Hot jazz and cowboy songs

Melody RanchSpent Sunday in Santa Clarita at the Cowboy Festival. The annual event is held on Melody Ranch, the former Gene Autry property and long-time Hollywood studio where many westerns, including Deadwood, have been shot. In fact, I walked through the doors of the Gem, not that that means much, since it’s just a facade. I’ll tell you, the balcony of the Gem and the Bella Union look a lot bigger on TV.

Bands seen: Wylie and the Wild West, the Sons of the San Joaquin, and Whit Smith and the Hot Jazz Caravan.

All were excellent — Wylie is particularly entertaining — but Whit Smith stole the show, and he was the one I really wanted to see. Whit is the guitarist formerly of Hot Club of Cowtown. Since the Caravan is a new band, they were a little rough, but all are outstanding musicians, so I expect they’ll be putting on just about the hottest shows around before long.

Unfortunately, no pictures from Melody Ranch. They have this inexplicable and insane policy of banning cameras. I would have used my camera phone for a couple of shots anyway, but the battery was going dead.

We did meet an old-timer on a back road near a black wooden barn who said he worked the ranch before Autry’s widow sold it. He claims to know where Autry’s horse Champion is buried, and he took us to the spot. The old guy had a camera with him. He said he didn’t care about no no-camera policy. They could kick him off the property if they liked. He doesn’t particularly like the new owners, whom he claims kept a desk Gene had given him.

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