Cowboy yodels & música ranchera: from Gene Autry to Javier Solis

My Grandpa George was a native of a tiny town in the American Southwest ~ Guadalupe, New Mexico. Proud Mexican-Americans, they rode horses, manned ranches and herded cattle. His aunt Juanita was the wife of the famous old west sheriff, Pat Garrett. I’ve written about my Honduran father’s side of the family in the post, nueva cancion y trovadores. On my mom’s side, we have deep Southwestern roots. My grandpa rode the rails from New Mexico to California during the depression where he met my grandmother, who had immigrated here as a baby from Durango, Mexico. Grandpa loved American Cowboy music and Mexican ranchera (cowboy) music. My mom still loves the “singing cowboy” tradition. Here she is in her “Gene Autry” cowboy outfit circa early 1950s.

I recently gave my mom the three-disc box set: Boots, Buckles & Spurs: 50 Songs Celebrate 50 Years of Cowboy Tradition. It includes vintage songs from Gene Autry, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, Johnny Cash as well as more modern cowboy tunes from Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings, Moe Bandy, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, The Outlaws, Brooks & Dunn, Michael Martin Murphey, and many more.

Gene Autry ~ “Back In the Saddle Again:”

Here is “Cowpoke” by Don Walser:

For some real cowboy yodeling, check out this video, “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana:

When I was a kid, my grandpa would entertain us by letting us hang from his arms while he flexed his muscles. As a former boxer, he continued to keep up his form until he became ill in his late 80s, consistently going out to the garage and punching his speed bag. He’d also sit down with us and draw pictures of horses in about 60 seconds, while we watched in awe. He was a true New Mexican hombre of the greatest generation ~ very stoic and quiet in his strength. Whenever I hear a ranchera song, I think of my grandparents. I remember the smell of roasting New Mexican ristras and the handmade tortillas my grandma made for me while she cooked her chile verde.

From wikipedia’s entry on música ranchera: “The ranchera is a genre of the traditional music of Mexico….closely associated with the mariachi groups which evolved in Jalisco in the post-revolutionary period…drawing on rural traditional folklore. Perhaps the greatest exponents of the ranchera have been José Alfredo Jiménez, Lola Beltrán, Vicente Fernández, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, and Javier Solís….The word ranchera was derived from the word rancho because the songs originated on the ranches and in the countryside of rural Mexico.”


Javier Solis with “Sombras”:

El Rey, Vincente Fernandez, with “Volver, Volver”:

Lola Beltran ~ “Cucurrucucu Paloma”:

Mexican Ranchera Music
Gene Autry
Western Folklife’s Library of Cowboy Poetry and Music


  1. this was so awesome! Now I know I’m getting my pops for his birthday present. thanks and keep up the good work.


    • Thanks Candie! You’re referring to that Cowboy box set? Yep ~ my mom LOVED it and it was the inspiration for this article!! I’m sure he’ll appreciate it!!


  2. What a history, and tribute. Amazing photos! And wait a sec — you can trace lineage to Pat Garrett?! I absolutely love this post. No wonder you resonate with cowboy music. Can’t wait to listen to the tunes, but wanted to comment right away. Thanks for supporting my blog, too — of course I dug the references to the roasting ristras, handmade tortillas and chile verde — I have relatives all over New Mexico as well…and that photo of your grandfather! Total boxer. And your mom in Gene Autry costume…thank you for sharing this…love it!!! RRxo


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