"Ragtime Cowboy Joe" is a popular song: lyrics by Grant Clarke, music by Lewis F. Muir and Maurice Abrahams. © 1912, F.A. Mills, 122 W. 36th St, New York.[1]


It has been performed by a diverse group of artists, ranging from Bob Roberts in 1912[2] to The Tune Wranglers, the big band sound of Eddy Howard in 1947 to the comedic recording by The Chipmunks in 1959.


The 1912 copyright version published by F.A. Mills credits Lewis F. Muir and Maurice Abrahams as composers and Grant Clarke as the lyricist. The song writing team also wrote Second Hand Rose. The song was composed in Brooklyn, New York after an appearance at Maurice Abrahams' home by his nephew, Joe Abrahams, wearing a cowboy outfit. Maurice Abrahams was so captivated by the appearance of his nephew dressed up as a cowboy that he was inspired to write Ragtime Cowboy Joe in 1912. It was a number-one hit song for singer Bob Roberts in 1912.


As with many popular songs of the era, the verse is often omitted: the refrain's lyrics vary somewhat depending on the performer.


Out in Arizona
Where the bad men are,
And the only friend to guide you
Is an evening star,
The roughest and the toughest
Man by far
Is Ragtime Cowboy Joe.
He got his name from singin'
To the cows and sheep
They say that every night
He sings the herd to sleep
In a basso voice
So rich and deep,
A-croonin' soft and low.


He always sings
Raggy music to the cattle
As he swings
Back and forward in the saddle
On a horse
That's a syncopated gaiter
There's-a such a funny meter
To the roar of his repeater.
How they run
When they hear his gun
Because the Western folks all know
He's a high-falutin', rootin', shootin',
Son of a gun from Arizona,
Ragtime Cowboy Joe.


Dressed up ev'ry Sunday
In his Sunday clothes
He beats it to the village
Where he always goes
And ev'ry single gal
In town is Joe's
'Cause he's a ragtime bear.
When he starts a-spieling
On the dance hall floor
No one but a lunatic
Would start a war
Because the wise men know
His forty-four
Would make them dance for fair.[1]

Variations include: "How he sings", "Ragtime music", "That's syncopated gaited/And you ought to hear the meter", "scootin' shootin'", "Son of a gun from old Wyoming", or additions of "(A pretty good horse)", "He's some cowboy", and/or "Talk about your cowboy".

On radioEdit

"Ragtime Cowboy Joe" was the radio show theme song for New York City's long running, award-winning public radio show, Cowboy Joe's Radio Ranch (1976–1988), hosted by Paul Aaron, New York's Cowboy Joe. During one of his radio shows Paul Aaron had the elder Joe Abrahams (the original Cowboy Joe) as a special guest. Paul Aaron played many versions of his favorite song dating back to one sung by Bob Roberts from a 1919 acoustic RCA Victor 78 rpm record. He also played many "live" versions recorded during the University of Wyoming football and basketball games. A recent version of the song appears on Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks 2009 album "Tangled Tales".

University songEdit

"Ragtime Cowboy Joe" is also the school song of the University of Wyoming. Traditionally, Cowboy fans stand and clap to the beat of the song as played by Wyoming's Western Thunder Marching Band. The version of the song appropriated by Wyoming includes lyrics adjusted to represent the school's location, a stands cheer that occurs during a drum break, and a repeat of the verse commonly follows.

Stands cheer: (For the Cowboys)

'C'! 'O'! 'W'! 'B'! 'O'! 'Y'! 'S'!

(For the Cowgirls)

'C'! 'O'! 'W'! 'G'! 'I'! 'R'!, 'L'!, 'S'!

The Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh! at UC Davis also favors the song. In this case;

He's a high-falutin', rootin' tootin'
Son of a gun from California
He's some cowboy
Talk about your cowboy
Ragtime Cowboy Joe

The ChipmunksEdit

"Ragtime Cowboy Joe" is the third and final single from The Chipmunks' debut album Let's All Sing with the Chipmunks. The song was released as a single in 1959. After the chart performance of the Chipmunks' last two singles, "The Chipmunk Song" and "Alvin's Harmonica", both of which managed to reach the Top Ten, it was hoped that "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" would continue their streak of Top Ten hits. Instead the single peaked at #16 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart, which was the group's first single to miss the Top Ten, although it was their third consecutive Top 20 single. The song was also a success on the Billboard Black Singles, peaking at #29. Since the song was also credited to David Seville by Billboard, the song became Seville's fourth consecutive Top 20 single.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sheet music published by F.A. Mills
  2. Another Book About Popular American Recording Pioneers: 1895-1925: The Unpublished Entries, by Tim Gracyk
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