Tumblin' Tumbleweed

Gene AutrySaw a whole herd of tumbleweeds flying across the interstate a few weeks back, some as big as 3 or 4 feet in diameter. Tried to dodge them but still had plenty bouncing off the roof or windshield -- a little disconcerting when you can't see where you're going at 75 mph.

Anywhoo, it made me recall the song Tumbling Tumbleweeds, and for some reason it's a tune that strikes a chord for a lot of babyboomers, mostly men.

The only explanation I can come up with is that we all watched the Western picture starring Gene Autry, Tumbling Tumbleweeds. The picture was made in 1935 but Gene Autry also recorded it on an album of his in 1947.

To make it more confusing, the song was originally popularized and written by Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers' back-up band. The weird YouTube video below features the Sons of the Pioneers singing the song in what appears to be a New York City nightclub (maybe the Rainbow Room?) and Roy briefly appears for 10 seconds and listens to the band.

I guess the Coen brothers had an affinity for the song as well, since they used it as the opening track in The Big Lebowski (Jeff Bridges as a pothead bowler...what could appeal more to a babyboomer?). And they used the Sons of the Pioneers version.

It's classy, I'll give them that, but maybe the cowboy in me has to go with the Gene Autry version. Listen to them both and decide for yourself.



Sons of the Pioneers

I'm a roaming cowboy riding all day long,
Tumbleweeds around me sing their lonely song.
Nights underneath the prairie moon,
I ride along and sing this tune.

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I'll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go but I'll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

I know when night has gone
That a new world's born at dawn.

I'll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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