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Review - Gary Robertson

"A Treasure Trove of Memories"

(101 pages)

Surprising to me was an information bit included in Gary Robertson's cover
note accompanying his book of poetry. Apparently it's this well known
poet's first book of all-original verse!

As I went from page to page in the volume, I began to become aware of
something. Gary Robertson has the gift of knowing how to allow moments to
fulfill their promise. It's a rarity that deserves celebration. He is able
to magnify occurrences for closer examination that otherwise might be
totally overlooked not in any forced or overstated way.and allow them to
stand with simple nobility. Works like "I Saw Him Check My Cinch" present a
moment on perceptions of aging, or "The Horseman" with its campfire
conversation on the place of a cowboy ".when you're sittin' horseback, son,
you don't look up to any man." It's a fine collection with a positive tone
maintained throughout.

Trade Paperback Book: (info from Gary Robertson, 1482 Hidden Valley Rd.,
Thousand Oaks, CA 91361).

- by Rick Huf
Rick Huf - (Feb 28, 2016)
The Nickle
This cowboy poetry collection was actually first issued a while ago. But it seems to have been overlooked in the reviewing community. "The Nickle" deserves a second look.
Gary Robertson covers some familiar territory. What turns a guy to cowboying, never selling the saddle, tall tales, vanishing lifestyles, trials of a ranching wife and so on but he manages to give each subject a little fresh spin or perspective. Couple that with his natural, unforced delivery and these word and images deftly strike home. It's not earth- shattering stuff, just nicely thought-through and thought provoking like it should be.
Non-intrusive music bridges are provided by Jimmy Guitar Smith. "The Nickle" is not only an album that will find favor with Cowboy Poetry fan-- it's just the kind to show your genre-curious friends!
Rick Huf - Rope Burns (Mar 8, 2008)
His fans who have clamored for its re-release will recognize this CD as the former cassette album that served as the illustrious Gary Robertson's remastered in a format they can play!

Word Wranglin' contains a number of Robertson's most requested poems. His soft, one-to-one delivery draws his listeners into the picture and his verse paints those pictures clearly for them. Despite some contradictory sound effects on this early release (a constant daytime forest bird chorus with a crackling nighttime-feeling campfire...not to mention the indoor studio audience applause!) the poems are effective and move from humorous to historical to heartfelt. His range and sincere delivery have made him a draw at many of the most prominent Cowboy Poetry and music festivals.

In approaching this project, Robertson jokes that he thought it might be a hoot to re-issue Word Wranglin' as a cassette all over again but his wife failed to see the humor. I'll bet. (No word yet on how one punk rock group did who "died laughing" a while back over releasing a "78")...

CDs: Amount with shipping not furnished, but contact Gary Robertson, Greenfield Ranch, 1482 Hidden Valley Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91361 or (805) 390-2305; available from CDBaby.

© 2009, Rick Huff
Rick Huf - (May 1, 2009)
Goodbye Charlie

lots of people would like to push a "revise" button on their lives, or at least on its most embarrassing moments. Charlie Sorel gets his second chance in George Axelrod's 1959 comedy "Goodbye Charlie," onstage through Dec. 13 at the Conejo Players Theatre.

Charlie's redo comes about when the incorrigible womanizer is shot climbing out of a porthole in a wealthy man's yacht after being discovered fooling around with the guy's wife. Charlie dies, and friends gather to mourn his loss. The sparse turnout for the occasion shows how self-centered and dismal Charlie's life has been. Even his best friend, George Tracy, can scarcely bring himself to praise Charlie. His attorney is there for business reasons, and Franny Saltzman, one of his many conquests, sobs uncontrollably throughout the event. Otherwise, it's a pretty dry affair, with George making his way through only by gulping down alcoholic reinforcement. Afterward, Rusty Mayerling, the woman with whom Charlie was last seen, comes to express some regret.

The play could end right there, except for Axelrod's quirky twist on male-female perspectives about life. The next person on the scene is a woman who's as much a good looker as Charlie was, with a lot of the same attitude. In fact, by a miracle from The Maker, it's Charlie reincarnated as a woman. Taking off from there, the play gets funnier and a bit creepy.

The role of Charlie has been played onstage by Katharine Hepburn and on the movie screen by Debbie Reynolds, so there's lots of leeway in the portrayal of the dashing man turned sexy woman, though by most reports neither Hepburn nor Reynolds was able to keep the tale buoyant. Linda Schaver steps into the role in Thousand Oaks, bringing lots of good comic sense and an animated manner, both of which account for laughs when Charlie gets into the shopping mode and dresses up in some of the silliest creations available. George frankly spells it out: She looks like a chicken.

But the bond between the two that once was manly camaraderie begins to slip into a very compatible, but hands-off, relationship.

Meanwhile, Rusty returns and admits she would have ditched her rich hubby to be Mrs. Sorel, but Charlie never asked. It's all pretty confusing, but George and Charlie ultimately scare themselves out of getting too close. The resourceful Axelrod has one more rabbit in the hat that might make everything hunky-dory again.

The play is obviously not written with 21st-century sensibilities in mind, since the male-female situations 50 years ago were much more clearly drawn. But director Gary Robertson and the cast give it the old college try. Schaver tries a little swagger as the "new" Charlie, but mostly hews to a generalized, good-humored performance. John Eslick as George retains his cool subtlety throughout, and Melissa Roggenkamp turns up nuances in Rusty's gold-digging personality. Art Roberts is Charlie's attorney, intent on wrapping up loose ends at the memorial service. Laura Melby is the weepy Franny Saltzman.

Axelrod's odd idea brings out the conflicts in male-female situational thinking, and draws lots of chuckles. But a major technical flaw that should be fixed is the amplification of Charlie's offstage voice in which she/he imparts some crucial elements of the plot. At Friday night's performance, too many of the words were indecipherable.

— E-mail Rita Moran at
Rita Moran - Ventura county Star (Nov 28, 2008)

The cowboy way

Belinda Gail is one of the performers headlining the Saturday, Aug. 21, performance at the Big Bear Lake Performing Arts Center during the 11th annual Cowboy Gathering.

Poetry and music come alive at Big Bear Valley gathering

Published: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 7:13 AM PDT
What do you think of when you hear the term cowboy? What vision do you conjure up? Do you think about Roy Rogers or Gene Autry? Maybe Marshall Dillon?

And if you’re asked to describe a cowgirl do you automatically think of Dale Evans or Annie Oakley?

All of the above are rolled into one when the Big Bear Cowboy Gathering takes center stage beginning Thursday, Aug. 19. The cowboy way continues through Sunday, Aug. 22. There are a variety of events starting with a ranch dinner fundraiser Aug. 19 and winding up with Cowboy Church on Aug. 22. Other than the Aug. 19 dinner, all events are at the Big Bear Lake Performing Arts Center, inside and out. Ticket prices and times vary.

Between the barbecue grub, workshops and the mercantile, the entertainment lineup is not to be missed. Whether you prefer traditional cowboy poetry, some pickin’ and fiddling, or a toe-tapping harmonica sound, there’s something for everyone.

Gary Robertson is looking for the guy in the audience who took a shower, put on some smell good and is wondering why he’s been dragged to a poetry reading. “I love that guy,” Roberston says. If Robertson can win the pessimist over, he’s got the rest of the audience, he says.

Robertson is one of the many performers gracing the stage for the Big Bear Cowboy Gathering. He has performed for all but four of the 11 gatherings, and even braved the unseasonable cold in May several years ago for the Big Bear Storyfest. “I really enjoy the audiences,” Robertson says about the Big Bear event. He says people in the Valley throw themselves into the spirit of the cowboy way.

Robertson tells stories about the cowboy way that just happen to rhyme, he says. He doesn’t recite poems. “It is so not a poetry reading,” Robertson says. The best part of the performance is when he looks out at the audience and sees someone who just figured out the story was a poem.

Robertson has been working ranches for 30 years. He did the corporate thing but was drawn back to the agricultural lifestyle, he says. He draws from his own life for his poems, leaning toward family stories. Robertson also uses humor in his poetry. The stories are about a lifestyle, and there are some funny things that go on at the ranch. Robertson says humor goes a long way in capturing that guy who thinks he’s headed to a poetry reading.

Belinda Gail performs poetry of sorts—poetry set to music. She’s been to the Big Bear event “a bunch,” she says. Gail keeps coming back for a variety of reasons: the location, the people and the family atmosphere of the Big Bear Cowboy Gathering.

This time, Gail performs solo. She is part of the tribute to her longtime performing partner Curly Musgrave, who died in December 2009. Musgrave performed at the Big Bear Cowboy Gathering several times. He lived in the mountains and they were near and dear to his heart, Gail says. There were neighbors and friends in the audience, and Gail says she could feel that when she joined him at the gathering.

Musgrave wasn’t much for accolades. He was a humble man and it was hard for him to accept the attention even for his music, Gail says. But she believes Musgrave would be pleased with the dedication to him by the Cowboy Gathering. This is a way for those who were unable to attend the celebration of life for Musgrave in January to say goodbye, Gail says.

Gail grew up surrounded by music, but she didn’t start her own professional career until her children were grown. Her unique voice captured the attention of country labels, but they weren’t willing to take a chance once the suits learned her age, she says. She met Patsy Montana, who was pivotal in Gail’s decision to go western. Country and western are different genres, and Montana told Gail she had a voice suited for western music.

“I just lumped them all together growing up,” Gail says about western and country music. As an adult, she realized western music is part of her heritage. The genre is different from country on the instrumental side. Western is primarily acoustic without drums and horns. But the biggest difference is in the lyrics, Gail says. The songs are wholesome, about a lifestyle, she says. The lyrics are about family, God, country and patriotism.

Gail was still formulating her own sound when she partnered with Musgrave, she says. He challenged her vocally, on guitar and in song writing. She is relaunching her solo career with more confidence and tools because of Musgrave, she says. “He left me a gift and a legacy to build on,” Gail says.

When she takes the stage solo, audiences can expect to be taken on an emotional journey. The songs paint a picture of the cowboy and ranch lifestyle. It’s a journey Gail believes in and she strives to share that belief with the audience.

Contact reporter Judi Bowers at 909-866-3456, ext. 137 or by e-mail at

the article is written in Spanish. Enjoy if you read Spanish we are working on a transalation.

Ciudad de México (9 mayo 2009).-

Tras un largo día de trabajo, el vaquero estadounidense se entrega a la noche cansado, y al sentarse junto a la fogata, renueva su espíritu con... poesía. Aunque pasan la mayor parte del día en las labores del rancho, cuidando y alimentando el ganado que les da de comer, los "cowboys" han hallado en sus relatos y poemas una forma de hacer escuchar su voz e incluso romper anclados estereotipos. "Los cowboys existen con o sin poesía. Pero la poesía cowboy celebra nuestro estilo de vida y nos ayuda a encontrar apoyo", dijo a REFORMA Sandy Seaton, una vaquera de Montana. Seaton participa activamente en las reuniones de poesía cowboy que se celebran anualmente en todo Estados Unidos y ofrece paseos en su rancho cerca del Parque Nacional Yellowstone. Aunque claman que los poemas han acompañado al vaquero desde hace siglos, el Encuentro Nacional de Poesía Cowboy celebrado en 1985 en Elko, Nevada, dio un particular impulso a esta actividad en Estados Unidos. En la actualidad, dichos encuentros se han extendido por Europa y Asia. "Lo nuevo en el mundo de la poesía cowboy es su alcance. Aquellos que recitamos poesía somos capaces de llegar a miles de personas al mismo tiempo. "Cuando se hace bien y se tiene la actitud correcta, la conexión entre el poeta y el oyente es tan íntima como si no hubiera otra cosa más que una fogata", expresó Gary Robertson quien ha escrito poesía del ámbito por 25 años y ha publicado textos en diversos libros y revistas como Poesía Vaquera: La Región y la revista Americana Cowboy. Pese a la fascinación que existe en torno a los vaqueros, en la actualidad aún prevalecen prejuicios y estereotipos sobre su estilo de vida. Aunque existen opiniones diversas al respecto, entre las cuales se cuenta la idea de que los cowboys maltratan a los animales y que el Gobierno estadounidense les proporciona financiamiento. "La idea de que la gente del campo es menos educada o menos sofisticada que la gente de la ciudad es muy común. Yo hago el trabajo que hago porque lo elegí, tengo una educación universitaria. Soy escritor, actor y poeta. Me siento orgulloso de ser un embajador del mundo cowboy en el mundo moderno", opinó Robertson. Para JV Brumels, un poeta de Nebraska que ha sido reconocido con varios premios en su estado, en ciertas ocasiones se malinterpreta la palabra vaquero. "El término cowboy se ha usado para describir a otros -camioneros, políticos-, pero esto es un uso muy metafórico y que insulta a los que se han ganado el nombre. Difundir una metáfora demasiado o con mucha frecuencia le resta valor al objeto", afirmó el escritor. "Por el contrario, los niños quieren ser cowboys y generalmente sus padres los respetan". Para Sandy Seaton, quien considera que la mujer ha ganado espacios en el mundo vaquero, la vida en el rancho tiene valor por sí misma. "Muchas personas que nos miran piensan que es un estilo de vida salvaje y romántico; esto no nos proporciona muchos recursos, pero sí mucha recompensa espiritual. Las mujeres son más aceptadas que nunca en este estilo de vida si son capaces de hacer el trabajo y disfrutar la actitud", consideró. "El vaquero de Jalisco o Michoacán, en el 1500, o el cowboy de Texas o Nevada comparten hoy una ética laboral que es la columna vertebral de nuestros valores. Haz lo que aceptaste realizar por un sueldo, sé digno de la confianza que han puesto en ti, sé el trabajador que quisieras tener a tu lado", concluyó Robertson.