A Sad Silence | Remembering Hadley Barrett
Hadley Barrett was the rodeo fans’ best friend. Not only is he perhaps the most-listened-to rodeo announcer of all time, he was the finest. Grandparents, parents, and children have all heard him describe the action on the arena floor during his 50-year career. None have done it with the dignity and class of Barrett. Barrett passed away in March at the age of 87, leaving behind an irreplaceable silence in the ears of rodeo fans.
“Hadley’s voice was legendary,” fellow World Championship Ranch Rodeo announcer Randy Lewis says. “But more than that, he had an ability to make things happen seamlessly. When there was a problem, he could cover almost any mistake and not let the crowd ever know there was an issue. He was a master of that. His ability and smoothness was something you don’t see in a lot of people. He never got worried or rushed or in a place he couldn’t get out of.”
Barrett worked the WCRR in Amarillo for 20 years. That’s all but the first one. As much as anyone, he was an institution at the WCRR. Of course, he came from working ProRodeos large and small. His most notable gigs were Cheyenne Frontier Days, The Greeley Stampede, and the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association named him the Announcer of the Year four times and he worked five Wrangler National Finals Rodeos as the in-arena announcer then later served as the television broadcast sideline reporter. He was also among the first to announce rodeos horseback.
“The one thing that most people easily recognized was his passion for the sport of rodeo,” Lewis says. “But most people don’t realize how unbelievably humorous he was. He was a guy who wasn’t afraid to be self-deprecating. He would turn it back on himself and make people feel a part of whatever he was doing. He was a warm, compassionate guy. Whether it was a little bitty kid or an older veteran who walked up to him, he always took time to talk to everybody. He might not know them, but you would never know by the way he treated them. He was the epitome of the old saying, ‘It’s not how people feel about you, but how you make people feel about themselves.’”
That legendary voice—in many people’s opinion—was how a rodeo announcer should sound. Smooth, clear, and comfortable; certainly cowboy, and always authentic.
Barrett possessed the rare quality among rodeo announcers of describing the action without becoming the center of attention. He never made the show about him or his call. Informing the crowd was his mission. Entertaining them was for the cowboys, cowgirls, and clowns.
“He did not work a lot of ranch rodeos throughout the year, so the camaraderie and the family feel of the WCRR as compared to a conventional rodeo was something we talked about,” Lewis says. “And he knew it was as much about the cowboys as it was about the production.”
Certainly in Amarillo—but also at rodeos across the West—Hadley Barrett’s voice will be missed.