Background Info: Spanish Is The Loving Tongue back to "Spanish Is The Loving Tongue" Cover Page



Spanish Is The Loving Tongue

(Background Info)

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Larry Tunstall posted (to the folk music DJs' mailing list):

Katie Lee did a lot of research on cowboy songs, both in the printed record and through oral history. In the late 1970s, she published a book called Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle (Northland Press, Flagstaff AZ) and also put out a double LP of the same title on her own Katydid Records. I don't have the book, but I do have the album. In the notes she says of "Spanish Is the Lovin' Tongue":

Poem ("The Border Affair") by Charles Badger Clark, Sun and Saddle Leather, Chapman & Grimes, 1915. But it was first printed in Pacific Monthly, June, 1907. Billy Simon wrote the melody about the time he "fixed up" one for Gail's "Sierry Petes." Twenty or thirty years later someone added a bridge, which is how it stands today--a more beautiful song, maybe, but certainly not cowboy style.

The lyrics and chords appear on p. 128 of Sing Out's Rise Up Singing with the following notes:

w. Charles Badger Clark Jr. m: unknown aka: A Border Affair originally published by Clark as a poem in his Sun & Saddle Leather in 1915. Early recording by Richard Dyer Bennett & on Judy Collins "Bread & Roses," B Staines "Just Play One More Tune" (Folk Legacy), Liam Clancy "The Dutchman" & "Farewell to Tarwaithe", Pete Seeger "Where Have All the Flowers" & Ian & Sylvia "4 Strong Winds."


Ron Mura posted (to the folk music DJs' mailing list):

I've heard some interesting lyrical variations by different performers. For example, the more common lines:

I haven't seen her since that night
I can't cross that line, you know
They want me for a gambling fight
Like as not it's better so

are sometimes:

I haven't seen her since that night
I can't cross that line, you know
She was Mex and I was white
Like as not it's better so

suggesting that the "line" may be a racial one rather than a border as implied in the first variant.

And the first half of the second verse:

On the nights that I would ride
She would listen for my spurs
Throw that big door open wide
Raise those laughing eyes of hers

Is sometimes replaced with:

Twilight on the patio
Old sen~ora nodding near
Me and Juana talking low
So the madre could not hear


Judy McCulloh posted (to the folk music DJs' mailing list):

Further to this song's history, John I. White writes in Git Along, Little Dogies: Songs and Songmakers of the American West (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975) that he first heard the song in Wickenburg, Arizona, in 1933. Not knowing where the tune came from, he wrote to Badger Clark for permission to use the song on a network radio program. (Presumably this was "Death Valley Days," where John sang as "The Lonesome Cowboy," though as he observed he was neither lonesome nor a cowboy.) He gives the information that Katie Lee later included in her book/album that Larry Tunstall mentioned, that Clark's poem "A Border Affair" had been published in the June, 1907, Pacific Monthly (this text appears on pp. 130-31 in Git Along, Little Dogies).

Bill Simon, a cowboy singer from Prescott, "spotted Clark's poetic love story and concluded it should make a good song. Bill thereupon composed an engaging melody, and before long, dude ranch entertainers and radio performers throughout the Southwest were singing [it].... Said Bill Simon, who until recently never received any credit in print for his contribution to the music of the West: `I can neither read nor write music. I just somehow worked out "Spanish Is the Lovin' Tongue" as I rode the range, trying to fit the words in a melody I was striving for. After I got it to the point where it suited me, I started singing it around the campfires and it seemed to catch on. One night Dorothy Youmans (sister of composer Vincent Youmans) heard me sing it and was quite taken with it. Later she wrote out the music for me and played it on the piano down at Castle Hot Springs while I sang. Well, it sure sounded good.'"

John noted that Bill Simon recorded his own arrangement of the song for an LP issued in 1972 by the Arizona Friends of Folklore at Northern Arizona U, Cowboy Songs, 2 (AFF 33-2). Bill's tune there differed in many respects from the one John wrote down in 1933.

Badger Clark's 1907 text would now be public domain. If Bill Simon had copyrighted his tune in 1925, before it got away from him, and then renewed the copyright, that protection would have lasted to the end of the century. But as far as I know, he never copyrighted it.



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