Ridin' herd with the cowboys
Here's the news, buckaroos: Those rootin'-tootin', pistol-packin' papas (and mamas) who made the old West wild are ridin' herd again. That's right with their old-fashioned, aw-shucks etiquette, quicksilver dexterity and quiet stoicism (not to mention their ways with a horse), cowboys continue to romance us. BookPage hits the dusty trail this month with a trio of titles commemorating a great American icon. So saddle up and come along.
Douglas B. Green, better known as Ranger Doug of the musical group Riders in the Sky--the fringed foursome whose heavenly harmonies and cornball comedy have made them public radio favorites also happens to be a scholar of American roots music. You heard right, partner: the Riders' melodious yodeler and rhythm guitarist is now o-fficially an author. Green's new book Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy surveys the cowboy tradition in country music, examining its history and repertoire, as well as the performers who made it famous on radio, stage and screen.
From early crooner Carl T. Sprague, who recorded the first cowboy hit, When the Work's All Done This Fall, in 1925, to timeless troubadours Jimmie Rodgers and Tex Ritter, to the Western revival of the present-day, Singing in the Saddle doesn't miss a beat of the cowboy's musical history. Spotlighting favorites like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, as well as those singing cowgirls of the '30s Patsy Montana and Louise Massey, the book offers a discography and timelines, all painstakingly compiled by Green. The inimitable musician-turned-author spent 30 years researching the volume. (That's a whole lotta book-learnin'.) The result is a briskly paced narrative filled with movie stills, photos and other cowboy arcana that's sure to lasso the hearts of country music fans everywhere.
Lovers of The Wild Bunch and Gunsmoke will have a boot-stompin' good time with Holly George-Warren's Cowboy: How Hollywood Invented the Wild West. Looking at early dime novels that dished sensational stories about the shoot-'em-up, rough-ridin' ways of the West, celluloid epics that celebrated the image of the wholesome, white-hatted cowboy, and TV serials whose handsome heartthrobs trotted through the dusty streets of Kansas cowtowns, George-Warren demonstrates how the myth of the range evolved in the media, shrewdly exploring the gap between the image and the reality of the wild frontier.
They're all here the gunslingers, the outlaws and the pioneers, the hard-working cowpokes and their starlet sidekicks. With chapters on screen idols like Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper and the Duke, and on the portrayal of African Americans in the West, Cowboy, full of classic photos and fun Western graphics, reveals the truth behind the legend of America's first real heroes.
A salute to the ladies who sit proud in the saddle, Rodeo Queens and the American Dream looks at the lives of the gals who ride in the ring as royalty. Known as the sweethearts of the rodeo, these beauty queens, resplendent in buckskin and rhinestones, are picked to kick off rodeo festivities across the country, baiting crowds with their stylish horsemanship and eye-catching outfits. But these fine-looking fillies are more than mere ornaments. Beginning in the 1930s, author Joan Burbick, an American studies instructor at Washington State University, traces the history of the strong womenfolk whose contributions to rodeo culture rival that of their bronc-bustin' male counterparts. Residents of the rural West, many of the queens Burbick interviewed for the book are skilled ranchhands who were raised on horseback, capable of breaking horses and branding beeves women who have witnessed the waning of farm life. Queens from the '50s and '60s, rodeo's golden age, share memories of the gender conflicts and racial issues that molded the sport and the towns that sponsored it, while modern-day monarchs describe the glitz of the commercialized, televised contest. Poignant and unique, these are personal stories that intersect with the history of our nation. A wonderful souvenir of a rural and urban spectator sport that dates back to the 19th century, Rodeo Queens is an invaluable collection of memories from women who can still recall how the West was won.