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Blue Mountain

[ Roud 10861 ; Ballad Index FCW088 ; DT BLUMTNAZ ; Mudcat 107179 ; Judge Fred W. Keller, ca. 1918]

Finest Kind sang Blue Mountain on their 1996 album Lost in a Song. They noted:

This lovely old western song, learned by Ann [Downey] in Salt Lake City, was written by Fred Keller who cowboyed and practised law in Monticello, Utah, during the 1920s.

Blue Mountain is at the edge of a high, isolated range between the Dolores River of Colorado and the Colorado River of Utah. On the bare slope is a growth of spruce trees that from a distance looks like the outline of a horse’s head. It has been a landmark for the inhabitants on this remote region since the early days.

Keller wrote Blue Mountain for an Old Timer’s event commemorating local characters and their way of life. The song became an area favourite and was sung at parties thrown for young men going off to serve in the Second World War. It has recently attracted an audience much farther afield.

The song can be found in Hal Cannon’s great little book Old Time Cowboy Songs (Gibbs Smith Publishing). Ann’s version adds Buck Ramsey’s last verse with its Texas punchline.

Norma Waterson went country with Blue Mountain in 2002 on Blue Murder’s album No One Stands Alone. This video shows Norma Waterson singing it, accompanied by Martin Carthy and Chris Parkinson, at the Royal Oak, Lewes, on 18 March 2010:

Nick Dow sang Blue Mountain in 2011 on his album My Love You’ve Won to Keep. He noted:

Written by Judge Fred Keller just after the first world war. There is so much going on in the song that I could write a book, briefly:—Blue Mountain is Horsehead Mountain in Utah; Zapatiro is the local shoemaker and part time Sheriff; Mon’s store was broken into by a drunken cattle drover who stole a roll of calico; Slicks saved his money and married a ‘respectable girl’ who promptly stole the lot, and he has been trying to find her and the money ever since; Ev, on the old chuck line, is Evelyn Adams who was a renowned cook and looked after the drovers.

Fred Keller left his law practice to fight in the first world war and never returned, choosing to live a simple open air life to purge the horrors of the war.

Taught to me face to face by Jodie Stecher in the 1970s. The song is becoming a bit of a hit for me.

Note: Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders’ Blue Mountain (“Blue Mountain where I dwell…”), written by them and recorded in 1958 for Columbia Records, is quite another song with just the same title.


Norma Watersons sings Blue Mountain

I was born and raised in Texas
My past you must not know
For to seek a refuge from the law
Where the sage and the pinions grow

Chorus (after each verse):
Blue Mountain you’re azure deep
Blue Mountain your side’s so steep
Blue Mountain with a horse head on your side
My love you’ve won to keep

Well the brand ‘LC’ I ride
And sleeper calves on the side
I’ll own the hipside and shoulder before I get older
Zapitaro don’t you tan my hide

Well I chummed up with Latico Gordon
And we drink at the Blue Goose Saloon
And we danced all night with the Mormon gals
And ride home by the light of the moon

Well I trade down at Mon’s old store
There’s bullet holes in his front door
And his calico treasure my pony can measure
When I’m drunken and feeling sore

In the summer they say that it’s fine
When those wintry winds I don’t mind
But tell me, dear brother, if you want a mother
While there’s Ev on the old chuck line.