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Saddle song: NM adopts 1st state cowboy tune

By Melanie Dabovich
Associated Press Writer / March 25, 2009
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Cowpokes now have a good reason to gather 'round the campfire and break out the guitar -- New Mexico's got an official state cowboy song.

Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation Wednesday declaring New Mexico the first state to adopt an official cowboy song: "Under the New Mexico Skies" by Syd Masters, a 42-year-old musician from Edgewood.

New Mexico songwriters picked Masters' tune in 2008 from 26 other songs, and he performed it on the state House floor this month. The true-to-tradition tune, with a rolling melody and catchy lyrics, features guitar and acoustic bass with a twangy male voice that breaks into three-part harmony for the chorus.

"The song tells about New Mexico, like the beautiful landscape, wildlife, the flowers and the beautiful mountains of New Mexico -- the things that we are proudest of. And cowboys and ranchers are also the things we are proudest of," said state Rep. Gloria Vaughn, a Republican from Alamogordo who proposed the idea of an homage to cowhands. "Because we have so many ranchers and cattle people, this is important for New Mexico."

The livestock industry is the state's most important agricultural commodity, with annual sales of dairy and beef cattle totaling almost $2 billion.

Masters said the inspiration for the song came from a scenic moment on the Turquoise Trail, a historic road that links Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

"I was having a photo taken and while waiting for the clouds to move, I leaned against an adobe wall ... and there was a creek running by. It turned out to be the right thing to describe," Masters said.

He performs in a traveling musical trio called the Swing Riders, who focus on preserving the tradition of singing cowboys.

"We had a lot of guys in the old days writing a lot of songs as they went from camp to camp," Masters said.

Singing cowboys have been a dominant part of American culture, said cowboy music expert Jana Fallin, a professor and music education division chair at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

"It's amazing how much culture has been affected by the cowboy," she said. "They sang to keep the cattle moving along, they sang to keep the cattle calm and they sang to entertain each other. They call it the last troubadour tradition."

The state's cowboy ditty joins New Mexico's other songs, including a Spanish language state song, a state ballad and a state bilingual song. The state's official song, "O Fair New Mexico," was written by the daughter of famed sheriff Pat Garrett, who allegedly gunned down outlaw Billy the Kid.

While New Mexico's cowboy song is the country's first, several other Western states already have official songs with a cowboy twist: Kansas' "Home on the Range" and Oklahoma's "Oklahoma!"

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On the Net:

Syd Masters and the Swing Riders: http://www.sydmasters.com

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