Not just any guy with a cowboy hat can be a Flying W Wrangler.
He has to be able to carry a tune and carry a legacy of 66 years. It’s not a light load.
That’s why bandleader David Bradley is looking for heavyweight musicians at this weekend’s open auditions for the Flying W Wranglers.
“We’re looking for the best of the best,” Bradley said. “We’re looking for magic to walk into the room. I want to say, ‘We have to have that one.’”
Auditions will be from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Stargazers Theatre and are open to musicians interested in being part of “Western history.”
During Bradley’s eight years with the band, they’ve looked for new members once or twice. Most members stay for at least five years.
“(Auditions) are held hardly ever,” he said.
The rare search is happening ahead of next year’s relaunch of the Flying W Ranch Chuckwagon Dinner and Original Western Musical Show and reopening of the Flying W Ranch. The nightly summer performances have been on hiatus since 2012, when the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed the ranch.
In the seven years since “the house burnt down,” as Bradley puts it, the band has played on the road extensively. The current iteration of the Flying W Wranglers includes four members, some of which plan on retiring and some of which plan to leave the band before the ranch opens again.
Bradley said he hopes to have five or six members for the first Wranglers show at the new 8,000-square-foot event center. That’s expected to happen over Memorial Day weekend.
Leigh Ann Wolfe, owner of the Flying W Ranch, promises the new venue will be “world class.” And she’s looking for a world-class bluegrass band to match.
“We’re the second oldest Western singing band in the world, so we have to be the best,” she said. “We’re seeking that perfection we’ve had for all of these many years.”
Part of that perfection is being able to expertly sing, play an instrument and be funny.
“To be a Wrangler, you need to be pretty versatile,” Bradley said. “You gotta love the music and what it represents.”
It’s a tall order. But Bradley is confident they’ll find musicians meant to be Wranglers. He expects to see men from across the state and beyond auditioning on Saturday.
Bradley hopes to have the band’s lineup finalized by the end of November, providing plenty of time to rehearse and play shows ahead of the ranch’s opening, which he calls a “new beginning.”
“You gotta build a race car, then you gotta run it around the track around a little bit,” he said. “We have a great reputation to live up to.”