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GARY McMAHAN


 

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 "I would say Gary is our cowboy Bob Dylan. He is a unique talent and my friend."
                                                                                
Chris LeDoux


"Gary McMahan is the king of the cowboy singers."
                                                                         Ramblin' Jack Elliott

"McMahan...spurs the words top-hand classy."
                                                              Paul Zarzyski

 

About Gary McMahan

Poems and a Song

Recordings and Books

Gary McMahan's Web Site, Additional Links, and Contact Information


 

About Gary McMahan

Colorado cowboy and entertainer Gary McMahan is a walking page of American history. "Like horse manure, I've been all over the West, first with my Dad as he hauled cattle from Montana and the Dakotas to Texas and all points in between, then as a cowboy, and finally as an entertainer. For most of my life, I've somehow managed to make my living either with a horse or a guitar. I can remember when Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, and I were the only genuine cowboy types kicking around Nashville in the early seventies. All three of us were pretty much out of work, and it stayed that way for over a decade. But we all three hung and rattled and made it through that drought. I managed to extract myself from horse outfits and singing in windy little Naugahyde bars when the cowboy poetry gatherings came along. It was there that my audience and I found each other. Now I make my living performing at banquets and concerts. My guitar and I continue to travel the country 'spreading it around' and probably will 'til we both give out."

Gary is the real deal. A native of Greeley, Colorado, he has made his living doing everything from cowboying to guiding to performing. He can brand, calve, rope, ride broncs, fence, hay, shoe horses, pack, and drive teams, and has won many honors in the rodeo arena. His colorful background has set Gary in good stead to practice his heart's desire: to write, perform, and record the stories, poems, songs, and humor of his Western heritage, becoming one of the most dynamic and sought-after writers and performers in his field. Gary's songs have been recorded by stars like Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux, and Riders in the Sky.

And, he has recorded six critically acclaimed albums himself. He has received the most prestigious award in Western music: a National Cowboy Hall of Fame Wrangler Award. Gary's poems have been published by the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Sharing the stage with performers the likes of Doc Watson, Baxter Black, Ian Tyson, Riders in the Sky, and Chris LeDoux, he has played hundreds of cowboy poetry gatherings, banquets, festivals, and concerts throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

 

Poems and a Song 

The Old Double Diamond

The Two Things in Life (That I Really Love)

The Best Cowboys Ain’t  Always Human

A Cowboyin' Day

 

The Old Double Diamond

The old Double Diamond lay out east of Dubois
in the land of the buffalo
And the auctioneer's gavel rapped and it rattled,
as I watched the old Double Diamond go.
Won't you listen to the wind
Mother Nature's violin.

When I first hired on the old Double Diamond
I was a dammed poor excuse for a man
Never learned how to aim,
well my spirit was tame
couldn't see all the cards in my hand.
And the wind whipped the granite above me
and blew the tumbleweeds clean through my soul.

I fought her winters, busted her horses
I took more than I thought I could stand,
but the battle with the mountains and cattle
seems to bring out the best in a man.
I guess a sailor, he needs an ocean
and a mama, her babies to hold.

And I need the hills of Wyoming
in the land of the buffalo
Now shes sellin' out, and I'm movin' on
But I'm leavin' with more than I came
'Cause I got this saddle and it ain't for sale,
and I got this song to sing

I got this a new range to find
and new knots to tie
in a country where cowboys are kings
I turned my tail to the wind,
and the old Double Diamond
disappeared into the sage.

Yay ee o-del o-hoo - dee

© 1975, words and music by Gary McMahan
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

"The Old Double Diamond" was cited as one of today's top thirteen cowboy songs by Western Horseman in a 2009 article. It has been recorded by Chris LeDoux, Ian Tyson, and dozens of other artists.

Listen to Gary McMahan's rendition at his web site here and see a YouTube video here. Find an Ian Tyson version here on YouTube and one by Chris LeDoux here.


Gary tells about the writing of  "The Old Double Diamond":

My dad was a cattle trucker and had hauled lots of cattle out of Dubois, Wyoming, for a fella named Ab Cross. Ab owned the grand old Cross Ranch outside of Dubois. Dad and Ab were good friends, and I became a friend of the Crosses as well.

I believe it was 1973 when dad and I were up there in Dubois on a fishing trip. We stayed with the Crosses, and as we were getting ready to head out, Ab said, “You’re not leaving today, are you? The Double Diamond Ranch is going on the auction block today, and it’s kind of a big deal around these parts.” So Ab talked us into staying an extra day.

We all went to the sale and saw the fine old ranch go. There were a bunch of cowboys there who had just lost their jobs and were loadin’ up and moving out, all heading to what they hoped would be another cowboyin’ job somewhere. It struck my heart, and I thought this was kind of typical of what was going on in the West.

That next day on the drive back to Colorado, I wrote the basics of the song “The Old Double Diamond.” I was living in Nashville at the time and over the next…I don’t know…nine months or so, I refined the song into the song you hear today.

It’s been cut I don’t know how many times by big names and small alike. I never tried to control who sang the song. I just let it have its head.

One of the highest compliments I ever received on it was from the actor Barry Corbin, who told me, “‘The Old Double Diamond’ is the best cowboy song I've ever heard. Not just currently. In my opinion it’s the best cowboy song of all time.”

I rarely meet a cowboy who doesn’t know the words to that song.
 


 

The Two Things in Life (That I Really Love)

There's two things in life
that I really love
that's wimmen and horses—
of this I'm sure of.
So when I die,
please tan my hide
and tool me into
a saddle so fine
and give me to a cowgirl
who likes to ride
So that in the hereafter
I may rest
between the two things
that I love best

© 1986, Gary McMahan
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Listen to Gary McMahan recite this and the accompanying song at his web site here.

Gary comments on the writing of "Two Things in Life":

In truth... I can't remember when I first wrote the dadgummed thing...Garth Brooks told me he used it as the inspiration for his song "A Cowgirl's Saddle" on his Lost Sessions album...and gave me songwriter's credit to boot! I've seen it used everywhere from gravestones to Garth Brooks songs. I'm not kiddin' myself... it's probably one of those old sayin's and I just caught it coming through the air on its next go-round. But I still love the heck out of it. A lot of cowboy poetry folks use it on a regular basis. It's fun, quick and packs a little punch. I've given up trying to control stuff like this. I'm just glad it's out there makin' those knowin' smiles.
 


 

The Best Cowboys Ain’t  Always Human

During the depths of the Depression,
When America drew shallow breaths,
Bob had to find him a way
To keep from starving to death.
 
His face was rough as a shale bluff,
But there was good in the eye of Bobby.
With a sandy grin and a jutting chin,
He was long-shanked, narrow, and knobby.
 
Bob was by profession a cowboy,
But there weren’t no work out there
But there was always something goin’ on—
A church picnic or county fair.
 
Now times was tight and money was scarce
As the economy reeled and thrashed
Folks were tighter than a bull’s butt at flytime
When it come to shuckin’ out cash.
 
But the country folk always had
A nickel or two in their bibs.
Though they wouldn’t spend it on themselves,
They’d spend it on their kids.
 
It was then the idea struck him
That a simple little machine
And a couple, three Shetland ponies
Might put some jingle in his jeans.
 
Now the idea of a pony ring
Galled his cowboy insides
But a hungry man’ll swallow most anything
including his cowboy pride.
 
The easiest part was finding the ponies—
Every ranch had one or two.
And they were glad to be rid of ’em, too
’Cause they were ornery little dudes.
 
Underneath all the hair and cute
Were defiant eyes that glared like a sniper
like what you’d get if you crossed
a teddy bear with a pit viper
 
Now ol’ Bob had ridden his share of colts,
But his logic wasn’t watertight.
He figured if he could break big horses
He could sure break little ones . . . Right??
 
But Bob was too tall and top-heavy;
He needed to be the size of a kid.
When he straddled a pony, his lanky ol’ frame
Looked like runnin’ gears on a katydid.
 
He got bit, kicked, and climbed,
Knocked down, run over, and struck.
They’d trot real fast then slam on the brakes
And plant his face in the muck.
 
They’d paw the pockets off’n his clothes
Squealin’ like wild beasts
Or take off fast as scared jackrabbits
And dump ‘ol Bob on his keister.
 
He finally got six head gentled—
Though physically they had him in ruins—
And limped down the road with his pony ring
To the little podunk doin’s.
 
But Bob made more than a few kids happy
For some it was their first crack
at the feel and the smell and the wonderful view
of the world from a horses back.
 
But still he was barely squeakin’ by
As one or two kids rode round and round
In yet another dusty parking lot
In some little dryland town.
 
About this time he was working a circus
That was traveling through the state,
When a circus man happened to mention
They were lookin’ to get rid of an ape.
 
Bob perked up at the sight of that ape.
Why, he’d draw folks in like flies!
And while they were there, he knew the kids
Would hound their folks for pony rides.
 
He wasn’t a gorilla, and he wasn’t a baboon—
Bigger than a monkey, about 65 pounds.
No one was ever sure what he was,
But his knuckles come near draggin’ the ground.
 
Bob tied his leash to the saddle horn
And showed him how to sit a horse.
He sat right up and clung to that saddle
Like . . . well, like a monkey, of course.
 
It worked like X-lax and chili;
Word spread like a smashed spider.
People flocked to see the ape ride a horse,
And ’fore you knew, all six ponies had a rider.
 
At every show, it never failed,
Some kids that had been ridin’
Would fall in love with one of those ponies
And beg Grandpa into tryin’ to buy him.
 
Gramps’d offer Bob cash for the pony,
And it killed Bob to tell him to scram.
But the thought of breakin’ another horse to replace it
Would give ol’ Bob the whim-whams.
 
He was ponderin’ his dilemma one day
When he noticed the pony the ape was ridin’
Turned around and bit the ape.
Well, it made the ape mad, and things got excitin’.
 
The ape’s legs shot under that horse’s belly,
Much to Bob’s delight,
And clasped those hand-like feet together,
Like a handshake, and held on tight.
 
One long, hairy arm grabbed him up by the nostrils
While the other yanked on his tail.
The horse bucked and reared kicked and squealed,
But the ape sat fixed as a driven nail.
 
It hit Bob like a sack of horseshoes
And launched him out of his fluster.
That ape could ride like he was part of their hide—
Here was his bronco buster!
 
So he picked up another un-broke pony
To test his theory in reality
And within a week the ape had him ready
To take his place in society.
 
That ape would run their length on top
Then swing underneath from limb to limb.
He was all over ’em like a bad case of ugly,
Usin’ them ponies like a jungle gym.
 
When he got done with them horses,
They were ravaged, weary, and disheveled.
And those children looked like angels come down from heaven
To rescue them from the devil.
 
Bob sold a bunch of ponies after that,
And not one he sold ever came back.
’Cause they all had a new perspective on life
After their “ape attack.”
 
Bob ’n’ that ape became best of friends,
An unlikely couple of chaps.
Bob give the ape an old cowboy hat
And made him a pair of chaps.
 
And a lot of spoiled ponies that ape trained
That probably would’a gone to slaughter
Wound up in good homes. Bob made some money,
And things turned out like they oughter.
 
In the end, Bob quit the pony ring biz
(‘Cause it weren’t exactly his passion),
But it got him through the Depression
In an honest and upright fashion.
 
And he went back to cowboyin’
But they was a new trick under his cape,
Cause when they’d ask Bob to start some colts,
He’d just smile . . . then he’d go get his ape! 

© 1996, Gary McMahan
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


In his book, Gary McMahan in Poetry and Song, Gary McMahan writes, "We've all heard stories about how folks made it through the Great Depression. I was buying a tractor on a private sale from an ol' boy in LaPorte, Colorado, one day. When we went in the house to do some paperwork, I spied some old photographs on his wall. I asked him about them, and he told me the darndest story about how he got through the Depression. He swears it's true, and I saw the pictures m'self."

You can listen to a version of the poem in this video.

  New in 2013: A book, with illustrations by Vel Miller. Find more below.



A Cowboyin’ Day

Morning is just a thin line to the east
As you steps in the corral and captures a beast.
Cold saddle blankets, hey cock-a-doodle-doo—
Don’t buck now, you booger; you’ll break me in two.
 
Your head starts working on the last pass around;
Saddle horses are wrangled, draft horses cut out.
You shuts the gate and steps to the ground—
It’s hot, black coffee you’re thinking ’bout now.
 
Then it’s biscuits and gravy and eggs over light,
And the foreman’s wife is a beautiful sight.
Jokes and jabs and the cowboss’s orders,
A chew and a toothpick, and you’re out the door
 
To saddle the horse you’ll use for the day,
Makin’ sure your riggin’ has no extra play.
You steps aboard light with him all gathered up
’Cause you know first hand this critter can buck.
 
Ease him out at a walk and head north towards the dump.
You’ll be askin’ a trot when he loses his hump.
You hits a slow lope on the badger highway;
It’s a cool morning, blue-sky cowboyin’ day.
 
And the brooks are babbling down through the holes,
The meadowlarks sing the song in your soul,
And the wildflowers blaze any color you s’pose
As the smell of sagebrush and pine fill your nose.
 
Now the horse that you’re on is big, and he’s lean—
Quick, tough, smart, and a little bit mean.
His saddle’s no place for the meek or the green;
He’s a sho-nuff rip-snortin’ cowboyin’ machine.
 
And the place that you’re headed is pretty intense;
Continental Divide is the back fence.
There’s ten thousand acres of mountain and rock there
And twelve hundred head to check and to doctor.
 
And to make matters worse (or better, you think),
They’re all yearling heifers—unpredictable dinks.
They’ll run and they’ll hide ’til hell freezes twice
Then kick up their heels as you skate on the ice. 
 
But this ain’t no colt, and you ain’t no kid,
So you whips out your rope and pulls down your lid,
And you climbs and cruises the sagebrush and aspen
’Til you finds you a cow brute what’s droopy and raspin’.
 
And maybe you’ll tag ’er ’fore she gits to the brush
And trip ’er and tie ’er in a big rush
And pack her with sulfa and penicillin.
She’ll turn for the better, good Lord a willin’.
 
Lots of footrot and pinkeye today,
But that don’t mean the boogers can’t play.
They’ve ducked and they’ve dodged ’til who laid a chunk,
But you managed to capture a pretty good hunk.
 
A line-backed old heifer with a sly side dart
Almost upset the whole apple cart,
And a bald-faced old bag sure slammed on her brakes
When we dived off a ledge and got in her way.
 
It’s the heat of the day now—sun’s straight overhead—
And you and your horse are packing some lead.
You hanker for rest and a biscuit or two,
And you figures you got that much coming to you.
 
Now your horse likes the grass that grows ’neath the aspen,
And the shade there is welcome as peace everlastin’.
So you finds such a place with a creek close by
To soothe the bruises of a hard ride.
 
You hobbles, unbridles him, loosens his girth
Then sets yourself down in the cool, green earth,
Surrounds your grub and drinks your fill
And takes a siesta way back in the hills.
 
Well, a catnap is all you require;
Still, you lay there and ponder your thoughts . . .
The world sure has its briars.
Take, for instance, this good old cow-hoss—
 
He was a wild-eyed, ring-tailed dandy.
Heck, they give up on him ’fore they give him to me,
But it’s the same for horses as it is for men—
He just needed a job and a kick in the shin.

Well the afternoon’s spent with the usual flair:
A close call here, a catastrophe there.
But still we saved more than a couple of hides;
That’s why we get paid for making these rides.
 
A storm blew through for about thirty minutes,
And you’d swear that Satan hisself was in it.
You’re sure glad your pony is seasoned plumb through—
Close lightning’s unloaded a few buckaroos.
 
You’re wet as a fish, but you ain’t gonna melt,
And the sun feels the best it ever has felt.
You’re all steamed up like an overdue freight,
But you’re dry as a duck time you get to the gate.
 
Now, there are those who thinks a cowboy’s a crude, ignorant cuss.
Truth is, we no-savvy them; they no-savvy us.
But there’s one thing that sticks in my mind
When a cowboy’s job cuts into sublime.
 
It’s when you and your horse form a leathery feather
And drift two, three yearlings out of a gather
And trail ’em up someplace they don’t want to go
When they’re needing a vet or what ever, y’know.
 
You set ’em just so when you go through a gate,
And don’t rile ’em up, for heaven’s sake.
Folks that have tried it say it’s kind of an art
To pen ’em in the home corral before dark.
 
And we’re trailin’ two of em home this night.
We’ll prolly ship the one; the other’ll be all right.
But one wrong move now the air’s turning cool,
And these two yearling heifers’ll make you look like a fool.
 
Punch ’em into the catch with a “whoop” and a smile.
You been walkin’ on eggs for the last two miles,
And if one woulda broke, the fur woulda flew—
No tellin’ when you’da got another crack at them two.
 
Your horse rolls in the dirt while you put up your tack,
Then savors his grain while you scratch his back.
It’s an evenin’ ritual you both enjoy;
You don’t covet nothin’ when you ride this ol’ boy.
 
An he heads for the timothy down by the lake
Whilst you saunters to the house for soup and steak
To mix it up with compadres and finish your pie
Like folks do when they’re satisfied.
 
When supper’s done, there’s little time for play—
You sleep hard all night if you work hard all day—
But ’fore you fall off your log to float in the air,
You may have time for a little prayer:
 
“Lord, I thank you for this cowboyin’ day.
I sure had me some fun a-earnin’ my pay,
And I like to think I put meat on the table
For a country that needs to stay fit an’ able.
 
“But a cow with no horse is boring as hell,
And a horse with no cows don’t ring my bell.
It’s a good life you gave me, these horses and cattle,
An I wanted to say thanks Lord for my day in the saddle.”

© 1986, Gary McMahan
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Listen to Gary McMahan recite this poem at his web site here.

In his book, Gary McMahan in Poetry and Song, Gary McMahan writes, "One of my favorite things is working cattle on a good horse in the high country. I used to do a considerable amount of it, and even though this poem doesn't have a 'Hollywood plot,' a lot of ranch folk have told me how much they like it, especially those who've ever run a bunch of yearlin's."
 

Gary McMahon is featured in a forthcoming film, Lopin' Ropin' and Hopin'.
Find video previews and more at the film's web site.

Recordings and Books

 

Sometimes the Best Cowboys Ain't Always Human

Gary McMahan puts his popular poem to the page in a book,  Sometimes the Best Cowboys Ain't Always Human, illustrated by Vel Miller. Gary describes the spirited tale about an unusual sidekick, "This is a heartfelt homegrown poem for kids of all ages. Plus it's true. I actually knew this guy and talked to folks who actually saw it."

Find the poem above. You can listen to a version of the poem in this video. Top songwriter Dave Stamey has praised the book as "one of the finest bits of writing in a cowboy poem I've ever seen."

Sometimes the Best Cowboys Ain't Always Human is available for $20 postpaid rom Gary McMahan, PO Box 90, Bellvue, CO 80512; www.singingcowboy.com.

 


Goin' My Way?

2009

From www.SingingCowboy.com:

GOIN' MY WAY? is Gary's first studio album since 1992. It’s packin’ seven new songs, a yodeling meltdown, and three poems. This is original, true storytelling about the new and the old West. It’ll take you from 500 years of cowhuntin’ in the Florida swamps to a cowboy’s take on Ralph Lauren. It’s a little unpredictable, and it might surprise you now and again. You may laugh out loud and shed some tears before it’s over. Gary hand-picked some great friends/musicians to play on it, and they all added their own bit of magic. It’s got all the fun, feelings, real stories, music, lyrics, licks, yodelin’, and harmonizin’ that could be tamped into it. Plus, just for fun, Gary included a Bob Frank song cut 35 years ago in Nashville to give you a musical snapshot of him way back when.
 

Includes:

Uncle Fred
Ghost Ranch
Yodel Poem
Okeechobee Joe
Chaps
Big Enough and the Cheyenne Mare
Goodbye, Waitin' for Spring
The Horse Trade
Blue for You
Leave My Jack Daniels Alone


Find full-length audio tracks and the story behind each track here at www.SingingCowboy.com

$15 plus postage for CD from www.SingingCowboy.com and CD and downloads at CD Baby
 


Some reviews:

Rick Huff's Best of the West review here ("Few people can rightly be called true pillars on whose foundations were constructed both the rise to prominence of cowboy poetry and the resurgence of Western music, Gary McMahan, however, is such a pillar!...")

The Cowboy Way magazine review here at Facebook. ("Gary McMahan is Western music’s Robin Williams—hugely talented, can make you laugh or cry like no other, and is a master of timing....It’s a little unpredictable, and it might surprise you now and again. You may laugh out loud and shed some tears before it’s over. It’s got all the fun, feelings, real stories, music, lyrics, licks, yodelin’, and harmonizin’ we could tamp into it.”)

Jeri Dobrowski's Cowboy Jam Session review here.

American Cowboy magazine review here.


Gary McMahan Live In Elko, Nevada


2006

Includes:

Yodelin' Man
Big Enough to Do the Job
My Husband and I
Gettin' in Nature's Way
Pete 'n' Pat
The Bullrider
Cutie Pie (the yodelin' dog!)
The Ol' Double Diamond
Grandpa's Early Mornin's
Grizzly Bears
The Yodel Poem

Find full-length audio tracks here at www.SingingCowboy.com

$15 plus postage for CD from www.SingingCowboy.com and CD and downloads at CD Baby
 


A Cowboyin' Day


1992

Includes:

Socco’s Saturday Night
Cowboy Honeymoon
Montana Rodeo
The Ol’ Double Diamond
Pete 'n' Pat
That’s How the Yodel Was Born
Beer Can Bob
Skeeter
Angel
Yodelin’ Man From Ol’ Montan
Horses and Cattle

Find full-length audio tracks here at www.SingingCowboy.com

$15 plus postage for CD from www.SingingCowboy.com and CD and downloads at CD Baby
 


Saddle 'Em Up And Go!


1988


Includes:

The First Cowboy Song
Cowpoke
Pappy’s Lament
Mountain Flower
The Blizzard
This Old Hat
The Two Things in Life/Wimmen and Horses
The Bullrider
Cattle Call
Wild Roses
 A Cowboyin’ Day

Find full-length audio tracks here at www.SingingCowboy.com

$15 plus postage for CD from www.SingingCowboy.com and CD and downloads at CD Baby
 


Colorado Blue


1980

Includes:

Dena Rose
You
The Winner of the Big Rodeo
My Good Samaritan
Colorado Blue
Ol’ Cowpoke
What Does She See
Daydream Cowboy
Wondering Wandering Me
The Buckskin Lady
Real Live Buckaroo

Find full-length audio tracks here at www.SingingCowboy.com

$15 plus postage for CD from www.SingingCowboy.com and CD and downloads at CD Baby
 



Gary McMahan in Poetry and Song

Book,
1997

From www.SingingCowboy.com:

IN POETRY AND SONG is a must-have songbook, poetry collection, fireside/campfire companion, rainy-day saver.... Flavored further by delightful illustrations by Mike Scovel, Vel Miller, and Bonnie Shields, this collection includes the sheet music and words to your favorite McMahan songs (including the yodeling!).

Includes:

The Ol' Double Diamond
Gettin' in Nature's Way
Pete 'n' Pat
Cowboyin' Day
Beer Can Bob
This Ol' Hat, Ol' Cowpoke
Grandpa's Early Mornin's
Dena Rose
The Best Cowboys Ain't Always Human
My Husband and I
The Two Things in Life
The First Cowboy Song
Two Lessons
The Real Live Buckaroo
Ken's Horseshoein' School of Hard Knocks
Socco's Saturday Night
Back When We Was Kids
The Blizzard
The Bullrider
Skeeter
The Santa Fe Trail


$20 plus postage for book from www.SingingCowboy.com
 

 

Gary McMahan's Web Site and Contact Information


Gary McMahan
Horse Apple Entertainment
PO Box 90
Bellvue, CO 80512
(970) 498-0306

email


www.SingingCowboy.com

and

CD Baby

Find Gary also at:

YouTube

iTunes

Facebook

Twitter

 

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

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