Saturday, November 15, 2008

Carter Family Songs; Beginning with letter B


We'll look at the original Carter Family songs starting with the letter B. There are 15 songs and one of them is the same song with a different title. Of the 14 different songs there are 3 original songs presumably by AP (although Sara also wrote a few songs) and 1 by Maybelle. Of the 10 remaining songs 6 are arranged from traditional sources and 4 are based entirely on other songs.

BEAR CREEK BLUES is a blues based on traditional lyrics, but because they've changed and arranged them, this song could not be played without giving them credit. It was recorded in Chicago Illinois in 1940.

Here's a verse they borrowed from Blind Lemon's One Dime Blues:

You want your friend to be bad like Jesse James?
You want your friend to be bad like Jesse James ?
Just give'm a six shooter and highway some passenger train.

Now look at AP's lyrics:

If you stay on Bear Creek, you'll get like Jesse James
If you stay on Bear Creek, you'll get like Jesse James
You'll take two old pistols and hold up that Bear Creek train.

This is clearly what happening. They've taken some floating verses and added Bear Creek, altering the song. They also sing their own melody. The Carters no doubt were influenced on this song by Jimmie Rodgers, who also recorded for Victor. Rodgers had taken traditional blues lyrics and arranged them adding his trademark yodel as a tag. The main blues influence was an African-American guitarist and singer Leslie Riddle who taught them songs and showed Maybelle some guitar techniques. AP got several songs from Leslie and also Riddle's friends in Kingsport including Brownie McGee.

Here are the other Carter verses, all based on existing blues:

Way up on Bear Creek, watching the sun go down
Way up on Bear Creek, watching the sun go down
It makes me feel like I'm on my last go-'round,

The water on Bear Creek, it tastes like cherry wine
The water on Bear Creek, it tastes like cherry wine
You take one drink of it, you're drinking it all the time

I'm going high, high up on some lonesome hill
I'm going high, high up on some lonesome hill
Look down on Bear Creek where my good gal used to live

BEAUTIFUL HOME "Beautiful Home" was composed by: J. Howard Entwisle and Johnson Oatman who also did The Hallelujah Side and other gospel standards in 1898.

BEAUTIFUL ISLE O'ER THE SEA "Beautiful Isle O'er the Sea" was recorded at the 1927 Bristol sessions by the Stonemans when the Carters and Jimmie Rodgers first recorded but Victor never released the Stonemans record. Even though the Carters were in Bristol there is no proof they learned the song at that time.

Here's an earlier version of the Carter family song "Beautiful Isle O'er the Sea" from 1916. Note that the singer changes the word "light" for "isle" which is certainly understandable and even makes sense. It's possible that the chorus is built from George Copper's song Beautiful Isle of the Sea.

BEHIND THOSE STONE WALLS: Here's the first part of Behind Those Stone Walls:

Behind Those Stone Walls-Carter Family

Twas in St Louis city where I first saw the light
Brought up by honest parents on a pathway of right
I was left on orphan at the age of ten years
On mother's grave I shed many tears

I'd scarcely reached manhood when I left my old home
With some other fellows to the west we did roam
Seeking employment though scarcely could find
We seemed so poor and the people unkind

Was in New York City where we first met our fate
We were arrested while roaming the streets
The charges were burglars the theft it was called
But they said it would place us behind the stone walls

"Behind Those Stone Walls" is a curious title for the lyrics are "behind the stone walls," a small detail but interesting. Lomax collected a similar 1936 version from the Gant family, Austin, Texas, "Adieu to Stone Walls."

Clearly this is folk song collected and arranged by the Carters. It's listed as Saint Louis, Bright City Laws E35d and also known as "Behind the Great Wall." Here are some other sources:

Laws, G. Malcolm / Native American Balladry, Amer. Folklore Society, Bk (1964/1950), p266 (St. Louis, Bright City)Bedingfield, Louis. McNeil, W. K. (ed.) /
Southern Folk Ballads, Vol 1, August House, Sof (1987), p. 53 [1951/03/21] Bishop, Wythe. Randolph, Vance /
Ozark Folksongs. Volume II, Songs of the South and ..., Univ. of Missouri, Bk (1980/1946), p151/#165 [1941/12/09]

BIRDS WERE SINGING OF YOU, THE (Carter Family- Nov. 25, 1930): Words and Music by A.P. Carter

Last night the pale moon was shining
Last night when all was still
I was wanderering alone in sadness
Out among the woodland hills.

I heard the birds a-singing
Out among the trees and dew
And all the birds, my darling
Were singing, were singing of you.

Chorus: Were singing, singing of you, my love
Were singing, singing of you
And all the birds, my darling
Were singing, were singing of you.

I'll defer to Mark Zwonitzer, "That year he wrote a beautiful and thoroughly modern song, 'The Birds Were Singing of You,' which captured a single suspended moment of grief." It was around this time that AP and Sara began having martial problems due in part to AP's extended song collecting trips and his lack of interest taking care of his house and family. Perhaps this song is a reflection on AP's situation which in three short years would result in seperation and eventually a divorce in 1936.

BLACK JACK DAVID: I've heard my friend Doc Watson play Black Jack David many times, he plays Cliff Carlisle's version. But where did Cliff get his version?

Oviously the song is based on the English folksong Gypsy Laddie. It's called Gypsy Davy and other names in the mountains. This will give some background on the Carter's "Black Jack David":
Above is a link to: Country By Nick Tosches. Great chapter on the song with history. Cliff Carlisle recorded "Black Jack David" (Decca 5732, 1939). He got it from T. Texas Tyler AKA David Myrick when they did radio work together.

Here's Cliff Carlisle's (Decca 5732, 1939) lyrics:

Blackjack David came a-ridin' through the wood
Singin' so loud and merry
His voice was a-ringin' through the green, green fields
He charmed the heart of a maiden,
Charmed the heart of a maiden.

Come go with me my pretty little miss
Come go with me my honey
Come go with me my pretty little miss
You never shall want for money
Never shall want for money.

How old are you my pretty little miss
How old are you my honey
How old are you my pretty little miss
I'll be sixteen next Sunday
I'll be sixteen next Sunday

Would you forsake your husband, dear
Would you forsake your baby?
Would you forsake your fine, fine home
To go with the Blackjack David
Go with Blackjack David?"

"Yes, I'll forsake my husband, dear
And I'll forsake my baby
And I'd forsake my fine, fine home
To go with the Blackjack David
Go with the Blackjack David."

She put on her high-heeled boots
Made of Spanish leather
And then he took her in his arms
And they both rode off together
Both rode off together.

Last night she slept in a fine feather bed
Beside her husband and baby
Tonight she'll sleeps on a cold, cold ground
Beside the Blackjack David
Beside the Blackjack David

The Carter's used the Cliff Carlisle version for their 1940 recording. As did many others after them. Here's a link to the recording:

BLACKIE'S GUNMAN: Apparently Blackie's Gunman it is a rewrite of a cowboy song or cowboy poetry, I haven't found the source yet but I read a quote about the song from Wilgus and can't find the info anymore.

Blackie's Gunman- Carter Family

I was known as Blackie's gunman
The best two gunman in the land
I could shoot the ace of diamonds
With a draw from either hand

With the dice I had no equal
Some of them are with us now
Most of them are sadly sleeping
Neath the weeping willow bough

Many a cowboy's game I've played in
Left that night with all their gold
As a sport I was broken
As a sport I let it go

I once loved a girl named Nellie
How we loved no tongue can tell
But I know I'll never meet her
Oh it was hard to say farewell

Her eyes were like the deep blue water
And her hair was golden curls
And her cheeks were golden velvet
And her teeth were snow white pearls

Together we lived in a cottage
And our life it was a dream
And the angels they watched o'er us
Made our life one happy dream

BONNIE BLUE EYES: Bonnie Blue Eyes also know as Goodbye, Little Bonnie, Blue Eyes [Me II-D 5a] was first reported "written" in 1907 by Louise Rand Bascom in the 1909 JOAFL. She also states that it was "ten years older at least." She gives two versions, one starts:

I'm forty-one miles from home
I'm forty-one miles from home
I'm forty-one miles from home
Good-bye, little Bonnie Blue Eyes.

And now she's married and gone,
An' now she's married and gone
I've waited around for her too long
An' now she's married and gone.

Another one with the usual structure starts:

I’m going out West in the fall
I’m going out West in the fall
I’m going out West, whar times is the best.
I’m going out West in the fall.

The song structure and melody are similar to a song I play: There's More Pretty Girls Than One. Other similar songs are "Mole in the Ground" and "New River Train."

Goodbye My Little Bonnie Blue Eyes was first recorded in 1927 by Dock Walsh of the Carolina Tar Heels. Clearly this is an old song and the Carter's 1936 recording followed ten other recordings by different artists.


Goodbye my little Bonnie blue eyes
Goodbye my little Bonnie blue eyes
You've told me more lies than the stars in the skies
Goodbye my little Bonnie blue eyes

I saw my little Bonnie last night
She looked so dear to me
She's the only girl I ever loved
She's now gone back on me

Oh stand at the gate and weep
Oh stand at the gate and weep
Oh stand at the gate and weep and morn
Oh Bonnie wont you love me once more

Come and lay your hand in mine
Come and lay your hand in mine
Come and lay your arms around my neck
And say that you will be mine

Oh you know what you promised me
Oh you know what you promised me
You promised that you'd marry me
Oh you know what you promised me

I've stayed in the country too long
I've stayed in the country too long
The only wrong that I have done
I've stayed in the country too long

Come and go with me to the train
Come and go with me to the train
Come and go with me and see me get on
Goodbye my little Bonnie I'm gone.

BRING BACK MY BLUE-EYED BOY: The earliest printed source I found was American Ballads and Songs By Louise Pound in 1922:

My Blue-Eyed Boy

There is a tree I love to pass,
And it's leaves are as green as grass
But not as green as love is true
I love but one and that is you.

CHORUS: Bring to me my blue eyed boy,
Bring oh bring him back to me.
Bring to me my blue eyed boy,
What a happy happy girl I'd be. Compare this to the Carters below. Clearly this is the same song with floating verses from the Carters. The last verse is usually associated with "Bury me Beneath the Weeping Willow."

Bring Back My Blue-Eyed Boy To Me- Carter Family

Tis true the rain that has no end
It's hard to find a faithful friend
And when you find one just and true
He's dropped the old one for the new

CHORUS: Bring back my blue eyed boy to me
Bring back my blue eyed boy to me
Bring back my blue eyed boy to me
That I may ever happy be

Must I go bound and have no free
Must I love a boy that don't love me
Or must I act the childish part
And love that boy that broke my heart

Last night my lover promised me
To take me across the deep blue sea
And now he's gone and left me alone
An orphan girl without a home

O dig my grave both wide and deep
Place marble at my head and feet
And on my breast a snow white dove
To show to the world I died for love

BRING BACK MY BOY: was recorded for Decca by the Carters in 1938, a different company than their 1929 Victor recording. According to Meade it's the same song as the above "Bring Back My Blue-Eyed Boy To Me." I assume the title has been changed to avoid copyright problems. I'm not sure if the lyrics are different.

BROKEN DOWN TRAMP: The Carter's 1937 song, Broken Down Tramp is related to "Broken Down Sport" collected in 1929. Norm Cohen in his book Long Steel Rail gives a detailed account of the Tramp songs. The link below is to that book showing an early version from Sam McGee. There are several songs in 1870-80s like "Only a Tramp." Meade references "Broken Down Tramp" Words and Music by Thomas Herrington from the 1870s. I haven't found the sheet music.


I'm a broken down tramp without money
My clothes are all tattered and torn
And I am so sad and so lonely
I wish I had never been born

All through this wide world I have wandered
Inquiring for something to do
But whenever I ask for a job of work
They say they have none for a tramp

Now drink was the cause of my downfall
From the money I had I bought rum
And the friends that were mine when I had it
Now pass by and call me a bum

Now don't be too hasty to judge me
As I drift along with the tide
My clothes may be ragged and dirty
But a clean heart is beating inside
One night on a dark lonely railroad

A hobo all hungry and cold
Saw an empty boxcar on the siding
He climbed in and closed up the door
Six miles he had rode on the railway

When the brakeman came 'round with his light
He was shoved from the car and was killed by the train
Because he was only a tramp
Now young men, let this be a warning

For all you who long for the road
Better stick to the straight life and don't be like me
A poor bum to die in the cold

BROKEN HEARTED LOVER The problem with the Carters "Broken Hearted Lover" is that it's similar to all the "Dear Companion," "True Lover's Farewell" songs- they have similar floating lyrics and forms. Other songs (Stonemans and Carolina Buddies) that are also named "Broken Hearted Lover" are different songs. The Delmore Brothers also did a different song titled Broken Hearted Lover.


Would you let her part us darling,
Could you truly turn away;
Would it make your heart ache darling,
Not to see me night or day?

CHORUS: I've been dreaming of you darling,
Dreaming of your eyes so blue;
Take me back for love I'm dying,
And I love none else but you.

Many a day with you I've rambled,
Down by the shades of the deep blue sea;
There you told me that you love me,
That you love none else but me.

I will give you back your letters,
And the picture I loved so well;
How it makes my heart ache darling,
Oh, it is hard to say farewell.

Whether this song is based on another earlier song at this point is unclear. If anyone has more information let me know.

BUDDIES IN THE SADDLE is a cowboy song written by Maybelle and recorded in 1940.

Buddies in the Saddle — Maybelle Carter

One stormy day, me and my buddy
Started on our roundup ride.
The wind and dust blew hard around us,
My buddy strayed far from my side.

CHORUS: We were buddies in the saddle,
We were buddies in our home,
We were buddies herdin' cattle,
We were buddies everywhere we roamed.

BURY ME BENEATH THE WILLOW- We've already looked at this song and the Carter's version which is simply based on the folk song dating back to 1909.

BY THE TOUCH OF HER HAND was recorded in 1935 in New York City. This is probably an original song by AP Carter. If anyone has more information it would help.

By The Touch Of Her Hand-Carter Family

There are days so dark that I seek in vain
For the face of my own true love.
But the darkness hides he is there to guide
By the light of the moon above

CHORUS: Oh the lonesome pines, oh the lonesome pines
Where I met that sweetheart of mine
With her hand in mine and our hearts entwined
As we strolled through the lonesome pines

Bright stars above two sweethearts in love
As we sang to the cooing doves
He has brought me back to that mountain shack
By the touch of her hand in love
By the Touch of Her Hand;

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