That highfalutin sonofagun from Arizona

That would be “Ragtime Cowboy Joe”, in the western novelty tune from 1912 — with many variations in the wording in different performances, but all using the adjective highfalutin (in some spelling), which is why I bring it up here, as a follow-up to my 12/6 posting “highfalutin”, on that bit of characteristically American jocular slang.

My attention was drawn to highfalutin, scooting, shooting / rootin’ tootin’ RCJ by Benita Bendon Campbell, whose father danced with her to (a version of) the song when she was a small child, and who has his version firmly in her memory even now, over 75 years later. She offered to sing it for me, but now I have unearthed quite a range of recorded versions, from which I’ve selected one to subject you to.

On the song, from Wikipedia:

“Ragtime Cowboy Joe” is a popular western swing song. The lyrics were written by Grant Clarke and the music was composed by Lewis F. Muir and Maurice Abrahams. It was copyrighted and published in 1912 by F.A. Mills.

1912 sheet music

The song has been recorded by a diverse group of artists, including Bob Roberts (1912), the Tune Wranglers (1936), Pinky Tomlin (1939), Eddy Howard (1947), Jo Stafford (1949), and the Chipmunks (1959). It was also performed by Betty Hutton in the 1945 musical film Incendiary Blonde.

… “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” was composed in Brooklyn after an appearance at the home of Abrahams by his nephew, Joe Abrahams, wearing a cowboy outfit. Maurice Abrahams was so captivated by the appearance of his nephew dressed up as a cowboy that he was inspired to write “Ragtime Cowboy Joe”.

… [An adaptation of] “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” is also the fight song of the University of Wyoming. Traditionally, Cowboy fans stand and clap to the beat of the song as played by Wyoming’s Western Thunder Marching Band.

… The Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh! at University of California, Davis also adapted the song

(I somehow missed all of this.)

From the refrain in the original text (the lyrics vary quite a lot in performance):

How they run
When they hear that fellow’s gun
Because the Western folks all know
He’s a high-faluting, scooting, shooting,
Son of a gun from Arizona,
Ragtime Cowboy Joe.

You can listen here to the Sons Of The Pioneers singing RCJ (from Down Memory Trail With Sons of the Pioneers (1964)).

And then, for sweet nostalgia, Bonnie Campbell’s father’s version of the whole thing:

He always sings
Raggy music to his cattle
As he swings
Back and forward in his saddle
On his horse – pretty good horse
That is syncopated-gaited
And is possibly related
To the roar of his repeater
How they run
When they hear this fella’s guns
Because the Western folks all know
That he’s a highfalutin
Rootin’ tootin’ sonovagun from Arizona
Ragtime Cowboy – talk about yer cowboy!
Ragtime Cowboy Joe!


One Response to “That highfalutin sonofagun from Arizona”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    “Syncopated-gaited” is a gem on its own.

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