Click to hear Al Dexter's version

Click to hear Bing Crosby's version

Jan. 28: Lay that pistol down, babe — lay that pistol down. Pistol packin’ mama, lay that pistol down!

When he wrote those words in 1942, Texas-born Al Dexter got what every tunesmith dreams of: a lyric that would stand the test of time. Long after most have forgotten the story’s blow-by-blow, that tagline endures. He had a huge hit with it in 1943, and when Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters’ version had similar success the following year, Dexter’s original returned to the heights. In fact, the first two records ever to top Billboard‘s country jukebox chart were Crosby’s version of “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” followed by Dexter’s, itself followed by Crosby’s again. Let’s listen to ’em both.

Dexter died on this date in 1984. Learn more about the career of the original honky-tonker — AND an influence on the later Nashville Sound — at his profile.