Pepie – Wyoming Country Music

Pepie – Wyoming Country Music

September 21, 2019 2 By Ronny Jaskolski


– [Narrator] Your support helps us bring you
programs you love. Go to wyomingpbs.org,
click on support and become a sustaining
member or an annual member. It’s easy and secure. Thank you! (bluesy country music) – Over the last four
decades, if you’ve been in Southeastern Wyoming,
and you like country music, you may have come
across this guy. Country music, Wyoming
style with Pepie, next on “Wyoming Chronical.” (upbeat orchestral music) – [Narrator] Funding
for this program was provided by the members
of the WyomingPBS Foundation, Thank you for your support. – We’re pleased to be joined on “Wyoming
Chronical” with Pepie. Pepie, you’re a country
music legend maybe, in this part of Wyoming.
– No. (laughing) – Welcome.
– Thanks for having me. Thanks for thinking of me. – Absolutely, it was a
pleasure for me to meet you during “Frontier Days,”
where for dozens of years you’ve played at Little America every night during
“Frontier Days.” – Yes, indeed I’ve
been blessed to have Little America
always invite me back for “Frontier Days.”
– And of course, country music is your thing,
and you’ve been playing for over four decades
in this part of Wyoming. – Yeah, yes I have. – Let’s talk a little
bit about your history. Why country music? When did you learn to play? – Well, my first recollection
of wanting to play was, I think it had to
be like Thanksgiving
or Christmas dinner, and my grandmother just
got this brand new Magnavox black and white TV, and I
was still in the high chair, and I turned around looked and I saw a gentleman
playing guitar and singing. And it hit me like a
bolt of lighting that, that’s what I wanted to do. And even at a young
age like that, so. I bugged my parents
for a long time. Every birthday, every
Christmas “I want a guitar “I want a guitar” you know? It took a long time. Finally my grandparents
got me a guitar. And I was, learned
how to play guitar. – Did you take music
classes in school? Were you in the band? How did you learn?
– No. I think back to that
and wished I would’ve cause I would’ve learned music. But, no, I didn’t have any schooling
on it or anything. I took a couple of
lessons form a gentleman. It turned out that he
wanted more of an audience rather than he wanted to
teach somebody guitar, so. I would go to the music
stores and buy the books with little chord
diagrams on them and the words of the songs
that I’d hear on the radio, learn the chords, and then
learn to play the song that way. – So you’re self taught? – Pretty much self taught, yeah. – Why do you think
country music grabbed you? – Growing up in that, when I did, there was all
kinds of music going on. – And that was here in
Cheyenne is where you grew up? – Yes, born and raised
here in Cheyenne. All kinds of music happenin’. I spent a lot of time
with my grandparents, and she listened to big band. So I would listen to
big band with her. All of my friends were
listening to rock N’ roll. I liked country. So, I had a big mixture
of music in my life. Rock N’ roll, I couldn’t quite sing it, even though
I did like it. But it, somehow didn’t suit me. So, country music was
more of a draw for me so I just got into
country music. – So not only did you
learn to play by yourself, you also learned how
to sing on your own? – Yeah, that was another thing. With wanting a guitar,
naturally the second thing I wanted was a tape reorder. So I’d spend a lot of time,
when I got a tape recorder, down in my bedroom
trying different… voices and stuff,
inflections and things. Taping it and listenin’ to it
back and trying to figure out what I could do with my voice, and how I could get
better with my voice. – Were you good then?
– Oh no, it was terrible, it was terrible, you know.
(laughing) I remember making a tape
and was just goofing around and trying different things. I had a bedroom down in the
basement and I was walking up. My sister had gotten
ahold of that tape, and I remember her running
going “Oh you gotta hear this. “This is hilarious!” and she
played me goofin’ around. And it, it hurt me, you know? But I got over it.
– How old were you at the time that
you were doing this? – I was probably
still in grade school. – OK grade school. So who did you like to
hear back in those days? Who did you develop an ear for? – I think the first one
that really comes to mind is probably Buck Owens, was a big draw into stuff. I really like Neil Diamond. On the country side again then when Merle Haggard
hit the market, it was just all about
Merle Haggard for me. I thought he was the greatest
thing to ever come around. You know? And, of course
then I’d listen to, this was the day of the
LP of course, right? So on Sundays we’d sit around
and listen to Johnny Cash and Johnny Horton, Carl Smith, Dave Dudley, all kinds
of different artists. I would just learn and
listen to their voices, what they did with their voices. And also female artists. Female artists do a
lot with their voices. – I’ve heard you sing
Patsy Cline by the way. – Right, correct.
(laughing) So I just listened and
learned from other people. – We wanna make sure that our
viewers could hear you sing so, a couple times
during this interview we’re gonna cut away to songs
that we recorded earlier and, lets do that right now.
– I’d love to. (bluesy country music) ♪ Door opens, he walks in ♪ ♪ Her face turns
into a big ol’ grin ♪ ♪ All because two
people fell in love ♪ ♪ A slow dance, fat chance ♪ ♪ Find the future in
a passing glance ♪ ♪ It’s all because two
people fell in love ♪ ♪ It ain’t no
thing, it happens ♪ ♪ Each and every day ♪ ♪ Two people find each other ♪ ♪ Going separate ways ♪ ♪ Become a spouse, now
you build a house ♪ ♪ Fill it up with little
bitty of sprouts ♪ ♪ And it’s all because
two people fell in love ♪ (bouncy guitar solo) ♪ It ain’t no thing it
happens each and every day ♪ ♪ Two people find each other ♪ ♪ Going separate ways ♪ ♪ Hot fires, cold nights ♪ ♪ Hugs and kisses by
the ember lights ♪ ♪ All because two
people fell in love ♪ ♪ All because two
people fell in love ♪ ♪ All because two
people fell in love ♪ (bouncy guitar solo) – And as we continue our
interview now with Pepie, what did we just hear? – A song that I wrote called “All Because Two
People Fell in Love.” My wife and I were shopping
down in Fort Collins Colorado, we went into a garden shop. They had a sign that read “All because
two people fell in love.” I said, that’s a pretty
good little hook for a song. So I got an idea for it and
wrote it, and was playing it. I have a cousin that’s
also a musician. I was telling him
about the song, he goes, “oh well Brad
Paisley’s already got one out “by that name.”
– Uh oh! – I go “Yeah, but
it’s not this one.” So I’ll continue
to keep this one. – Is it fun for you to write? Do you find it easy, difficult? – No it’s pretty difficult. I find myself, a lot of
times trying to write in the first person,
and all of a sudden I’ll be in the second
person and then dropping into the third person. It’s really hard for
me to keep on a path. I’ve really gotta watch
where you’re going. Your thoughts stray. Writing’s hard, writing’s hard. – So give me an idea then. We get to middle
school and high school, are you playing a lot? Do you back off a little bit? Are you still learning quite
a bit about country music? – Probably still learnin’. At that time, in high school, throughout school
and everything, it was just mainly
playin’ in the basement, playin’ in my bedroom. I didn’t have a lot of
friends that actually played or anything back then,
so it was just basically hearing a song on the radio,
and wanting to sing it, and pick it up and
learn how to play it. – When was the first time
you got paid for playin’? – Oh. The first time I
got paid for playin’ I was sittin’ at home, and got
a call from the music store that I bought all my stuff from, and they said “Hey
they need a singer “in Wheatland Wyoming.” – [Craig] So it wasn’t
even a local gig! You’re on the road right away. – I went all the way to
Wheatland to get fired. – (laughing) Whoops. – We got up there. The guy that was supposed
to be running the band was already on his way into the night. The drummer we had wasn’t a
very good, just nothin’ clicked. It was my first gig. I had no idea what I should
be doing at that time. Finally about midnight they said “You know, we’ve had enough. “You guys can go.”
(laughing) – Did that set you back
at all or was that just– – No.
– Something you learn from? – Yeah it was just a
learning experience. You go OK. Now I’ve got that under me,
so let’s try to progress. I always wanted to be a
singer more than a musician. So I knew that I would
have to find good musicians to be able to carry me
through what I wanted to do. – And then you not only
do things on your own, you’ve been parts of bands? – Oh yeah, in fact, right now, I play with a couple of bands. I have a group, some local guys, they’re called
Allison Draw, we play. And then I just
recently joined up with a couple of
gentlemen out of Colorado with Barley Getting By. And we play every
chance we can get. – Sure. Back to your earlier days,
is this all you’ve done or have you had other
vocations in your life? – Oh no, I started out cookin’ chicken with
Kentucky Fried Chicken, and then went on to
become a manager. I traveled around a lot of different towns
opening or cleaning up Kentucky Fried
Chickens, and I ended up in New Orleans Louisiana.
– Wow. – We bought a 13 store
market down there. I went down there,
had a couple stores, cleaned ’em out, and then
got out of New Orleans, came back up here. I also was a welder. I learned from a gentleman here, who’s a very good welder,
he’s an old railroader. And he had an
ornamental iron shop. And he taught me how to weld. I learned from him, and then
welded on the power plant, was a pipe fitter for a while. Made enough money to
buy enough equipment to go on the road with a band. So I bought a van, and a
PA system, and off we went. I haven’t looked back since.
– Yeah! So where are you
playin’ in those days? Is it this part of the country? Is it all over the country?
– No, no, we went all over. We went up to North Dakota,
South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado some.
– This was before the internet – Way before the internet.
– So how are you getting gigs? – We had an agent. – OK.
– Agent sent us on the road. We spent a lotta time
out there, a lotta time. Back in those days, a guy
could actually make a living on the road, not
much of a living, but you could make
a living out there. – Do you look back
on those days fondly or was it a lot of work? – It was a lot of fun, yeah. I had a blast out there. I had some great guys with me. We had a lot of fun. – Did you ever have
aspirations like many to get to Nashville and
become a country music star in the real business
of country music? – Yeah, naturally. So I spent some
time in Nashville, hitting the streets
and the clubs. I got the opportunity to actually play on
the Grand Ole Opry. – [Craig] Really? – I thought then,
oh my goodness, I’ve
arrived, you know? It just didn’t quite work out. I had a lot of fun. And then I was invited
to play in Las Vegas. I’ll be playing in
Las Vegas for NFR, this’ll be my fourth
year going down there. – So you’re still on
the road at times. – Yes, at times,
yeah at times yeah. – Are you at the point where
you kinda pick and choose? – Pretty much. I take a lot of gigs. I still play in Northern
Colorado, a lot in Wyoming. – We’re filming this,
just a couple weeks after “Frontier Days”
has ended in Wyoming. Give us a sense of your
schedule during “Frontier Days.” – I had 22 gigs in 10 days. So some days I’d start as early
as 10 o’clock in the morning go till 11 o’clock at night.
– In and out of Frontier Park and all over town?
– Yeah. I’d start out at Frontier Park, and then go play at Little
America, do their barbecue, where I met you.
– Absolutely. – And then run from Little
America out to the Outlaw Saloon and I was doing
their outdoor venue that they have out there. Fortunately just
some 90 minute shows. – And you caught a break
this year with weather. – This year we
did catch a break. Weather can be really brutal
during “Frontier Days.” – So are you still learning?
Are you getting better? – I’m still
learning, yeah, yeah. It’s a learning process. Every young person that comes up goes “I would like
to be a musician.” That’s the first thing I
say “Do you like learning?” I go, “‘Cause it’s a never
ending learning process.” – Think about
learning today though. Kids have the internet,
they’ve got YouTube and they can see, they can hear. It’s a different process
than you had back in your day when you had to go
to the music store, buy the sheet music, do a
little more work on your own. – Same thing is you
listen, you hear somethin’ and you wanna learn it. My whole deal was
learnin’ enough songs to be able to get
me through a gig so I could make
money doing that. Again, that’s a long
learning process. Gotta have a pretty good memory to remember all of
those songs as well. – Let’s hear another one! – There’s a story
behind this song, we’re talking about
going to Nashville. I met a gentleman down there. He was pushin’ some of my
songs off on the radio. I had written this song. He had heard it,
and he was working with Curb Records at the time. And he says “We know you
want to release this song “but we think Merle
Haggard would bring this “into the top 10 for ya. “Would you let Merle
Haggard record it?” And I went “Are you kidding? “I wrote it for Merle
Haggard, you know?” He got it, unfortunately
there was some complications, it never got cut. Just to know that Merle
Haggard had listened to a song that I’d written for him was… Was awesome. – And the title of the song? – It’s called “Wish We
Didn’t Need No Money.” – We’re gonna listen
to it right now. (mid tempo country blues) ♪ Now I wish ♪ ♪ We didn’t need no money ♪ ♪ To get ♪ ♪ The things we want and need ♪ ♪ I could sit around
all day with my honey ♪ ♪ Someplace by the water
underneath a big ole tree ♪ ♪ I’d have me a horse,
my lady sit behind me ♪ ♪ We’d ride around
until the end of days ♪ ♪ Never think about
the cost of living ♪ ♪ Or think about the price
that one has to pay ♪ ♪ Now I wish ♪ ♪ We didn’t need no money ♪ ♪ To get ♪ ♪ The things we want and need ♪ ♪ I’d just sit around
all day with my honey ♪ ♪ Someplace by the water
underneath a big old tree ♪ (bouncy instrumental) ♪ Now there’s got to
be a whole lot more ♪ ♪ Than worry worry ♪ ♪ Yet the rising cost of
life goes up each day ♪ ♪ Now there’s people putting
pressure on other people ♪ ♪ And I just think there’s
better ways to spend my days ♪ ♪ I wish ♪ ♪ We didn’t need no money ♪ ♪ To get the things
we want and need ♪ ♪ I’d just sit around
all day with my honey ♪ ♪ Someplace by the water
underneath a big old tree ♪ ♪ Yes a place by the water
underneath big old tree ♪ So Pepie, you continued to
meet lots of different people in country music,
give us an idea today who you really
like to listen to. – Oh. Today’s market, not a whole lot. I’m an old country guy, and I
like the old country people. I had the pleasure of
working with Ray Price which was old country
crooner, great guy, met him through
another mutual friend. Through there, he let me come
and open some of his shows. Now they had the “Last of
the Breed Tour” going on, where it was Willie, Merle
Haggard and Ray Price. So I was hanging out with
Ray Price on his bus, and he brought me over and
introduced me to Willie on Willie’s bus, and
then backstage later on with Merle Haggard. It was just awesome
to be in the presence of all three of those
which were all guys that I grew up listening
to and learning from. So I still basically hang
with the old original guys that I learned from
and everything. Of course the first
original guy that I got into, and the very first
song I ever learned was “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” And it was because
they had a movie out about Hank Williams. I believe was George
Hamilton that was portraying Hank Williams at the time. “Your Cheatin’ Heart”
was the first song I think I actually
learned how to play without having to
look at a book. – We’re gonna play that
for our viewers here in just a little while. But one of the things I think
they may notice when you play is you use technology. And I’m sure that the
way you play things today isn’t the same as it
was 20, 30 years ago. – Right. I have this machine. I walked into a club one
day and I saw a gentleman playing it and it absolutely fit what I needed in my
life at that time. I had come off the road, I
didn’t have a band anymore, and was raising my daughter. My wife’d work days, and then
I would go to work nights. I learned how to play
this one man band thing and I was able to go
and still maintain a career in music, if
you want to call it that. Playing in this one man band, finding smaller venues
that wanted to have music without the cost of a big band. I focused on that
for a long time. Got my daughter through school. My wife and I was able to
stay together. (laughing) You know, made a
wonderful life out of it. – Big plus, why the name Pepie? – Well Pepie was given to me by my grandmother.
– Really? – Italian lady. One of the best
friends I ever had. But when I was born, she had
a cartoon that she liked, it was an Italian cartoon
called “Pepie Nomoco” And somehow, I got the
name Pepie, and it stuck, and it’s the only one I’ve
gone by my whole life. I don’t think there’s
too many people out there that actually know my real name, and I aint gonna
let ’em know it. – (laughing) Well I
know you by Pepie, I think everyone in
this part of Wyoming certainly does as
well, and we appreciate that you’ve joined us today
on “Wyoming Chronicle” Pepie. We talked a little bit
ago about taking us out with “Your Cheatin’ Heart,”
why don’t we do that right now? – Sounds good.
– Thanks so much for joining us today.
– Thank you. – You bet. ♪ Your cheating heart ♪ ♪ Will make you weep ♪ ♪ You’ll cry and cry ♪ ♪ And try to sleep ♪ ♪ But sleep won’t come ♪ ♪ The whole night through ♪ ♪ Your cheating heart ♪ ♪ Will tell on you ♪ ♪ When tears come down ♪ ♪ Like falling rain ♪ ♪ You’ll toss around ♪ ♪ And call my name ♪ ♪ You’ll walk the floor ♪ ♪ The way I do ♪ ♪ Your cheating heart ♪ ♪ Will tell on you ♪ (bright guitar solo) ♪ When tears come down ♪ ♪ Like falling rain ♪ ♪ You’ll toss around ♪ ♪ And call my name ♪ ♪ You’ll walk the floor ♪ ♪ The way I do ♪ ♪ Your cheating heart ♪ ♪ Will tell on you ♪ ♪ Your cheating heart ♪ ♪ Will tell on you ♪ (upbeat orchestral music) – [Narrator] Funding
for this program was provided by the members
of the WyomingPBS Foundation, thank you for your support.