Guitar lesson for
Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys
by Waylon Jennings • Lesson #118
Get the PDF chord sheet (2 pages)
- Support me on Patreon.com to get access to this and 200+ other PDF chord sheets I've made, plus new PDFs I make going forward (1-2 added each week).
- The cost is $3/month (one month minimum, cancel anytime). Here's a free sample if you're on the fence. Thanks for supporting me & this project!
After clicking the button and logging in to Patreon, look for the PDF attached to the bottom of the post.
In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to play an acoustic guitar version of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” as performed by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings (1978). This song only requires 3 chords, but I’ll also show the optional key change used in the second verse. Chords, tabs, strumming patterns, playthrough – it’s all included!
- 0:00 Lesson overview
- 1:28 Chords needed
- 2:29 Strumming patterns
- 6:10 Verse #1 playthrough
- 7:29 Key change in verse #2
Quite simple! Three chords only, played in the same order for the verse and the chorus. If you want to change key in the second verse, you’ll need the E A and B7 as shown below (this isn’t required though, if you’re doing a campfire version).
E –––2––––3––––0–––– –––0––––0––––2––– B –––3––––0––––2–––– –––0––––2––––0––– G –––2––––0––––0–––– –––1––––2––––2––– D –––0––––0––––2–––– –––2––––2––––1––– A ––––––––2––––0–––– –––2––––0––––2––– E ––––––––3––––––––– –––0––––––––––––– D G A7 E A B7
Here’s a few ways to approach it. For starters, think of things in groups of 3. Begin with down strums on the “1” counts only.
D = down strum U = up strum 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + D D
From there, add smaller / weaker down strums on the “2” and “3” counts, keeping the accent (emphasis) on the “1”.
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + D d d D d d
Then, if you desire, you can add upstrums in between the smaller down strums:
1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 3 + D d u d u D d u d u
Said out loud, this would be “DOWN, down up down up… DOWN, down up down up… “.
Strumming with alternating bass notes
This isn’t required, but is a fun way to spice up the song a bit. Which is, alternating bass notes on the chords you strum. Examples below. See video lesson for reference.
E ––––––2–2––2–2––––––2–2––2–2––––––2–2––2–2––––––2–2––2–2––––– B ––––––3–3––3–3––––––3–3––3–3––––––3–3––3–3––––––3–3––3–3––––– G ––––––2–2––2–2––––––2–2––2–2––––––2–2––2–2––––––2–2––2–2––––– D –––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– A –––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––– E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– D E ––––––3–3––3–3––––––3–3––3–3––––––3–3––3–3––––––3–3––3–3––––– B ––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0––––– G ––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0––––– D ––––––0–0––0–0–––0––––––––––––––––0–0––0–0–––0––––––––––––––– A ––––––2–2––2–2––––––––––––––––––––2–2––2–2––––––––––––––––––– E –––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– G E ––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0–––––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0–– B ––––––2–2––2–2––––––2–2––2–2–––––––––2–2––2–2––––––2–2––2–2–– G ––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0–––––––––0–0––0–0––––––0–0––0–0–– D ––––––2–2––2–2–––2–––––––––––––––––––2–2––2–2–––2–––––––––––– A –––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––– E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– A7
Lyrics w/ chords
VERSE #1 D G Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold A7 D They'd rather give you a song than diamonds or gold D G Lone star belt buckles and old faded Levi's and each night begins a new day A7 D If you don't understand him and he don't die young, he'll probably just ride away CHORUS D G Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys A7 Don't let 'em pick guitars or drive them old trucks A7 D Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such D G Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys A7 'Cause they'll never stay home and they're always alone A7 D Even with someone they love VERSE #2 E A Cowboys like smokey old pool rooms and clear mountain mornings B7 E Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night E Them that don't know him won't like him A And them that do sometimes won't know how to take him B7 He ain't wrong he's just different E But his pride won't let him do things to make you think he's right CHORUS E A Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys B7 Don't let 'em pick guitars or drive them old trucks B7 E Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such E A Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys B7 'Cause they'll never stay home and they're always alone B7 E Even with someone they love
Thanks for reading! I hope this helped you. Questions? Comments? Requests? Let me know!
Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!
If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).
Subscribe to my YouTube channel
Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!
Recent video lessons:
📝 Print-friendly PDFs now available for all new lessons I make, including all those listed below. Get a free sample »
- Father and Son by Cat Stevens
Oct 18, 2020 • Lesson #333
- Layla by Eric Clapton (acoustic)
Oct 11, 2020 • Lesson #103
- Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton
Oct 9, 2020 • Lesson #331
- Norwegian Wood by The Beatles
Oct 4, 2020 • Lesson #169
- Sultans of Swing (chorus lick) by Dire Straits
Oct 3, 2020 • Lesson #174
- Surrender (acoustic) by Cheap Trick
Sep 27, 2020 • Lesson #330
- Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
Sep 25, 2020 • Lesson #134
- Welcome to Paradise by Tyler Childers / Green Day
Sep 19, 2020 • Lesson #322
- Betty by Taylor Swift
Sep 17, 2020 • Lesson #321
- Rapid-fire Q&A: Up-strums, tricky rhythms, muting with your thumb, and more
Sep 13, 2020 • Lesson #329
- Old Man by Neil Young
Sep 12, 2020 • Lesson #328
- 2-finger Blues in Drop-D Tuning
Sep 6, 2020 • Lesson #163
- Learning the intro riff to "Old Man" by Neil Young
Sep 5, 2020 • Lesson #326
- Learnin' to Fly by Tom Petty
Aug 29, 2020 • Lesson #108