Sharon Dayton – Cokeville Miracle
Sharon Dayton is uncle to the famous Actor Stewart Peterson (temple film, Where the Red Fern Grows, Against a Crooked Sky) and brother to Lyman Dayton, renown LDS Filmaker. Sharon is an accomplished composer and musician himself, and helped on many of those films. He has been a rancher, outdoorsman and outfitter, horseman and a native of Cokeville, Wyoming his whole life. He and his wife Janel were both involved in the “Cokeville Miracle”as witnesses to those famous events that unfolded. Janel was a 1st grade teacher there.
Cokeville native Sharon Dayton’s relationship with music goes all the way back to his childhood.
Dayton, 85, taks about his past music projects and what he’s working on now. Talking to Dayton is like stepping back in time.
“My parents played for a dance social where Cokeville couples came to dance,” Dayton said. “My mother played the piano, my dad added the banjo and they would play together.”
Dayton’s family inspired his love of music. He took piano lessons and played the trumpet in the Cokeville High School band.
“I was inspired by the Hit Parade music,” Dayton said.”That music really was for everybody.”
Dayton attended BYU, Utah State and the University of Wyoming. He was in the BYU’s marching band and Air Force ROTC band.
The Cokeville cowboy served an LDS church mission in New Zealand. While serving in the National Guard in 1959, he “met some unsavory characters,” so Dayton decided to create a wholesome musical — thus, “Friday Nite” was born.
“I heard what some of the guys were talking about. I thought about the girls I had dated in high school, and I thought about my sisters, so I decided to make something wholesome to kind of counteract the ‘values’ of the changing world,” Dayton said.
The musical tells the story of Cissy Smith, who makes dates with two boys (one with a bad-boy greaser) for Friday, and has to make a choice.
The album, with songs like “Mighty Fine Evening” and “Do You Still Remember” showcases the musical’s nostalgia for a “simpler time” of sockhops and shiny cars. Dayton and his fellow musical friends and family first performed the musical in Cokeville in 1960. They also did road shows at LDS churches in the area and a community celebration in Lyman.
After several performances, Dayton and his brother Lynn started their successful purebred cattle business. Dayton was also a hunting guide and outfitter for 50 years. “The musical just went into the trunk until 2008, when we decided to improve it,” Dayton said.
Dayton and his wife Janel were serving as LDS missionaries at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, when he met Russian concert pianist Ludmila (Mila) Gudnina, who helped Dayton improve “Friday Nite” and compose a second album, “Comin’ Home.”
They added vocals and orchestration at a Provo, Utah, studio, with the help of several performance majors from Utah Valley University. “I wanted to showcase that western Wyoming sound I grew up on in Cokeville,” Dayton said. Dayton does show that love for the Cowboy state on his second album, with songs like “Bluest Skies in the World,” that boast lyrics like “I stand blessed for this state in the West, Wyoming!”
Virtual Expo April 2020