Monday, July 23, 2018

So Long Hopalong Cassidy -- A Poem By Don McLean

Dear Friends,

As can be expected of a child of the 1950s and '60s, I grew up on Westerns. 

Like many many others, I marveled at the lighting speed of The Rifleman, I admired the go it alone knight for hire Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel, I laughed at the cowardly antics of Brett and Bart Maverick, and I loved Zorro's skill with a sword and his black horse Tornado. 

But as most of you know, I'm a fan of William Boyd who played Hopalong Cassidy. Yes, my favorite was Hopalong Cassidy. And because William Boyd made over 66 Hopalong Cassidy films between 1938 and 1945, I grew up on re-runs. And frankly, I'm actually very thankful for that.

While I will do a more extensive post on William Boyd, I wanted to share this with you. It's a poem. In 1971, poet song writer Don McLean came out with a song titled American Pie. What people may not know is that McLean was a fan of Hopalong Cassidy. He wrote the poem below to William Boyd's famous Hopalong Cassidy. The poem first appeared on the inside record sleeve of the American Pie album.

Here's Don McLean’s poem to Hopalong Cassidy which was included on the inside cover of the American Pie album in 1971.

So Long Hopalong Cassidy

No matter how scary life got I could depend on you
You had that easy smile and white, wavy hair
You were my favorite father figure with two guns blazing
Not even Victor Jory could stand up to those 44-40s you packed
And that stallion you rode, I think his name was Topper
He was so beautiful and white he even came when you whistled
I’ve always liked black and I loved your clothes
Black hat, black pants, and shirt
Silver spurs and two guns in black holsters with pearly-white handles
Black and white, that was you Hoppy
The bad men fell the good guys lived on
The ladies touched your hand but never kissed
Whenever John Carradine asked a question you’d say
“That comes under the heading of my business”
Then you’d call for another sarsparilla
I believed in you so much that I’d take my Stetson
off and put it over my heart whenever anybody died
My hat’s off to you, Hoppy
Say good-bye to all the boys at the Bar-20
The black and white days are over
So long Hopalong Cassidy

Poem: Copyright Don McLean 1971

Why write it?

Hopalong is a symbol of a simpler time, a time less complicated, a time of clear black and white values. Hoppy was a defender of the weak, and didn't put up with outlaws. He was honest, tough, virtuous, smart, and resourceful. He was the sort of person that Americans strive to be in that he knew himself and wasn't about to sacrifice who he was for love or money. I believe most Americans are like that, or want to be like that. 

William Boyd is said to have seen the poem, and is said to have been flattered by it. Today, the words to the poem are on a plaque at the hospital where Mr. Boyd passed away. 

I thought you might find that interesting.

Tom Correa


  1. Yes, I found it very interesting. I too grew up watching Hoppy on Saturdays and he was my favorite also. Thank you,

    1. Mine too. Sunday mornings now feature reruns of the shows. I tune in for 5-10 minutes just to be reminded!

  2. Elizabeth L. Johnson said, I recall his photo, but was not acquainted with Mr. Boyd, his character, or program. I like your article very much, and was glad you reminded me of Don McLean, one of the few secular artists I saw in concert; especially when I was in my last year of high school, 1974. It was a uncanny performance. He was singing American Pie, forgot the lyrics half was through, apologized, and sang something else! Still, I sure like his poem about Hopalong. Thanks for a great article.

  3. Here I am Saturday morning 8-8-2020 watching Hoppy, Lucky and California on a 1948 "Silent Conflict". I must say I watched his westerns growing up and now at the latter point of my life every Saturday from 7 to 9 AM. And he's my favorite also! A tremendous role model!!

  4. As I reflect on my life, as a boy, it was the cowboy westerns, more specifically, Hopalong Cassidy, that shaped my value system. RIP Hoppy.

  5. I am 73, watched him as a kid. have rediscovered him. Great reminder of simpler days for my mental health. The entire catalog is available free on the Roku channel.

  6. My favorite when I was a young boy as well

  7. I am a big Western movie and Tv fan. I also read Western books and magazines and I have an extensive Western movie collection. My favorite B-Western characters from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, are Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Eddie Dean, Rex Allen, "Wild" Bill Elliott, (Not the NASCAR one), Sunset Carson, Bob Steele, John Wayne, (There's a reason why I counted so don't judge me), Tim McCoy, Tim Holt, The Cisco Kid, Zorro, and Hopalong Cassidy. I'm sure that when Don McLean wrote this poem he was a big fan of Westerns too. Heck, he probably is. When I was a kid, my friends and I played Cowboys & Indians and we would play games like "Hopalong Cassidy Saves The Bar 20 Ranch", "Zorro Saves California", "Jesse James Goes To Mexico", and so on and so forth. I always wanted to be a cowboy. So I am quite pleased when I hear about an article that mentions a Saturday matinee idol. Every night I dream of being a Western movie star and having my own Western serials. I can just imagine it. "Benny Bence as Arizona Colt in Rustler's Chance! With his trusty horse Domino and his sidekick Grubby." I would have two pearl-handled .44-40 Colt pistols like Hoppy and a white horse named Domino. And my sidekick Grubby would have a big appetite. And I would always get the girl. Duh. I wish we had more heroes like Hoppy. Yeah, sure, Walker, Texas Ranger is fine, but the world just ain't the same without Hoppy, Gene, and Roy. They all went that-a-way. And they won't beck again. And I already miss them. So here's to you, Hoppy and Topper. May Cowboy Heaven be a happy home for you forever. And tell Gene, Roy, and Cisco I said hello. See ya soon.

  8. I am 76. Been a Hoppy fan since I was 8. Have all his movies and tv episodes. Large collection of Hoppy memoribilia. Was a father figure for me.

  9. I'm almost 30 and I happen to like really old Westerns and Hopalong Cassidy is no exception. Glad to see more fans of the legendary Western icon coming forward. We need more of that nowadays.


Thank you for your comment.