The lyrics were written by Grant Clarke and the music was composed by Lewis F. Maurice Abrahams was so captivated by the appearance of his nephew dressed up as a cowboy that he was inspired to write "Ragtime Cowboy Joe". "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" was composed in Brooklyn after an appearance at the home of Abrahams by his nephew, Joe Abrahams, wearing a cowboy outfit. Its lyricist and composers, Clark, Muir, and Abrahams also wrote "Second Hand Rose".

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Paul Aaron played many versions of his favorite song dating back to one sung by Bob Roberts from an RCA Victor 78 rpm record.

He also played many "live" versions recorded during the University of Wyoming football and basketball games.

A recent version of the song appears on Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks 2009 album "Tangled Tales".

"Ragtime Cowboy Joe" is also the fight song of the University of Wyoming.

It became a number-one hit song for singer Bob Roberts, also the second best-selling record of 1912.

Variations include: "Where the bad lands are", "How he sings", "Ragtime music", "That's syncopated gaited/And you ought to hear the meter", "scootin' shootin'" or "rootin' tootin'", "Son of a gun from old Wyoming", or additions of "(A pretty good horse)", "He's some cowboy", and/or "Talk about your cowboy".

"Ragtime Cowboy Joe" was the radio show theme song for New York City's long running, award-winning public radio show, Cowboy Joe's Radio Ranch (1976–1988), hosted by Paul Aaron, New York's Cowboy Joe.

During one of his radio shows Paul Aaron had the elder Joe Abrahams (the original Cowboy Joe) as a special guest.

Traditionally, Cowboy fans stand and clap to the beat of the song as played by Wyoming's Western Thunder Marching Band.

The version of the song appropriated by Wyoming was written by Francis Edwin Stroup (1909–2010) Stroup had been an Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education for Men at Wyoming until August 31, 1950.

He also had composed the fight song for his alma mater, the University of North Texas in 1939, ten years after graduating.