♫ Running Bear ♫

This song was written by Jiles Perry (aka J.P.) Richardson, an influential Texas disc jockey known as “The Big Bopper.”  Richardson had a hit of his own in 1958 with Chantilly Lace, and on February 3, 1959, was killed in the same plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

Rock and Roll was still in its infancy in the ’50s, and teenagers were the target audience. Many of the songs of that era are about teenagers, and like this one, often involve tragedy. In this song, Running Bear is a young Indian who falls in love with a girl from the rival tribe across the river. At the end of the song, they swim to meet each other and drown.

Richardson thought the Romeo & Juliet theme of this song was too serious for him to record. He passed it on to his friend, the Cajun musician friend Johnny Preston, who originally was unsure about the song but was eventually persuaded to cut it.

Released in 1959, this recording featured background vocals by Richardson, George Jones, and the session’s producer Bill Hall, who provided the “Indian chanting” of “uga-uga” during the three verses, as well as the “Indian war cries” at the start and end of the record. It was No. 1 for three weeks in January 1960 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The song also reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart

This song makes me sad, but yet I cannot help but love it.  Tonight, I am offering two versions … both by Johnny Preston, but 49 years apart.  I don’t know about you guys, but I love to see the artists decades later performing their music from … well, decades before.  Pick one, pick both … it matters not as long as you enjoy the song.  That, after all, is what music is about … bringing us pleasure.

Running Bear
Johnny Preston

On the banks of the river stood runnin’ bear, young Indian brave
On the other side of the river stood his lovely Indian maid
Little white dove was-a her name, such a lovely sight to see
But their tribes fought with each other so their love could never be

Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love big as the sky
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love that couldn’t die

He couldn’t swim the raging river ’cause the river was too wide
He couldn’t reach little white dove, waiting on the other side
In the moonlight he could see her blowing kisses ‘cross the waves
Her little heart was beating faster, waiting there for her brave

Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love big as the sky
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love that couldn’t die

Runnin’ bear dove in the water, little white dove did the same
And they swam out to each other through the swirling stream they came
As their hands touched and their lips met, the ragin’ river pulled them down
Now they’ll always be together in that happy hunting ground

Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love big as the sky
Runnin’ bear loved little white dove with a love that couldn’t die

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: J. P. Richardson
Running Bear lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Carlin America Inc

34 thoughts on “♫ Running Bear ♫

  1. Wow, Jill, we got our money’s worth with these music videos. If you waited, it showed more than one. I liked the others you meant to show but it also showed two songs from the Everly Brothers which were favorites of mine. Thanks! — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think this is a red letter day, if I’ve told you something about music that you didn’t already know! You and Ellen are like walking encyclopedias when it comes to music. Glad you liked my choice!


      • Many thanks. I remember taking my sister and cousin (who just passed away) to see “La Bamba.” The actor who played the Big Bopper did a nice job. We still cried at the end even though we knew Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper were going to crash. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Running Bear was a favorite song of my brother who was born in 1959. He used to hold the speaker and dance to it although he wasn’t walking yet. BTW the second video is Teen Angel followed by Johnny Preston original (not 49 years later) Then followed by Green Door.

    Liked by 2 people

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