Ranks as one of the top Western songs of all time
Through word of mouth, the term “Buffalo Girls” has become an American expression with varied meanings. And this phenomena could be very well attributed to the song “Buffalo Gals” itself. If you took the lyrics per se, the lines refer to the hundreds of dancing girls who populated Buffalo, New York’s many saloons, bars, brothels in the 18th century. The place was beside a canal trading place and portal to the west, with crewmen getting their wages at Buffalo and spending these at the mentioned locations of the dancing girls. In this information time bomb lies that distinct feeling of the first glance at a sexy adult magazine cover or a quick peek at the doorstep of an adult store which one gleams from the song’s lyrics; Cos the lyrics describe a guy calling on the Buffalo gals to come out and dance.
But the song has slipped back and forth with altered versions, retaining the publication date as 1844 by the minstrel performer John Hodges a.k.a “Cool White”. Since then constantly moving minstrel singers often changed the song title to include the town where they performed it so that the locals could immediately embrace the performance. And even though the same dance tune gets published there is no attribution to the composer or lyricist, further solidifying the fact that the oral circulation of the song came long before the publication of it occurred. The main thing that stuck is the phrase Buffalo gals.
Not only place, but time has a way of transforming a song too. The bison is an American symbol for the west allowing the song to include women pioneers or cowgirls, as in the 1939 version rewritten by George Vinton Graham, about the pioneer women of Alaska. The song is a staple in TV Westerns. And in the 1946 Christmas film “It’s A Wonderful Life”, a couple sings “Buffalo Gals” in the scene where the man lassos the moon.