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Lyr Add: Tom Sherman's Barroom

STREETS OF LAREDO (Cowboy's Lament)

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Stewie 15 Apr 00 - 02:06 AM
Malcolm Douglas 15 Apr 00 - 10:17 AM
toadfrog 08 Oct 02 - 11:43 PM
GUEST, 09 Oct 02 - 03:02 PM
GUEST 11 Jan 22 - 03:02 PM
Lighter 11 Jan 22 - 04:38 PM
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From: Stewie
Date: 15 Apr 00 - 02:06 AM


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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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tom Sherman's Barroom
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 15 Apr 00 - 10:17 AM

Here is a link to the St. James Infirmary thread.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tom Sherman's Barroom
From: toadfrog
Date: 08 Oct 02 - 11:43 PM

I agree with Stewie, this song merits a place. It is also sung by Tracy Schwarz on NLCR Gone to the Country (1972) Folkways FA 2491. The tune is quite different from Streets of Laredo. It has a very real sound.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tom Sherman's Barroom
From: GUEST,
Date: 09 Oct 02 - 03:02 PM

Does anyone know anything about the version sung by Steeleye Span, beginning,

When I was on horseback, wasn't I pretty When I was on horseback, wasn't I gay Wasn't I pretty when I entered Cork City And met with my downfall on the 14th of May.

... recorded by Steeleye Span on "Ten Man Mop" (1971)?

Is Cork City on the 14th of May (as I suspect) introduced by Steeleye Span for the first time? I haven't come on it in any of the other versions.

There are two complete "compilation CDs" based on the tradition stemming from "The Buck's Lament" (the title of the first full-length extant version -- "The Rake's Lament" is, while probably earlier, a fragment).

FOLKWAYS RECO1~DS Album No. FA 3805 © Copyright 1960 by Folkways Records and Service Corp., 165 W. 46th St., N • Y. C. USA


"'The Unfortunate Rake' – a song trail", Compiled by David Atkinson (1999), in Root&Branch 1. -- the CD was issued with an A3 sheet printing of the texts.

Robin Hamilton

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tom Sherman's Barroom
Date: 11 Jan 22 - 03:02 PM

Francis Henry Maynard said during a cattle drive in 1876 he heard his outfit singing a song about a girl gone wrong. He rewrote the words by using a ranger (i.e., cowboy) and not the girl. He placed the cowboy outside Tom Sherman's Barroom in Dodge City. He penned it The Dying Cowboy and self published in 1911. John A. Lomax version of what a cowboy heard a cowboy sing placed the cowboy also in Dodge City, but outside Sam Sherman's Bar-Room. He published story in 1910 thus "The Cowboy's Lament". Francis Henry Maynard says cowboy's from Texas put the cowboy outside The Streets of Laredo. Ken Maynard the first singing cowboy actor of Hollywood is the only one to put the cowboy coming out of Austin's fair city, Ewen Hail was the first it appears to put "The Streets of Laredo on record 78 rpm He titled it Cowboy's Lament "The Cowboy Minstrel". One published what was heard. The earliest known one claims Authorship and copyrights. One put it on a 78. One sang it on Hollywood silver screen and put it on a record.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tom Sherman's Barroom
From: Lighter
Date: 11 Jan 22 - 04:38 PM

Steeleye's "When I Was on Horseback," featuring "Cork City... on the 14th of May," comes from a field recording of Mary Doran of Co. Waterford made in 1952 by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle for the BBC.

Steeleye undoubtedly heard it on the Caedmon anthology "A Soldier's Life for Me," volume 8 of the seminal "Folk Songs of Britain," released in 1961.

The Caedmon album also contains the original of Steeleye's "Prince Charlie Stuart" (sung by Bridgid Tunney) and "Bold General Wolfe" (sung by Bob Scarce, IIRC).

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