KR Wood dedicates album to the 150-year anniversary of the Chisholm Trail
As a young child my Dad introduced me to the Sons of the Pioneers, the famed western singing group that sang songs of the trails and life in the Old West.
K.R. Wood, also known as Camp Cookie to some, sent me recently Songs & Tales of the Old Chisholm Trail, the music brought me back to the days of my childhood when the crackling tunes of Bob Nolan and the other Pioneers jumped off the vinyl and filled my imagination of a life spent in the saddle.
The two-disk album is dedicated to the 150-year anniversary of the Chisholm Trail. It contains 34 songs, some traditional and some original music by Mr. Wood. Featured on the album are notable Western artists Red Steagall, Don Edwards, Michael Martin Murphy, Ray Benson, Augie Meyers, Gary P. Nunn, Mikki Daniel, Kimmie Rhodes, T Gozney Thornton, Bobby Keel, Bob Livingston, Doug Moreland and more.
Back in 2016 Mr. Wood was approached by the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop, asking him to do a Western Variety Show for them. Mr. Wood said they wanted a very “Texas” theme for the show, The Old Chisholm Trail Western Variety Show was born out of that.
The show featured a world champion trick roper, a world champion pistol twirler and bull whipper, a wrangler on horseback, Mr. Wood as Camp Cookie running the chuck wagon; a trail boss also providing a bit of cowboy poetry and the K.R. Wood Quartet, performing the songs of the trail.
On March 2, Texas Independence Day, the Texas Legislature honored and recognized the work of “Songs & Tales of the Old Chisholm Trail,” noting, “K.R. Wood has made an important contribution to the American identity by capturing the spirit and essence of one of the nation’s enduring legends, the cattle drive, and he is truly deserving of special recognition.”
Music has long been associated with cowboys on the trail. Countless Western movies show cowboys singing songs to keep the cattle calm and to pass the time. The songs tell the stories of life on the trail, and Mr. Wood has carried on the tradition for a new generation.
Back in the 1930s, there were still many people alive who remembered the life of the great cattle drives when millions of cattle and thousands of cowboys drove them up the Chisholm Trail from South Texas, across the Indian Nations of Oklahoma and to the railheads in Kansas. The Sons of the Pioneers, founded by Bob Nolan, tapped into the nation’s nostalgia from its not-too-distant past. Nolan wrote countless songs about those romantic years of the American West honoring the American cowboy. Some of their tunes such as Tumbling Tumbleweeds are as iconic the Chisholm Trail itself.
Mr. Wood tapped into the same spirit. And while I know longer ride my imaginary pony along with my six-shooter and trusty rifle by my side through the family living room to the crackling of the vinyl disk; Mr. Wood brought those days back to me once again.
“This music is the truest form of Americana music,” Mr. Wood said. “As the country expanded the settlers brought music with them from the Mohawk and Cumberland Valley, and they gave us the Red River Valley.”
Mr. Wood grew up with the music of the American West. Men like Red Steagall, Michael Martin Murphy and others were mentors of Mr. Wood and worked to keep the genre alive. The original music developed by Mr. Wood, like “A Nickel A Head,” keeps the music going as he tells the story of the suspension bridge in Waco, paid for by the cattle crossing the bridge paying a nickel a head to cross.
The songs, the shows, it’s all about honoring the cowboy and the history.
“It really was a work of love,” Mr. Wood said. “I had a lot of support along the way, but it was a project that needed to be done to honor the sacrifice all those men involved in that great exodus of cattle from Texas.”
Songs and Tales of the Old Chisholm Trail is available for purchase through Texanna Records. Visit their website at www.TexannaRecords.com to order or to learn more about K.R. Wood, the music and the shows.