Ben Stillwater Brings the Western
Back to Country & Western
With Exciting New Stage Show,
Gifted Duet Partner Cyndee Jean
|Campfires are a big part of any
working cowboys life, and in countless ways
the 6-foot-7 singer, songwriter, and rodeo cowboy
Ben Stillwater is helping to keep the flame of
traditional country & Western music alive.
This summer, Ben has launched a brand-new,
spectacular stage show for his musical
performances that includes fake fire, seven
cowboys and cowgirls, hay bales, genuine saddles
and tack, plus a gifted female duet partner named
The debut of Ben and Cyndees new program
came in front of a packed house on July 11 at the
Independence Opera House in Independence,
Wisconsin. Several historical societies helped
Ben promote the show in a venue that opened in
1904. The show was also a TV program taping, and
it was a tremendous success.
Bens TV show is called Giddy
Up, and it features the same cast of
cowboys and cowgirls as the Independence concert.
He plays a character called Sheriff Stillwater on
the half-hour program, which includes Western
skits and loads of country & Western music,
as well as music videos.
Until 1962, the trade magazine Billboard referred
to what is now known as country music as
country & Western. For Ben, who
grew up idolizing the Western actors and singing
cowboys of the silver screen and the Grand Ole
Opry such as Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, John Wayne,
and Gene Autry, both country and Western music
are still huge components of his life and his
The reaction to the Giddy Up
show has been real strong, Stillwater says.
A lot of people have mentioned that it
could be mentioned for a national spot.
RFD-TV, the thriving cable channel that
emphasizes the rural lifestyle, agricultural and
equine programs and lots of music, might be a
natural outlet. Once he gets a few of these shows
under his belt, Ben said he may well try to pitch
Giddy Up to RFD-TV.
A lot of the older generation that watch
RFD are still connected to country & Western
music, Ben says. Theyre
wondering when theyre gonna get younger
artists on there.
The program currently airs on Wisconsins
Trempealeau County Community TV, and is repeated
five or six times each month. Stillwaters
plan is to eventually have DVDs made of the
broadcasts, and to sell those at his shows and
This father of four is now proudly sharing his
own love for Western music, horses, and the
cowboy culture with a whole new generation of
kids who no longer get to watch 1950s TV heroes
like Rogers, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, or the
Cartwright family of Bonanza every week.
Im kind of a self-made
historian, Ben says in a conversation from
his rural Wisconsin home in mid-July. From
1925 to the 1950s, Western music was a huge part
As Stillwater told host Wayne Williams on
Waynes Speaking Of Horses TV
show recently, I think there is a big
Generation Gap in the viewing of so much of the
cowboy lifestyle. We need to remember the
importance of that part of childhood.
Ben and Cyndee Jean were in separate bands that
both happened to be booked at the same venue one
night. Soon the duo was rehearsing together,
often playing several original songs Ben had
written as duets.
Its going good, Cyndee Jean
said of the new musical pairing. That debut
show at Independence was great. The cowboys were
up on stage clapping to the music, and we had a
fire ring with artificial fire. It worked out
Her own strongest influences were classic country
singers Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, and
especially Loretta Lynn. Lorettas my
favorite, Cyndee Jean says, I love
the way she wrote all those songs about her life.
I dont like the new country that they have
That is a sentiment shared by millions of country
fans across the nation. That audience may well be
starving for the kind of traditional country,
Western, family-friendly music and concerts
Cyndee Jean and Ben Stillwater have just started
Its a natural thing for me to talk
about it, since Ive spent so much of my
life dedicated to music, says Stillwater,
who grew up both in Montana and Wisconsin and
spent 2 ½ years learning the ropes of production
and songwriting and recording with the
worlds finest session musicians here on
Music Row. When the audience responds to
what youre doing, thats the best
For Ben, who with his wife Heather are the proud
parents of four kids, marketing is another
crucial component of show business. Using the TV
show, the live performances, the links with the
historical societies and an upcoming appearance
as the judge at the Colgate Country Showdown in
Colorado, Stillwater is letting folks far and
wide know all the cool news about his music.
I think theres a huge market for what
were doing, he says. But I look
at the music the same way as the marketing:
People gotta know ya and trust ya and believe
That kind of trustworthiness has been a part of
Bens life since he was a kid, not just in
the music business but in the fiercely
competitive trucking and timber industries as
I grew up loggin and cuttin
timber and runnin sawmills, says
Stillwater. When I got a little older I
bought some trucks, and when I turned 18 I went
back to Montana.
He and his family love Wisconsin, but in many
ways Bens spiritual and musical home will
always be on the open range, the rushing
waters,and the snow-capped mountains of
Montanas Big Sky Country. The titles of
Stillwaters three outstanding CDs
Giddy Up Truck, Montana In The Spring, and the
upcoming Front Door Of Home tell you a
great deal of the mans story.
In his Montana days, Ben competed in Bareback
competitions in weekend rodeos, then during the
week went up to the mountains to cut timber,
often 60 or 70 miles from the nearest town. Like
the singing cowboys of the Old West, that
solitude gave Ben the time to think about life,
dream about women and horses, and create his own
kind of music.
These songs, with a strong downbeat, became what
Ben calls The Sound of Country
All of these places shaped Stillwater and his
music, as well as the concept of stagecraft
hes utilizing in the new show that he and
Cyndee Jean are perfecting.
Some people go to college or school to get
established in life, Ben says. Some
people get it from life. Its a little bit
of a different style, and when youre raised
in the country you admire those things.
Fans nationwide who love traditional country,
miss the magic of Western music, and have been
searching high and wide for the kind of
wholesome, family-friendly and educational
entertainment thats so sorely lacking these
days, are already flocking to see and hear
Stillwater and Cyndee Jeans live
performances and TV shows.
And knowing Ben, those fans and those radio
programmers in for the ride of their lives.