Jesse James


After listening to troubadour by George Strait and hearing Jesse James’s name I was curious too how many country songs talk about him in their lyrics and why. Some of the people that sang about Jesse James included Johnny Cash a well known country artists and also Woody Guthrie. A lot of older traditional country songs talk about him and I was kind of curious as to why. After listening to a few songs I start to see a pattern to Jesse’s story, which he was known for being the fastest gunslinger in the west, bank/coach robber, outlaw, and a murderer.

After hearing those songs I wanted to see whether the stories had any truth too them. I found some information about his story and parts of the stories are truth but some of them were just rumors and myths. So I did some more digging and found out that he was from Missouri where he lived on a slave farm with his mother Zerelda James, his father Robert James, and his brother Frank James. I read on about his outlandish lifestyle as an outlaw. It all started when he joined the confederate guerrillas lead by Bill Anderson known for terrorizing his enemies with scalping and other inhumane tortures.

Shortly after Jesse joined the guerrillas the civil war had been won by the union, so eventually they had to surrender too but of course as we know the story for Jesses James continues. He goes on to rob banks, coaches and trains. Eventually he becomes the greatest known outlaw, muderer, and robber. As I had said previously a lot of older country songs talk about Jesse James and I believe for one is because he was such legendary southern outlaw so it would have been stories that most of those country singers would have heard about as a child, which we all know, or at least I do, and who wouldn’t have wanted to be an outlaw like Jesse James? I believe it inspired their wild side and the song was a way for them to escape reality and show that they were just like him and they could be free and wild-spirited.

So in conclusion I think that Jesse James plays a big role in older country for the simple reason his stories were told by so many songs and still to this day he is talked about in songs, movies, even an music artist’s stage name is Jessie James so that their fans can resonate them with Jesse’s wild side. Time and time again you will hear Jesse James story being told through country songs because he is what you would have called the real southerner.

And if you want to learn a little more about Jesse James here is a short interesting documentary about his life where I got most of facts about Jesse James.


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2 Responses to Jesse James

  1. Thanks, Joshua, for doing the research to help us understand why George Strait refers to Jesse James in “Troubadour.” One thing that stands out to me is his role in the Confederate army. Although country singers come from everywhere, the music itself takes pride in being “southern,” and in this sense I can see why people would idolize Jesse James so much. He stood up for so-called “southern rights” and even after the war ended continued to raise Cain against the country (the Union) that he thought of as a kind of colonizing force.

  2. Randle Cecil

    This post was very interesting to me because I had also been wondering about Jesse James and why his name appears in so many country songs. I had no idea that he was an outlaw and a murderer, I just assumed that he was an admired country music artist when Old Time Country or Honky Tonk was popular. George Strait even compares himself to Jesse James, but I don’t see any similarities between the two. It is also very interesting that some consider him a legend and admire him even though he committed crimes, even hate crimes toward other americans. I would have to disagree with you on Jesse James being “a real southerner”. He may have been a popular southern character of that time, but I do not think he should be idolized in current country music. However, his life story is very interesting and action-filled which is probably why so many country artists think it is fun to mention him in their songs.

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