Saturday, March 4, 1978

“Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” hit #1

Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson

Writer(s): Ed Bruce, Patsy Bruce (see lyrics here)

First Charted: January 21, 1978

Peak: 42 BB, 44 CB, 36 GR, 33 AC, 14 CW, 57 CN, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 33.0 video, 168.27 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In the 1970s country legends like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson fought back against the slick production recording techniques and structure of the Nashville establishment. The so-called outlaw country movement proved both commercially and critically successful. Waylon topped the country charts ten times that decade; Willie did so seven times. That included 1975’s “Good Hearted Woman,” which won the Country Music Association award for Single of the Year and, in 1978, their cover of “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

The latter was originally recorded by Ed Bruce in 1975 and written with his wife Patsy Bruce. He’d been in the industry since the ‘50s, having recorded at Sun Records – the same label that introduced Elvis Presley to the world – before reaching the country charts six times. However, he never got any higher than #52. In his frustration, he wrote an autobiographical song called “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Guitar Players.”

Patsy suggested he change it to “Cowboys” because “there weren’t that many who could relate to a broken-down instrumentalist whose life had fallen far short of his dreams” AC but cowboys were “the childhood heroes of most country music fans.” AC The song became a story in which the narrator warns mothers against allowing their kids to become cowboys because of lifestyle’s tough and rootless nature.

He thought about pitching the song to both Jennings and Nelson, but kept it for himself. In 1976, his version reached #15. A couple of years later, he finally reached out to Waylon about recording it. Waylon’s response? “I did about two weeks ago!” TR Still, he wasn’t sure about it and approached Willie, saying “I cut this thing, but I ain’t sure about it. It don’t sound right, but it might be a great duet.” TR

Their recording was, as Patsy Bruce said, embraced by “senators, house painters, movie directors, and garbage collectors. It is a song whose audience seems to cut across all lines and ages.” AC As a duet between two of the pillars of the outlaw country movement, it could even be called that genre’s anthem.


First posted 9/24/2023; last updated 10/2/2023.

No comments:

Post a Comment