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
July – Marty Robbins – Running Gun
This month’s song is the ballad of tragically lost love as told in Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson.
|Photo of Kaye Spencer's CD|
This song is so closely linked with Willie Nelson that one would think he wrote it. That is not the case. Red Headed Stranger was published in 1953 and originally written for Perry Como, who never recorded it. Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith released his version in 1954 to decent listener reception. Eddy Arnold recorded it in 1959, as did John. D. Loudermilk in the same year.
Then along came Willie Nelson, who performed the song as a ‘cradle song’ for children on an episode of his show (1954). In 1974, he wrote a concept album called Red Headed Stranger based on the song. In 1976, the song was certified gold, and in1986, it was certified double-platinum. Not too shabby.
An aside on the spelling – I came across all of these: Red-headed Stranger, Redheaded Stranger, and Red Headed Stranger. I chose to use Red Headed Stranger, since that is the spelling on Willie’s concept album.
The basic story of Red Headed Stranger is that of a stranger who rides into town on a black stallion. The stranger is leading the bay horse that once belonged to his dead wife. A woman with greedy intent, makes a grab at the bay, and the stranger shoots her dead. He’s found not guilty, because no one…I mean no one… gets away with even attempted horse theft without serious punishment.
This is as close to a perfect lost love ballad as I think possible. It’s also so terribly, terribly sad. The stranger must have adored his late wife for the gentle and loving care he shows her little bay. Her horse keeps her memory fresh for him, almost as if she's still with him, as he wanders the west, always riding, always on the move, because he’s wild in his sorrow, ridin’ an’ hidin’ his pain...
Until next time,
writing through history one romance upon a time