Man, magazines sure like their lists. To be honest, I like them, too. American Cowboy put out a special edition about the 50 greatest Country & Western singers. As I read over the list, I began to think that many of them don’t fit on the list. When I hear Country & Western, I think about cowboy songs, and there are a bunch of people on the list that never sang a song about punching cattle or being in a showdown.
I am thinking that the genre name confuses me because I don’t consider it a modern description. There is Country music and there is Western music, which isn’t as popular. I think that in the old days Country and Western went together because they were considered rural in origin. Was it a derogatory term? I don’t know, but I don’t believe they fit together anymore.
With that in mind, I am going to pare down the list and report the ones who I think are true singers of Western songs. It is American Cowboy, after all. Here they are – the ones on the list who have sung about the West. I may link a few examples along the way.
Johnny Cash – I’ve written about him before. Johnny sang a variety of tunes, but he also sang about the West. Personally, I like the one about Johnny Yuma.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans - What can I say? Roy was the ultimate cowboy for an entire generation of kids. Dale was by his side the whole time. Nothing beats their signature song.
George Strait – George can sing Country and Western. In fact, he is a true legend of both. I could listen to “Amarillo by Morning” every day. Every time I go through Amarillo, I sing it.
Chris LeDoux – I don’t know much about Chris, but how can you leave a real cowboy off the list?
Ian Tyson – This is another singer who I don’t know much about. It is also another singer who was a real cowboy.
Gene Autry – Another cowboy legend who a generation of kids looked up to. Ironically, his most enduring song is about a deer.
Red Steagall – Texas Swing is a great subgenre of Country & Western music, and Red is one of the all time greats.
Willie Nelson – He couldn’t make it when he first came to Nashville. That’s when Willie went back to Texas and got famous. Personally, I like “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.”
Michael Martin Murphey – When I was a kid, I was fascinated by “Wildfire.” I think it was more the ghostly element than the cowboy element.
Don Edwards – I didn’t know anything about Don until I heard one of his songs in a movie. “Coyotes” was that song.
Patsy Montana – The other day Necole and I took my parents to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The section on Patsy Montana was very interesting.
Merle Haggard – He sings about prisoners and laborers. Merle also sings about cowboys. He greatest song is “Pancho and Lefty” with Willie Nelson. He also had a song in Chisum, a John Wayne movie.
Marty Robbins – I wrote about some of Marty’s songs a while back. He touched on a variety of topics in his music, but cowboys were right at the top.
Rex Allen – Another great cowboy star, I remember the tractor commercials he always did during the National Finals Rodeo.
Sons of the Pioneers – I guess Roy Rogers is in here twice because he was also in this group. I watched a fascinating documentary about “Tumbling Tumbleweeds“, so I will make that my favorite. I also like “The Searchers” theme.
Bob Wills – Remember what I said about Texas Swing? Bob Wills was the king of it.
Waylon Jennings – An Outlaw with Willie Nelson and others, Waylon often sang about cowboys. I always liked “Slow Movin’ Outlaw.”
Riders in the Sky – I always considered them a parody. I guess their stage costumes led me to think that. Riders in the Sky are included in the American Cowboy list, so I will put them in mine.
R.W. Hampton – I don’t know his work, but, from what I read, his contemporaries think a lot of R.W.
Joni Harms – Another artist that is new to me, Joni has won numerous awards for her work in the Western genre.
Tom Russell – Dang, I don’t know many of these people. I need to do more research. I definitely need to do more listening to this song.
Wylie & the Wild West – Actually, I know about Wylie. I just don’t know much about his music.
Corb Lund – They list lyrics of some of the artists. Corb’s lyrics struck a chord with me, so I looked up this song.
Garth Brooks – He looked like a cowboy, and he sang about cowboys. Personally, I think Garth ruined Country music.
Kris Kristofferson – Anyone who played Billy the Kid in a movie has to be put on the list. I am just not sure if he ever sang about cowboys.
Belinda Gail – Belinda won the WIll Rogers Cowboy Award. That means she should be on the list.
Brenn Hill – The magazine doesn’t say much about him, but it says that he sings cowboy songs.
Gary McMahan – They list “The Old Double Diamond” as his most prominent song. I looked it up, and it’s good.
Sons of San Joaquin – It’s all in the family. According to the magazine, Roy Rogers compared the Sons of Joaquin to the Sons of the Pioneers. That’s enough for me.
Let’s add this up. Out of 50 on the original list, we have 30 left. I don’t who how many others could have been on it, but I can’t believe Tex Ritter didn’t make it. He sang the iconic theme to High Noon and sang a song that is played daily at Disney World – “Blood on the Saddle.” Can you guess where it’s played?