Not to be confused with Aerosmith's "Back In The Saddle
," this classic Western tune was the signature song of Gene Autry, the silver screen's first singing cowboy. Ray Whitley, a country singer and actor, wrote the song and introduced it with his group The Six Bar Cowboys in the 1938 movie Border G-Man
. Soon after, he recorded it as Ray Whitley's Rangers for Decca Records and caught the attention of Autry, who relished the idea of getting back on a trusty horse and ridin' the range, totin' an old .44.
Whitley and Autry retooled the tune for Autry's next picture, Rovin' Tumbleweeds
(1939), and the single became his second gold record. He recorded it twice more, in 1946 and 1952, and used it as the theme song for his radio program Gene Autry's Melody Ranch
and his television show The Gene Autry Show
. It was also the title theme to his 1941 film Back In The Saddle
Whitley told Autry biographer David Rothel (The Gene Autry Book, 1988) the story behind the song: "It went like this. I got a phone call about, oh, 4 or 5:00 in the morning. I answered and talked with my producer. And I hung up and came back into the bedroom very sleepily. My wife said, 'Well, what was that all about, anyone calling at this hour?' I said, 'Well, I'm back in the saddle again.' She says, 'What do you mean, back in the saddle again?' I said, 'Well, they told me that they had room in the picture for another song, if I could write another one between now and 8:00 this morning,' at which time we had our recording session. And she says, 'Well, you've got a good title.' I said, 'What's that?' She said, ''Back in the Saddle Again.'' And I sat down on the side of the bed, and I wrote the first eight lines of the song, and I said, 'Now when we get to the studio, I'll put a whoopie ty-yai-yo and a whoopie tai-yai-yea, and maybe a yodel and we'll have a song.'"
Autry, who served in the Army Air Corps during WWII, wished he would have saved the title for his first post-war film, which ended up being 1946's Sioux City Sue. Biographer Rothel explained: "There was a fair amount of fanfare when he came out of the service and he was back in the saddle again. And there was a lot of that post-war feeling that, you know, getting back into the swing of things."
In her book Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry, Holly George-Warren included an anecdote from when she interviewed the singer for a New York Times interview in 1997. While perusing his hit catalog, he stops on his famous song. George-Warren notes, "America's original singing cowboy suddenly begins to softly croon: 'I'm back in the saddle again …' He stops mid-verse with a laugh, explaining, 'I've done 'Back in the Saddle Again' so darn long, I could go to sleep and sing it.'"
Autry's 1939 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1997.
Back In The Saddle Again was also the title of Autry's 1976 autobiography.
This was covered by several singers and bands, including Floyd Cramer, Brian Golbey, Charlie Daniels, Slim Whitman, California Zephyr, Riders In The Sky, The Jordanaires, The Nickel Creek Band, and The Highwaymen.
Autry was the original owner of the baseball team The Los Angeles Angels (or Anaheim Angels). When the team won their first World Series championship in 2002, four years after Autry's death, outfielder Tim Salmon held up Autry's cowboy hat while "Back In The Saddle Again" was played.
This was featured on the chart-topping soundtrack to the 1993 romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle
, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It's used in the scene
where Hanks' character, a widower, tries to get back into the dating scene.
This was used on several TV shows, including M*A*S*H, Roswell, 7th Heaven, and The Man in High Castle.