Larry Mahan, the Elvis of Rodeo, Is Dead at 79

Larry Mahan, an eight-time rodeo world champion and swashbuckling showman who was as soon as referred to as “rodeo’s first matinee idol,” and who brokered that repute into aspect careers as a Hollywood actor, a rustic singer and a purveyor of must-have cowboy boots, died on May 7 at his dwelling in Valley View, Texas. He was 79.

Bobby Steiner, a good friend and a fellow member of the National Rodeo Hall of Fame, stated the trigger was bone most cancers.

Even with out his oft-noted rock-star swagger, Mahan (pronounced MAY-han) would have certified as a titan of the sport. Competing in bull driving, saddle bronc driving and bareback driving, he gained six World All-Around Cowboy championships in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, together with 5 in a row from 1966 to 1970.

He added one other in 1973, and he additionally gained world bull-riding championships in 1965 and 1967.

Ah, however the swagger. Mahan emerged as a new-breed competitor in the mod Sixties and the breezy Seventies.

“With his flared double-knit slacks and Cassini shirts,” The Austin American-Statesman noticed in 1971, he was “the antonym of the previous cowhand from the Rio Grande bit.”

He climbed onto bulls and broncs sporting shoulder-brushing locks, in addition to silk shirts and chaps in a rainbow of colours. Away from the area, he carried himself like the star he was — tooling round in a Jaguar, traversing the nation in his twin-engine Cessna, showing as Johnny Carson’s visitor on “The Tonight Show.” Some likened him to Elvis Presley.

“Football had Joe Namath, boxing had Muhammad Ali, and rodeo had Larry Mahan,” Steiner stated in a cellphone interview. “I do not know that anyone will ever know what ‘it’ is, however he had ‘it.’”

He additionally helped deliver mainstream visibility to what was historically a regional sport. Long earlier than Martha Stewart and the Kardashians, the flamboyant Mahan dabbled in superstar model extension; In 1967, Time journal referred to as him the “Grey Flannel Cowboy.”

Branching into Western put on, he developed a line of cowboy boots together with signature boots that turned as coveted amongst lonesome-trail varieties as prime Air Jordans are amongst sneakerheads. (Josh Brolin’s character asks for a pair of Larry Mahans in black, measurement 11, when searching for contemporary garments in the 2007 movie “No Country for Old Men.”)

He additionally made his matinee-idol repute at least a tad literal, finding out performing in Los Angeles and showing in “The Honkers,” a 1972 rodeo drama starring James Coburn and Slim Pickens; “Sixpack Annie,” a racy 1975 drive-in particular; and “The Good Old Boys,” a star-studded 1995 tv western directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones.

Even music beckoned — if briefly. In 1976, Mahan launched a rustic album, “King of the Rodeo,” on Warner Bros. Records. “Couldn’t sing a lick,” he recalled in an interview with the newspaper The Oklahoman. “It was a flop, nevertheless it was enjoyable.”

Perhaps his greatest mark on widespread tradition got here in 1973, when he was the topic of “The Great American Cowboy,” which gained the Academy Award for greatest documentary characteristic. That film, directed by Keith Merrill, chronicles his quest to reclaim the All-Around World title from Phil Lyne, a youthful Texan champion who had seized his mantle after Mahan scuffled by injury-marred years in 1971 and 1972. The American-Statesman referred to as the film “a surprising look at the least understood anachronism in trendy America — the cowboy.”

Larry Edward Mahan was born on Nov. 21, 1943, in Salem, Ore., the eldest of 4 kids of Ray and Reva (English) Mahan.

He grew up in the close by city of Brooks, and his dad and mom purchased him his first horse — a half Arabian, half quarter horse that value $125 — when he was 7 or 8. He entered a kids’s rodeo weeks later and took dwelling a $6 prize. driving calves.

Larry continued to rack up wins in dozens of youth contests whereas a pupil at Salem High School. He joined the skilled tour in 1963. Two years later, at 21, he took dwelling the nationwide bull-riding title and $25,000 (the equal of about $245,000 as we speak). A 12 months after that, he gained his first all-around title. To the rodeo world, a legend was born.

But for all his glittering escapades, he by no means misplaced sight of the stakes — particularly when driving a 1,500-pound Brahma bull, a feat that has been referred to as “the most harmful eight seconds in sports activities.”

After he suffered a damaged leg at a rodeo in Ellensburg, Wash. In 1971, Sports Illustrated wrote, “Outsiders generally protest that rodeo is merciless to animals, which should have struck Mahan as ironic as soon as the horse stopped dragging him like a rag doll alongside the onerous floor.”

He echoed that time in an interview with the similar journal two years later: “Bulls are the meanest, rankest creatures on earth. Horses do not attempt to step on you after they throw you off. They do not need to journey. Bulls like to step on you, or whip your face into the again of their cranium and break your nostril and knock out your tooth.”

Mahan is survived by his daughters, Lisa Renee Mahan and Alli Eliza Mahan, and his sisters, Susan Stockton-Simpson, Jody Thompson and Dana Mahan Hermreck. His son, Tyrone, died in 2020, and his spouse, Julanne Read Mahan, died final 12 months. His marriages to Darlene Mahan, Robin Holtze and (*79*) McNab led to divorce.

Along with fame got here well-known buddies, together with the nation stars Jerry Jeff Walker and Tanya Tucker and the Dallas Cowboys fullback and rodeo standout Walt Garrison. But in his social life, Mahan hardly ever let the revelry get out of hand.

“He would not go to the cowboy bars and have a good time at night time,” Steiner stated. “Back in these days, most individuals did the ‘I’m a cowboy and I’m going to social gathering my butt off’ factor. But he took it severely. He needed to. He was in three occasions day by day. I used to be a bull rider, and that was robust sufficient.”

Mahan, in truth, acquired his highs in different methods. “Winning is to me what alcohol is to the alcoholic, what dope is to the addict,” he stated in a 1975 interview with the New York Times sports activities columnist Red Smith. “I’ve acquired to have it.”

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