Wylie and the Wild West
Singer, songwriter, rancher, horseman, and the original, world-famous Yahoo!® yodeler, Wylie Gustafson leads the musical outfit known as The Wild West. The first incarnation of the group formed in 1989, getting its start on Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood. Since then, Wylie & The Wild West have played thousands of gigs, delighting audiences around the world with their unique brand of good-time cowboy music. They’ve performed at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, The National Folk Festival, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, on A Prairie Home Companion, and have appeared more than 50 times on the Grand Ole Opry. Add to that an appearance by Wylie on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, with Wylie teaching Conan to yodel.
Wylie is a real life cowboy born into a 4th generation ranching family on the empty sprawl of Northern Montana. He celebrates his unique rural American perspective as a prolific singer/songwriter with 20 albums to his credit. As Cowboys and Indians magazine puts it, “Wylie has established himself as the first giant of the new pantheon that will inherit, preserve, and enhance the Western music tradition from such current reigning luminaries as Don Edwards,Waddie Mitchell, Red Steagall, Ian Tyson and Michael Martin Murphey. He proves himself a distinctive and affecting singer as well as a highly adept songwriter, with one boot firmly in the stirrup of tradition and the other in the stirrup of respectful innovation, gently spurring cowboy and Western music toward its future.
If you were a part of the millions of viewers who watched the 2013 Superbowl commercial “God made a Farmer” you’ll see Wylie with his hard working family doing what they do every day to keep food on America’s tables. This ancient way of life remains the backbone of his art.
Whether playing for a crowd of 50 or 5,000, Wylie’s goal is always the same: “To win a crowd with good music and make ‘em feel like they got their money’s worth.” Looking back over two decades with The Wild West, he says, “My idea about playing live music has pretty much been the same since I started playing in high school dance bands in the mid-70s: be an entertainer. It all started as I watched Chuck Berry on T.V. one night as he duck-walked, strutted, kicked, and grooved across the stage while never missing a beat. Now that was entertainment!”
No kidding! On April Fools Day 2008, Wylie appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien promoting his book, How to Yodel: Lessons to Tickle Your Tonsils. Conan joined Wylie in a rockin’ rendition of the band’s top-selling iTunes title “Yodel Boogie.” The show’s official blog described the 6-minute chapter as “the highlight of the day.”
Wylie gave Conan high marks for bravery in accepting the challenge of learning to yodel in front of 2.5 million viewers, and for his abilities in carrying it off successfully. “We only had about five minutes to rehearse earlier in the day. “Conan was a superb host, especially off camera,” Wylie said. “His crew was first class through and through.”’
Professional photographer Bill Winters captures the essence of a typical Wylie & the Wild West engagement with this fast-paced slideshow. Follow Wylie, Ray, Scot and Rick from equipment load-in to the final encore at the spectacular Bing Crosby Theatre in downtown Spokane, Washington. Photos and footage from October 16, 2010.