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Virginny / East Virginia

[ Roud 3396 ; Ballad Index JRSF134 ; trad.]

Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians.

Jean Ritchie sang Old Virginny in 1952 on her Elektra album Singing the Traditional Songs of Her Traditional Kentucky Mountain Family. Edward Tatnall Canby wrote in the sleeve notes:

This highly interesting song is transitional between the older English-derived music and the purely American ‘blues’ style, unheard-of in Europe. The remarkable major-minor harmonization, suggested by the tune, is Miss Ritchie's own. The song comes from her father, Balls W. Ritchie.

Jack Elliott sang East Virginia Blues in 1958 on his Topic album with Derroll Adams, The Rambling Boys. This track was also included in 1964 on this album's reissue as Roll On Buddy and in 1995 on Jack Elliott's Topic anthology CD Ramblin' Jack.

Pete Seeger sang East Virginia in 1959 at the Oberlin Folk Music Club at Finney Chapel. This recording was included in 1976 on the Oberlin College Folk Music Club's anthology of live recordings from 1959 to 1975, The Audience Pleased. A live recording from St. Pancras Town Hall Theatre, London, on 4 October 1959 was released in 1963 by Folklore Records and was reissued in 2016 on his Fellside album Pete Seeger in England.

Sandy Denny recorded East Virginia as a home demo in 1966. It was included posthumously in 1989 on her cassette The Attic Tracks Vol. 3, in 2010 on the 19-CD Sandy Denny Box Set, and in 2012 on The Notes and the Words.

Rick and Lorraine Lee and Tom Hayes sang East Virginia in 1972 on the Living Folk anthology Pleasant and Delightful Vol. 2.

Dan Tate sang Once I Lived in Old Virginia at his home in Fancy Gap, Carroll County, Virginia, to Mike Yates on 16 August 1979. This recording was included in 2002 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs, tunes and stories from Yates' Appalachian collections, Far in the Mountains Volume 2.

One of the most characteristic products of the Appalachian song tradition is that of the lament which comprises any number of so-called ‘floating’ verses. Similar versions of Old Virginia will be found in volume 3 of Frank Brown's North Carolina Folklore (1952), p.327, and Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932), vol. 2, pp.232-4. Dan's verse 4 has also turned up as far away as Mississippi where it forms part of the song Wild Bill Jones (see Arthur Palmer Hudson's Folksongs of Mississippi (1936), p.240). Roscoe Holcomb sings a fine version on Mountain Music of Kentucky (Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40077), and Lee Monroe Presnell, of Beech Mountain, NC, has his version on Nothing Seems Better to Me (Appleseed APR CD 1036). Other versions include those by Art Stamper (County CD 2729), Lily Mae Ledford (June Appal 0078), Morgan Sexton (June Appal 0066) and Buell Kazee (Smithsonian Folkways' Anthology of American Folk Music, SFW CD 40090). There are also a number of early 78rpm recordings, usually bearing the title Greenback Dollar (from the lines “I don't want your greenback dollar/ I don't want your watch and chain/ All I want is your love, darling/ Won't you take me back again?”).

Elizabeth LaPrelle sang East Virginia on her 2007 album Lizard in the Spring.

Sarah McQuaid sang East Virginia in 2008 on her CD I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning, mentioning as her sources the 1960 Vanguard debut album by Joan Baez, and Old Virginny from Jean Ritchie's book Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians.

Sarah Grey sang East Virginia Blues in 2009 on her Fellside CD Sandy Boys.

Rattle on the Stovepipe sang Old Virginia in 2014 as the title track of their WildGoose CD Old Virginia. They noted:

A song widely collected and recorded in the southern Appalachians (Roud 3396), this version was from Dan Tate of Fancy Gap, Carroll County, Virginia, in his early eighties when recorded by Mike Yates in 1979 (Far in the Mountains Volume 2) The striking fourth verse (“Fetch me a razor and a pan of cold water…“) also turned up in Mississippi, reported Mike, as part of the song Wild Bill Jones.

Martin Simpson sang East Kentucky in 2017 on his Topic album Trails & Tribulations.

Lyrics

Dan Tate sings Once I Lived in Old Virginia

Once I lived in old Virginia,
To North Carolina I did go.
There I spied a beautiful damsel,
Her name I never did know.

Her hair was black as any charcoal,
Her eyes were of some diamond blue.
On her bosom she wore white lilies,
Oh my poor heart most broke in two.

Every day I'm a-thinking about her,
Every night 'till I can't rest.
Every moment seems like an hour,
Oh what a pain across my breast.

Oh bring me a razor and a pan of cold water,
Bring me a hammer to beat out my brain.
For the old corn liquor has got me surrounded,
And the women have run me deranged.

Shall I go to Alleghany?
Shall I go for loving you?
Or shall I go to some far country,
And bid a sad adieu?

Sandy Denny sings East Virginia Sarah McQuaid sings East Virginia

I was born in east Virginia,
North Carolina I did go.
There I met the fairest maiden
But her name I do not know.

I was born in east Virginia,
North Carolina I did roam.
There I met a fair pretty maiden,
Her name and age I do not know.

Her hair it was a brightsome colour
And her cheeks were rosy red.
On her breast she wore white lilies,
All the tears that I have shed.

Her hair it was of a brightsome colour
And her lips were a ruby red.
On her breast she wore white lilies,
There I long to lay my head.

In my heart you are my darling,
At my door you're welcome in.
At my gate I'll always meet you
If your love I could only win.

I’d rather be in some dark holler
Where the sun refused to shine
Than to see you another man’s darling
And to know you’d never be mine.

In the night I'm dreaming of you,
In the day I find no rest.
Just the thought of you, my darling,
Sends aching pains all through my breast.

For in the night I’m dreaming ’bout you
And in the day I can take no rest.
Just the thought of you my darling
Sends aching pains right through my breast.

I'd rather be in some dark holler
Where the sun refused to shine
Than to see you with another one, darling,
To know you never will be mine.

Oh, when I'm dead and in my coffin
With my face towards the sun,
Come and look upon me, darling
See the deed that you have done.

And when I’m dead and in my coffin,
With my feet turned to the sun,
Come and sit beside me darling,
Come and think on the way you done.

For in my heart you are my darling
And at my gate you’re welcome in.
At my door I’ll meet you my darling
If your love I could only win.