The iconic Western band is returning to Artesia and Roswell
By Christina Stock
Flying J Wranglers’ Christmas tour has been an anticipated tradition in Artesia and Roswell, ringing in the season Western style.
The first concert of the Ruidoso band takes place in Artesia’s Ocotillo Performing Arts Center, 310 W. Main St., Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.
The next performance of A White Mountain Christmas tour will be at Roswell’s First United Methodist Church, 200 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. The church concert is free of charge for the public.
Flying J Wranglers’ founder, James Hobbs, said that their tour was named after their first Christmas album, where one of the songs was inspired by Ruidoso’s Sierra Blanca.
Asked how they started the tradition, Hobbs said, “Our first Christmas, we got actually invited by a church in 1999 — this is our 20th year. A church in Las Cruces called and the lady asked if we would do a Christmas show. At the time, of course, we didn’t. I started to say to the lady, ‘No.’ And by the time I inhaled and by the time I exhaled, I said, ‘Yeah.’ It was kind of ‘Yeah, why not,’ and so I gave her a price. I thought, I probably never will hear from her again — she called back and booked us. They booked us for three days because they normally did a living Christmas tree, and wanted to give everybody a year off, so we went in and did that. It has evolved over the years, there are things that are constant. One thing we learned is that we include some Western music, some of our Flying J ranch-style tunes, because they want to hear Cindy yodel. Cindy is my wife. She is a champion yodeler. We did a Christmas show without her yodeling and that did not work. They like to hear some of those Flying J songs and we do some Cowboy Christmas songs, always include a handful of those, and then, we will be doing two of our original Christmas songs this year.
“One thing I’ve noticed,” Hobbs said, “when we are going around doing our Christmas tour — so many people have so many great memories from early childhood. Some of the very first memories I remember are Christmas memories, and it is a tradition shared all around the world.
“When we go out, what we are doing is allowing these people to revisit a great holiday, a great reason for celebrating, the birth of baby Jesus and the great gift that was given in the form of a child, and all the traditions that go with Christmas,” Hobbs said.
Asked what the audience can look forward to hearing this year, Hobbs said, “We’ll do fun songs; we’ll do everything from ‘Sleigh Ride’ to ‘Away in the Manger,’ ‘The Christmas Trail’ by the cowboy/Western poet Charles Badger Clark Jr. It was written around the turn of the century, and it got music written to it at some point. It’s for people around here, in this part of the country. It is just incredible, the lyrics, the poems it’s an incredible relic in literature from that period in time in this country. He was a poet laureate in South Dakota and that music, that song is ably done, sung by our bass player Jason (Jones), who is a working cowboy. Then we are also a version of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter,’ which is a poem written by Christina Rosetti in 1866 and put into music in 1906. They did a beautiful job — Michael Martin Murphey brought that poem to my attention. He’s got a beautiful rendition of it — we try to make it our own, our signature harmonies throughout.
“We will be debuting another original Christmas song that we’re really excited about. It’s called, ‘Together for Christmas.’ It’s a song that I love — the title song of our newest Christmas recording. I wrote it, it is just my experiences within my family. My son called up and said what are we going to do at Christmas. He lives up in Colorado and my kids are all spread out and grandkids. He is saying, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ I hung up and sitting there thinking, all I want for Christmas is being with my family. I just want to be together. And that’s where the idea for the song came from. And so we will be introducing it this year. We are looking forward to seeing our extended family, it does seem like an extended family,” Hobbs said.
For more information about the Artesia concert, visit artesiaartscouncil.com. For more information about the Roswell concert, call 575-622-1881.