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Wylie & The Wild West

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No crowd-no matter how worried, troubled, or surly-can resist this lanky cowboy with the big grin. Guitar in hand, Wylie Gustafson's energy is an imposing force. While his chin is bobbing in time to the sprightly western sounds of the Wild West, his boots fly forward and back in a brisk jig. Atop his gangly form is a 50's style, rancher-creased cowboy hat that amazingly stays on for the wild ride. In the midst of all this swaying, dancing, sweating, and strumming, Wylie somehow manages to open his mouth and sing. And yodel.

Lately, Wylie's grasp of western music-an influence long since absent from mainstream country music-has garnered plenty of attention. His 1998 Rounder album Total Yodel was a celebration and reaffirmation of yodeling and country music's partnership. His yodeling is at the center of a three-year nation-wide media ad campaign for the Montana State Tourism Commission. And if you have been wondering who is responsible for that infectious voice featured in the national television and radio commercials for, ponder no more: 'Tis Wylie!

That same clear, cutting call perks up the ears at Wylie's performances around the world. "There is absolutely no break in his voice when he yodels; it's just like silk," says Bob Whittaker, former general manager of the world famous Grand Ole Opry. "I'm really taken by his singing." Wylie has long since become an Opry regular, with over 50 appearances under his belt.

Whittaker's colleague, legendary Opry/WSM announcer Eddie Stubbs, concurs. "Whether he's belting out an up-tempo yodel, or singing a heartfelt ballad," muses Stubbs, "his sincerity, talent, and dedication to the art form make him one of the most believable artists in country music."

Wylie's believable, alright. That's because he's the real thing. No stranger to the prairies and plains, Wylie was raised on the open range of a ten thousand acre Montana cattle ranch. His father, a rancher, livestock veterinarian, and author, introduced young Wylie to western music.

When not on stage-and he has played everywhere from bars and halls to fairs, festivals, and rodeos-Wylie continues to live the western ranching lifestyle: waking up at dawn, riding, punching, and roping. His skill with a lariat has even brought him fame on the rodeo circuit. Close to his heart (and his belly button) is a silver championship belt buckle that he won team roping at the 1998 Reba McEntire Pro Celebrity Rodeo. If he's not busy singing, writing songs, working his livestock, or practicing with his favorite cutting horse, you can usually find him drinking coffee and talking horses at the Dusty Café in nearby Dusty, Washington (population 11).

To satisfy his fans, Wylie continues to tour nationally-bringing a piece of the west to every corner of this country. In addition, he has appeared at such major events as state fairs in Minnesota, Kansas, Ohio, and Montana, along with the Calgary Stampede, Pendleton Round-up and the Houston Livestock Show. In addition, he has built a devoted following internationally, with 3 tours in Australia, a 7-week residency at EuroDisney, and an appearance at Japan's Country Gold Festival under his cowboy belt.

As his notoriety spreads, Wylie remains humble and mindful of his roots. "I think that folks are tired of being beat over the head with the corporate answers to modern music," he says. "We have never tried to be Garth Brooks-we just live out west, where the people and the environment influences our music. I don't know for sure what makes it all relevant-but I do know that people click into it somehow! That's the icing on the cake. . ."

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