Legendary rodeo announcer Hadley Barrett dead at 87
March 3, 2017
A lifelong career
A Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association member since 1965, Hadley Barrett has announced all the big rodeos and a great number of the smaller ones across the country. He has been the voice of the Greeley Stampede rodeos for more than 30 years; Sidney (Iowa) Championship Rodeo since 1983; worked the Buffalo Bill Rodeo (North Platte, Neb.) for more than 30 years; and he worked for more than a decade at Cheyenne Frontier Days, according to the PRC. Barrett was named PRCA Announcer of the Year in 1983, 1985, 1989 and 2002, the PRCA reported. He worked five National Finals Rodeos (1968, 1976, 1979, 1983 and 2008) and the 1967 National Finals Steer Roping, as well as called the action at the Canadian Finals Rodeo seven times, the PRCA reported. He has worked as an NFR television announcer since 1980. He was among the first to announce while on horseback, the PRCA reported.
Some would say he had the gift of gab.
Others would say Hadley Barrett was the "voice" of rodeo.
Still others, reacting to the 87-year-old's death Thursday, would call him a friend to everyone.
"He wasn't any different than you and I," said Art Parker, a former Greeley Stampede Committee member and now an Old Bucker to the annual 4th of July rodeo. "He just made his living doing something different. He was the same person whether at the rodeo or grocery store. He was always the same person."
That person was a consummate rodeo professional who could manage a crowd through the craziest of situations and to many, a pioneer and iconic announcer in the American rodeo circuit.
"When people heard that voice they automatically heard rodeo," said James Herman, rodeo chairman for the Greeley Stampede. "This year will be the first (Stampede) since I've been out there not hearing his voice welcoming the crowds. It's going to be very emotional."
Barrett died of heart failure Thursday morning at University Hospital in Denver.
He was an icon in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and a 1999 inductee into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. He lived south of Kersey on a small ranch with his wife. According to one report, he raised golden retrievers. Parker recently had a long conversation with Barrett, filled with rodeo memories, something Barrett loved to talk about.
"I'm still in kind of in a state of shock," Parker said.
Barrett has announced all the big rodeos and a great number of the smaller ones across the country, having announced at the Greeley Stampede since 1980. He worked for more than a decade at Cheyenne Frontier Days. He was among the first to announce while on horseback, as well. He was initially a rodeo competitor and a musician, but fell into announcing when another announcer was ill. That began a lifelong career.
One memory that Herman will cherish is an incident three years ago at the Stampede. Hadley's wife learned two young bronco riders competing in the rodeo had dreamed of playing music with Barrett. Barrett's wife set up a jam session of sorts, with a small group playing together in the Barretts' small bus after the evening shows had finished. Herman snapped a photo of them at 1:24 a.m.
"They played and sang, and Hadley played guitar and harmonica," Herman said. "We sat there for three hours, I'd bet. I was just enjoying the moment. Hadley would have probably loved to have gone home, but one of the young guys made a request, and that's the kind man he was."
Herman said there already is action afoot to commemorate Barrett at the Stampede this summer.
"I'm not going to replace him this year. I don't feel that's right," Herman said. "We have a lot of people we already put word out to, and we will do something big to honor Hadley. I don't know what yet. He meant so much to so many of us."