This singing cowboy is the real thing truly living the life of his music and the poetry he recites.
Unlike most silver screen cowboys and television Westerns stars, Del Shields is a working rancher. The Humboldt, Kansas, cowboy singer, songwriter and poet entertains as he lives at his family’s Woodson County ranch.
Nationally recognized Shields is host of the weekly series “Best of America by Horseback” on RFD-TV.
His personal appearances singing and playing cowboy songs and reciting cowboy poetry attract audiences throughout the country.
No costume is required like most prominently proclaimed “cowboy entertainers” because Shields shows up in his everyday ranch work clothes. He’s a cowboy from start to nowadays.
“Although I did grow up in town, my dad always had a cattle operation I enjoyed helping with,” Shields said. “My dad sang and played guitar so I and my family enjoyed it, too — entertaining together in public performances.
“You’d have to say being a cowboy and musician was engrained in me all of my life,” he said.
His ranching knowledge was enhanced during high school at Chanute, Kansas, in a work study program for the Triple R Ranch.
“My wife Shevawn is from a ranch background, too,” Shields said. “After getting married, we started developing our ranch to raise our family in the same way we grew up.”
Continuing to play guitar and sing cowboy songs for personal enjoyment, Shields offered his talent for public entertainment. “The local civic clubs and other groups took me up on it and I began doing a number of shows,” Shields remembered.
When acquaintances who host local team penning events had friends from Virginia visit, Shields was asked to entertain.
“They seemed to really enjoy my show and suggested I make contact with RFD-TV,” Shields said. “I followed up, had an interview in Dallas, Texas, and got the opportunity to host ‘Best of America by Horseback.’”
The real cowboy entertainer has been part of that show for 15 years with broadcasts also on The Cowboy Channel.
“I absolutely love the opportunity, combining my love of the cowboy life with music and poetry,” Shields said.
“It’s interesting that I’ve always enjoyed writing poems as well as music and the cowboy life,” he said. “I started writing poems when I was in grade school and I had resurgence about writing poetry in 1997.”
His true-to-life cowboy poems appeal to vast audiences as part of the cowboy music programs.
Demand for Shields’ cowboy singing and poetry keep his calendar nearly filled with engagements throughout the country.
Occasionally singing well-known cowboy hits made famous by other entertainers, most of Shields programs showcase his original works.
“I really don’t know how many songs I’ve written, but it’d be more than a hundred for sure,” Shields tallied.
He’s recorded five full length CDs and “a couple singles.” Popularity of Shields’ cowboy songs is verified by high ranking on the Western Music Association’s Sunset Western Music Chart.
One song was No. 2 on the chart for most of a year. Two other CDs were also in the top 10 for an extended time.
“Several songs have been in the top 10 airplay on the charts for several weeks,” he added.
Opinions vary according to personal preference of course, but Shields said “The Best of America” is his most requested recording. “It’s a patriotic song with vast appeal to audiences just about everywhere,” he said.
Shields cowboy songs can often be found on YouTube and are available for purchase on Amazon and other internet marketing services.
Uncertain of the exact count of the number of cowboy poems he’s composed, Shields writes at least one a week. “The Humboldt Union newspaper took me on to write the poetry column,” he said.
Again, which work is the best composed by the cowboy poet depends on personal preference. “One titled ‘The Runaway,’ about my own experience, is a personal favorite that appeals to audiences,” he said.
On the ranch, Shields maintains a small cow herd and riding horses. “We cut our cow herd size down since I have to be away so much,” he said. “Six horses are used for ranch work and are generally just grandkids’ horses.”
Together, Shields and his wife have five children and eight grandchildren. “They about keep us busy along with the ranch, the shows and my wife’s hospice work. She’s a special lady with a special job,” Shields said.
Developing the 26 “Best of America by Horseback” shows produced annually gives Shields opportunity to travel coast to coast.
“I get to see so much of the country,” he said. “It’s really great to meet so many good people who all love the Western way of life.”
No drugstore cowboy here, Del Shields entertains based on the cowboy life he lives.
“I don’t see how I could have anything better,” Shields said. “With my family, a working ranch, singing and playing cowboy music with cowboy poetry as a bonus. I enjoy and love every bit of it.”