ELKO – Texas is rodeo country, cowboy central.
It seems only fitting that professional rodeo clown “Backflip” Johnny Dudley, of Denton, Texas, would begin his act at a young age.
Relatively-young age, yes.
Rodeo background, no.
“I wasn’t around rodeo or ranching as a kid. My family was into riding bikes and motorcycles,” Dudley said. “I went to a rodeo and loved it. That’s when I decided that’s what I wanted to do, become a clown.”
Although Dudley got his rodeo start a bit later than someone who was raised around a ranch or a rodeo arena, he is now a veteran in the sport.
Now clowning and serving as the barrel man for 18 years, he said his nickname was a lot cooler when he was 20 years old.
Did the name derive from flipping over bulls? Was the moniker something that went clear back to his days as a kid while riding bikes or motorcycles?
“Actually, I got the nickname because I would do a backflip into the arena when they introduced me at the rodeos,” he said. “It’s a lot harder to do now.”
Dudley spent Thursday morning at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Elko, dressed in his clown gear and answering questions from inquiring youngsters.
He promoted the sport of rodeo and encouraged the kids to check out the Silver State Stampede.
What does he like most about his job?
“Whether I’m at a rodeo with 100 people in the stands or there are thousands of fans, you never know about all their backgrounds,” he said. “Someone may have cancer; they’re having a bad day – whatever they’re going through – the rodeo is their chance to get away from everything. If I can entertain them for a couple hours, take their minds off their problems, make them laugh and have a good time – it makes it all worth it.”
Visit his website at backflipjohnny.com for more information.
Check out and meet the Stampede clown, Backflip Johnny Dudley, throughout the weekend at Elko County Fairgrounds – gates opening at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at noon Sunday.