He's making sure the Old West lives on

. . . in both song and story

When folks get together and ya' hear "That ain't the way I heerd it," or "Stop me, if you've heerd this before" -- there's folk music being made.

That's how Will McCain Clauson defines folk music in his new book, "Old-Time Cowboy Songbook," a collection of tunes and tales that no Old West aficionado would want to miss. Although the book includes plenty of sheet music of traditional western songs such as "Buffalo Gals" and "Git Along Little Dogies" for the musician, it is heavily larded with lyrics, vignettes and short stories such as "Cowboy's Way of Speaking" and "Women of the West" that make it of keen interest to the non-musician, too.

Clauson has had a life-long love affair with the frontier West, particularly with its music. He's had a more than 40-year career as a performer of western music, recording more than 60 albums and appearing in films and on the London stage. He was featured as "The Singing' Sheriff at Knott's Berry Farm," and more recently has performed at The High Moon Saloon at Silverwood Park.

The music of the Old West "is just a love of mine," says Clauson. With many old-timers who had a connection to that era passing on, one primary motivation for his book was simply to preserve songs which might otherwise be lost. To that end, Clauson drew on some local old-timers to provide material for the book, including the late Howard "Chip" Culver, who started cowboying when he was eight and died just last year in his 80s; and Lloyd Robinson, also a lifelong cowboy and farrier. Also, local cowboy artist Boots Reynolds drew some of the art for the book.

Even with the wealth of material, it was not easy to find a publisher. In fact, Clauson drove all the way to Pacific, Mo., to the headquarters of Mel Bay Publications, a prominent publisher of songbooks. When he got to town he called Bill Bay, one of the publishers, to ask for an appointment.

"He said, `I don't have time to see you.' " Clauson said. "I said, gosh, you'll have to make time because I drove 3,000 miles to see you."

Fortunately, the publisher relented, and liked the book concept so much that 30 minutes into the meeting they had an agreement to publish.

Now Clauson is at work on another book of cowboy musings. If he has his way, the Old West will live on for future generations.

-- Chris Bessler

The Old-Time Cowboy Songbook is available for $15 at local bookstores. To order a copy by mail, contact Books at Foster's Crossing, 208-263-7620.

Back to Contents Page for 1996 Summer Sandpoint Magazine