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April, 2007


Dear Friends,

Hope 2007 is off to a great start for you. But I am so pleased that 100 years ago, 1907 was a good year for me. For you see, my mom was born that year and here I am. Also, the great state of Oklahoma was born that year and here we are. And our famous singing cowboy hero, Gene Autry was born that year and several times this year, we are going to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday.

1. Roots Music Chart
My friend and cowboy poet/singer Ken Overcast recently forwarded to me the Roots Music Chart for the week of April 19, 2007. The number one CD for that week in the Cowboy/Western category was my own CD “My Special Memories”.  This is a national chart based on the votes of a host of disc jockeys across the nation.  Thanks to all the DJs who voted for me.  Many of you have this CD which features, on the cover, a photo from October 10, 1945 taken in downtown Gene Autry, Oklahoma. In the photo were Minnie Pearl, Pee Wee King and his band and a bunch of local kids, including yours truly. 

2. Early 2007
Our thanks to the people in Athens, Texas for their warm reception in January.  The folks at the Fellowship Baptist Banquet sure put out some great vittles. And the local Horse Committee Awards Banquet at the Country Club showed that cowgirls love their horses as much if not more than guys. (You can take that either way!!)

If you should ever need crop insurance, please go see Max Claybaker in Blackwell, OK. Max loves his customers and vice-versa. He invited me and my Silver Lake Band to kick off the “Oklahoma Centennial Celebration” right there in Blackwell as a way of saying thanks to his customers.

Have you ever been to Abilene, Kansas? It was my first time to drive around that lovely town and feel history all around us. At one time, three different railroads ran through Abilene and all three depots have been preserved. We didn’t have time to visit the Museum and other sites dedicated to President Eisenhower but hope to get back there sometime soon. We did have a great time that night at the community of Talmadge on the north edge of Abilene. Cowboys and cowgirls love Valentine’s Day in that area. And to be greeted by a large herd of cardboard cows was quite a site.

Some of you may not know that I went to college at MIT. That would be “Murray In Tish” which is actually Murray State College in Tishomingo, OK. I go back there as often as I can to entertain or just visit with my good friends, President Bill Pennington and his sidekick Judy Huston. And ole Bill doesn’t just hang around the campus all the time. He is often out entertaining folks with his portrayal of Alfalfa Bill Murray and Will Rogers, two of Oklahoma’s most notable citizens of the past.  

We sure appreciate Dr. Glen Johnson. For several years he was Speaker of the House of Representatives in Oklahoma. Then he became President of Southeastern Oklahoma
State University in Durant where Martha and I had the privilege of spending time with him when I entertained their annual SEOSU Gala. Now Glen has been appointed Chairman of the Oklahoma Regents of Higher Education. We wish him well in this new position. 

If you are ever in Southeastern Oklahoma on the second Saturday of the month, I hope you will make time to drop in on the Reagan Jubilee. Johnny Shackleford is the host and band leader for a wonderful country music show. It was my honor to be there recently for a great time. Reagan is located just a few miles north of Tishomingo.

3. Celebrating Gene Autry’s 100 years
As noted above, this would have been Mr. Autry’s 100th birthday year. I will join my buddy Johnny Western and many others to pay tribute to Gene. We will be in Kenton, Ohio June 23 and 24 for their annual Gene Autry Days. It was in that town that all of Gene Autry’s cap pistols were manufactured and they still love him.

Next, the Gene Autry tribute takes us to California in August for the Gene Autry Fan Club Celebration of the life of Mr. Autry. Mrs. Autry has invited all members of the Fan Club and other special guests to join us for a week of festivities. I will be entertaining at various locations during the week including the Gene Autry Museum and Melody Ranch where so many movies and TV shows were filmed. Mrs. Autry has also invited us up to her Skybox to watch their beloved Angels play. I’ll also be singing that Friday night for Jim Roberts’ big whing-ding at the Sportsman Lodge, the night before the Golden Boot Awards.

Then, of course, we go to my hometown of Gene Autry, OK the last week of September for a big blowout for Gene’s 100th birthday which will be on September 29.  Special guests will include Riders in the Sky, Johnny Western, Steve Mitchell and so many others. Steve sounds so much like Mr. Autry when singing that it is eerie. This huge event starts on Wednesday night, running through Sunday. Reservations will be taken starting on May 1. Be sure to call ahead so you won’t be left out. 

4. Upcoming Bookings
On May 3, I will have the privilege to open for Leroy VanDyke at the Johnny Western Theater in Wichita. Of course you remember “The Auctioneer Song” and “Just Walk on By”, two of his monster hits. And May 5 takes me and the Silver Lake Band to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to help those folks celebrate Oklahoma’s 100th Birthday at their big party on the street.  My band and I will also help Broken Arrow, OK celebrate Oklahoma’s 100th on June 19th   at their “Tuesdays in the Park” concert series. 

Many of you have been to the Quail Valley Fun Barn on the south edge of Winfield, Kansas. My band and will be there twice this year. Our summer concert and dance will be on June 9. Our annual Cowboy Christmas Ball will be there on December 8.

If you live around Clinton, Missouri, I hope you can drop by on June 30. In the afternoon, I will be presenting a seminar on the history of the Grand Ole Opry in conjunction with a photo exhibit that any fan of the Opry will love. Then my band and I will do a concert that evening on the square as part of their Ole Glory Days Celebration.

And all you Winnebago owners will want to be in Forest City, Iowa July 16 and 17 for the annual convention. This will be my fourth consecutive year to entertain in the town where Winnebago and Itasca Motor Homes and Travel Trailers are made.  Likewise, the Good Sam folks of Iowa have invited me to entertain them in Amana, Iowa in July.

If you love traditional Country and Cowboy Music, I hope you will make plans to come to Hastings, Nebraska for the annual Miles of Memories Show, hosted by our friends Tex and Mary Schutz.  This great event will be held on September 6-7-8 and features continuous top notch stage shows all day long and a wonderful Western Swing Dance at night.

Other dates on my current schedule include the Ponca City Birthday Bash on September 15 where my band and I will be playing in front of City Hall that evening.  And Smith Center, Kansas will be having me as part of their Arts Festival on September 22 at the High School Auditorium. And on October 5th and 6th , I’ll also be returning to the Red Rock Guest Ranch near Soldier, Kansas, a few miles north of Topeka.

So many of you have asked if we are returning to Branson this year. Yes we are. My band and I be back at Silver Dollar City on October 10-27. This will be our 11th consecutive year to work the Barn Dance Series for them. Hope you can join us.

And finally, my own church, First Baptist Church of Ponca City has asked me to serve as host and moderator for their annual Christmas Program.  Of course, I will tell them about Mr. Autry, about Rudolph and Here Comes Santa Clause in the secular part of the program. And then our great choir will thrill us all with the story of the birth of our Lord.

For those of you with access to my website, I hope you will check it often as additional bookings will be added now and then. And I plan to have a new CD recorded and available by the first of September.  Thanks again for your support and friendship and hope 2007 is a great year for you and your family.

Les Gilliam

"The Oklahoma Balladeer"
P.O. Box 350

Ponca City, OK 74602