Not all wonderful entertainment is on television, at Carnegie Hall or on the Grand Ole Opry. RVers are particularly fortunate in the variety of great "home-grown" talent that we enjoy as we travel, particularly at RV rallies. Although some national rallies can afford to bring in big names, smaller gatherings have to find talented people who love to entertain but don't charge much. However, enjoyment cannot be measured in dollars. Sometimes the entertainer who works for very little can give just as much pleasure as one who is paid thousands of dollars. Such was our good fortune the week we attended the Coachmen Caravan Rally at Kamiah, Idaho.
... Kooskia, a few miles to the east and only one-third the size of Kamiah, is the site for the Upper Clearwater Valley Frontier Music Festival, a celebration of cowboys and mountain men that features programs in the historical Opera House. Among the performers is Kooskia resident Terry Raff, "The Singing Mountain Man."
Terry entertained our group at the RV park for two hours one evening with his old-time country songs, which he capped off with a recitation of cowboy poetry. Although he may not be in the same league as today's Nashville stars, for my money he's much better. The country music that I grew up with in southern Illinois has long since departed the popular-music scene. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm for much of today's country music is only a symptom of my age.
The point is, Terry Raff struck a very responsive chord in me - and in the entire group with his repertoire of old-time country songs. I hadn't heard some of them for half a century, and I must say that they turned back time and brought back memories. When was the last time you heard Red River Valley, The Old Spinning Wheel, The wreck of the Old Ninety-Seven or Redwing? Terry kept us foot-tapping the entire evening, accompanying himself on a guitar when he wasn't regaling us with cowboy poetry, which he recited with great expression.
Terry also provided us with some details of his life in the mountains and his travels. As a student of the history of many of the songs he sang (which he has incorporated in a book called The Stories Behind the Songs), he gave us new appreciation for some of the lyrics. We also learned something of his personal life, including how he makes his livelihood by entertaining RV groups not only at campgrounds in the vicinity of his home, but in the snowbird roosts of Arizona.
Over our years of RVing, we've enjoyed hearing some of the biggest names in the entertainment world in auditoriums holding thousands. Fancy costumes, zillions of dollars' worth of electronic gadgetry, 20-piece bands and loads of backups make their programs mind-boggling. But nothing beats one country boy with one guitar and a love of singing - even in a crowded campground clubhouse - to set the world aright.
Motor Home magazine
Cowboy Poets and Musicians Bring Old-Time Entertainment to Idaho City
A former schoolteacher, Terry began a serious singing career in 1986 at a small RV park in Kamiah, Idaho. He was known as The Singing Mountain Man, wearing authentic dress and pitching his Indian tipi that he later hauled to most every town to add to the ambiance. When he sang old songs such as Ghost Riders, Preacher and the Bear, and Old Shep "People couldn't believe someone from my generation knew the old songs. They came up with tears in their eyes. It was wonderful," Terry reminisced during a recent interview.
Besides the appeal of the ballads, it was undoubtedly his clear voice, dignified, casual style, and his sincere, ever-present smile that caused his reputation to grow. He still sings in RV parks, but now travels throughout the west from November until mid April. He also sells cassettes, CDs and his book, The Stories Behind the Songs, that explains the origin of many of the songs he sings. He has no desire to expand his horizons to the world of Nashville-style fame.
May 8, 2002
The Idaho World newspaper
Idaho City, Idaho
Idaho County Ruralite feature article
These [RVers] were not school children or local folk. "I was worried about what they'd expect." ... What happened was better than Terry could have imagined. "They went bananas!" he recalls. "People with tears in their eyes, saying they hadn't heard some of those songs in years."
Idaho County Ruralite
Singing Mountain Man Popular With Winter Texans
When Terry Raff first approached Opal Stoutmeyer, activity director at Park Place Estates in Harlingen, Stoutmeyer thought he was "quite a character." That day the Idaho native was dressed like a mountain man, complete with coonskin cap, vest and leather-fringed jacket. He wanted to play at the park and he wanted a space on which to pitch his authentic tipi.
Stoutmeyer convinced the owners to say yes to both requests. He was a huge hit, she said. Billed as The Singing Mountain Man, "he sang old-time country folk songs, stuff my mother used to sing, and I am in my late 70's" she said.
Stoutmeyer said when park residents don't like the entertainment she books, they say, "Don't have them back." But they loved The Singing Mountain Man. "He is charming and has a marvelous stage presence. He's very relaxed. He's perfect for what he's doing. I have many people here in their 70s and 80s but we're getting people now in their 50s and 60s who want to hear these old songs they've only heard other people talk about. He is well received by all ages," she said.... He's extremely popular and well known in all the parks now.
Jan 27, 2000
Winter Texan Times
Terry Raff. The Singing Mountain Man
One of Quartzsite's best known and well loved entertainers will be returning to town to put on another great show for anyone who likes real cowboy music and poetry.
Terry Raff, The Singing Mountain Man, has been coming to Quartzsite to do his shows since 1989, originally wearing buckskin and living in a tipi. He now wears more comfortable western attire and travels in a motor home, and his popularity is stronger today than ever. He has recently been named #1 entertainer in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas.... Terry believes in family, faith, love for each other and making a difference. His beautiful voice brings out the best in the old cowboy songs, and his inspirational gospel songs and patriotic tribute brings out the best in those who listen to him.....
If you are looking for a great evening's entertainment, please mark your calendar for one of his shows. You will thoroughly enjoy yourself and meet one of the nicest men you will ever know.
Jan 9, 2002
"Singing Mountain Man"
Terry Raff, the "Singing Mountain Man" has been performing since the age of five.
In 1983, Terry moved his family to Kooskia, where he soon began entertaining as The Singing Mountain Man. He has performed professionally throughout the West since 1990 at RV parks, travel club rallies, fairs, rodeos, festivals, cowboy poetry gatherings, schools, private gatherings, etc.
Terry is a self-taught guitarist with a simple, easy-listening style. His beautiful clear tenor voice, often compared with Marty Robbins or Jim Reeves, and his warm, sensitive style have endeared him to thousands of fans.
His repertoire of songs, poetry, stories and anecdotes have left audiences laughing one minute and crying the next. His shows have been labeled "one of a kind" and include a variety of songs: cowboy, all-time favorites, gospel, love, humorous and songs from other lands.
Raff is a member of the Kooskia Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors of Cowboy Poets of Idaho, He is founder and chairman of the Upper Clearwater Valley Frontier Music Festival, established in 1995.
July 26, 2001