Home on the Range

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This article is about the song. For other uses, see Home on the Range (disambiguation).
"Home on the Range"
State song of Kansas
Written Early 1870s
Composer Daniel E. Kelley
Lyricist Brewster M. Higley

"Home on the Range" is a classic western song, sometimes called the "unofficial anthem" of the American West. The lyrics were originally written by Dr. Brewster M. Higley of Smith County, Kansas in a poem entitled "My Western Home" in the early 1870s. In 1947, it became the state song of the American state of Kansas. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[1]


Dr. Brewster M. Higley, late 19th century

The poem was first published in a December 1873 issue of the Smith County Pioneer under the title "My Western Home".[2] The music was written by a friend of Higley, Daniel E. Kelley (1845–1905). Higley's original words are similar to those of the song today, but not identical; the original did not contain the words "on the range".[2] The song was adopted by settlers, cowboys, and others and spread across the United States in various forms.[3] During the early 20th century, it was arranged by Texas composer David W. Guion (1892–1981), who occasionally was credited as the composer. The song has gone under various names the most common are "Home on the Range" and "Western Home".[4] It was officially adopted as the state song of Kansas on June 30, 1947, and is commonly regarded as the unofficial anthem of the American West.[4][5]

The antelope referred to in the song is not a true antelope species, but is the American pronghorn that is often called an antelope.[6][7]

The most popular version of the song was the version by Bing Crosby in 1933 which appeared in the various charts of the day.[8] Gary Giddins writing in his biography of Crosby, said, inter alia: "Bing's version of "Home on the Range" turned a little-known saddle song into the most renowned western anthem of all time. In November 1933, when his record was issued, the origin of "Home on the Range" was obscure and widely debated. Folklorist John Lomax, who said he learned if from a black saloonkeeper in Texas, published it in 1910, in Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads. In 1925 a sheet-music arrangement found modest popularity; two years later Vernon Dalhart, the operatic tenor turned hillbilly singer, recorded it for Brunswick. California's radio cowboys picked it up from him, and in 1930 the movies' first crooning western star, Ken Maynard, recorded a version. Not until Bing sang it, however, was the song embraced as a national hymn, so popular as to generate a farcical plagiarism suit that had the unintended benefit of spurring an inquiry into the song’s history. It was traced to a poem, "Western Home," written in the 1870s (without the chorus or the phrase "home on the range") by Dr. Brewster Higley, whose neighbor, Dan Kelley, set it to music. Bing's stirring performance transforms a nostalgic lament into an ode to pioneering, a dream of shared history, a vaguely religious affirmation of fortitude in the face of peril. He made it a Depression song that ignores the Depression, expressing longing, awe, and grace. Bing's subtle embellishments enhance the melody, and his projection and control are unfailingly dramatic, particularly during the soaring eight-bar release. His record offered a transcendent secularity, a well from which all Americans could drink. More prosaically, it anticipated the golden age of gentle-voiced singing cowboys and the Irish sentiment of the John Ford westerns that followed on their heels. FDR acknowledged "Home on the Range" as his favorite song."[9]

Modern usage[edit]

Bing Crosby recorded the song again in 1938 and 1939.[10] Also Frank Sinatra recorded the song on March 10, 1946 and it was released in Great Britain, although it wasn't available in the United States until 1993. Others to record it include Connie Francis, Gene Autry, Burl Ives, Johnnie Ray, Slim Whitman and Steve Lawrence. "Home on the Range" is often performed in programs and concerts of American patriotic music, and is frequently used in plays and films. These include the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (sung by both Cary Grant and Myrna Loy), the 1967 off-Broadway musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (sung by the cast as a glee club rehearsal number), the 1980 film Where the Buffalo Roam (sung by Neil Young over the opening credits), the 2009 film The Messenger (sung by Willie Nelson over the closing credits), and in the 1946 western film Colorado Serenade (sung by actor Roscoe Ates).

The song has naturally also made its way into screen shorts for children and adults, as in the 1954 Looney Tunes cartoon, Claws for Alarm, sung by Porky Pig. Likewise, Bugs Bunny sings the song in both The Fair-Haired Hare and Oily Hare, the latter containing original lyrics specific to Texas oilmen.

Major versions compared[edit]

Dr. Brewster Higley (1876) William and Mary Goodwin (1904) John A. Lomax (1910)
Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
A home! A home!
Where the Deer and the Antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
Oh! give me a land where the bright diamond sand
Throws its light from the glittering streams,
Where glideth along the graceful white swan,
Like the maid in her heavenly dreams.
Oh! give me a gale of the Solomon vale,
Where the life streams with buoyancy flow;
On the banks of the Beaver, where seldom if ever,
Any poisonous herbage doth grow.
How often at night, when the heavens were bright,
With the light of the twinkling stars
Have I stood here amazed, and asked as I gazed,
If their glory exceed that of ours.
I love the wild flowers in this bright land of ours,
I love the wild curlew's shrill scream;
The bluffs and white rocks, and antelope flocks
That graze on the mountains so green.
The air is so pure and the breezes so fine,
The zephyrs so balmy and light,
That I would not exchange my home here to range
Forever in azures so bright.
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
There seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
A home, a home
Where the deer and the antelope play,
There seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
Yes, give me the gleam of the swift mountain stream
And the place where no hurricane blows;
Oh, give me the park where the prairie dogs bark
And the mountain all covered with snow.
Oh, give me the hills and the ring of the drills
And the rich silver ore in the ground;
Yes, give me the gulch where the miner can sluice
And the bright, yellow gold can be found.
Oh, give me the mine where the prospectors find
The gold in its own native land;
And the hot springs below where the sick people go
And camp on the banks of the Grande.
Oh, give me the steed and the gun that I need
To shoot game for my own cabin home;
Then give me the camp where the fire is the lamp
And the wild Rocky Mountains to roam.
Yes, give me the home where the prospectors roam
Their business is always alive
In these wild western hills midst the ring of the drills
Oh, there let me live till I die.
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Where the air is so pure, the zephyrs so free,
The breezes so balmy and light,
That I would not exchange my home on the range
For all of the cities so bright.
The red man was pressed from this part of the West
He's likely no more to return,
To the banks of Red River where seldom if ever
Their flickering camp-fires burn.
How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the light from the glittering stars
Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours.
Oh, I love these wild prairies where I roam
The curlew I love to hear scream,
And I love the white rocks and the antelope flocks
That graze on the mountain-tops green.
Oh, give me a land where the bright diamond sand
Flows leisurely down the stream;
Where the graceful white swan goes gliding along
Like a maid in a heavenly dream.
A recording of the song from Raiford Penitentiary, Florida, 1939.

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  1. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Pulver, Florence (1946). "Re: Home on the Range". The Rotarian 68 (2): 2–3, 54.  Dr. Spaeth accepted this later Spaeth 1948, p. 205
  3. ^ Spaeth, Sigmund Gottfried (1948). A History of Popular Music in America. New York: Random House. p. 205. 
  4. ^ a b Silber, Irwin, ed. (1967). Songs of the Great American West. New York: Macmillan. pp. 221–223. OCLC 1268417. 
  5. ^ Harris, Cecilia (2014). "A Symbolic State: Home on the Range" (PDF). Kansas! Magazine 2014 (Spring): 17–26, page 19. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Caton, John Dean (1876). "The American Antelope, or Prong Buck". The American Naturalist 10 (4): 193–205. doi:10.1086/271628. JSTOR 2448724. 
  7. ^ Farb, Peter (1963). Ecology. Life Nature Library. Time, Inc. pp. 126, 136. OCLC 175024. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin: Record Research inc. p. 104. ISBN 0-89820-083-0. 
  9. ^ Giddins, Gary (2001). A Pocketful of Dreams. New York: Little, Brown & Co. pp. 338–339. ISBN 0-316-88188--0. 
  10. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 

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