Many associate early western music with the likes of Roy Rogers and
Gene Autry, but America’s first western music craze predates
these “singing cowboys” by decades. Written by Tin
Pan Alley songsters in the era before radio, the first popular cowboy
and Indian songs circulated as piano sheet music and as cylinder and
disc recordings played on wind-up talking machines.
The colorful fantasies of western life depicted in these songs
capitalized on popular fascination with the West stoked by Buffalo
Bill’s Wild West shows, Owen Wister’s novel The
Virginian, and Edwin S. Porter’s film The Great Train
Robbery. The talking machine music industry, centered in New York City,
used state-of-the-art recording and printing technology to produce and
advertise songs about the American West.
brings together for the first time the variety of cowboy, cowgirl, and
Indian music recorded and sold for mass consumption between 1902 and
1918. In the book’s introductory chapters, Michael A.
how this music reflected the nostalgic passing of the Indian and the
frontier while incorporating modern ragtime music and the racial
attitudes of Jim Crow America. Hardly Old West ditties, the songs gave
voice to changing ideas about Indians and assimilation, cowboys, the
frontier, the rise of the New Woman, and ethnic and racial equality.
part, a chronological catalogue of fifty-four western recordings
provides the full lyrics and history of each song and reproduces in
full color the cover art of extant period sheet music. Each entry also
describes the song’s composer(s), lyricist(s), and sheet
illustrator and directs readers to online digitized recordings of each
throughout, this book offers
the first comprehensive account of popular western recorded music in
its earliest form.