Former North Platte, Neb., resident, rodeo announcer to be inducted into Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame
June 5, 2017
NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — A North Platte man will be recognized in August for his contributions to the rodeo world.
Randy Corley, who lived in North Platte for two decades, is an inductee into the 2017 Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Corley never thought he'd make a living as a rodeo announcer, and there was a teacher at Niobrara County High School in Lusk, Wyo., who concurred.
He was a high school kid, taking a speech class because it was an easy credit, and when he was asked to give a speech, it was always rodeo-related, about world champions like Larry Mahan or Jim Shoulders. The teacher did not approve. "She had threatened me a couple of times that I needed to talk about something different," Corley recalled. "I'd always come back to rodeo." One time, she couldn't take it anymore. When he started yet another speech on rodeo, she "came running up and ripped the speech off the podium, and said, 'you've got to think about your future. You're not going to talk rodeo your whole life.'" Little did she know, Corley would make his living "talking rodeo."
He was born in 1951, in Miles City, Mont., spending his school years mostly in Lusk and Lance Creek, Wyo., and his summers with his granddad, Waldo Parsons, a cowboy who he idolized. "I spent every summer at his ranch, and when I got older, I'd go out in the winters and help feed cattle. He was everything to me."
In 1977-78, he attended the Ron Bailey School of Broadcast in Seattle, then worked as a dj in Broken Bow before moving to North Platte, where he was on air at KODY AM and KX 104.
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In 1979, world champion saddle bronc rider Bill Smith started a nightly rodeo series in North Platte and hired Corley to announce it. He was acquaintances with Michelle and Trent Barrett, the children of the legendary North Platte native Hadley Barrett, also a rodeo announcer. Michelle, who ran barrels, and Trent, who roped at the rodeo, insisted their dad, a rancher north of town, come to the rodeo to hear this young announcer. He did, and Corley was nervous; he knew who Hadley was, and his accomplishments in the music world and the rodeo world.
Hadley was impressed but wanted to hear Corley announce when he wasn't aware of Hadley being in the audience. So the next week, Hadley made a trip to town for tractor parts, and again visited the rodeo, this time unannounced. He liked what he heard. A few weeks later, he asked Corley if he'd be interested in getting his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card. Corley was, and Hadley assisted him in becoming a PRCA member.
That was in 1980, and four years later, Corley won the PRCA's Announcer of the Year award, an honor he would win 11 more times throughout his career, the most of any other announcer, in 1990-1996, 1998, 2003, 2011 and 2015.
Throughout Corley's career, he has announced rodeos across the nation: the big ones, and the little ones alike: North Platte; Puyallup, Wash.; Caldwell, Idaho; the RAM National Circuit Finals; Tucson, Ariz.; San Antonio, Texas; Phillipsburg and Pretty Prairie, Kan., and dozens more. He was selected to announce the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 16 times.
He worked alongside his father-in-law at five rodeos: North Platte, San Antonio and Waco, Texas, Caldwell, Idaho, and Puyallup, Wash., till Barrett passed away on March 2 of this year.
Corley vividly remembers what Barrett said after the final performance in San Antonio on Feb. 26, four days before he passed. "He laid his mike down, and said, that is the best rodeo I have announced in my life."
Corley and Barrett were good friends as much as they were son-in-law and father-in-law, and Corley relates a funny story Barrett told years ago. When he first started, Barrett asked him to live on the ranch, to help take care of things when Barrett was on the road. By that point, Corley and Michelle were dating; they married in 1984. "I thought it would be nice to have somebody to help out when I wasn't around," Barrett said. "I made Randy a deal, and I thought he had good values. What I didn't realize was, his values were my valuables: my clothes, the food in my refrigerator, my rodeos, and my daughter."
Barrett was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1999, and now 18 years later, Corley follows him. The ceremony is the first weekend of August. It was a team effort, he insists, throughout his career. "I need about 500 or 600 people to come up to the podium with me," he joked. "There are a lot of people to thank, more than I can pinpoint. It's stock contractors, great committees, really good entertainers and rodeo clowns and bullfighters and sound people that I've gotten to work with. It's all the people that make those rodeos happen, and have given me a place to shine. All of them exemplify what the announcer does."
Corley knows the North Platte rodeo fans will miss Hadley; this will be the first time since 1964 that Hadley has not been behind the mike at the rodeo. He's been preparing himself. "It's something I've talked to God about every day," he said. "I have to go into that rodeo, and make it good." A special tribute will be done for Hadley; it won't be sad, Corley said, but "we'll pay tribute in a special way. We'll hear Hadley."
Corley and his wife Michelle moved to Silverdale, Wash., in 2001. Corley has two daughters, Kassi and Amanda, and together the couple has a son, Cole, and a daughter, Brittany.
He is honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and thankful for his life. "I realize more and more every day, how we don't have the control we think we do. You can place it all in God's hands, and it's how God planned it."
The other inductees into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame are the late Buck Rutherford (all-around champion, 1954), Enoch Walker (saddle bronc riding champion, 1960), Tommy Puryear (steer wrestling champion, 1974), Mike Beers (team roping champion, 1984), Cody Custer (bull riding champion, 1992), Bob Ragsdale (22-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier), Christensen Bros.' Smith & Velvet, (four-time bareback horse of the year), and the committee for the Ogden (Utah) Pioneer Days.
The Buffalo Bill Rodeo takes place June 14-17 at the Wild West Arena in North Platte. It begins at 8 p.m. nightly. Tickets range in price from $7 to $20 and can be purchased online at http://www.NebraskalandDays.com, at the gate, or at the office at 2801 Charlie Evans Drive (at the Wild West Arena in North Platte.) For more information, visit the website or call (308) 532-7939.
— Nicolaus is a freelance writer from Blue Hill, Neb., and a Great Plains girl at heart. She can be reached at Nicolaus@gtmc.net.