University of Wyoming Football has many traditions, from singing “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” to the touchdown cannon blasts by the UW Army ROTC. For many cowboy tailgaters, one big tradition is seeing “Danno from Wyo” perform at the Pepsi Pregame Zone.
The 2019 season marks Dan Brain’s 30th performing as “Danno from Wyo” at UW pregame festivities, going from a tiny tailgate on a trailer by the Steamboat statue to the giant Pepsi Pregame Zone in the Indoor Practice Facility.
“I remember when I first got here there would be games where there’d only be 1,500 people or 2,000 people in the entire stadium,” Brain said. “Obviously over the last several years, it’s gotten a lot bigger … it’s a really big deal now.”
Brain performs solo as Danno from Wyo or with a band, “Have Fun, Will Travel.” Performing a blend of country, rock and roll and classic songs people know and love, he said he mostly plays covers with a “few originals mixed in.”
One song always on his setlist is “Ragtime Cowboy Joe”, which he and the band quickly learned after former UW coach Joe Glenn put him to the test during one of his earlier performances.
“He showed up at one of our deals and he said, ‘Okay, ‘Ragtime Cowboy Joe’ let’s go, boys!’ and I didn’t know it,” Brain said. “I went, ‘Dang, … that’s the last time that’s going to happen.”
Once he and the band learned it, Glenn would join them on stage to sing at his performances during Jubilee Days or Freedom has a Birthday. Pistol Pete has also joined the band on stage, and the Wyoming Spirit Squad will perform their routine to Danno’s rendition of the school song as well.
Brain said he enjoys bringing people on stage to join in on the performance, with a tambourine always at the ready. Seeing fans come and go year after year is one of his favorite parts of performing.
“People from all over will come back 10 years after, and they’ll come just to see if I’m still playing,” he said. “That’s a lot of fun.”
More than fellow cowboy fans, Brain said he gives shout-outs to all sorts of people who stop by the tailgate. During election years, every candidate for office will make a stop to tailgate with constituents.
“Wyoming is small like that,” he said. “I’ve met more of my elected officials at the football games than anywhere else.”
Although he doesn’t play for every tailgate, Brain is a staple at homecoming and the rivalry game against Colorado State University, especially. A UW alum, Brain said he enjoys the gameday experience and never loses faith in his team.
“I predict a Wyoming win at every football game — for 30 years, every one,” he said.
Although he’s played guitar for as long as he can remember, Brain said he didn’t start performing until he was 29 years old and finishing up his senior year at UW. He took it and ran with it and started performing all over southeastern Wyoming and the front range of Colorado.
“I got up to where in ’97 I played 178 nights,” he said.
As he got older the bar gigs slowed down — Brain said he hasn’t played a bar gig in eight years — and in 2006 he opened Gem City Real Estate on Third Street. He said the transition was to start “devoting more time to being in the office and kind of being a professional of sorts.”
“I think I’ve had more of my share of fun than most people,” he added. “I think there are a lot of people that are jealous of people that have too much fun, and they wonder, when are you going to grow up?”
Brain has no plans to “grow up” and stop the tailgate performances anytime soon, however. He said he can barely believe it’s been 30 years already, and while some would get complacent after all that time, to him “it never gets old.” Even with 30 years of experience, he still gets nervous at the start of his set.
“It’s been a really very special thing to be able to play for the pregame for the Cowboys for all these years,” he said.