The Cowtown Society of Western Music certified that Sam R. Branstetter is a lifetime member and was inducted on May 6 as a “Living Legend and Hero of Western Swing” for outstanding contributions in the promotion and preservation of a unique and authentic genre of American music known as “West-ern Swing-the Official Music of Texas.” In addition, Branstetter received a certificate signed by Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas in recognition of receiving the Cowtown Society Award.
Branstetter began his performing career at Christmas 1937 upon receiving his first guitar as a gift. He was 7 years old. At 16, he became a member of the “Bill Green Show,” playing in numerous dance halls and radio stations in cities throughout Missouri. In addition, he was a member of various bands in Iowa and played on an Iowa radio station.
Eventually, Branstetter formed a band while working the “Hill Billy Jamboree” in Jefferson City, where he played for two years before being drafted into the Army.
Upon returning from the service, he moved to Nebraska and formed several different bands. One of the bands won the Brownville, Neb. band competition, taking first place over 14 other bands.
The most successful of the bands formed in Nebraska was called the “Prairie Sons “that played in various venues throughout Nebraska.
In 1985, Branstetter retired from his career with the state of Nebraska and moved back to Missouri to farm. Once back in Missouri, he formed another band called the “Swinging Strings” and played senior citizen dances, VFW Clubs, birthday celebrations, etc. Due to health reasons and the death of a band member, it was necessary to retire the band.
In 1995, Branstetter spent a week in Bowe, Ariz. playing at the Alaskan Camp Ground Western Swing. There he met a lot of musicians from Texas. One in particular, Bill Gilbert, became a very good friend and an excellent mentor in Western Swing.
Gilbert invited him to come to Texas and Branstetter was at his home every Wednesday night playing and singing Western Swing. Through the years, he met and had to opportunity to jam with many well known musicians at Gilbert’s home such as Elmer Lowrance, Brady Bowen, Charlie Obonnan, Randy Elmore, Mark Abbott, George Upmore, Billy Dozer, Bill Mitchell, Bobby Dixon, Bobby Wynne, and Odie James. Branstetter remains grateful to Gilbert for his guidance, mentorship in Western Swing, but mostly for his friendship.
While in Texas, Branstetter had the opportunity to sing at the Earnest Tubb Record Shop in Fort Worth. He later performed at Scotty’s National Steel Guitar Convention in St. Louis and was honored to be a guest and sing with Hank Thompson and his “Brazos Valley Boys.”
Presently, Branstetter lives in Middletown and is still actively performing at senior dances every Wednesday in Hannibal and on occasion has the opportunity to play on several Opry stages around northeastern Missouri.