April 18, 2015 — Cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell, a regular at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival for 20 years, is inducted into the Newhall Walk of Western Stars (east side of Main Street between Market and 8th streets).
Named "America's Best Known Cowboy Poet" by People Magazine, Mitchell helped organize the first Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1984 and has since performed for audiences internationally. From his earliest days on the remote Nevada ranches where his father worked, Mitchell was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining, and the art of spinning tales in rhyme and meter that came to be called cowboy poetry, a Western tradition that is as rich as the lifestyle that created it.
About Waddie Mitchell
Waddie Mitchell was a real cowboy who became a world-renowned cowboy storyteller and poet, enchanting contemporary audiences with tales of life in the rugged West. He was born Bruce Douglas Mitchell on the enormous Horseshoe Ranch, located over thirty miles south of Elko, Nevada. Young Bruce, nicknamed "Waddie" (a synonym for 'cowboy') by his father, spent most of his time with real cowboys and at night listened to their stories and memorized their poems. He dropped out of school at age 16 to become a full-time wrangler and chuck wagon driver. He was drafted into the Army and was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado on a 24,000-acre ranch where he broke and trained horses for the U.S. Cavalry. While working as the foreman of a ranch, Mitchell appeared in an early-'80s PBS documentary about the last real cowboys in America, The Vanishing Breed. The documentary featured some of Mitchell's own poetry, and Johnny Carson invited him to visit The Tonight Show. Mitchell didn't even know who Carson was, but he was a big hit on the show after reciting Wallace McCray's famous poem Reincarnation, and later returned several times. He also appeared on several other programs, including Larry King's radio show and a National Geographic special.
In 1984, he and pal Hal Cannon organized the first Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Two thousand people attended the first year and by 1994, the attendance soared to nearly 14,000. Later in 1984, Mitchell recorded his first album of poetry at Cannon's house in Idaho. His second album sold over 10,000 copies. In 1992, Mitchell was one of the first artists to record on Warner Brothers' newly established Warner Western label with Lone Driftin' Rider. He and colleague Don Edwards embarked upon an extensive promotional tour of festivals, concert halls, schools and universities to sell the album and to educate audiences about their nearly extinct way of life. Mitchell released his second Warner album, Buckaroo Poet, in 1994. He next appeared as a guest host on the cable-TV channel VH1's Country Country show. He also won numerous honors for his poetry and storytelling, and was inducted into the Cowboy Poets and Singers' Hall of Fame.
— Sandra Brennan, Rovi
More About Waddie Mitchell
From Western Jubilee Recording Co.
Waddie Mitchell was a real cowboy who became a world-renowned cowboy storyteller and poet, enchanting contemporary audiences with tales of life in the rugged West. He was born Bruce Douglas Mitchell on the enormous Horseshoe Ranch, located over thirty miles south of Elko, Nevada. Young Bruce, nicknamed "Waddie" (a synonym for 'cowboy') by his father, spent most of his time with real cowboys and at night listened to their stories and memorized their poems. He dropped out of school at age 16 to become a full-time wrangler and chuck wagon driver. He was drafted into the Army and was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado on a 24,000-acre ranch where he broke and trained horses for the U.S. Cavalry.
"I can't ever remember 'finding' cowboy poetry," Waddie Mitchell says of the entertaining and enduring art of storytelling. "It was always there. The cowboys sure never called it poetry. I know I wouldn't have liked it if they would have. Seems like an oxymoron, don't it.?"
From his earliest days on the remote Nevada ranches where his father worked, Waddie was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining, the art of spinnin' tales in rhyme and meter that came to be called cowboy poetry, a Western tradition that is as rich as the lifestyle that gave birth to it. Within his stories, old in a voice that is timeless and familiar, are the common bonds we all share, moments both grand and commonplace, the humorous and the tragic, the life and death struggles and triumphs that we each recognize. And yet, Waddie presents his material with personal insights and the lessons learned during his life spent as a buckaroo.
"All the time I was growing up we had these old cowboys around," he says. "When you live in close proximity like that with the same folks month after month, one of your duties is to entertain each other, and I suppose that's where the whole tradition of cowboy poetry started. You find that if you have a rhyme and a meter to start that story, people will listen to it over and over again," Waddie states in his down-to-earth description of its beginnings.
"When my imagination first got let out of the gate, it was from an old-time cowboy, with a story set to rhyme," he says in his second recording from Warner Western, Lone Driftin' Rider. By the age of 10, he was reciting poetry himself; at 16, he quit school to follow his heart and went to making his living as a cowboy.
"I'd never done anything else, never made money without horses or cows until I started telling cowboy poetry." The father of five children, ("They're all girls, except four of them.") his goal is to one day buy his own ranch. "I'm hoping," Waddie says, "for the opportunity to go broke on a ranch by myself instead of helping somebody else do it."
There came a time though, which he relates in his poem Where To Go, when he had to choose between being a full-time cowboy (he managed a 36,000 acre ranch in Lee-Jiggs, Nevada) and the art form that he loved so much. In 1984, he helped organize the internationally recognized Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering and gave his first public performance. Although Waddie didn't think anyone would be interested, (he thought it would be a pretty good party for the weekend) the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering was set for a cold, snowy weekend in January. This was one of the only times Waddie and his fellow cowboys were free from ranch duties. More than 2,000 people showed up, and Waddie was off and running.
Since then he has performed internationally for audiences from Los Angeles to New York, Zurich to Melbourne, and all points in between. With television appearances ranging from The Tonight Show (his neighbor took the first phoned invitation, drove 40 miles to deliver the message to the remotely based Waddie and returned with a "No Thanks" because it was calving time and he'd never heard of Johnny Carson), Larry King Live, Good Morning America, TNN, The History Channel, PBS, and BBC, Waddie has also been featured in People, Life, New York Times, USA Today, Fortune, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal and the Official Program for Super Bowl XXX, along with numerous other appearances, performances, articles and books. In 1994, Waddie founded the Working Ranch Cowboys Association with a mission of creating scholarships and crisis funds for working cowboys and their families. The well-recognized and highly respected WRCA now sanctions 22 regional rodeos throughout the West with the sold-out world championships held each November in Amarillo, TX.
His series of recordings for Warner Bros. Records and more recently for the Western Jubilee Recording Company have received critical acclaim. Waddie's Western Jubilee Recordings are: Waddie Mitchell Live featuring Don Edwards as well as world class instrumentalists Rich O'Brien and Norman Blake and recorded live at the Western Jubilee Warehouse in Colorado Springs. A glowing review of Waddie Mitchell Live appeared in People, which concludes with "Bottom Line: Horse sense and humor from America's Best Known Cowboy Poet." This was followed by Prairie Portrait which features Waddie Mitchell, Don Edwards and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. In April, 2001, the Oklahoma City Cowboy Hall of Fame / National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum presented Waddie with the coveted Wrangler Award for his participation in the Outstanding Traditional Western Album of the year.
The 2002 Cultural Olympiad commissioned Waddie Mitchell to write a commemorative poem. His offering, That No Quit Attitude, gained importance as the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games grew nearer. No Quit appeared in the Welcome To Salt Lake film, in schools and libraries, on Delta Airlines, the Olympic web site, at the Olympic Arts Festival, on Western Jubilee's CD single and many publications, including the Official Souvenir Program of the 2002 Winter Games. Since, That No Quit Attitude, also titles Waddie's Western Jubilee release featuring fourteen new original poems and thirteen original "Waddie-isms." 2003 found him on stage at Carnegie Hall and producing Elko – A Cowboy's Gathering. This Western Jubilee double disc features 40 Artists and salutes the gathering he co-founded 20 years prior. In 2005, Waddie was featured on TV, radio, print and personal appearances as the Review Journal newspaper's official spokesperson for the 100 Year Celebration of Las Vegas, NV. At the end of the first decade of the 21st Century Waddie Mitchell continues hosting and performing at festivals, private gatherings, rodeos, corporate events, concert halls and an extraordinarily wide variety of functions.
The Reno Gazette-Journal published a list from a panel of writers, historians and other notables, who selected the Top 20 Artists, Authors and Entertainers To Influence Nevada in the 20th Century. Sure enough pards, there was Waddie. Waddie Mitchell has received the title of Adjunct Professor from the University of Wyoming. This honor was based on "Real world credentials which Waddie possesses in wealth."