Review Feature

Buckshot Dot and Barb Wire sing tales of the Old West


Under normal circumstances, you could safely bet your great-grandpappy's cattle ranch that you're not going to find any classically-trained musicians on stage at next weekend's Second Annual Rim Country Western Heritage Festival, which will unfold Friday through Sunday in and around Green Valley Park.

Well, circumstances are hardly normal when Barbara and Chuck Casey start tuning up their instruments.

Although they will be performing as two-thirds of the backup band for cowboy poet Dee Strickland "Buckshot Dot" Johnson Saturday and Sunday, these six-year residents of Pine are seasoned veterans in just about every genre of music except rap and hip-hop.

"We both come from classical backgrounds, and we both graduated from the same high school back in Wichita," Barbara said, "so we kind of had the same influences, listening to Gilbert and Sullivan and Broadway musicals."

Some years later, when she started to branch out from playing in orchestras, Barbara said, "I got as far away as I could and started playing country-western music for about 15 years."

"At that same time, I was getting into blues and jazz," Chuck said. "So when we finally teamed up and put all of that together, we ended up with what I call 'suburban contemporary music."

A native of Wichita, Kan., and the mother of two grown daughters both musicians Barbara has played classical violin since the fifth grade; has performed from coast to coast in countless orchestras and bands for 35 years; attended the Hank Thompson Country-Music School; and has been called one of the best blues-fiddle players in the western U.S.

She also is an artist of a more visual type. She paints large murals, and creates charcoal and pastel "life drawings," pen-and-ink renderings, and also dabbles in landscapes. On top of that, she was one of the key founders of the Black Historical Museum in Wichita, now called the Kansas African-American museum.

Chuck whose musical experience includes solo guitar, blues, bluegrass, jazz, rock and, now, cowboy has been sculpting sound for over 30 years. He has played with the Blues Ambassadors, and his work is included in the Eric Satie recording, Gymnopedie.

As a couple, the Caseys hold a pair of 18-year distinctions: that's how long they've been married, and that's how long they've been performing under the name Trouble in Paradise. If you've ever been to Kohl's Ranch on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday evening during the summer, chances are you've tapped your toes to the offspring of their musical dexterity which they neatly summarize on their business cards as, "From Bach to Rock."

At this weekend's cowboy heritage festival, they'll be performing under their identities as Johnson's backup band "Barb Wire."

"We met Dot at an old fiddlers gathering up at the senior center, and we liked her immediately. She's written some great stuff songs that are honest, vivid and sensual in a nice country and western way, as opposed to country-western. We really felt that she needed somebody back in her corner saying, 'Yeah, this is great!' So that's what we do in backin' her up. We both sing backup, I play bass, and Barb plays either mandolin or fiddle."

The fourth and last member of "Buckshot and Barb Wire" is yet another resident of Pine: 82-year-old Bob Crose. A longtime regular of the Payson Fiddle Contest and two-time winner in the old-timer's category Crose has mastered the art of making the ol' catgut sing, even though he didn't take music-making seriously until after his retirement.

"We're going to be performing mostly Dot's stuff," Chuck said, "which we've salted with some fiddle tunes because Bob is so gifted and has such a wonderful vault of old tunes in his head. Barb plays second fiddle to Bob; she does counterpoints and harmonies to what he does. It sounds really, really nice."

When all those pieces come together, Barbara said, "Buckshot and Barb Wire" adds up to "a whole lot of fun. And Dot is the glue that holds it all together, really.

"Buckshot Dot" must certainly qualify as the Rim country's only poet-singer-author-artist-historian-entertainer. She is certainly the only one who was named "Female Cowboy Poet of the Year" by the national Academy of Western Artists in 1997.

Born in Flagstaff and raised on the Navajo and Hualapai Indian reservations, Johnson discovered prairie rhyming seven years ago and within a few years she'd self-published three books of poetry and recorded a live-performance video, several audio cassettes and a CD. As if all that weren't time-consuming enough, Johnson travels all over the country performing in cowboy poet gatherings much like this weekend's Second Annual Rim Country Western Heritage Festival.

In addition to Johnson, other cowboy poets plying their rhymes at the festival include:

Rolfe Flake, who has cowboy roots which run deep in Arizona's dusty soil. His great-grandfather drove cattle from Utah to northern Arizona, where he settled back in 1978. In the midst of a 30-year career as a farm and ranch appraiser, Rolfe launched his career as a cowboy poet in 1981. Since then, he has written well over 200 cowboy poems, and has recited at poet gatherings all over the western half of the United States. His poetry book, "Western Verse or Worse" is self-published, and he has produced two albums of cowboy poetry: "Western Verse or Worse" and "Cowboy Heritage." He describes his work as "plain, simple and easily understood by any cowboy who has been there and done that."

Steve Lindsey, whose family has been in the Arizona cattle business since the late 1860s making him a fifth-generation rancher with, as he said, "deep ties to the land but no money in the bank. I needed extra cash this year, so I went to work in town. But it turned out they wanted to pay me what I was worth, and I need more money than that, so I quit." The father of nine children, Lindsey figures it is the things he holds dear a deep conviction in God, strong family ties and a respect for country that have made America great and the cowboy who he is today.

Ken and Lynne Mikell. Using folk harp and guitar, the Mikells play a wide range of traditional music. Ken's work celebrates the songs, stories and poetry of the West, which he infuses with his own unique storytelling style and humor. As soon as Lynne discovered that many of the old Celtic tunes she enjoyed playing were perfectly compatible with Ken's cowboy songs, they began performing together and exploring the Old World origins of Western music.

Rim Country Western Heritage Festival Schedule of Events

Friday, Aug. 31

6:30 p.m., Melodrama, PHS, $5

Saturday, Sept. 1

10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Art in the Park, GVP, Free

11 a.m. - Noon, Poets, Musicians, GVP, Free

Noon - 5 p.m., Kids Activities, GVP , Free

Noon - 1 p.m., Poets Open Mike, GVP, Free

1 p.m. - 4 p.m., Buckshot and Barb Wire Cowboy Band/Western Authors Book Signing, GVP, Free

2 p.m., Melodrama, PHS, $5

6:30 p.m., Cowboy Poets In Concert, JRE, $5

Sunday, Sept. 2

9 a.m. - 10 a.m., Cowboy Church & Hymn Sing, RCM, Free

10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Art in the Park, GVP, Free

10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m., Poets Open Mike, GVP, Free

11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m., Buckshot and Barb Wire Cowboy Band/Western Authors Book Signing, GVP, Free

1 p.m. - 5 p.m., Kids Activities, GVP, Free

2 p.m., Cowboy Poets In Concert, JRE, $5

6:30 p.m., Melodrama, PHS, $5

Melodrama and Cowboy Poetry tickets can be purchased at the door of the event, or in advance at the Payson Public Library, Rim Country Museum, Payson Roundup, or at the Art in the Park Information Booth.

Location code

GVP Green Valley Park

PHS Payson High School Auditorium

JRE Julia Randall Elementary School Gym

RCM Rim Country Museum, Upstairs Exhibit Hall

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