Home on the Range

Album: Songs of the Old West (1873)
  • songfacts ®
  • This classic ode to frontier life was written by Kansas homesteader Brewster M. Higley VI as the poem "My Western Home" and first appeared in the Smith County Pioneer in 1873. Higley's friend Daniel Kelley, a Civil War veteran who lived in the Sunflower State for a time, wrote the music.

    Both Higley and Kelley moved on to greener pastures after writing it. Higley eventually landed in Oklahoma, while Kelley made Iowa his home.
  • The original version of this song did not contain the phrase "on the range."
  • Kansas made this its official state anthem on June 30, 1947.
  • When Higley was penning his poem, it was a promising time for pioneers who could understand the sentiment "give me a home where the buffalo roam." The 1862 Homestead Act allowed farmers and ranchers to earn the title to 160 acres of land as long as they worked it for five years. The legislation came on the heels of decades-long turmoil in Kansas - white settlers forced Native Americans off of the plains to take control of the land, and then battled each other over the right to own slaves in the territory (before the Civil War).
  • John Lomax, a professor and collector of folk songs, captured the earliest known recording of the tune when he heard a cattle driver-turned-saloonkeeper singing it in 1908.

    In 1910, Lomax did his own rendition, which includes a reference to the Native Americans' plight:

    The red man was pressed from this part of the West
    He's likely no more to return,
    To the banks of Red River where seldom if ever
    Their flickering camp-fires burn

    "Red man" or "Red skin" were commonly used terms to describe Native Americans by white settlers.
  • Texan David Guion is credited for first publishing the sheet music in 1925 under the new title "Home on the Range."
  • Though this has been covered numerous times throughout the years, from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Porky Pig, the song has never hit the charts.
  • Neil Young sang this for the opening credits of the 1980 film Where the Buffalo Roam, starring Bill Murray and Peter Boyle.
  • Willie Nelson sang this over the closing credits of the 2009 war drama The Messenger, starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson.
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