July 31, 2008

Band Rides into Sunset

By Bill Blankenship

By Bill Blankenship


Judy Coder & Pride of the Prairie will sing "Happy Trails" for the last time Saturday in Topeka before the quartet members' professional paths part.

The cowboy band, which includes Alan Lawton, Phil Thompson and Stan Tichenor, will disband next month after performances at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., and at the Gene Autry Film and Music Festival in Gene Autry, Okla.

Before it does, Judy Coder & Pride of the Prairie will headline the fifth Wheatstock acoustic music festival, which will be from 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday in the Jefferson Room of the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th.

Wheatstock, an event organized by local music advocate Doug Ruth as a fundraiser for the Jayhawk Theatre, will honor the cowboy band with its Performer of the Year Award for 2008.

The group will close the festival with a 7 to 8 p.m. show.

Also scheduled to perform at Wheatstock are the Wood Valley Pickers, Shyster Mountain Gang, Boiler Room Boys, Dusty Workman and Ryan Braun, all from 1 to 6 p.m., which is when Wheatstock will honor Judy Coder & Pride of the Prairie, as well as presenting posthumously its Lifetime Achievement Award to Dan Falley.

Falley, the owner of a guitar shop and a guitarist many considered the best in Topeka, was killed Jan. 6 in a traffic accident. Falley's daughter, Jennifer Falley, is slated to accept the award on behalf of her father.

Judy Coder & Pride of the Prairie got together in May 2003. Six months later, the group competed at the international convention of the Western Music Association with Coder's four-part harmony arrangement of "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

The ensemble earned the WMA International Harmony Singing Championship, which it won again in 2005. The group has recorded three CDs for Coder's independent label, Santa Rita Records, which takes its name from the patron saint of impossible dreams.

"Musically, we still love making music together," said Coder, but she explained that changes in the quartet's "personal priorities" made it difficult to continue to coordinate work as a band.

Coder said she was exploring the idea of a new band and also will continue her solo appearances, which will include support for a new album, "Judy Coder: Yodels," which will be unveiled at a CD release party from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at A Place in Time, 321 S.E. Stanton Road, Tecumseh. The public is invited.

Coder took up yodeling 10 years ago at the suggestion of her father-in-law, Jim Coder, the longtime emcee of the Elmont Opry. She has earned honors for her yodeling, including the 1999 Patsy Montana National Yodeling Championship and the 2001 WMA International Yodeling Championship.

The idea of an all-yodeling album came to Coder after she staffed the group's CD table and often was asked, "OK, which CD has the most yodeling?"

"Judy Coder: Yodels" includes some of Coder's best previously recorded yodeling songs, as well as three new tracks. Two, "Singing on the Trail" and "The Mockingbird Yodel," were made famous by Carolina Cotton, a singer and B-movie star known as "the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell."

The third new track is "The Mourning Dove Song," which Coder co- wrote with cowboy poet and songwriter Les Buffham.

Coder also will continue to sing with the Topeka Festival Singers and plans to open a private music studio. As she has written more choral music in recent years, Coder said she also plans to do work as a clinician with area high school choruses and other groups.

Asked whether audiences would ever see Judy Coder & Pride of the Prairie do any reunion shows, Coder replied, "I hope so."

Bill Blankenship can be reached at (785) 295-1284 or [email protected]

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