Voice of Buffalo Bill Rodeo dead at 87
The North Platte Telegraph
By Kamie Stephen
March 2, 2017Hadley Barrett, a North Platte native and the voice of the Buffalo Bill PRCA Rodeo, has died. He was 87 years old.
“We were so heartbroken this morning to learn of the passing of our old friend Hadley Barrett,” said a Facebook post from NEBRASKAland Days on Thursday morning. “Hadley was our native son who became one of the iconic voices of not only the Buffalo Bill Rodeo, but to an entire generation of rodeo fans.”
Barrett was born Sept. 18, 1929, in North Platte.
According to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, Barrett formed a dance band called Hadley Barrett and the Westerners. The band played across the region for more than 30 years. Barrett sang and played guitar.
Several comments on the NEBRASKAland Days post mentioned dancing to the band during events like prom. The band even played with Grand Ol’ Opry stars including Jim Reeves, Don Gibson, Johnny Cash and Little Jimmy Dickens. Eventually, Barrett was inducted into the Nebraska Country Music Hall of Fame.
Although Barrett is known for his voice, it wasn’t because of his music. Barrett started his career in rodeo as a competitor, but he ended up behind a microphone when another announcer fell ill.
In 2015, the Rodeo News shared the story behind Barrett’s start in an article titled “On the Trail with Hadley Barrett.” Barrett was friends with a rodeo announcer who’d find a substitute to take the microphone while he climbed up on his bull. Sometimes, the substitute was Barrett.
One evening during a rodeo in Arnold, Barrett’s friend ended up with the flu and asked him to fill in. That was his first full announcement gig.
According to Rodeo News, this first gig led to amateur rodeos across the Midwest asking for Barrett. A committee member from the Buffalo Bill Rodeo told Barrett they wanted his voice for the 1964 rodeo in North Platte.
The problem was that Barrett wasn’t a Rodeo Cowboys Association cardholder. The RCA told organizers of the Buffalo Bill Rodeo that they couldn’t hire him — and organizers told the RCA that if they couldn’t hire Barrett, they weren’t going to be an RCA rodeo. The RCA made an exception.
Barrett gave up a number of contracts with amateur rodeos and began working for RCA members and increasingly larger rodeos, including the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.
“Hadley had the unique ability to explain idiosyncrasies of rodeo to those less familiar with the sport — he intimately knew the resume of the contestants, would explain the scoring system, and even knew the demeanor and habits of the bucking stock. With kindness and humor, Hadley was an amazing professional — he had the capacity to maintain the same high level energy and engagement for 21 consecutive performances,” a statement from the stock show said.
This was the 28th year in a row that Barrett had announced the event, which ended last week.
During his career Barrett was named PRCA Announcer of the year four times, although he was nominated almost every year. Over the years he had also been chosen to announce the Working Ranch Cowboys Association World Finals, the Canadian Finals Rodeo and the World Championship Rodeo Bullfights and was named the Prairie Circuit Announcer of the Year, the WPRA Announcer of the Year, the World Cup Rodeo Australia announcer, the Winston Pro Rodeo Tour announcer and the Madison Square Gardens announcer.
In 1999, he was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
“We are saddened to hear of the loss of a great rodeo announcer and friend of professional rodeo, Hadley Barrett,” Kent Sturman, director of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy, said in an email Thursday. “Hadley was one of the best rodeo announcers of all time and he will be greatly missed.”
Barrett’s ProRodeo Hall of Fame entry states that he was a pioneer of announcing from the back of a horse and was credited with an honest approach to arena accidents and mishaps. Sturman said Barrett was a true professional and a great human being.
“No one will ever be able to fill his boots,” Sturman said.
Born: 9/18/1929, North Platte, Nebraska, U.S.A.
Died: 3/2/2017, Denver Colorado, U.S.A.
Hadley Barrett’s western:
8 Seconds – 1994 (Rodeo Announcer)