Shifting Whispering Sands

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Shifting Whispering Sands is a Western song and poem written by Vivian Clark Gilbert and his wife Mary Margaret Hadler. It has been widely recorded, and was one of the top songs in the U.S. in 1955 and again in 1962. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[1]


The song/poem begins with a narration by an unnamed man who is prospecting for gold in the Western U.S. He wanders into the deserted "valley of the shifting, whispering sands", and describes its desolate, frightening environment. After wandering there for "days and weeks" and using all his food and water, he escapes in some unknown way. He "pays his final debt" for being spared by telling what he learned out in the desert. The narration ends, followed by a song that reprises his experience. The entire work takes almost six minutes to recite and sing. Some recorded releases omit the narration entirely, while others incorporate it and the song in various sequences.[2]


The song was recorded in 1955 by Rusty Draper and several others, and became one of the top songs of the year.[3] There was even a parody version, "The Shifting Whimpering Sands", recorded by Homer and Jethro.[4]

It became a top hit again in 1962, this time recorded by Billy Vaughn and his orchestra, with the voices of the Ray Conniff Singers and narration by Ken Nordine.[5] Over the years it has been recorded by many artists, including Johnny Cash, Lorne Greene, and Eamonn Andrews.


  1. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Shifting, Whispering Sands and a nod to Ken Nordine". Writerquake. 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2015-02-02. 
  3. ^ "The First Billboard Top 100". The New Yorker. 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2015-02-02. 
  4. ^ "Mary M. Hadler Discography at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-02-02. 
  5. ^ Monger, Timothy. "1962's Greatest Hits - The Shifting Whispering Sands". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-02-02.