Mosey into the Diamond Belle Saloon the next handful of Tuesdays and, if you time it right, you may find a room full of cowboys spinning yarns, singing songs and entertaining saloon-goers with poetry.
After a yearslong hiatus, Cowboy Tuesday has returned to Durango.
The original Cowboy Tuesday began in the mid-1990s, around 1994, ‘95, said Mike Leonard, one of the original performers. You can find Leonard performing at the new Tuesdays, too.
Just don’t call him an original organizer.
“It kind of grew organically. It was nothing that was ever really truly organized,” he said. “The way it basically happened is there were quite a few old cowboys in town at that time that would come in on certain days and wet their whistle and tell windy stories. It just happened that was a day I had a lot of business going on in the Durango, Ignacio, Bayfield area. And so I found it convenient for me to go in, and a lot of times if I had a customer with me, I’d bring him in and we’d have some lunch, they might want a libation or something. One thing led to another, and everybody got to be friends, so it got to be kind of a regular meeting, and a lot of the guys called it the ‘Weekly Safety meeting’ and things of that nature. It was anything but safe, probably. Actually, it was all pretty much in fun.”
Leonard said that the gatherings started with people just getting up and telling stories. They started later than they do now (noon to about 3 p.m. currently). And, he added, performing came easy to him.
“I’ve been in the entertainment part of things along with the cowboy poetry and music most all my life, since I was 17, so it was easy for me just to carry my guitar in and play a few songs or do a few poems, and everybody seemed to like it,” Leonard said. “When the early piano player would show up, a lot of times I’d spend a lot of time singing with her. Everybody had a grand time with that because not only do I like cowboy songs, but I like big band music and that upscale stuff a little more, and so everybody got a kick out of that.”
Cowboy Tuesday went on pretty strong until about 2010 or 2012: “Times change, people change,” said Leonard – who has a room on the third floor of the Strater Hotel dedicated to him.
It was during the dedication ceremony in January that Leonard and Scott Perez began talking about bring back Cowboy Tuesday. And now, thanks to word of mouth and social media – and sponsors Strater Hotel, Durango Wild West Talent, Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering and True West Rodeo Roundup – Cowboy Tuesday is back through April.
“We’ve got it going again, we’re going to be there. We’re going to have some food specials, a few drink specials,” he said. “I’ll be performing, Scott (Perez) will be doing some poetry. And we’ll leave it as kind of an open-mic thing, too.
WHAT: Cowboy Tuesdays.
WHEN: Noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through April.
WHEN: Diamond Belle Saloon, 699 Main Ave.
MORE INFORMATION: Email Scott Perez, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perez, who has been a working cowboy for most of his adult life, said the Tuesday gatherings are an open-mic format, so people are invited to share their stories and music. It’s this sharing, including by young people and those with ranching and cowboy stories from a different perspective, that will help keep the culture alive.
“Anybody that’s got a story that’s relevant, we want to give them the chance to get up there,” he said. “I really want to push for younger people to come in who are just starting storytelling and singing or poetry because this is a perfect place for them to get practice in front of a friendly crowd.”