Country, Western & Gospel Music

A History And Encyclopedia Of Composers, Artists & Songs

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
ever entertainment they had they must make for them­selves.
Thus it happened that in the latter half of the nineteenth century in the most modern country on the globe, the old, old conditions for the creation of folk song were reset. Whenever and wherever men have been absolutely de­pendent upon themselves for entertainment, they have sung. Like their forefathers of a thousand years back, the cowboys whiled away time and expressed their joys and sorrows in song.
Along with old songs the more inventive singers won the attention and applause of their fellows by making up new words and tunes. The new songs passed along from one ranch to another, picking up word variations as they went and settling into better tunes. Sometimes contests were held, the men from one ranch backing their champion in his effort to "sing down" a rival from another ranch. Thus it happened, to use the words of Prof. John A. Lomax, that the cowboy ballads "seem to have sprung up as quietly and mysteriously as does the grass of the plains."
The range life as pictured in fiction was so romantic and colorful as to make every small boy long for a chance to swing into a silver-horned saddle, a six-shooter at his hip, and a lariat at his hand. In reality, however, the life was exceedingly monotonous.
People who still have the storybook picture of range life ought to read the songs the cowboys made and sang. From such a collection as Cowboy Songs, by Professor Lomax, of Texas University, one gets a more complete picture of the life than a hundred conventional "Westerns" could give.
Judged from a literary point of view, most of the verses are pretty crude. Judged from the musical point of view, most of the tunes are extremely simple and unsophisticated. Many of the songs are never printed in the collections for the good reason that they are not printable. But for all that the cowboy ballad is one of the interesting phenomena in the history of American music. And besides, it has about it a vitality and genuineness that give it real musical charm.
Suppose we look for a minute at some of these ballads of the old range life as it looked to the cowboy himself. Again and again they voice his protest against the romantic

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III