The Cowboys
Gig Seeker Pro

The Cowboys

Band Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Ian Fisher: Tribute to a Seattle rock star"

Ian Fisher's spirit loomed large Sunday night at the Tractor Tavern.

Friends, fans, fellow musicians and '80s scenesters gathered for a noisy tribute to the former Cowboys frontman, who died in late October while living in Thailand. (Check out our video of the opening remarks by Seattle radio veteran Stephen Rabow and Fisher's brother, Pepper Fisher, below.) Attendees are also posting comments on the Cowboys' Web site.

The event was like a big, boisterous high school reunion for Seattle's rock scene of the late '70s and early '80s. Despite sadness over the loss of one of the city's most flamboyant rock singers, the mood was buoyant and celebratory. Many reconnected with friends from the heady days of Seattle's power-pop scene.

"It's a beautiful thing," said guitarist Ernie Sapiro, who traveled from Denver to attend the tribute and play with other former Cowboys as well as musical guests from other bands.

"It's surreal. He was like a brother," Sapiro added wistfully.

People described Fisher as "one of a kind," "a beautiful spirit" and "a real gentleman."

Many acknowledged that a Nov. 2 Big Blog post about Fisher's passing had helped friends, fans, family members and fellow musicians reconnect with each other and organize a tribute just a few weeks after his death.

The evening included opening remarks by Seattle radio veteran Stephen Rabow (who flew in from Florida) and Fisher's brother, Pepper Fisher; a 15-minute video of Fisher's life and career (created by Krys Lilly, wife of Keith Lilly of The Heats), and a raucous, 20-song set featuring such songs as "Girls Like That," "Standing in the Rain," "Jet City Rockers" and "Roll 'n' Roll Cowboy," one of The Cowboys' signature songs.

"Ian wouldn't have wanted a moment of silence," Rabow said before leading a cheer.

The Cowboys, who broke up in the mid-'80s, laid a foundation for the grunge explosion that followed in the late '80s. The band, along with other power-pop groups of the late '70s and early '80s, convinced club owners that their original songs -- and not just popular cover songs -- could draw large crowds.

The video included footage from a 1997 Cowboys reunion show at "A Pain in the Grass ," a summer concert series at the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheatre.

"Pain in the Grass" producer Jeff Gilbert, who was among the more than 300 people crammed into the Tractor, recalled working hard to make the reunion happen.

"You're not going to make me do this, are you?" Fisher told Gilbert. But when other band members agreed to do the show, Fisher was completely behind it.

"He was a good sport," Gilbert said.

In other video footage, Michael Stein of Seattle's Chuckie-Boy Records (the Cowboys label) said, "Ian, you're singing lead vocals in a great band in the sky."

The Presidents' Dave Dederer, who was one of the performers, had been a fan of the Cowboys when he was a teenager. He quipped that he had to prove to the doorman that he was old enough to attend the show.

It was amazing how well the Cowboys songs have held up -- and how good the band and its guests sounded. The tribute band included Dederer, Saprio, Jack Hanan, Jeff Cerar (now living in Los Angeles), Don Kellerman, Marty Waychoff, Paul Brownlow and Mark Guenther, as well as singers Rick Smith (of the Lonesome City Kings), Steve Pearson (The Heats, Rangehoods) and Jim Basnight (The Moberlys, Jim Basnight Band). (Joey Reid took over production on a chaotic night.)

Smith, who lives in Austin, Texas, and has worked with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Don Walser, capably handled most of vocals and brought a fiery enthusiasm to the show that recalled Fisher's unforgettable performances.

As several noted afterward, "There was a lot of love in the room."

Here's the set list for the show:

"The Race"
"Doesn't Matter To Me"
"High In The Saddle"
"Girls Like That"
"Standing In The Rain"
"Police Car"
"She Makes Me Feel Small"
"Ooh La La"
"Love Fingers"
"Jet City Rockers"
"16 Tons"
"Blink Of An Eye"
"Here She Comes"
"On Your Own"
"Wagons Ho"
"Rock 'n Roll Cowboy"
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
- Gene Stout, Seattle P-I

"Our rock critic shares his Top 10 moments"

8. The wake for Ian Fisher at the Tractor — The sad occasion in honor of a prime figure in Seattle rock in the '80s, who died in October in Thailand of a heart attack at age 51, turned out to be an inspiring gathering of local rock veterans. Fisher could still draw a crowd — the Tractor Tavern was packed — and his former band mates and musician friends did him proud by reprising the rocking, well-crafted songs he wrote and sang as lead singer of the Cowboys. The spirit of local rock was alive that night. - Patrick MacDonald, Seattle Times

"A show of love in memory of late Cowboys singer"

It's going to be a rock 'n' roll tribute to Ian Fisher, the iconic Seattle singer for the 1980s rock group the Cowboys.

He died of a heart attack at age 51 on Oct. 23 on Samui Island in Thailand.

Members of the band, which broke up in 1986, will play Sunday at the Tractor Tavern. Few individuals represented the spirit of the local rock scene of that era as well as Fisher.

The Cowboys played British-inspired power pop. They were among the bar bands at the time that insisted on playing their own songs, breaking the lock that club owners had on bands to play cover songs.

Since the news of his death, there has been an outpouring of Internet postings from his fans.

Singing with the Cowboys will be three other figures who also were part of that scene — Steve Person of the Heaters (later the Heats), Jim Basnight (the Moberlys) and Rick Smith (Lonesome City Kings).

Also playing will be Dave Dederer, a founding member of the Presidents of the United States of America, and a longtime Cowboys fan.

At the tribute, a donation of $10 is suggested. Pepper Fisher, of Port Angeles, one of Ian Fisher's brothers, said he'd like to use any money collected to pay "for a plaque, a bench, some kind of memorial for Ian."

He said that his brother — who for the past 20 years would annually spend months at Samui Island — had been cremated in Thailand.

Some of his ashes will be placed in an urn at the island he loved, and the rest are to be shipped to Seattle.

In a 1986 story, Patrick MacDonald, The Times' rock critic, wrote that the charismatic Fisher, who would sweat through three or four sets of clothes during his gyrating shows, "was born to be a rock star."

He was that locally, but national fame proved elusive.

Charles R. Cross, author of biographies of musicians Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix, and a Cowboys fan, said that at a different time and place, the Cowboys would have been in the Billboard charts.

"But the difference between talent and stardom is luck," said Cross. "The Cowboys had talent, and they lacked luck."

- Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times


Girls Like That (single, 1979)
The Cowboys (EP, 1981)
How The West Was Rocked (LP, 1984)
Jet City Rockers (CD, 1998)



Band started by Ian Fisher and Jack Hanan in 1979, rapidly rose to prominence and dominated the local club circuit for many years along with the Heats and Moberlys. Playing a British-influenced rock/pop with ska and reggae elements, the band has echoes of the Clash, Iggy Pop, and the Who.

One of the most popular bands of the era, the Cowboys opened for such national acts as the B-52s, Billy Idol, X, Split Enz and Tina Turner and performed at such clubs as Astor Park, Baby O's and Hall of Fame.

The band performed some reunion shows in the 1990's and added Dave Dederer from the Presidents of the United States of America on guitar.

Recently the band reunited on the occasion of lead singer Ian Fisher's death with Seattle and Austin veteran Rick Smith performing vocals. Smith is well known in Austin, having worked with Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and the late Don Walser among others.

The tribute show for Ian in December was ranked #8 in the Seattle Times' top 10 rock events for 2007.