Writing about Country and Western music is not an easy task, especially when the internet has nearly 70 million hits for this genre of music. So I thought it best if I wrote on the subject based on my own personal journey.
Many young Singaporeans in the 50s learnt about cowboys and native indians from US comic books as these were easily available. They were cheap, cost about 30 cents each and an enthusiast with little money, could buy one and amuse himself with it for a day or two. Movies were also affordable as a seat in a cinema was priced 50 cents. The comic book I read was, The Lone Ranger and the movie I saw was Winchester '73.
Winchester '73 (1950) is an American cowboy movie released by Universal Pictures (image). It starred James Stewart, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis. There were many movies like this one that drew long queues, partly because of its line-up of great stars and because entertainment was rife in Singapore. Cinemas became magnets that drew large crowds.
The western cowboy theme, with its galloping horses, buffalos, stetson hats, Colt 45s, rough and tumble fight scenes and 'red indians' pulled people out of their homes. The music connection came when Calamity Jane (1953) hit Singapore with its singing and pistol-packin', prairie girl. The movie and Doris Day were a hit. Everyone clamoured to watch it. And one of the songs in the movie, Secret Love (1953) became a classic!
The Lone Ranger, made in 1956 (image), a cartoon comic strip about a masked Texas ranger, his horse Silver and side-kick Tonto (image), also became a television hit before it was screened in the theatres and the theme music was the 'cavalry charge' finale of Gioachino Rossini's William Tell Overture, now inseparably associated with the series, which also featured many other classical selections as incidental music.
Because of these cowboy movies and comics, Singaporeans soon became addicted to this particular genre. Simultaneously, the guitar strumming, cowboy yodelling (Slim Whitman) and whistling singers (Roger Whittaker), sealed the deal for these 'singing cowboys' who sing 'cowboy songs' or later known as Country & Western music in the 60s.
Original article: Andy Lim