Billy the Kid
Western Music
The Lone Writer  

Western Song: Billy The Kid

Billy the Kid was a traditional folk song in the public domain. Sources reveal that American country singer and songwriter Vernon Dalhart first recorded and released the song in 1927. Since it was available in the public domain, many artists recorded their versions, including those by the Sons of the Pioneers, Burl Ives, Mark Graham, and more.

One of the most popular versions of Billy The Kid was by American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Marty Robbins in 1959. He included the song in his album, Gunfighter Ballads, and Trail Songs. Moreover, members of the Western Writers of America chose six songs in his album as part of the Top 100 Western Songs of all time. These songs were “El Paso,” “Big Iron,” and “The Master’s Call,” and he wrote all of these. On the other hand, other artists recorded the other three: “Cool Water,” “Billy, The Kid,” and “The Strawberry Roan” before Marty did his version.

About the Song

The song talks about the American Old West outlaw and gunfighter called “Billy the Kid.” Its lyrics reveal several myths about him, such as one that is evident in the line, “At the age of twelve years he did kill his first man.” The song also shared that Sheriff Pat Garrett, who shot the young outlaw down, was once his friend.

Popular Recordings

Some of the most popular versions of the song were recorded by the following artists:

  • Vernon Dalhart
  • Sons of the Pioneers
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Tex Ritter
  • Burl Ives
  • Oscar Brand
  • Marty Robbins
  • Jimmie Driftwood with Orchestra
  • Denis Gibbons
  • Ry Cooder
  • Michael Martin Murphey
  • Mark Graham
  • Mick Abrahams
  • Ry Cooder & David Lindley

Listen to Billy the Kid (Marty Robbins Version)

Billy The Kid Lyrics

I'll sing you a true song of Billy the Kid
I'll sing of some desperate deeds that he did
Way out in New Mexico long long ago
When a man's only chance was his own 44.

When Billy the Kid was a very young lad
In old Silver City he went to the bad
Way out in the West with a gun in his hand
At the age of twelve years he did kill his first man.

There's Mexican maidens play guitars and sing
Songs about Billy, their boy bandit king
'Ere his young manhood has reached its sad end
With a notch on his pistol for twenty-one men.

Was on a sad night when poor Billy died
He said to his friends, "I'm not satisfied,
There's twenty-one men I have put bullets through
Sheriff Pat Garrett must make twenty-two!"

I'll sing you how Billy the Kid met his fate
The bright moon was shinin' the hour was late
Shot down by Pat Garrett who once was his friend
The young outlaw's life is now come to an end.

There's many a man with a face fine and fair
Who start out in life with a chance to be square
Just like poor Billy they wander astray
They'll lose their lives in the very same way.

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