“When I Was a Cowboy”


"When I was a cowboy, out on the western plains (x2), I made a half a million pulling on the bridle reins." The cowboy boasts of fighting Jesse James and Buffalo Bill. He advises, in the event of fire, abandoning the house and saving the "jelly"


The Lomax version of this song comes from Lead Belly, and the Fife versions derive from Lomax. So it's not clear how much of this is truly traditional and how much Lead Belly. The "B" text in Fife looks a bit like a Lomax rework; it has stanzas reminiscent of "The Foggy, Foggy Dew" and "Rosemary Lane." - RBW


  1. Lomax-FSNA 197, "When I Was a Cowboy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 379-380, "When I Was a Cowboy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Fife-Cowboy/West 29, "When I Was a Cowboy" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  4. Roud #3438
  5. BI, LoF197


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1934
Found in: US