MOLI’s Cowboy Blogger

(Originally published on MOLI 5/27/8)

Phil Martin is one of the best things to happen to this website. The Brady, Texas-based musician, poet, retired professor, and all-around pontificator is MOLI’s most prolific blogger. At his Campo Madrone profile he has 19 different tabs, including the D&E Ranch, featuring the prose of his alterego Cletus Duhon, and the Border, photographic and writerly snapshots of life where Mexico meets Texas. As if that weren’t enough, Phil has also launched a profile for the Cowboy Chautauqua Company, a performing troupe of cowboy singers and poets. You can read more of his poems there, and hear some great Americana anthems, like Andy Wilkinson’s “I’ll Be Better Than This,” which Phil says was inspired by something he said.

I’ve never met Phil, though I try to keep up with the emails he sends me through MOLI – man, I envy his verbosity and quick wit! Unlike some of us, Phil isn’t paid to blog. He just has a passion for writing, and he’s found us to be a good site to air out his bounteous ink, so to speak.

After a decade hiatus, Phil is trying to revive the CCC. You can book one, two, four, or a whole posse of poets, writers, songsmiths. It’s great to experience Martin’s original American voice virtually wherever you are – but I’d love to see him and his friends in person. Judging by the Campo Madrone blogs, it would be a pointed, philosophic, hilarious, and poignant night of songs, jokes, and running commentary. Like an old campfire gathering – one where W. is likely to get roasted on a long pointed stick and someone gets messy confessional.

The Chautauqua is based on an historic form of popular culture, pre-Internet, even pre-the chitlin circuit: “Chautauquas were a big part of the American entertainment scene during the last half of the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries,” Phil writes in one posting. “They died out mostly because of the invention of motion pictures and radios . . . but they thrived for nearly half a century. Describing what they did isn’t easy because a wide disparity of styles and formats existed among them. But a national circuit developed, one where traveling troupes of entertainers came through small towns across America on a regular basis. These shows were in part educational, aimed at bringing the thriving culture of the cities to the rural parts of the country.”

Brady is a long way from my perch in Miami Beach, but I feel like I’ve gotten to know Phil in the past year. (His wife, Evelyn [nice name], makes the amazing Lathers del Corazon handmade soaps and lotions, which I highly recommend.) I’m not just saying this as some sort of MOLI promotion, but getting to find a voice like his – or really, I should say voices, since he writes in so many personae — is what makes me believe in the use of a social networking site, or the Internet in general. Call it digital chautauqua. Make sure to send him an email – and be ready for a new pen pal.

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