Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing

We the Founders and Board of Advisors of the Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing are dedicated to the promotion, preservation and heritage of this great genre that was pioneered and developed by the Legends "King" Bob Wills and "Father" Milton Brown during their formative years of 1929 to 1936 in Fort Worth "Cowtown" Texas. This early development of what would become Western Swing is defined as a musical melting pot that represents a diverse group of talented musicians who contributed to the creation, growth and prosperity of our beloved dance music and distinctive Western way of life that has flourished here in Cowtown for well over a century, and is indeed a fitting legacy for our rich cultural heritage that is shared by everyone who loves Western Swing. We aim to grow the awareness and love of this great music to a younger generation who can embrace the genre and insure that it lives on for many decades to come. Lastly, our end goal is to eventually build a Birthplace of Western Swing Museum here in Fort Worth that showcases the many past Legends of Western Swing.

Board of Advisors

Mike Markwardt

MikeMike is a co-founder of Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing. He brings a lifelong passion for Fort Worth's proud heritage of Bob Wills and Milton Brown, and their pioneering development of Western Swing dance music. Mike regularly attends many Western Swing Festival events, reunions, performances and museums around the state of Texas and Oklahoma. He has also written a few Western Swing songs and performed as a singer, alongside his brother, with various bands in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex.

Mike is a Fort Worth native and serial entrepreneur who spent 35 years in the import-export consumer products industry, creating dominant global market share for his Encon and Monte Carlo brand ceiling fans and innovative Legaré tool-free assembly furniture. He sold those businesses in 1999 and 2014, and now provides import-export consulting expertise to local and international clients, and also invests in private equity startups and real estate properties.

Maria Parisi

MariaMaria Parisi is a valued co-founder of Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing. Her tenacity and assertive work ethic have been a huge factor in the growth of our mission. She has been an inspiration to everyone she meets with a contagious passion for promoting and preserving the history and heritage of Western Swing Music.

Although relatively new to the genre, Maria has immersed herself into all aspects of Western Swing and become an avid fan of many Texas Swing bands that frequent the local Cowtown Stockyards Dance Halls and Honky Tonks. She frequents many of the Festivals in Texas and Oklahoma with a tireless dedication. She loves the music and thoroughly enjoys perfecting the toe-tapping "twirl" of swing dancing.

Maria is a New Yorker transplant who has built a 15 year reputation in Fort Worth as a creative website developer and graphic design extraordinaire. She has designed our wonderful Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing website and greatly contributes to our strategic marketing initiatives. Maria also drives for Uber & Lyft in her spare time, where she enjoys meeting new people and spreading her passion of Western Swing to everyone who will listen!

Barbara Martin
"The First Lady of Western Swing"

Barbara MartinWe are thrilled to have Barbara Martin serve on our Board of Advisors. Fans from around the country have gravitated to Barbara's award winning Western Swing Monthly publication. Over the past 21 years, it has became the central hub of news within the Western Swing world.

Barbara grew up in a California home where big band music was always on the radio. Her Dad's good taste in music influenced her for the rest of her life. Music and journalism have been her life's passions. She's forever a fan of harmony and lyrics that paint a picture, cowboy music has been a staple in her life since television first brought Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter into our homes. Being open to all forms of music and traveling to enjoy live music wherever she lived have brought a world of new experiences to Barbara's life. "It opened up my world and brought me joy."

In 1993, a friend gave her Asleep at the Wheel's first Tribute to Bob Wills album. She thought the music was amazingly compelling. She had to learn all she could about Bob Wills and the unique American art form called Western Swing. Time to travel to Texas! Red Steagall's Cowboy Gathering in Fort Worth introduced her to several of the Texas Playboys live on stage playing Western Swing! She realized that Fort Worth was the birthplace and hotbed of Western Swing music, so Barbara packed up and moved to Texas.

To her surprise, there was no central clearinghouse to notify fans of the upcoming dances and festivals. Johnny Gimble, Leon Rausch, and Dave Alexander encouraged Barbara to send out a fan letter so folks would know where bands would be playing. In November 1998 the first issue of Western Swing Monthly was printed and mailed. The purpose of the magazine was to bring fans and bands together, to increase awareness of Western Swing music festivals everywhere, to recognize and celebrate the greats who gave us this music and to preserve the traditions of fellowship and camaraderie that started with the ranch dances of long ago. Barbara's monthly periodical has been the definitive standard for Western Swing playdate listings and current events. It has reunited long-lost bandmates, brought together generations of Western Swing performers and kept readers apprised of any and everything Western Swing.

Barbara's research and articles on Western Swing its music makers over the past three decades have enriched the annals of music history. She has written compelling biographical articles and in-depth interviews on Eldon Shamblin, Adolph Hofner, Joe Frank Ferguson, and many others. Folks say "she knows everyone!" It's because she has attended more than a thousand Western Swing dances and shows and festivals, face to face with musicians and music fans. Her support and promotion of musicians, bands, club owners and festival sponsors, along with the thousands of fans who keep the music alive has brought immense admiration for Barbara Martin, and awarded her the title of "The First Lady of Western Swing".

Billy Bowles
Keep Swinging Country DJ
KSSL Radio Lubbock, Texas

Billy BowlesBilly Bowles is a born and bred proud Texan, who has lived a life of respect and admiration for REAL Country music with a special affinity for the Texas born genre of Western Swing - the Official State Music of Texas. From his humble upbringing in the heart of the oil & ranch country of Sundown, Texas, Billy began a never-ending love of music at a very young age. His major influences during his adolescent years were the music of Hoyle Nix, Bob Wills and Hank Williams, along with the legendary voices of all night radio - Bill Mack The Midnight Cowboy from Fort Worth's WBAP, and in later years the great Larry Scott on Shreveport's KWKH.

Billy eventually found his true calling in 2011 when he unexpectedly found himself with an opportunity to begin hosting his own radio program in Lubbock. He named it Billy Bowles' Swinging Country, and focused on playing today's Independent Artists who record REAL Country Music and Western Swing. He had never dreamed of hosting such a successful show, and soon realized it was God's hand that created his destiny to be in the right place at the right time.

Billy's many Accolades include --

  • Academy Of Western Artist Winner of The Will Rogers Award for Disc Jockey of the year for 2012.
  • Inducted into the Cowtown Society of Western Music, Western Swing Heroes Hall of Fame and Disc Jockey of the year 2013.
  • Inducted into the Northwest Western Swing Music Society Hall of Fame 2014
  • Inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame 2015
  • Awarded Best Male Radio Presenter 2015 by Fair Play Country Music 2 covering & monitoring Independents World Wide out of Germany.
  • Inducted into the 2017 Western Swing Music Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame.

Teloa McDonell

Teloa McDonellCowtown Birthplace of Western Swing is blessed to have Teloa McDonell join our Board of Advisors. She brings a lifetime of diligent, organized work ethic and a passion for traditional country music to assist in planning and executing our annual Festival. She will be invaluable to help with our strategic end-goal of eventually building a Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing Museum in Fort Worth.

Teloa grew up listening to Hank Williams and Ray Price Traditional Country music and evolved into a huge George Strait fan during his prime recording and touring years. She has grown to love Bob Wills' Western Swing music and the modern day artists who carry that mantle like: Billy Mata, Jake Hooker, Kelly Spinks and Bobby Flores. She has always kept herself busy with a career that started early as a teenager working in a grocery store. Teloa has always enjoyed meeting and communicating with people. She most recently worked for the Tarrant County Tax Office for nearly 18 years.

Teloa's older sister taught her to dance almost before she learned how to walk. As a young teenager, she would often sneak into the local Fort Worth area honky-tonks to perfect her talent and love of dancing. And to this day she is one of the best you'll see twirling on the dance floor in her attractive Wranglers and Cowgirl boots at Fort Worth's Longhorn Saloon and Stagecoach Ballroom.

Mark Young

Mark YoungMark Young joins our Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing Board of Advisors with an impressive business résumé and devotion to Western Swing music.

Mark was born in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1960 and grew up in Hurst, graduating from LD Bell High School in 1979. He started his business career with Delta Airlines in 1983, and retired from the airline industry in 2006 to pursue an entreprenurial career in oil & gas as a Landman and Right of Way Agent. Mark specializes as a land professional with legal expertise in property rights for both private and governmental third party entities. He engages in the field to assist with land acquisition and the legal aspects of a variety of projects and acts as a liaison between multiple parities. His outstanding ability to negotiate and deal with strategic issues are invaluable to our Board.

Mark grew up loving country music and especially Western Swing. His passion for Texas born music grew more intense the older he got. He began following the BBQ cook-offs all over Texas, which were often accompanied with Western Swing Festivals and street dances. Even as a young man, Mark and his cousin would enter Red Fish tournaments on the coast of Texas for the adventure of not only deep sea fishing, but the many Western Swing and Traditional Country music stops they made to numerous small town dancehalls and honky-tonks in south Texas.

Mark has worked on numerous major pipeline projects all over the great state of Texas and as far north as Minot, North Dakota. His travels have given him the wonderful opportunity of visiting nearly every historic Texas dancehall in existence. His love for the music and the twirling two-step swing / shuffle dancing continues to this day. Mark enjoys being around people and making new friends while engaging in the great tradition of Texas dancehall music.

Mark says with great admiration, "I have been very blessed to have developed and maintained a lifetime of deeply rooted friendships in the country swing music world: Reggie Ruffer - Charlie Pride's fiddle player for many years, Derek Spigener - Charlie Pride's drummer and the many talented local Western Swing Artists in the Fort Worth area like Jake Hooker and his father Tommy Hooker, Gary Carpenter, Landon Dodd, Danny Naccarato Jerry Max Lane and his wife Jennnie Max Lane, along with many others".

Darin Fisher

Darin FisherThe Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing is very fortunate to have Darin Fisher join our Board of Advisors. He is a huge part of our mission to preserve the heritage and legacy of our beloved Fort Worth born dance music.

Darin was born September 5, 1971 in Pratt, Kansas and raised in the town of Kiowa, graduating from high school in 1990. He attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University, and soon after graduating became a young entrepreneur, launching a very successful welding business that specializes in erecting steel commercial and farm & ranch buildings. Fisher Welding, Inc., just celebrated its 25th year in business.

Darin has been passionate about Western Swing music from a very young age. From his first trip to Fort Worth, Texas at age 21, he visited the Historic Stockyards and has been coming back since... often twice a month to attend Western Swing and Traditional Country dances and enjoy listening and dancing to the great live music that permeates Cowtown.

In 2016 Darin met Linda, the love of his life, at Fort Worth's Lil' Red's Longhorn Saloon. After dating for a year with plenty of dancing in between, he and Linda were married in Fort Worth. They live in Oklahoma and work in Darin's thriving business, and continue their love of spending time dancing most weekends at Western Swing Festivals throughout Texas and Oklahoma.

Pam Hulme-Townley

Pam Hulme-TownleyPam Hulme-Townley joins our Board of Advisors with an impressive lifetime of service and contribution to the world of Western Swing, Western Art and Western Lifestyle. She hails from Whitney, Texas, the home town of Tommy Duncan. Her Dad ran a grocery store in town and Tommy's sister and husband shopped there regularly. Their families have known each other for generations.

"I was raised on rodeo and Western swing." Pam was a kid when she started out with local playday rodeos and barrel racing. She went on to compete in rodeos in Waco and Fort Worth, where she won ribbons and trophies on her prized lineage horse, Motorscooter Jr. At rodeo dances in Bosque County"s Womack Hall, she learned the Texas two-step and has been wearing-out dance floors ever since.

Pam graduated from high school in 1967, the year Tommy Duncan died. She went on to raise two wonderful boys who are accomplished and successful in their lives. In the early 1990's Pam moved to the Fort Worth Stockyards and immersed herself into Western art, horses and longhorns. She sold vintage furniture and jewelry, which she still restores. She is an accomplished interior decorator with a flair for western style. She loves working with her hands and became very skilled at cleaning and shaping Cowboy hats. Over the years Pam has revived many vintage cowboy hats, including hats worn by the famed Texas Playboys. Pam also worked horses and owned a longhorn (one of the loves of her life) named Big John. She and Big John posed for many photos that appeared in magazine ads around the world.

Pam became close friends with many music stars who played in the Fort Worth Stockyards including Tommy Morrell, Craig Chambers, Billy Mata, Louise Rowe, Bobby Boatright, Dave Alexander, Mark Abbott and many more. After 20 years in the Stockyards, Pam knew everyone from all walks of life in the cowboy world, arts, music and entertainment. She became a legend in town, even appearing in one of the murals painted by famed Western artist Jo Eisenrich.

Pam had always dreamed of a way to honor Tommy Duncan. Her diligent efforts and creative organization produced "The Tommy Duncan Project." It consisted of a fabulous documentary highlighting Tommy's career and contributions, along with the launch of "The Tommy Duncan 100th Birthday Celebration" which took place in Whitney, Texas in 2011. The gala drew fans from all over the country. It featured a parade, music festival and official Grand Opening of the Tommy Duncan Museum. Pam's careful planning brought the great Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition, Floyd Domino, Carolyn Martin, JD Barham, Dave Alexander and many more. Tommy Duncan's brother Glynn was the Honorary Guest and he brought 20 proud members of the Duncan family to the event. Pam planned every detail, including research, coordination and co-production of a filmed educational documentary about Tommy's life and music - "In the Shadow of the King".

Pam's efforts have helped assure the legacy of Tommy Duncan and his prominent place in Western Swing and American music history. Her lifelong friendship with the Duncan family is a blessing she treasures. Her dedication and hard work for western arts, music and lifestyle are admired and respected by all who know her. Our Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing organization is very fortunate to have her guidance and leadership.

Mike Markwardt sings 'Bob Wills Western Swing'

Mike Markwardt sings with Jason Roberts Band

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