Columbus Stockade Blues

Tarlton and Darby: I wonder if they ever made it to Hawaii. Look closely and see the painted palm trees on the guitar.

Columbus Stockade is a country standard of uncertain origin. The earliest recording that I am aware of is by Darby and Tarlton in 1927. Jimmie Tarlton was a South Carolina share cropper who was strongly influenced by African-American musicians who taught him slide guitar. He further refined his slide playing with techniques he learned from Hawaiian guitarist Frank Ferera, out in California. His recording of 'Columbus Stockade Blues' in collaboration with Darby sold over 200,000 copies. A big hit by the standards of those days.

There have been many interpretations since. In 1930, country singer and Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis coopted some of the verses for 'You are my Sunshine.' It become a standard in the bluegrass repertoire. In 1960 Willie Nelson recorded a fast and jazzy western swing version. Leon Russell and Doc Watson sing Columbus Stockade in a minor key.

I learned the song from the singing of Hobart Smith. Hobart was another white country singer who was strongly influenced by his contact with the African-American tradition. He often sang and played with the Georgia Sea Island singers. Hobart gave this song a free rocking blues rhythm that has stuck with me.

The Columbus Stockade itself is still standing and continued to be used as a jail at least as late as 2007 when this news story by Tim Chitwood was made for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.


Way down in Columbus, Georgia,
Want to go back to Tennessee.
That's where my sweetheart left we
Oh, she turned her back on me.

Well, you can go and leave if you want to.
Never let it cross your mind,
For in your heart you love another,
Leave, little darling I don't mind.

Last night as I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms,
When I woke, I was mistaken,
I was peeping through the bars.

Go and leave me . . .

Many an hour with you I've rambled
Many nights with you I've spent alone,
Thought your heard was mine forever
Now i find it was only lent

Go and leave me . . .