By Sheridan Block
Paying musical homage to Southwest Colorado's rich heritage, the world famous Diamond W Wranglers return to Ouray for another Western music weekend.
For the group's fourth appearance in the area, they've wrangled along good friend and fellow musician Rex Allen, Jr., to make a special guest appearance for next weekend's concert series.
Ouray locals John and Virginia Ast have been good friends with the Wranglers since their days in Wichita, Kan. After moving to Ouray, the couple invited the group to come out and perform almost annually. The Wranglers first appearance was in 2008, and they returned again in 2009 and 2011.
"They're not your traditional chuckwagon supper kind of group," said John Ast.
The four balladeers that make up the Wranglers are Stu Stuart, Jim Farrell, Steve Crawford and Chip Worthington. The group has found a unique way to blend the traditional and classic tunes of John Denver and other Western greats with their award winning original tracks and home-spun humor.
Having released 13 albums, the four-piece ensemble has earned a variety of awards, including the Will Rogers Award for "Western Music Album of the Year" from the Academy of Western Artists in 2008 for their album "Deep in the Saddle." The group has also taken their talents around the world, being the first group to perform "cowboy music" on the Great Wall of China, as well as leading a troupe of Western entertainers to sell-out performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
For the first time, the group has invited renowned Western musician Rex Allen, Jr., who also starred in the television shows The Statler Brothers and Yesteryear. Ast recognized that having someone like Allen performing in the area is a huge draw to this year's concerts.
"This is a really big deal for Ouray," said Ast. "It's nice to have (the Wranglers and Rex Allen Jr.) here and it's a nice change from the summer concerts with the rock and jazz bands."
"The Very Best of Western Music" weekend kicks off on Friday, Sept. 20, at the Montrose Pavilion at 7 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Dolphin House in Montrose. On Saturday, the musicians will perform at the Wright Opera House in Ouray at 7 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from the concert will go toward the Wright. Tickets for the concerts are $25 for all ages and can be purchased at the Wright Opera House, Buckskin Books in Ouray or Cimarron Books in Ridgway.
A dinner show with the Wranglers will end the weekend at the Historic Western Hotel on Sunday at 5 p.m. The intimate concert setting will be catered by the Western Hotel. Tickets for the evening are $50 and can be purchased only from the Asts by calling 970-325-7255 or 970-901-8515.
The Wranglers and Rex Allen, Jr., will also appear on radio shows with Colorado Radio's Jim Kerschner on Friday morning and KURA's Eric Funk on Saturday morning.
"We're trying to make it a really nice weekend not only for the people who live here but for visitors as well," said Ast.