RIP Erik

Dallas' Western Swing king and founder of Cowboys & Indians Erik Swanson dies

Western Swing king and founder of Cowboys & Indians Erik Swanson dies

Erik Swanson
Musician Erik Swanson was a larger-than-life figure. Courtesy photo

Musician Erik Swanson, who ruled the Western Swing genre in Dallas, died on February 16 at his home. He was 57.

According to friends of the family, Swanson had been suffering from ALS, aka amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Swanson was in a number of bands, including Cowboys & Indians, where he served as singer and dynamic frontman, always wearing a cowboy hat, always with a gregarious charm. The band released two albums, 1995's The Western Life, and 1998's A Big Night in Cowtown.

He also performed with Texas Gypsies, Shoot Low Sheriff, and Over the River, a bluegrass band in which longtime Dallas musician Kim Herriage also played.

Herriage describes Swanson as a larger-than-life figure who was a friend to all.

"With his hat, his physical size, his voice — he could sing so loudly — there was something iconic about him," Herriage says. "He was so affable, and had an acerbic wit, but he wasn't mean. I think that's why everybody liked him. Besides being super talented and a student of Western swing, he was a good dude."

Musician Dustin Ballard, who played fiddle with Swanson in Shoot Low Sheriff, said that, for all his talent, Swanson was modest.

"He was the most humble guy, he had no ego, and was such a pleasure to be around," Ballard said.

In addition to his musical career, Swanson had another entirely separate and successful career as a graphic designer and creative director for agencies, after graduating from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.

He also had a long history in Dallas: His grandfather Dr. Frank V. Swanson was founder of the oldest optical house in Dallas.

Swanson is survived by his wife Tami and his mother Linda, as well as siblings, nieces, and nephews.