15 “Bandit Cole Younger” by Edward L. Crain


February 17, 2009 by gadaya

Edward L. Crain’s World

-From the liner notes of the re-issue of the Anthology we learn that Edward L. Crain was a texan who played guitar, fiddle and mandolin (on his recordings he apparently used only the guitar), worked on ranches and cattle drives and performed for various radio stations in the Forth Worth-Dallas  area. He was part of a few performers of “cowboy songs” in the 1930’s who were really “cowboys” or were advertised as such by record companies. —By doing a research on the web, i stumbled across an interview on the Old-time Herald website with Mark Wilson, an old-time music researcher who met Edward L. Crain and talks about him:”Of course, I got The Anthology of American Folk Music and on it there was this fellow, Edward L. Crain, singing “Cowboy Cole Younger,” and I realized he was the same fellow I used to watch a few years before on afternoon television. For a while Eddie ran a 15-minute show to advertise his cleaning business and would sing “There’s an Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse Tonight,” “Preacher and the Bear,” Milton Brown’s “My Mary” and other material like that. My father knew Eddie slightly so I called him up, borrowed a malfunctioning tape recorder and went over to Ashland where he lived. I was nervous as hell but Eddie was a very gentle man. He had been raised on a ranch outside Longview, Texas (he learned “Cole Younger” from an elderly ranch hand there) and had made hats until asthma forced him to move to Oregon. Jimmie Rodgers recommended that he try his hand in the music business and Eddie said he was in the studio when Rodgers recorded “TB Blues.” He said it was very sad because Jimmie was so short of breath that he would collapse onto a sofa for a half hour after every number. By the time I met him, Eddie had developed a bad case of emphysema himself and was never able to sing much when I visited in later years. Eddie also knew Goebel Reeves, whom he remembered visiting [when he was] in jail on some Mann act charge. In any event, Eddie went off to New York where he stayed in the YMCA and played at places like The Little Red Schoolhouse in the Village dressed up in full ranch regalia. Somehow he even got booked on a tour with Jean Harlow and Bing Crosby. He liked Harlow but claimed that Crosby was “stuck-up.” He said he tried to modernize his fare but Harlow told him to stick to the cowboy stuff. All of this, of course, gave me a rather different picture of the ways of folksong than found in those somewhat romanticized books I was reading! Ever since, I’ve always found that the real life of folk musicians is so much more fascinating than the scripts that Jean Thomas and her modern equivalents devise. That is why, whenever possible, I try to get full autobiographical statements into the records I edit. I might mention that when I played “Cowboy Cole Younger” for Eddie, he commented that it was running too fast, which was apparently a rather common problem on 78s. Eddie’s voice was somewhat nasal, I suppose, but rather sweeter than is apparent on those records, great as they are. His own favorite was “Little Blossom.” To this day the picture of Jean Harlow and Eddie Crain appearing on the same show still astonishes me and demonstrates how drastically standards of cultural acceptance have shifted in this country.”

-I only have 5 tracks by Edward L. Crain in my collection, but as usual, i may post more in the future if i find out more somewhere… The song ” Staving to death on a government clain” shows that he didn’t performed only cowboy-related types of songs. It was later recorded by The New Lost City Ramblers on their “Songs of the Depression” lp and also by Norman Blake.


1.Bandit Cole Younger

2.Starving To Death On A Government Claim

3.Old Chisolm Trail

4.Little Joe The Wrangler

5.Cowboy’s Home Sweet Home

Download here


-If you want to hear more vintage cowboy songs recorded on 78rpm records i strongly recommend the two volumes compilations titled”When I was a cowboy” on Yazoo records

The Cole Younger Variations

Published as a “Broadside” in the late 1870’s, this song tells some of the moments in the life of the real outlaw Cole Younger who was part of the legendary Jesse James’s gang with his two brothers. The song was made as if Cole Younger himself was singing it and like in the old english ballads, focus on some details and shift from one action to another in an almost cinematograhic fashion.g1_024258

-Go to this page to read about the song’s background and the lyrics of the Edward L. Crain’s version

-There’s a wikipedia page about Cole Younger here

-Here are 14 performances selected from commerciald and field recordings. The melodies used for the song varies a bit depending on the performers, some like Dock Boggs used the same melody as the “Roving Gambler” song.


(Unless indicated the title is always “Cole Younger”)

1. Mr. and Mrs. Berry Sutterfield, from Ozark Folksongs

2.Bunkhouse Orchestra Deseret String Band, from “The Round-Up”

3.Bandit Cole Younger,Lee Alexander, from “Gunfighters & Trail Riders”

4.Cole Younger Killed My Brother, Rita Hosking, from “Silver Stream”

5.Oscar Gilbert, from “Southern Journey Vol. 5: Bad Man Ballads – Songs of Outlaws and Desperadoes”

6.Dock Boggs, from “His Folkways Years 1963-1968”

7.William Edens, from The Max Hunter Folksong Collection

8.Cole Younger Polka, Ry Cooder, from “The Long Riders (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)”

9.Virgil Lance , from The Max Hunter Folksong Collection

10.Robert B.Stark, from Ozark Folksongs

11.R.W. Hampton, from “Troubadour”

12.Mrs Ben Daugherty, from Ozark Folksongs

13.Roger Welsch, from “Sweet Nebraska Land”

14.Ballad of Cole Younger, Troublesome Creek String Band, from “Fast as Time Can Take Me”




13 thoughts on “15 “Bandit Cole Younger” by Edward L. Crain

  1. dcat, in the cornpatch... says:

    As always, many thanks for the fine work and sharing. Cheers!

  2. herenakkoord says:

    Thanks again

  3. Elyasaf says:

    Your search for authenticity through folk music is fantastic.
    I was listening to the Anthology’s 2nd volume song #1, Bandit Cole Younger. And I thought to myself “Hei, what about that Edward L. Crain, can i find some information about him…?”
    And there you have it.
    So… Thank you.

    • gadaya says:

      Toda raba, Elyasaf, i visited your website and you’re very talented. I lived in Israel for 6 years, as my “search for authenticity” at that time was knowing more about my jewish roots…

  4. Munju says:

    Thank you for your great work!

    ..::New Feature::..

    PNF Blogwatch beta

    Discover the latest posts from your favorite music blogs at one place!!


    we added your blog

    check it out!

    cheers! 🙂

  5. KLR says:

    You left out Warde Ford’s rendition, from the LOC California Gold website. Very much enjoy Warde’s singing, I’ve digitized all the Wisconsin Folk Song Collection too (they only provide Real Audio), also assigned ID3 tags to all the Max Hunter and John Quincy Wolf stuff – offered the results for free but they weren’t interested. Quite a load of work, that.

  6. ross gersten says:

    Thank you for this great posting. I have been researching this ballad on and off since 1995, when I came across it as an intern at the American Folklife Center’s Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress. In some variants, the line “we set our sights on the … bank” refer to my hometown of Mankato, MN, not Northfield. Historically, the gang did consider robbing the Mankato bank first, and changed their plan at the last minute. Though John Lomax was the first song collector to publish this ballad in his 1910 book, I agree with those who believe the the ballad’s true origin is in the Upper Midwest, and most likely diffused to Texas through area lumberjacks who found work in the South during the winter. Now if only I could prove it!

  7. It’s fantastic what you do. Keep up your passion for this type of niche.

  8. Pat Rubbish says:

    thanks for taking the time to collect all these songs
    and also for having a wicked awesome blog
    i have a few old rare 78’s that im going to have to share…eventually,found a live recording of an ozark “hillbilly” band from 1946 that is one of kind recorded im not sure where but bought for onlt 50 cents and in unplayed condition…man i need to get on those old 78’s

    again thanks!!!

  9. Bill says:

    Thanks so much for all the work you have done in making these variants available.
    An incredible project, and hope you will keep going with it, as it’s very much appreciated.
    The link to the Cole Younger variants seems to be broken- Mediafire no longer seems to have it.
    Any chance of getting it restored/repaired?

  10. Thank you! My family had a letter from Cole that was a lymric version of this “Ballad” from his days in Stillwater prison. At least thats what I was told as a youngster. Sadly my aunt destroyed it as a small child. Mom had written it down for me years ago but it seems to be lost to time. This was a pleasant reminder of the childhood story.

  11. jenougher says:

    Thanks for all the hard work! I’m learning so much here. The link to Crain’s world on MediaFire isn’t working for me, but all the others have worked wonderfully. Any ideas on this?

  12. Lutzklose says:

    First of all, thanks for the work.
    please could you reup Edward “L. Crain’s World” – The Link is Dead.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Thanks for supporting “The Old Weird America” by making a donation

Please make some donations

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 581 other subscribers



%d bloggers like this: