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Banks of the Ohio

[ Roud 157 ; Laws F5 ; Ballad Index LF05 ; Mudcat 37286 ; trad.]

Banks of the Ohio is a grizly ballad of a cruel murder by a jealous lover, similar to The Prentice Boy and Cruel Knife. Here it is sung by Bill Monroe and Doc Watson:

Jon Boden sang Banks of the Ohio as the 26 May 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Doyle Lawson sang Banks of the Ohio on the 2017 Appalachian ballad tradition anthology Big Bend Killing.


Jon Boden sings Banks of the Ohio

I asked my love to take a walk,
To take a walk, just a little walk
Down beside where the waters flow
Down by the banks of the Ohio.

Chorus (after each verse):
And only say that you'll be mine
And in no other's arms entwine,
Down beside where the waters flow,
Down by the banks of the Ohio

I held a knife against her breast
As close into my arms she pressed,
She cried, “Oh Willie, don't you murder me!
I'm not prepared for eternity!”

I took her by the lily white hand
And led her down by the water's strand,
I picked her up and pitched her in
And watched her body floating by.

I wandered home 'twixt twelve and one,
I cried, “ My God, what have I done?
I've killed the only woman I loved,
Because she would not be my bride.”