Judy Collins Someday Soon Cover Letter


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Mr. Tyson's fans pack his performances, but off stage he blends in with the retired Basque shepherds who board at the Star.

''My scene is a folk scene,'' Mr. Tyson said, ''which is what this has become.'' But Elko is a long way from Greenwich Village, where Mr. Tyson got his start. Ian and Sylvia were on the polished side of the early 60's folk explosion. There were rave reviews and sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall.

Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker married in 1964 and had a son, Clay. But when the folk scene crashed on the heels of the Beatles, the Tysons floundered. They moved back to their native Canada in the late 60's and tried to go country-western with a band called Great Speckled Bird, but it didn't fly. Mr. Tyson became the host of a television show in Toronto called ''Nashville North'' and later just ''The Ian Tyson Show.''

In 1976, he and Ms. Tyson divorced (''We don't talk anymore,'' he said), and he hit bottom and dropped out of music. He wrangled a job breaking horses and chasing cattle in southern Alberta, at the foot of the Rockies near the American border.

''Ian always aspired to be a cowboy,'' Ms. Tyson said in the Feb. 13, 1989, issue of Maclean's magazine. His hit songs ''Four Strong Winds'' and ''Someday Soon'' -- each covered by Judy Collins and dozens of others -- eventually made the cowboy life possible, and it later returned the favor. But first there was a long downhill slide, a lot of hard drinking, fighting and womanizing that Mr. Tyson wrote about in his autobiography, ''I Never Sold My Saddle'' (Gibbs Smith, 1994).

When in 1978 Neil Young, a fellow Canadian, recorded ''Four Strong Winds,'' the royalties helped Mr. Tyson make the down payment on his Alberta ranch. He made his way back to music the hard way, playing Merle Haggard and Bob Wills covers at a roadhouse bar in Calgary. There he found the muse for his second life in music, a waitress named Twylla Biblow, still a teen-ager when they met. They married and had a daughter, Adelita.

''Surrounded by that life,'' Twylla Tyson said in a telephone interview from their ranch, ''his songwriting really came forth.''

In the early 1980's, Mr. Tyson began writing and recording new songs about cowboy life. ''Cowboyography,'' released in 1986, became his best seller as a solo artist. Songs like ''Navajo Rug'' and ''The Coyote and the Cowboy'' earned him a reputation as the bard of the buckaroos.

Hal Cannon, a folklorist and the founding director of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, said that Mr. Tyson revitalized interest in cowboy culture. ''He showed that there were contemporary songs to be written about cowboys,'' he said.

Mr. Tyson performed three shows and a lively family dance at the gathering. He donned glasses to read his speech, ''The Whoop Up Range and How the Cowboy Came to Canada.'' It was a scholarly, elegiac and wry account of the making of the Canadian cowboy out of ''mustered out'' Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Texas cowpunchers who crossed over the ''medicine line,'' as the border was called in the late 1800's.

Mr. Tyson's songs blend Canadian, American and Mexican images and sounds. He is a believer in a pan-Western experience that knows no borders, north or south.

The Calgary Stampede, the annual rodeo in Alberta, is the symbol of the Canadian cowboy today, Mr. Tyson said, moving his speech into the present. ''Small-town boys in Alberta still dream of winning the novice bronc riding at Calgary, as did their fathers and grandfathers,'' he said. ''It's like winning the Memorial Cup in hockey for a Canadian kid. Along the eastern slope where I live, some of the outfits now use all-terrain-vehicles, but most of them are still horseback and still drag their calves to the fire. And up and down the freeway, it seems like every third vehicle is pulling horses. There's team ropers, cutters, rodeo hands, gymkhana kids and high-country trail riders, all of them looking for a piece of the legend. God bless them.''

At home in Alberta, Mr. Tyson competes in rodeos on cutting horses, quick, agile quarter horses bred to separate cows from the herd during branding. He wears a belt with a big silver buckle stamped ''Non pro champion 1987.''

Mr. Tyson's new album, ''All the Good 'Uns,'' back on the Vanguard label where he began, collects 17 cowboy favorites, plus two new songs, all written by him. Vanguard has also re-released his earlier cowboy albums. But this lifelong rodeo rider is restless by nature. The new songs swing to the jazz-pop sound of his songwriting heroes: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hart.

''I'LL always be a Westerner, and I'll always be a cowboy,'' he said at the Star, leaning back after a lunch of potato soup and beans. ''But I want to do music that's a little more sophisticated.''

''The Wonder of It All,'' one of the new songs on the album, is Mr. Tyson's bid for another pop hit:

The golden West has come and gone

Right before our very eyes

But they will never count the stars

And they will never fence the skies.

''Barrel Racing Angel,'' the other new song, was inspired by Adelita, who is 11 and just broke 18 seconds in a rodeo barrel race. ''If she wants to go all the way, I'll darn sure get her the horsepower,'' he said proudly. ''But that kind of stuff can take over your life. And I want to travel with Twylla, because we haven't done a lot together in the last few years. She's worked very hard, and that's put a strain on our marriage. And she's been hurt real bad by horses.

''But you gotta know the soul of it if you're going to write about it, eh?'' he said with a rueful chuckle.

Mr. Tyson's father didn't want his son to grow up to be a cowboy. George Tyson moved to Canada from England in 1906, was a cowboy in southern Alberta for a few years and then moved to Vancouver Island, where he sold insurance and rode polo ponies. But he gave his son books by Will James, a French Canadian who had lived out his own dreams in the West. Ian Tyson left home for southern Alberta as a teen-ager and rode bucking horses in rodeos until he landed in the hospital with a shattered ankle. In the hospital, he picked up a guitar, and his career has been a circle, taking him home to Alberta.

This spring, he will be on the road again to promote his new album. Although he said his last gig in New York was ''a big mistake,'' he would like another shot at a big city audience. ''They booked me into some little hole in the wall joint down on the Lower East Side,'' he said. ''Nobody knew we were there. Nobody came, just the rats scurrying along the wall. I was really hurt, but I still love New York. It's not a cow town, but it's a great place.''

Mr. Tyson seems content with what he has wrestled from music and the West.

''This thing might pretty well have run it's course,'' he said of the cowboy poetry and music scene. ''There isn't an infusion of young new blood into it. They sell more and more of those damn hats. As the West shrinks the hats get bigger. But the demographics keep getting older.''

Elko has changed, too, Mr. Tyson said. A gold-mining boom in the surrounding mountains has nearly tripled the population, to 34,000, from around 12,000 12 years ago. Still, the town is surrounded by hundreds of miles of empty ''sagebrush sea'' and some of the last big open-range ranches in North America, a landscape that has given Mr. Tyson more than a life's worth of songs.

''The country is filling up and filling up and filling up,'' he said. ''It's harder to find the wide open spaces. But this is the outback here. The last cowboy will be here following some cow when they're gone everywhere else. The last of the wide open spaces will be Nevada.''

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