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September 12, 2019 9:29 AM   Subscribe

The Saddle Tramp blows from town to town, visiting ladies and cute little misses and sweet little someones but never staying, like a very family-friendly The Weeknd song. If the Saddle Tramp had a phone he would text “heyyyyyy” at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday even though you haven’t talked to him in weeks.
All of the Men on the Classic Marty Robbins Album "Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs," Ranked According to My Own Metrics That I Refuse to Explain.

[Disclosure: the author of this piece is my girlfriend.]
posted by Sokka shot first (22 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I love everything about this.
posted by primalux at 9:46 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'll take this fine opportunity to share Howe Gelb's medley of El Paso/Out on the Weekend, one of my very favorite things.
posted by sjswitzer at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

My dad loved Marty Robbins, therefore I grew up with his music. His best friend, a restaurant owner in Ogden, Utah, booked Marty Robbins into a big venue at Weber State University, some years back. This date conflicted with several other events in town that night, so Paul and his girlfriend, my dad and his wife, were the only 4 people at the concert. He played anyway. The things we do for friends and fans. El Paso, a great song, Marty Robbins, a great American balladeer.(Looks odd, but that is how it is spelled.)
posted by Oyéah at 10:10 AM on September 12, 2019 [13 favorites]

I almost wrote a comment about how Texas Red was underrated without reading the list, but then I checked, and here I am still writing it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:32 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I only know of any of these songs because of the soundtrack for Fallout: New Vegas and yet this article was perfect.
posted by hanov3r at 10:37 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Some long time ago when I was a youngster I had decided that Dan in "Cool Water" was the devil being referred to in the second verse. Which doesn't make a lot of sense but there's not much else in that song that hangs together well narratively, though considered as a set piece it at least gives Dan a more interesting role to play than as the guy sitting next to the guy who won't stop whining about how thirsty he is.
posted by ardgedee at 10:47 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I once interviewed Tom Russell for a British music magazine. One of the things we talked about was the lost art of the cowboy song:

TR: "Like a lot of people, including Bernie Taupin, I think the song El Paso by Marty Robbins really was a turning point in popular song history, let alone cowboy song history. Huge hit in 1959, and what an astounding piece of writing.

"Tex Ritter was a great one with Blood on the Saddle, great cowboy singer with a creepy voice, Marty Robbins, not only as a singer but also as a songwriter with all his gunfighter ballads. Johnny Cash's cowboy record - all of Johnny Cash's stuff, in fact. Early Ian & Sylvia had some cowboy stuff on it. Ian wrote Someday Soon and quite a few early cowboy songs. Even more polished groups like The Kingston Trio, The Limelighters and The Brothers Four all had cowboy songs in their repertoire then."

PS: Was that stuff being played on the radio when you were a kid or did you have to go and seek it out?

TR: "Actually, it was being played on the radio. That's what's strange when you look at the fifties. In the same two or three years, you had The Kingston Trio having a Top Ten hit with Tom Dooley, a murder ballad and a hanging song that hit all over the world in several languages, followed by Marty Robbins' El Paso. Tex Ritter was quite popular because he sang the theme song to High Noon, so you actually did hear this stuff on the radio.

"Country music was called country western back then. They got rid of that in the seventies. When they realised cowboy music wasn't hip to pop Walmart audiences, they took the western out of it. But western music was a very strong part of country music and folk music. My brother always had those records and they were important to me. [...] He gave me the guitar because I was wanting to learn three chords and some of those old cowboy songs. I was a teenager, 14, 15 maybe, messing around with Kingston Trio songs and cowboy songs."

Russell's written some great cowboy songs himself. This one's my favourite.
posted by Paul Slade at 10:56 AM on September 12, 2019 [7 favorites]

Also my hat's off to the blogger for coining the nick "Incel Paso".
posted by ardgedee at 10:56 AM on September 12, 2019 [26 favorites]

"The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" opens with Buster singing Cool Water and in that instance Dan is his horse which makes sense in that context.
posted by Standeck at 11:03 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Don't know if its authoritative, but I recall a Statler Brothers tv special when I was a kid where they did "Cool Water", and explained that Dan is the guy's donkey. Also the "wacky" Statler Brother wanted to change the lyrics to have Dan longing for ice cream.
posted by Reverend John at 11:03 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Incel Paso"

Oh my gawd I LOL'd
posted by notsnot at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Marty Robbins was my Pawpaw's favorite singer, and "Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs" was his favorite album, and I spent as much time as possible with my Memaw and Pawpaw when I was a kid, so I've had this whole album memorized for about 42 years, and this is extremely in my wheelhouse. AAA+++. Will Read Again.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:32 AM on September 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

I got into Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash through my Deadhead tendencies. I will admit it, I like Bobby's cowboy songs singing. El Paso, Mexicali Blues, Big River, etc.

This is a terrific album and this is a terrific article/blog post. Your girlfriend is a talented writer and a damn good music critic.
posted by AugustWest at 11:36 AM on September 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is delightful!
posted by aka burlap at 11:38 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Your girlfriend is a talented writer and a damn good music critic.

Yep, and I was justa ponderin' that you'd better git yerself a horse and some swagger if'n you know what's good for ya.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:41 AM on September 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

When I was 17, my family moved from Delaware to Washington State and decided to drive across the country. We exactly two cassette tapes in the car, both homemade:

One was Garth Brooks Greatest Hits with Cat Stevens on the B side
The other was Marty Robbins' Gunfighter Ballads and Johnny Cash's Greatest Hits

It was a very long road trip and I cannot to this day hear any of that music without envisioning long lonely stretches of South Dakota. I will know all the words to El Paso until I die.
posted by darchildre at 12:18 PM on September 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

"The guy with 160 acres. One of like, two happy characters on this album. He has a lot of land, he has cash in his jeans pockets, he’s his own boss."

Jingling in his jeans, no less. He jingles the cash in his jeans, which makes any man happy.

Great album. Great post.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:00 PM on September 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Ranked According to My Own Metrics That I Refuse to Explain.

Not accurate.

I mean, the rankings may be accurate (and in fact seem reasonable), but there is definitely explaining.
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:01 PM on September 12, 2019

I loved this album when I was a small child! I cringe a bit thinking back, but this listing... perfect.

(Orville Peck has been hitting the deep voiced cowboy songs spot for me, which is a thing I didn't know I was missing in my life until I stumbled across Dead of Night the other week.)
posted by Anonymous Function at 2:18 PM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I, a 31 year old woman, like to sing Marty Robbins songs at karaoke. It boggles peoples' minds.

Like a lot of people in this thread, I have my dad to thank for my familiarity with Marty Robbins. We has a compilation album, though, and it included my and my dad's favorite of them all: Mister Shorty. I have shared it with many short male friends and they all love it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:21 PM on September 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

"El Paso" reminds me of two things: innumerable song collection albums being advertised on TV back in the day on which this song seemed to show up a surprising number of times, and the last episode of Breaking Bad, named "Felina" which, of course, is an anagram of "Finale."
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:44 AM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

We owned this exact album when I was a kid, I loved it, played it on our record player, can still sing the songs.

And for darchildre above: We drove from central PA to Mazatlan, Mexico and back when I was in third grade with precisely two 8-track tapes in the car. One of them was The Clancy Brother's Greatest Hits and the other was The Statler Brothers Holy Bible (we are not a religious family). Car Trip Music is like a damn time machine... I will be fifty next year and I can still sing the tapes in playlist order.
posted by which_chick at 7:05 AM on September 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

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