From the announcer’s booth at the Fort Worth Stock Show rodeo, Bob Tallman’s golden voice spins the excitement of a sporting event into a dazzling Western experience.
As he bellows, “this thing is legend-aary” as Tallman does it with honest gusto because announcing the rodeo is more than a job for him. It is a labor of love.
“The only thing I have ever wanted to be is a cowboy,” Tallman said. “But being a cowboy is more than boots and hats.
“It’s about embracing the Western lifestyle, having an independent spirit, loving the land and appreciating all parts of the cowboy life.”
Announcing rodeo is a perfect fit for a man who comes from a multi-generation ranching family, who learned early on that he was better as an announcer than a rodeo rider.
Tallman, 71, was born and raised in the tiny town of Winnemucca, Nevada, where his family owned a lumber company and raised cattle. He attended school in a one-room schoolhouse through fifth-grade.
It was the cowboy life that captured his heart and imagination. During his youth, he loved to ride horses, compete in local rodeos and participate in 4-H activities.
His love of rodeo led him to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, where he continued to compete.
But his can-do spirit only took him so far. In 1969, as he was getting set to for to compete in calf-roping at a small rodeo in Nevada, he got his first gig behind the microphone after complaining about the announcer.
“I knew early on that I wasn’t going to be a champion,” he said. “But I loved rodeo, that lifestyle, and I loved to tell stories, so this was a way for me to connect with that.”
Although he had no background in broadcast, Tallman knew a lot about rodeo and took a chance at making this his career. With the support his wife, Kristen, and her father, he started the long, slow slog of traveling from town-to-town in Nevada and the northwest for a chance to announce at small rodeos.
“I looked at it, like, if it doesn’t work out, I had other jobs to fall back on,” he said.
But he eventually caught a break that led to the launch of his professional career in 1972.
In 1977, he announced for the first time at the Fort Worth Stock Show rodeo in Will Rogers Coliseum.
“I knew right after I got here that Texas would be my home,” he said. “I had never been around so many people who were so polite and proud to be Texans. It made me proud to be here and be a part of it.”
It didn’t take him long to make a lasting impression.
“I knew from the first time I heard him announce that Bob was the real deal,” said Kelly Riley, a former roper and bull rider who has a long connection to the Fort Worth Stock Show as the son and grandson of rodeo competitors.
“Bob has big shoes to fill when he came to Fort Worth,” said Riley, who first met Tallman in 1976 at a rodeo in Little Rock. At the time, Tallman was announcing and Riley was working in sports marketing for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Winston cigarettes.
Tallman succeeded legendary announcer Tom Haldey, who succeeded another legend, Cy Taillon, as Fort Worth rodeo announcers. Both were ProRodeo Hall of Fame announcers.
“Fort Worth is such a traditional, historic and proper rodeo,” Riley said. “You have to have to be the best behind the microphone and Bob has the knowledge and presence to do that.”
Tallman said his career has been the result of one opportunity leading to another. He also acknowledges the advice and encouragement of many mentors, including other rodeo announcers as well as sportscaster Curt Gowdy and TV and radio personality Bob Eubanks, who was a rodeo rider.
Throughout his career, Tallman has regaled millions of people across the U.S. and in foreign countries with play-by-play announcements, mixed with color commentary and engaging storytelling. He is regarded as a skillful raconteur who has been called “the greater announcer that ever lived.”
For much of his career, he traveled nearly 300 days a year to announce at rodeos ranging from the biggest, including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Wrangler National Finals in Las Vegas, to small two- and three-day events in small towns such as Snyder, Texas.
A nine-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Announcer of the Year, he is also an inductee in the PRCA Hall of Fame and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, among his many honors.
Tallman achieved his dream of living in Texas when he his family bought a ranch in Parker County in 1990. The sprawling 3T Ranch is home to Tallman and his wife live as well as their daughter, Nicole Pennell and her team-roper husband, Daniel, and their 11-year-old twins.
The family raises cattle on organically-fertilized grass and produces top-quality hormone-free Angus beef for individual customers. They also produce Bobby T’s Beef Jerky in several flavors.
“It’s a big deal with city people,” Tallman said. “Not everyone wants to ride a bucking bull but everyone wants to eat good beef. It’s done very well.”
Besides his beef operation, Tallman is a consultant to a Weatherford-based surveillance and monitoring company, Pro View Global Digital Surveillance, that he started years ago and then sold.
Tallman is also deeply committed to giving back and does so through the nonprofit Bob Tallman Foundation. An annual golf tournament raises money for the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Children’s Cancer Hospital.
As the 123rd annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo draws to a close, Tallman said he can’t help but feeling nostalgic about the place where he has been for 41 years. Next year, Tallman’s voice will be booming from the new, state-of-the-art announcer’s booth at Dickies Arena.
But, he admits that leaving the coliseum is bittersweet.
“It (the coliseum) has a smell, a taste to it,” he said. “It’s the smell of dust and dirt but it represents history and tradition.
“The new arena is beautiful and it’s so exciting to be moving there,” he said. “There’s no doubt it will be better. But there are a lot of memories here.”
Tallman has suffered from some health problems, which he calls “a spine deal” but he refuses to surrender to it. He has cut back to announcing just evening performances to protect his voice but has no plans to retire.
“I like to say I’m 71 going on 40,” he said. “If you give in to your age, you get old real fast. Age is really just a number on your driver’s license.”