Two years after San Antonio lost a revered rodeo announcer, his legacy is carried on by a duo as steeped in the rodeo way of life as their predecessor was.
Hadley Barrett, the voice of the San Antonio Rodeo and Stock Show for 28 years, died in 2017 at the age of 87. His son-in-law Randy Corley and friend Wayne Brooks have since taken up Barrett’s mantle, teaming up to serve as announcers at one of the nation’s largest indoor rodeos.
Rodeo announcing requires just as much attention to detail as other sports commentators, Brooks said. He and Corley study contestants’ history and statistics to be able to add color to their banter while announcing Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and other events. They also mingle with the riders before they compete, picking up stories and facts to use.
“Football, baseball, basketball — they’re so widely accepted that if you want to know anything about that team or that guy, stats on that year, it’s all readily available,” Brooks said. “In the rodeo business, Randy and I both work with a cowboy database where we collect information and stats through the PRCA; they keep on top of all the results, information, statistics, records. It’s an ongoing process that would be the same as any other sport but we might have to work just a little bit harder.”
Both Corley and Brooks were former rodeo competitors in bareback riding and saddle bronc riding. Corley said he got into rodeo announcing after he left broadcast school and met Barrett in North Platte, Nebraska, while competing. Corley met Michelle, Barrett’s daughter, at the North Platte rodeo back in the 1980s, he said.
“We became friends, and she talked Hadley into talking to me, and he talked me into [joining] the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association,” he said. “And we became really good friends. We traveled together, and as I always say — he did a lot of favors for me. I didn’t know what a legend he was [at the time].”
“I owed Hadley a favor, so I went ahead and married Michelle,” Corley joked.
Brooks first worked the San Antonio rodeo three years ago with Corley and Barrett, while Corley served as Barrett’s co-announcer for around 20 years. Rodeo is a family business, Corley said. While Corley joins Brooks up in the announcer box at the AT&T Center, Michelle and their daughter Amanda will be timing various events for the rodeo. Michelle even drives the bus that transports them from rodeo to rodeo, Corley said.
While he’s not on the road, Corley lives in Silverdale, Washington, while Brooks is from the Central Texas town of Lampasas. But being a rodeo professional means working year round, Brooks said.
“There’s not really a non-rodeo season,” Brooks said. “We get a week or two here or there off. Otherwise, we keep on top of the [rodeo] information 365 days a year.”
Corley said he and Brooks love coming back to San Antonio each year for the rodeo. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo was established in 1949 and more than 250,000 people showed up for its first exposition in 1950. The rodeo has made its home at the AT&T Center since 2003, moving next door from the Freeman Coliseum.
“There’s something about coming to San Antonio and knowing how good it is that pumps you up,” Corley said. “We’re working the largest indoor rodeo of the year, the largest single-season rodeo there has been in the PRCA for a number of years. It doesn’t get any better than San Antonio.”
They love announcing because they love the sport, Brooks added.
“We’re fans,” he said. “What these competitors do on a day-to-day basis is absolutely amazing, the art of abuse their bodies can take and hours that goes into what they do. When we have fast times and high scores and spectacular buck-offs, those are still exciting to us even though we’ve been around for a long, long time.”
Though neither of them see a reason to stop announcing for San Antonio’s rodeo any time soon, 67-year-old Corley acknowledged he would soon start cutting back on how many rodeos he goes to each year. There are around 200 rodeo announcers who travel from event to event, but only 10 to 15 percent make a full-time job out of it, Brooks estimated.
The rodeo competition finals are Feb. 23. There will be PRCA and other competitive events each day, and scheduled musical performances include Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum, and Kelsea Ballerini. Comedian Jim Gaffigan will also be stopping by on Feb. 13. Find the full lineup of entertainers here.