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Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)

Cruiser 22 Sep 06 - 03:49 PM
Bob Coltman 27 Sep 06 - 07:16 PM
Cruiser 04 Oct 06 - 02:43 PM
Cruiser 04 Oct 06 - 04:53 PM
Inukshuk 04 Oct 06 - 06:29 PM
Cruiser 04 Oct 06 - 07:48 PM
Cruiser 29 Oct 07 - 07:29 PM
Cruiser 04 Oct 09 - 11:11 AM
GUEST,DWR 04 Oct 09 - 11:44 AM
Gene 04 Oct 09 - 11:50 AM
Cruiser 04 Oct 09 - 05:40 PM
Cruiser 04 Oct 09 - 07:06 PM
Cruiser 28 Mar 10 - 11:29 PM
GUEST,windbag 23 Nov 10 - 07:20 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: COWPOKE (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 22 Sep 06 - 03:49 PM

I, and others on this forum, have mentioned Stan Jones a few times. He was an extraordinary songwriter/lyricist and was responsible for many musical scores and soundtracks of western movies and television shows. In addition to having his lyrics of "Cowpoke" added to the DigiTrad, if appropriate as a valid folk song, I wanted to document this interesting man's biography. Since a kid in the 1950s I have been musically influenced by his many musical talents. From the small screen's television series of 'Cheyenne' (theme song), 'Sheriff of Cochise County', which he also acted in, the Disneyland series where his musical scores were important, to the big screen's "The Horse Soldiers" where he wrote the main theme "I Left My Love" and had a bit role in the beginning as Ulysses S. Grant. Mr. Jones also had brief acting rolls in several of John Ford's other western movies. In addition to "Cowpoke", Jones wrote the famous "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" and many other songs.

I transcribed the lyrics of "Cowpoke" by the late and great Don Walser's rendition from his recording of the song on his album: 'Dare to Dream: The Best of Don Walser'. Some of the words and phrases were changed by Don to suit his Lamesa/Austin, Texas heritage versus Stan's Douglas, Arizona roots. Stan Jones' original lyrics, which I prefer, are written first then Walser's lyrics are written in parentheses.

Stan Jones
Circa 1950s/early 60s
Originally on Jones' LP album Disneyland 3033: 'This Was the West'

I'm lonesome but I'm happy
Rich but I'm broke
And the good Lord knows the reason
I'm just a cowpoke.

From Cheyenne to Douglas   (Dallas to Austin)
The ranges I know
I drift with the wind
No one cares where I go.


I ain't got a dime    (cent)
In these old worn out jeans
I'll stop eatin' steak
And go back to beans.

I'll pick up a ten spot
In Prescott I know    (Houston)
While ridin' the broncs
In a big rodeo.


{Fiddle & other instrumentals}

Maybe in the springtime
A filly I'll find
And I might spend all the summer
With her on my mind.

But I'll never be branded
I'll never be broke
I'm a carefree range ridin'
Driftin' cowpoke...


I'm lonesome but happy
Rich but I'm broke
And the good Lord knows the reason
I'm just a cowpoke


A humorous case of misheard lyrics was revealed when I first looked up the lyrics online. The verse "In Prescott I know" was written as "I'll Press God I know"! I have found many such errors over the years when looking for song lyrics, so one must be very careful since every site I visited had this same error.

Interestingly, Glen Campbell had a country chart hit with an upbeat, Nashville-ized version of "Cowpoke" in the 1980s.

Glenn Campbell
Debut Date:    4/26/86
Peak Pos:      36
Weeks Charted: 11


Stan Jones 1997        WMA Hall of Fame Member

An impressionable 12 year old rode to the top of an Arizona hill one afternoon with an old Cowboy friend to check a windmill. A big storm was building and they needed to lock the blades down before the wind hit. When finished, they paused to watch the clouds darken and spread across the sky. As lightning flashed, the Cowboy told the boy to watch closely and he would see the devil's herd, their eyes red and hooves flashing, stampede ahead of phantom horsemen. The Cowboy warned the youth that if he didn't watch himself, he would someday be up there with them, chasing steers for all eternity. The terrified boy jumped on his horse and took off for the the safety of home. Years later, he recalled that scary, dark afternoon and on his 34th birthday, Stan Jones sat outside his Death Valley home and wrote "(Ghost) riders in the Sky."

Born in the southeastern Arizona town of Douglas in 1914, Stan grew up surrounded by cattle ranches, cowboys and the beauty of the desert. In later life he often went back to get away from the stresses of Los Angeles.

As a boy, he told and wrote ghost stories for his classmates. One neighbor recalled, he would finish his stories along about the time she had to be home for dinner. And she would sometimes be too scared to walk the block or so to her house. She remembered him as a handsome boy with wavy blond hair and dimples. He had a lot of friends.
He moved to California and lived with a sister while he went to college. His love of learning and adventure took Stan all over the West. He worked in the big copper mine in Jerome, Arizona, and traveled to the Pacific Northwest where he drove a snowplow, worked as a logger and ate smoke as a firefighter in the forests. During WWII, Stan was a field director for the American Red Cross in Bend, Oregon. There he met and married a beautiful co-worker. According to Olive Jones, their 20 years together were always a challenge and always interesting.

Because of his love of the outdoors, Stan joined the National Park Service. A midJuly job transfer brought him to the desert of Death Valley, where he wrote many of his songs. He used an old Martin guitar Olive had bought him as a surprise. She had hidden it in a closet and one day a failing coat set the strings vibrating. Stan said he ".heard the angels sing" when the sound came through the door and once he found it, the guitar was seldom out of his sight.

When they moved to Death Valley, they found a temperamental air conditioner, no radio, TV or phone - just a two-way radio, and when the car occasionally broke down, the only transportation was the old Park Service truck. Stan told Olive she would soon have the desert in her blood and in spite of the inconveniences, it was true. Most evenings they sat outside and watched the desert sunset and often Stan found something to write about.

The Park Service made Stan its representative to Hollywood film crews when they came to Death Valley. After a long, hot day of filming, cast and crew members often sat around and listened to Stan's songs and stories. They encouraged him to get a publisher in L.A. His songs made the rounds and Burl Ives was given one about a "ghost herd in the sky" which he liked enough to record. When the master was finished, someone called Vaughn Monroe and played it for him. Monroe rushed to L.A. and cut the record himself and released it before Ives' came out. The rest is history - the song became one of Monroe's biggest hits. Dozens of other singers released the tune and a few years later, when asked on a Sons of the Pioneers radio show which version he liked best, he didn't hesitate in saying the Pioneers'.

Veteran Cowboy actor George O'Brien introduced Stan to his friend and mentor, the legendary director John Ford. When Ford heard Jones' music, he insisted he write the score for the movie Wagonmaster. The Sons of the Pioneers were chosen to do the vocals, but did not appear in the movie. Jones then wrote much of the music for Rio Grande. Ford also gave Stan a chance to act in this movie. He was the sergeant who presented the Regimental Singers (a.k.a. the Sons of the Pioneers) to John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara and appeared in other scenes.
Jones also wrote most of the music for John Wayne's favorite Western, The Searchers.

When Stan quit the Park Service, the Jones moved to Lake Tahoe and he would drive to L.A. when required. As more projects became available, the need to have a place close to work necessitated a move to the coast. Stan and Olive found a beautiful home overlooking the growing Tarzana area where one of their neighbors was Rex Allen.
Walt Disney Studios hired Stan to do music for many of their movies and TV shows including "Spin and Marty." Stan occasionally appeared on them and on "The Wonderful World of Color" singing a Western song. Disney released a number of these songs on albums as well.
There were other movies, TV, and independent albums and in the mid-50's he teamed up with writers and a producer to do the TV series "Sheriff of Cochise" starring John Bromfield. He created the show, co-starred in it, and wrote some scripts and music. He also wrote and recorded for the Standard School Broadcasts, a program radio stations broadcast into schools around the country.

Stan never went anywhere without a book and his thirst for knowledge was unquenchable. He worked on a manuscript for a book on glaciers and was writing a novel based on Queen Nefertiti of Egypt.
In his brief career, Stan Jones wrote over two hundred songs. About one hundred were recorded, including "Song of the Trail," "Saddle Up." "Lilies Grow High," "Cowpoke," and the TV theme 'Cheyenne." The numerous awards including gold records still line the walls of the Jones house in silent testimony to the millions of records sold over the years.

Stan Jones died in 1963, at age 49, and at his request, was buried in his hometown of Douglas. A tall pine now shades his grave from the Arizona sun.

It's hard to say how many hundred of songs were left unwritten and stories left untold. But the words and music he gave us made an indelible impression on the minds of the world. There are few places one goes where the haunting melody and lyrics of "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky" are not recognized and loved and that is an eternal legacy of which one can be very proud. (By Michelle Sundin from conversations with Olive Jones)

The preceeding (an a photo of Stan Jones) is from this link:

1997 WMA Hall of Fame Member Stan Jones



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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Bob Coltman
Date: 27 Sep 06 - 07:16 PM

Terrific song. Back in 1959 I heard the Elton Britt version, one of the most moving and beautiful yodel songs I know. Used to try to sing it while my voice would still do the yodel break, even performed it a couple of places. But Elton's performance was matchless.

Glad to hear the story behind it. Bob

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 04 Oct 06 - 02:43 PM

I just received 2 original 33 1/3 rpm vinyl LP albums by Stan Jones I got off eBay:

'Creakin' Leather'

'This Was The West'

There is more biographical information regarding Mr. Jones printed on the album covers that I will transcribe later. I have not been able to find this specific bio elsewhere.

I am also waiting on a 3rd Stan Jones album I recently purchased. Ebay is a great source for old, rare vinyl records.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 04 Oct 06 - 04:53 PM

From the LP: 'Creakin' Leather' Stan Jones Sings His Own Compositions Year: 1962

WDL-3015 Walt Disney Productions

Biography on the back on the album:

Few song writers, however adept at the mechanics of their trade, have Stan Jones' genius as a musical spinner of tales. Here is the modern troubadour who writes and sings of whom and what he has known---and who, in his wanderings over land and sea, has had adventure as a "pardner" since the day he was born to the tune of Pancho Villa's guns.

Villa was shooting up a town just across the Mexican border from the Jones' Arizona ranch when on June 5, 1914, the future Death Valley Ranger drew first breath and lustily joined in the din. Stan was the youngest of seven and the only one not given music lessons in his early years. It remained for cowpunchers he later did night-herding with to teach him the fundamentals on a borrowed guitar.

His father died when he was 14 and the boy, finding himself at odds with his elder in-laws, left home to finish growing up in an assortment of jobs—logging, laboring in gold mines, railroad braking, a stint in the Navy, cowpunching. He attended school when he could until finally he won his master's degree in zoology at the University of California.

His love of animals and a life-long desire to be a U.S. Ranger took over at this point. He joined up. The, riding under the stars on the lonely mountain and desert trails, between the badman-battling, and occasional rescues, he began to sing, and to write as he sang. It was in secret. The young Ranger was embarrassed, not by his talent but by what it produced in a country of tough hombres—hundreds of tender songs and romantic verses he hid away in bureau drawers.

He hesitatingly obliged some strangers, though, one day in 1949, when he was assigned to guide them on a movie location scouting trip. They called for campfire music, listened to "Riders in the Sky," hired him as technical advisor, and bought the song to boot.
{End Quote}

Side 1

Creakin' Leather
Deep Water
Sedona, Arizona
Burro Lullaby
Wedding Day
Cottonwood Tree

Side 2

Wringle Wrangle
Snooze in the Quiet Air
Woolly Lamb Song
El Diablo
Hunter's Return
Too Young to Marry
Riders in the Sky

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Inukshuk
Date: 04 Oct 06 - 06:29 PM

"Cowpoke" has always been the ultimate cowboy song for me. Stan Jones is certainly the ultimate writer of cowboy songs.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 04 Oct 06 - 07:48 PM

Transcribed from the back of the 1964 LP album 'This Was the West'

Stan Jones and the Ranger Chorus

Stan Jones possibly knows more about the West than any other living man. He was born of pioneering parents in the border ton of Douglas, Arizona. He built his own cabin when he was sixteen. Between sessions at the University of California at Berkeley and a hitch in the Navy, Stan was a rodeo rider in twenty different outfits. He drove a snow plow for the Southern pacific. He was a logger in Washington, Canada, Oregon: placer miner on the North Fork of the American River, where he drove a string of pack mules; a cowboy in Northern Arizona and later in Northern California; and a ranger. He's been in every big National Forest and Park west of the Continental divide from Alaska to Mexico (where he learned Indian tracking). His ken of the West and his knack for writing songs are combined in this album, in which Stan draws on both his heritage and his won lifetime to write about the West that was.

The Songs

(Western Theme with Narration)
Narration by Thurl Ravenscroft

Ol' Kit Carson
Jim Marshall's Nugget
Wagons West
Pony Express
Indian Spirit Chant
Yellow Stripes
The Lilies Grow High
Coffin in the Cabin
Saddle Up
Stars of the West
Songs of the Dance Hall Girls
Rollin' Dust

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 29 Oct 07 - 07:29 PM

The master singing Cowpoke:

Cowpoke Video: Don Walser

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 04 Oct 09 - 11:11 AM

This rendition of Stan Jones' 'Cowpoke' by Johnny Western--who wrote and sang the Ballad of Palaidin theme from 'Have Gun Will Travel'--is the best I have heard.

Cowpoke Johnny Western 1962

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
Date: 04 Oct 09 - 11:44 AM

Thank you, Cruiser, this is an informative and well thought out thread that I somehow managed to miss along the way.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Gene
Date: 04 Oct 09 - 11:50 AM

Well, they are all very good, of course, ... Stan Jones, Elton Britt, Johnny Western, Don Walser and are favorites of mine.

But, the best version of COWPOKE I ever heard was by the Tennessee Plowboy, Eddy Arnold.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 04 Oct 09 - 05:40 PM

Thanks DWR. Mudcat is an excellent site to archive such 'rare' authentic western music.

The previous link [1997 WMA Hall of Fame Member Stan Jones] is broken.

Here is the correct, current link:

Stan Jones--Western Music Assoc. Hall of Fame

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 04 Oct 09 - 07:06 PM

Here are different verses in Johnny Western's rendition.

Well, it's north in the Spring
If there ain't a big drought
And as soon as it frosts
I'll be headin' back south

But I ain't got a worry
'Cause I ain't got time
I'm too busy a'livin'
This free life of mine

And a different first phrase of this verse

*Some evenin'* in the springtime
A filly I'll find….

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: Cruiser
Date: 28 Mar 10 - 11:29 PM

Here is Elton Britt's version of Cowpoke


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Cowpoke (Stan Jones 1950s/early 60s)
From: GUEST,windbag
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 07:20 AM

Also is a track on SLIM WHITMAN SINGS, Imperial LP 9056, circa late 1958.

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