Friday, October 2, 2009

Gary Mule Deer tells how he launched his career in the Deadwood Buffalo Bar

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~~also see music selection in right column~~

Gary Mule Deer attended the 2007 All DHS Class Reunion in Deadwood September 2007.

Shown here with his Mother Lola Miller on left and Pat Lubisher Hungerford on right.

Gary Mule Deer is an American comedian and country musician. During a career spanning five decades, he has performed on every major concert stage in the country, and made over 350 television appearances, including many on both The Tonight Show and The Late Show With David Letterman. He was one of six comedians, along with Jay Leno, to star on the first HBO comedy special "Freddie Prinze and Friends", was the co-host of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert for four years on NBC, a regular on Make Me Laugh, and a frequent judge on the Gong Show. He had over 100 appearances on The Nashville Network, including the last two years as a cast member on Hee Haw. He appeared in films such as Annie Hall', Up In Smoke and Tilt." He is currently featured on the DVDs "Jeff Foxworthy's Comedy Classics and "The World's Greatest Stand-up Comedy Collection" hosted by Norm Crosby. He also has a "Gary Mule Deer Live" CD of his comedy and music. Gary is currently one of the most played comedians on the Clean Comedy Channels of both Sirius and XM Satellite Radio.

Gary Miller was born in Deadwood and raised on a cattle ranch in Spearfish, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. After high school, along with bow hunting (one of his comedy acts) and fishing, Gary attempted to further his education at local Black Hills State University, and also worked as a painter, bartender, bellman, bakers assistant, fishing guide, vacuum cleaner salesman, plumbers assistant, and owner and operator of the local movie theater before deciding that show business appeared to be the ideal job to get into because he could sleep late. Besides, after six years he was still a freshman. He changed his surname to Mule Deer in 1970.

After one guitar lesson, Gary learned about 30 Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly songs in 10 days and in the Key of E. He then combined them with some deadpan humor, influenced by his comedy hero Jack Benny. Within a few weeks he was entertaining in the local bars around the Black Hills.

After a short stint with partner Dennis Writer in The Black Hills Two, Gary, along with four other musicians then formed a rock and roll band called "Gary Miller and the Vaqueros". The band suddenly found themselves opening for some famous rock and roll bands like The Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis, and The Everly Brothers. Gary and the Vaqueros also found themselves making one night stop-overs at The Spearfish Park Pavilion!!

The Vaqueros got together in 1961 behind Gary Miller from Spearfish where he was a student at Black Hills Teachers College. The rock band was put together and named themselves from the hit song "Vaquero" by the Fireballs. The earliest members came out of the group were Larry Bell and the Continentals. They were Doug Erickson, Jimmy Anshutz and Jackie Robinson. Jimmy and Jackie were soon replaced with Duane Stroller, a Nashville steel guitar and bass player who, just out of the Air Force, came to Spearfish to attend Black Hills State Teacher's College. Denny Fredrickson from Lead, SD joined the group along with Laurie Zapf of Spearfish.

The Vaqueros played at the Franklin Hotel Gold Bar and the Old Style in Deadwood, the Lead Pavilion, Docs Place in Newcastle, WY, community halls in western SD and eastern WY, dances in Rapid City and the Rapid City Auditorium. They opened for The Champs, The Ventures, Buddy Holly's Crickets, and Gary U.S Bonds at the Spearfish Pavilion.

The Vaqueros had an original song, "Whitewash" that was a hit at their concerts but unfortunately never made it to vinyl. Some of Gary Mule Deer's best memories are getting up and singing "Summertime Blues" and "Mule Skinner Blues" with The Ventures, The Crickets, and Jerry Lee Lewis when they were in town. He also sang "Mule Skinner Blues" with Myron Lee and the Caddies whenever they played the Spearfish Pavilion.

Later on in his career Gary and his roommate, Steve Martin, began to write what would be the basis of their comedy acts for years to come, making them two of the most avant-garde comics around, with their off-the-wall prop humor, combined with Gary's guitar and Steve's banjo music.

Gary's career is still going strong. The Spearfish landmark Miller Barn is bright red and still stands on the family property east of the entrance to the Spearfish Canyon. His bio says he lives in Spearfish SD. His latest music release with the Duck and Cover Band is shown below and how to access his web site.


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