Touch of old-time radio
What: “Cowboy Christmas”
When: Today at 9-11 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.Where: On KZYR, the Zephyr, 97.7
By Cassie PenceArts and Entertainment Editor
As holiday duties spin out like the last of the metallic ribbon on a roll, it’s nice to slow down and remember what Christmas is all about.Co-founders Bob Bean and Brian Hall of “Sage Brush Alley” have produced an old-time live radio show that captures the spirit of Christmas and the flavor of the Old West. “A Cowboy Christmas” airs today from 9-11 a.m. and again from 4-6 p.m. on KZYR (97.7), The Zephyr.
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The show, second to air in the “Sage Brush Alley” series, beckons listeners to hunker down next to the radio with friends and feel the listening warmth created from cowboy Christmas poems, old musical standards and even an interview between real, local cowboys.”Live radio is something missing today, unless you hear a show produced out of California or New York,” said Bean, who scripts the bulk of the shows for “Sage Brush Alley.” You might recognize Bean’s voice from the bus; he’s ECO Transit’s Driver Bob. But prior to his commercial driving career, he spent 35 years on the radio reading CBS news on the weekend, when all radio was recorded live. “This show is a touch of the Christmas that we all used to talk about. People want to reminisce and feel good about things. I think ‘A Cowboy Christmas’ helps do that.””A Cowboy Christmas” was recorded live in front of an audience at the Dusty Boot Saloon in Beaver Creek. Audience members, mostly friends and family of the performers, were invited to listen. Eventually, Bean and Hall would like the program’s popularity to grow large enough to invite the public to their live recordings, similar to “Prairie Home Companion” on National Public Radio, which is recorded live each week and hosted by Garrison Keillor.
“It was a real treat just to see the artists performing right there in front of you. It was a very intimate performance,” said Neal Henzler, who was at the Dusty Boot for the recording with his wife, Robin, and son Forrest, 10. “Forrest was fascinated with the whole production aspect of it because he’s never seen anything like that before.”The momentum of “Sage Brush Alley” is building fast with “A Cowboy Christmas” airing on The Zephyr’s sister stations in Aspen and Steamboat. Tony Mauro of KZYR helped facilitate the expansion. He supports the idea of a live radio show featuring a variety of local entertainment. Syndicators are beginning to look at the show, Bean said, to see if it can air elsewhere, as well. Their next show is planned for spring, which will be one hour, and then a big two-hour special will be recorded in Avon for the Fourth of July.”We brought in all these other people for the cast, and you start to have this great ensemble of performers, talents and hearts,” said Hall, also of Blue Creek Productions and Beaver Creek Children’s Theater.
In addition to Bean and Hall, “A Cowboy Christmas” stars local musicians Pat Hamilton, Dana Spriegner, Liz Masterson and bluegrass band Three Left Feet (Joel Blackmer, Susanne Porter, Charlie Porter and Ken Carpenter). Resident cowboy musician Alan Eckler reads poems, sings his original “Cowboy Christmas” and interviews a 78-year-old rancher about the good ol’ days.”The rancher is an old, real cowboy, and he talks about this winter night with five cattle up on a draw and trying to get them back to his house,” said Hall.
Jackrabbit Joe, a storyteller with the Buckaroo Bonanza Bunch, reads “Diaper Rodeo,” a poem about a nervous new-father cowboy who struggles with changing a diaper for the first time.”Because we are here in the Vail Valley, we entertain some of the top people of the world, so we know the entertainment from this area is very good,” said Bean. The show ends with everyone on stage singing “White Christmas.”
“With holidays these days, we all get going so fast, trying to get presents and do our work and trying to get here, get there. It’s a really neat show to just kind of sit down, grab a glass of wine or a beer and maybe wrap some presents and just slow down and listen and enjoy it,” said Hall.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.