What is the Corral about?

Well, simply, it is a place to round-up ideas, thoughts, comments and anything else you may like to hear about. My original intention was to have a forum but the time to manage such a gathering is really beyond me at this stage. But via email I can gather up your input and get it into the Corral.

So, would you like to make comment?

What is your favorite western story, either as a book or a movie?

Want to tell us why?

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to (regardless if it is a Western or not)?

What do you want to see in future Western stories (grit or romance, maybe both, gunplay or justice, grim reality or happy endings)?

Anything you would like to see in one of my stories?



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In my local newspaper, in late August, appeared just a short piece with the headline of ‘Disease ends Ronstadt’s singing’. This public announcement by Linda Ronstadt, of rock and country music fame, told of her having contracted Parkinson’s disease that had now stolen her voice. It seems that the disease results in the loss of muscle control of the vocal cords, and as I read-on my heart sank. I just couldn’t think of a more savage punishment than being given such a great voice, to then have it snatched away. It is the stuff of nightmares and not unknown. Julie Andrews lost the range of her singing voice under the tragic circumstances of a bungled throat operation. I’m not sure how an artist is able to recover from such a blow, and yes, I am both a Ronstadt and Andrews fan, and if you are wondering why then please go and have a listen to the magic and range of their beautiful natural voices – their recordings are great public treasures. Not every song will appeal to all but you can’t deny the technical greatness of these two voices.

Another reason for the shock on hearing that Linda Ronstadt had lost her singing voice is, I guess, that I just took for granted that she would be there, much like Emmylou Harris and Joan Baez, who continue to tour. Life can be a bitch at times and this is certainly one of them.

Like many, I first heard Linda Ronstadt when she sang with The Stone Poneys and released Different Drum (1967) written by Mike Nesmith from The Monkees. A great song that has not lost any of its appeal after more than 45 years. But it was ten years later when Linda released the LP Simple Dreams (1977) with a cover of the Roy Orbison song Blue Bayou that I really got to appreciate just how superb that voice is. Just listen to that last note – and wow what a note it is. I remember sitting in the Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland at Anaheim that same year, after being knocked out by a ride in at the Pirates of the Caribbean, and over a very good sound system came that song. Was it the ambiance that helped, maybe, and how smart to include that song on the playlist, but I knew the original 1963 version by Roy and didn’t believe any one could do it better than the Big ‘O’. How wrong I was.

Blue Bayou was from the Simple Dreams album, which forced me to go back and look at her previous work and that’s when I found a cover version of the Don Henley and Glenn Frey song Desperado on the 1973 Don’t Cry Now album. What a great title – ‘Desperado’, and would fit as a Black Horse Western title wonderfully, but alas it’s already been taken by two times Spur Awards winner for Best Western novel, Clifton Adams with his book The Desperado published in 1950. Anyway, at that time I had not heard The Eagles version as it just sort of passed my by, lost amongst their many other million selling hits. Since then the song has been covered by just about everyone and their dog, but I bet Henley and Frey were well pleased with the treatment by Ronstadt and her crew.

For me, the song Desperado evokes all that is mystical about the Western, yet I know the lyrics are general in nature, but somehow when I hear it I just see the images of cowboy heroes on their horses facing the difficulties of life (and the weather) on the range. Maybe it’s just me, who knows? But I do know that the stripped down version of the song by Ronstadt shows off her magnificently sweet yet powerful voice; her perfect pitch; and that wonderful vocal clarity. What talent and beauty are all rolled up into one. Thank God her recordings are secure for generations to discover in the future. What a diva. Yep, I love Ronstadt, no doubt about that.

On YouTube there are a variety of versions by Linda singing Desperado, including one with Nelson Riddle, that master conductor who wrote orchestral arrangements for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and the fabulous Ella Fitzgerald. He also arranged and conducted the music for the film Paint Your Wagon, which starred the non-singing Western giants of Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood. But Linda Ronstadt’s live 1976 concert Behind Prison Walls, recorded by Johnny Cash, is a gem of an example of the song.

Her manager at that time was Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon fame who I happened to see as a 16 year old in a concert in Perth in 1964, where they did a great version of 500 Miles Away From Home,which had been originally released by The Journeymen in 1961. This was the folk group that included John Phillips and Scott McKenzie who were to go on and become flower power superstars. But I had heard none of that hootenanny as my only knowledge of the song was by Bobby Bare who had given this song a great Western sound. Then, the Peter and Gordon version I heard that night from the third row was a big, live and forceful version that I guess was played-up to pierce the shrieks of the 90 percent girl audience. It was a fantastic rendition. So, when a couple of yeas later I heard Lady Godiva, I was at a loss to understand how they had come to lose their way so quickly? They were certainly 500 miles away from the music I liked. At least we still have Lonnie Donegan’s recording of 500 Miles to listen to and counter the numerous insipid versions that were left to us by the folk generation of mung bean eaters. If only Muddy Waters had done a version, or Tom Waits or better still, a long lost version from deep inside the vault, recorded by Linda Ronstadt in the Desperado style. Now wouldn’t that be something.


Lee Clinton
November 2013



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