The 39th Western Heritage Awards, hosted by Charlie Daniels, took place April 1 at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. Winners were honored with the “Wrangler” bronze award in 15 categories encompassing literature, television, film and music.
Presenters included Red Steagall, Dusty Rogers, Wilfred Brimley, Bill Kurtis, Lee Meriwether, Barry Corbin, Andy Wilkinson and James Gammon. Dale Robertson, who hosted the first Western Heritage Awards 39 years ago when he starred in the TV series Tales of Wells Fargo, was a special guest.
Honors in music categories included Outstanding Original Composition, awarded to “He Just Can’t Be Seen From the Road,” written by Jack Hannah and Baxter Black and recorded by the Sons of the San Joaquin on their album Horses, Cattle & Coyotes. Outstanding Traditional Western Music Album went to Red Steagall’s Love of the West. The award was Steagall’s fourth.
R. W. Hampton received a special Wrangler award for his play and album, The Last Cowboy — His Journey. The Director’s Award for Excellence in Dramatic Presentation and Original Music Composition is given only for special meritorious works.
Both “He Just Can’t Be Seen From the Road” by the Sons of the San Joaquin and the album by Hampton were produced by Rich O’Brien, who received Wrangler awards for his work.
In movie and TV categories, Outstanding Fictional Drama went to “The Regulator,” an episode of Dead Man’s Gun, which airs on TNN. Receiving Wranglers were creators/executive producers Ed and Howard Spielman, co-producer Henry Winkler, writer Rogers Turrentine, director Paul Etherington, producer Larry Sugar, and actors Bill Campbell, Heather Hanson and Kris Kristofferson.
Actors Sam Elliott, Arliss Howard and Carolyn McCormick and director/writer John Kent Harrison received awards for work in the TNT production You Know My Name, winner as Outstanding Television Feature Film. Producer Andrew Gottlieb and executive producers Amy Adelson and Brandon Stoddard also received Wranglers.
The “Outstanding Television Documentary” award was given to Timewatch, Tales From the Oklahoma Land Runs, a series produced by the British Broadcasting Company. Producer/director/writer Jonathan Gili received the Wrangler.
Annie Oakley: Crackshot in Petticoats won the Outstanding Factual Narrative award; producer/director/writer Arthur Drooker received a Wrangler. The show originally aired in A&E’s “Biography” series. Executive producers Craig Haffner and Donna Lusitana also received Wranglers.
The Directors Award for Special Achievement in an Original Feature Film Presentation was presented to TNT’s feature film, Purgatory. Executive producer David A. Rosemont, producer Daniel Schneider, director Uli Edel and scriptwriter Gordon Dawson all received Wranglers.
Literary awards went to Dr. Larry Len Peterson, author of Charles M. Russell, Legacy (Outstanding Art Book); Michael Wallis, author of The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West (Outstanding Non-Fiction Book); Walt McDonald and Janet Neugebauer, authors of Whatever the Wind Delivers (Outstanding Poetry Book); Louise Erdich, author of The Birchbark House (Outstanding Juvenile Book); Lou Dean, author of “Halloween Hermit” (Outstanding Magazine Article); and Dan O’Brien author of The Contract Surgeon (Outstanding Western Novel).
George “Gabby” Hayes became a member of the Hall of Great Western Performers. Dusty Rogers, son of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, accepted the award on his behalf. Hayes, who died in 1969 at age 83, co-starred as Rogers’ sidekick in a number of movies.
Charles Fremont was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners. Fremont, who lived from 1813-1890, was one of the great explorers in the West, mapping the Oregon Trail and describing the West to the public after leading three government expeditions between 1842 and 1846. Fremont was also the first presidential nominee for the Republican Party (1856), losing to James Buchanan, but leading the way for Abraham Lincoln’s candidacy and election in 1860.
Billy McGinty, one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and a performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, also joined the “Hall of Great Westerners.” McGinty led “The Billy McGinty Cowboy Band,” which performed on KFRU in Bristow, Okla., in 1925. McGinty actually couldn’t play any music but his wife sang, and the band bore his name because he sponsored it. During the mid-1920s, Otto Gray took over the band, which became “The Otto Gray Cowboy Band,” one of the pioneer western groups in the nation. McGinty died in 1961 after serving as President for Life of the Roosevelt Rough Riders Association.
Marshall Cator of Sunray, Texas, was honored by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame with its Chester A. Reynolds Memorial Award. Reynolds helped found the Hall of Fame. The award that bears his name goes each year to a person “whose life epitomizes the traditional western values of integrity, self-sufficiency, and leadership over a lifetime in the West.” Cator, 97, still works as a cowboy in Texas, overseeing a herd of Hereford cattle. Also inducted into the “Hall of Great Westerners” were Linda and Les Davis, who run the CS Cattle Company in Cimarron, N.M. Both have been active in national and local organizations promoting the West, cattle raising and the Cowboy Hall of Fame.