"Singing Cowboy" Jack Milam entertains residents at Holly Hill Nursing Home Thursday. Milam also made stops at Clay Health Center in Brazil and Cloverleaf Healthcare in Knightsville during the one-day tour.
Once embodied by the likes of Gene Autry and Tex Ritter, the "singing cowboy" stock character of classic film and television westerns rode off into the sunset (and out of the public consciousness) decades ago.
Apparently, Jack Milam didn't get the memo.
The Redmon, Ill., entertainer has been working as the Singing Cowboy for a little over 20 years now, performing at private parties and large festivals, schools and nursing homes-- just about anywhere he can assemble a crowd-- across the Wabash Valley and beyond.
With spurs jingling, Milam has taken his act-- a laid-back mix of storytelling, jokes and traditional Country & Western, bluegrass and gospel-- to California, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia and Michigan, among other far-flung locales. He said he has yet to encounter a gathering of more than a dozen people he hasn't felt the urge to entertain.
"Anybody I wouldn't play for?" he smiled. "There hasn't been any yet."
Born and raised in Chrompton Hill (a tiny community outside Clinton, Ind.), Milam cut his teeth in school vocal ensembles and church choirs for years before embarking on his semi-professional career as the Singing Cowboy.
Paid personal appearances earn Milam a modest income as a performer, but he plays for free more often than he accepts a paycheck. He completed a mini-tour of three Brazil-area nursing homes Thursday for no more than a small allowance for gas.
"I just really enjoy giving something to other people. It's always been my dream, my aspiration," he said. "If somebody's got a dire need, I wouldn't charge them for a fundraiser."
To book the Singing Cowboy for a benefit or other engagement, contact Milam at (217) 884-2336.