Wylie wows crowd

Charlie Denison

Wylie and the Wild West performed a high-energy show at the Eagles Grand Hall Friday night during Winter Fair. The largely agricultural crowd gave the band a standing ovation. Wylie Gustafson, center, enjoyed himself, saying he “found his happy place” here in Central Montana.

Photo by Charlie Denison


Montana singer/songwriter Wylie Gustafson and his band, The Wild West, put on a fun, high-energy, comical and moving show Friday night at the Eagles Grand Hall for an excited Central Montana crowd.

Well-established in the Western genre, Gustafson delivered new songs and old originals, jumping from country, gospel and rockabilly, while also telling nostalgic stories about his Montana upbringing. His show had a down-home, fireside chat feel to it, as he told a number of stories throughout the evening. He also encouraged dancing, and a few brave souls took him up on it.

There was a little something for every Western fan, as Wylie hopped from one decade to another, playing a wide variety of recognizable tunes, including some standards that really got people going.

“I’m going to take you back to the 1960s,” Gustafson told the crowd before a tune. “There was a great little radio station in Shelby I used to listen to, inspiring me to play electric. I loved country, and I also loved that surf music. I loved the Benchers. They did a great version of this one right here.”

After the friendly, personable intro, Gustafson and his band busted into “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

Wylie could do no wrong Friday night, feeling right at home as he played songs that identify with the rural way. He bonded with the ranchers and the farmers. They are his base and his neighbors. He connected, and, he knew how to keep that connection going.

“That’s a big part of our show,” Gustafson said the next day while taking in the festivities at the Trade Center. “That’s what we love.”

The rest of his band felt it, too, as drummer Tim Lashley, bassist/vocalist, Greg “Bruce” Campbell and lead guitarist Clayton Parsons were all smiles, feeding off the crowd and Wylie’s energy. They also did a good job of staying alert, as Wylie likes to put them on the spot and give them solos. Campbell’s bass solos went over especially well.

Nearly everything did, from “My Home’s in Montana” to “Buffalo Gals” to “Hi-Line Polka.”

“We know we are in the right place when we get the biggest response for a polka,” Gustafson joked.

Another big moment during the performance was when Gustafson called up friend and former bandmate Sam Platts of Pony to the stage to perform “Thanks a Lot,” a song Ernest Tubb made famous in the late sixties. Platt’s version, however, sounded more like Johnny Cash, as he sang in as low a register as possible, inspiring a raucous applause from the crowd.

Platt got another ovation after Gustafson expressed how refreshing it is to see the younger generation carrying on the cowboy genre.

But, of course, it was Gustafson’s trademark talent that really riled people up: the yodel.

Just about every time he did yodel, the crowd would applaud. It’s quite the yodel, and it’s recognizable even to those who aren’t into yodeling. The Yahoo jingle yodel was his. “It’s the only hit I’ve ever had,” he said.

Self-proclaimed as “the yodeling fool,” Gustafson even played a song of the same name, holding out his yodel while checking his watch and lifting his hat up and down. He’s a showman, and he knows how to work a crowd.

But the show was more than Gustafson being goofy. Wylie and the Wild West’s show was a night of celebration for the cowboy way, traditional Western music and just good, clean fun. Gustafson couldn’t help himself, dancing along, tipping his hat and nearly wiggling to the floor. He got frisky, at one point leading his band into a cowboy version of the Rollings Stones’ classic “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,”

“What the heck was that?” he asked the band and his audience once the group settled back into “Yodeling Fool.” “Well, you’ve got to admit it felt kind of good.”

The crowd agreed, too, as they gave Wylie and the Wild West a standing ovation and demanded an encore. Gustafson and the band were happy to oblige, playing “When I’m Ridin’ I’m Right” and closing with a sing-along, “Goodnight, Irene.”

“We love you, Wylie,” one man yelled from the back.

The feeling was mutual.



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