The Howden Wind Turbine Theme Song—“Turn em On, Let em Run”

By Paul Gipe

The Great California Wind Rush was the Wild West of wind energy. So it’s fitting that one of the songs growing out of that time is based on the theme music from a popular TV Western of the 1960s: Rawhide. Those of us who grew up then still know the famous refrain “rollin, rollin, rollin, keep em rollin” about cowboys driving a herd of cattle to market.

Riding herd over a bunch of cantankerous wind turbines was much the same. California’s wind cowboys had to keep them wind turbines rollin, rollin or the banks and investors wouldn’t get paid.

One of those cowboys was meteorologist and musician Jack Kline. He was working for Howden Wind Farms, a subsidiary of Scottish heavy engineering firm James Howden Group. Kline’s assignment was scoping out expansion plans that never came to pass. He was working with another meteorologist, Ron Nierenberg, who was frustratingly trying to fit all the wind turbines Howden was shipping to California into one large project.

Howden was a turbine supplier to the nuclear industry and, like other corporate titans of the day, thought they knew how to build wind turbines. They didn’t. California became Howden’s Culloden.

While not quite a fiasco, poor design of the blade root and poor quality control led to poor reliability in the project’s early years. Despite this, operators were under pressure to get the turbines running and keep them running.

That demand led to Nierenberg riffing on the refrain from the Rawhide theme about keeping those turbines running at all costs. Kline picked it up from there, going so far as to add a faux Scottish burr.

Kline’s parody is both hilarious and poignant for those of us who lived through that period. His song should find a place in the wind energy hall of fame. Take a listen. His lyrics are below.

Howden Theme Lyrics by Jack Kline

Sung to the tune of the theme from Rawhide

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ (repeat)
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
Though the blades are broken
Keep them turbines rollin’ – Howden!
The world’s greatest turbine
I’ll tell ya lads they’re sure fine.
Beat the competition, this I know.
With Glasgow engineering
Perfection we be nearing
Sums done to the seventh decimal!
Turn ‘em on – roll ‘em up – cut ‘em in – let ‘em run
Overspeed – cut em’ out – Howden!
Turn ‘em on – roll ‘em up – cut ‘em in – let ‘em run
Overspeed – cut em’ out – Howden!
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
Gearbox overloadin’
Keep them turbines rollin’ – Howden!
Hydraulic fluid spewing
But we know what we’re doing
We’ll be number one yet, this I know.
The turbulence no fearing
The loads we’re guaranteeing
Kick back with a whisky, watch ‘em run!
Turn ‘em on – roll ‘em up – cut ‘em in – let ‘em run
Overspeed – cut em’ out – Howden!
Turn ‘em on – roll ‘em up – cut ‘em in – let ‘em run
Overspeed – cut em’ out – Howden!
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’


Rawhide was a Western TV serial from 1959-1965. It launched Clint Eastwood’s career and was considered a groundbreaking Western for the era. The Rawhide theme song ranks as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.

The theme song and music has often been parodied, including on an episode of the Simpsons, the serialized TV cartoon. So Kline’s irreverent parody poking fun at Scottish engineering isn’t as outlandish as it seems.


Howden bailed out of the wind industry in April 1989 in part because of the searing experience in California. More on Howden’s il-fated venture can be found at Howden Wind Farms: Scottish Adventure in the New World.