Pistol Packin' Mama

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"Pistol Packin' Mama"
Pistol Packin Mama.jpg
Single by Al Dexter and His Troopers
PublishedJune 8, 1943 (1943-06-08) Edwin H. Morris & Co., Inc.[1]
ReleasedMarch 1943 (1943-03)[2][3]
RecordedMarch 20, 1942 (1942-03-20)[4]
StudioCBS Columbia Square Studio, Los Angeles
GenreCountry (Hillbilly), Honky-tonk
LabelOkeh 6708
Songwriter(s)Al Dexter
Al Dexter and His Troopers singles chronology
"Honky Tonk Chinese Dime[5]"
"Pistol Packin' Mama"
"So Long Pal / Too Late to Worry, Too Blue to Cry"
Pistol Packin' Mama by Al Dexter & His Troopers
"Pistol Packin' Mama"
Single by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
B-sideVict'ry Polka[6]
ReleasedOctober 21, 1943 (1943-10-21)
RecordedSeptember 27, 1943 (1943-09-27)[7]
GenreCountry (Hillbilly), Popular Music
LabelDecca 23277
Songwriter(s)Al Dexter
Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singles chronology
"Yodelin' Jive / Ciribiribin (They're So in Love)"
"Pistol Packin' Mama"
"Jingle Bells / Santa Claus is Comin' to Town"
Women Airforce Service Pilots named in 1944 their B-17 Flying Fortress, "Pistol Packin' Mama"

"Pistol Packin' Mama" was a "Hillbilly"-Honky Tonk record released at the height of World War II that became a nationwide sensation, and the first "Country" song to top the Billboard popular music chart. It was written by Al Dexter of Troup, Texas, who recorded it in Los Angeles, California on March 20, 1942, with top session musicians Dick Roberts, Johnny Bond and Dick Reinhart, who all normally worked for Gene Autry).[4]

1943 was dominated by the Musician's Strike, which since August 1942, had prevented the recording of commercial music by the record companies. As the strike dragged on, the labels began releasing material from their artists' back catalogues, until by mid-1943, that ran out too. Fortunately for Okeh records, they released Al Dexter's "Pistol Packin' Mama" (PPM), backed with "Rosalita", in March. It caught fire quickly, helped by reports in 'The Billboard' magazine, and great popularity with customers of the nation's jukeboxes, which had run out of fresh material to play. Although Billboard did not publish its first Folk-Hillbilly chart until January 8, 1944, PPM became the first "Hillbilly" record to reach no. 1 on the National Best Selling Retail Records chart, on October 30, 1943,[8] and spent sixteen weeks in the top 10, on its way to selling 3 million copies.[9][10] It entered the Jukebox chart on July 31, 1943,[11] where it stayed for 28 weeks (the last 14 shared with Bing Crosby version), another unheard of achievement for a "Hillbilly" tune. In Billboard's 1943 Yearbook, released in September, PPM by Dexter was the only hillbilly record to join Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey in the best-selling record list.[12]

Top vocalist Bing Crosby, always a major fan of "hillbilly" music,[13] was finally able to record a cover version with the Andrews Sisters on September 27, when his label, Decca, became the first to settle with the union. The single, released October 21, followed Dexter's to the top, revitalizing popularity and sales into 1944. When the first Billboard "Most Played Jukebox Folk Records" chart was published, both PPM versions tied for Number 1, and remained tied for seven straight weeks.[14]

The NBC radio network banned Bing's version because of the line “drinking beer in a cabaret.” The lyrics had to be changed to “singing songs in a cabaret” before it could air.[15][16]

"Pistol Packin' Mama" Chart performance[edit]

Al Dexter and His Troopers[edit]

Charts (1943–44) Rank
US Billboard National Best Selling Retail Records[8] 1
"The Billboard American Folk Records" column[17][18] 1
US Billboard Harlem Hit Parade[19] 5
US Billboard National Best Selling Retail Records Year-End[20] 9
"The Billboard American Folk Records" Year-End 1
US Billboard R&B Records Year-End 39

Bing Crosby & Andrews Sisters[edit]

Charts (1943–44) Rank
US Billboard National Best Selling Retail Records[21] 2
"The Billboard American Folk Records" column 1
US Billboard Harlem Hit Parade[19] 3
US Billboard National Best Selling Retail Records Year-End 22
"The Billboard American Folk Records" Year-End 2
US Billboard R&B Records Year-End 29

Other recordings[edit]

Other uses[edit]

  • The Irving Berlin song "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun", from the musical Annie Get Your Gun, contains the lyric: "A man's love is mighty, he'll even buy a nightie, for a gal who he thinks is fun. But they don't buy pajamas for pistol packin' mamas."
  • The chorus of the song was used for the 1970s UK television advertising campaign for Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles, with the punning tag line "Pastille Pickin' Mama, pass those pastilles round."[25]
  • It is also continually referenced in Spike Milligan's Goodbye Soldier (1986), which is part of his memoirs of World War II and just after it. In it he states that as Mussolini did not like jazz, after he was defeated the Italians were getting into jazz, and as this song was popular at the time, this was one of the songs Milligan and his group was often asked to sing. He also states that this is one of the main songs sung by Italian jazz bands (in fact he states that some bands only ever sang this song).
  • There is also a version of the song on an album titled A.P.C. Presents: The Unreleasable Tapes, with Bryan Adams being credited with the lead vocals.[26]
  • The Bing Crosby and Andrews Sisters version of the song is featured in the video games L.A. Noire and Fallout 4, on radio stations in-game, and in the episode "The Atomic Job" of Agent Carter.
  • A B17-G Flying Fortress named "Pistol Packin' Mama" was lost on July 20, 1944, on a mission to Leipzig.[27]
  • In episode #151 of Hee Haw, the whole Hee Haw Gang, led by Buck Owens, performed the song in front of the haystack.[28]
  • In a 1964 episode of the television program McHale's Navy entitled "The Rage of Taratupa", the song is sung several times by the character Harley Hatfield, played by actor Jesse Pearson.

In popular culture[edit]

The Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters 1943[29] version is featured in the Bethesda Softworks video games Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 on the in-game radio and also featured in the Rockstar Games and Team Bondi video game L.A. Noire.[30]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1943). Catalog of Copyright Entries 1943 2 Music Last Half of 1943 New Series Vol 38 Pts 2-3. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  2. ^ "Talent and Tunes pg 64". google. The Billboard. 22 May 1943. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  3. ^ 78 Record: Al Dexter And His Troopers - Pistol Packin' Mama (1943), retrieved 2021-07-30
  4. ^ a b Russell, Tony (2004). Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 315. ISBN 0195139895.
  5. ^ "Al Dexter Discography". aldexter.com. Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  6. ^ "Decca 23277 (10-in. double-faced) - Discography of American Historical Recordings". adp.library.ucsb.edu. Retrieved 2022-06-10.
  7. ^ "Decca matrix L 3197. Pistol packin' Mama / The Andrews Sisters ; Bing Crosby - Discography of American Historical Recordings". adp.library.ucsb.edu. Retrieved 2022-06-10.
  8. ^ a b "The Billboard October 30, 1943 pg 12". google books. 30 October 1943. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Biography". aldexter.com. Archived from the original on 2010-07-08. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  10. ^ "Al Dexter". nashvillesongwritersfoundation.com. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  11. ^ "The Billboard July 31, 1943 page 94". Google books. 31 July 1943. Retrieved 30 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "The Billboard 1943 Year-Book pg 122". google books. 1943. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  13. ^ "Bing Crosby records New San Antonio Rose". Country Music Database. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  14. ^ "75 Years Ago, the First Billboard Country Chart Debuted, With 'Pistol Packin' Mama' at No. 1, With a Bullet". Billboard. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  15. ^ "Craddock: Al Dexter and a 'Pistol Packin' Mama' | Van Craddock | news-journal.com". 2019-10-06. Archived from the original on 2019-10-06. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  16. ^ "Taking off with Pistol Packin' Mama | Music Tales". musictales.club. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  17. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (1943-10-23). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 66. {{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  18. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (1943-08-14). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 63. {{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  19. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 291.
  20. ^ "1943". Billboard Top 100. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  21. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 394. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  22. ^ "Cover versions of Pistol Packin' Mama written by Al Dexter | SecondHandSongs". secondhandsongs.com. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  23. ^ "The Billboard November 1943 pg 23". google books. 1943. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  24. ^ British Hit Singles & Albums (18 ed.). London: Guinness World Records Ltd. 2005. p. 534. ISBN 1-904994-00-8.
  25. ^ "UK television adverts 1955-1985". www.headington.org.uk.
  26. ^ Jean Touitou – The Unreleasable Tapes (1997, Gatefold, Vinyl), retrieved 2021-08-22
  27. ^ "42-31037 | American Air Museum in Britain". www.americanairmuseum.com. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  28. ^ Kephart, Zackary (2019-01-03). "Pop Goes The Country Vol. 1: Al Dexter – "Pistol Packin' Mama" (1943)". The Musical Divide. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  29. ^ Nimmo 2004, p. 422.
  30. ^ Chism, Carlos (10 November 2015). "The Full Diamond City Radio Playlist From Fallout 4". Gameranx.com. Retrieved 4 August 2021.

List of Billboard number-one singles of 1943