahan

MacMahan originally hails from Greeley and has spent his whole life in the West, first hauling cattle alongside his father, then working as a cowboy, and ending up as an entertainer. Although he was a star in the rodeo arena, MacMahan now lives to write and perform his own songs and poems, laced with his special brand of humor. He has appeared at a long, long list of Festivals and Gatherings throughout the West, from the Pikes Peak Cowboy Poetry Gathering to the Monterey Cowboy Festival.  He has even performed at the Australian National Bush Poets Gathering.

As a prolific and successful writer of poetry and song, not only has MacMahan created six albums but has seen many of his songs performed by other artists like Garth Brooks, Riders in the Sky and Chris LeDoux. And LeDoux credits Gary with providing him with great songs throughout his music career and described Gary as “our cowboy Bob Dylan”. Other MacMahan accolades have been “the Mark Twain of the West”, “a master storyteller and a peerless entertainer” and Ranger Doug of Riders in the Sky called Gary “the embodiment of The Cowboy Way”.

A long way from MacMahan’s early life when he found that he “never could stand those stinky greasy or cattle trucks” that his father ran out of Greeley. So he decided to work for the ranchers and cattlemen his father hauled for. Sometimes day work, then for the Eagles Nest ranch near Kersey and on and off for the Orr Cattle Company out of Kremmling and Granby. He even worked in Aspen “I managed the T Lazy 7 horse stables in Aspen for about 10 years where I drove slays and teams and took people on pack trips, fishing trips, steak rides, and hayrides. And people still remember the yodeling T Lazy 7 stagecoach driver who toured the town”.  Next MacMahan had a horse outfit north of Fort Collins where he offered similar deals to tourists.

Gary McMahan and his California girlfriend Photo courtesy of Gary McMahan

How did he decide that he was an entertainer rather than a cowboy?  ”I started playing guitar at 12 years old and was entertaining by the time I was 15. I had written a couple of songs by then as well. I went to Colorado State University and majored in animal science then I went into the Navy as a medical corpsman from 1968 to 1971. I then went back to Cowboy for a year and got enough money to go to Nashville where I wrote songs for the next five years. I was always a cowboy and I was always an entertainer”.

MacMahan no longer calls Greeley home, and he lives “with my wife on a little patch over by Bellvue, Colorado. My kid is grown and gone and I still entertain for trail rides and ranch gatherings. I’m 71 and starting to slow down but I can still sing, entertain and Yodle in the cowboy way.”

So what to expect from MacMahan on Thursday evening in the Stewart Auditorium? Lots of songs, of course, and poems from his collection, both serious and humorous, that he has created over the years. And perhaps a few yodels? MacMahan has been named the National Champion Yodeler by the Western Music Association and also the Western Music Yodeler of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists, surely he will incorporate some into the evening’s entertainment.

For more information on Gary MacMahan and An Evening of Cowboy Poetry and Song, call the Longmont Museum at 303-651-8374 or check out their website at www.LongmontMuseum.org.

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