Original Cowboy Singer: Carl T. "Doc" Sprague's: song lyrics When the works all done this fall
When the work's all done
WHEN THE WORK'S ALL DONE THIS FALL
“When the works all done this fall;”
the song that launched
Carl T. Sprague as the Original
I’ve often wondered why country singers,
whose roots are in the folk music
of the southern states, wear cowboy hats
and other clothing designating
the West. The answer is Carl T. Sprague.
He was the first performer to
wear such clothing as part of his act.
He was the first “Cowboy Singer” but he set
the style for county-western music appearance.
In August of 1925 he recorded the above song and set the image of the singing cowboy. He learned his cowboy songs from an uncle who was a cowboy in the 1880’s. Drovers who drove the cattle herds out of Texas to the rail-heads in Kansas first sang many of the songs.
Cowboys herding cattle
America became fascinated with the cowboy after the Civil War and by the 1880’s they were becoming part of show business. Buffalo Bill Cody had his “Wild West Show” In 1883 Buffalo Bill’s Cowboy Band, Billy McGinty’s troupe and Otto Gray and his Oklahoma band paved the way for western Bands and the addition of Jazz led to Western Swing by the 1930’s.
Cowboy poet D.J. O’Malley worked as a wrangler in Montana. O’Malley’s 1893 ballad “After the Roundup” became “When the Works All Done This Fall.” John Lomax in “ Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads collected it
In 1925 the song became a smash hit for Carl after his version in 1925 sold over 900,000 copies. Five thousand would have been successful. Although the song was known and recorded before, it was Sprague’s song that opened things up for Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Tex Ritter, among others.
Carl T. “Doc” Sprague (1895-1979) was born near Manvel Texas. He worked the family cattle business and learned many old songs from his uncles while seated around the campfires. He said he learned his songs from real cowboys.
He went to Texas A & M to study agriculture but went into the aviation division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He was stationed in France during World War I. In 1920 he went back to A&M, and then was hired as an athletic trainer. He picked up the nickname “Doc,” after that.
He formed a band called “Campus Cats” with violins, guitars, banjos, trumpet, sax and trombone. Impressed by Vernon Dalhart’s hillbilly recording of the “Prisoner’s Song” he wrote to Victor and asked to record his cowboy songs. In 1925, he recorded ten cowboy songs. The song, “When the works all done,” which was about a cowboy killed during a night stampede, became the first cowboy song hit.
The image of the singing cowboy was thereafter set in Country Music. He was the first artist to market himself in the image of the singing cowboy with chaps, hat and guitar. He was given the title of “The Original Singing Cowboy.”
He planned to make music a hobby, not a career. Popularity also came in the 1960’s and 1970’s during the folk revival. He helped establish a segment of country music and its image. Although crooners like Gene Autry have contributed to the cowboy song Sprague’s authentic sound gives listeners a taste of what it was like on the cattle drive. Many singers, such as Michael Martin Murphy, Marty Robbins and Ed McCurdy have recorded Sprague’s first cowboy hit.