Folk Tales

Here's an example of a folk tale in song, the origin of which is now lost to history.  As with most folk songs, it has many versions with variations in both lyrical details and melody.  A frequent change to lyrics that was made as songs were passed down by memorization from generation to generation was the setting of the events described in the song.  I've done the same thing with this one.

The basic song is patterned after the 1930s Carter Family recording that sets the song in the upper Appalachians (West Virginia is mentioned).  I've reset the location to Southwest Mississippi (the Pike-Amite County line).  Most of the rest of the lyrics are unchanged.

 

John Hardy

(Amite County version based on Carter Family version, © 2006, Wayne Anderson)

 

John Hardy was a desperate little man

He carried two guns every day

He shot a man on the Pike County line

And you ought to have seen John Hardy getting away

 

John Hardy got to the Amite River Bridge

He thought that he would be free

And up stepped a man and took him by his arm,

Said, "Johnny, walk along with me"

 

He sent for his Papa and his Mama too

To come and go his bail

But money wonít bond on a murdering case

And they locked John Hardy back in jail.

 

John Hardy had a pretty little girl,

The dress that she wore was blue;

And she came skipping through the old jail hall,

Saying, "Papa, Iíve been true to you."

 

John Hardy had another little girl,

The dress that she wore was red;

She followed John Hardy to his hanging ground,

Saying, "Papa, I would rather be dead."

 

"I've been to the East and I've been to the West

I've been the wide world around;

I've been to the river and I've been baptized,

And now I'm on my hanging ground."

 

John Hardy was down on his scaffold high

With his loving liíl wife by his side;

And the last words she heard poor Johnny say,

"Iíll meet you in that sweet by-and-by."

 

John Hardy was a desperate little man

He carried two guns every day

He shot a man on the Pike County line

And so John Hardy threw his life away.

 

Want to hear what the song sounds like?  Here's a rough, home-recorded version that sounds half-way decent.  Click the link to open the file in your player; right-click and select "Save Target As" to save it to your hard drive for later.  Note:  Playing the song as streaming audio may not work and is definitely not recommended for anyone but users of a high-speed connection.  The MP3 file is almost 6 meg in size.

 

John Hardy

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