Lorne Greene's 'Ringo,' A Bonanza Star's Hokey Cowboy #1 Hit

By | December 5, 2020

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Lorne Greene (1915-1987), Canadian actor and cowboy pop star, circa 1970. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Lorne Green's "Ringo," a cowboy song and spoken-word tale, is one of the weirdest tunes ever to catch fire and reach the top of the Billboard pop chart -- but in 1964, with Beatlemania in full swing, the Bonanza star's wild-west ballad did just that. Written by country/pop songwriters Don Robertson and Hal Blair, "Ringo" tells a tale of gunfighting and death in the old west -- you can't dance to it like "I Saw Her Standing There," and you'd never catch Greene, a paternal 49-year-old Canadian TV actor, shaking his mop-top on Ed Sullivan. But a good novelty song has a power we may never fully understand.

Johnny Ringo Was A Real Cowboy

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Source: True West Magazine

Johnny Ringo was a real outlaw whose life was that of what is portrayed in American old west films. During the 1800s, he was affiliated with the Cochise County Cowboys, whose adventures occurred throughout the Arizona frontier land. Although the song Ringo is seemingly about the infamous cowboy’s life, their accounts do not line up whatsoever and the tune tells a completely fictional story. Ringo is sung from a Western lawman’s point of view about the notorious gunfighter Ringo who is legendary for his unfailing shot and countless victories. However, one day the lawman discovers Ringo at the cusp of death with a shot in his back and a gun clutched in his hand, so he rescues the outlaw and nurses him back to health. Eventually, Ringo is healed and sets out to create chaos once again, parting ways with the lawman. Later, the two reunite in a draw between each other, but shockingly Ringo spares the lawman’s life. This decision was a sacrifice of his own life as he thus dies in a hail of bullets from other gunmen.