ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Cowpokes now have a good reason to
gather 'round the campfire and break out the guitar - New Mexico's
got an official state cowboy song.
Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation Wednesday declaring New
Mexico the first state to adopt an official cowboy song: "Under
the New Mexico Skies" by Syd Masters, a 42-year-old musician from
New Mexico songwriters picked Masters' tune in 2008 from 26
other songs, and he performed it on the state House floor this
month. The true-to-tradition tune, with a rolling melody and catchy
lyrics, features guitar and acoustic bass with a twangy male voice
that breaks into three-part harmony for the chorus.
"The song tells about New Mexico, like the beautiful landscape,
wildlife, the flowers and the beautiful mountains of New Mexico -
the things that we are proudest of. And cowboys and ranchers are
also the things we are proudest of," said state Rep. Gloria
Vaughn, a Republican from Alamogordo who proposed the idea of an
homage to cowhands. "Because we have so many ranchers and cattle
people, this is important for New Mexico."
The livestock industry is the state's most important
agricultural commodity, with annual sales of dairy and beef cattle
totaling almost $2 billion.
Masters said the inspiration for the song came from a scenic
moment on the Turquoise Trail, a historic road that links
Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
"I was having a photo taken and while waiting for the clouds to
move, I leaned against an adobe wall ... and there was a creek
running by. It turned out to be the right thing to describe,"
He performs in a traveling musical trio called the Swing Riders,
who focus on preserving the tradition of singing cowboys.
"We had a lot of guys in the old days writing a lot of songs as
they went from camp to camp," Masters said.
Singing cowboys have been a dominant part of American culture,
said cowboy music expert Jana Fallin, a professor and music
education division chair at Kansas State University in Manhattan,
"It's amazing how much culture has been affected by the
cowboy," she said. "They sang to keep the cattle moving along,
they sang to keep the cattle calm and they sang to entertain each
other. They call it the last troubadour tradition."
The state's cowboy ditty joins New Mexico's other songs,
including a Spanish language state song, a state ballad and a state
bilingual song. The state's official song, "O Fair New Mexico,"
was written by the daughter of famed sheriff Pat Garrett, who
allegedly gunned down outlaw Billy the Kid.
While New Mexico's cowboy song is the country's first, several
other Western states already have official songs with a cowboy
twist: Kansas' "Home on the Range" and Oklahoma's "Oklahoma!"