Terry Raff, better known as The Singing Mountain Man, has developed a remarkable reputation for a one-man show. But why does an entertainer, who appears as a cowboy, refer to himself as a mountain man? In his early career, he indeed appeared as a mountain man, dressed from head to toe in colorful, hand-made mountain man regalia which he or his wife stitched; complete with coonskin hat, buckskin pants, leather fringed jacket, calico shirt, beads, and moccasins. Abundant evidence of this dress is seen on most of his album covers. To further portray the mountain man image, Terry lived in an 18-foot tipi wherever he traveled. All of this was spurred by his interest in mountain man lore. Midway through his career, he traded mountain man for cowboy, which you can read all about in the History Biography below.
Terry accompanies himself on the guitar and sings a variety of songs: cowboy, old-time favorites, gospel, classic country, love, patriotic, and songs from other lands. He has entertained at RV resorts, rallies, fairs, rodeos, festivals, cowboy poetry gatherings, schools, community concert and performing arts events, home concerts, conventions, churches, funerals, weddings, private gatherings, etc. He performed for three seasons in Branson, Missouri at the Hughes Brothers Theatre and nearby resorts. He also produced the weekly Taney County Opry Show in neighboring Forsyth, Missouri.
People are amazed at the breadth and depth of The Singing Mountain Man’s repertoire. When he sings such songs as Silver Haired Daddy, Preacher and the Bear, and Old Shep, people can’t believe someone from his generation knows all these old songs. “They came up with tears in their eyes. It was wonderful,” Terry reminisced during an interview. His repertoire of hundreds of songs, carefully selected poetry, fascinating stories, and historical trivia - combined with a genuine love of God, family, and country - afford audiences a unique emotional experience. Hilarious laughter is tempered with poignant selections that move many to tears. Audiences are very attentive, inspired and entertained, but never disappointed with offensive material.
Terry has produced 18 albums and has authored two books: the much-requested “Stories Behind the Songs,” and “Miracles of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Evidences of Divine Intervention,” both available at our online store.
A native of Nampa, Idaho, Terry is a Brigham Young University graduate and former school teacher of 20 years. He is a member of the National Traditional Country Music Association, Death Valley 49'ers, and Cowboy Poets of Idaho, being the recipient of their 2000 Golden Note Award. He has been active in the Kooskia Chamber of Commerce, promoted the Lewis and Clark Bi-Centennial, and founded the Upper Clearwater Valley Frontier Music Festival (1995-2003). He and his wife Barbara are parents of seven children and have 27 grandchildren. When not traveling, he homesteads 40 beautiful mountain acres near Kooskia, Idaho.
If you are still wondering why this Balladeer, who dresses like a cowboy, calls himself The Singing Mountain Man, read on. It all began in 1986 with a phone call from Jim Ellis, owner of the Lewis and Clark RV Resort of Kamiah, Idaho. Jim asked Terry if he would bring his guitar and lead a sing-along. Terry agreed and donned a full set of leathers which he had made seven years earlier while a member of the High Uinta Mountain Man club in Utah. (Terry had moved his family to the neighboring town of Kooskia, Idaho in 1983.) He introduced himself that night – July 25, 1986 – as The Singing Mountain Man, the night that changed his life as Terry found his niche among those "kindred spirit" RVers.
This was not the first time Terry had sung in public. He had been performing since the age of five for family, school, church, and community events. His father, who played guitar and sang, taught him many of the old songs Terry now sings. He was a schoolteacher for 20 years and used his musical talents to build rapport with his students.
In 1988 Terry attended his first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Boise, Idaho, dressed as a mountain man. This created quite a sensation! While the clothing was unusual, his western songs and stories fit right in. He joined the Cowboy Poets of Idaho soon after. The mountain man clothing was difficult to keep clean and looking good, and as the leathers wore out, they were time-consuming to replace, not to mention their discomfort in the heat and humidity of Snowbird-Winter Texan country. The logical thing to do was trade mountain man for cowboy, but the name stuck.
At the urging of many of the Kamiah RVers, Terry took a week-long exploratory trip to Quartzsite, Arizona (a Snowbird Mecca) during Christmas break of 1989, while teaching school in Kooskia. Terry had never heard of the place! He made $800 (with "no one" in town at Christmas time) doing eight performances in three days. His net earnings as a part-time schoolteacher were $1141 a month. The rest is history!
Terry's "calling card" for the first several years was an 18-foot tipi which he lived in while on the road. It became increasingly difficult to find places to pitch the tipi and the weather often created problems. He's been rained out, blown out, frozen out, and flooded out! But when people saw his tipi, they knew Terry was in town. The logical thing to do now was trade tipi for tent trailer, which presented more problems. Terry figured he'd paid enough dues and made the ultimate leap in 2001: he purchased a motor home and became a real RVer! And now you know most of the story!