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

Alan Reynolds
Barbara Martin
Baru Forell
Lindsay Liepman
Billy Bowles
Moose Dismukes
Nancy Wilson
David Rubinson
Mary Minter
HD Ainsworth
Hayden Redmond
Jim Steenbergen
Kristy Cobb Curtis
Maria Parisi
Mark Young
Ruth Stuckey
Mike Markwardt
Paul Gonzales
Paula Jungmann
Peter Corta
Robert Huston
Curt Ryle
Steve Markwardt
Shane Markwardt

Mike Markwardt

MikeMike Markwardt is the director of the documentary film "The Birth & History of Western Swing" and co-founder of our "Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing" nonprofit organization. He brings a lifelong passion for Fort Worth's proud heritage as the birth of this music from its 1930s inception when Bob Wills and Milton Brown first pioneered this contagious dance genre to uplift depression-weary fans during the depths of the Great Depression and dust bowl era. 

Mike has contributed his time and financial support to many western swing festival events throughout the Southwest, regularly attending reunions, contests, award shows and musical events. He launched the inaugural Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing Festival in 2021, where a venerable who’s who of legendary musicians and devoted fans gather from across the country each year to celebrate the birth of western swing in Fort Worth, Texas on the second weekend of November. The epic 3-day festival honors the founding pillars of western swing - the Light Crust Doughboys, the Musical Brownies and the famed Texas Playboys.

A Fort Worth native and first time filmmaker, Mike has had a successful entrepreneurial business career with over 35 years in the import-export consumer products industry. In addition to managing his nonprofit organization, Mike also provides import-export consulting expertise to local and international clients, and continues to invest in private equity startups and real estate properties primarily within the state of Texas.

Michael Martin Murphey

Michael MurpheyWe are extremely honored to have Michael Martin Murphy, legendary American singer-songwriter of western, country and popular music, join our Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing Board of Advisors. A multiple Grammy nominee, Mr. Murphey has six gold albums, including many award-winning Cowboy songs, and the first album of cowboy music to achieve Gold status since Marty Robbins' 1959 Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. He has recorded major hit singles "Wildfire", "Carolina in the Pines", "What's Forever For", "A Long Line of Love", "What She Wants", "Don't Count the Rainy Days", and "Maybe This Time".

Mr. Murphey is also the author of New Mexico's state ballad, "The Land of Enchantment". He has become a prominent musical voice for the Western horseman, rancher, and cowboy, and has a deep-rooted love of jazz, blues and western swing music. Mr. Murphey also leads a stellar cast of musical stars and historians in our landmark documentary film - The Birth & History of Western Swing.

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 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 MartinBarbara Martin served on our Board of Advisors from the summer of 2019 until her tragic passing this past Fall of 2020. She contributed greatly to the strategic planning of our Festival and Film and will be sadly missed by our entire organization.

Thousands of friends and fans from around the country gravitated to Barbara's award winning Western Swing Monthly publication over the past 23 years. Her monthly journal became the central hub of news for the entire 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".

Paula Jungmann

Paula JungmannIt is with great pride we announce Paula Jungmann as the latest addition to our CBWS Board of Advisors. Paula has been a towering figure in the western swing world, from her groundbreaking Texas legislative accomplishments to her innovative social media marketing for the dance music we all love.

Paula is a native Texan who grew up in San Antonio, home of the Alamo. She now resides with her husband in the nearby Texas Hill Country community of Boerne. Her mother's family were pioneers of Blanco County, having moved there prior to the Civil War. Her maternal grandfather was a rancher who also played fiddle for community gatherings, as well as preaching for traveling tent revivals who frequented his ranch.

Paula's love of music was from an early age. She loved the beat that had led her to dance. Early on she went to dances with her parents and would be drug around the dance floor by her older brother to the music of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell playing on the jukebox. Fast forward to her early teens, rock & roll was on rise, and of course there again was that BEAT... she just had to dance. At age 14 she met the young man who would become her husband. He was also raised on country music and began taking her to country dances. Country music was a bit too much twang for her, until George Jones came out with the face paced "White Lightning" and "The Race Is On"... she was hooked on country music from then on.

Western Swing came to her heart much later. She of course heard it and danced to it, but didn't have much experience with it until a local area band began playing this contagious Cowboy Jazz dance music at a hall she frequented. The music again had that unmistakable BEAT, and called her to the dance floor. She absolutely fell in love with it. But she noticed this wonderful band wasn't drawing much of a crowd, WHY? It wasn't that the band didn't play it well. There had to be another reason. Time and time again, the crowd wasn't there. So she started looking for ways to raise awareness to others to discover this wonderful rebirth of Texas born Western Swing music. As time went by, Paula found a couple of other bands who played this contagious music. After trying all sorts of things, from inviting strangers to her table to throwing get togethers at her home, she came upon a bold idea of bringing Western Swing to a statewide audience of recognition. She would seek and eventually secure a Texas State Senate concurrent resolution to officially recognize the genre. In 2008 she began writing her state representatives to make a strong case for Western Swing to become the Official State Music of Texas. Through a grueling effort of trial and error and lobbying with multiple Representatives and Senators, she persevered and achieved success in May of 2011, when the Texas State Senate, led by Senator Jeff Wentworth, voted Western Swing the Official State Music of Texas. The House passed the resolution 3 weeks later, led by Rep. Doug Miller, who in celebration actually went to the podium to sing a western swing tune! Governor Rick Perry signed the concurrent resolution on June 17, 2011. Thanks to Paula's unrelenting effort, Western Swing Music is now a certified symbol of Texas culture, just as the bluebonnet flower and other wonderful symbols and traditions have made our Lone Star State uniquely Texas.

Western Swing

Paula is the founder and administrator of the immensely popular Western Swing Music of Texas Facebook page and group. At this writing, there are over 19,000 combined followers who come to Paula's group page to discover and enjoy this great music; and find out who, what and where western swing events are happening. The page utilizes YouTube videos, event posters and band event postings to engage the audience; and also mixes historical and educational content so people will understand the genre's monumental importance. Paula has strived to make the group page not only a symbol of the music, but a working platform that helps keep the music alive and draw interested dancers to the Official Music of Texas. It is no wonder that she has been humbled, privileged and honored to be inducted into the Cowtown Society of Western Music Hall of Fame, the Western Swing Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame, the Northwest Western Swing Hall of Fame and the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame.

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.

H.D. Ainsworth

H.D. AinsworthWe are thrilled to have one of the finest DJs in all of traditional country music and western swing as the newest member of our Board of Advisors - the talented Mr. H.D. Ainsworth. H.D. got his start at WHO radio on a friend's radio show. Later, he joined the International Singing Brakeman's Club of Meridian, MS, and DJ'd for WNOX which took his name and voice to the world wide web for the first time.

That articulate yet rugged country voice has garnered H.D. much attention over the years and eventually earned him a spot on the Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV, where they feature only traditional country music. Talking about his Marty Stuart TV show appearance, H.D. recalls "So I'm still in my police attire, had just gotten there, and this lady comes and gets me to take me to 'makeup.' Let the record show that this was the only time H.D. Ainsworth has ever had makeup on. And who does she sit me beside? Connie Smith! Talk about your macho image being washed down a tube, but I sure had her laughing."

He has worked with several other great artists as well, including Mark Chesnutt, Joe Stampley, Freddie Hart, Daryle Singletary, Claude Gray and the list goes on. "Billy Parker is my radio hero - he and Jack Fox," H.D. said. "They take me back to a time when I actually sat and listened to them on air. They made me want to be in radio."

Near and dear to H.D.'s career was the DJ influence of Billy Cole who gave him keen insight into radio broadcasting. He learned many things he still uses today, and H.D. gave a wonderful eulogy at Cole's funeral, where he and good friend Billy Parker gave memorable tributes.

If you're a fan of western swing, traditional country or bluegrass music music, you can tune in to KBEF 104.5 FM in the morning between 6-8 a.m. Just don't expect to hear any "modern country," because this show is meant for the "Old School Folks."

Alan Reynolds

Alan ReynoldsWe are honored to have WIOX radio DJ Alan Reynolds serve on our CBWS Board of Advisors.

Alan grew up on the family farm in rural upstate New York, spending a good deal of spare time operating and repairing heavy equipment with a local construction company. His first legal driving job came with the Trailways Bus Company, and then he eventually started his own coast to coast trucking operation.

Driving all night led to the discovery of a number of all-night trucking radio shows... John Tremble, Dale Somers, Larry Scott, Bill Mack, but especially The Road Gang at WWL 870 in New Orleans. Charlie Douglas, Dave Nemo and radio hero John Parker aired, night after night, great traditional country music and western music along with incredible history lessons. That's the heritage that comes to his radio shows Pure Country and The Radio Truck Stop.

Sought out by local radio station WIOX 91.3FM after retiring from trucking Alan is currently on the air from 4-6 pm EDT on Saturday evenings and Sunday from 10pm until Midnight EDT at 91.3 FM locally or streaming worldwide at wioxradio.org.

Kristy Cobb Curtis

KristyWe are thrilled to have one of the finest Western Swing dancers in the State of Texas join our Board of Advisors. Kristy Curtis is the focal heartbeat of every dance she attends with her amazing two step spins and patterns, polka, waltz, and progressive double 2 step skills.

Kristy is a native of Tennessee. She started dancing as a young girl with her dad and moved to Texas in 2001. She already knew how to 2-step but quickly learned the Progressive Double 2-Step, taking lessons from JJ Jackson, the inventor of the dance. As she became more a nd more immersed into Texas culture, she ran across Jake Hooker at a small rodeo and his Western Swing music. In 2010 she made her first trip to Turkey, TX to Bob Wills Days. She came alone and left with lifelong friends and an addiction to Western Swing music and dancing. Kristy goes to many Western Swing festivals throughout the year all across Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. She loves designing her color coordinated dance outfits, many of which are custom made.

Kristy graduated from Texas A&M Commerce with a Masters degree in Industrial Engineering. After working in high speed production plants as a manager for many years, she now works as a designer for Closets By Design. This position allows her the flexibility to attend as many dance festivals as she wants.

Her spare time is spent traveling with her parents, working out, spending time with her dogs, dancing, worshipping at Prestonwood Baptist Church and packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child for Samaritan's Purse.

Paul Gonzales

PaulPaul Gonzales joins our CBWS Board of Advisors with an experienced entrepreneurial background. He owns and operates his current thriving business - Paul Gonzales Handyman Services and Remodeling. With his reputation in the Northwest area of Dallas, he stays fully booked with referrals from his existing customers and steady repeat business. He specializes in kitchen and bath remodels and can fix most anything.

Paul was born and raised in Kerrville, TX. He is grateful to be following in the footsteps of his parents who loved to dance and enrolled him and his twin sister in Folklorico School of Dancing. He first developed his love of Western Swing music during his junior high days listening to Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams and Bob Wills on 8 track tapes in his daddy's truck. His first dance floor was the backyard and his first dancehall was Longbranch in Kerrville, where a young upstart by the name of George Strait opened up the first night.

Paul spends his free time dancing, playing poker, bowling, traveling to Western Swing festivals, and attending Dallas Cowboys home football games. He is an active member of the Knights of Columbus and Elks Lodge. He continues to help his dad and spends time with his family. He also donates his time and resources to build ramps for special needs children, remodelings for police department breakrooms/weight rooms, and Habitat for Humanity projects through Home Depot. Our CBWS Festival is very thankful for Paul's fully donated design and build-out of our eye-catching huge 4 foot high x 14 foot wide "COWTOWN" illuminated marquee barnyard wood letters that will front the dance floor stage at National Hall.

Ruth Stuckey

Ruth StuckeyWe are very honored to have Ruth Stuckey join our Board Advisors to the Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing. Ruth has lived in the Cowtown area for the past 40 years and has always loved traditional Texas country music and western swing. She is fascinated with the history of western swing and the storied past of the Fort Worth Stockyards. Ruth's deep rooted passion blends perfectly with our organization's mission to preserve, protect and perpetuate this wonderful dance music. They say it "gets in your soul," and we all know that Ruth's passionate dedication is a testament and truth to that statement. She has danced competitively with the ACDA circuit for a number of years, and her heart is in harmony with the toe-tapping beat of western swing. She loves dancing to the fantastic bands that continue to play this joyous music.

Ruth has been in the Human Resources arena for 30 years with comprehensive experience in recruiting, benefits and special projects. Her special projects have included presentations, meetings & negotiations with vendors and setting up employee events, all great skills that our organization needs and deeply values.

Please join us in welcoming Ruth Stuckey as she embarks on her next chapter in life as a valued Board Advisor for the Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing. Needless to say, she is thrilled to be a part of our dedicated volunteer team.

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".

Nancy Wilson

Nancy WilsonWe are very happy to announce our newest Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing Board Advisor - Nancy Wilson. Nancy has only been dancing for the past 3 years after 50 years of living virtually in a box. She jokes that she now has 50 years of dancing and music to catch-up on. Nancy's old high school sweetheart re-introduced her to the love of dancing to traditional Texas country and western swing music. On March 13, 2019 she walked alone into the Western Club in Navasota, Texas to hear Jody Nix, and after that magical night was determined never lose her passion for the music and dancing again. She watched people greet each other with smiles and hugs and decided that she wanted what they had. And now Nancy can walk into most any dancehall in the state and find someone to hug! It's a wonderful tight knit fraternity of friends who have a special camaraderie and love for the music.

Nancy has been attending most of these festivals as a single woman and assisted with a number of these festivals in planning and execution. She can contribute a great deal of insight into planning a festival from her first hand experience. One of the first lessons she has learned was to never say "no" when asked to dance. Nancy's bucket list includes dancing at every single historic dancehall of over 50 years old in the entire state of Texas. Many of the dancehalls she frequents are near towns with restored (or in the process) downtown areas, which she loves to explore. She walks 5 miles each morning taking photographs along the way to soak in the rich history. "When I'm near one of these festival small downtowns, I photograph just about anything and everything and post my journeys on Facebook. I love finding 'new' bands that I haven't heard before and new venues I've never seen. Jam sessions at these various festivals bring back memories of my dad and his friends sitting around our living room pickin' and singin' when I was a kid."

By day, Nancy is an accomplished accountant in Cypress, Texas. She is thrilled to join our CBWS Board of Advisors and is hanging on to contribute to our mission of restoring the wonderful history of western swing music. She intends to eventually move to Weatherford sometime this year and be closer to our festival home city of Cowtown.

Baru Forell

BaruWe are honored to have Baru Forell bring her talented Western skills and sharp business acumen to our Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing Board of Advisors.

Baru has had a lifelong love affair with horses and Western music. She competes with several associations that offer ranch and cow horse events. She is an accomplished Western silversmith and bit maker, participating in numerous juried events and shows.

Baru is an active member of the Stock Horse of Texas, American Quarter Horse Association and Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. She is also a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Peter J. Corta

PeterOur Cowtown Birthplace of Western Swing organization is very proud to announce the newest member of our valued Board of Advisors - Peter J. Corta from Stephenville, Texas.

Peter's family, on the Corta Ranch in far northeastern Nevada, introduced him to the music of Western Swing at an early age. Indeed, his maternal grandparents constantly played old Bob Wills 78 and 45 rpm records from their past travels to Texas. They instilled in him a reverence and love for what they called "musical history lessons" in all of Bob's legendary songs. More than sixty years later Peter still looks forward to every Western Swing dance he attends, just as he did when he was only six years old.


I Love Western Swing - Exclusive Festival Theme Song

Mike Markwardt sings 'Bob Wills Western Swing'

Mike Markwardt sings with Jason Roberts Band


Home | Dancehalls | History | Legends | Doughboys | Festival | Board | Contact | Sponsors