Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Classic Country Ballads of Lost Love – Running Gun #westernfictioneers #countryballads #classiccountrymusic

I grew up in the late 50s and 60s listening to the country music of that era. I stuck with country music through the 70s. I made it into the 80s but, by the late 80s, country music as I knew and loved was headed in a direction that, with a few exceptions, I wasn’t interested going. So I didn’t. (Get off my lawn.)

 The old west gunfighter and trail ballads, drinking songs, and revenge songs had an influence on me that was, and still is, every bit as strong as the impact Louis L’Amour’s books left with me. My lifelong interest, perhaps fascination bordering on obsession, with everything old west—truth, legends, and myths alike—have roots in those old cowboy and country songs.

I’m inviting you to read along with me this year as I post one or two nostalgic-for-me country ballads on the first Wednesday of each month. I will share a snippet of trivia about each song along with a YouTube video.

Each month, I will include a link back to the previous month’s article as reference to those songs. The common thread that runs among the songs I’ve chosen for this musical memory lane excursion is tragic lost love.

January – Marty Robbins – El Paso and Feleena
February – Faron Young – TheYellow Bandana
March – Willie Nelson and Ray Charles – 
Seven Spanish Angels
April – Marty Robbins – San Angelo
May – Billy Walker – Cross the Brazos at Waco
June – Billy Walker – Matamoros 

This month’s song is Running Gun by Marty Robbins.

Running Gun was written by Jim Glaser and Tompall Glaser. Marty Robbins recorded the song in April 1959 and released it in September 1959 on his album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.

Running Gun tells the story of a gun-for-hire outlaw who loses the draw against a bounty hunter’s gun. The ballad begins with the outlaw thinking about Jeannie, the woman he loves and left behind until he reaches the safety of Old Mexico and can send for her to meet him. The song ends with his dying thoughts of Jeannie, and his regret for causing Jeannie to waste her life loving a running gun.

In my western romance novel, The Comanchero’s Bride, which, by the way, was inspired by Marty Robbins’ song Meet Me Tonight in Laredo, I wrote in a scene that is reminiscent of the confrontation between the ‘running gun’ outlaw and the bounty hunter. Here is the scene from my novel. (500 words)

Excerpt from The Comanchero’s Bride:

At the livery, Mingo remained in the shadows where he could see both ways along the street. Opening the wagon doors just wide enough to allow him to pass through, he eased his way inside. Speaking in a low soothing tone to his horses, he packed and saddled them under the moonlight coming in from two windows. Opening half the double doors, he led the two riding horses out the back, tied them to a corral rail, and returned for the packhorse.

He no more than reached the packhorse when a cold voice in the shadows stopped him in his tracks.

“Don’t turn around, Valderas.”

Mingo froze. A few more steps and he would have been on the off side of the packhorse, but where he was, he had no protection.

“I’ve got a good bead right between your shoulders. I know about your fast draw and the price on your head. I’ve also heard stories about your throwing knives, so keep your hands where I can see them.”

“You know me. But who are you? What do you want?” Mingo didn’t care. He knew the challenge from the shadows was a bounty hunter. He needed the man to talk so he could pinpoint his location.

“I came out of El Paso. A man named Jack added to the price on your head—dead or alive—and some politician is offering a pretty penny on top of that to bring in the woman you have with you. He wants her alive.”

From the sound of the man’s voice, he hadn’t moved and was off to his right. Mingo fought the urge to whirl and fire, but shooting blindly was not his way. He wouldn’t risk a wild shot that could injure a horse, and gunfire would bring others into the fray. Shadows were both his enemy and ally, depending upon how he used it.

“The way’s clear behind you, so back towards the open wagon door, and keep your hands away from your body. When I heard the talk of a Mexican man traveling with a white woman, and they were staying at the hotel, I figured I’d hit pay dirt. I was just supposed to worry you into making a wrong move. Never thought I’d be the one to catch you.

“I’m taking the woman to El Paso. You, I’m locking up in the back room of the saloon for safe keeping…unless you give me an excuse to kill you right now, which I’ve a yearning to do. I can’t miss at this range. It wouldn’t do my reputation any damage to be the man who took down Mingo Valderas.”

Now, he knew who he was up against. Earl Johns was vicious and a killer, a back-shooting coward. Mingo inched backward, buying thinking time.

“Where’s the woman, Valderas?”

“There is no wom—”

“She’s too close for your comfort.” Isabel’s voice cut through the night.

The sound of a shotgun hammer pulling back was an angry, lethal sound that made the hairs on Mingo’s arm prickle.

As a related diversion, you might enjoy this Reddit ‘fan theory’ thread about the songs 
Big Iron and Running Gun being the same story, but told from the opposing perspectives of Big Iron’s Texas Red and the Arizona Ranger. The fan theories are a stretch, but entertaining, nonetheless.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Lasterday Stories
writing through history one romance upon a time


  1. Probably one of my favorite Marty Robbins songs--I know, I say that about every one of them, practically, but no, I really do mean it. Can you imagine telling a story like this in 2:11 minutes? I also love that it's upbeat--great tempo and not all done in minor chords--another unique factoid about it. It's a very different song, and one of my favorites, really. Great post, Kaye! I'm loving these posts of yours. Phone won't always cooperate for me to comment, but I always read and enjoy!

    1. I like the faster tempo in it, too. There's an urgency of the outlaw needing to be on the

  2. Also forgot to say how much I loved The Comanchero's Bride. That was a fabulous story and kept me guessing. I recognized both Meet Me Tonight in Laredo and Running Gun when I was reading this book!

    1. Thank you. I also snuck in a couple of other Marty Robbins gunfighter songs references in that novel just to entertain myself. ha