Check out other article and interviews by Graham


L.C.C.S. program 

 Cowboys, Chuckwagons
& Hot Air Balloons

L.C.C.S Ruidoso

by Graham Lees

Known fondly and simply “Ruidoso” by the western music fraternity, each year during the second weekend of October the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium takes place in Ruidoso, New Mexico. This year over 12th-14th October the Ruidoso Downs Racecourse played host to America’s finest cowboys, musicians, chuckwagon cook-offs, western artists and craftsmen of all kinds. In 1996, the symposium was selected as the Best Cowboy Cultural Event by the National Cowboy Symposium Association. My first visit to the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium was in 2008 and this year (2012) I decided it was time for me to take in the event again.

I flew into Albuquerque a week before the event and stayed with friends Betty and Doug Carter in Albuquerque. That weekend saw the start the city’s 41st International Balloon Fiesta that ran over 6th-14th Oct. The largest ballooning event in the world mostly caters for hot-air balloons, but there are also gas balloons featured during the event. Hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts and fans from all over the world flock to Albuquerque for this event taking place on a 78-acre launch field. Apart from the usual round shaped Hot Air Ballon Fiestahighly coloured hot-air balloons there are many fancy shaped balloons also to be seen ascending in the early morning air. Some to be seen were replications of Elvis while Wells Fargo Bank have a stagecoach. An alarm clock could be seen in the sky along with such shapes as a scarecrow, and a family of cartoon like bees. This family of bees has grown over the years as the last time I saw them there was just a male and female that ascended and came together appearing to hold hands in the air. Now mum and dad have a baby bee and the three all line-up holding hands in mid-flight. If you’d had a few too many drinks the night before, don’t worry, the Pink Elephant that you were seeing floating above was just another hot-air balloon!!!

Another festival to take in over this first weekend was Albuquerque’s Grecian Festival at St George Greek Orthodox Church. The welcome page of the programs states, “beautiful panoramas of Greece are nearly 5,000 miles away, the sprit of Greece is alive and well here in Albuquerque.” Well attended on the Saturday evening we were treated to Greek music, dancing, food and hospitality. During the daytime there were lessons in Greek cooking and language lessons, though I didn’t venture to take part in either!

Another great event to take in over the two weekends of the Balloon Fiesta was the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Dave StameyFestival. For 24 years this annual Albuquerque favourite has earned its place as a cornerstone of attractions during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

The New Mexico chapter of the WMA has been busy since its conception a couple of years ago, promoting the Western Music Association. Chairman Joe Brown and Vice-Chair Betty Carter along with other members work tirelessly with western artists arranging and publicising shows around the area. A couple of concerts taking place were western singer songwriters John Bergstrom and Dave Stamey. John’s concert took place on the Sunday at a western gallery in Albuquerque Old Town and though not a large attendance, John put on a fine solo performance. John has also a new CD release ‘Butterfield Stage’. Dave Stamey’s show was at the South Broadway Cultural Center the following Wednesday. Another excellent show from Dave who is considered one of the most popular Western entertainers working today. Voted three times Entertainer of the year, three times Male Performer of the Year and twice Songwriter of the Year by the Western Music Association and having received the will Rogers Award from the Graham & Larry ScottAcademy of Western Artists. Shortly after I had returned to England Juni Fisher performed at the South Broadway Cultural Center and the chapter co-sponsored an event in Socorro (a small town south of Albuquerque) called Cowboys at the Opera. The Garcias Opera House is 125 years old. Doug Figgs (WMA member) opened the evening and Syd Masters and Swing Riders provided great dancing music. Albuquerque plays host to the WMA Showcase and Awards Show at the Marriott Hotel 14-18 November.

Thursday afternoon it was time to leave for Ruidoso and the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium that began on Friday. Thursday evening had two different shows available in the area. David Ball and the Pioneer Playboys appeared at the nearby Spencer Theater and just out of town on State Hwy 48 Tommy Allsupthe Flying J Ranch presented a supper show featuring Floyd Domino Review with Canadian musician Redd Volkaert, Tommy Allsup and the Flying J Wranglers. Although I couldn’t make either of these shows, several people commented on what a great show and BBQ supper they had at the Flying J Ranch!

With three stages, the Friday shows at the 23rd Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium kicked off on the main stage with award winning fiddle player Coby Carter, The Flying J Wranglers with MCs Larry Scott and his son Kelly. Floyd Domino with Redd Volkaert, Devon Dawson and Dave Alexander on trumpet gave us a great performance followed by some fantastic western swing from Jake Jody NixHooker and the Outsiders, Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition, Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys and The Bob Wills Texas Playboys with Tommy Allsup. Unfortunately Leon Rausch had been rushed off to hospital feeling unwell while in Ruidoso. We heard over the weekend that Leon had been released from hospital and was doing well back home. Jody Nix stood in for Leon during the Texas Playboys performance. One of the highlights of Friday was the five-piece bluegrass band Little Roy and Lizzy Long from Lincolnton, Georgia giving excellent performances on several appearances over the weekend with sensational bluegrass music and comedy routines. On the Tuffy Cooper stage, I caught Chuck Cusimano sitting in with banjo plying Wendell Sollis and the Sidekicks along with fiddle Graham & Liz Talleyplayers Brady Bowen and Gregg Gibbs and Liz Talley on drums. Look out for Brady Bowen’s new CD ‘Brady’s Tribute to Tom Morrell, Bob Boatright and Leon Chambers’. Brady told me that it’s finding great interest with the swing fans and selling well.

Jimmy Burson trio also gave a sensational performance on the Tuffy Cooper stage while on the Larry McWhorter stage Devon Dawson and the Outlaws had the young Kristyn Harris joining them. This young Devon Dawson & The Outlawssinger/songwriter is fast making her mark on the western scene with nominations for the WMA Awards. Singer/songwriter Chuck Cusimano followed with a fine impromptu solo performance. I’ve received several CDs over the years from Chuck, but never had the chance to meet him, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself to him as I did with several other artists who have sent me their products over the years such as Liz Talley.

Chuck CusimanoRuidoso was a great opportunity to meet-up with the many friends that I’ve made over the years and members of the Western Swing Guild that I hadn’t met before. There were so many people to catch up with including singer Rebecca Linda Smith and her husband Frank who writes a column for the WSG Newsletter. Once again I met-up with long-time friends Bob and Sue Gallup (WSG East Coast Representative) and the lovely lady Gloria Miers who organises the Legends of Western Swing Festival in Wichita Falls, Texas, which celebrated it’s 25th year in 2012. I had several opportunities to have a chat with my friend Rope Burns editor Bobby The Rocking T Chuckwagon CrewNewton who I first met in 2005 at the Academy of Western Artists awards show. Bobby is very involved with the Chuckwagon Association and promised me a chuckwagon dinner. On Saturday Bobby was true to his word and brought me lunch from the Rocking T Chuckwagon cooked by Lonnie Tegeler and his team. I must say that it was excellent and I greatly appreciate and I thank Bobby, Lonnie and his team for my mouth-watering lunch.

The Stars of the Friday evening concert were The Gatlin Brothers, who thrilled a full house with their string of hits from the 70’s & 80’s. The group went down very well with the fans, but personally I found Larry Gatlin did a little too much talking and I would have liked to have a few more songs. Following on we had a short break while the stage was re-set and performances Jake Hookerfrom Jody Nix, Jake Hooker and Billy Mata keeping the dancers on the floor. As the show had to close at 11pm, the three bands all on stage together gave us a thrilling close to Friday night.

Saturday daytime also had a similer line-up of great bands playing of all three Graham & Judi Anderson Cutting a Rug on the dancefloorstages and I took the occasion to check out the merchandising stands and visited for a while with western singer/songwriter Jim Jones selling his books. Jim was 2009 New Mexico Book Awards Finalist, Best Historical Novel, Best First Book for ‘Rustler’s Moon’ and has a second book ‘Colorado Moon’. Plenty of jewellery stalls western arts and crafts of all sorts on sale. Western Swing monthly editor Barbara Martin was on hand to further promote western swing and selling CDs for the many western swing bands around Texas. The Symposium also features demonstrations of many different types of horse related activities including: horsemanship with Craig Cameron out on the racecourse. The Lincoln County Saddle Makers Exhibit drew interest. The Symposium also has plenty of things for kids to do including a poetry competition and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Posse Kid’s Rodeo. Gary Beaver, President and Brady Bowen Advisory Board Member of CSWM presented Living Legend of Western Swing Award to Tommy Tommy Allsup receives award from Brady BowenAllsup on stage. This is where all things “cowboy” are celebrated.

Saturday night had a full house again and a change in format. As the three bands: Jody Nix, Jake Hooker and Billy Mata being on stage together to close Friday night had gone down so well, the organisers along with the bands decided to put all three bands on stage together to keep the show flowing better! 17 musicians all playing in Larry Scott receives award from WSDNunison with each vocalists taking their turn and even backing up the other singers on their numbers. You just couldn’t get a better performance and to top it off, as Jody Nix light-heartedly pointed out, Asleep At The Wheel closed for them…sensational!!!

Two days of unbelievable music all day and plenty in the infield to keep the whole family busy from nine in the morning until eleven at night. During the great Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium the dancers network (WSDN) gave emcee Larry Scott an award for his years of dedication to our music by keeping it alive. Cowboy Church and Gospel music was on offer on the main stage Sunday morning while the stall holders picked up a few extra customers.

A big thank you to Ruidoso Downs owner Mr and Mrs R.D. Hubbard, Larry Scott and his wife Norma Jean for their hospitality. I’m sure that I’ll be returning again to Ruidoso in the not too distant future to enjoy the delights of another weekend at the Lincoln County Symposium!!!

Graham Lees Oct 2012