Here's to the Cowgirls
Dolan Ellis had already served for more than 20 years as Arizona's Official State Balladeer when Lance Bellville asked him to write the music for a stage play Lance was writing, to be called 'Cowgirls.' The play enjoyed some success, playing in many cities over several months. The Cowgirls music was first recorded on cassette tape and was recently remastered for CD. Each and every song on this CD stands alone as a wonderful production, from the opening song, Cowgirls ('Here's to the cowgirls who live in their own worlds and sing their own kind of song') to the plaintive Goin' Home to Springerville at the end. In between, there's lots of the great vocal work for which Dolan Ellis, with his incredibly resonant baritone voice, is famous. There is drama, humor, blues, and more. Alice Greenough is the only song on the CD that is not part of the play. When Dolan and Lance set out on their collaboration, they decided they needed to interview women involved in ranching or rodeo. They interviewed 100 cowgirls, including those who were competitors and those who owned their own ranches (as Dolan likes to say, 'It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it'). Alice's own story was very special: born in Montana to a rodeo family, very independent, World Champion Cowgirl in 1934. She had many triumphs over the years, and she was so important as the cowgirl who paved the way for others that she was the first inductee into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She was over 80 when Dolan interviewed and photographed her at her home in Tucson where she had retired. She died at the age of 93 in 1995. She deserved a song of her own, a tribute. The Alice Greenough clip here ends just as Dolan is starting to 'become' a rodeo announcer. When he sings this song at a live concert, it's always fun, because he introduces Alice (whose photo is on the large screen when he does the multimedia show) and asks the 'rodeo attendees' to put their hands together for Alice Greenough--and there is always applause for the lady. You can watch Dolan do that Alice Greenough routine on his Web site. Just click on Original Songs and then scroll down to Alice Greenough. Other songs from this CD with video clps are Cowgirls (with Dolan's large screen photography), My Rodeo Home (yodeling), and Only the Dead Stay Down (Dolan is very funny in this one). Dolan was an original member of the New Christy Minstrels in the early 1960s. They are back together again, performing and recording with 5 of the originals: Randy Sparks (the leader then and now, and the inventor of the whole concept), Jackie Miller Davidson, Art Podell, Clarence Treat. Becky Jo Benson and Buffalo Bill Boycott are regular 'ringers,' and Chuck Cole joins the group at times as a ringer, as does another original, Barry McGuire. Dolan occasionally sings Cowgirls as his solo with the Christies. If you like this music, try to get to one of Dolan's concerts. He performs about once a month at the Arizona Folklore Preserve in Ramsey Canyon. You can see a photo essay about the AFP on his site (follow the AFP link) or go to the AFP site for more information and scheduling.