Ballad of the Alamo
Western Music
The Lone Writer  

Western Song: Ballad of the Alamo

The Ballad of the Alamo was written by Russian-born American, Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin. Aside from being a Hollywood film score composer and conductor, he is also one of the most well-known and best-loved music writers. The song was included in the Top 100 Western Songs of all time chosen by the members of the Western Writers of America.

Tiomkin did an excellent job in placing extensive musical scores together with some killer lyrics—and when Marty Robbins recorded The Ballad of the Alamo, it was a sure success. Out of many artists who covered the song, and inspired other songs about the Alamo, the original Robbins’ version recorded in 1960 is exceptional. It became a crossover hit, spent 13 weeks on the pop charts, and ranked high at #34, at one point.

Table of Contents

About the Song

This song stands tall among other songs that teach history through music because of its haunting melody combined with unforgettable lyrics. The song tells a story of how Santa Anna called for surrender and Travis “answered with a shell and a rousing Rebel yell.” Santa Anna announces his order as the lyrics of the song goes: Play Degüello,’ he roared; I will show them no quarter; Everyone will be put to the sword!”

Ballad of the Alamo Popular Recordings

The song has been covered by the following artists:

  • Frankie Avalon
  • Bud And Travis
  • R.W. Hampton
  • The Fortunes
  • Marty Robbins

Listen (Marty Robbins Version)

Ballad of the Alamo Lyrics

In the southern part of Texas
In the town of San Antone
There's a fortress all in ruins that the weeds have overgrown
You may look in vain for crosses and you'll never see a-one
But sometimes between the setting and the rising of the sun
You can hear a ghostly bugle
As the men go marching by
You can hear them as they answer
To that roll call in the sky.

Colonel Travis, Davy Crockett, and a hundred eighty more
Captain Dickinson, Jim Bowie
Present and accounted for.

Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis
"Get some volunteers and go
Fortify the Alamo."
Well the men came from Texas
And from old Tennessee
And they joined up with Travis
Just to fight for the right to be free.
Indian scouts with squirrel guns
Men with muzzle-loaders
Stood together, heel and toe
To defend the Alamo.

"You may ne'er see your loved ones, "
Travis told them that day
"Those who want to can leave now
Those who fight to the death let 'em stay."

In the sand he drew a line
With his army sabre
Out of a hundred eighty five
Not a soldier crossed the line
With his banners a-dancin'
In the dawn's golden light
Santa Anna came prancing
On a horse that was black as the night.

Sent an officer to tell
Travis to surrender
Travis answered with a shell
And a rousing rebel yell
Santa Anna turned scarlet
"Play deguello!" he roared
"I will show them no quarter
Every one will be put to the sword!"

One hundred and eighty five
Holding back five thousand
Five days, six days, eight days, ten
Travis held and held again
Then he sent for replacements
For his wounded and lame
But the troops that were coming
Never came, never came, never came...

Twice he charged and blew recall
On the fatal third time
Santa Anna breached the wall
And he killed 'em, one and all
Now the bugles are silent
And there's rust on each sword
And the small band of soldiers...

Lie asleep in the arms of the Lord...
In the southern part of Texas
Near the town of San Antone
Like a statue on his pinto rides a cowboy all alone
And he sees the cattle grazing where a century before
Santa Anna's guns were blazing and the cannons used to roar
And his eyes turn sorta misty
And his heart begins to glow
And he takes his hat off slowly...

To the men of Alamo.
To the thirteen days of glory
At the siege of Alamo...

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