Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Jack Gladstone and Charlie Russell

My taste in music is very eclectic.  One of the many performers I enjoy listening to is Jack Gladstone.  He refers to himself as a "Blackfeet Troubadour".  His music combines traditional as well as contemporary music.

The first time I heard him play was probably the summer  of 1988 or 89.  I was living in the dorms at what was then Eastern Montana College.  (Now its called MSU-Billings.)  I was on the sixth floor and it was a warm Sunday afternoon and I was studying.  

As I was studying I could hear music coming down the hall.  It spoke to me.  I figured someone had the volume on their tape player on high.  I decided to learn the name of the album.   As I went down the deserted hall I came to the commons area and the doors were open overlooking a grassy area of the school. The music was coming from outside.   I followed the music to the piper.

 By now I was very intrigued and decided to go down and listen to the performance.  The man performing was Jack Gladstone and the name of the tape was "Wolves on Sea and Plains".

Today he has published 15 albums.  One of my favorite songs is "The Bear Who Stole the Chinook" and the "Fossil Fuel Sinner among others.  This is a link to YouTube where you can hear the "Bear that Stole the Chinook"

Over the years I have crossed paths many times with Jack, always enjoying his music and storytelling.  Last week he was one of the presenters at the conference I attended.  The 8th Annual Indian Education For All Best Practices Conference - "Pathways to Success"  .   Jack's presentation was on Charlie Russell's Montana.   At first I thought this an unusual pairing, then I learned that Jack was the first Montanan to receive the Charlie Russell award.  

One of the paintings Jack talked about was the "Fire Boat".  I had seen the painting many times and never knew the name.  It was a painting that always bothered me.  In the picture one of the warriors is holding his hand in a very unnatural way.  I always found it odd and wondered why he had painted it that way.

Sign language was a common language developed and used by many of the tribes in Montana.  (Our American sign language for the deaf got its start from this tradition.)  Jack showed us the sign for fire.  Umhm - the warrior in the painting was making the sign for fire.  On the water there is a steam boat, a piece of the picture I had never really noticed or paid any attention to.

And now you to know the rest of the story.

Fire Boat image from


  1. I loved the way you described "finding" this music - it made me remember college days and discovering Neil Young. How interesting about the painting - so much to closely read in art as well!

  2. Ruth, you are just such a great story teller. I love the way you wound your way through this story, from singer/storyteller to Russell, to paying attention to details. Thank you!


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