For more than15 years, Mancos resident Barbara Richhart has kept the airways at KSJD in Cortez buzzing with cowboy-Western music.
And for the past two years, she has been recognized as DJ of the Year by Pro Cowboy Country Artist Association for her work.
PCCAA, which held its second annual awards in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on Oct. 13, is an association made up of professional creators and entertainers. According to its website, association members “are cowboys and cowgirls living and creating the lifestyle while others share a devoted love of the West and its colorful history. The West is Cowboy Country. Its music, stories, poetry and Western novels, as well as Western craftsman who make knives, saddles, spurs and musical instruments contribute to the rich history of the West. The cowboy and cowgirl artist are expanding the boundaries of the culture by mixing old with new and new with old.”
Richhart is originally from eastern Kentucky, where her father worked in the coal mines. She and her family moved to Colorado when the mines closed. Richhart married a rancher and “that was my life. It had become my life completely; it absorbed me,” she said. “And when I retired, I had all this music, I had all this time on my hands, so what could I do? I give back to my community and give back to the artists and the folks that appreciate it by playing the music.”
Initially, Richhart hadn’t planned on being on the radio, much less hosting her own show “CowTrails” on Sundays on KSJD. She later added another set on Tuesdays on KCEG out of Colorado Springs.
It’s a gig that has only gotten bigger over time, Richhart said.
“(KSJD was) looking for DJs, and I had a lot of cowboy music,” she said. “I’ve been doing ‘CowTrails’ continuously, but when I first started off, I only did a 30-minute section, and I also did the market report with my show at 6 o’clock in the morning. It wasn’t long before it was increased to an hour, then two hours, and now, it’s three.”
Richhart fills her show with two hours of cowboy-Western music and reserves the third hour for what she calls “Out of the Corral.”
“I step out of the corral and I play anything and everything – just whatever hits my fancy or what hits my listeners’ fancy. It’s a lot of fun to do it that way,” she said. “It’s all music. It’s all good. There is so much great music out there that there is no reason to classify music. There’s two kinds of music: There’s good music and there’s better. That’s it, you know?”
She said there is a difference between what many may consider to be cowboy-Western music and country music.
“In the real older music, country and Western, there was not really a big difference in it. The instrumentation changed it; adding drums to it; adding a lot of different instruments changed the country music, and they kind of dropped Western off because the Western was so uncomplicated; there weren’t a lot of drums or other instruments: You had a bass, a guitar, a fiddle. Maybe an accordion. And that made a difference in the music,” she said. “I don’t see any difference in any music; I don’t like to claim genres. And that’s why I do it (‘Out of the Corral’) because my listeners demand it.”
There is also time set aside in “CowTrails” for talking to Colorado artists on air with Richhart’s one-hour “Local Artist Thursday,” and she is also known for having house concerts in her Mancos home featuring cowboy-Western artists – complete with a potluck.
Richhart said that she sees interest in Western music growing, in fact, her show has a large fan base, not just regionally, but in Germany and the United Kingdom as well.
“It’s pretty much international since we’ve streamed both stations on the internet, so people all over the world tune in,” Richhart said. “Every Sunday, I definitely get a message from my friends in Hamburg, Germany. They found me on the radio someplace, and they’ve become fantastic fans.”
But while interest in the music – and cowboy and cowgirl lifestyle – may be expanding because of technology, for Richhart, “CowTrails” – and cowboy-Western music – is about a lot more than just the music.
“It’s an oral history of the West, and so much of the history of the West ... sometimes, people say ‘cowboy,’ and look down their nose. It implies a lot of things to different people. And it’s not the TV cowboy; this is the people that are out raising the hay and growing the food and taking care of the animals and taking care of the land. And that’s what it’s about,” she said. “They live and breathe what they’re singing.”