Music & Lyric by Mason Williams
My childhood heroes were the stars of the early cowboy movies, the singing Cowboy Buckaroos. These films were called Country & Western movies & this is, in fact, where the term “Country & Western music” comes from, it was the kind of music associated with those films. Every generation has their pop culture morality plays and Hoppy, Gene & Roy & all those other great Cowboy Buckaroos were mine.
I wrote the song in 1968, at the time I was also writing for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. One of the things that was beginning to dawn on me was that the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was having a big impact on young people. Thinking back on what had impressed me as a kid, I thought about all the cowboy movies I had seen and, in retrospect, how they had been the morality plays of my younger days. I decided to write a song about it.
The chorus embraced the Country Western vocal harmonies in the songs in those movies and also became a good excuse to yodel, something always worth going for.
Chorus: Spurs a jangle in', whoopy ti yi yay,
Just a wrangle in' through ev'ry single day
(Idle leedle lady odle yodels)
A man should be a rootin' tootin' straight shootin' Cowboy Buckaroo.
Gene Autry and Roy Rogers both died in 1998. Their deaths signaled the end of an era, so I thought why not write a new verse that makes the song more about them and their impact on our popular culture?
Here is the new 2nd verse (not on the recording):
Verse 2: Buckaroo's are cowboys who live by the Code of the West.
(rewrite) Buckaroo’s always do their level best.
Tho’ Gene & Roy are gone now, thanks to all their derring do
They gave us all the legacy of the Cowboy Buckaroo.
2nd Chorus: Harmony vocals & yodeling
The third verse was a plea to return to the spirit values of The Code of the West exemplified in all those Cowboy Buckaroo movies.
Verse 3: Should we be the way we are, or be how we could be?
Could the movies become a reality?
I'd like to ask a question, the answer's overdue:
Why don't we all ride together and be Cowboy Buckaroos?
As for the yodeling - it’s actually an instrumental break that’s sung; Swiss Alpian / Countrified falsetto vocal scat licks that are a kick to sing!
It was released on my Warner Bros. “Music” album in the Spring of ’69 with background vocals by the original Sons of the Pioneers! It was also recorded by The Statler Bros. I’ve heard thru the grapevine that it’s been sung at a lot of cowboy weddings. Subject wise, it tapped into the mythology of the Wild West as personified by the music of those Country & Western movie singing cowboys.
Performance wise, I sang it on the Smothers Bros Comedy Hour & at an FCC Committee hearing, but these were before I added the real yodel.
At the FCC hearing, the point I made was that I was in a sense, a product of the entertainment songs & movies I grew up on. I implied that the Comedy Hour & its being on the right side of things, was a bid to be a morality play of its time & probably had a major impact on young people in a similar way.
Listening back to it (27) years later, I realize it was naïve for me at the time, to think that society could & would ever want to return to those thrilling days of yester year, where in your life, if you’re happy enough to want to yodel, you’ve got it made!
Cowboy Buckaroos was not only a tribute to them & their Code of the West, but a salute to the music they inspired me to write. The naïve aspect of it intrigues me now…I now realize I was naïve enough to be original.
Mason Williams – Lead Vocal
Rick Cunha – Guitar / Vocal Harmony
Don Whaley – Bass / Vocal Harmony
Byron Berline – Fiddle
Jerry Mills – Mandolin
Hal Blaine – Drums
Skip Conover – Dobro
Recorded 7/’86 at Rick Cunha’s studio.