What's that iconic 'cowbooy music'?

There’s a tune that is the epitome of cowboy soundtrack music. I can’t remember hearing it in any movie, but I remember hearing it on cartoons of the '40s and '50s they used to show on TV. I’m picturing Droopy, but I’m sure I’ve heard it elsewhere.

I can only describe it here, and that’s hard with music. But let me try anyway.

[sub]dum[/sub] dee[sup] DUM[/sup] dum

[sub]dum[/sub] dee[sup] DUM[/sup] dum

The guitar part from Happy Trails?

It sounds like part of the"Gunsmoke" theme, called “Old Trails”.

The first line sounds like it. I don’t recall the progression getting higher each time, though.

The ‘clop-clop’ sound in the background sounds like it.

I thought from the thread title it would be the “On the Trail” section of the Grand Canyon Suite. (Yet another title with “Trail” in it.)

Exactly what I was thinking! ** Biffy** posted it as I was googling it.

There’s also Lives of the Cowboys from Prairie Home Companion.

Happy Trails was written in the appropriate time frame to be included in 40s-50s cartoons, whereas Gunsmoke started in the mid-50s. It may just be a generic cowboy riff.

that song is also called Boothill.

Gene Autry “Back in the Saddle Again” ?

I`m back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again

That’s Jimson weed, you doggone tenderfoot.

It’s not really a tune, it’s just a commonly used bass line, like oom pah pah for polka, or the standard I-vi-IV-V progression (bum-ba-dee bum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum) in slow rock tunes.

Too late to edit, but slight correction- oom pah pah is, of course a waltz. Polka is more like boom chick pah chick.

You are correct, sir.

Here it’s used in Arizona Moon Keep Shining/Blue Shadows:


Funny version from Three Amigos where horses sing along:

If it’s the riff I think it is, it also appears in the passage at the start of Mary Wells’ “My Guy”… which is itself a quote from “Canadian Sunset”.

The theme was also used for one of the songs in The Who’s “mini-opera” A Quick One While He’s Away

How about the opening lines to Desert Skies by Marshall Tucker.

Yes, that was my first thought too.

It goes, for example: (Dum…, ta, Dah…,da)


Just to be nitpicky, if it’s the same melody/bass line I’m thinking of, it would more properly be rendered:

C…G A G/C…G A G/C…G A G/C…G A G/

The G A G sequence features notes of equal duration, with equal pauses between them, while the initial C is sustained beneath them.

The second half of your statement is correct (in fact, I always wondered how Smokey Robinson didn’t get sued by Eddie Howard).

But as for the first, the notes in the “Canadian Sunset” riff are the same as the cowboy riff, but the pattern and rhythm of them is different.

No, K364 is closer. When it’s written in music notation it’s dotted eighth, sixteenth, dotted eighth, sixteenth. And it’s usually sung “bum ba dee da”. You can hear a good example of it being sung on Van Halen’s recording of “Happy Trails”.