The Songs He Sang
The Killer: Lyrics
As performed by Cisco Houston
Words: Originally published in Wild West Weekly, Street and Smith; Music: Cisco HoustonAppears on:
Dobie Bill, he went a-riding through the canyon, in the glow Of a quiet Sunday morning from the town of Angelo; Ridin' easy on that pinto that he dearly loved to straddle, With a six-gun and sombrero that was wider than his saddle And he's hummin' as he's goin' of a simple little song That's a-boomin' through the cactus as he's gallopin' along: "Oh, I've rid from San Antony through the mesquite and the sand I'm a rarin', flarin' bucko, not afraid to play my hand. Well, I'm a hootin', shootin' demon and to have my little fun On my pinto called Apache and Adolphus -- that's my gun." Well straight to Santa Fe he drifted, and he mills around the town Sorta gittin' of his bearin's as he pours his liquor down. But he's watchin', always watchin', every hombre in the place, Like he's mebbe sorta lookin' for some certain hombre's face. Then one night he saunters careless to the place of Monte Sam And he does a bit of playin' like he doesn't give a damn. Then all at once it's hushed and quiet, like a calm before the blow, And the crowd is tense and nervous, and the playin stopped and slow. At the bar a man is standin', sneerin' as his glances lay, Like a challenge did he fling 'em, darin' 'em to make the play. Two-Gun Blake, the Texas killer, hated, feared wherever known Stood and drank his glass of mescal with assurance all his own. Then the eyes of Blake, the killer, met the glance of Dobie Bill And they held each one the other with the steel of looks that kill, Then the tones of Blake came slowly, with a sneer in every word "Well, you've found me!" But the other gave no sign he saw or heard. Walkin' calmly toward the speaker, he advanced with steady pace Then he grinned, and quick as lightnin', slapped him squarely in the face. "Shoot, you snake!" he whispered hoarsely. "Shoot, you lily-livered cur! Draw! You're always strong for killin'; now I'm here to shoot for her!" Some there was that claimed they saw it, as the killer tried to draw But there's no one knows for certain just exactly what he saw; I'll agree the shootin' started quick as Blake had made his start, Then a brace of bullets hit him fair and certain through the heart. As he fell, his hand was graspin' for the gun he'd got too late With the notches on it showin' like the vagaries of fate. And the man who stood there lookin' at the killer as he lay Murmured, "Nell, I've kept my promise. I have made that scoundrel pay!" Then Dobie Bill, he went a-ridin' from the town of Santa Fe On a quiet Sunday morning, goin' happy on his way, Ridin' easy on that pinto that he dearly loved to straddle With a six-gun and sombrero that was wider than his saddle, And he's a hummin' as he's goin' of a simple little song That's a-boomin' through the cactus as he's gallopin' along: "Oh, I'm goin' down the canyon, through the mesquite and the sand I'm a rarin', flarin' bucko, not afraid to play my hand. Well I'm a rootin', shootin' demon and I have my little fun On my pinto called Apache, a-ha, and Adolphus -- that's my gun."
So Dr. Guy doesn't think this is an "authentic" cowboy song. So what? It is funny, tidy, well-performed and perfectly balanced. The vocal is impeccable. The playing crisp and effective. And, finally, the scoundrel (And what a great word, far too little used these days) pays. What more could you want? And was it collected by Mr. Authentic Lomax, or in some phony cowboy weekly? Who cares? It's a great perforamnce.
From the 1983 LP, "That's The Ticket", by Art Thieme:
John Lomax published the words to this song in one of his early compilations of cowboy songs. I learned it from the singing of Cisco Houston some fifty years later.
This ballad recalls the romance of the old West at its flowery best. The old songs had a way of combining the reality of life with the ways folks hoped life would be. The result was often a song of great romantic beauty wasn't too realistic. When I sing this song, I see it in Cinemascope, with Gary Cooper as Dobie Bill. Blake is portrayed by Lee Van Cleef and Nell is portrayed to perfection by a very young Piper Laurie. (Hers is only a bit part, as she is killed off in a flashback a third of the way into the first reel.)
While I didn't exactly picture the actors quite as Thiele did, I quote this for you because this is one of the songs that I heard Cisco sing in technicolor. I vividly pictured the action as I listened to the words. I can't listen to the song without "seeing" the bar scene and seeing Dobie Bill riding through the desert on his pinto wearing his oversized sombrero. A classic.