Woody Guthrie Tribute event to feature RJ Vandygriff on Oct. 2

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The 29th Annual Tribute to Woody Guthrie will be held on Saturday, Oct. 2, starting at 6 p.m. at the M.K. Brown Civic Center.

After missing last year’s due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Woody Guthrie Folk Music Center has held a couple of smaller events. But this will be the first large event put on by the Center.

“It’s nice to get people together again and we still feel like we’re one of the best kept secrets in town,” director Michael Sinks said. “We always have people come in for our Friday night jam sessions and say ‘Wow, we never knew this was here.’ Anytime we can get the word out to new people with a new audience and younger people, it’s always a good thing.”

The event will include a meal catered by Desperado’s and feature RJ Vandygriff, but it’s not a show featuring covers of Woody Guthrie’s music.

“We pay tribute to Woody Guthrie and a lot of times people will hear ‘tribute show’ and think of somebody covering Woody Guthrie songs or something like that,” Sinks said. “But that’s not what we do. We hire artists that are in the spirit of Woody Guthrie and, in this case, RJ is a country singer. Woody liked cowboy music and did some cowboy songs. RJ is a great cowboy performer.”

Vandygriff was featured on the hit TV series “Walker, Texas Ranger” in a recurring role as “Ranger Mike,” as well as other entertainment avenues.

“He’s got a play he does called ‘The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet!’ that’s really funny,” Sinks said. “He’s received great reviews on that, but that’s not what he’s doing for us. He is going to play (music) for us.”

Tickets to the show are $15 in advance and can be bought at Woody Guthrie Folk Music Center located at 320 S. Cuyler. At the door, they are $20. Food starts at 6 p.m. and performance is at 7 p.m.

Proceeds from the event will go toward the Center.

“We’re pretty tickled that it’s our 29th annual event,” Sinks said. “That’s longer than they’ve been doing the festival (in Oklahoma) and longer than the archives have been going in New York City. We’re not as big or anything, but we have longevity on our side.”

The Woody Guthrie Folk Music Center is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit their Facebook page or call 806-664-0824.

More about
RJ Vandygriff

R.J. Vandygriff is as comfortable putting a colt under his first saddle as he is in the spotlight on a stage. He’s never met a stranger.  He grew up in Roxton, TX riding horses and strumming an old guitar.  As a young man he competed in high school, college, amateur and professional rodeo in the bareback and saddle bronc events as well as becoming a sought after rodeo clown and bullfighter. 

He left the sport of rodeo and college to pursue a career in country music.  After regional success with his recordings of “Big Blue Diamond” and “Say Lady” Nashville came calling.  R.J. packed his guitar and saddle for Tennessee.  He found himself touring two hundred days a year opening for the biggest names in country music, folks like George Strait, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Alabama, The Judds and many more.  When the album went to number three, he toured Europe.  He longed to return to Texas so he bid farewell to Tennessee and bought a small ranch in Northeast Texas where he raised horses and cattle.  When not touring he competed and produced Team Roping Events, Cutting Horse Events, Team Penning Events and Ranch Rodeos.  He also completed his formal education in 1988 from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M at Commerce) with a B.S. in History and a minor in Agriculture.

The CBS series “Walker, Texas Ranger” starring Chuck Norris was to film in Dallas and they were looking for “cowboy” types so R.J.’s agent sent his photo to the casting director.  R.J. landed a small re-occurring role as “Ranger Mike” for seven seasons.  He appeared as Ranger Mike, with his band, did horse and car stunts, served as technical adviser on some episodes.  His career began to develop as an actor appearing in a couple of movies, numerous national commercials and theater.    Branson, MO sent an offer he couldn’t refuse so he left Walker, Texas Ranger to appear in Branson for three years as Joe Texas in the one man musical comedy “The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet!” 

With the completion of the contract in Branson, he sold his properties in Missouri and NE Texas to build a home on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle where his wife was raised. 

“The Cowboy Ain’t Dead Yet!” Vol. III was the number one western CD in America in 2011.  R.J. is the 2004 recipient of the Will Rogers Award for Excellence by the Academy of Western Artist and was honored by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City receiving the Wrangler Award for Best Original Composition of 2012, “Keep The Campfire A Burnin’”.  In 2013 R.J. received the “Cowboy Keeper Award” from the National Day of the Cowboy. 

The Academy of Western Artists named R.J. the outstanding Western Male Vocalist of the year 2013.  In 2014, he was inducted into the CMA Texas Hall of Fame. 

2004 –Will Rogers Award for Excellence-Academy of Western Artists

2011-- Male Vocalist of Year Nominee-Western Music Association

2011-- Best Western Album of the Year-Western Music Association

2012-- Wrangler Award-National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

2013-- Cowboy Keeper Award-National Day of the Cowboy

2013-- Western Male Vocalist of the Year-Academy of Western Artists

2014—CMA Texas Hall of Fame Inductee

2015---Best Western CD nominee—Western Music Association

2016--Best Western CD nominee—Western Music Association

2016—Living Hero of Western Swing-Cowtown Society of Western Music

2021---Western Entertainer of The Year-Country Music Assoc. of Texas

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