I RIDE AN OLD PAINT (trad./ALMANAC SINGERS) (1800s/1941)


THE ALMANAC SINGERS, 1941: WOODY GUTHRIE, LEE HAYS, MILLARD LAMPELL, PETE SEEGER
(left to right)


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As for singing, the cowboy was fond of music or rather of that kind of humanly created noise which on the Range arbitrarily represented melody. Musical gatherings, so called "sings," were very popular. Except for banjos, except for infirm violins, each of these instruments with usually an illicit number of surviving strings, except for mouth-organs, jews'-harps, and an occasional accordion, there was little besides the human voice to awake dulcet sounds.

In this singing, nasal tones predominated, and the songs were rendered usually with very considerable seriousness both of sound and of facial expression. Variations in high notes were affectionately regarded, and notes long drawn out were deeply loved.

Philip Ashton Rollins, The Cowboy, New York, NY, 1973, p. 158 (Original publication: 1922).
Keeping watch on his herd at night, the cowboy sang of faithful sweethearts at home and unfaithful sweethearts who could not wait, of wild men and bad men and gunslinging desperadoes, of hard luck and good luck, and the payday waiting at the end of the trail. He sang of places he'd been and places not yet seen. He sang of stampedes and heroes and the hardships of the trail. But most of all he sang of his horse, so frequently the common breed of pinto known as a "paint."
Earl Robinson, in Irwin Silber, Songs of the American West, New York, NY, 1967, p. 161.


Lyrics as reprinted (with minor corrections by Manfred Helfert) in Ronald D. Cohen & Dave Samuelson, liner notes for "Songs for Political Action," Bear Family Records BCD 15720 JL, 1996, p. 89.
ORIGINAL ISSUE: "SOD-BUSTER BALLADS," Gen 5020 A (General Album G-21).
[WOODY GUTHRIE, lead vocal]


I ride an old paint and I lead an old Dan,
Goin' to Montana to throw the houlihan.
Feed 'em in the coulees, and water in the draw,
Their tails are all matted and their backs are all raw.
Ride around, little dogies, ride around them slow,
For the fiery and snuffy are a-rarin' to go.
Old Bill Jones had a daughter and a son,
Son went to college, and his daughter went wrong.
His wife got killed in a free-for-all fight,
Still he keeps singin' from mornin' 'till night.

When I die, take my saddle from the wall,
Put it onto my pony, lead him out of his stall.
Tie my bones on his back, an' turn our faces to the west,
We'll ride the prairies that we loved the best.

I've worked in the town and I've worked in the farm,
All I got to show's just this muscle in my arm,
Blisters on my feet, callous on my hand,
And I'm a-goin' to Montana to throw the houlihan.


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