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Sourdough Slim rounds ‘em up and entertains ‘em cowboy style

Sourdough Slim: "The One-Man Western Extravaganza"
Sourdough Slim: "The One-Man Western Extravaganza"
Vern Evans

This cowpoke won’t poke fun at his audiences to make them laugh.

Sourdough Slim (aka Rick Crowder) is too busy yodeling, doing rope tricks, playing the accordion, singing his heart out, and being campy much like those beloved vaudevillians back in the day.

It’s his passion to play the music from the 1920s and 1930s, the same music that he used to listen to with his grandfather, back when Crowder was a child growing up on a California cattle ranch.

That music made an indelible imprint on Crowder’s psyche and inspired him to transform himself into the character Sourdough Slim, the singing cowboy that continues to entertain audiences across the country, and sometimes even in far-off places around the world. Whether he appears at The National Cowboy Gathering in Elko, Nevada, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., or venues in New York City, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Crowder does his best to transport his audiences into the past and provide them with a glimpse of cowboy folklore.

Crowder created Sourdough Slim back in 1988. Back then, he had a good job with UPS (United Parcel Service); he had been a driver for the company for thirteen years. In his spare time, he kept busy playing music with various western bands.

Yet, he felt a yearning for something more.

Perhaps it was that adventurous spirit—the same spirit that inspired hundreds of pioneers, more than a century-and-a-half ago, to take the long trek out west by covered wagon—that gave Crowder the impetus to quit his job and commit himself to his music fulltime.

These days, Crowder says it was the one of the best decisions he ever made.

And when he appears in concert at the Autry National Center this Sunday, Crowder will show that he has a lot in common with some of the best-known Western cowboys, singers and entertainers of yesteryear. His musical repertoire includes many of their well-remembered classic cowboy tunes, as well as a variety of original songs written and composed by Crowder. In fact, for the last ten years, Crowder has also been producing his own recordings, which he continues to market with gusto.

Following in the footsteps of the Father of Country Music Jimmie Rodgers, Crowder makes yodeling an intricate part of his performances. Other famed country singers who loved to yodel were Montana Slim (Wilf Carter), Patsy Montana, Slim Whitman (Ottis Dewey Whitman Jr.) and “America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy” himself, Gene Autry.

Autry was a co-founder of the Museum of the American West, which first opened in 1988, and later in 2004, merged with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian (founded by Charles Fletcher Lummis) to form the current Autry National Center.

Born in Texas, in 1907, Autry’s 60-year career in the entertainment industry made him legendary; he is the only entertainer to have five stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, representing his accomplishments in radio, records, film, television and live theatrical performance (including rodeo). With credits that included 93 feature films and 635 recordings, Autry’s dream was to one day help create a museum that would pay tribute to the heritage of the American West.

Today Autry’s dream lives on. The museum is a powerhouse of culture, which welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Besides the ongoing and special exhibits, the center also hosts a variety of special events featuring live musical and theatrical (Native Voices) performances, as well as film screenings (Two Gene Autry films are screened the first Saturday of every month.)

In addition, family-friendly events abound. On the first Sunday of every month, Native American Indian culture is highlighted with a variety of added activities. These may include: appearances by American Indian authors and illustrators, live American Indian dance and music performances, docent-led family tours of the museum and other cultural presentations.

By providing opportunities for people to enjoy and learn more about Western heritage, the Autry keeps the wonder about our past alive, providing the perfect setting to “come a-ti yi yippy yippy yea” with cowboys like Sourdough Slim.

(Sourdough Slim in Concert takes place on Sunday, June 5th from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Tickets for the concert are $20/per person. Click here for ticket and additional information. The Autry National Center is located at 4700 Western Heritage Way, 
Los Angeles, CA 90027 (in Griffith Park) Phone Number: (323) 667-2000. Click here for map, directions and more.)