Wylie Gustafson has got a lot of stuff going on. Let’s take it from the top and work backwards.
He lives and works in Dusty, Wash., a town of less than 80 people located 33 miles west of Pullman on the sprawling Palouse, where he and his wife live on a turn-of-the-century homestead and raise horses and cattle. A nearby eatery—the Dusty Cafe—stocks a few releases by Wylie and his band, the Wild West, and whenever a curious passer-through picks one up, a waitress places a discreet call to Wylie, who hops behind the wheel and drives the two miles to the diner to chat with the person who bought one of his recordings—and thank him personally. When Wylie isn’t touring he can usually be found in Dusty, living the good life, home on the range.
When he’s not roping and riding on the rodeo circuit, that is; according to his website, earlier this year Wylie and his faithful mount Cupcake won first place in a team-roping contest in Colfax, Wash., where Wylie’s share of the purse was enough “to almost pay for the entry fees and gasoline costs.” A few weeks later, Wylie and his partner roped three steers in 33.5 seconds at the Reba McEntire Pro Celebrity Rodeo in Guthrie, Okla.—“pretty good,” he acknowledged, “for having a yodeler involved.” The rodeo raised $250,000 for the Children’s Medical Research charity. Along with horse and cattle husbandry, he lists skiing, fly-fishing, ukulele and Montana history as hobbies. He obviously feels at home outdoors.
All this and a busy music career to boot. Wylie and the Wild West spend a considerable amount of time on the road, averaging roughly a 150 shows per year in almost every kind of venue imaginable —on flatbed trucks at county fairs, at bass demos, private parties, public libraries, probably a carp derby or two—all the way up to the bric-a-brac Taj Mahal of country music, Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. Wylie and his boys are regulars. They’ve recorded four albums, made nine music videos that enjoy heavy rotation on country channels, and have traveled to Europe, Canada and Australia, where their music is enormously popular.
And, saving the best for last, in addition to these fine stats, there’s a strong local hook as well. Wylie, a former Missoula resident and an alumnus of the University of Montana (he studied business administration), and his brother Erik used to play in one of the coolest Missoula bands ever: the Talk, a deliciously obscure New Wave band who put out a couple albums of totally vintage, synth-driven pop. Sample lyric, from breakdown part in a song whose name escapes me: “This heart...beats...alone/and this heart...beats...as one.”
With credentials like these, we hardly need to tell you that it’s going to be a boot-stomping, “Total Yodel!” good-time return to Missoula when Wylie and the Wild West play here on Saturday. “Hold on to your reins, folks,” as the gentleman cowboy is wont to say, “We’re going to take you for a ride.”
Wylie and the Wild West play the University Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. For tickets, call 243-4051.