- Hollywood’s singing cowboy of the 1930s and 1940s did not originate in genuine cowboy folk balladry from ranch work in frontier times as is often assumed. The music draws its roots from itinerant, flamboyant medicine show musicians traveling through the South in pre-radio days and from early mountain, or hillbilly, folk music, which became popularized in early blues of Southern white singers such as Jimmie Rogers. Cowboys on the plains did not, for instance, yodel to their cows at night to settle them down. The singing cowboy yodel directly relates to novelty acts at medicine shows and the like. The image of the singing cowboy—white, clean shaven, costumed, and handsome—allowed Southern-style country music, associated with racist attitudes, to move into the national consciousness without open Southern associations.
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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