If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s singing cowboys. Not those Hollywood type like Roy Rogers (not that I have anything against Roy, I like him too), but the handful of real life cowboys that made recordings of songs from right there on the range in the 1920s and ’30s. This record falls squarely into that category. This was one of my lucky finds from a little store out in Mineral Wells, Texas, along with some other fine rural selections. It’s likely been in Texas ever since it left the pressing plant in Camden.
Jules Verne Allen was born on April 1, 1883 in the charming little town of Waxahachie, Texas, he began working as a cowboy in the next decade, punching cattle from Montana to the Rio Grande. He served his country in the Great War, enlisting in the Army in 1917. For many years, Allen worked as an officer of the law, as a police officer and deputy sheriff in El Paso, and as a member of the legendary Texas Rangers. As a cowboy, he learned the traditional songs of the West, played on the guitar, and when the Western phenomenon swept the nation in the late 1920s, Allen began performing those songs on the radio for WOAI in San Antonio and WFAA in Dallas. Billed as “The Singing Cowboy”, he cut three sides for the Victor Talking Machine Co. on one of their field trips in El Paso in 1928, later making twenty more sides, of which all but one were issued. One of the most popular of the early singing cowboys, in 1933, Allen wrote Cowboy Lore, a book detailing the life of a cowpuncher. Continuing to perform on the radio into the 1940s, Allen died on July 10, 1945.
Victor 21470 was recorded April 21, 1928 by Jules Allen during one of Victor’s field trips in El Paso, Texas. These two are Allen’s debut recordings.
First up, Allen sings N. Howard Thorp’s classic cowboy song, “Little Joe, the Wrangler”.
Next, Allen sings the Texas gambling song “Jack o’ Diamonds” in the old cowboy style rather than the blues style associated with the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson. The last time we heard this tune, it was sung by TCU physics professor Newton Gaines, and to be honest, I believe ol’ Jules delivers a better performance.