Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Texas Ranger


Out on the western frontier life was full of potential tragedy. During the mid 1800s, the period of western migration and settlement, one of the dangers the settlers faced was confrontation with the original inhabitants that were being displaced. In Texas it was the job of the Texas Rangers to protect the constant stream of immigrants from Mexican vaqueros and the superb warriors of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes that were, in turn, protecting their land and livelihood.

Many songs have been sung of the western frontier, but “The Texas Ranger” is one song that has withstood the test of time and come to be sung by a wide variety of artists. Tex Ritter’s version of “The Texas Ranger” is probably the most well known, although many have recorded it long before Ritter and even more have followed.

The song’s original author has been lost to history and the story it tells, while believed to be true, can not be tied to any particular confrontation. Some sources claim that the song recounts an encounter in 1844 between 80 Comanche and 16 Texas Rangers led by John Hays. American Folklorist, Alan Lomax, documented the song in his The Folk Songs of North America (Doubleday, 1960) were he wrote “This song of the Texas Rangers was the first important ballad of the far West, and it made a great impression on the whole country.” But even Lomax says he “learnt this version from two pretty young girls in Hazard, Kentucky, in 1934.” The song traveled back east and north and was sung by both sides during the Civil War. “The Texas Ranger” became a regularly played song in the repertoire of folk singers from New England to the Southern Mountains.

Harry McClintock - The Texas Ranger.mp3

Ian & Sylvia - Texas Rangers.mp3
from their "Northern Journey" album, cd reissue available from Amazon.com

Jerry Douglas & Peter Rowan - Texas Rangers.mp3
from their "Yonder" cd available from Sugar Hill Records

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