Song Story: Buffalo Gals

If you’re a fan of It’s a Wonderful Life you’ll remember Mary and George Bailey singing the song “Buffalo Gals” where George lassos the moon.

Buffalo Gals is an American song that was written and published in 1844.  The song was originally titled “Kubly Fan”.

The song was written by John Hodges, who was a blackface minstrel performer.  He used the stage name Cool White.

Folklorists seriously doubt and question Cool White {John Hodges} as the author and feel it had earlier origins elsewhere.

The Library of Congress says, “Folk songs and minstrel show songs were often in oral circulation long before they appeared in published form, so first publication is not necessarily a reliable indication of a song’s age or the composer. It was not uncommon for the person who first transcribed a song to claim authorship, especially in the nineteenth century.”

The popularity of the song spread throughout the United States and was often sung at minstrel shows.

The lyrics were often altered for the local audience to make them “New York Gals”, “Boston Gals”, “Alabama Gals” and so forth.

The Buffalo gals arrives from Buffalo, New York.  By 1848, Buffalo Gals was the preferred version.

The song has been featured in films such as High Noon and Texas.  The song also appeared in episodes of TV shows such as Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Daniel Boone, Leave It To Beaver, The High Chaparral, Friends and Walker, Texas Ranger.

In 1944, Tony Pastor wrote a new set of lyrics for the song titled “Dancing with a Dolly”.  This version was performed by the Andrews Sisters.

Buffalo Gals was voted as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all times by the Western Writers of America.