Cokeville musician, rancher Sharon Dayton a pure Wyoming talent


Cokeville musician and rancher Sharon Dayton. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Cokeville native Sharon Dayton's relationship with music goes all the way back to his childhood. 

Dayton, 85, stopped by the Gazette to talk about his past music projects and what he's working on now. Talking to Dayton is like stepping back in time.

"My parents played for a dance social where Cokeville couples came to dance," Dayton said. "My mother played the piano, my dad added the banjo and they would play together."

Dayton's family inspired his love of music. He took piano lessons and played the trumpet in the Cokeville High School band.

"I was inspired by the Hit Parade music," Dayton said."That music really was for everybody."

Dayton attended BYU, Utah State and the University of Wyoming. He was in the BYU's marching band and Air Force ROTC band.

The Cokeville cowboy served an LDS church mission in New Zealand. While serving in the National Guard in 1959, he "met some unsavory characters," so Dayton decided to create a wholesome musical — thus, "Friday Nite" was born.

"I heard what some of the guys were talking about. I thought about the girls I had dated in high school, and I thought about my sisters, so I decided to make something wholesome to kind of counteract the 'values' of the changing world," Dayton said.

The musical tells the story of Cissy Smith, who makes dates with two boys (one with a bad-boy greaser) for Friday, and has to make a choice.

The album, with songs like "Mighty Fine Evening" and "Do You Still Remember" showcases the musical's nostalgia for a "simpler time" of sockhops and shiny cars.

Dayton was one of the composers on "Comin' Home" and "Friday Nite." He has been composing music since he was in college. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Theresa Davis)

Dayton and his fellow musical friends and family first performed the musical in Cokeville in 1960.

They also did road shows at LDS churches in the area and a community celebration in Lyman.

After several performances, Dayton and his brother Lynn started their successful purebred cattle business. Dayton was also a hunting guide and outfitter for 50 years.

"The musical just went into the trunk until 2008, when we decided to improve it," Dayton said.

Dayton and his wife Janel were serving as LDS missionaries at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, when he met Russian concert pianist Lyudmila Gudnina, who helped Dayton improve "Friday Nite" and compose a second album, "Comin' Home."

They added vocals and orchestration at a Provo, Utah, studio, with the help of several performance majors from Utah Valley University.

Besides Gudnina, Dayton's fellow composers were Chance Thomas and Johnny Cavelle. Dayton kept revising and composing, and soon had enough  material for a second album, "Comin' Home."

"I wanted to showcase that western Wyoming sound I grew up on in Cokeville," Dayton said.

Dayton does show that love for the Cowboy state on his second album, with songs like "Bluest Skies in the World," that boast lyrics like "I stand blessed for this state in the West, Wyoming!"

Dayton's son Charles, a western artist, painted the artwork for "Coming' Home," — another Dayton contributing to the family legacy.

Dayton said he is even working on a third album. His CDs will soon be sold in Kemmerer.

"I've loved getting to work with the talent that helped me make these albums possible," Dayton said."