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"Cool Water" is a song written in 1936 by Bob Nolan. It is about a man and his mule, Dan, and a mirage in the desert. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as number 3 on the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[1]

"Cool Water"
Songwriter(s)Bob Nolan


Original versionEdit

It was first recorded by The Sons of the Pioneers on March 27, 1941 for Decca Records (catalog 5939)[2] and this briefly charted in 1941 with a peak position of No.25.[3] However, the best-selling recorded version was done by Vaughn Monroe and The Sons of the Pioneers in 1948. The recording was released by RCA Victor as catalog number 20-2923. The record was on the Billboard chart for 13 weeks beginning on August 6, 1948, peaking at number 9. The Sons of the Pioneers also recorded the song without Monroe, again for RCA Victor. [4]

Film appearancesEdit

  • 1945 Along the Navajo Trail - sung by Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers.
  • 1945 Saddle Serenade - performed by Jimmy Wakely and the Riders of the Purple Sage
  • 1946 Melody Maker - sung by Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers.
  • 1949 Brand of Fear - sung by Jimmy Wakely
  • 2011 Rango - performed by Hank Williams. Set in an Old West town populated by animals that are suffering from drought. Every Wednesday, the townspeople perform a ritual they believe will return water to their town, during which the song plays over a PA system.
  • 2018 The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - sung by Tim Blake Nelson

Other artistsEdit

Hank Williams recorded the song in 1948 or 1949 for the Johnny Fair Syrup Company radio show on KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana. The recording is available on The Complete Hank Williams boxed set, released on Mercury Records in 1998.

The Dutch group De Chico with Tom's Prairie Pioneers recorded the song in 1951 as "Koel Water".

Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters recorded the song on September 5, 1952 with Matty Matlock and His Orchestra.[5]

Frankie Laine and The Mellomen took it to number 2 on the British charts in 1955.

Marty Robbins recorded the song on his 1959 album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.

Burl Ives recorded this song on his 1961 album Songs of the West.

Odetta recorded the song in 1963 on her One Grain of Sand album.

The Rooftop Singers recorded the song in 1963 on their Grammy nominated Walk Right In album.

Other covers of the song were done by Riders in the Sky, Jack Scott, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Slim Whitman, Lorne Greene, Johnnie Ray and Mason Williams, among others.

The Muppets (Lubbock Lou and His Jughuggers) also covered the song on the set for "Singin' in the Rain" in Episode 501 after Gene Kelly refuses to go on.

Joni Mitchell recorded "Cool Water" (with revised lyrics), released on Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm, March 23, 1988.

Leo Kottke performed a version on his 1978 album Burnt Lips.

Johnny Cash covered this on his 2010 second posthumous record American VI: Ain't No Grave [6]

Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch of The Shadows performed a version live on BBC in 1967 for the TV show After Ten Follows Ten.

Fleetwood Mac recorded Cool Water in 1982 on the Warner Bros label, during the sessions for their album Mirage. It was on the flip side of their 45 RPM record of Stevie Nicks' recording of Gypsy but never appeared on any Fleetwood Mac album until 2016, when it was included on the Deluxe re-issue of Mirage.[d] Warner Bros. Records included the song as part of the Revenge Of The Killer B's Vol. 2 compilation cassette in 1985.

The Replacements recorded a version of Cool Water, originally releasing it in 1987 on the b-side of Can't Hardly Wait. It was included in the expanded edition of Pleased to Meet Me (2008).

Bob Dylan and The Band recorded a version of Cool Water in 1967 and released it in 2014 on The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete.

Actor Ben Mendelsohn's character in the 2014 movie Lost River sings Cool Water with production from Johnny Jewel.

Kate Smith recorded Cool Water in 1958 for her Sings Folk Songs album on the Tops label.

Frank Ifield recorded a version on his 1970 MFP album “You Came Along”.


Frankie Laine version
Chart (1955) Peak
United Kingdom (NME) 2[7]
United Kingdom (Record Mirror) 1[8]


  1. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
  2. ^ "The Online Discographical Project". Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 400. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Record Research.
  5. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  6. ^ Cool Water Songfacts
  7. ^ "Artist Chart History Details: Frankie Laine". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  8. ^ McAleer, Dave. "Every No.1 in the 1960s is listed from all the nine different magazine charts!". Dave McAleer's website. Archived from the original on 10 May 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2010.


External linksEdit