2021 Guest Speakers

This year promises a day filled with fantastic stories, lectures, chats, and conversations.


Michael R. Grauer

McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture/ Curator of Cowboy Collections and Western Art

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

A Kansas native, Mr. Grauer holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in art history from the University of Kansas; the Master of Arts in art history from Southern Methodist University; and the Master of Arts in history from West Texas A&M University.  He was the University of Kansas Kress Foundation Department of Art History’s distinguished alumnus for 2012. He worked at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, before becoming curator of art and Western heritage and associate director for curatorial affairs at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas, from 1987 to 2018. He was also Adjunct Lecturer in Western American Studies at West Texas A&M University. He joined the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in September 2018. He has curated over 150 exhibitions on Western art, culture, and history and authored 65 publications, including the Dictionary of Texas Artists, 1700-1945, Rounded Up in Glory: Frank Reaugh, Texas Renaissance Man, and Making a Hand: The Art of H. D. Bugbee, which received the Western History Association Wrangler Award for Best Western Art Book for 2020.

Mr. Grauer lectures on art, history, and culture across the American West. He does a living history cowboy presentation called “Cowboy Mike.”

He serves as president of the Western Cattle Trail Association; vice-president of the International Chisholm Trail Association; on the boards of the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the National Drovers Hall of Fame; is a member of the research committee for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth; on the Charles M. Russell catalogue raisonne committee, and is a board member and on the executive committee for Westerners International.

He and his wife, Leslie Baker, live in Oklahoma City. He has three children, Matthew (33), Hannah (26), and Sarah (22), and three grandchildren, Otto, Ezra, Redmund, and Eloise Rae.


Michael Martin Murphey

Singer Songwriter

Michael Martin Murphey’s musical journey has taken many unpredictable paths over the past 50 years. Topping the Pop, Country, Western and Bluegrass charts, Murphey has never been one to rest on his laurels.

A loyal American son from Texas, Murphey is best known for his chart-topping hits “Wildfire,” Carolina In The Pines,” “What’s Forever For,” “Long Line of Love,” “Geronimo’s Cadillac”, “Cowboy Logic,” and many more across his 35 albums released to date.  

Murphey’s long-running incarnation as a purveyor of the music, lifestyle, and values of the American West is one of many musical mantles he has worn over the years. To track his career path is to span the country itself, from coming of age in the Texas folk music scene, to Los Angeles to Colorado to Nashville and then back to his native Texas.

Murphey’s original songs have been recorded by The Monkees, Kenny Rogers, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Denver, Hoyt Axton, Johnny Cash, Tracy Byrd, Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker, Dolly Parton, Johnny Rivers, Billy Ray Cyrus, and many others.  

During the early 1970s in Austin, TX along with artists like Jerry Jeff Walker and Gary P. Nunn, Murphey created the “Cosmic Cowboy” movement, which was pivotal in drawing artists like Willie Nelson to the scene and helped birth the “Outlaw” Country movement.  In 1972, Murphey signed a major label deal. Discovered by renowned producer Bob Johnston (Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan), Murphey released his pivotal debut, Geronimo’s Cadillac.  “On the strength of his first album alone,” proclaimed Rolling Stone Magazine, “Michael Murphey is the best new songwriter in the country.”  In 1975 he topped the pop charts with his hit singles, “Wildfire” and “Carolina In the Pines” from the RIAA Certified Gold album Blue Sky - Night Thunder.  

Then, in the early 1980s, Murphey recorded a watershed country album for Capitol Records produced by Jim Ed Norman.  He topped the Country Charts with the  “Still Taking Chances” single, which solidified his relationship with country radio as a hit singer-songwriter, and exposed him to an entirely new audience.  Twelve years after his first hit in Pop music, Murphey was awarded “Best New Artist” by the Academy of Country Music (beating out George Strait).  He continued to top the country charts throughout the decade with hits like “What’s Forever For,” the Grammy nominated “A Face In the Crowd,” (with Holly Dunn), the number one “A Long Line of Love”, “I’m Gonna Miss You Girl”, and many more.


In 1985, Murphey performed with the New Mexico Symphony in a concept he titled “A Night in the American West,” which was so well received, it led to hundreds of performances with American and Canadian symphonies, including the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. 


In 1990 he circled around to one of his first loves, cowboy music. Cowboy Songs Vol.1, was wildly successful and became the first album of cowboy music to go gold since the heyday of Marty Robbins.  Cowboy Songs was so popular and highly regarded that Warner Bros. created an entire imprint called Warner Western.  In the midst of this Country / Western successes he founded a Western cultural festival called “Westfest”, deemed “the best festival in America”. It is American West showmanship, culture, lifestyle and scholarship. 


Ever a genre-busting artist, Murphey refocused his attention again in 2009 with his Grammy nominated Buckaroo Blue Grass.  That project — and two subsequent releases, Buckaroo Blue Grass II and Tall Grass & Cool Water — topped the Bluegrass charts.


Murphey has been awarded gold albums for Cowboy Songs, Vol. I, Blue Sky Night Thunder, and a Platinum single, “Wildfire”.  He has been given the prestigious Charlie Russell Award for Western Heritage.  He is a 5-time recipient of the Wrangler award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame, and boasts awards from the Academy of Country Music, Rock Music Awards, Academy of Western Music Awards, Governor of New Mexico’s Outstanding Achievement Award, Outstanding Son of Texas Award by the Texas Legislature, and multiple from BMI. In 2009, he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association Hall of Fame, joining old friends Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Allen Shamblin.   


In 2018, he released Austinology, celebrating his early days as a pioneer of the Austin Music Scene of the 70s with guest artists that include Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and many more.


Tom Weger

Historian and Author

Saint Jo’s Tom Weger has never been afraid to go his own way, in his business or personal life.

Historian Tom Weger found many inaccuracies in the commercialism of the Chisholm Trail established route and has undertaken the task of separating fact from folklore in the history of Montague County cattle trails. Weger attests that the story being told today is an authentic account of the cattle trails traveling through the Saint Jo area in Montague County, Texas.


Weger’s curiosity and research developed into a 47-page research paper he turned into a book, “North to Kansas” and a 47-minute documentary by the same name. He also has helped steer the organization of the “The Real West Symposium,” over the past five years.


In 2017, Tom received the award for “Excellence for Preserving History”.


Diana Vela, Ph.D.

Associate Executive Director, Exhibits and Education

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

Dr. Vela researches and interprets Cowgirl Museum exhibitions and permanent installations, as well as develops its collection with a focus on women in the west, particularly cowgirls. Vela’s exhibitions at the National Cowgirl Museum include the renovated Hitting the Mark: Cowgirls and Wild West Shows gallery, and the recently completed renovation of the upper galleries, which includes the It’s Never Just a Horse™ galleries.   Additionally, she has created several special exhibitions, one of which was The Cowgirl who Became a Justice, which was conceived in conjunction and cooperation with retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of her court appointment. 

Dr. Vela was involved in the creation of a historic marker in Santa Fe, New Mexico honoring a nun who traveled the Santa Fe Trail with Archbishop Lamy to establish one of the first educational institutions for women in that territory. 

Vela’s interests are in recovering female voices, traditions, and experiences in the American West that often go unnoticed and unrecorded.


B. Byron Price

Director of Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West

University of Oklahoma

B. Byron Price, the current Interim Director of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art also holds the Charles Marion Russell Memorial Chair and is Director of Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma.  And from 2007-2018, he served as Director of the University of Oklahoma Press.


Before arriving at OU Price spent nearly 25 years in the museum profession serving as executive director of the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas; the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.


A 1970 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Price also holds a degree in Museum Science from Texas Tech University.  He is the author of more than 60 articles on western American history and art and has written or edited more than a dozen books including Picturing Indian Territory…, 1819-1907 (2016); The Sons of Charlie Russell, (2015),  The Charles M. Russell Catalogue Raisonné (2007) and Fine Art of the West (2004); Erwin E. Smith: Cowboy Photographer (1997).  His forthcoming biography of California cowboy artist Edward Borein will be published by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art this fall.