“The Streets of Laredo”

Alternate titles: “My Home's in Montana”; “The Young Cowboy”; “Tom Sherman's Barroom”; “Tom Sherwin's Barroom”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1886
Keywords: cowboy death lament burial dying funeral disease violence homicide
Found in: US(Ap,MW,NE, Ro,So,SE,SW) Canada(Mar) Ireland

Description

(The singer meets a young cowboy "all dressed in white linen and cold as the clay.") The cowboy has been shot (or given a venereal disease?) and is dying. He regrets his carousing, gives instructions for his burial, and dies.

Notes

One of the large group of ballads ("The Bard of Armagh," "Saint James Hospital," "The Streets of Laredo") ultimately derived from "The Unfortunate Rake." All use the same tune and metre, and all involve a person dying as a result of a wild life, but the nature of the tragedy varies according to local circumstances.

Thorp/Fife studied 150 versions of this text, and determined that 39 were set in "The Streets of Laredo" or similar; 37 took place at Tom Sherman's Barroom or similar, 25 used other words starting with LA (Lafferty, London, Laden, etc.), 31 (not all of them variants of this exact song) used miscellaneous places, and 18 were not localized.

Logsdon, pp. 289-290, reports that "Tom Sherman's barroom was a popular cowboy dance hall and bar in Dodge City, Kansas." He cites a claim that this song was written by Francis Henry Maynard in 1876, and claims that Tom Sherman's was the location in this original text. Based on the dates at which the song was collected, this is possible, but I haven't listed Maynard as the author because the evidence is so thin. Logsdon quoted an article in which Maynard allegedly described the circumstances of the composition.

For the treatment of syphilis prior to the twentieth century, see the notes to "The Unfortunate Rake." - RBW

Same tune

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Laws B1, "The Cowboy's Lament (The Dying Cowboy)"
  2. Belden, pp. 392-397, "The Unfortunate Rake" (3 texts plus a fragment and references to 4 more versions; 1 tune, all of which are this song despite the title)
  3. Randolph 182, "The Cowboy's Lament" (2 texts plus an excerpt, 1 tune)
  4. Eddy 124, "The Dying Cowboy" (3 texts, none of which refer to "The Streets of Laredo" and which might be mixed with other versions of this song)
  5. Gardner/Chickering 100, "The Dying Cowboy" (1 short text plus mention of 1 more)
  6. BrownII 263, "The Unfortunate Rake" (1 text plus 9 excerpts and mention of two others, called "The Unfortunate Rake" but apparently all this song)
  7. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 353-359, "The Dying Cowboy" (6 texts; 3 tunes on pp. 452-453)
  8. Friedman, p. 424, "The Cowboy's Lament (The Streets of Laredo)" (2 texts, the second being a lumberjack text that might derive from one of the other versions)
  9. PBB 111, "The Cowboy's Lament" (1 text)
  10. Lomax-FSUSA 59, "The Streets of Laredo" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Sandburg, p. 263, "As I Walked Out in the Streets of Laredo" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Thorp/Fife XIII, pp. 148-190 (29-30), "Cow Boy's Lament" (22 texts, 7 tunes, though not all are really part of this piece -- the "H" text, from Minnesota, is in a Scandinavian tongue; "K" looks like it comes from the "Tarpaulin Jacket" family; "L" is "The Wild and Wicked Youth"; "M" is "Jack Combs"; "N" is "St. James Infirmary"; many of the other texts are parodys)
  13. Fife-Cowboy/West 119, "The Streets of Laredo" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  14. Larkin, pp. 30-31, "The Cowboy's Lament" (1 text, 1 tune, with four verses that are clearly "Streets of Laredo" but an opening that is "My Home's in Montana")
  15. SharpAp 131, "St. James's Hospital, or The Sailor Cut Down in his Prime" (2 texts, 2 tunes, but the "A" text really belongs with "The Unfortunate Rake")
  16. Lomax-FSNA 200, "The Dying Cowboy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. Mackenzie 120, "The Dying Cowboy" (1 text)
  18. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 859-860, "The Cowboy's Lament" (1 text, 1 tune)
  19. Hodgart, p. 242, "The Dying Cowboy" (1 text)
  20. JHCox 53, "The Dying Cowboy" (5 texts)
  21. JHCoxIIB, #8A-B, pp. 139-142, "The Dying Cowboy" (2 fragments, 2 tunes)
  22. PSeeger-AFB, p. 41, "The Streets Of Laredo" (1 text, 1 tune)
  23. SHenry H680, p. 141, "The Cowboy of Loreto" (1 text, 1 tune)
  24. LPound-ABS, 77, pp. 170-171, "The Dying Cowboy" (1 text)
  25. Darling-NAS, pp. 8-9, "The Cowboy's Lament" (1 text)
  26. Silber-FSWB, p. 115, "The Streets Of Laredo" (1 text)
  27. Saffel-CowboyP, pp. 192-193, "The Cowboy's Lament" (1 text)
  28. DT 350, LAREDST*
  29. Roud #2
  30. BI, LB01