Danville Girl

Hobo express.

Danville Girl is one of a family of railroad songs that share lyrics and themes: Waiting for a Train (Jimmy Rogers, 1929), Danville Girl (Woody Guthrie, 1940), Wild and Reckless Hobo (Vernon Dalhart, 1923), Ten Thousand Miles from Home (Collected by Alan Lomax and Carl Sandburg) and others.

I'll give you two very different versions. The first is the version that Dock Boggs recorded in 1927. Dock discarded the usual tune in favor of an old lonesome modal banjo arrangement similar to Country Blues or Wild Bill Jones. The second is kind of my own composite of the Jimmy Rogers influenced versions from Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Ramblin Jack Elliot and others.


Dock Boggs Version:

I went down to Danville, got stuck on a Danville girl,
Oh, you bet your life she's out of sight, she wears those Danville curls,
She wears her hair on the back of her head like all high-toned people do,
The very first train that leaves this town, going to bid that girl adieu.

I don't see why I love that girl, for she never cared for me,
But still my mind is on that girl, wherever she may be,
It's forty mile through the rock, it's sixty through the sand,
Oh I relate to you the life of a many poor married man.

Oh, standing by the railroad track, a-smoking very cheap cigar,
A-waiting for a local, to catch an empty car,
I don't see why I love that girl, for she never cared for me,
But still my mind is on that girl wherever she may be.

Look up, look down this lonesome road,
Hang down your head and cry,
The best of friends have to part sometimes.
And why can't you and I.

Guthrie/Houston/Elliot etc. version:

My pocket book was empty,
My heart was full of pain.
Ten thousand miles away from home
Bumming a railroad train.

I was standing on the platform
Smoking a cheap cigar
Listening for that next freight train
To carry an empty car.

Well I got off at Danville
Got stuck on a Danville girl
You bet your life she's out of sight
She wore those Danville curls.

She took me in her kitchen
She treated me nice and kind
She got me in the notion
Of bumming my last time.

She wore her hair on the back of her head
Like high-toned people do,
But the very next train come down that line
I bid that girl adieu.

I pulled my cap down over my eyes
Walked down to the railroad track
Then I caught a westhound freight;
Never did look back.