The Coolest Guy in Jackson

Jackson is full of really cool people. You can easily run into pro snowboarders like Travis Rice or celebrities like Harrison Ford. In my opinion though, the coolest guy in Jackson is the bassist Bill Plummer. Lucky for Spring Creek Ranch guests, he’s easy to track down because he plays at the Granary on Friday nights.

Plummer is the sort of guy who whispers follow. Every time I see him play, someone is leaning over to me whispering, “that guy played with the Rolling Stones,” or “that guy played with the Grateful Dead.”He’s been playing jazz since his elementary school days in the 1940s and it seems like the man has played with everyone. I’ve always wanted to corner him on one of his breaks during a set at the Granary and get an in-depth conversation going. I mean, the man was in the studio with the Rolling Stones as they recorded the album “Exile on Main St.” He’s got to have some incredible stories floating just below the surface of his cool jazz persona. I always say hi. I believe I’ve even attempted some prying phrases, like, “wow, so, you’ve played with everyone!?” The thing is, they guy is just too darn cool. The idea of pushing him for information on musical greats makes me feel like a band geek.

I’ve noticed a trend in really cool people over the years. People who have absolutely fascinating lives always seem to be fully immersed in the present moment and not all that interested in spending hours reminiscing about their fascinating past. This is probably what has made them so successful. They keep moving forward, working, looking ahead and, therefore, their life is always becoming more interesting. New great things are always in the works because they don’t spend a ton of time dwelling on the past.

So, as I’m asking dopey, subtle questions, trying to get Plummer to spill his juicy stories to me, he’s just being a normal, cool guy. He’s talking about the night, the weather, the audience, and the music. He’s talking about Pam or Keith Phillips or any of his other fellow musicians on the stage that night. He’s being so fricken cool as everyone geeks out around him.

Here’s the basic scoop. Plummer has played with Willie Nelson, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett. That is list is just some highlights from a long, long list. He’s studied with Mony Budwig, Herman Reinshang, the principal bassist for the New York Philharmonic, and Ravi Shankar’s school for Indian music. He was constantly learning. In between all the learning he was consistently working, something that he says was easy to do in those days. He went on the road with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco and flutist Paul Horn. He was part of the groups Hindustani Jazz Sextet, Cosmic Brotherhood, Jazz Corps, Gas Food and Lodging, Wild Rose Ramblers, and Spanky and Our Gang. He also played with Tony Bennett’s band, usually at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles. The man was busy!

Now, he lives in Felt, Idaho and plays at the Granary where we are all lucky enough to get to hear a true music aficionado. I’m not cool enough to do it but somebody needs to sit Plummer down and get all the gritty, behind the scenes stories out of him.  I’ve tried. I can’t. Please, one of you cool people, go to the Granary on Friday night and find out all the insider information for me and report back. I know there are some really good stories to be heard but I’m not cool enough to procure them.

Your Snake River Adventure: Scenic Float or Whitewater?

Scenic Floats on the Snake River - Jackson Hole

There are two options for rafting down the Snake River and I’ve always been struck by how they epitomize the two main sides of Jackson Hole. From one perspective, Jackson is a place of peace and tranquility. This is a great place to get lost in nature. You can take a long walk down a quiet path and listen to the wind as it flutters through the aspen leaves. The striking vistas make it hard not to breathe deeply and clear your mind of everything but the stunning natural beauty of the present moment. I moved to Jackson Hole from Los Angeles and spent the first year marveling daily at how relaxing the environment is compared to city life. The people are nice, happy and friendly and they create an atmosphere that is contagious. A few days in Jackson and it’s hard not to chill out.

Whitewater Rafting on the Snake River

Not everyone comes to Jackson for relaxation though. Jackson is just as much a get away for adrenaline junkies and action addicts as those in search of peace and quiet. In the winter, there is snowmobiling, dogsledding and some of the most extreme skiing terrain in North America. In the summer, there is everything from mountain biking to paragliding. Even a trip to the rodeo will get your heart pumping. There is always a new opportunity for an epic adventure just around the corner. It’s what makes living here, in the mountains, incredibly exciting and fun, although, at times, exhausting.

The balance between these two sides of Jackson is what makes it such a magical place. You can easily experience either the leisure or thrill by taking a rafting trip down the Snake River. Visitors to Jackson frequently ask, should we do the scenic trip or whitewater rafting? To be honest, even locals contemplate the question.

Questions to Ask When Choosing Your River Experience:

Snake River Rafting

Are you looking for relaxation and time to learn about local terrain, history and plants? Would you like to focus on animal sightings? Would you love an opportunity to ask your river guide some questions about the Snake River and Jackson Hole? Do you have children under the age of six? Does the thought of possibly being ejected from the raft and into the water make you shake with fear? If you are answering yes to the previous questions, you should be taking a scenic rafting trip. Click here to learn more about Float Trips on the Snake River

Whitewater Rafting - Jackson Hole

On the other hand, are you ready for some heart-pumping adventure with your family and friends? Are you ready to dig your paddle into the water and ride the rapids? Are you excited by the thought of getting a bit wet and maybe even getting in the river? Is it time for more action and less sight seeing? If you are nodding an enthusiastic yes, then you are ready to go whitewater rafting. Click here to learn more about Whitewater Rafting on the Snake River

Both are a great experience for totally different reasons. If you have the time, a lot of people enjoy taking both trips down the river. Each will expose you to a side of Jackson Hole that is not to be missed. And, hey, if you only have time for one you can always come back next year.

Interested in getting on the Snake River? Check out our Saddles and Paddles Package and experience a horseback ride with Teton views!

Time for the Jackson Hole Rodeo

The Jackson Hole Rodeo has been one of my favorite Jackson events for the past twenty years. I’ve only lived in Jackson for 6 years, but I visited with my family since I was seven. We always made time to go to the rodeo, and now that I’m all grown, I still make it to the event every few years. What can I say? I love cowboys.

jackson hole rodeo

Twenty-years-ago you would always see a few rodeo men wandering around the clapboard boarder of the Town Square. My sister, mother and I would pass them as we perused the T-shirt shops looking for souvenirs or jewelry stores as my mom contemplated a turquoise necklace. My mom’s eyes would narrow and her mouth would scrunch. Would this piece be too much for our life back in Little Rock, Arkansas? Meanwhile, I would have spotted a cowboy and nothing else in the world mattered to me. Time slowed as the cowboys passed. Typically, it was one classic cowboy paired with a pretty woman in her own Wranglers and calico print shirt. As I got older, they all were Shania Twain to me. Even as a child, I pegged them as the American classics. They were like spotting a Bald Eagle; a precious part of American heritage in danger of going extinct. I’d poke at my mother, distracting her from her soon-to-be purchase. She’d follow my gaze as I whispered, “Mom, cowboys…” My mom would try to be discreet with her glances and I stared open-mouthed in awe.

I feared for my hero’s lives the first time I went to the rodeo. Classic cowboys in Wranglers, chaps and cowboy hats seemed to be risking their lives for a chance to ride a bucking bronco. I watched with large, nervous eyes as the Broncos huffed and clowns jumped in and out of barrels. From our seats in the bleachers, the cowboys always looked calm and collected. The broncos would be clanging in their pins. All of a sudden, one of the nimble cowboys would hop on the wild-beast’s back and they would hurdle into the arena.

Some of the cowboys would only stay on a few moments before they were tossed off. Each would scramble to avoid the flailing, pounding bronco’s hoofs, but inevitably, one cowboy always got stomped on. The entire audience would let out a groan and watch in stunned silence as the rodeo clowns did their best to move the bronco away from the wild animal. I’d be clinging to my mother, petrified that my hero was about to die. To this day, I don’t understand how the cowboys do it. They always manage to get up and hobble out of the arena. I’ve never seen an ambulance called. Cowboys have a reputation for being tough and the rodeo is where the general public get’s to see the proof.

Every few years, I go back to the rodeo to get a good look at some cowboys. I still fear for their lives at times and they still always survive. By now I’ve probably been at least 12 times, but the excitement never wears off. Heck, I still get a thrill every time I see a classic cowboy on the streets of Jackson. What are their lives like? What makes them brave or crazy enough to want to ride a bronco?

Experience the excitement and wonder for yourself this year at the Jackson Hole Rodeo every Wednesday and Saturday night through the summer at 8pm.

Visit www.JacksonHoleRodeo.us for schedule, info or tickets or call 307-733-7927.

Pam Drew Phillips: Fridays at the Granary

I’m not a small town girl; so living in Jackson Hole can leave me wanting in variety in cultural experiences. For the size of the town, Jackson has an incredible amount of art and music. At first glace, the choices seem to be overwhelming. Many of the choices repeat weekly however, and it doesn’t take long to realize that you will have to look off the beaten path to find quality new attractions.

Luckily for me, my parents also live in Jackson Hole and expose me to experiences most locals in their twenties miss. A few years ago my dad called and invited me to a Friday night dinner at the Granary. With excitement in his voice, he said, “Oh, man! Do they have good jazz.” My curiosity was peaked. Raised outside of Chicago, my father is a jazz fan from way back and when he says there is good jazz I believe him.

When I first moved to Jackson Hole, six years ago, I worked at the Mangy Moose Saloon and was constantly answering questions about the upcoming bands. I found that I could always say, “It’s sorta a mix of rock, blue-grass, funk.” I could know nothing about the band, but with this trusty statement I was usually on target. I love music, rock, blue grass and funk included, but the repetitive nature of the music available in the valley can grow stale. It’s Pam Drew Phillips unique offering as well as her skill as a musician that makes her such a stand out in the music selection of Jackson Hole.

The first time I saw Pam perform up at the Granary I was completely charmed by the entire experience. This bright, petite blonde was chopping away at a grand piano and singing her heart out. She played standards I’d typically associated with Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole as well as a variety of other jazz, sometimes even swaying toward rag-time that were all new to me. Pam was enthralling and engaging, taking requests and joking around with the audience.

Now I’ve been numerous times. Most memorably one fantastic New Year’s Eve where we only intended to stay until 9:30 or so, but ended up toasting in the New Year with champagne, jazz and Pam. Usually, there is at least a trio performing. Sometimes musicians seem to show up half way through the set and magically blending into the group. I’ve always been impressed by the quality of music that is performed. My dad is always leaning over, saying, “This is quality stuff, kid. You can’t find better in Chicago or New York.” I’m prone to believe him.

Pam started her career in her in her hometown of Chicago. Moving to New York City, she established herself as a respected musician. She worked as a conductor on Broadway, including the shows “Evita” and “Crazy For You”. While in New York, she also played the keyboard for Broadway shows and films. While there she also performed with notable companies such as the American Symphony and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. Some high points in her jazz career include working with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Manhattan Rhythm Kings. After cementing her career in New York City, she moved to Jackson in 1996 to raise her son.

If you are looking for talented musicians or love jazz, you need to head up to the Granary on Friday nights to see the trio or Saturday to see Pam solo. Take advantage of the view, great food and wonderful music. If you are visiting from out of town, be ready to be surprised by the quality of music. Come prepared to request your favorite jazz standard and shimmy your shoulders. I hope I see you there.