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Wyoming's Chancey Williams rises in country music world
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Wyoming's Chancey Williams rises in country music world

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Country band frontman Chancey Williams decided against a day job to fall back on when he graduated from the University of Wyoming. He knew music would come second otherwise.

“But if you make this your career, the only thing that’s your income,” he said, “you have to make it work.”

That’s what Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band continue to do as the Wyoming band rises in the country music world. They signed last fall with major booking agent WME Nashville and are slated for summer tour dates with Toby Keith.

“But you know, you make your own success,” Williams said. “People always talk about getting lucky or whatnot. But like, you know, you create your own luck by how hard you work.”

Staying hungry

Williams, who hails from Moorcroft, started the band in high school “for fun” with current drummer Travis DeWitt, Williams said. The friends continued to play music through Casper College and UW, and have since gone on to share stages with country legends.

The band tries to stay booked every week of the year because they look at music as their job, he said.

“Yep, just kind of scratching it out on our own, because you can’t sit around and just wait for something to happen; nothing’s gonna happen,” Williams said. “I mean, you hear those stories once in a while, and they’re pretty rare. We just thought the best way for us to get known is just play as much as possible and have as many people see us as possible.”

Signing with a national booking agent was a big step for the band. WME Nashville also works with Garth Brooks, Eric Church and Brad Paisley, according the band’s website.

“It was one of our goals we wanted to do for a while, was sign with the national booking agent and we landed with, William Morris, because they’ve got a really good team over there,” Williams said. “And, you know, they’re the biggest booking agent in the world. So it’s been really good so far.”

The agent can place them in markets previously unattainable and arranged the three summer dates with Toby Keith, Williams said.

The band’s upcoming album “3rd Street” is slated for release next month and follows “Rodeo Cold Beer,” which debuted in the Top 10 on the iTunes Country album chart, No. 1 on the Billboard Mountain Heatseekers Chart, No. 5 on the Billboard West North Central Heatseakers Chart and No. 7 on the iTunes Country Albums Chart, according to the band’s website.

“So we’re hoping, you know, fans will like this one,” Williams said. “We think we outdid it.”

Singles released already off “3rd Street” include “The World Needs More Cowboys” and “Tonight We’re Drinkin’,” which debuted at No. 6 on iTunes New Country Chart and was co-written by Jody Stevens, co-producer on Luke Bryan’s “Kill the Lights album,” and produced by hitmaker Trent Willmon, who also produced Cody Johnson.

Williams has been recognized as Rocky Mountain CMA Entertainer of the Year and was featured in the BBC’s “USA Through Music” among five artists including Darius Rucker, according to the band’s website.

He and the band were nominated for multiple 2019 Rocky Mountain CMA honors. The March 13 event was canceled, and organizers are working on a plan to announce the winners, according to an email from Shawn Patrick of iHeartMedia.

The band’s large following in the national rodeo scene is clear from its rare consecutive years playing at the opening ceremony of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, and Williams and late country star Chris LeDoux are the only people who’ve both competed in and taken the main stage at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. The band has played with big names including LeDoux, Alabama, Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam.

It’s rewarding to see the band’s hard work paying off, Williams said. They’re always thinking about what’s next, though, he said.

“I guess the funnest part of this is the chase, like to climb to the top, you know?”

People often ask if he still loves what he does after all these years.

“It’s like, we have the best jobs in the world,” Williams said. “People would kill to be in our shoes, you know. So it just keeps us hungry.”

Wyoming roots

Williams counts the band as fortunate to be from Wyoming and be among the national acts from the state like LeDoux and his son, Ned LeDoux.

“For one, it’s the smallest state population wise,” Williams said. “But they’ve really backed us, you know, because there’s not a lot of bands that have been like, I guess, successful on a national level that have come through Wyoming.”

Williams grew up on a ranch near Moorcroft, where his mother was a teacher and his father, a former ranch hand, decided to go into the business himself.

“They bought that ranch in 1985, and bought and paid for it with strictly ranching, you know, no oil, no coal or gas, no inheritance, which is really rare,” Williams said. “I mean, there’s not that many people today that have bought and paid for a ranch with just ranching.”

Williams plans to someday live on the ranch in his hometown, where his brother Chase also runs a ranch, he said.

Wrestling is another family tradition. Williams always tries to book a local show during the state high school wrestling tournament in Casper. He last month cheered his brother Charlie Williams, head coach of the Moorcroft team for the past decade, on to their eighth consecutive championship victory and the ninth total under his brother.

His father was on the Moorcroft team during its first state win in 1968 and won state the following year, Williams said. His father was the coach while Williams and his brothers competed, and Williams won state twice.

“So all 10 titles that Moorcroft would have if they win today, a Williams has been involved — either my dad or my brother or us,” Williams said before the last day of the tournament.

Williams attended Casper College and UW on rodeo scholarships, made the College National Finals Rodeo for both schools and competed professionally for a couple of years after college.

“So the rodeo background has helped us with the music career a lot, just because I knew everybody in the rodeo world,” he said.

The rest of his band was still in college after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science, so he stayed to earn his master’s degree in public administration, he said.

The band remains based in Laramie, when they’re not on the road or recording in Nashville. Most of the six current members are from Wyoming, including lead guitarist Wyatt Springsteen and fiddle player Brooke Latka from Casper. Bass player Jay Lee Downing is from Loveland and new second guitarist Brett Hendrix moved to Wyoming from Texas, Williams said.

“The state of Wyoming,” Williams said, “and the fans of Wyoming have been the reason we’re where we are today, for sure.”

Follow arts & culture reporter Elysia Conner on twitter @erconner

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Diffie, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years. His hits included “Honky Tonk Attitude," “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)," “Bigger Than the Beatles" and “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).”

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