March 9

“Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”: But Why?

“Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” is a song recorded by Ed Bruce in 1975. Ed Bruce co-penned the lyrics whit his wife Patsy Bruce.

For almost twenty years, Ed Bruce was stuck as a middle-class musician. Sure, he had charted six times with three different record labels. However, Ed could not come up with a legitimate hit. With each passing year, he became more frustrated.

Song Content

One day, Ed decided to write and pour all out his emotions into a song.  The song is about his life story and the struggles he underwent as a musician. Bruce started the song by telling how hard it is going to be to love a “guitar player”. Also, he wrote the struggles they are going through, both financially and emotionally. At that time, it struck him making him realize that this really is his story. As he was composing, it scared him as he could not come up with more lines.

——  ain’t easy to love and they’re harder to hold
They’d rather give you a song then diamonds or gold
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levi’s and each night begins a new day
If you don’t understand him and he don’t die young
He’ll probably just ride away

Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be ——-
Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love


Patsy, Ed’s wife was also a composer. After going over what her husband has written, she suggested monumental changes. Instead of having the character as a “guitar player”, she suggested to change it into a “cowboy”. From there, they came up with the title “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”. Everything made sense! At that time, cowboys were the childhood heroes of most country music fans and the most romantic of all the country’s legendary figures. With further collaboration, they finished the song.

At the time of the completion of “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”, Ed was between record deals. For a while, Bruce thought about pitching the song. He and Patsy believed strongly in its sales potential. Rather than giving it to somebody else, Ed first took it to United Artists. He had high hopes that they would like the song so much that they would sign him to a new contract. The ploy worked. In late ’75, the record label launched Ed’s cut of “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”. By simply staying on the Billboard country singles chart for fourteen weeks and topping out at number 15, it gave Bruce a breakthrough.

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson Cover

The song’s success did not end there. Notable names like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson covered the song on their 1978 duet album, Waylon & Willie. This rendition occupied the top spot in March 1978, spending four weeks atop the country music charts. It also reached 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.


cowboys, ed bruce, mammas, Waylon Jennings, willy nelson

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