There's probably not a more natural pairing than country songs and the rodeo. That's probably why rodeo songs are some of country music's most popular. The life of cowboy and cowgirls has always been one of country music's most passionate topics.
Country music fans all want to feel that freedom that comes with being a cowboy from time to time, and there are few better ways to get a quick taste of that than a song about rodeo men and women. From cowboy hats to rodeo clowns, here are eleven cowboy songs that capture that western spirit and will have you feeling like you're riding in the saddle deep in the heart of Texas.
1. "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," Patsy Montana
Written and recorded in 1935 by Ruby Blevins (i.e., Patsy Montana), this was the first country song by a female artist to sell over one million copies. The song is based on Stuart Hamblen's song "Texas Plains." You can't get much more rodeo than this song between Montana's yodeling and cowboy lyrics singing of riding along "the plains of the desert."
2. "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings
This duet recorded by two of country music's biggest names was a number one hit in 1978, spending four weeks at the top of the charts. It's just one of those songs that comes to mind when you think of songs about cowboys; it's a country classic.
3. "Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old)," Garth Brooks
This Garth Brooks song about a rodeo cowboy who's been competing and is slowly becoming too old for the business gives you all the rodeo vibes. It was also his very first single, which makes it sentimental as well.
4. "I Can Still Make Cheyenne," George Strait
Another song focused on the life of a rodeo cowboy, this George Strait song follows a cowboy who was going to give up the prestigious Cheyenne rodeo for his love. Sadly she calls him to end things because his life on the road is too unreliable, so he quickly tries to make it to the rodeo. The song was a top-five hit on the country charts for Strait.
Read More: 5 African-American Cowboys Who Shaped the American West
5. "Rodeo," Garth Brooks
Brooks has a thing for the rodeo. This song was penned by Larry Bastian and originally written from a female perspective. Brooks tried to get every woman in the industry to record the song, but none of them could see his vision. After sitting on the song for years, he finally decided to record it himself. It was an instant hit, peaking at number three on the country charts.
6. "Amarillo by Morning," George Strait
This George Strait classic written by Terry Stafford and Paul Fraser was first recorded by Stafford in 1973. The song was thought up while he was playing at the San Antonio rodeo and then drove back home to Amarillo. Western Writers of America have chosen it as one of the Top 100 western songs of all time. George Strait's 1983 version peaked at number four on the charts and is still regularly played at rodeos.
7. "This Cowboy's Hat," Chris LeDoux
Not only was Chris LeDoux a country singer-songwriter, but he was also a hall of fame rodeo champion. So this song was coming from the real deal. "This Cowboy's Hat" was featured on his 1991 album Western Underground and peaked at 36 on the country Billboard charts.
8. "Night Rider's Lament," Suzy Bogguss
Initially recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1975, we're partial to Suzy Bogguss' cover of the song, featuring Walker and Bogguss' incredible yodeling skills.
9. "Cowgirls Don't Cry," Brooks & Dunn feat. Reba McEntire
This song about a female character who gets tougher and tougher through each hardship she endures is the ultimate girl power song. While not about the rodeo, it's about a cowgirl, and that's good enough for us. Featuring the powerhouse vocals of Reba McEntire, it's clear why the song made it to number two on the Hot Country Billboard chart.
10. "Rodeo Hand," Johnny Cash
This 1965 song really shouldn't need any explanation. It's all about rodeo life and how the cowboy is "driftin' like a tumbleweed." You even got the hoopin' and hollerin' that makes you feel like you're out on the plans with real cowboys.
11. "What the Cowgirls Do," Vince Gill
Written and recorded by Vince Gill in 1994, this country song hit number two on the country charts. You even get some Texas towns name-dropped in this song all about "what the cowgirls do."
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This article was originally published in 2020.
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