Ernie Sites is a cowboy/musician. He is a bareback rider, a bull rider, and a team and calf roper. He also is a rodeo clown and professional Western entertainer.
He was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, in 1953. He lived for a short time in Austin, Minnesota, until his parents moved the family to a farm in Wendell, Idaho. He enjoyed idyllic days with his siblings doing farm chores and discovering Native American artifacts, caves, and tunnels in the sagebrush. He received a guitar for Christmas one year and began playing when he was eight years old. He took voice and guitar lessons from the local barber. He also wrote poems throughout his childhood.
When he was fifteen, he formed his first band, “The Golden Wheelers.” After he turned seventeen, he began playing at pizza parlors and local saloons. He moved further north near Sun Valley where he enjoyed meeting and talking to people from all over the world.
He married soon after his high school graduation and he and his first wife raised seven children. He worked for the Idaho Fish and Game Departments stocking steelhead hatcheries, became a journeyman carpenter, hauled hay, cut firewood, and hired on to do ranch work. Later, he began selling his own records and performed at clubs, dinner houses, rodeos, and music festivals. He performed behind artists like Rex Allen, Gene Autrey, Mo Bandy, Chris Ledoux, Patsy Montana, Bonnie Raitt, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Riders in the Sky, Sons of the Pioneers, and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. He has recorded seven albums of Western music.
- One of the greatest opportunities came unexpectedly when Ernie and a friend were traveling to San Francisco and stopped over at Elko, Nevada. It happened to be the week of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where singers and songwriters from all over the nation convened to share, entertain and compete in all walks of cowboy life. Ernie checked it out and was amazed to discover a whole nucleus of people who thought like him. He fit right in and at this juncture in his career Ernie observes, “I realized my persona.”
For five years during the 1990s, he starred in a children’s stage show he cowrote called “Native American Indians and Cowboys too” at Queens College in New York. He continues to perform his songs and poetry at cowboy poetry gatherings and buckaroo festivals throughout the United States. He loves to present at elementary schools and teaches true history of cowboys and Native Americans, as well as the love cowboys have for wide open spaces and rugged individualism. He also conducts creative writing classes that focus on rhyming poetry and free verse.
He and his wife, Basia, live in Wendell, Idaho. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Ernie was honored with the Cowboy Keeper Award by the 2015 National Day of the Cowboy.