Saddle Up the Palomino

Album: American Stars 'N Bars (1977)

Songfacts®:

  • "Saddle Up the Palomino" is one of the first country-flavored songs by Neil Young, with a shared song credit with associates Tim Drummond and Bobby Charles. It marks one of the turning points in Neil Young's career; he'd finally gotten all the "Ditch Trilogy" baggage out of his system, split up with Carrie Snodgrass, and now had a son to think about. A more mature Neil Young took to the studio with a new outlook on life.
    Note the lyrics here, with Young's poetic bent applied to the Western broken-heart song. "It's a cold bowl of chili when love lets you down." See, you knew that all along, didn't you?
  • This song is also one of the earliest to feature the Saddlebags, the female backing vocal duo of Linda Ronstadt and Nicolette Larson. Ronstadt has a career story all her own, but Larson had only gotten her big break with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (of "Hot Rod Lincoln" fame), and had since bounced around as a session singer. Larson would later become Neil Young's next girlfriend, so if you notice an element of giggles and fun to this recording, you could just be hearing two people falling in love.
  • Adding to the country sound of "Saddle Up the Palomino" are a pedal steel guitar played by Ben Keith, and a violin played by Carole Mayedo.
  • A palomino is a kind of horse - not a breed, but a color pattern with a golden champagne body and a white tail. You've most likely seen them in parades. This horse variety also gives its name to several country & western tropes, including the Palomino Club in North Hollywood. The Palomino Club was an early stage for such acts as The Flying Burrito Brothers and Dwight Yoakam, as well as being one of the birth places of the cowpunk genre.

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