In Their Own Words: Skip Gorman

Skip Gorman embodies the “Cowboy Way” through song and lifestyle. Simple and direct. Honest and tough. Smiling and kind when given a moment. He has 20 recordings to his credit, his own label, “Old West Recordings,” and he founded a music camp, “Camp Backup” in Hancock, to preserve and promote the art of roots music accompaniment.

Photo assistance by Wendy Mendelsohn and Karrah Kwasnick. Videos and other stuff by Katie Benway. Vintage truck loaned by Dick Leclair. Thanks to Nickie Suguna Fuller Farr and Pam Ikegami for providing their talented pups. Shot at UNH Organic Dairy Farm, in Lee courtesy of Nichole Guindon and Tom Oxford.

I’ve traveled all over the western US, the British Isles, South America, but wouldn’t trade my old farm house in Grafton and the views of Cardigan Mt. for any other spot in the universe.

My guitar is an old 1880 Martin model 0-28 from the time when cattle drives were in full swing. My chaps are vintage bullhide batwings from a ranch in Texas. Years back I acquired them at a gun show in Cody, Wyoming. The hat is a Stetson “Rancher” model from the early 1900s.

I’ve never been able to figure out why some modern-day cowboy and country singers plug in their guitars.

To my mind, that’s like putting ketchup on steak that costs $20 a pound. I worked on some ranches in Wyoming and learned what the life was really all about. You know, getting bucked off saddle horses, sleeping in a bedroll by a campfire 40 miles out.

It was a necessary experience.

I had to fully live the life and measure the ballads I was singing to really feel that lonesome sound.

We’re talking organic, original music, not the plugged-in Hollywood music that radio and TV brought in later.

I feel good about helping to preserve music and culture, some of which seems to be quickly going by the board.

N. Howard “Jack” Thorp — one of Gorman’s heroes and a progenitor of country-western music, generally — has a strong NH tie. The son of a wealthy New York lawyer, Thorp was educated at Concord’s St. Paul’s School. In the 1890s he headed West and it became his real home. He traveled extensively, learning cowboy songs and range ballads (and writing a few), and he published the first collection of them, “Songs of the Cowboys,” in 1908. It sold for six cents a copy.

This photo of Thorp is from a University of Illinois Press edition of “The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing and Other Songs Cowboys Sing” written by Guy Logsdon.


Categories: Q&A