By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
The Stampede Saloon and Eatery in Chugwater has seen its share of up-and-coming country musicians.
Mer Nilson, one of the proprietors of the establishment, said there are so many talented pickers and singers in the Cowboy State that he believes it’s high time Wyoming musicians were recognized for their accomplishments.
Nilson and others have organized a nonprofit corporation, the Country Western Bluegrass Music Association Inc., or CWB. He said the intention is to build a Wyoming Country Western Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum, which will provide not only an outlet for entertainment and education, but also inspiration.
So Much Talent
Nilson said the Stampede Saloon – which he owns with his wife, son and daughter-in-law – hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights, but Thursday night weekly jam sessions can get downright crowded.
“Thursday nights we have an acoustic jam session that pretty much started out because there’s a lot of talent in the area that didn’t have any place to get together and play,” Nilson told Cowboy State Daily. ”And at the jam sessions, we’ve had as many as 22 musicians.”
Nilson said there are scores of Wyoming-based musicians and entertainers who could be honored at the proposed hall of fame – people like Chauncey Williams, a Moorcroft musician who’s making a name for himself on the national scene; and of course, Chris LeDoux, the late rodeo cowboy turned singer-songwriter from Kaycee.
Nilson said he would anticipate a fairly large display dedicated to LeDoux.
“It depends on what the family would like,” said Nilson, adding displays would include “records and maybe some of his notes, maybe a guitar, and put a saddle in there. You never know.”
But the Hall of Fame wouldn’t be limited to just those who make music. Nilson said there would be an opportunity to honor those who support musicians as well, such as music teachers, disc jockeys and even music equipment stores.
“There’s a lot of fringe that should be recognized, not necessarily in a big way, but at least to have a little plaque there that mentions them,” he said.
Nilson said plans are in the works for a facility that will not only honor Wyoming musicians, but also will give up-and-comers a venue in which to play.
“It’s getting more and more difficult for them to find a place to perform,” Nilson said. “A lot of the clubs that used to have music don’t anymore. Some of them have closed down, and COVID didn’t help things.”
Nilson said plans for the proposed Hall of Fame and Museum include construction of an auditorium area where concerts can be held.
“We’re probably going to build a barn-like building,” he said. “The idea for that came about because of Chris LeDoux’s ‘Cadillac Ranch’ song.”
The popular country tune, which tells the story of a family that turned its failing farm into a rockin’ nightclub, is the inspiration for what Nilson hopes will be a museum and concert venue honoring Wyoming singers, songwriters and instrumentalists.
“We haven’t made a final decision (on the location), but there’s a couple of sites that we’re looking at real strong,” he said.
Fundraising In Progress
Nilson said the projected costs to make the vision a reality could be as much as $1 million.
“But there’s a lot of money out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of grants, there’s crowdfunding, there’s potential sponsors and donors and so on.”
The proposed Wyoming Country Western Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum could be a tourist attraction as well, Nilson said, adding that schools could take students on field trips there and tour buses could stop there.
Nilson said there’s no specific timeline nailed down for the proposed hall of fame and museum, but he’s already making preparations.
“I’m already collecting instruments and equipment and things like that,” he said. “And we’re getting names of people that should be in the museum.”