Jonathan Byrd and Pickup Cowboy coming to Nisswa

Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy will perform at the Live Well Night Club and Coffee Bar in Nisswa at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 16.

Byrd is a preacher's son, a Gulf War veteran, and an award-winning songwriter from Chapel Hill, N. C., known for literary, outsider songs that have become campfire favorites.

His childhood was filled with religion and faith experiences. "In church, my father preached and my mother played piano for the services. I learned how to sing in church," he said.

His young adulthood took him to faraway places in the military before he returned to the U.S. and struck out on his musical adventures. "After my time was up, I spent some days in Virginia Beach, playing in a heavy rock band called Coup d'Etat at first, and then Day 11, which was just a license plate we saw at a grocery store one day."

Multi-instrumentalist Johnny Waken, aka the Pickup Cowboy, cut his teeth on electric guitar in Pittsburgh with rock legend Norm Nardini, opening for The Blues Brothers Band on their Red, Hot & Blue tour in 1992.

More recently, Waken joined North Carolina theatre troupe Paperhand Puppet Intervention, contributing to scores for nine shows and winning four Indy Awards for best original music.

Jonathan Byrd and The Pickup Cowboy are musical gunslingers, vaudevillian hucksters, and old-fashioned tent revivalists. Between heartbreaking ballads and heart-lifting sing-alongs, the Cowboys entertain and get audiences involved in the show.

Byrd has amassed many memories from a well-traveled road. "A girlfriend gave me my first acoustic guitar, a Fender," he recalled. "I think she stole it. She stole enough money from me that I think I paid her for it."

His rock years became numbered upon discovery of an acoustic sound that added diversity to his venues. The epiphany came at an old-time fiddlers convention. "Whatever these people had a hold of, I wanted some of it," he said. "It shot straight down into my veins like lightning and made my hair stand up on end. The music was intense, lyrically cut down to the bone..."

The critics have heaped praise on Byrd for his artistry, which got national notice in 2003 as winner of the Kerrville Folk Festival New Artist award. The Chicago Tribune called him "one of the top 50 songwriters of the past 50 years."

"Mother Tongue" is Byrd's latest album, recorded in Copenhagen with The Sentimentals ( "We explored Soren Kierkegaard and Bob Dylan to find a lyrical language, so that we could write songs that held together on an album. Dylan and Kierkegaard forced opposing elements into a single idea," he said.

In addition to being a performing musical artist, Byrd is an aspiring author.

"You've Changed," his first book of poetry, is selling like hotcakes. "I'm working on another book of poetry and photography of horses with the incredible Rodney Bursiel," Byrd said. He has also added "reading performances" to his repertoire.

For more on Byrd, go to

Grassroots Concerts are the nonprofit cultural offerings of a small, happy society of largely omnivorous but gentle folk dedicated to the preservation of live entertainment in vicarious times. At all shows, seating is first-come, first-served. Show-time is 7:30 PM (doors open at 6:30), and you are encouraged to come early to claim your choice of seats. At each concert, decidedly the best family entertainment in the Brainerd Lakes area, GRASSROOTS welcomes your nonperishable food (or cash) donation to the local food shelf. Admission is $10 at the door for adults and $5 for children with listening attention, when accompanied by an adult.

The GRASSROOTS VENUE is located in Nisswa, MN at the


5459 Co Rd 18 Nisswa, MN (next to the Nisswa School)

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