GUNNISON, Colo. – Part of the success of the annual Cattlemen’s Days celebration lies in the involvement of so many.
That’s why organizers decided to make a change to their post-rodeo entertainment, bringing in the dancehall music of Ken Stonecipher and the Wooden Nickel Band.
“What we really wanted to do was have people engaged in the music that was being played,” said Kevin Coblentz, president of the Cattlemen’s Days committee. “We wanted to have a band that people could dance to and really enjoy the music.”
The band will perform after the Friday, July 13, rodeo performance at the Wapiti Ridge Saloon. On Saturday, Stonecipher and his group will be at Garlic Mike’s after the final night of the rodeo.
“We’re excited to be playing in Gunnison and to be in town for the rodeo,” said Stonecipher, who has led the band for the last 18 years. “I’ve never been, and I can’t wait to go. All the guys are excited to go.”
He considers the band’s sound dancehall music, a variety of cover songs that most have heard and that will entice those that enjoy dancing.
“The first filter on what we play is songs that I like,” he said. “There are a lot of good songs out there that aren’t good for dancing. They’re good to listen to in a concert.
“I grew up in dancehalls, so I have an ear for that kind of music, stuff that is a good two-step and is a good waltz. That’s how we put our set list together. We try to have something for everybody, from Hank Williams Sr. to the Turnpike Troubadours. We try to have something people can enjoy.”
That’s the epitome of dancehall music.
“We try to play your favorite, but we’ll dang sure play music you can dance to,” Stonecipher said. “We play to have fun, but we want the people that are dancing to have fun, too.”
The Wooden Nickel band has been transformed over the years. After playing and singing primarily in church services, he and another musician would play acoustically. The duo then added a bassist, then a drummer. Now it’s a five-piece band with all the fixings.
“It was a hodgepodge,” he said. “That’s really how it all started. I didn’t necessarily set out to be in a band; it just somehow happened.”
Only Stonecipher remains from the original band, but he’s added the flavor of professional musicians who enjoy the opportunity to play their brand of music. They average between 20-30 shows a year, depending on his work schedule and when he might be announcing rodeos across the Midwest.
“We have a variety of old and new, and we put it all together,” Stonecipher said. “I’m a rodeo guy, so I think I understand rodeo crowds. They don’t call music classic because it’s old; they call it classic because it’s good.”
And that’s just what people in Gunnison will get on the final weekend of Cattlemen’s Days.