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Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout have done a masterful job in their major contribution to the history of cowboy music and cowboy culture.
Don Edwards


Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2005), is a tribute to the man who was cowboy music's first collector; a significant contribution to western music history; and an enlightening and entertaining experience for readers and listeners. The book is edited and introduced by western historian and musician Mark L. Gardner, with illustrations by noted western artist and cowboy Ronald Kil, and accompanied by a CD recording performed by Mark L. Gardner and Rex Rideout.

"Jack" Thorp (N. Howard Thorp, 1867-1940) collected cowboy songs and poems across the West for nearly 20 years, starting in the late 1800s. He first published them in 1908, in a small book called Songs of the Cowboys.

Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys includes songs and poems from Thorp's original book and an  expanded 1921 edition, and also a previously uncollected song found in a Thorp manuscript ("Ti Ri Youdy"). On the accompanying CD, Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout play the songs on vintage instruments in the style they would have been heard in Thorp's time. 

The book also includes Gardner's extensive introductory essay, "A Tribute to Jack Thorp"; a generous number of original illustrations by Ronald Kil; vintage photos, many courtesy of Jack Thorp's nephew, John Stauffer; a glossary; and references for suggested reading. 

With the kind permission of the publisher, the Museum of New Mexico Press and the assistance of Mark L. Gardner and Rex Rideout, we're pleased to feature excerpts below from Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys

(See our feature and selections from the 1921 edition of Songs of the Cowboys here.)

Below, from Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys:

"A Tribute to Jack Thorp
by Mark L. Gardner (excerpt from the Introduction)


"What's Become of the Punchers"

Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys' table of contents
CD track information

Order information

Forthcoming limited edition

About Mark Gardner, Rex Rideout, and Ronald Kil


Don Edwards' "The Ballad of Jack Thorp"

Other Selected Books about and by Jack Thorp

Additional links and information

thorpsongslgz.JPG (28188 bytes)

See our feature about the 1921 Songs of the Cowboys here


"A Tribute to Jack Thorp" by Mark L. Gardner
    from the introduction to Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys

We don't know the exact date, but we know it was in the year 1908 that a local rancher and surveyor by the name of Jack Thorp walked into the cramped offices of the the Estancia News in Estancia, New Mexico, and inquired of the printer about publishing a small book of "cowboy songs."  For the past nineteen years, Thorp had sought out cowboy ballads and poems from Texas to Utah, and he had even written a few himself.  Thorp "made a dicker" that day with the printer, P. A. Speckmann, to print 2,000 copies of his little book for six cents each.  The finished volume, a pamphlet really, numbered fifty pages and contained only twenty-three songs. Why is this important? It was the first time a book devoted exclusively to cowboy songs had been published, and the credit goes to Thorp for being the first person to take a serious interest in collecting and preserving these homespun ballads.  As a matter of fact, Jack Thorp helped create the genre in the first place.

"Songs of the range had a special appeal for me," Thorp wrote years later.  "I was a singin' cowboy myself, by adoption . . . and the songs I heard some cowboys sing were an authentic feature of the land and life that made it seem good to me."  Thorp's interest in range ballads dated to at least the mid-1880s, when he was in his late teens. It wasn't until March of 1889, however, when Thorp happened on a camp of black cowboys near Roswell, that he determined to make the collection of cowboy songs one of his life's works.  According to Thorp, as he approached the campfire near their chuck wagon, he heard a man singing about a horse named "Dodgin' Joe."  After getting his fill of grub, Thorp hobnobbed and traded songs with the buckaroos.  A man called 'Lasses sand "Dodgin' Joe" again, but he only knew two verses.  That unfinished song got under Thorp's skin.  He would hunt down as many cowboy songs as possible and put them in a book.

Thorp began his first song quest the following day with "a good saddle and pack horse and a few dollars in my pocket." Tucked away in his pack was a little piccolo banjo.  Over the next several months, Thorp traveled more than 1,500 miles in New Mexico and Texas, seeking out cowboy songs at ranches, immigrant camps, saloons, medicine shows, and variety theaters.  He seldom met anyone who could recite all the verses to a particular ballad, but he faithfully jotted down what he could fit in a small notebook.  By the end of his journey, he had pieced together such cowboy classics as "Sam Bass," "The Grand Round-up," "Top Hand," "The Gal I Left Behind Me," and "Bucking Bronco."  It was a good start.

                                                                                              continued, in Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys...

photo by Jeri Dobrowski
Mark Gardner and his banjo-mandolin, thought to be the instrument Thorp carried when doing his field research.

The interesting and informative 13-page introduction, with extensive references and footnotes and illustrated with photographs, continues with information about Thorp's early life, his cowboying and other occupations, his writing and research, the context of his work, and more.


Jack Thorp, c. 1930
Courtesy John and Joyce Stauffer
from Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, used with permission


Jack Thorp and his wife, Annette "Blarney" (Hesch)
Courtesy John and Joyce Stauffer

What's Become of the Punchers

What's become of the punchers
We rode with long ago?
The hundreds and hundreds of cowboys
We all of us used to know?

Sure, some were killed by lightning,
Some when the cattle run,
Others were killed by horses,
And some with the old six-gun.

Those that worked on the round-up,
Those of the branding-pen,
Those who went out on the long trail drive
And never returned again.

We know of some who have prospered,
We hear of some who are broke,
My old pardner made millions in Tampa,
While I've got my saddle in soak!

Sleeping and working together,
Eatin' old "Cussie's good chuck,"
Riding in all kinds of weather,
Playing in all kinds of luck;

Bragging about our top-hosses,
Each puncher ready to bet
His horse could outrun the boss's,
Or any old horse you could get!

Scott lies in Tularosa,
Elmer Price lies near Santa Fe,
While Randolph sits here by the fireside
With a "flat-face" on his knee.

'Gene Rhodes is among the high-brows,
A-writin' up the West,
But I know a lot of doin's
That he never has confessed!

He used to ride 'em keerless
In the good old days
When we both worked together
In the San Andres!

Building big loops we called "blockers,"
Spinning the rope in the air,
Never a cent in our pockets,
But what did a cow-puncher care?

I'm tired of riding this trail, boys,
Dead tired of riding alone--
B'lieve I'll head old Button for Texas,
Toward my old Palo Pinto home!

from Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys, used with permission

Book Contents

Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys

Introduction:  A Tribute to Jack Thorp
A Note about the Songs and the CD
Audio CD Credits

Ti Ri Youdy
The Texas Cowboy
The Tenderfoot
Little Joe, the Wrangler
Three-Block Tom
Get Along, Little Dogies
Windy Bill
My Little Brown Mule
Grand Round-Up
Bucking Broncho
The Cowboy's Christmas Ball
The Gal I Left Behind Me
Sam Bass
Mustang Gray
Cowboy's Lament
What's Become of the Punchers

A Jack Thorp Cowboy Glossary
Suggested Reading

CD Track Information

Ti Ri Youdy  vocals, Mark L. Gardner
The Texas Cowboy  vocals, Rex Rideout
The Tenderfoot  vocals, Mark L. Gardner
Little Joe, the Wrangler  vocals, Rex Rideout
Three-Block Tom 
recited by Mark L. Gardner
Get Along, Little Dogies  vocals, Mark L. Gardner
Windy Bill  vocals, Rex Rideout 
My Little Brown Mule  recited by Mark L. Gardner
Chopo  vocals, Rex Rideout
Grand Round-Up  vocals, Mark L. Gardner
Bucking Broncho  vocals, Rex Rideout
The Cowboy's Christmas Ball 
vocals, Rex Rideout
The Gal I Left Behind Me 
vocals, Rex Rideout
Sam Bass  vocals, Mark L. Gardner
Mustang Gray  vocals, Rex Rideout
Cowboy's Lament  vocals, Mark L. Gardner
What's Become of the Punchers  recited by Mark L. Gardner

photo by Jeri Dobrowski
A close look at Rex Rideout's 1906 Gibson mandolin

Instruments used for this recording:

Henry C. Dobson & Sons "Silver Bell" pony banjo, circa 1890
Gibson F4 mandolin, 1906
Washburn Neapolitan mandolin, circa 1900, also known as a bowlback mandolin
Violin, circa 1900 German-made Stainer copy, sold through Sears & Roebuck
Violin, circa 1900, maker unknown
Parlor guitar, circa 1890, "Madonna" brand, probably a Chicago maker
Open-back banjo (forty-eight brackets), circa 1880s, maker unknown
S. S. Stewart "Little Wonder" piccolo banjo, circa 1890s (courtesy of Clarke Buehling)
Ebony bones, nineteenth century
Anglo-style concertina, German made

Recorded at the Western Jubilee Recording Company Warehouse Theater, Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 17-19, 2004.

Engineered by Butch Hause

Mixed and mastered by Butch Hause at The Ranger Station, Henderson, Colorado

Produced by Mark L. Gardner and Rex Rideout

Order Information


Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys (ISBN: 0890134782) book with accompanying CD, is available from the Museum of New Mexico Press for $24.95 plus postage; from CD Baby, where you can listen to track samples from the CD; and from other booksellers, including Amazon.

"This work is a major contribution to the history of cowboy music in the Old West. The CD captures the true flavor of early cowboy music."  David Dary, author of Cowboy Culture

"Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout have done a masterful job in their major contribution to the history of cowboy music and cowboy culture."  Don Edwards. western singer and author of Saddle Songs, A Cowboy Songbag

"Historian Mark Gardner demonstrates a deep knowledge of cowboy folks music . . . . The entire package is exquisite and delightful."  Durwood Ball, Editor, New Mexico Historical Review.

Forthcoming Limited Edition

In Fall, 2008, the Palace Print Shop of the Museum of New Mexico will publish a special limited edition (150) of Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys

Mark L. Gardner provided the following information:

One of the working  printing presses in the Palace Print Shop of the Museum of New Mexico is an 1883 Chandler & Price platen press manufactured in Cleveland,  Ohio.  Amazingly enough, this very same press was originally a fixture in P. A. Speckmann's News Print Shop in Estancia, New Mexico, and according to Curator of the Press, Tom Leech, there is a good chance that this press is the one that printed Jack Thorp's first cowboy songbook in 1908.

The cover of this special edition will be constructed of   handmade paper from blue denim cloth, and the endpapers will incorporate New Mexico buffalo grass.  This very limited edition book/CD is scheduled for publication in 2008 and will cost approximately $300.00 per copy.  

About Mark L. Gardner, Rex Rideout, and Ronald Kil

photo by Scott O'Malley
Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout


Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout, Musical Performers of the Frontier Past

From "Boatman's Dance" to "Little Joe, the Wrangler," Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout perform the historic music of the Western experience using vintage instruments and historic playing styles. As "living historians," they recreate the authentic music of the Santa Fe Trail, the battlefields of the Civil War, the cow camps of Colorado, and more. To hear one of their performances is to take a trip back to the days of Stephen Foster, Dan Emmett, and Jack Thorp. Their "music...is precisely what your ancestors heard, what they danced to," writes Jon Chandler of their latest release, Frontier Favorites: Old-Time Music of the Wild West.  "It's a musical journey to the mid-19th century that transcends cultural nostalgia; this music is realistic enough in style and content to have been played and sung in its exact form on the Western frontier....It is rollicking, it is exhilarating, and most of all, it is real."

Mark L. Gardner is a professional historian, author, and musician with a broad range of publications—both popular and scholarly—focusing on the American West. He has published numerous books with several university presses and has authored six interpretive guides for National Park Service historic sites, including Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Fort Union National Monument, and Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. Most recently, he has written two biographies of Western figures for the NPS: George Armstrong Custer: A Biography (2005) and Geronimo: A Biography (2006). As a public historian, Mark has served as a consultant for many history-related projects, from documentary films to museum exhibitions.  He has worked as a consultant with PBS Television, National Geographic Magazine, the National Park Service, and a number of museums and historic sites across the West.

In addition to his historical research and writing, Mark studies and performs the popular music of the 19th and early 20th-century West.  He uses only vintage or reproduction musical instruments and authentic lyrics and melodies. Mark has entertained and educated audiences with his period music at numerous venues, from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, to the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mark's first CD, Songs of the Santa Fe Trail and the Far West (Native Ground Music), received critical acclaim as an accurate portrayal of the music of the 19th-century American Southwest. It has been featured on the soundtracks of several television documentaries, most notably the PBS documentary "The U.S.-Mexican War, 1846-1848."  Mark’s second CD, Frontier Favorites: Old-Time Music of the Wild West, a collaborative effort with Rex Rideout, is featured on the soundtracks of two National Park Service visitor center films.

Mark’s musical instrument of choice is the open-back 5-string banjo, although he is also a master of the bones and jawbone!  Mark lives with his family in Cascade, Colorado. (Visit Mark L. Gardner's Songs of the West web site for more information.)

photo by Mark Gardner
Rex Rideout

Rex Rideout is a long-time student of the music and songs of the 19th-century American West  As the proprietor of Time Travel Music, Rex has performed at countless historic sites and museums across the West.  His music has also been featured on television and radio specials.  Rex contributed to the soundtrack of two HGTV documentaries: "Homes of the Gold Rush" and "Ghost Towns," both of which aired nationally in 2001.  Rex plays many musical instruments: mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and tin whistle, to name a few.  He has been a student of the trades and skills of the 19th century for over twenty-five years, specializing in traditional woodwork and metalwork. Studying how 19th-century man obtained food, shelter and, when possible, entertainment, has been a life-long interest. When he is not performing, or swinging an axe or hammer, Rex builds and services laboratory instrumentation for the Colorado School of Mines.  He lives with his family in Conifer, Colorado.

photo by Steve Butler
Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout

photo by Mark Gardner
Ron Kil in his studio

Illustrator Ronald Kil is a working cowboy and a respected western artist. He is particularly known for his illustrations for Vocabulario Vaquero/Cowboy Talk: A Dictionary of Spanish Terms from the American West by Robert N. Smead (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004) and an award-winning "Children of the West" series (Friday The Arapaho Boy: A True Story from History, José's Buffalo Hunt: A Story from History, Millie Cooper's Ride: A True Story from History, and Teddy's Cattle Drive: A Story from History) written by Marc Simmons (University of New Mexico Press).  He lives near Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Don Edwards' "The Ballad of Jack Thorp"

Don Edwards' 1988 book and recording, Songs of the Cowboy (now rare) was a 24-song tribute to Jack Thorp. Edwards recorded his own "The Ballad of Jack Thorp" on his Saddle Songs CD (1997) and included it in his 2003 book, Saddle Songs, A Cowboy Songbag. That book contains many references to Thorp in its excellent introductory material.

With the kind permission of Don Edwards, we're pleased to share the words to "The Ballad of Jack Thorp":

The Ballad of Jack Thorp

Long ago there was a man who rode throughout the west
Collecting songs and poetry and verses of the range
He wrote "Little Joe the Wrangler" and the "Pecos River Queen"
A ballad huntin' cowboy and Jack Thorp was his name.

Jack was a big man, a friendly sort of guy
He had a way with horses, played a banjo-mandolin
A sure-nuff cowpuncher from his boots to his wide-brimmed hat
A singin' buckaroo and a pardner of the wind.

One night while trailin' horses he rode up to a camp
On the night air a cowboy song came driftin' soft and low.
A song he never head before 'bout a steel dust cuttin' horse
The fastest one in Texas by the name of "Dodgin' Joe."

A banjo-playin' cowboy knew two verses of the song
He sang 'em once again while Jack wrote down the words
How many songs were sung yet never written down?
Jack knew there must be plenty more out there he hadn't heard.

Next mornin' he had breakfast wrote a letter to his boss:
"I've made up my mind to keep driftin' on my own.
I've quit huntin' horses, started huntin' cowboy songs
When you see my dust arrivin' I'll be comin' home."

A cowboy song is just like gold, it's anywhere it's found
From a cow camp down in Texas to a saloon in Idaho
So with ol' Gray Dog, his saddle horse and his pack horse Ample too
They traveled down those ballad trails in search of "Dodgin' Joe."

Jack became the first to collect the cowboy songs
Songs about the hard life and the free life on the range
A living part of cowboy life was saved because of him
And now I feel the time has come for me to do the same.

'Cause a cowboy song is still like gold, it's anywhere it's found
From a cow camp down in Texas to a saloon in Idaho
With my trusty pet horse Red and my pack horse Peco too
We'll travel down those ballad trails like Jack did long ago.

© Don Edwards, Reprinted with permission from Saddle Songs, A Cowboy Songbag


Visit Don Edwards' web site, where you can find the Saddle Songs CD and his book, Saddle Songs, A Cowboy Songbag.




Other Selected Books about and by Jack Thorp

  Songs of the Cowboys, compiled by N. Howard Thorp ("Jack" Thorp), Estancia, New Mexico, News Print Shop, 1908 

The book's preface reads:

To the Ranchmen of the West this little volume is dedicated as a reminder of the trail days and round-ups of the past. To the younger generation who know not of the trip from Texas to Dodge and the north, it will tend to keep alive the memories of an industry now past.

I have gathered these songs from the cow camps of different states and territories.  They embrace most of the songs as sung by the oldtime cow punchers.  I plead ignorant of the authorship of (most) them but presume that most of the composers have, ere now, "Gone up the dim narrow trail." 

I mount this little book on one of the best cow horses that ever lived, and start it on its journey; together may they meet all the old time cowboys and receive a welcome at their hands, is the earnest wish of THE AUTHOR.

The songs included are:

Little Joe, The Wrangler
Windy Bill
The Tenderfoot
California Trail
Top Hand
Little Adobe Casa
Grand Round-up
Texas Cowboy
Mustang Gray
Sam Bass
Bucking Broncho
Educated Feller
Cowboy's Lament
Buffalo Range
Cowboy's Christmas Ball
Chase of the A L C Steer
The Pecos Stream
Old Time Cowboy
The Pecos River Queen
Whose Old Cow?
The Cowboys New Year Dance  

   Songs of the Cowboys, compiled by N. Howard Thorp ("Jack" Thorp) with an introduction by Alice Corbin Henderson. Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921.  See our feature and selections from this book here.

  Tales of the Chuck Wagon, by N. Howard Thorp ("Jack Thorp) Santa Fe, 1926

  Pardner of the Wind: Story of the Southwestern Cowboy  by N. Howard  Thorp ("Jack" Thorp), in collaboration with Neil M. Clark.  Caldwell, Idaho,  Caxton Printers, 1945 

  Songs of the Cowboys, by N. Howard ("Jack") Thorp. notes and lexicon by Austin E. and Alta S. Fife. New York, C. N. Potter, 1966

  Pardner of the Wind: Story of the Southwestern Cowboy by N. Howard  Thorp ("Jack" Thorp), in collaboration with Neil M. Clark.   Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1972 and other printings

  Along the Rio Grande, Cowboy Jack Thorp's New Mexico, by Peter White and Mary Ann White, Santa Fe, Ancient City Press, 1988


(There are a number of other volumes of Songs of the Cowboys, including one edited by Guy Logsdon in 1984, and a 1989 reprint of the 1908 book by Applewood Books.)

Additional Links and Information


  • The Huntington Library holds a collection donated by John and Joyce Stauffer, (John Stauffer is Thorp's nephew) who contributed much to Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys. The collection is summarized, in part, as a literary archive that includes " original manuscripts of Thorp's stories, as well as songs, correspondence, a diary, photographs and related publications. Of note is the complete manuscript of Thorp's unpublished story, Cowland ... and the extensive files of cowboy songs written and collected by Thorp... journals kept by Thorp, correspondence (including 2 letters from Eugene Manlove Rhodes and 4 from Frank Dobie)...".

The New Mexico State Records Center and Archives holds a collection of Jack Thorp's papers, "Nathan Howard Thorp Papers, circa. 1930's" (Collection number: 1975-058).  The scope and content is described, in part, "... The bulk of the collection consists of undated cowboy songs, poems, riddles, and short stories... Also within the collection is a letter concerning editing of Thorp’s manuscripts (1936)."

The Fray Angélico Chávez History Library at the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico also holds Thorp materials. 

  • In January, 2006 Rex Rideout and Mark L. Gardner were invited to perform at the opening of the Governor's Gallery in the Capitol Building (the Round House) in Sante Fe, New Mexico, in January. Governor Bill Richardson attended and addressed the large crowd, which included Thorp family members. See a selection of photos from the event here.

Jack Thorp's 1908 Songs of the Cowboys is on display at the New Mexico History Museum Exhibition at The Governor's Gallery, along with headphones that provide narration about Thorp and include selected tracks from Rex Rideout and Mark L. Gardner's recording.

  • Jeri Dobrowski's reports and photos of a session by Mark L. Gardner and Rex Rideout at the 2005 Cody Cowboy Songs and Range Ballads event are posted here, along with her expanded article about the Thorp project.  

  • You can view (and download) the entire 1921 edition of Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys at Google Books.

  • Don Edwards presented an impressive show, "The Ghost of Jack Thorp," at the 2008 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. You can view the show on the archived cybercast at the Western Folklife Center.








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