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Twangin' around

@byline name:By Mike Longaecker


ELLSWORTH - Lots of acts come through the Pierce County Fair.

But when Pop Wagner takes the stage Sunday, audiences won't see an act. Wagner is the genuine article.

Wagner, who sings with a western twang from behind a billowy mustache and twirls lariats with ease, is all cowboy.

The Yellow Springs, Ohio, native said his youthful love of cowboy films and an interest in Woody Guthrie music helped mold him into the person he is today. Guthrie's western-folk songs figure prominently into Wagner's set list, which includes songs accompanied by guitar, fiddle and something he calls The Shingo - a guitar-like instrument fashioned from cedar shingling and broken chair parts.

And even though many of the songs he plays date back several generations, young and old still stomp their feet to the tunes.

"It speaks to their heart and their sensibilities, I think," Wagner said of western-folk music Thursday after a performance.

Wagner started performing in high school and continued into his college years, when he moved to Denver. He sang for tips in bars, hitchhiked, rode the rails.

The Mile High City, Wagner noted, is also where he got his first cowboy hat.

"And it was all downhill from there," he joked.

Wagner, who also teaches songwriting and creates saddle cinches, said performing has made for a fulfilling life.

"It's when I feel most alive - when I'm in front of an audience," he said.

Wagner will lead a vaudeville-style variety show today and Saturday before returning to the Pierce County Fair for three Sunday shows beginning at noon.