The Bard and the Balladeer
February 19, 2013
It began like most good stories do—a good friend or loved one does or says a little something that makes your life better in a small or big way. I have discovered that it may be weeks, months or even years before we realize the full positive impact of a small good deed. That’s the case of my relationship with the Bard and the Balladeer.
Friend Jerald Thomas brought me a CD (or was it a cassette?) back in the early nineties from Canton, his home away from home and location of the world’s largest flea market. The album was titled Saddle Songs and featured the voice of Don Edwards. I had never heard of him, but I pitched it onto the console of my pickup so I would be reminded to play it.
I was a road warrior in those days, spending a lot of time in cars and airplanes, so I listened to a lot of music as I traveled. I looked forward to hearing what I hoped might be at least one good cowboy song on this new album.
Though I had enjoyed cowboy music since I was a child listening to my grandfather play the fiddle, the genre had always been a distant second to old country. And I mean old country going all the way back to Jimmie Rodgers. The cowboy songs I grew up with had too many clichés like “git along little doggie.” More importantly, they did not tell a story. And I always covered my eyes when Gene or Roy or Rex broke into song when they should have been doing more exciting things.
New country has almost no appeal to me. It no longer reflects its rural roots and too many songs just repeat the same tired verses. I have supplanted new country with mountain music. But Don Edwards’s songs were different—a combination of Eddy Arnold’s yodel (Don can do Cattle Call as well as Arnold could) and a voice that reminds many of Marty Robbins. And his songs tell stories.
My little cassette suddenly became a treasure. But little did I realize that Jerald’s small gift would bring about a series of what one author recently called Godwinks.
Corporate life and being confined in various airplanes and large cities had me yearning for my roots and I longed to get back to a semblance of the cowboy lifestyle. I knew that was not in the immediate future, so I did the next best thing.
I subscribed to a lot of cowboy magazines and whenever possible, I arranged my schedule to be in places where I could connect to cowboy-dom. You know, places like Wyoming, Montana, Colorada, Utah, Idaho New Mexico, even Nevada, where Waddie Mitchell (the Bard part of the duo) hails from. Some of these are buckaroo states. Of course, the number one places for cowboys are still Texas and neighboring Oklahoma.
In the spring of 1995, through a set of fortuitous Godwinks, Jan and I found ourselves in Oklahoma City attending the Western Heritage Awards banquet at the Western Heritage Museum (Cowboy Hall of Fame). I was in hog (make that horse) heaven, surrounded by my heroes from the past, present and future. (I will post a series of blogs on that). For now, suffice it to say that I met Tom Dorrance that night, widely recognized as one of the premier horse trainers in the world. You will see how that fits in to this series of events brought about by Saddle Songs later. I also met Richard Farnsworth, one of my all-time favorite actors.
One of the magazines I subscribed to was Cowboy. Yep, just Cowboy. The first Godwink came with my initial issue of the magazine in the summer of 1995. There, on the front cover, was a painting by Bob Moline called The Minstrel of the Range. The subject was Don Edwards. What a coincidence. I had no idea at the time that the artist, Bob Moline, did more than paint. Jerald led me to Don Edwards and that led to the magazine and that led to Bob Moline. More about why that’s important later.