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The Ballad of James Lee

Updated on February 18, 2018

Years ago, an idea for a song came to mind. I have always been fond of Westerns. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Audie Murphy and many other movie cowboys captured my imagination as a boy.

I wanted to keep the song simple so I only used one chord. I made riffs with the bass and six string guitars to keep the melody moving.

I wanted the lyric to be a haunting story of injustice and revenge. I wanted to condense a movie into a song.

The Ballad of James Lee

Hot desert wind, blowing sand

He envisions water cupped in his hands

Drinking a dream that never came

He died because of another man's ill fate

John Colter rode across his grave

His horse got spooked in a ghostly way

John became James Lee, the man that died

Cocked his guns and made his ride


The Devil's doom went into town

James inside the man that shot them down

Johnny shot them down, down

Johnny shot them down


It all began a bad mistake

James Lee looked like the killer Jake

But Jake was hung in Sunnyville

A month before James Lee was killed

Sheriff Silver tied up Jame's feet

And the whole town kicked him in the street

Deputies took him 40 miles away

Into the desert where he died the next day

Repeat Chorus:


John Colter left blood in his path

Dripping from the ghost of James Lee's wrath

The ghost of James Lee's wrath

Repeat Chorus.....end.

Writing the song.

As I noted above, I used bass riffs and guitar riffs to keep the melody moving. I simply created a little fancier riff in the bass line when playing the chorus. My method is to play along with the basic song recording until I find that perfect strum, pluck or dancing fingers on the keyboard.

You can sing any song by simply playing one major chord. I found it to be a great vocal practice for control. Even a song with numerous chords can be played with one chord. Try strumming E or Am on your guitar and sing, "House of the Rising Sun." You'll be amazed at how good it can sound and how your vocal control ability improves.

I've written songs with famous and not so famous writers like myself. We all have one thing in common and that is we love our craft. Sometimes we over do it and sometimes we slack off too much but real writers are never afraid to fix it.

To this day, the song remains one of my favorites. My wife Tammy and son, Larkin have always loved the song. It seems to connect more with some people.

If I could have chosen a singer for the song, it would have been Johnny Cash.

I never wrote another song that was similar. I started a few but they wound up as three pointers in my trash can. Unless I write a better one, this remains my best...Country and Western song about the old West.

© 2010 Tom Cornett


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    • manatita44 profile image


      20 months ago from london

      A great poem and Ballad and a great song. I loved your voice. Perhaps you can take one of my poems and put music to it. I can think of the Little White Lily. A Sonnet.

      Thanks for your support. I see that you are very versatile. way to go!

    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Hi's been more than 20 years. How have you been? I don't perform anymore but I still write from time to time. I write mostly stories and novelettes.

      "An old summer fling," clued me in...."Tooter".... I said to myself.

      Those were wild and wondering days for me. I saw Angie a few years back at Velvet's party.

      It's good to hear from you. Drop in some lines now and then to let me know how you are doing.

      I'm easy to find on the net. I write under the name, "Larkin Williamson" a lot.

      Keep on smiling! :)

    • profile image

      Ruth Kitts 

      9 years ago

      So are you still singing music too?

      an old summer fling.

      Ruth Kitts

    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Pachuca...thanks so much! :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This was awesome...

    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      samboiam....Thanks much! :)

    • samboiam profile image


      9 years ago from Texas

      Enjoyable hub and great song.

    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you Tara. :)

    • Tara Tufford profile image

      Tara Tufford 

      9 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Great Song!

    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      singlemom...thanks...I've had a few on on small radio stations here and there. I do keep trying tho. :)

      loveofnight....thank you. :)

      carolina muscle....thanks. :)

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 

      9 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      cool song!!!

    • loveofnight profile image


      9 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      i like the flow of this.....2 thumbs-up

    • singlmomat52 profile image


      9 years ago

      Have you ever had one of your songs on the radio? You do write very nice lyrics. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you Pop! :)

    • breakfastpop profile image


      9 years ago

      Love the song and the hub.

    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Tammy...that would be funny honey! :)

    • TamCor profile image

      Tammy Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Like I said before...I just KNOW I'm going to get a ticket and fined by the police for playing this song too loud in the car, hahaha!

      Love it! :)

    • Tom Cornett profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Cornett 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Tom....I hope to make a video someday of the song.

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 

      9 years ago from Moundsville, WV


      I loved the song. I also think Johnny Cash would have performed it very well. It reminds me of western movies.


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