One of America's greatest composers lived in the Lehighton suburb of Big Creek Valley, on an estate called "Home on the Range" along Pohopoco Creek.
From the late 1930s until 1965 when his "Home on the Range" estate was condemned to make way for Beltzville Lake, composer/arranger/musician David Guion made his home in Big Creek Valley.
He is best remembered for his arrangements of cowboy tunes, African American spirituals, and original compositions often inspired by the soundscape of west Texas, and in particular for his arrangement of Home on the Range that became the most popular western song of the mid-20th century. Other songs associated with Guion are: Turkey in the Straw, The Arkansas Traveler, and The Yellow Rose of Texas.
David Wendell Fentress Guion (1892–1981), a native of Ballinger, Texas, grew up on his father's ranch, and was intrigued by the cowboys and their stories of cattle drives, and was exposed to the spirituals of African-American cowboys at his father's ranch.
His paternal grandfather was a governor of Mississippi. His father, a lawyer, came to Texas to harvest an expected rich crop of lawsuits between the sheep ranchers and the cattlemen. When that didn't work out, he first opened a school, then started a ranch along the Brazos River.
Guion was the seventh of nine children born to John I. - who served as a judge and Armour Guion - a lyric soprano and pianist. Guion remembered, when he was four years old, meeting Judge Roy Bean. Guion learn to ride when he was four years old, and soon helped around the ranch during branding and roundup time especially enjoying singing around the campfires and fiddle and guitar square dances.
Guion's mother taught him to play the piano for two years, and by the time he was five years old, she recognized his musical ability. "I don't know how I played and I don't know yet," he said. "I couldn't read music and I didn't know the keys on the piano."
Each Saturday, he took piano lessons in nearby San Angelo, then studied all over the U.S. and in Europe. With the outbreak of World War I Guion returned to Texas, where he taught college-level piano, and turned his attention to composition.
After his father died in 1920, his mother sold the ranch, and he and his mother moved to Dallas where he composed and performed Texas heritage music. Guion hosted two weekly radio shows featuring his own music: Hearing America with Guion and David Guion and Orchestra. These programs, which were carried coast-to-coast, contributed to the vogue for singing cowboys on radio and television.
Guion, himself an accomplished cowboy, became most famous for his arrangement of the cowboy song "Home on the Range," which he performed in the cowboy show Prairie Echoes at the Roxy Theater in New York City in 1930. Guion starred in the production which featured several of his cowboy songs, including his version of Home on the Range. It was Guion's arrangement that transformed Home on the Range from a little-known cowboy tune to one of the most famous and popular of all western songs. It became a favorite of President Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1936, Guion wrote My Cowboy Love-Song as the theme for the show Cavalcade of Texas, which ran for six months as part of the Texas Centennial Exposition.
His mother died later that year, after which Guion moved to an estate, Home on the Range in the Big Creek Valley along Pohopoco Creek, where he lived until 1965, when his property was condemned for a dam to be constructed along the creek to create Beltzville Lake. He returned to his boyhood home in Texas.
While living in the Big Creek Valley, Guion received a commission from the Houston Symphony Orchestra, for which he completed the Texas Suite in 1952. The first week of February 1950 was declared David Guion Week and was celebrated with performances across Texas.
His compositions number over 200 published works and include orchestral suites, ballet music, piano pieces, and secular and religious songs. His music has been performed around the world.
Guion was one of the first American composers to collect and transcribe folk tunes, including Negro spirituals, into concert music. He is well-known for his arrangements of: "The Lonesome Whistler," "The Harmonica Player," "Jazz Scherzo," "Barcarolle," "The Scissors Grinder," "Valse Arabesque," and the Mother Goose Suite. He was a master at musically representing the history and heritage of early Texas with such works as "Ride, Cowboy, Ride," "The Bold Vaquero," "Lonesome Song of the Plains," "Prairie Dusk," and the "Texas Fox Trot." A collection of his waltzes, "Southern Nights," was used in the movie Grand Hotel.
Once, during an interview, Guion was asked, "Were there any particular subjects in school that you did like?" "I can't think of any," he laughed. "I wanted only to ride out on the prairie, and I was, of course, mostly interested in music."