Home on the Range
DESCRIPTION: "Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam...." The singer praises the land of the west, "Where the sky is not cloudy all day." Details vary from version to version, and besides, you all know the song anyway....
EARLIEST DATE: 1873 (lyrics published in Smith County [KS] Pioneer)
KEYWORDS: cowboy home
FOUND IN: US(MW,So)
REFERENCES (19 citations):
Randolph 193, "Home on the Range" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Larkin, pp. 166-168, "Home on the Range" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSUSA 62, "Home on the Range" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fife-Cowboy/West 108, "Home on the Range" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS2, pp. 496-497, "Western Home" (1 text)
Tinsley, pp. 212-215, "Home on the Range" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sackett/Koch, pp. 141-142, "Home on the Range" (1 text)
Shay-Barroom, pp. 134-135, O, GIve Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam" (1 text, 1 tune)
PSeeger-AFB, p. 26, "Home On The Range" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fireside, p. 164, "Home on the Range" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 49, "Home on the Range" (1 text)
Saffel-CowboyP, pp. 178-179, "Home on the Range" (1 text)
Emerson, pp. 65-66, "Western Home" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 273-274, "Home on the Range"
ADDITIONAL: Powder River Jack and Kitty Lee's _Songs of the Range: Cowboy Wails of Cattle Trails_, Chart Music, 1937, pp. 18-19, "Home in the West" (1 text, 1 tune, labelled the "Original version of 'Home on the Range'")
Kirke Mechem, "Home on the Range,'" article published 1949 in _The Kansas Historical Quarterly_; republished on pp. 51-83 of Norm Cohen, editor, _All This for a Song_, Southern Folklife Collection, 2009
John I. White, _Git Along, Little Dogies: Songs and Songmakers of the American West_, 1975 (page references are to the 1989 University of Illinois Press edition), pp. 153-166, "'Where the Deer and the Antelope Play" (2 texts, 2 tunes, plus a copy of an early newspaper print and a history of the song)
William E. Studwell and Bruce R. Schueneman, _State Songs of the Unites States: An Annotated Anthology_, The Haworth Press, 1997, pp. 36-37, "(no title)" (1 text, tune on pp. 115-116)
Jules Allen, "Home On The Range" (Victor 21627, 1928; Bluebird B-4959/Montgomery Ward M-4463, 1933)
Arkansas Woodchopper [pseud. for Luther Ossenbrink], "Home on the Range" (Gennett 7065/Supertone 9571, c. 1930)
Black Bros., "Home on the Range" (OKeh 45572, 1932)
Vernon Dalhart, "Home on the Range" (Brunswick 137, 1927)
Hank Keene, "Home on the Range" (Bluebird B-5241/Montgomery Ward M-4397, 1933)
Ken, Chuck & Jim, "Home on the Range" (Champion 16579, 1933; Montgomery Ward M-4988, 1936)
Frank Luther Trio, "Home on the Range" (Banner 32966/Perfect 12975 [both as Buddy Spencer's Trio], 1933; Conqueror 8273 [as Buddy Spencer Trio], 1934)
Frank Luther & Carson Robison, "Home on the Range" (Columbia 2642-D, 1932)
Ken Maynard, "Home on the Range" (Columbia test recording, c. 1930; on MakeMe, WhenIWas2)
Patt Patterson & Lois Dexter, "Home on the Range" Perfect 12650, 1930 [as "A Home on the Range"]; Conqueror 7711, 1931)
Red River Dave [McEnery], "Home on the Range" (Sonora 1063, n.d.)
Roy Rogers, "Home on the Range" (RCA Victor 21-0077, 1949)
Pete Seeger, "Home on the Range" (on PeteSeeger17, CowFolkCD1)
Toys, Beautiful Toys (Pankake-PHCFSB, pp. 32-33)
Alaska: Home on the Snow (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 243)
Frank Luther & Trio, "Home on the Range Part 5/Part 6" (Decca 1429, 1937)
NOTES [432 words]: Various candidates have been proposed as the author of this piece, e.g. Daniel Kelley and Dr. Brewster Higley (1873; for this story, see Fuld), "C.O. Swartz... and other prospectors" (1885), and probably others. Given the feel of the piece, it seems likely that there is only a single author -- but I'd have a hard time saying WHICH single author. The matter is the chief topic of the article by Mechem cited in the references, who notes that there was a major lawsuit about the matter in the 1930s (p. 52 in the Cohen reprint). Mechem's conclusion is that the words were by Higley (1823-1911) and the music by Daniel E. Kelley (1843-1905).
The lawsuit is particularly interesting because it involved the Southern Music Publishing Company -- which happened to be run by Ralph Peer (see Barry Mazor, Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music, Chicago Review Press, 2015, p. 155-157), the man responsible for recording the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and others. "Home on the Range" had become incredibly popular in the early 1930s, and everyone thought it was public domain because John A. Lomax had published it two dozen years earlier in Cowboy Songs. But William and Mary Goodwin of Tempe, Arizona had copyrighted a version they called "Arizona Home" in 1905 -- and Peer controlled the copyright on that version. So he started seeking payment. In the course of the lawsuit, though, the Higley text turned up. That predated the Goodwin version and ended the lawsuit, although it didn't actually prove Higley the author.
Various adaptions have been published over the years, such as the Goodwins' "Arizona Home," but none depart far from the original form. Mechem's article also contains a copy of the February 26, 1876 Kirwin Chief, one of the first publications of the lyrics. It is on pp. 70-71 of the Cohen reprint.
Mechem, pp. 329-330, suggests that two early changes contributed significantly to the success of the song. He notes that the earliest texts all give the third line of the last verse as "I would not exchange my home here to range" and that the chorus began "A home, a home, where the deer and the antelope play." The former line was converted to "I would not exchange my home ON THE range," and the latter to "Home, home on the range, where the deer...." The former change altered the whole meaning of the song; the latter improved its singability.
The piece eventually became the state song of Kansas. According to Sackett/Koch, p. 141, the bill that made it the state song also made it official, at least in Kansas, that it was by Higley and Kelley. - RBW
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