Saturday, July 24, 2010

Italy -- Italian country-western: George McAnthony, the Cowboy of the Alps

George McAnthony, the "Cowboy of the Alps," was, if I recall correctly, the first European I met who was involved in the country scene. I first saw him perform in, I believe, 2002 -- at a rural inn in central Italy that was sponsoring a “Country Festa” at which guests sported paper Indian headdresses and called each other “pardner.”

His 14th album, "Dust off My Boots" was just released; recorded in Nashville.

McAnthony was born Georg Spitaler in 1966 near Bolzano/Bozen in the Dolomite Mountains of the mainly German-speaking South Tyrol (Alto Adige) region. He grew up an avid fan of the European-made western movies based on the popular “Winnetou” novels of the 19th century German author Karl May.

As a little boy, he was photographed dressed up as a Native American. He wore a fringed leather costume and feathered headdress, had “warpaint” on his face, and was beating a drum slung around his neck.

When Georg was a teenager he fell in love with American country-western music and began roaring around his village on a motorcyle, blasting country music from its loudspeakers and wearing a cowboy hat and boots.

More than 20 years ago, after working as a carpenter and spending a couple years as a volunteer aid worker in Ethiopia, Georg reinvented himself as George McAnthony and went on the road fulltime as a country-western singer. He chose McAnthony as his stage name in honor of his late father, Anton. “I wanted a name that sounded American,” he told me, “and this made sense.”

McAnthony tours Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland as a "country one man band," complete with black Stetson, leather fringes, painted stage backdrop of Monument Valley and a souvenir stall selling cheap turquoise jewelry, “George McAnthony” bolo ties, cowboy hats and his own CDs. He plays street fairs, horse shows, beer festivals, and outdoor summer fĂȘtes in medieval village piazzas.

McAnthony writes much of his own material, in English, and his songs stress what he describes as socially engaged, “positive images” – racial harmony, animal rights, world peace and safeguarding the environment. “I live the country way of life, and I love country music, and this is the way I do it,” he sings, with a distinct non-native accent, in his song “Country Way of Life.” He goes on, “You don’t have to kill the Indians, or the people of Africa...”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lebanon (!) - The Imaginary Wild West near Beirut!

I just came across this web site for "El Rancho Western Park"  -- a sort of Wild West theme park  or resort ranch near Beirut, Lebanon! It will host what it calls the first-ever rodeo in the Middle East next month -- August 17-21!
For an authentic TexMex experience, set off on a dude ranch escape at El Rancho! Located in the magnificent Ghodras Hill in Keserwan, just forty minutes away from the heart of Beirut and few kilometers up the Casino du Liban, El Rancho is the ideal place for family vacations, ranch holidays, friends reunions, weddings and birthdays, or just to get away for a Texan day or under the stars for a wild west evening meal. Meandering to reach beautiful Lebanese scenery in a western breathtaking setting, El Rancho has a great cowboy ambiance, old time saloons and plenty of cowboys and cowgirls ready to serve you at best.

Situated in the middle of the 250,000 square meters of El Rancho’s estate, bungalows, tipis, and tents are on hand to have a natural, casual stress free break or to enjoy a great weekend with your family and friends. Exquisite steaks, mega burgers, healthy barbecues and “toss your own salad” are on the menu.

El Rancho offers a myriad of activities starting with horseback riding, paintball, tennis, archery, children playground, animal feeding, vegetable picking, campfires, mountain hiking and much more. Fill your day with many activities or just relax out in the arms of nature.
 I found out about El Rancho while perusing the web site for the National Day of the Cowboy -- which this year is this coming Saturday, July 24 -- which ran the following account by "Hotshot Johnny,"  one of the cowboy performers at El Rancho:

The Wild West in the Middle East!
(By Hotshot Johnny)

Bethany here at the NDOC asked me to put some words down about my recent adventures, cowboyin' in the Middle East. So... let me give you a little news from the Perpetual Motion Ranch.

My travels have taken me all over this beautiful globe. The rock we're on is an amazing place and everywhere ya go, people love cowboys. For the last 9 months I have been performing at a ranch outside Beirut in Lebanon. Yeah, I know! Wild, huh? Lebanon is a beautiful place with great people, friendly and welcoming in every way. It is kind of party-central for the Middle East during the summer, almost doubling in size as tourists come from all over Arabia, Europe and Asia.

The ranch I work on is up in the green mountains about 40 Minutes from Beirut. As you go north from Beirut on the coast, it looks like California - beach towns and green covered mountains. El Rancho Western Park is a working ranch with horses and cattle, a resort with luxury camping and bungalows and a theme park with steak house, games and entertainment. All this rolled into over one hundred acres of mountain terrain. And it is more of a ranch than many of the ranches I've worked at in the states. Producing raw-milk cheese, quail and quail eggs, chicken eggs, doing trail rides, arena shows, rock climbing, archery, paintball, dinner shows, etc. I was hired to do a show and quickly became Entertainment Director, helping them develop the venue as a tourist attraction. Last summer we produced a popular 3 day Wild West Festival and this summer we are adding a 5 day rodeo to the festival. The Cedar Stampede will be the 1st rodeo in the Middle East, ever. For a region that has such a long and rich tradition and history with horses, this proves to be an amazing prospect.

Contrary to what you might see on the news, Lebanon is a fun place, safe and friendly. If there are any riders out there that would like to compete in a once in a lifetime rodeo experience, please get a hold of me and I'd be happy to give you more info. In fact, depending on yer skill level, we might even take care of your expenses here in Lebanon if you can get yourself here.

The Cedar Stampede Rodeo & Wild West Festival is August 18 - 22, 2010. We are inviting riders from the USA, Europe and anywhere else to come. If you can swing the travel cost we will take care of you. Come early and prep on our horses and compete in the 1st western rodeo in the Middle East!

You can learn more at and email me at I will also be performing at End of Trail if you can stop by. See ya down the trail on the Perpetual Motion Ranch folks.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Imaginary Wild West.... in Texas

The New York Times runs a story about a retired dentist who built a private wild western town in Texas.

IT’S a rite of passage for many Texans to retire to a home on the range. But unlike other wannabe cowboys, Jimmy Helms, a retired dentist whose patients included former President George H. W. Bush, wasn’t content with just a herd of cattle and a stocked fish pond. He built his own old Western town that recalls the days of lawmen and gunslingers on his 105-acre ranch.
“I guess I watched too many Lone Ranger movies as a kid,” said Dr. Helms, 70, who first thought of building the town in 1982 when his wife, Carol, suggested that he spruce up four decrepit barns on their recently purchased ranch, which was then their weekend getaway from Houston but is now their permanent residence. “I looked at the old barns and I thought, hmmm, maybe I could have me a town.”
Because he was still busy with his dental practice and he didn’t have the money to do it all at once, the town grew incrementally. It took three years just to get the rotted hay out of the barns and another decade or so to put new facades on them and renovate the interiors. He did much of the work himself but had help from a local handyman who built a mockup of the town out of birdhouses to guide them

This is news? I know a variety of people who have done this in Europe.... at private western towns that, in the Czech Republic alone include Halter Valley, Beaver City, and the now commercial Sikluv Mlyn. I have visited other private western towns in Austria and Germany -- Old Texas Town, for example, in Berlin. And they also exist elsewhere. Some people say they are building their own America, because they can't -- or won't -- travel to the States. The man who built Halter Valley told me he had been rejected for an American visa five times!

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brazil -- country and western rodeo culture

This is another geographically far-flung post -- Reuters runs a piece about U.S.-style wild west culture in Brazil. It's everywhere!

By James Matthews
Tuesday, July 13, 2010; 3:22 PM

GUAXUPE, Brazil (Reuters Life!) - From close up you can hear the rasping breaths of a 450-kilogram (990-pound) bull as it bucks and whirls under the bright arena spotlights and struggles to unseat its plucky rider. Stand even closer to the rodeo and you might get a showering of grit scooped up by a large hoof and flung through gaps in the sturdy metal railings.
Guaxupe is a sleepy agricultural town in Brazil renowned for its yearly ten-day rodeo festival that brings together some of the country's most skilled professional cowhands and popular Brazilian country music singers. The town is in southern Minas Gerais state, the heart of Brazil's coffee growing region, and home to the world's largest coffee cooperative, Cooxupe.
"It's the craziest week of the year," said Ana Paula Chagas, a resident and employee of Cooxupe. "We are mid-way through the coffee harvest and everyone has money to spend." The rural festival in Guaxupe underscores the vast cultural differences across Brazil's enormous land mass.
From abroad, the country is often stereotyped as a destination for sand, samba and caipirinhas, but it is also a land of tough working cowboys and millions of passionate country music fans.

Read full article here

Monday, July 12, 2010

Italy -- Coming UP -- OWSS/SASS European End of Trail

The annual European "End of Trail" cowboy action shooting championship will be held in northern Italy August 9-14. Organized by the Old West Shooting Society (OWSS), which is the Italian branch of the American Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), it will gather competitors from France, Germany and other countries.

The meet will also memorialize "Martex" -- the president of OWSS who died last summer of a heart attack at the opening of the SASS End of Trail in Nevada.

The meet will take place at the shooting range in Gualtieri, between Parma and Mantova.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Great Britain -- resources and western theme towns

A good resource for information on country and western music and westerner scene events in the UK is the web site   It also has a Facebook page

Recent posts include material on two Wild West theme towns in Britain:

Laredo Western Town

Laredo is situated in Kent, 25 miles from the center of London.

Contact us by E-mail Click

Tel: Cole on 07947 652771 or Tel: J.T. on 07947 645506

From the web site:

The town portrays the American Wild West, as it would have been in 1860 to 1890. The town has 24 buildings including Hotel, Saloon, Marshals Office, Courthouse/Church, Blacksmith, Livery, General Store, Gunsmith, Wells Fargo, Photographer, Assay Office, Bank, Doctor, Undertaker, Texas Rangers, Mining Company, Dentist, Printer, Eating House and more, Complete with Boardwalks Hitching rails and Western Street.

Inside the buildings the decor is all Western, Lighting is by oil lamps and candles, wood burning stoves for cooking and heating, using all the equipment which would have been used in this period.

At Laredo Town a group of 30 / 40 Western enthusiasts meet regularly at weekends and dress in authentic western dress of the period. Laredo Western Town is claimed to be the most authentic in ENGLAND & EUROPE . In Town there is a Stagecoach, Wagon, Chuck Wagon, Canons, and all types of Western Props and items that would have been used in this period.

Deadwood Western Town

'Wattlehurst Farm' Kingsfold Horsham West Sussex RH12 3SD

Tel : 01306627490 email:

From the web site:
Deadwood town members are proud that ' Brian Betchley ' the farm owner has kindly given his permission to have the town on his farm , and look forward to many many happy years at wattlehurst. You can visit Deadwood on open weekends between 10 am and 5 pm, and look around inside the buildings and meet the towns folk, who love to chat about the history and creation of the town . There are also some Authentic weekends at Deadwood, when westerners camp in authentic tents on a field just outside the town. Wattlehurst Farm Also Has Dance week-end's , where visiting band's provide entertainment for all in the barn All visitors are made welcome and invited to camp over night with their authentic tents on the authentic field

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Country Music -- Catching up on international developments

At the Country Music Association's annual Festival in Nashville last month, a group of journalists discussed the state of country music outside the United States.

The CMA web site ran this report by Tom Roland on the meeting:

We call it “Country Music” — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s just for one country. That lesson was easy to draw from this year’s CMA Music Festival, where visitors came from as far off as Chile, Japan and Scandinavia: a total of 21 nations on five continents.
Their embrace of music whose values reflect America’s rural heritage and national pride poses questions that might best be answered by members of the foreign press, who were also more evident than ever at this year’s Festival. They were particularly easy to notice early on the morning of June 10, when three of its distinguished representatives gathered for a breakfast discussion.
“I was playing ‘Boondocks’ in my show,” said radio personality Dirk Rohrbach of Bavarian Broadcasting’s public broadcasting channel Bayern 3, in reference to Little Big Town’s first hit. “People kept calling and emailing, ‘What is that? Can you play that again? That’s great, that rockin’, edgy song.’ I suppose they didn’t listen to the lyrics, but it doesn’t really matter because the harmonies are so great and the sound is so different from pop radio.”
Yet even with the United States in what may be considered a state of greater political isolation than in years past, its essence, as expressed through the lyrics of Country Music, still connects with listeners throughout the world.
“People dream about your country,” insisted Georges Lang of RTL, France’s largest commercial radio network. “We don’t talk about politics. For the average French people, America is a dream — highways.”
“People in Australia who don’t know much about Country Music, I tell them that it’s about relationships, love, family, community and all sorts of things,” added Tim Daley, programmer for Australia’s Country Music Channel (CMC) on TV. “Those are the things that naturally appeal to people with children, so these people tend to be a little bit older.”
In this respect, at least, Country Music listeners around the globe have something in common with those in the United States. In Germany, for instance, Rohrbach identifies three general groups that gravitate to the genre: people intrigued with the American cowboy icon, middle-aged fans who seek an alternative to harder rock music and younger listeners drawn to the pop-influenced sound that underscores many current Country hits.
“I always envisioned this one big festival where the Springsteens and the Pettys and the Mellencamps, who are still huge in Europe, would bring Country acts like Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn and Keith Urban,” Rohrbach said. “You name it. Put ‘em on one stage and people would react. There’s no difference.”
Though Country obviously plays well in other territories, it also bears a stereotype, which is one reason why the term “Country,” according to Rohrbach, has been replaced by “highway rock ‘n’ roll,” a phrase that suggests the freedom of the road and an edgy attitude while avoiding old stereotypes and connotations.
“It’s really important, talking about Country Music internationally, to focus on a mainstream audience,” Daley pointed out. “You don’t go after Country fans. There aren’t enough of them. You don’t have the NASCAR crowd. You want to be on the biggest TV shows. You want to do the promos. You want to do in-stores at the best record stores. You have to approach it like it’s mainstream. You don’t go in looking for a sliver of the audience. You want to cast as wide a net as you possibly can.”
Doing this overseas is apparently easier than at home in the States. Instead of the intensive radio tours that new American artists frequently undergo, an artist could reach as many as 80 million people by visiting as few as 10 radio stations in Germany and France. And it might take just one radio visit in Australia, where the CMC claims to have sewn up about 75 percent of the Country activity.
Ultimately, the artists who make the biggest impact overseas are the ones who treat that market like a door prize: Must be present to win. Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Keith Urban and Dwight Yoakam were all mentioned as artists who built an audience by going abroad early in their careers and following up, on average, with international tours every couple of years.
“When you talk about Country, you talk about artists like Waylon Jennings, like Willie Nelson, because the [younger breaking artists], we just don’t know them,” Lang said. “I know them, because I’m coming to Nashville, but there is little communication between Nashville and Europe about the new Country. I’m quite sure that they will love this kind of new Country, but they don’t know a lot about it. They cannot read about it or see it.”
That’s one of the biggest reasons why the foreign press was on hand at CMA Music Festival. Daley and Rohrbach were making their second trips, and Lang has attended approximately 25 times. They care deeply about the genre and they’re doing what they can to bridge the distances between Music City and their hometowns.
“We’re so passionate about the music,” Rohrbach noted. “We’re over here to talk to the artists. We’re spending our time, our money and we invest that because we love the music.”

Meanwhile, in a related development, British radio personality Brian Clough has been awarded the CMA's annual international broadcaster award. The award ceremony took place in, uh, May.... but I am just getting around the posting on it.

The Award was presented to him in Durham, England by Bobbi Boyce, CMA International Consultant.

“I’m still trying to come to terms with the honor given to me by the Country Music Association and ponder as to why I should be rewarded with such an accolade for something that has been a great enjoyment to do for the best part of my life,” said Clough. “A sincere thank you to all those folks who thought I was worthy of the award, and a special thank you to all the artists for providing some of the greatest music around.”
Clough was introduced to country music as a teenager in the ’60s while listening to artists such as Don Gibson and Roger Miller on the radio. For 30 years, he has presented and produced country music radio programs at such places as the Independent Metro and Great North Radio Group, Harmony Radio, Century Radio, DLR, NLR, and Smooth Radio. Readers of a national magazine once voted him one of the top six country presenters in Great Britain. He has written a country music column for The Northern Echo, one of Great Britain’s largest daily regional newspapers, for 26 years, and also serves as the entertainment editor for
The CMA International Broadcaster Award recognizes outstanding achievement by radio broadcasters outside the United States who have made important contributions toward the development of Country Music in their country. Previous winners are listed at
Read full story HERE

And, states a CMA press release,  last month in Nashville, Australian concert promoter Michael Chugg of Chugg Entertainment was given the Jo Walker-Meador International Award. The award recognizes outstanding achievement by an individual or company in advocating and supporting Country Music's marketing development in territories outside the United States.
"To receive such a wonderful award from CMA during their Festival week in Nashville was a great honor, and will take pride of place in my office in Sydney," said Chugg. "To be able to play a part in spreading music to the world is very special, and I thank the Board of the CMA on behalf of all the Australian Country Music fans."

Chugg is one of the most experienced and respected concert promoters in Australia, with a career spanning more than 45 years. He received the CMA International Talent Buyer/Promoter of the Year Award in 2006, has won every major music and entertainment award possible in Australia, and currently serves on the CMA Australian Advisory Group. Chugg has been involved with establishing Australia as a strong live touring market for international artists, and has promoted or co-promoted tours with Brooks & Dunn, Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban among others. Chugg Entertainment will co-promote a Tim McGraw tour with Entertainment Edge later this year.