Ryan Bingham Right At Home Capping Off 2022 San Antonio Rodeo

photo: Brad Coolidge

This story has been updated.

There are bigger stages in the world of entertainment. But in the State of Texas, no stage is bigger than the one at the rodeo, not matter how small or big that stage happens to be. Whether it’s the local rodeo at the grounds on the edge of town with a small PA set up on a hay trailer, or the massive arena stages at the San Antonio Rodeo or Rodeo Houston, these are the first places Texans dream of playing when they aspire to become musicians, or the first places they want to compete if they choose the rodeo life.

Ryan Bingham’s name is synonymous with the rodeo and cowboy life, and for good reasons. And no, it’s not just from his recent appearances on the Paramount series Yellowstone, singing cowboy songs in the bunkhouse. Born in Hobbs, New Mexico just across the Texas border, Bingham later lived in the Midland-Odessa area of West Texas, and attended high school in Houston.

Bingham’s mom bought him a guitar when he was 16, but he was more interested in making it in the rodeo initially, moving to the border town of Laredo, and later to the rodeo epicenter of Stephenville, where he started competing on the Tarleton State University rodeo team, writing songs in his spare time.

Eventually Bingham moved to L.A., and while playing a midnight gig at a mostly empty King King club in Hollywood, was inadvertently discovered. One of the people in that bar happened to be former Black Crowes guitarist and acclaimed producer Marc Ford. Soon Bingham had moved to Austin, and was making a name for himself in music.

The rest is history, as they say, with Bingham releasing critically-acclaimed albums and even winning an Academy Award for the song “The Weary Kind” off the soundtrack of the movie Crazy Heart. It’s not just the words, but the real world authenticity Bingham brings to the music that has made him so revered.

When the finals transpired at the 2022 San Antonio Rodeo Saturday, February 26th, Ryan Bingham wasn’t there to compete, but to cap off the 2022 season with a performance on the big stage at the center of the AT&T Arena, and who better to emcee the closing festivities than that boy from West Texas who dreamed of making it big in the rodeo someday. He did, eventually, it just happened to be through music.

Photos by Brad Coolidge.

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