The Songs He Sang
Streets of Laredo: Lyrics
As performed by Cisco Houston
Traditional, Verses by Cisco HoustonAppears on:
As I walked out in the streets of Laredo As I walked out in Laredo one day I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen All wrapped in white linen and cold as the clay I can see by your outfit that you are a cowboy These words he did say as I boldly walked by Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story I'm shot in the breast and I know I must die It was once in my saddle I used to go dashin' Once in my saddle I used to go gay It was first to old Rosie's and then to the card house Shot in the breast and I'm dying today Get sixteen gamblers to handle my coffin Get six jolly cowboys to sing me a song Take me to the green valley and lay the sod o'er me I'm a young cowboy and I know I done wrong Oh, beat the drum slowly, and play the fife lowly Play the death march as you carry me along Take me to the green valley and lay the sod o'er me I'm a young cowboy and I know I done wrong
A fascinating story full of unanswered questions. Who wrapped this young cowboy in linen and abandoned him? Why is he begging a stranger to arrange his funeral? Why isn't how he got shot part of his sad tale? Why was the narrator going to walk by a dying man, only stopped by his pleading? We'll never know, but it sure makes a poignant and beautiful song, which is why every cowboy and pseudo-cowboy singer has recorded this, most famously, but not best in our opinion, by Marty Robbins.
Notes from the Folk Song & Minstrelsy Set
The tune of this cowboy's lament is pure Irish. The words are a close variant of an 18th-century broadside ballad, "The Unfortunate Rake", in which a young man has been felled by syphilis rather than gunshot wounds. Instead of asking for gamblers to handle his coffin, he requests that the gay ladies of the town escort him to the graveyard. A British version tells of the downfall of a young woman. American Negroes adapted the story for their "St. James Infirmary Blues."