Guy Clark’s “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” from his 1976 album Texas Cookin’ is definitely one of the songwriter’s many genius songs. That is, it perfectly captured the poetic feeling of the cruelty of time, the power of decisions and their consequences, and the deadly impact of mistakes in life. And blended it harmoniously with the wit of a Colt 45 and the smell of the black powder smoke. It was fitting what a ballad of a gunfighter lost in the modern way of life would be that only a troubadour like him could write and sing.
And what made the song even more mesmerizing was the fact that the leading outlaw Waylon Jennings joined him for harmony vocals. Their vocals definitely gave listeners a different kind of high that envelopes them inside the story – as if you are the one who ‘empties the gun at the son of a bitch’.
Unfortunately, the song didn’t catch on until Johnny Cash recorded it for his 1977 album The Last Gunfighter Ballad. He released it in early 1977 as a single with “City Jail” as the B-side track. And then it went on to reach number 38 on the U.S. Billboard Country chart. Up until now, Johnny Cash’s version is the more preferred one.
But hear us out: If you’re one of those people and if you have the time, then maybe take a listen to Guy Clark’s “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” and who knows? Maybe… just maybe, you’d change your mind. You can go ahead and watch it in the video below.