Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

Being a very shy child, I lived inside my own world. Creating adventures for myself from the music that surrounded me. From the time I was very young my father understood my passion for music, he pushed a little desk right up to our top of the line hi-fi stereo-system.

This was my best friend.

He gave me a set of these .

I can only guess at what I was listening to – based on my musical memory. I can promise you it wasn’t Wheels on the Bus.

Besides being a loner, I was also fairly defiant. You would be too if this was your mom.

Meryl Streep is not my mom. But she could be. They make the same face when someone else is talking. And they both dress impeccably.

I don’t want you to think I didn’t have ANY friends, but I think my best friend was music. Of course the largest influence on the music in my life was my father, his passion for music filtered down to me. I listened to what he listened to.

And when Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson covered “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboy’s” in 1978, I was an impressionable 8-year-old with headphones glued to my head. That song hit #1 on Billboard and spent 4 weeks there, it also won the Grammy in 1979 for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, not to mention the fact that “Miss Gauthier” my music teacher and idol – played the guitar and taught us EVERY WORD.

Did I mention, defiant and impressionable?

I came home one day and told my mother and father in no uncertain terms that I was going to be a Cowboy or a Truck Driver when I grew up. My mom, being the contrary mom she is was said “You mean cowgirl honey.” Nope. I did not mean COWGIRL I meant COWBOY. Or truck-driver.

I know my dad knew the truth, he knew I had been listening to those words on the veritable repeat that was 70’s radio play. “Mama’s don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboy’s. Don’t let ’em pick guitars and drive them old trucks. Let ’em be doctor’s and lawyer’s and such.” What, you don’t want me to be a Cowboy or Truck-driver? Ok! I pick Cowboy or Truck-driver for $500 Alex!

I know this song spoke to a deeper part of me, even though I was only 8. And when, only a few months later, my dad came home with The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers, well me and that old LP spent hours together. I’d listen, watch that record spin, and dream of being a Cowboy. I was cooked. My heart began to ache for that train ride, sitting in a rail car, wind blowing in my face as we raced through darkened plains.  I was pretty sure after memorizing that song, that I could take any gambler on. I certainly perfected my poker face, I still think it’s pretty good.

That year, the Dukes of Hazzard became a Friday night staple. And I was introduced to a Whole New Idea of Cowboy. Outlaw, southern boys, driving like maniacs all over the place? And just incase you are wondering how strongly that affected my world view, my dog’s names are Roscoe (P. Coltrane) and Daisy (Duke).

That show was on until I was 15. I was still determined. However, my loyalties were torn; Texas Cowboy or Southern good/bad boy Truck-driver. Sadly, I never got the opportunity to make up my mind. You see, my mom also listened to the song “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” and she had decided that I would be a Doctor or Lawyer or such. (The background on this is for another day, suffice it to say, that I had very little choice in the matter. My school, my major chosen for me, and the dreams of being a Cowboy tucked “under my hat”.)  It snuck out quite often. OK, all the time. I wore a leather duster, cowboy boots and a leather Cowboy Hat. After seeing Young Guns with my college roommate, I was more determined than ever. She took to calling me “Tex.” I liked it.

And then…. I found him; the archetypical Cowboy. He embodified (personified/embodied) Cowboyness to me. The kind of Cowboy I wanted to be, the kind of Cowboy I wanted to know. Lyle Lovett.  You might think after all of this jibber jabber that I am a Country Music fan, I am not. Actually far from it. I am a Music fan. You do not have to be part of a certain genre to be part of my world, you just have to be the best at what you do. And Lyle. He was is my best. He is amazing at whatever he does. He is amazing at being a Cowboy. I have heard it all, trust me, I know you think he’s not  much to look at.  I don’t care what he looks like. Look at this expression. Look in this face. His heart is in his music. He had me at “Texas Wants You Anyway”, “She Ain’t No Lady She’s My Wife”, “You Can Have My Girl, But Don’t Touch My Hat”,  “Redneckness Has Got To Be a Disease, You Catch it on Your Fingers and it Crawls Right Up Your Sleeve” What??!!(and then the dude marries her!), it goes on and on and on. His Cowboy Genius rekindled the longing in me to find my way to Texas one way or another.Not there yet. But there’s time, trust me.

Meanwhile, the best thing that ever happened to me came out of Texas, my son was born there. This is his theme song, he loves to hear it, I love to play it for him. He has no idea how much it means to his Mama – someday he’ll get it. Someday he’ll get it, and we’ll go there together. Maybe we’ll be lucky and see Lyle play, I’ll try real hard not to look like “someone from somewhere else” Lyle, I promise.

Can I release the music geek for one minute? Can you listen to this song? Listen to how it begins, listen to the beautiful melody of the guitar intro, it is so unexpected, almost a premonition of the harps playing in heaven when The Gambler finally arrives.


This post was brought to you by the Finish the Sentence Friday prompt: When I was young I wanted to….

Gotta love these fabulous ladies, for letting the music flow! Janine from Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyholic, Kate from Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine With My Morning Quiet Time, Stephanie from Mommy, for Real, and Dawn from Dawn’s Disaster.

Come check them out and all of the other great bloggers too who hook up every Friday!


Finish the Sentence Friday

And if you liked this post, I’d love a little click, just a teeny one on that bar, right down there.

51 thoughts on “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

  1. I was only a year old when that song came but, I too love listening to it in iTunes. And I grew up watching and loving The Dukes of Hazards, too. And thankfully my husband is on a similar page, so we watch the re-runs and we both do listen to country music together from time-to-time, too. Honestly, so enjoyed your post today Jen and thank you for linking it up with us!! 😉

  2. When I was little, I knew every word to the Gambler. 😉

    And the Dukes were so cool, except that year when they had the “fake dukes”-Coy and Vance, what were they THINKING? To this day, when I hear someone say the word “cooter” I still think they’re talking about Cooter in his garage.

    My daughter told me recently that she wanted to be a cowgirl when she grew up, then she quickly added “or a doctor.” LOL! I told her I hoped she could be a large animal veterinarian, considering we do live twenty minutes from the vet school.

    • Jane ~ I guess I did, if you count driving a mini-van and living in the suburbs of Chicago as being a Cowboy. I’m a blogging Cowboy!

  3. I was a little older when that song came out but I loved it too! There was just something inspirational about it. Music plays a big role at different times in our lives. You can always find a song that represents what’s going on in your mind. Isn’t that funny, someone else must have felt the same as you to be able to write it.

  4. I was never a fan of country music as a kid, but I did know every word of the Gambler too! The song is great storytelling! My sister had colic as a baby — she’s several years younger than I am — and I remember that the ONLY song that would make her stop crying was “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” But I think it was the Willie Nelson version maybe?

  5. I kinda would like to sing that “The Gambler” in Karaoke. I wonder how that would go over. I love that song. I am known to bust out with “you gotta know when to hold ’em” at any irrelevant time.

    I also remember The Dukes of Hazzard line up. That was my brothers show. Seems like something came on after that that I liked and then Dallas for my mom.

    Loved your post.

    • Kenya ~ I love singing The Gambler and am guilty of too many “you gotta know when to hold em’s” too!
      I believe the lineup in the beginning was The Hulk, Dukes, Dallas. Then later Dukes, Dallas, Falcon Crest… I am thinking….

  6. I love your passion for music, Jen. I am listening to The
    Gambler while I type this – I used to sing this in my living room! Music evokes powerful memories, and I love remembering new ones every time I read your blog.

    • Thank you Dana. I recently realized every time I write a post there is a song in my head, so I might as well share it!

  7. I used to listen to The Gambler over and over and over. I even recorded myself singing it. And hahah to the line that your mom is not Meryl Streep but she could be because she gets the same look on her face! That’s hilarious, cowBOY.

    • Stephanie! I totally agree! What the heck??? My niece has been practicing peeing standing up, not working out so well.

  8. Wow, this is fascinating. What are you doing living outside of Chicago??? I didn’t listen to much country music when I was younger, even though my mom was a fan. It made for a lot of arguments in the car. I started to listen to country in college because my roommate listened to it and I had no choice. Then after college I stayed in Ohio and lived in the country. Our house backed up to a corn field. The only stations we got were country. I learned to like it. That was when Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw and Clint Black were a thing. I don’t even know if they still are. 🙂

    • Hey kate~ my family is here 😦 I can’t leave them. And somehow the husbands (mine and my sister’s) have gotten good jobs. It’s still in the rotating 5 year plan that’s going on 10! Meanwhile it sounds like your music choices are a lot like your post! At least now you have Chicago sucky radio to listen to!

  9. its funny how some things are acquired/learned (tastes) not only in music but art and friends and career choices, but there are some things that simply make sense, Lyle Lovett is in the latter category. I remember surfing through the channels, hit a PBS special and Lyle was doing, ‘Here I am’…. damn! no question, no try and listen to other materials…straight to buy the CDs lol

  10. Wow I never heard that song before and it’s awesome. Thanks for sharing it with us. Something very romantic about the idea of being a cowboy, isn’t there.

  11. Ah, the Gambler. I remember sitting downstairs in our “rec room” (complete with faux paneled walls) listening to my dad play and sing that song on his big ole acoustic guitar. Maybe that’s why we are music soul sisters. 🙂

  12. I LOVE how you create a beautiful post around your passion for music. The stories about your dad are so sweet, and his understanding and love for you shine through! Loved it, Jen!

    • Thank you Shay! Such kind words, I do love music, and I attribute it all to my dad, who is no longer with us, but lives through the music I listen to everyday!

  13. love that you knew what you wanted and no one was going to change your mind. I remember those cassette tapes, wow how fast times change, LOL

  14. When I was growing up, I used to watch Westerns in German. I even saw Rambo (Bloodsport) in German. You didn’t know Rambo could speak German? It’s quite funny really. I never could understand what the Germans liked about American Westerns. Perhaps they were the cheaper movies to come by. I also watched Tom and Jerry in German. They had a neat German theme song. So, maybe you should move to Texas? Why not?
    Thanks for leaving a comment on Amanda’s Books and More!
    Tina – American mom raising 4 kids in South Africa

    • I had an Au Pair from Germany for 3 years she used to tell me how weird it was to watch American TV in English! I was never much for Westerns either 🙂

  15. Loved this post! As a child of the prairies, daughter of a rancher, every word resonated. I was a cowboy! And loved, loved, loved the life! But alas, that was several moves and 37 years of marriage ago. I’m still happy. I still miss it!

  16. I think I already shouted to Twitter about your writing on this one, but I’ll say it again to you…this was great Jen! Music is interwoven with your life in a way that cannot be separated and you expertly showed us that by making a seamless post that informed us about your history in your family and with music. Bravo!

    • You are so sweet Jean. You are right they cannot be separated, I am listening to West Side Story as I write my replies. It’s always there. I really appreciate your kind words!

  17. You do not have to be part of a certain genre to be part of my world, you just have to be the best at what you do. – Totally agree with this sentence and not only when it comes to music but as a general approach to life. I think that closing yourself up to anything based on sheer loyalty to your self definition and image (country music fan, sci fi literature lover, republican/democrat) makes you a much less enlightened person. I think that an truly intelligent person is always open to hearing more: opinions, musical styles etc. I love your post and the way you tell your life through music. It’s one of the best ones of yours that I read. Thank you!

    • Katia- what an amazing compliment! Thank you so much, and I couldn’t agree more. It is exactly why I changed my name to My Skewed View, because I like what I like, as contradictory as it may seem from the outside, it is an accurate representation of my insides. You’re the best!

  18. I LOVE that Willie tune SO much! It’s on my iPod. I saw “The Electric Horseman” so many times – great movie and part of the reason why was this song. The fact that your Dad nurtured your love of music is such an important and wonderful thing. That Lyle Lovett tune is fantastic too. He’s one of my favorites too.

    • Thanks Linda! It was a really fun post to write. I still wish I was a Cowboy, but at least I’ve got me some cowboy music!

  19. I think it’s cute that you wanted to be a cowboy!!! I am very familiar with all of these songs–I went through a HUGE country phase where that was all I listened to for years–even went to dozens of concerts. But I have to admit, Tim McGraw was always one of my favorites!

    • Hi Marcia! I actually know very little country music, if it isn’t these guys or Johnny Cash. I’ve tried, but it’s just not my bandwidth!

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