Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail [Laws B17]

DESCRIPTION: Two cowboys, having spent a wild time in town, are returning to camp when they meet the Devil. The Devil tries to collect their souls; the cowboys have the better of the fight, leaving the Devil tied up, branded, and with its tail in knots
AUTHOR: almost certainly Gail Gardner (1892-1987)
KEYWORDS: Devil cowboy fight humorous
REFERENCES (15 citations):
Laws B17, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail"
Larkin-SingingCowboy, pp. 75-78, "Rusty Jiggs and Sandy Sam" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fife/Fife-CowboyAndWesternSongs 74, "Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FolkSongsOfNorthAmerica 203, "Tyin' a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 406-409, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (1 text)
Ohrlin-HellBoundTrain 27, "The Sierry Petes" (1 text, 1 tune)
Logsdon-WhorehouseBellsWereRinging 19, pp. 127-132, "The Soughrty Peaks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AmericanFolkSongsARegionalEncyclopedia2, pp. 535-536, "The Sierry Petes, or Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail" (1 text)
Tinsley-HeWasSinginThisSong, pp. 158-161, "Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 174-176, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (1 text)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 112, "Tyin' A Knot In The Devil's Tail" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: John I. White, _Git Along, Little Dogies: Songs and Songmakers of the American West_, 1975 (page references are to the 1989 University of Illinois Press edition), pp. 117-125, "Gail Gardner, Cowboy 'Poet Lariat'" (1 text, 1 tune, plus various excerpts and a history of the song)
Powder River Jack and Kitty Lee's _Songs of the Range: Cowboy Wails of Cattle Trails_, Chart Music, 1937, p. 20, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hal Cannon, editor, _Cowboy Poetry: A Gathering_, Giles M. Smith, 1985, pp. 3-5, "The Sierry Petes" (1 text)

Roud #3238
Cisco Houston, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (Disc 5069, 1940s)
Harry Jackson, "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail" (on HJackson1)
Powder River Jack & Kitty Lee, "Tying A Knot In The Devil's Tail" (Victor 23527, 1930; Montgomery Ward M-4462, 1934; on AuthCowboys, BackSaddle, WhenIWas1)

cf. "De Hoffnung" (theme)
East Texas Red (by Woody Guthrie) (on Thieme03)
NOTES [165 words]: Logsdon-WhorehouseBellsWereRinging lists various authors who have been credited with this piece, but states pretty unequivocally that Gail Gardner is the actual author. Gardner did obtain the copyright, and Logsdon's evidence does add up to a very strong case; none of the other claimants appear to have any real supporting documentation. I do find it fascinating that Powder River Jack Lee listed himself as the author in his songbook, with no hint that there is another author; most of his songs are listed as "arranged" by Lee.
According to Cannon, the "Sierry Petes" (Gardner's official title) refers specifically to the Sierra Prieta range in Arizona. Cohen records that "Buster Jig" was a nickname for Gail Gardner himself, while "Sandy Bob" was Bob Heckle.
For details on Gardner, see the John I. White article listed among the ADDITIONAL items. He comments that Gardner eventually resigned himself to others appropriating his song, but resented it when they got the words wrong. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.1
File: LB17

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