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Dave Stamey to Celebrate the American West Amidst Gourmet Bites
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Dave Stamey was inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame in 2016. Courtesy: Dave Stamey
   
Friday, July 29, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Dave Stamey’s Indian name is “Dances with Difficulty.”

But it doesn’t matter if he’s not the best dancer in the world. It’s the strumming and the storytelling that is his claim to fame.

Stamey has been called “the Charlie Russell of Western music” by “Cowboys and Indians Magazine.”

“True West” magazine named him the Best Living Western Solo Musician four years in a row. And this cowboy balladeer has been named Entertainer of the Year seven times, Male Performer of the Year seven times and Songwriter of the Year five times by the Western Music Association.

You can see what makes him so good this coming week when he performs at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, at a private home in East Fork. He’ll be strumming his guitar on behalf of the Sun Valley Culinary Institute and its Forks n’ Spurs Fundraising Extravaganza.

“I have a pretty neat subject matter to draw from in the rural American West,” he said. “The American West is underrepresented today, in my opinion, and I try to celebrate it.”

Stamey has lived the full cowboy experience as a cowboy, mule packer and dude wrangler. He grew up on a cattle ranch in Yellowstone County near Billings, Mont., and moved to the foothills of California’s  Sierra Mountains in his early teens.

He was working for an outfitter in the Eastern Sierra when his wife began urging him to take along a guitar to play for the guests on the pack trips.

“I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t cotton to the idea. But I started doing songs around the campfire like ‘Red River Valley.’ It snowballed from there and they haven’t let me quit since—it’s taken on a life of its own,” he said.

Today you’re more apt to see Stamey perform his own songs, rather than “Git Along Little Doggies.”

His “Vaquero Song,” which starts out, “My name is Juan Medina, a vaquero once was I…” has been called one of the greatest Western songs of all time by “Western Horseman” magazine.

“Spin That Pony” tells story of old Mexican cowboy near Arroyo Grande, Calif., who trained horses by spinning them on the end of a reata, or lariat. “Montana” tells how the snow would drift high on the barn and the snow beneath “would glitter and squeak over the bones of the buffalo buried so deep.”

And “Come Ride with Me” is an invitation: “Time to saddle up n’ ride away…is so much to see…”

Stamey creates many of his songs at 5 a.m., a pot of coffee and Olympia typewriter in front of him. He concocts others as he drives down the highway some 200 days of the year traveling between gigs in far-flung rural towns.

“I’m always writing—that’s my passion,” said Stamey, who has recorded 14 albums. “And it didn’t seem right for me to be doing anybody else’s material. I try to do something every day so the muse knows where to find me. If you want the muse to show up, you have to show up yourself.”

Stamey never knows where he’s going to get inspiration for his songs. He wrote a song about an old married couple who’ve been married 50 years and love each other to death after spotting a couple like that while on the road between two small towns in Montana.

“A couple months later in Nevada I was playing a wedding when I saw an older couple that fit the bill. They were sitting together, looking stern and serious, but holding hands. I thought: I’ll see what I can do with it. It took me a while to write that song, but I was really pleased with it—it was a good representation of old married ranch couple.”

The West that he writes about is not changing as rapidly as you’d think, Stamey says.

“The world is changing all around us, but the world of the American West remains pretty much the same,” he said. “People who live in the rural American West are not city dwellers. They’re not urban people, and they tend not to be swayed by popular culture because they’re busy working.”

“They’re connected to their geography. their sense of place,” he added. “They appreciate the mountains in front of them and the desert at their feet. They don’t spend their time at strip malls.”

Just to be on the safe side, Stamey keeps a pinky finger in the cowboy life, running a few cows on the five acres he and his wife own in the foothills of the Eastern Sierra.

“It’s a good life. And when I’m in Sun Valley I hope those who come out to see me can experience the American West in a way they have not thought about before, in a way they have not experienced before.”

IF YOU GO…

Dave Stamey will perform at Forks ‘n Spurs from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, on the spacious lawn of a private home in East Fork south of Ketchum.

The event will feature an array of hors d’oeuvres, small plates and cocktails, along with a paddle raise to benefit students in the Culinary Institute’s cooking school. Tickets are $135, available at https://sunvalleyculinary.org.

In addition, the Culinary Institute is holding an online auction featuring such items as Sun Valley Culinary Institute classes, food and beverage tours of Seattle and Chicago, a stay at a villa in Greece, horse boarding for a year and a scrumptious symphony picnic. To see more, visit https://one.bidpal.net/forksnspurs2022/browse/all

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