As a self-avowed “history nut,” cowboy entertainer Dave Stamey has a deep appreciation for the Dana Adobe in Nipomo.
“When you actually can walk over and touch a piece of local history, it deepens the conversation. It really does,” Stamey, 57, said.
On Saturday, the singer-songwriter will perform along with the Daily Special Bluegrass Band at a benefit concert for the DANA Cultural Center, the nonprofit organization that has served as the steward of Capt. William Dana’s historic 19th century home since 1999.
The group, formerly known as Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos, is raising funds for a $14 million expansion project that will include a new visitors’ center, Chumash interpretive area and walking trails throughout the 130-acre property, as well as restoration and beautification efforts.
Never miss a local story.
“One of the problems with people these days is they’re not connected to their geography. They’re not aware of the history that surrounds them,” Stamey said. “There’s plenty to appreciate if you stop and look around.”
His fascination with the Old West and its traditions harkens back to his childhood.
“We all love the mythology (of the West), but the truth is actually more fascinating,” Stamey said.
At age 12, he moved with his family from Montana to the Nipomo Mesa. (“At that time, it was all sand and (eucalyptus) trees,” he recalled.) Around the same age, “I picked up a guitar, and it just ruined me for honest work,” he joked.
That’s not to say that Stamey hasn’t earned his cowboy credentials.
“In order to write, you have to have lived,” he explained.
In addition to running his family’s Nipomo cattle ranch, Stamey worked for a mule packing outfitter on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and spent 12 years wrangling horses for the Alisal Guest Ranch and Golf Resort near Solvang. His song “The Dude String Trail,” about running a dude ranch, was inspired by the latter experience.
“While we were doing horse drives up the Owens Valley some 25 years ago, my wife says to me, ‘You should bring your guitar and play for these people,’” recalled Stamey, who started singing and strumming around the campfire. He’s been performing professionally full time for the past seven or eight years.
Stamey, who counts country legend Hank Williams and Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck among his influences, considers himself a musical storyteller rather than a musician. He pulls inspiration from his personal life as well as “stuff I’ve researched” or read, he said.
“There’s just one guy up there with a guitar,” said Stamey, who’s been honored by the Academy of Western Artists and the Western Music Association for his work. “You need to be able to engage the audience, and storytelling seems to be the way to do it.
“That’s how we deal with the world — through stories.”
According to Stamey, 95 percent of his set list consists of original songs such as “Come Ride With Me,” a romantic ode to life on horseback, and “The Vaquero Song,” which recalls California’s Rancho era.
He also covers a few classic cowboy songs, including “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” and “Night Rider’s Lament.”
According to Stamey, “The Vaquero Song” was inspired by the time he’s spent exploring the Dana Adobe — as well as the book “The Blond Ranchero: Memories of Juan Francisco Dana” by Rocky and Marie Harrington Dana.
“Looking east toward the hills, you can almost get a sense of how the (landscape) looked in the 1840s, when Capt. Dana had just finished building his home,” Stamey said.
Stamey, who lived in Nipomo for 25 years before moving to northeastern Tulare County about five years ago, said he’s looking forward to his return to the South County. He previously performed at Dana Adobe fundraisers in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
“I miss that town very much,” Stamey said, but he tries to limit his performances there.
“I’d rather have someone say ‘Where’s Dave?’ as opposed to ‘There’s Dave again,’ ” he said with a chuckle.
4 p.m. Saturday, doors open at 2:30 p.m.
Dana Adobe, 671 S. Oakglen Ave., Nipomo
929-5679 or www.danaadobe.org