East Virginia Blues

The Carter Family

There are two distinctly different melodies for this song. The one I sing here was recorded by the Carter Family in 1929. The other is probably a much older version judging by its plain modal melody and more primitive sound suited to the older mountain banjo styles. Old timers such as Buell Kazee and Roscoe Holcombe played that one.

The Carter Family version borrows some verses from a shorter song called Greenback Dollar, that was known in the Ozark region. You may also remember Joan Baez' song East Virginia, which borrows a little from all of these.


I was born in East Virginia
North Carolina I did go
Where I spied a fair young lady
And her name I do not know

But her hair was dark in color
And her cheeks were rosy red
Upon her breast she wore white lillies
Where I longed to lay my head

At my heart you are my darlin'
At my door you're welcome in
At my gate I'll always meet you
You're the girl I tried to win

I'd rather be in some dark holler
Where the sun refused to shine
Than to see you with another
When you promised to be mine

I don't want your greenback dollar
I don't want your silver chain
All I want is your love darlin'
Won't you take me back again?