David Wendell Guion was born in Ballinger, Texas, on 15 December 1892 to John I. and
Armour Fentress Guion. His earliest musical influences included the cowboy culture
of his rancher father and the songs of his family's African-American household
servants. Piano studies took Guion to Vienna, Austria, in 1912 to study with Leopold
Godowski at the Royal Conservatory of Music, but he was forced to return to Texas
1914 by the onset of World War I.
Guion supported himself by teaching and composing and moved to New York in 1929.
There an association with publishers G. Schirmer, Inc. brought new popularity
his arrangements of cowboy songs and spirituals. His biggest hit, "Home on the Range," emerged from his New York
production Prairie Echoes. Guion hosted a weekly
radio program entitled "Hearing America with David
Guion" and later, "David Guion and his
Orchestra" with an NBC studio orchestra. His larger work, Ballet Primitive, "Shingandi," was originally intended
to be film music for Cecil B. DeMille's Madam Satan.
When "talkies" changed the film landscape, however, Guion instead premiered Shingandi in 1931 in a different orchestration with a
prominent jazz group, the Paul Whiteman Band. The work eventually toured as a
production with Dallas's Kosloff Ballet Company. In 1950 Guion was commissioned
write the suite Texas for the Houston Symphony
Orchestra, and he completed the piece in 1952.
In addition to "Home on the Range," Guion is best
known for his arrangements of "Turkey in the Straw,"
"The Yellow Rose of Texas," and "The Arkansas Traveler," and for his piano pieces
"The Harmonica Player" and "The Scissors Grinder." He captured Texas cowboy
culture in tunes such as "Ride, Cowboy, Ride,"
"The Bold Vaquero," and "Lonesome Song of the Plains." His piano arrangements
caught the interest of pianist and composer Percy Grainger, who included Guion's
work in his own concerts to great acclaim. Guion's affinity for African-American
spirituals appears in both his own songwriting and in collaboration with lyricist
Marie Wardall in the opera Suzanne. He also worked
with lyricist Jessie B. Rittenhouse, a poet and anthologist in New York.
Guion lived on a Pennsylvania estate he called "Home on the Range" from 1937 until
moving to Dallas in 1965. He taught at Howard Payne University, Fort Worth
Polytechnic College, Fairmont Conservatory, Chicago Musical College, Daniel Baker
College, and Southern Methodist University. Guion died in Dallas on 17 October
and was buried in his hometown of Ballinger. In 1987 he was honored by a permanent
exhibit of his personal items and recordings at the International Festival Institute
in Round Top, Texas.