A longtime veteran of the North American music scene, David Wilkie is the founder of Cowboy Celtic. The Turner Valley, Alberta, mandolinist has been called an elder statesman of Alberta music, and has compiled an impressive list of noteworthy artistic achievements while building his varied career as musician and band leader, songwriter, record producer and broadcaster.
David spent much of his childhood on his grandfather’s ranch in California, and grew up watching all the western movies, playing the parts, and listening to the music. His attraction to the cowboy lifestyle and music was reawakened when, in his twenties, he moved to the beautiful ranching country in the Rocky Mountain foothills of southern Alberta. He worked off and on as a ranch hand, especially during calving season and at brandings, and mostly for the historic Tongue Creek Ranch, which was founded and run by the Guinness company out of Ireland. At the same time, Wilkie was always playing music in a band, and for six years, was the music director and radio programmer for a 50,000 watt country radio station in Alberta. There, he was exposed to an extensive repertoire of western music, had his own cowboy radio show, and visited often with country and cowboy music greats, including Roy Rogers. When he left radio to play music full time, he hooked up with Canadian legend Ian Tyson for four years of concert dates and recordings. In 1985, he formed The Great Western Orchestra (GWO) and produced three albums, one released on the Sony label (formerly CBS), and the following two independently released on Wilkie’s own label, Centerfire Music.
While working on various musical projects over the last ten years, David Wilkie has devoted time to one of his favourite passions – the seeking out of Celtic origins of traditional cowboy music. The result has been the release of three highly successful Cowboy Celtic CDs, The Drover Road (2001), Cowboy Ceilidh (1997) and Cowboy Celtic (1995). The ‘Celtic and cowboy’ musical marriage on these recordings has struck a chord with music lovers on both sides of the ocean. As one reviewer put it, “This is more than music. It’s theatre and imagery and history and storytelling and more, all wrapped up in sagebrush and tartan.”
Cowboy Celtic has toured Scotland three times, and has played in the U.S. in Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma (National Cowboy Hall of Fame), Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and Montana.
Wilkie has produced several albums for other artists, both in Canada and the U.S., and has composed the musical scores for numerous short films and documentaries. He recently played mandolin and mandocello on Maria Muldaur’s Granny-nominated CD Richland Woman. With his songwriting talents and sense of humour, he became a favourite of national CBC radio fans several years ago, regularly composing amusing songs on current events for various national radio programs. His latest song covered the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. Wilkie is better known and respected as a serious song writer, and his songs “Wind in the Wire” and “Cowboy Boogie,” co-written with GWO partner Stewart MacDougall, were recorded by Randy Travis on the Warner Western record label. Travis also featured the GWO’s music on his ABC TV special “Wind in the Wire,” and an animated film of the GWO song “Cactus Swing” was produced by Canada’s prestigious National Film Board. The group also performed to sold-out audiences with the world renowned Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to his three Cowboy Celtic CDs and his three Great Western Orchestra CDs, Wilkie has two solo albums to his credit and an acclaimed release with the Cold Club (an off-the-wall group that also includes renowned blues guitarist Amos Garrett, jazz violinist Karl Roth and Chilean guitar wizard Oscar Lopez).
David Wilkie has toured in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, England, Ireland, Scotland and all over the United States and Canada.