Cowboy Bill

Album: Garth Brooks (1989)
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Songfacts®:

  • In this country yarn, written by Larry Bastian and Ed Berghoff, Garth Brooks recalls how old Cowboy Bill enthralled kids with tall tales about his colorful past as a Texas Ranger. Bastian revealed the song's inspiration in Brooks' 2017 book, The Anthology Part 1: The First Five Years. He said: "It was about a great-uncle of mine who worked with the Texas Rangers and was in some really bad old scrapes down there. I remember him talking to us when I was a kid. I remember people saying, 'Man he's just, that old guy is just telling you lies.'"
  • Brooks was so taken with the song when Bastian played it for him that he cried.
  • This appears on Brooks' self-titled debut album. It was considered for a single release but ended up as the B-side to "Not Counting You." Brooks' producer, Allen Reynolds, wanted Bastian to edit the song down for radio play, but he just couldn't find a way to do it. "You'd take the guts out of it," he explained. He told Reynolds he could take a crack at it himself, but the producer came to the same conclusion. Said Bastian: "Sometimes the song tells the songwriters how it will be."
  • Brooks shared his take on the tune: "It was just a tale, a story on six strings, but these guys in the studio took that and you can almost hear the prairie winds, how the saddle would creak beneath his old faded jeans. That fiddle doing that creaking sound, that wind howling. These guys killed it. Chris has to do solos, so I said, 'What inspires you?' He goes, 'You listen to the lyric, it's what you do.' So they took 'Cowboy Bill' and they painted those West Texas scenes in the lyric. Stuck you right in the middle of nowhere between San Antone and El Paso."
  • Bastian later co-wrote one of Brooks' most popular hits, "Unanswered Prayers." Berghoff co-wrote the 1994 Michael English/Wynonna Judd duet, "Healing."
  • Brooks landed a record deal with Capitol Records after the label's A&R rep saw him performing at the Bluebird Cafe, a famous singer-songwriters' hotspot in Nashville. It's also where Taylor Swift was discovered in 2005.

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