Cattle Call: from Tex Owens to People Like Us13 April 2009
In the previous post, I talked about Tex Owens, the author of the very famous Cattle Call. Here are different versions of the song, in chronological order. Sorry for the wait, it was quite a long post to write and lots of songs to get, even if I’m sure there are other versions out there, but I find the exercice very interesting ! I hope you do too. And on the personal side, I’m quite busy for the moment with other projects and the weather this Easter weekend was so nice, I enjoyed the sun instead of blogging.
This is also a good post to celebrate the one year anniversay of Mademoiselle Montana’s Yodel Heaven !
Tex Owens recorded it in 1934 and again in 1936. He recalls writing the tune while waiting for a radio broadcast. It was snowing and it reminded him of his earlier life as a cowboy. “Watching the snow, my sympathy went out to cattle everywhere, and I just wished I could call them all around me and break some corn over a wagon wheel and feed them. That’s when the words “cattle call” came to my mind. I picked up my guitar, and in thirty minutes I had wrote the music and four verses to the song.” (found in Cattle Call. Early Cowboy Music and its Roots, Rounder, and in Bart Plantenga’s book)
The song is inspired by cowboy life: the cowboys used cattle calls to let the cattle know where the herders where at night time.
Tex Ritter recorded it in 1947. No real yodel but his voice breaks many times. It is a very romantic version with the chorus that prefigures his biggest hit, High Noon.
Carolina Cotton made her version around 1951.
It was Eddy Arnold‘s performance from 1955 that made the song so popular. His version, accompanied by the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra, is country but with hints towards pop styles. He recorded the song first in 1944, and then again in 1949 and yet again in 1961. It was used in the movie My own private Idaho.
One of the kings of yodel, Slim Whitman recorded the song in 1954. He had been influenced by Eddy Arnold but his falsetto range was a lot better. He made the song more flamboyant and increased the tempo to produce an exciting and wild sound. If I remember good, you can hear the song in Mars Attack, with Indian Love Call.
Sheb Wooley did his best in 1960 but his yodel isn’t so good…
Even Elvis Presley sang it: here‘s just the yodel from Cattle Call at a rehearsal for a documentary, That’s the way it is, and here, with full band and chorus where he shows his ability to yodel. (1970)
And what about a yodel with a Moog ? Gil Trythall recorded Cattle Call in 1971 with his synthesizer and it works very good !
Around 1986 Boxcar Willie made a version with a playful yodel.
Don Edwards recorded a version in 1992, noting in the liner notes of his album that the “original version was more authentic than the later versions that added a silly chorus (I suppose for the sake of records company executives and for radio play).“
Emmylou Harris tells that the first song she remember hearing on the radio was Cattle Call by Eddie Arnold when she was four years old. She made a live version in 1992.
Cowboy singer Skip Gorman has a version on A greener prairie (1994).
The same year, Wylie Gustafson made a version with his Wild West group.
LeAnn Rimes was 14 when she recorded it in 1996, with Eddy Arnold. A very young voice but such a beautiful yodel !
The last version I found is from People Like Us, aka DJ and multimedia artist Vicki Bennett, from Abridged to Far (2004), that you can find for download on UbuWeb. Here’s what they say about this album: “On Abridged Too Far, People Like Us continues its pastiche of impressions of popular music from Europe and America from the 1920s thru to 1990s. Bennett’s work is an examination of the affect of hearing well known tunes and lyrics in fragments, then putting those elements to play– resonating, intermingling and recombining with the listeners own associations and shards of memories.“
And after all this version of the same song, I’m sure you’ll be singing it all the time ! I can’t get it out of my head since weeks…
Tex Owens (I don’t know if it’s the 1934 or 1936 version, sorry !)
Tex Ritter – 1947
Carolina Cotton – 1951
Slim Whitman – 1954
Sheb Wooley – 1960
Elvis Presley – 1970
Gil Trythall – 1971
Boxcar Willie – 1986
Don Edwards – 1992
Emmylou Harris – 1992
Skip Gorman – 1994
Wylie Gustafson – 1994
LeAnn Rimes – 1996
People Like Us – 2004