Announcer, Cinch endorsee uses Southern charm to make the right calls
Just six days after announcing his fourth National Finals Rodeo in December, Roger Mooney packed up his family and made an 80-mile drive from their home in Ellijay, Georgia, to the state’s capitol in the heart of Atlanta.
“My kids got to go into the Senate chamber,” said Mooney, a true cowboy who loves the tastes of home but makes his living on the road. “They got to go places most people don’t get to go. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and I hope they don’t either.”
It was a celebration of the ProRodeo announcer who is proud of his Southern roots and his Georgia state of mind. It was Roger Mooney Day at the state capitol; that may be bigger than all the accolades he has received in 37 years on the job.
Endorsed by Cinch, Mooney has announced the biggest rodeos in the game. His voice has been heard celebrating world champions in Las Vegas and its 2020 temporary home at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. His voice has rung the bell of national titlists at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo and the National High School Finals Rodeo.
He’s been the voice of the Calgary Stampede, possibly the most famous rodeo in the world, yet his style is distinct and fitting for someone of his raising and background.
“I’ve done as many as 63 venues in a year,” he said. “I’ve been really blessed, because I have surrounded myself with good people. I’ve been 12 or 13 times to the RNCFR, four times to the NFR and been nominated for awards I didn’t deserve. It’s an amazing life.”
It wasn’t always like this. He was a farmer, a stockman and a cowboy first. He still is. In his competing days, he roped and wrestled steers. He even tried to be a roughstock hand, riding bucking bulls and horses, but that wasn’t in the cards. Instead, he found his way to the microphone by happenstance and hasn’t looked back since.
In 1984 while competing at a college rodeo, the announcer suffered a heart attack; Mooney became the replacement. It was an extension of his high school days, when he was involved in the FFA and served as a Georgia state officer.
“I wasn’t as scared of public speaking as most people,” Mooney said. “It just fit me like a glove. Now I get to educate, inform and entertain.
“It just turned out this announcer thing, by luck, was a labor of love.”
Much of the labor comes in the hours prior to each performance. Announcers of his status prepare a limited, yet detailed, history of each competitor. During a two-hour rodeo performance, Mooney will speak a million words, explaining the game that’s played and the payoffs that can come from it. Whether it’s a new RAM pickup in Kissimmee, Florida, for the national champions or another $5,000 toward that first NFR qualification, it’s his job to inform and educate the crowds.
But he’s also an entertainer, and his strong, baritone voice reveals a Southern charm and defining flavor of the language that is unapologetically Mooney. He celebrates the fact that he’s one of few announcers from east of the Mississippi River to be at or near the top of the game.
“I was geographically challenged since the 1980s when I got my start,” he said, noting that he began his announcing career at amateur rodeos before joining the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1990. “I was that pig that got his nose under the gate.
“At this point in my career, I know there’s a lot more yesterdays in me than tomorrows. You don’t get into your middle 50s without realizing a few things, and that’s one of them.”
There’s a lot to love about his line of work. He has hundreds – probably thousands – of friends spread all across the country and into Canada. At each stop he makes – whether it’s Kennewick, Washington, or Louisville, Kentucky, or the dozens of places in between – he has a family reunion of sorts. It’s his rodeo family, and they are as valuable as his own blood kin.
“In Ocala, Florida, three generations of families have sat on a horse to get their picture with me,” he said. “That means I’ve been around awhile. I have watched their families grow up. I know them. I have those relationships and inborn fondnesses.”
Most of those relationships have been mingled with his own family. He and his wife, Ashley, have been married a dozen years and have two children: 10-year-old Cash and 8-year-old Morgan. Until the kids reached school age, they went everywhere with their dad. Now it’s just June and July.
About the time their son was born a decade ago, Mooney left his longtime clothing sponsor in favor CINCH. It was the right decision for him and his family.
“Boyd Polhamus facilitated that idea, and he was right,” Mooney said about his fellow ProRodeo announcer. “Cinch dresses me and my whole family. My children wear the clothes every day. Cinch have helped Roger Mooney raise a family.”
The relationship is important to the Mooneys, but it’s also valuable to the people at Cinch. In the Western lifestyle, it’s one thing to have a spokesman; it’s quite another to see someone outfitted from head to toe in the brand because of the way the clothes fit and feel. With Mooney on a microphone inside an arena, fans can see first-hand what Cinch is all about.
For years, Mooney announced most of his rodeos horseback. He lost his good horse, Flash, and instead of calling the shots from the announcer’s stand, he walks the arena dirt so he can interact with the crowd.
“You have a much better relationship with the crowd if you’re talking to them instead of speaking at them,” he said. “You can announce to your friends, or you can talk to your friends. You get a lot more crowd interaction that way.
“I announced around 3,000 performances horseback; that’s a bunch. There’s something Buffalo Bill to be on a horse instead of being a voice in a box.”
When he’s not on the rodeo trail, he’s back home in Ellijay, a community of about 1,700 people, farmland and livestock. He’s worked the biggest events in the world of rodeo and has seen the sun come up as he heads off to work, whether that’s to an NFR production meeting or feeding sows on his own place. His children are the seventh generation that has lived on the family’s place, and he’s very proud of that. It’s the perfect place to retire … when that time comes.
“I went from doing 45 to 50 gigs a year to working just 12 to 15 last year (because of COVID),” Mooney said. “I spent more time with my kids than I had in 10 years. If you can find a blessing in all this, that’s it.
“When it’s time, I want to know when to say when. I don’t want to go past my shelf life.”
The expiration date is still a long way off. Until then, Roger Mooney will still hit as many of his annual rodeo homes as possible, whether they are in Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, Washington or Utah. It’s who he is and what he does, and it’s the postage stamp of his life.