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Shady Grove

[ Roud 4456 ; Ballad Index SKE57 ; DT SHADYGRV ; Mudcat 15883 ; trad.]

Peggy Seeger played Shady Grove as part of a banjo tune medley on her 1975 Topic EP Eleven American Ballads and Songs.

Doc Watson sang Shady Grove in 1963 on the Walton Family’s Folkways album The Doc Watson Family. Jeff Place noted:

Doc learned this song from the singing of [Pernell] Roberts. Jean Ritchie (see Folkways 2428 [Jean Ritchie, Oscar Brand & David Sear: A Folk Concert in Town Hall, New York, 1959]) refers to Shady Grove as “one of our mountain play-party tunes”. A play-party was a mountain gathering with music and dancing the whole family took part in.

The Cumberland Three sang Shady Grove on the 1963 Hullabaloo ABC Television programme broadcast on 7 December 1963.

Hedy West sang Shady Grove in 1964 on her eponymous Vanguard album Hedy West, and in 1976 on her Bear Family album Love, Hell and Biscuits. She noted:

Uncle Gus’ youngest son, Horace Mulkey, owns a chicken farm just a few miles away from his father’s house. Horace has a clear tenor voice that rings out a long distance. He knows many more than the few songs he’s let me hear him sing. This Shady Grove is similar to the way Horace sings it.

Roger Nicholson played Shady Grove Variations on his 1972 Trailer album Nonesuch for Dulcimer.

Garrett and Norah Arwood from Pigeon Roost, Mitchell County, NC, sang Shady Grove to Mike Yates on 21 May 1983. This recording was included in 2002 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs, tunes and stories from Mike Yates’ Appalachian collections, Far in the Mountains Volumes 3 & 4. Mike Yates noted:

The song Shady Grove probably began life in eastern Kentucky around the beginning of the 20th century. While certain verses seem to be linked with the tune, other ‘floating’ verses are often attached by different singers. The earliest collected set that I know, printed in the Journal of American Folklore, is dated 1915. Since then the song has spread throughout the mountains and has been recorded frequently. Doc Watson, for one, sings a good version on The Doc Watson Family.

Ian Carmichael sang Shady Grove on the 1994 Greentrax anthology of songs from the Tron Tavern, Edinburgh, Ceilidh House Sessions.

Kieron Means sang Shady Grove in 2003 on his Tradition Bearers album Run Mountain.

Sarah McQuaid sang Shady Grove on her 2008 album I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning.

Kris Drever sang Shady Grove in 2012 on the album Kris Drever, Éamonn Coyne & Megan Henderson.

Said the Maiden sang Shady Grove on their 2013 EP Come Hither and on their 2014 CD A Curious Tale.


Doc Watson sings Shady Grove

Chorus (after every other verse):
Shady Grove, my little love,
Shady Grove, I say.
Shady Grove, my little love,
I’m a-bound to go away.

Cheeks as red as a blooming rose,
And eyes are the prettiest brown.
She’s the darling of my heart
The prettiest little girl in town.

I wish I had a glass of wine,
And bread and meat for two.
I’d put it down on a golden plate
And give it all to you.

I wish I had me a big fine horse
And the corn to feed him on.
Little Shady Grove could stay at home
And feed him while I’m gone.

When I went to see my Shady Grove,
She was standing at the door,
Her shoes and stockings in her hand
And her little bare feet on the floor.

Now when I was a little boy
I wanted a barlow knife,
And now I want little Shady Grove
To say she’ll be my wife.

A kiss from little Shady Grove
Is as sweet as brandy wine,
And there ain’t no girl in this whole world
That’s prettier than mine.

Garrett and Norah Arwood sing Shady Grove

Shady Grove pretty little miss,
Shady Grove my darling.
Shady Grove pretty little miss,
I’m going back to Harlan.

If I had no horse to ride
I’d be found a-crawling,
Up and down that rocky road,
Going to see my darling.

Now if I had a banjo string
Made of golden twine,
Every tune I’d pick on it,
Wish that girl was mine.

Shady Grove pretty little miss,
Shady Grove I say.
Shady Grove pretty little miss,
Going back there some day.

If I had a needle and thread
As fine as I could sew,
Sew that girl to my side
Down the road I’d go.