Somewhere in Alaska

"She looked up from the piano, crying. It was the last thing I would have expected. While the band droned on, she opened her mouth to speak..."

The closest I came to 'making it' in an original music band was during my tenure in Cowboy Jazz.

Cowboy Jazz logoThe six-piece group took Western Swing music of the 1930's, added vocals in the style of the Andrew Sisters (three of the six musicians were women), electrified and acid-washed it in the style of the Grateful Dead and packaged the whole peculiar deal with strong original writing, imaginative arrangements and crackerjack musicianship.

The group's niche was unique enough to score a two-album deal with a large, nationally-distributed independent record label and the group received some press, including an interview with Bob Edwards on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. We won some independent music awards and sold a few records, but mostly we pounded the Western states on an endless string of far-away gigs in clubs and concert venues that lasted from 1979 to 1986. I was in the group from 1982-86.

In love with romantic notions of the American West, Cowboy Jazz was such a bunch of musical mavericks we were embraced by Alaska Public Radio, and in turn Alaskans, who love maverick things.

southeast Alaska is a gorgeous rainforestWith financial sponsorships arranged by the non-profit radio stations, we were fortunate to tour America's last frontier, twice. The folks from Alaska Public Radio (including and especially KHNS in Haines) were wonderful people who exerted a great deal of effort to bring us to their state. They made us feel positively royal and no member of Cowboy Jazz will ever forget their good will. Even though there were two trips, they were once in a lifetime experiences.

The episode chronicled here occurred during the summer of 1986, while touring the fishing villages of the great state's beautiful rainforest, its southeast panhandle. It was our second Alaskan tour; it was also Cowboy Jazz's final tour.

Unfortunately, the true story is best told under the cloak of pseudonyms and non-specific locations.

Next: About live music in Alaska...

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