Musician Pete Muldoon brings classic country back to Jackson Hole

The local bandleader discusses his musical upbringing and his new weekly, "Honky-Tonk Wednesdays," at The Stagecoach Bar in Wilson.
Pete Muldoon (center) and The Pilgrims perform live every Wednesday at Stagecoach Bar in Wilson, WY. (Photo Credit Alyson Spery)

Pete Muldoon has been an integral part of the Jackson music scene for more than 20 years. Whether as a DJ at The Stagecoach Bar’s Disco Night, frontman for alt-country band Major Zephyr or as a solo singer-songwriter who released the album  “The Descent” in 2018, Muldoon has consistently entertained the community with an obvious passion for the music he loves.

That love is now focused on his authentic honky-tonk band, Pete Muldoon and the Pilgrims, who are playing country classics every Wednesday night through the winter at the Stagecoach in Wilson.

Performing big hits from big stars like George Jones, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizzell, Conway Twitty and more, Pete Muldoon and the Pilgrims revive the timeless sounds of 1960’s era Bakersfield and Nashville.

In advance of a recent performance at The Coach, Pete Muldoon joined us in the KHOL studio to discuss the project.

The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

JACK CATLIN/KHOL: Where did your passion for music in general originally come from and where does the passion for honky-tonk classic country in particular come from?

PETE MULDOON: My dad was a musician, grew up in Ireland, and was a piano player. When he emigrated over here, the first thing he bought was a piano. We had one in the house growing up. I started playing at five [years old]. I was a classical piano player growing up and did that for quite a while and then kind of got to the point where I had to make a choice between practicing eight hours a day and doing other things. And so I ended up doing other things and kind of let it go for a while but never really got away from music. One of my first jobs was DJing at 17 in a bar in Louisiana, and I stuck with that for a long time and then eventually kind of made my way back to music but with singing and with a guitar, and then later picked the piano back up. So I’ve been focusing on that a lot lately. As far as the honky-tonk, the first band I was in here in Jackson, we did a lot of Johnny Cash that was really, you know, the hot thing at the time. And that led me into Major Zephyr, which is a kind of an alternative country, outlaw country band. It’s something that works for me vocally, and I really enjoy it. And, you know, when I made that record, I put a lot of pedal steel on it. That led me to listening to a lot more to classic kind of country. And, you know, there’s a big difference in those eras, or pretty short, maybe ten years long at the most for some of them. And I really like the feel of of that era of country from the sixties. The songs are really short. They’re two- to two-and-a-half minutes long. They’re great for dancing. They’re very lyrically focused and base. There’s not much. There’s no jamming, you know, you might get a 15 or 30 seconds solo at most during them. They’re quick, they’re good, they’re over, and you do another one.

KHOL: So Honky-Tonk Wednesdays focuses on country songs from the sixties, like you just mentioned, the “golden era of country music.” In fact, it’s the 1960s Bakersfield and Nashville songs that you’re most drawn to. For those that may not be familiar, what specifically draws you to that era of country music, and why did you want to perform those songs for the local community here in Jackson?

MULDOON: Well, the whole Bakersfield scene that came out in the sixties which was like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens is fascinating and the songs are great. I think we don’t look back on them and think of it this way now but I think they were very groundbreaking in the production techniques and in the arrangements. And they’re similar to some of the songs that came out of Nashville in the sixties and Nashville picked up on some of that. Then there’s the whole countrypolitan and the Nashville sound that is a lot more background harmonies and string sections and all that. And that stuff is good too but we also could not play that like, we don’t have The Jordanaires up there on stage with us and we don’t have six violins and a bunch of cellos. But I really like that kind of stripped down the Bakersfield sound was very stripped down, and it’s the sound. It’s where, you know, pedal steel is in the forefront of that. It’s just really good drinking and two stepping  and Western swing style music like it’s great for dancing and it’s gritty and it’s great.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Pete Muldoon.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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