Colter Wall’s cover of “Cowpoke” has a way of sneaking into my cognitive brain loop on repeat.
Not only is the song a lilting humming tune, but Colter’s voice is a throwback to an old western scene somewhere. His rendition is so good it paints a vivid portrait of life out in the middle of the frontier, complete with Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae.
But before Colter Wall, there were several others that tried their hand at the tune with several successful varieties of its compelling hum.
Stan Jones, country songwriter and actor, penned the song back in 1951 and gave the song to Elton Britt and The Skytoppers to record that same summer. Covers of the track have been present ever since.
The song continued to be popular for its storytelling features about the lives of cowboys, and it was later given a badge of honor as one of the Top 100 Western Songs by the Western Writers of America.
A recording of Elton, featuring a night in the woods surrounded only by nature and an acoustic guitar, finds him mostly yodeling the popular melody of the song and giving it an added edge.
Not to mention his vocal range which was a bit higher than the Colter Wall version:
Covers of the track continued to sprout up through the late ’50s and ’60s, with several popular versions arising. There was at least one rendition of the track released every year from 1962-1965, but in August of ’63, popular country artist Eddy Arnold recorded his version.
Eddy was a pillar of country music for decades and scored well over 140 songs on the Billboard charts, so it’s no surprise that his “Cowpoke” variation was a fan favorite. Eddy’s version includes the same similar yodel as Elton’s original, but also slows down the pace of the track in the same way that Colter performed it decades later.
He included the song on his album, Cattle Call:
Another popular cover of the song includes Hank Williams Jr.’s rendering, which he released only a couple of years after Eddy’s, in the very beginning phases of his career.
His voice is almost an identical call to the vocals of his late father in those earliest years, which you can hear in his “Cowpoke” cover:
And even though the song has been performed and recorded throughout the years by the likes of many others including Dave Stamey, Glen Campbell, Riders in the Sky, and Wylie and the Wild West, it had been left on the shelf for almost 20 years when Colter brought it out of retirement.