I'm an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande)

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"I'm an Old Cow Hand (From the Rio Grande)" is a comic song written by Johnny Mercer for the film Rhythm on the Range and sung by its star, Bing Crosby. The Crosby recording with Jimmy Dorsey & his Orchestra was a hit in 1936, and greatly furthered Mercer's career. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[1]


Mercer and his wife were driving across the USA en route to Savannah after having apparently failed to succeed in Hollywood. Mercer was amused by the sight of cowboys, with spurs and ten-gallon hats, driving cars and trucks instead of riding horses. Singing cowboys were popular in films and on the radio then, and within 15 minutes, writing on the back of an envelope, Mercer transferred the image he was seeing into a song whose satirical lyrics vented some of his own bitter frustration with Hollywood.[2]

The song has also been sung by Roy Rogers (Sons of the Pioneers), Sophia Johnson, Bobby Darin, Tex Ritter, The Mills Brothers, Johnnie Ray, Jack Teagarden, Patsy Montana, Frank Sinatra, Steve Lawrence, Dan Hicks, and Harry Connick Jr., among others. A notable jazz version by Sonny Rollins leads off his 1957 album Way Out West. Instrumental versions were done by Ray Conniff on his album s Wonderful (1956) and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass on their album The Brass are Comin.

In TV and film, Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance sang it in the season 3 I Love Lucy episode "Home Movies", and Robert Picardo performs a verse in Innerspace. The Sons of the Pioneers version is heard in Men in Black 3.

The lyrics, about a 20th-century cowboy who has little in common with cowpunchers of old, have been included in some anthologies of light verse.


  1. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Furia, Philip (2003). Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-312-28720-8. 
  • Who Wrote that Song by Dick Jacobs & Harriet Jacobs, published by Writer's Digest Books 1993 (2nd Edition)

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