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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Stewie Lyr Add: Tom Sherman's Barroom (4) Lyr Add: TOM SHERMAN'S BARROOM^^ 15 Apr 00


As I rode down to Tom Sherman's barroom
To Tom Sherman's barroom one morning in May
'Twas there I spied a gay, handsome cowboy
All dressed in white linen as cold as the clay

I knew by your outfit that you were a cowboy
That's what they all said as you go riding along
Come gather around me, (you) said the jolly cowboy
And listen to me, comrades, said he

It's each and all may learn and take warning
And quit your wild roving before it's too late
It was once in the saddle I used to go dashing
It was once in the saddle I used to be gay
First taking to drinking and then to card playing
Got shot through the breast and now I must die

Oh bear the news gently to my grey-headed mother
And whisper then lowly to my sister so dear
And don't forget the words that I've told you
For I'm a gay cowboy and I know I've done wrong

Oh beat your drum loudly and play your fife slowly
And play your dead marches as you carry me along
Oh take me to the graveyard and roll the sod o'er me
For I'm a gay cowboy and I know I've done wrong

Six jolly cowboys to balance my coffin
Six pretty girls to sing me a song
Oh take me to the graveyard and roll the sod o'er me
For I'm a gay cowboy and I know I've done wrong

Oh bring unto me a glass of cold water
A glass of cold water, that poor boy cried
And when I returned, the spirit had left him
And, gone to the Giver, the poor boy had died

Recorded by Dick Devall in Dallas, Texas, on 13 October 1929. Victor BVE-56372-2. Reissued on Various Artists 'Native American Ballads' RCA Vintage Series LPV-548. Also reissued on CD: Various Artists 'When I Was a Cowboy: Early American Songs of the West Vol 2' Yazoo 2023.

I was reminded of this by the recent 'St James Infirmary' thread. It is, of course, a version of 'The Streets of Laredo', a longer version of which can be found in the DT. It is related to 'The Unfortunate Rake', 'The Bad Girl's Lament', 'St James Infirmary' etc, but this was the first commercial recording of a cowboy version. D.K. Wilgus has commented: 'Dick Devall's unaccompanied performance is easily the finest example of old-style cowboy singing preserved by a major recording company'.

Devall was from Reed, Oklahoma. He later recorded a less complete version of the ballad for John Lomax and the Library of Congress in 1946. I have a note [but can't recall the source] that 'Tom Sherman' may be a corruption of 'Tom Sheran' who took over the Bull's Head Saloon in Abilene, Kansas, during July 1871. I think the version is important and discrete enough to warrant a place in the DT.


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