Waddie Mitchell was a real cowboy who became a world-renowned cowboy storyteller and poet, enchanting contemporary audiences with tales of life in the rugged West. He was born Bruce Douglas Mitchell on the enormous Horseshoe Ranch, located over thirty miles south of Elko, Nevada. Young Bruce, nicknamed "Waddie" (a synonym for 'cowboy') by his father, spent most of his time with real cowboys and at night listened to their stories and memorized their poems. He dropped out of school at age 16 to become a full-time wrangler and chuck wagon driver. He was drafted into the Army and was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado on a 24,000-acre ranch where he broke and trained horses for the U.S. Cavalry. While working as the foreman of a ranch, Mitchell appeared in an early-'80s PBS documentary about the last real cowboys in America, The Vanishing Breed. The documentary featured some of Mitchell's own poetry, and Johnny Carson invited him to visit The Tonight Show. Mitchell didn't even know who Carson was, but he was a big hit on the show after reciting Wallace McCray's famous poem Reincarnation, and later returned several times. He also appeared on several other programs, including Larry King's radio show and a National Geographic special.
In 1984, he and pal Hal Cannon organized the first Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Two thousand people attended the first year and by 1994, the attendance soared to nearly 14,000. Later in 1984, Mitchell recorded his first album of poetry at Cannon's house in Idaho. His second album sold over 10,000 copies. In 1992, Mitchell was one of the first artists to record on Warner Brothers' newly established Warner Western label with Lone Driftin' Rider. He and colleague Don Edwards embarked upon an extensive promotional tour of festivals, concert halls, schools and universities to sell the album and to educate audiences about their nearly extinct way of life. Mitchell released his second Warner album, Buckaroo Poet, in 1994. He next appeared as a guest host on the cable-TV channel VH1's Country Country show. He also won numerous honors for his poetry and storytelling, and was inducted into the Cowboy Poets and Singers' Hall of Fame. ~ Sandra Brennan