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Review of Grand Dame of The Rockies

In the Fall/Winter issue of Western Art and Architecture, there is a great review of Jon's newest CD Grand Dame of the Rockies. It isn't online, but here's a link to the magazine and we recommend you pick up a copy.

Linwood Honored With Spur Award

The gratifying part first. I attended the Western Writers of America’s (WWA) annual convention in Oklahoma City (via Wichita, Kansas where tornados, hail, torrential rain and hurricane-force winds kept me on my toes at the local Super 8), where I was proud to accept the organization’s Spur Award for Best Song for my tune, Linwood from my CD The Grand Dame of the Rockies – Songs of the Hotel Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley. The Spur Award is unlike any other. Literary awards, Spurs in a variety of categories have been awarded since 1952, with many of the finest books of our time receiving the honor. (I was humbled to have won the Spur Award for Best First Novel – then called the Medicine Pipe Bearer Award – ten years ago for my novel, The Spanish Peaks.) Two years back, WWA added a Spur for Best Song, and my pal Mike Blakely won for his fabulous tune, The Last Wild White Buffalo. This year, Mike and his friend Jeff Posey’s Soy Cayuse Cimarron was the first finalist, with Royal Wade Kimes’ The Apache Kid taking the second finalist slot. You won’t hear any of these songs on your local country radio station. Although each was crafted meticulously from musical and production standpoints, they’re story songs, and country radio wants nothing to do with story songs. Twenty-something girls in very, very tight clothes don’t dance to story songs at the Grizzly Rose…they dance to Phil Vassar covering Billy Joel and Aerosmith songs – or even the occasional country song about beer and sex and drinkin’ with your pals on a bass boat - at blood-in-the-ears volume. That said, there’s nothing wrong with girls in tight clothes or road musicians cranking out recycled 70’s rock while pretending to be country. That’s just the way it is. Conversely, none of the songs blasted out at the Grizzly Rose or on your local top 40 country station will ever win a Spur Award, an award for content, excellence in writing, cogent and meaningful communication and…oh, yeah, skill.

I went to the convention earlier than I normally do so Mike, Bobby Bridger and I could “entertain” at the preliminary get-together/cocktail function. Basically, that meant we spent Tuesday evening walking around with guitars, warbling and talking with old friends. Bobby sounds as great as ever, and booked us for a show at Oklahoma City’s legendary Blue Door on Wednesday, where we barely outnumbered the audience. (Yeah, an old joke, I know.) Lucinda Williams was playing the next night, and we suspected ..Oklahoma City’s Americana aficionados were saving their money for Passionate Kisses. Greg owns the rustic listening room, which is a museum in itself, with headshots of virtually every travelling folk/Americana musician you can think of over the past 30 years adorning the walls. A very cool place.

The Spur Awards Ceremony was held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (formerly the National Cowboy Hall of Fame), a spectacular museum dedicated to Western heritage. The art and sculpture takes nearly a day to process, with many of America’s premier artists represented. It’s truly astonishing. I had a ball at the sound check where a couple of the museum staffers and I had a chuckle about the museum’s Wrangler Awards for music rotating between the same few people year after year after year after year after year, ad infinitum. I found out who a couple of the judges are, and now know why I’ve been ignored. Not to be cynical, of course. I often serve as a Wrangler Award judge in the novel category, and there are certain types of writing I prefer, just as the music judges love old timey cowboy music, I suspect. (We did note that this year’s album award was Juni Fisher’s Gone For Colorado, a well-deserved choice from one of my favorite Western singer/songwriters. Maybe change is in the wind.)

As part of the presentation, Arkansas.. bred and Tennessee based Royal Wade Kimes performed a fine tune, and added some humor to the affair, as well. I hadn’t met Royal before, and we hit it off – he’s a fine fella and equally fine singer/songwriter. Near the end of the show, I performed Linwood, and was taken with the wonderful sound in the ballroom. Earlier, I asked John and Dennis (the AV technicians who did an incredible job) how in the world a domed room could sound so good. After they were through explaining the placement of the JBL stacks suspended from the ceiling and myriad other things I didn’t understand, I took their word for it.

My friend Johnny D. Boggs presented the Spur Award for Best Song and I sauntered up to the microphone and gave a very loose and short version of the following:

“This has been a pretty good past year or so for me, recognition wise. First, I won the Audience Award in the ..Western Folklife Center’s Yellowstone & the Tetons Songwriting Contest for my song, the Road That Leads to Yellowstone. The prize was a beautiful guitar, and I got to do a fine concert tour in the Yellowstone area with some of my favorite musicians. Then, True West Magazine’s Best of the West Issue named me 'Best Living Solo Musician of 2009,' which was far superior to the category of 'Best Dead Solo Musician.' And then, of course, I think a lot of you followed my hard-fought victory on Dancing With the Stars.

“It can be argued that awards are merely trinkets…little feel-good validations designed to prop up a product or industry, or to make a political statement. Basically, p.r. ploys. For the most part, it’s true. The Spur Awards are the exception to that rule. They are confirmations of art, pure and simple, and I’m gratified to receive the Spur for Best Song. This award will have a place of honor in my home next to the Medicine Pipe Bearer Award I received for my first novel, The Spanish Peaks. I know how much thought and effort went into the creation of this Spur Award category, and chief among the considerations was that it embodied the Spur Award’s commitment to creativity and excellence. The Spur Award is a literary award, and the song category is no different. This is not a category for Nashville Country or Gene Autry Western. It’s a category for stories it’s a writing award, and I hope that Mike Blakely’s The Last Wild White Buffalo and my Linwood have provided the bedrock for some great stories to be told in song.

“A few words about the song Linwood. It’s the name of a pioneer cemetery in Glenwood Springs, Colorado where Doc Holliday was buried in November of 1887. I’ve had the concept for Linwood in the back of my mind for decades, since I first climbed the steep path up the side of a mountain in Glenwood Springs to stand before Doc’s marker. A poker hand and a pistol are engraved on the stone, and the thought that this odd, pathologically violent little man was buried in one of the most beautiful spots in the country held great irony. Over the years, I read everything I could get my hands on, and like everyone else, was mesmerized by Val Kilmer’s incredible portrayal of Doc in the film Tombstone. When I had the opportunity to do this collection of songs based on the Historic Hotel Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley at Glenwood Springs, I knew my nascent Doc Holliday song had found a home. I finished it while writing the CD’s other nine songs and included it on the CD The Grand Dame of the Rockies – Songs of the Hotel Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Many thanks to my co-producer John Macy of Macy Sound Studios in Denver; David B. Storm, president of Providence Hospitality Partners, and his wife Lois, who cornered me in Santa Clarita, California to enlist me as a spokesman for the Old Grand Dame; former Hotel Colorado General Manager Larry MacDonald – now at the Historic Plains Hotel in Cheyenne – who helped define the project’s concept; Clay Bastian and the Bastian family of Wichita, the Hotel Colorado’s owners who said, 'this sounds like a good idea;' the exceptional musicians, engineers and producers who helped bring Linwood and its sibling songs to life in the studio: Chris Stongle, John Macy, Ernie Martinez, Butch Hause, Marcy Baruch, Hank Singer, Eric Moon, David Shapiro, Tom Payetta and Mark Lacuesta. Also, thanks to the most creative designer I’ve ever known, Greg Carr, for a beautiful package. And, of course, thanks to my wife, Pat, who continues to encourage me to write and sing my songs.”

At least those were my written comments, and I babbled some version of them. Since the ceremony, writer/photographer David Wolfe is writing a feature about me that will appear in American Cowboy Magazine, and author/historian Shirley Ayn Linder will use Linwood’s lyrics in her soon-to-be-published “historiography” of Doc Holliday. All in all, a fine week in Oklahoma.

Jon wins 2009 spur award!

Jon was awarded a spur from the Western Writers of America. Since 1953, the nonprofit Western Writers of America (www.westernwriters.org) has promoted and honored the best in Western literature with the annual Spur Awards, selected by panels of judges. Awards, for material published last year, are given for works whose inspirations, image and literary excellence best represent the reality and spirit of the American West. Jon won for his song "Linwood" which is on his CD Grand Dame of the Rockies. Winners and finalists will be honored June 16-20 at the WWA Convention in Oklahoma City.

"I learned a couple of weeks ago that I had been awarded the 2009 Western Writer’s of America’s Spur Award for Best Song. There are awards, and then there are AWARDS. Let me put this in perspective. As someone who writes and performs Americana music with western themes, writes Western novels, actually met Louis L’Amour and reads Robert Service poetry for fun, this is the most gratifying award I could receive. I feel I reached beyond the myth of Doc Holliday and captured a bit of his genuine persona in my song Linwood, and am immensely gratified that the Spur Award judges felt the same."

Jon was named 2009's Best Living Western Solo Musician in its new Best of the West issue. Thanks so much to the editors of True West for their support.

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National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

just returned from the 25th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, and am still basking in the good will. Last year, I entered one of my songs in the Western Folklife Center’s Songs of Yellowstone and the Tetons competition. My song, The Road that Leads to Yellowstone, won the audience award. In a subsequent concert series in at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, I was awarded a new Gibson Songwriter Deluxe guitar, a beautiful piece of work. The concerts were thrilling, with JC & the Wichitones hooked up with Ray Doyle (from Wiley & the Wild West) and Connie Dover & Skip Gorman. Connie is one of the finest singers alive, and the shows were magic. Hal Cannon of the Western Folklife Center produced the shows along with legendary painter Willy Matthews. We recreated the show at Elko on the huge stage at the Convention Center. While we performed, Willy Matthews painted a beautiful landscape of Yellowstone.