Don't Fence Me In (song)

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"Don't Fence Me In"
Written 1934
Composer(s) Cole Porter
Lyricist(s) Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter

"Don't Fence Me In" is a popular American song written in 1934, with music by Cole Porter and lyrics by Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[1]


Originally written in 1934 for Adios, Argentina, an unproduced 20th Century Fox film musical, "Don't Fence Me In" was based on text by a poet and engineer with the Department of Highways in Helena, Montana, Robert (Bob) Fletcher. Cole Porter, who had been asked to write a cowboy song for the 20th Century Fox musical, bought the poem from Fletcher for $250. Porter reworked Fletcher's poem, and when the song was first published, Porter was credited with sole authorship. Porter had wanted to give Fletcher co-authorship credit, but his publishers did not allow that. After the song became popular, however, Fletcher hired attorneys who negotiated his being given co-authorship credit in subsequent publications. Although it was one of the most popular songs of its time, Porter claimed it was his least favorite of his own compositions.[2]

Porter’s revision of the song retained quite a few portions of Fletcher’s lyrics, such as “Give me land, lots of land”, “... breeze ... cottonwood trees”, “turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle,” “mountains rise ... western skies”, “cayuse”, “where the west commences,” and “... hobbles ... can’t stand fences,”[3][4][5] but in some places modified to give them “the smart Porter touch”.[6][7] Porter substituted some whole lines, rearranged lyric phrases, added two verses, and composed his own music for it. (Porter's exact verse about Wildcat Kelly was not included in any of the hit recordings of the song nor used in either of the movies in which the song was used. Roy Rogers did refer to "Wildcat Willy" when he performed it in 1944's Hollywood Canteen. The opening verse about Wildcat Kelly is included in the Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Connick, Jr. versions of the song).[3][8]

Cover versions[edit]

Ten years later, in 1944, Warner Bros. resurrected "Don't Fence Me In" for Roy Rogers to sing in the movie Hollywood Canteen. Many people heard the song for the first time when Kate Smith introduced it on her radio broadcast of October 8, 1944.

"Don't Fence Me In" was also recorded by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters with Vic Schoen and his Orchestra in 1944.[9] Crosby entered the studio on July 25, 1944, without having seen or heard the song. Within 30 minutes, he and the Andrews Sisters had completed the recording, which sold more than a million copies and topped the Billboard charts for eight weeks in 1944–45.

Ella Fitzgerald recorded the song on her Verve Records, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook (1956) album. It was also released on Ella Fitzgerald Sings More Cole Porter.

Covers of the song were also made by Gene Autry; Eddy Arnold who included it on his release A Dozen Hits, and Hoyt Axton on his 1982 LP Pistol Packin' Mama. Willie Nelson also recorded a version of the song with Leon Russell.

Little Willie Littlefield recorded a version for his 1990 album Singalong with Little Willie Littlefield.

Steve Goodman performed the song, including on his album The Easter Tapes, recorded during one of his annual visits with New York radio personality Vin Scelsa. Goodman changed the lyrics in two places from "Let me straddle my old saddle underneath the Western skies" to "Let me straddle my old cattle underneath the Western skies." He remarks when the song is done, "Straddling cattle? Good, they're only words."

Harry Connick, Jr. did a version of the song on his 2001 album "30" which includes Porter's opening verse about Wildcat Kelly.

The Killers recorded the track to be used in support of the 2013 Nevada state tourism campaign, called "A World Within. A State Apart."

The Okee Dokee Brothers recorded a cover for their 2016 album "Saddle Up".

Roy Rogers and "Don't Fence Me In"[edit]

In 1945, the song was sung again as the title tune of another Roy Rogers film, Don't Fence Me In (1945), in which Dale Evans plays a magazine reporter who comes to Roy Rogers' and Gabby Whittaker's (George "Gabby" Hayes) ranch to research her story about a legendary late gunslinger. When it's revealed that Whittaker is actually the supposedly dead outlaw, Rogers must clear his name. Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers perform songs, including the Cole Porter title tune.

The next year (1946), a biopic about Cole Porter titled Night and Day used a clip from Hollywood Canteen of Rogers singing "Don't Fence Me In."

Pop culture[edit]

  • 1954 – A parody of the song was sung in the 1950 musical film Nancy Goes to Rio by Carmen Miranda. The parodic song, titled "Yipsee-I-O", was written by Ray Gilbert.
  • 1954 – The song was sung in the 1954 action movie Hell and High Water.
  • 1961 – Shortly after the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, a Communist-run East Berlin radio station called Ops, used “Don’t Fence Me In” as the theme song for its nightly broadcast aimed at Allied soldiers, based in West Berlin.[10]
  • 1977 - Bob Hope did a cover of this song on The Muppet Show.
  • 1982 - Frankie Laine did a cover of this song on his album "The World of Frankie Laine"
  • 1990 – David Byrne did a cover of this song in 1990 for a Cole Porter tribute album entitled Red Hot + Blue. Byrne performed what he describes as his "Brazilian" version of the song during his 2004 tour for the Grown Backwards album.[11]
  • 1992 – Lynn Anderson recorded the song for her album Cowboy's Sweetheart in 1992.
  • 1992 – Chumbawamba recorded a version of the song with lead vocals by Danbert Nobacon. A segment of the song featured on the unreleased album Jesus H. Christ that was later reworked to become Shhh! (1992), but "Don't Fence Me In" did not feature on the final album cut.[citation needed]
  • 1993 – Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa's character, Eddie Sakamura, sings it at a karaoke bar in the opening scene of the 1993 film, Rising Sun. It is also played while the end credits roll.
  • 1999 – The song was featured in the 1999 film The Bachelor, which follows a sworn bachelor who is reluctant to marry.
  • 2000 – The song was used in the opening credits of the 2000 film Chopper.
  • The Australian male voice choir The Spooky Men's Chorale has recorded the song on their DVD album Deep.
  • Black Iris covered the song in a popular Nokia commercial for the Nokia C7. Despite public response, the song was never released as a full-track mp3.
  • The first verse of the song was sung by Apu in The Simpsons episode "The Lastest Gun in the West".
  • 2013 – Pablo Bubar [12] reintroduced the song in one of the musical romance sketches of "Pablo the Romantic" from "Boom Town", broadcast by BBC Three (UK, 2013). This version includes the piano music of Ross Leadbeater.[13]
  • 2015 – The song was used in the ending of the Pretty Little Liars Season 5 episode "Welcome to the Dollhouse."
  • 2016 – A cover with a version of the song by Pull was used in the Discover It Miles card commercial. [14]
  • 2016 - The song was used in a commercial for Nevada tourism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Don't Fence Me In". Retrieved 2013-07-04. 
  3. ^ a b "Origins: Don't Fence Me In (Cole Porter)". Retrieved 2013-07-04. 
  4. ^ The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter. Knopf. 1983. OCLC 756427724. Retrieved 2013-07-04. 
  5. ^ The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter. Knopf. 1983. OCLC 756427724. Retrieved 2013-07-04. 
  6. ^ "DER SPIEGEL 4/1962 - Don't fence me in". 1962-01-24. Retrieved 2013-07-04. 
  7. ^ LIFE - Google Books. 1972-02-25. Retrieved 2013-07-04. 
  8. ^ America's Songs: The Stories Behind The Songs Of Broadway, Hollywood, And ... - Philip Furia, Michael L. Lasser - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2013-07-04. 
  9. ^ Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854.  Tape 1, side B.
  10. ^ earthstonestation (19 August 2012). "Don't Fence Me In". 
  11. ^ "David Byrne's Journal:". Retrieved 2013-07-04. 
  12. ^ "Pablo Bubar". 
  13. ^ "Ross Leadbeater - The Official Ross Leadbeater website". 
  14. ^ "Discover it Miles Card TV Commercial, 'Travel Posters'".