The People's Tribune

Branstetter Inducted Into Cowtown Society Of Western Music With Living Legend Award

In 1937 when a sister of Sam Branstetter gave him a guitar as a Christmas present little did she know he would someday receive the Cowtown Society of Western Music Western Swing Legend Award.

Sam is a lifetime member, living legend and hero of Western Swing.

But that is exactly what happened on Saturday, May 6 in Mineral Wells, Texas.

Sam was among seven who received the annual award. Those who nominated him were Elmer Laurance and Brady Bowen, who are past recipients of the award, and Bill Mitchell, who was also inducted this year along with Virgil Watts who was unable to attend.

Sam spent a week there after receiving the award to play on Tuesday, May 9 at the Mineral Wells Senior Center with Laurance, Grady Smith, and Dwight Oldham.

When he was 16 years old he became a member of the Bill Creen Show working dance halls and radio stations in Mexico and Hannibal. He later became a member of the Andy Cortes Cowboy Band playing in numerous dance halls and radio stations in several cities throughout Missouri. He also was a member of various bands in Iowa and played on an Iowa radio station.

Sam eventually formed is own band while working the Hill Billy Jamboree in Jefferson City where he played for two years before being drafted into the United States Army. Upon returning from service he moved to Nebraska where he formed several different bands. A highlight of one of the bands was winning the Brownville, Neb., band competition; taking first place over 14 other bands.

The most success band he formed in Nebraska was called the Prarie Sons. This was a very popular band and they enjoyed playing in numerous clubs and dance halls and other venues throughout the state of Nebraska.

In 1985 he retired from the state of Nebraska and moved back to Missouri to farm. Once back in Missouri, he formed another band called the Swinging Strings. They played senior citizen dances and VFW clubs, birthday celebrations and more. Due to health reasons and the death of one of the band members it was necessary to retire the band.

In 1995 he spent a week in Bowe, Ariz., playing at the Alaskan Camp Ground Western Swing. That is when Sam began playing Western Swing. There I met a lot of musicians from Texas. One guy in particular, Bill Gilbert, became a very good friend and an excellent mentor to Sam in western swing. He invited Sam to come to Texas and they spent a great deal of time together. He was at Gilbert’s home every Wednesday night playing and singing Western Swing. Through the years he met many musicians at his home. A few of the better-known musicians Sam had the opportunity to jam with were Elmer Laurance, Brady Bowen, Charlie Obonnan, Randy Elmore, Mark Abbott, George Upmore, Billy Dozer, Bobby Dixon, Bobby Wynne, and Odie James.

Sam is thankful to Gilbert for his guidance and mentorship in Western Swing; but most of all he is thankful for his friendship.

While in Texas he had the opportunity to sing at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Fort Worth.

He also performed at Scotty’s National Steer Guitar Convention in St. Louis. One of the most memorable of all of his performing opportunities was when he had the honor of being a guest and sing with Hank Thompson and his Brazos Valley Boys.

Sam remarked, “It was something I never dreamed I would be inducted into – strictly a surprise. Those I played with thought I deserved to be inducted.”

Several of Sam’s family members attended the induction in Mineral Wells, Texas.

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