History

This will give you some info about the song, "Bury Me Beneath the Willow." The song is also titled as "Under the Willow" (not Stephen Foster's song) and "Weeping Willow Tree." To see a painting of the song see my last blog below (click on picture to make large).

This ballad was popularized mainly by the Carter Family who recorded it on Victor 21074 in 1927; and later on Bluebird B-6053 in 1935. They also recorded a remake of the song, "Answer to Weeping Willow," on Decca 5234 in 1936. Here's a recording done by The Carter Family:

http://honkingduck.com/78s/listen.php?s=20404A

The first recording was done by Henry Whitter, "The Weeping Willow Tree" on OKeh 40187, 1924 (rec. 1923). Possibly from Whitter's recording followed Ernest V. Stoneman's, "Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow" (CYL: Edison [BA] 5187, 1927) (Edison 51909, 1927) and Ernest Thompson, "Weeping Willow Tree" (Columbia 15001-D, 1924).

The Carter Family may have heard Whitter's version since they also recorded for Ralph Peer and Victor. From the song notes by Charles K. Wolfe in the book included with the Bear Family Box Set: "Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow was a song both Sara and Maybelle had known since childhood. Like many mountain songs, it was probably based on a 19th century parlor song though nobody has yet been able to identify an exact source."

Since essentially the same lyrics were collected in Missouri by Belden in 1909 we can assume there is a single source for the song that hasn't been found. Here are two sets of lyric from Belden:


UNDER THE WILLOW TREE (Belden A)

MS Ballad book of Ada Belle Cowden, Boone Co., Belden version A, p. 483, H. M. Belden, Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society.


My heart is broken, I am in sorrow
For the only one I love.
I ne'er shall see his face again
Unless we meet in heaven above.

Chorus:Then bury me beneath the willow,
Beneath the weeping willow tree,
And when he knows that I am sleeping
Then perhaps he'll come and weep for me.

They told me that he did not love me;
But how could I believe them true
Until an angel came and whispered,
'He will prove untrue'?

Tomorrow was to be my wedding day;
But gone! oh, gone! oh, where is he?
He's gone to wed another bride
And all alone he has left me.

UNDER THE WILLOW TREE (Belden B)

Secured in 1909. Role of sexes reversed.Version B, H. M. Belden, Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, p. 483.


My heart is broken, I am sorry,
Over the one that I love.
I know that I shall never see her
Unless we meet in heaven above.

Chorus:Bury me beneath the willow,
Beneath the weeping willow tree,
And when she knows that I am sleeping
Perhaps she'll sometimes think of me.

Once she told me that she loved me;
How could I think her untrue
Until an angel whispered softly,
'Oh, she does not care for you'?

Tomorrow is our wedding day.
Where, oh, where is she?
She's gone to love another fellow.
Oh, she does not care for me.

The song was recorded by many of the early country artists including Burnett & Rutherford; Riley Puckett; Delmore Brothers; Lily Brothers and the Monroe Brothers in 1937. Since then it's remained popular in bluegrass circles being covered by Kingston Trio and later Skaggs and Rice.

You can hear it played by Tony Rice, Alison Krauss, David Grisman, JD Crowe, and Mark Schatz on UTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzA68Ohwke4

Maybe the source song from the 1800s will be found, but for now we don't know where the song originated.

 


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