F O R I M M E D I A T E R E L E A S E
Contact Ted Harbin
Bendele’s fingers do the walking in Dodge
DODGE CITY, Kan. – When Benje Bendele clicks his fingers, something magical usually happens.
Ah, the life of the preeminent sound and effects man in ProRodeo. If it happens in the arena, the speakers rumble with a complementary sound. It’s a split-second, a click and a style that has led the Texan to many of the biggest rodeos in North America.
“It’s been a great ride,” said Bendele, who has lent his talents the last 11 years to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “Rodeos have picked up this format. They’ve left the traditional brass bands, and they realize that this is another aspect of the performances.”
And that’s one of the reasons he will be a major player in the five performances of Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1-Sunday, Aug. 5, at Roundup Arena.
“Benje has been here for a long time, and there’s a good reason: He’s the best there is,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the volunteer rodeo committee that produces the annual event. “Roundup is a very traditional rodeo; for a long time, we had a brass band that accompanied our rodeo.
“But what Benje does is so much more than providing music. The reason he works the biggest events in rodeo is because of that.”
The effects and music can’t be choreographed, because the action doesn’t allow it. But with split-second timing, Bendele finds the right music or right sound effect to bring together that excellent ride, fast time or explosive dismount.
“I think the thing I like about my career is being part of the way the rodeo is watched and taken in by rodeo fans and how that’s changed in the last 10 years,” Bendele said. “It’s changed drastically in the last five years. It’s just the way sporting events in general are being seen, and we, in the rodeo business, have to keep up with that. I’ve been part of that, part of the goal in our sport.
“It’s how our sport evolves.”
That’s something he understands well. Bendele started his rodeo career as a contestant, then followed his passion for the sport to the announcer’s stand and on to the sound booth. Beginning at age 9, he competed in youth, high school and college rodeo as a team roper and tie-down roper. He even tried his hand at bull-riding, which lasted 15 seconds – five bulls at an average of three seconds each.
“It was then and there that I decided that bull riding was not for me,” he said.
No matter. Bendele has used that experience and an insider’s understanding of the extreme sport to stand out among his peers. Not only does he work the annual championship, but he’s also been hired to produce sound for some of the biggest events in the sport, from RodeoHouston to the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo to the Calgary Stampede.
He’s also worked his way up the charts, so to speak, with ingenuity and hard work. In fact, he got the NFR job while working at a rodeo in Glens Falls, N.Y.
“I knew Shawn Davis, the general manager of the NFR, was looking for a music guy for the Dallas event, so I called him up from a little hotel room,” Bendele said. “I’d set up all my equipment in this room, kind of a mini-studio, and when I called him, he asked, ‘What can you do for me?’
“So I put on a little show. By the end of the conversation, I was hired. I did the Dallas event, and at that point, they hired me for the NFR.”
Bendele got his start 24 years ago when, at the age of 20, he fell into a job while accompanying his brother to a youth rodeo. There was no announcer available, so Bendele jumped in, and a career was born.
“I started announcing at that time,” he said. “I worked a bunch of youth rodeos after that, then started working some open rodeos. I got tired of showing up to places where the sound wasn’t good, so I bought a small sound system.
“I was getting called more for my sound, so in 2001, I made the decision to start focusing on the sound.”
And even though his focus is on the sound, he has been voted by other announcers to serve as their representative on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s executive council. It’s a position on the political side of the business he takes very seriously and has leaned on the assistance of others, including the late Clem McSpadden, longtime the voice of Roundup Rodeo.
“I did ask advice from Clem, and he gave it honestly,” Bendele said. “I had the chance to work with Clem in Dodge City, and I enjoyed working with him when I had the chance.”
He’s had plenty of enjoyable experiences, especially in the past 10 years. He recalls the days of not only hauling equipment into announcer’s stands at rodeos all across this land, but hauling cassette tapes and CDs, too. Now all the effects and music are loaded on computers, and making updates is a regular part of his job.
“We have to keep up with technology,” he said. “Digital is constantly changing. Now with the computer, it’s at the touch of a button, and there’s so much more of a variety to have.”
And whether it’s a snippet from a hip hop song or brass trumpets or the moans of a crowd, there is a defined marriage between the action in the arena and the sounds that accompany it. Bendele has orchestrated the ceremony countless time, perfecting it, even. That’s just one of the many reasons he will be in Dodge City for Roundup Rodeo.