On July 11 & 12, when Saginaw Native and Fort Worth resident, comedian Cowboy Bill Martin hits the stage at the Rose Marine Theatre in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, the cameras will be rolling on his first one-hour special for television.
But after 16 years of touring, it would be silly to call him an overnight success. However, lately he is not only being called new face of country comedy but more importantly, for his work with kids, is making him the new voice of pediatric cancer awareness.
To say he is busy these days is an understatement. He's taken his act all over the world sometimes on his own US tour including Las Vegas during National Finals Rodeo, sometimes as the featured entertainer on a cruise-ship, other times on a goodwill tour for soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, building thousands of loyal fans through a grass root following much like his old friends on the Blue Collar Tour did 10 years ago. His latest acts is, well, a hat act -- but perhaps not in the way you're thinking.
Martin is also the President, Founder and CEO of a non-profit 501c3 organization called, Cowboys Who Care Foundation which provides free cowboy and cowgirl hats to kids with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The inspiration for the foundation came two years ago when Martin was asked to perform at a fundraising golf tournament for a young fan named Ashley Miller from Celina, TX, who was battling a rare form of cancer.
Martin said, “Ashley’s story had such an impact on me. And when she bravely lost her battle in June 2011, I knew I wanted to help other kids like her. Then this last May, I searched on my computer, ‘Kids with cancer – Images’ and found all these pictures of kids with big, beautiful smiles and baldheads. And in the mirror, I could see my cowboy hat and it hit me, these kids need cowboy hats. After all, what kid wants to wear a wig, but what kid wouldn’t want to wear a cowboy hat?”
Shortly thereafter, Martin and his wife, Michele, formed Cowboys Who Care, put together a Board of Directors which include singer/songwriters, rodeo performers and physicians and then teamed up with Hatco, the makers of Resistol and it’s President Stan Redding. “Stan got personally involved which was wonderful, and it was later I found out that it was because he too had a family member who had battled pediatric cancer as well”, Martin said.
Together, they developed a special, “COMFORT FIT” hat that is easier on the kids’ heads because of sensitivity issues and room to grow. And in its short time of existence has delivered just over 900 cowboy hats to boys and girls across the nation.
“We are truly pleased to help this organization anyway we can and for a most worth cause”, Redding said. Resistol Hats, made in Garland, Texas, has been the leader in the western hat industry for over eighty years.
Martin went on to say, “We’ve already seen the kids spirits and in some cases, self-esteem lifted when we give them their new hat. And frankly, it lifts ours too. It is our belief that there is nothing more precious than a child’s smile. A cowboy hat is still a symbol of bravery, honor and now with a lot of peoples’ help, compassion.”
The smiles from the kids, Martin says is all he needs to have the drive to do it. The laughs however, come at night on stage.
JD Ryan with CBS Radio, calls Martin’s act “raucous, rowdy and nothing you’ve come to expect with a ‘country’ comedian. It’s like spending time late night at the kitchen table with your cousin, laughing until you cry. Then you find out he’s a big, loud Texan with a great big heart. He is like a modern day Will Rogers.”
But don’t let the name fool you. Critic Punch Shaw of The Fort Worth Star Telegram says, “Martin is not your typical country-cowboy comic. There’s no talk about trailer parks or inbreeding. Sure he wears cowboy garb on stage and he speaks with a Texas accent but his comedy touches people of all cultures.”
Martin will be at the Rose Marine Theatre in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards July 11 & 12. Tickets are only $20 and are on sale at www.cowboybill.com or www.laughstub.com. There is also a $5 discount for sharing your purchase on your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Portions of the proceeds go towards Cowboys Who Care Foundation.
To donate and to see you their amazing video of some of their visits to hospitals and summer camps go to www.cowboyswhocare.org.