Sam Bass

Sam Bass, Joe Collins, John E. Gardner,
and Joel Collin.
Photo: Robert G. McCubbin, Jr.

This was one of my daddy's favorite old songs. He was fond of it, I think, because it mentions so many places in Texas that were well known to us - Denton, Terrell, Round Rock.

These words are from Alan Lomax' "Cowboy Songs" but I found them on Mudcat Cafe. Mudcat is a national treasure. I'm not kidding. I believe it ranks with the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress Lomax Collection as a great repository of folk music and lore about folksongs. Mudcat is in a bit of financial straits at the moment and could use some help. Please visit this message from Max to contribute.

Sam Bass is a fun song to sing, but I have to confess I find it pretty disturbing. It is after all a celebration of men who were thugs and murderers. I could treat it as a quaint and amusing historical artifact were it not that the current gun control debate reveals that the spirit of gun totin' Texans is very much alive here.


Sam Bass was born in Indiana, it was his native home,
And at the age of seventeen, young Sam began to roam.
Sam first came out to Texas a cowboy for to be-
A kinder-hearted fellow you seldom ever see.

Sam used to deal in race stock, one called the Denton mare;
He matched her in scrub races and took her to the fair.
Sam used to coin the money and spent it just as free,
He always drank good whiskey wherever he might be.

Sam left the Collins ranch in the merry month of May
With a herd of Texas cattle the Black Hills for to see,
Sold out in Custer City and then got on a spree-
A harder set of cowboys you seldom ever see.

On their way back to Texas they robbed the U.P. train,
And then split up in couples and started out again.
Joe Collins and his partner were overtaken soon,
With all their hard-earned money they had to meet their doom.

Sam made it back to Texas all right side up with care;
Rode into the town of Denton with all his friends to share.
Sam's life was short in Texas; three robberies did he do:
He robbed all the passenger, mail, and express cars too.

Sam had four companions-four bold and daring lads-
They were Richardson, Jackson, Joe Collins, and Old Dad;
Four more bold and daring cowboys the rangers never knew,
They whipped the Texas Rangers and ran the boys in blue.

Jim Murphy was arrested and then released on bail
He jumped his bond at Tyler and then took the train for Terrell;
But Mayor Jones had posted Jim and that was all a stall,
'Twas was only a plan to capture Sam before the coming fall.

Sam met his fate at Round Rock, July the twenty-first,
They pierced poor Sam with rifle balls and emptied out his purse,
Poor Sam he is a corpse and six foot under clay,
And Jackson's in the bushes trying to get away.

Jim bad borrowed Sam's good gold and didn't want to pay,
The only shot he saw was to give poor Sam away.
He sold out Sam and Barnes and left their friends to mourn
Oh, what a scorching Jim will get when Gabriel blows his horn.

And so he sold out Sam and Barnes and left their friends to mourn,
Oh, what a scorching Jim will get when Gabriel blows his horn.
Perhaps he's got to heaven, there's none of us can say
But if I'm right in my surmise he's gone the other way.

C standard