John White

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b. John Irwin White, 12 April 1902, Washington DC, USA, d. 26 November 1992, Maplewood, New Jersey, USA. After spending a holiday on an Arizona ranch, White developed a love of things Western. He abandoned…
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b. John Irwin White, 12 April 1902, Washington DC, USA, d. 26 November 1992, Maplewood, New Jersey, USA. After spending a holiday on an Arizona ranch, White developed a love of things Western. He abandoned his clarinet, learned the guitar and took to singing cowboy songs. He relocated to New York and in 1926, he was offered an unpaid spot on WEAF, but soon moved to a paid one on WOR. He supported himself by working for General Drafting Company, a map-making concern, with whom he stayed for almost 40 years. His singing was what he termed ‘a moonlighting operation’. He sang with a quartet as the Lone Star Rangers but soon went solo to become the Lonesome Cowboy. In 1929, he published a songbook, The Lonesome Cowboy: Songs Of Plains And Hills. In 1930, he became a singer and narrator for the network radio showDeath Valley Days, which was sponsored by Pacific Coast Borax Company. The show ran until 1941, but because of his daytime work, White left in 1936 (it was later revived as a television show in 1951). A further songbook, Cowboy Songs As Sung By John White, ‘The Lonesome Cowboy’ In Death Valley Days, appeared in 1934. (The west coast’s time difference also meant that the show was broadcast in San Francisco, using the same script but different actors, and with Charles Marshall billed as the Lonesome Cowboy.) White became very popular and although some critics commented that ‘he was neither lonesome nor is he a cowboy’, or ‘instead of spurs he wears spats’, their reviews were mostly very favourable. He finally retired from the map company in September 1965, to become a freelance writer of magazine articles on songs of the west, and he also returned to singing. White had made his first recordings for ARC in 1931 but in 1973, he recorded 17 songs that were released on cassette. White died in 1992 but his vast collection of material, gathered during his many years of research, is available for examination at the Utah State University in Logan. While his actual recordings may be hard to find, White left an informative and interesting collection of articles about the song makers in his bookGit Along, Little Dogies: Songs And Songmakers Of The American West, which was published in 1975.