By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Suzy Bogguss LOVES Wyoming. And Wyoming loves Suzy.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the award-winning singer-songwriter came to the Mountain West in search of places to play and found kindred spirits.
“My first trips out there, I was still in my Datsun b210,” Bogguss told Cowboy State Daily this week. “But as soon as I realized how much I loved the West, I ended up investing in an RV — I just had one of those little camper trucks with a pop top — and I would come back for, say, nine weeks in the winter and nine weeks in the summer. And I worked myself through Colorado, most of Wyoming, and all of the wonderful back roads.“
My big break came in a little town called Centennial, Wyoming,” Bogguss said, “and the reason I say that is that I met some people there that have been lifelong friends, and they gave me the courage to go out on my own. I just kind of worked my way into all sorts of different places, little by little … for a few dollars and then that would put me into a larger venue. And I did that for about five years before I got the the actual courage to move down to Nashville.”
This weekend, the Bogguss will treat her fans in Cody to a free outdoor concert in City Park. The show will begin at 8 p.m. Sunday and attendees are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and picnic blankets and be ready to enjoy Bogguss’ down-home, Americana style and country hit songs.
Bogguss had a string of top 10 songs in the early 1990s, with singles such as “Outbound Plane,” “Aces,” and “Hey, Cinderella,” the sentimental mother-daughter song “Letting Go,” and the song that climbed highest on the charts, “Drive South.”
Bogguss, who has made concert appearances in Cody several times over the last 15 years, planned this particular stop on her tour around her appearance at the White Sulphur Springs, Montana, Red Ants Pants Festival on Saturday.
“While I’m there I’ll judge a yodeling contest, which is a stitch,” Bogguss said, laughing. “There’s like 10 or 12 people that sign up to yodel, and there’s actually a panel of judges, and I’m sort of the emcee for it. It’s just pretty funny.”
She was looking for an additional venue while she was out West, so she reached out to her longtime friend Dan Miller, a Cody entertainer who offered to put together a concert in the park.
“I’m thinking that I met Dan on the Ralph Emery Show (on The Nashville Network) probably for the first time, or maybe when he was hosting another one of his shows that he was so well known for on TNN,” Bogguss said. “We’re both from the Midwest, I think we just bonded early on, and we just knew that we were supposed to be good friends.”
“I have known Suzy a long time, and she thinks of Cody as a second home,” Miller agreed.
Bogguss’ fondness for Wyoming comes out in her song “I’m At Home On the Range.” Lyrics from that song include lines such as “Seven nights in Jackson at the Million Dollar Bar,” with a chorus of “I’m at home on the range, I’m a queen on the plains. Way out where the West is wild, from Billings down to Laramie, the cowboys take good care of me.”
“That song was about those times that I spent out there, especially in the winter,” Bogguss said. “There would be so many people who actually had big jobs, were businessmen and gals that left different careers, and they would move out (to Jackson) because it was so beautiful and life was so simple, and the lifestyle was just really laid back.”
Since the pandemic hit, Bogguss has only played a few live venues — her Cody appearance will be only the seventh time she’s performed since public health regulations have allowed live audiences at shows.
“This is probably the shortest trip out West I’ve ever taken,” Bogguss said. “We usually try to work in some vacation time around it, but because I had to push all of my shows from a year and a half into this year, I have to stay busy.”
During the pandemic, Bogguss said she stayed connected to her fans through weekly Facebook Live posts.
“Having to prepare a couple of songs or three songs for every (weekly) performance, it kept me practicing, kept the calluses on my fingers,” Bogguss said.
But she added that performing live, even over the internet, helped her maintain a connection with her fan base.
“We were all locked down, and the comments, and the way that people would be thankful for all of it — these people got to know each other by coming there onto this little site every Wednesday,” she said. “And I’ve still maintained it, I’ve done, I think 68 weeks in a row.”
But Bogguss said that the experience of performing for live audiences is unmatched, which is one of the reasons she’s looking forward to her concert in Cody on Sunday. She added that events like the Red Ants Pants Festival tick all the boxes for her.
“A portion of the proceeds goes to promoting local farmers up in Montana, and helping them keep their doors open, but also it promotes female leaders in companies, and small businesses,” she said. “It sits well with me because it’s helping chicks that want to get out there and do their own thing, so I love it.”
And Bogguss said she is happy to be back out on the road, performing for live audiences.
“I just like people to clap, I really like attention. I’m a ham,” Bogguss said. “You know, I like music, I like to share it, I like to feel the communication and the camaraderie between me and the audience, and the way that the energy gets passed back and forth.”