Country's Real Cowboys
For as long as country music's been around, every singer with a twang and a Nashville address has dabbled with cowboy iconography, but actual cowboy music is a style unto itself. Its roots are in the songs real-deal cowboys would sing out on the trail, which led to a whole musical movement marketed to both those who lived the cowboy lifestyle and those who wished they did. A lot of the first cowboy singing stars had parallel careers as Western movie idols, like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Tex Ritter, but cowboy music busted out far beyond the silver screen. And even after the first-gen cowboy singers faded away, each new generation offered up a fresh batch, sometimes adding a more modern feel to the traditional template. Mainstream county singers have often taken a stab at cowboy country too, sometimes with surprisingly satisfying results. From the range to the rodeo, these are the songs that put the "western" into country and western.