Tune du Jour: “Don’t Fence Me In” – Cole Porter
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: James Brown vs. David Byrne vs. The Killers
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“Don’t Fence Me In” was based on text by Robert Fletcher, a poet and engineer with the Department of Highways in Montana. Cole Porter, who had been tasked with writing a cowboy song for a musical, purchased the song rights of the poem from Fletcher for $250. While Porter used some of Fletcher’s actual lines he edited, added and rearranged most of the poem and then composed the music for it.

California is a garden of Eden, A paradise to live in or see. But believe it or not, You won't find it so hot, If you ain't got the broccoli

California is a garden of Eden,
A paradise to live in or see.
But believe it or not,
You won’t find it so hot,
If you ain’t got the broccoli

Porter’s arrangement of “Don’t Fence Me In” was produced in 1934. The song was first recorded in January 1935 by Edward Neil and The Foursome Quartet for the musical Adios, Argentina. However, the film was shelved before ever making it to production. I could not find a recording of “Don’t Fence Me In” by Neil & Company.

Fast-forward to 1944 and crooning Cowboy films are all the rage. “Don’t Fence Me In” was dusted off and handed to Roy Rogers for the upcoming movie Hollywood Canteen. But just prior to the release of Hollywood Canteen, Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters (with Vic Schoen and His Orchestra) rushed their recording of “Don’t Fence Me In” out, which went on to sell more than a million copies and topped the Billboard charts for eight weeks in 1944–45. While Roger’s rendition subsequently languished, Gene Autry’s 1945 version of “Don’t Fence Me In” reached number 4 on the Country & Western charts.


Most Popular Versions


Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters with Vic Schoen and His Orchestra:

Gene Autry:


THE CLASH of Cover Tunes


James Brown vs. David Byrne vs. The Killers
James Brown:

David Byrne:

The Killers:


Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. It is your solemn responsibility to decide which cover song prevails. In other words … Which Side Are You On?!!? 


Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.

  1. Cuspid says:

    James Brown’s version sounds nothing like the original or the over 2 covers, which is why it is far-and-away the superior version.

  2. Kerry Black says:

    Gotta go with James Brown on this one.

    Come to think of it, I’m not aware of any James Brown songs Gene Autry covered.

  3. Arnold Plotnick says:

    I have a bootleg tape of Gene Autry doing “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”. Very rare. I gave this one to the Killers, as I thought it was sufficiently rockin’.

  4. RDubbs says:

    No real consensus here. Starting out leaning towards JB and enjoyed The Killers’ take but in the end DB’s Singing Heads won me over.

  5. bornunderabadsign says:

    Had to go with Bryne, but he is only speaking by (in my mind) Mr. James Brown of Augusta, Georgia…finally, something was just wrong with the Killers version

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