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Style El Dorado County Foothills

Old West Trio of Georgetown

11/30/2015 12:48PM ● By David Norby

L to R: Steve Johnson, Leslie Ide and Steve Ide

A love story fit for the Wild West, Steve and Leslie Ide met in high school, where they first began playing music together—he on rhythm guitar and she on standup bass, weaving together their enchanting vocals. After marrying, the duo, still wishing to play the kind of music one would hear sitting around a campfire, sought another member to round out their sound. 

 “I told Steve I would participate, but I didn’t want to do it as a business. I made him promise me it would be just for our amusement…he lied,” Leslie shares. What began as “just for fun” has progressed over the years to what is now the acclaimed Old West Trio. Steve Johnson, playing lead guitar, waltzed in 12 years ago after hearing them play at the Buckeye Restaurant in Georgetown. It was then that Leslie knew she could no longer deny the joy and success the band was riding toward. “When you see how people react to this old music, the nostalgia that reminds them of their parents and grandparents, you feel like you have an obligation to share your music,” Leslie says.

Since then, Old West Trio has produced six, full-length studio albums that feature a mix of originals and Americana signatures, including harmonized covers of the old singing cowboys like Gene Autry, Sons of the Pioneers, Marty Robbins and Tom Russell. It’s always a thrill, however, to hear the trio live, where you can see their true charm and watch them interact. All members contribute vocals, and performances are enhanced with storytelling and commentary—even a few yodels or two. 

“In the studio, less is always more. We’re known as a harmonizing group, but it doesn’t have a place in every song,” says Steve. “Sometimes strength comes from restraint, but when we start playing the song live, it evolves.” Choosing to forgo the bar scene, the Old West Trio often plays at regional festivals, wineries and summer concert series. The group also co-founded Scofield’s Cowboy Campfire, which happens annually at the Red Mule Ranch in Fiddletown. 

“The history of the area, the Gold Rush, that flavor, fits right in with our music,” Johnson says. “We play because we love to do it. We get along so well and the way we blend [is] just magical.”

The Old West Trio has performed for several years at the Death Valley ‘49ers Encampment and the Sacramento Music Festival, which began originally as the Old Sacramento Dixieland Jazz Jubilee. The group says they will keep playing as long as people want to hear them. Residing on the Georgetown Divide, they have no plans of relocating to the Hollywood Hills, as they prefer playing on their own territory. 

“There’s a feeling of community and sharing in the foothills. When you play music, you learn how many amazing and talented musicians live here,” says Leslie. “It transcends competitiveness. You wish only to better yourself to better your sound—all for the listener.”
by Heather L. Becker. Photos by Dante Fontana.

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