Andy Hedges: Cowboy Songster & Poet Extolling the Virtues of the American West

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Andy Hedges got his love for all things cowboy and western through his dad. His father was a bull rider in his younger days, and aside from telling rodeo stories, he often listened to older style music from the likes of Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, and Jimmie Rodgers. The younger Hedges grew up listening to his dad’s stories and music, and at the age of 13, he began teaching himself how to play the guitar and was soon reciting poetry. He cut his teeth on old country ballads and songs about cowboys and gunfighters. Immersed in the lifestyle at a young age, his love for it only grew stronger until he began expounding its virtues through song and spoken word.

A quarter-century later, the name Andy Hedges is revered in circles that follow cowboy poetry and music. He’s a cowboy songster. In fact, his sixth and seventh albums were titled just that – “Cowboy Songster,” volumes one and two, released in 2013 and 2016, respectively. Not only that, but he went on to release a recording of “Cowboy Recitations” in 2017 and continues to pursue the limits of folk tradition which has found a niche in the primarily fast-paced media market.

Andy Hedges: Cowboy Songster & Poet Extolling the Virtues of the American West

Photo: Andy Hedges with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Photo courtesy of Andy Hedges.

Making his foray into the podcasting world, Hedges found a role as a skilled orator.  Hedges is well-versed in the craft and lifestyle of his guests, many of whom are his long-time heroes. With each episode, the audience of his “Cowboy Crossroads” podcast is treated (and, it is indeed a treat), to a mix of “…music, poetry, and culture from the working cowboy West and beyond.” In speaking with Hedges on his projects and upcoming events, he defined the episodes as his opportunity to “expose more people to cowboy poetry and music as well as life in the working west. It’s interesting, diverse, and creative, all at the same time.”

His own cowboy music and poetry he calls “…the folk music of the working cowboy.” Although many people believe this genre got its beginnings in the Hollywood singing cowboy days, it truly started in the trail driving era. Hedges sings and recites about the life and times that have evolved from a mixture of Mexican vaqueros, freed slaves, and European immigrants, all finding work as cowboys together on the trails, driving cattle. Bringing with them their music, the styles amalgamated to form their own new-found genre in their new-found circumstances. From that medium, the cowboy poet also found his start, writing and reciting poetry which could often be set to those same familiar tunes. This spawned a tradition among working cowboys of not only writing but also reciting their poetry, passing them along from one to another, from generation to generation. In his live shows, Hedges can often be heard playing old-time cowboy songs together with folk ballads, old blues, and railroad songs in the same setlist. However, he centers his work and enjoyment around the true folk music that was generated by and from the working cowboy.

Andy Hedges: Cowboy Songster & Poet Extolling the Virtues of the American West

Photo: Facebook/Andy Hedges

Immediate events on his short-term tour schedule include three weeks through the American west, as well as summer and fall events in and around Texas – his home state. Late in the fall, you can find Hedges at the upcoming Texas Hill Country Cowboy Gathering (the inaugural event), taking place in Fredericksburg from November 8 – 10. His traditional appeal broadening, he plans on including more time on the road as well as a variety of folk festivals, both of which will take him places he’s never visited. With that, future trips to the east coast are on his agenda, giving him the opportunity to bring cowboy music and poetry to new and ever-growing audiences. Through this, and the continued growth in popularity of his Cowboy Crossroads podcasts, Hedges has appealed to an audience of various age groups and cultures. They’re all about “…taking care of cattle, horseback riding, and going back to their roots. They want to know more about how their food is produced and where it comes from; they’re connecting to the land. And, it’s a great way to become familiar with the working west.” The ages range from young teens through to an older generation, all connecting with song and spoken verse. For Hedges, it’s entirely moving. “There’s just something powerful about singing a song over generations, continuing to find meaning or relevance, like our ancestors did hundreds of years ago.”

Andy Hedges: Cowboy Songster & Poet Extolling the Virtues of the American West

Photo: Facebook/Clark County Parks & Recreation

Through his touring, new events, and the use of new technologies, Hedges has found the ability to reach wider audiences. He has turned his “Cowboy Crossroads” podcast into the storytelling format he’d always hoped to achieve. Focusing on the cowboy music world, he interviews his counterparts, telling their stories along the way. Launched in January 2017, he’s since included recordings of his time with people such as Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Don Edwards, and Waddie Mitchell. Their experiences as working cowboys, their favorite stories, music, and poetry combine to create episodes which are gratifying to Hedges. “One gentleman contacted me to say his 14-year-old daughter listened to my podcast and was inspired to write and recite her own poetry from that. You never know who is listening or paying attention, and who will be affected.” With that, Hedges continues to carry on the traditions of the American West, singing and reciting each step of the way, illuminating the intrinsic worth of the lifestyle to all those with open minds, ears, and hearts. It’s something his cowboy forefathers can take great comfort in.

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