Red River Valley (song)

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"Red River Valley"
Bright Sherman Valley, Cowboy Love Song
Language English
Recorded by Carl T. Sprague
Performed by Red River Dave

Red River Valley is a folk song and cowboy music standard of controversial origins that has gone by different names—e.g., Cowboy Love Song, Bright Sherman Valley, Bright Laurel Valley, In the Bright Mohawk Valley, and Bright Little Valley—depending on where it has been sung. It is listed as Roud Folk Song Index 756, and by Edith Fowke as FO 13. It is recognizable by its chorus (with several variations):

From this valley they say you are going.
We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile,
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathway a while.
So come sit by my side if you love me.
Do not hasten to bid me adieu.
Just remember the Red River Valley,
And the cowboy that has loved you so true.

Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[1]

Origins[edit]

Edith Fowke offers anecdotal evidence that the song was known in at least five Canadian provinces before 1896.[2] This finding led to speculation that the song was composed at the time of the Wolseley Expedition to the northern Red River Valley of 1870 in Manitoba. It expresses the sorrow of a local woman (possibly a Métis, meaning of French and aboriginal origin) as her soldier lover prepares to return to the east.[3]

The earliest known written manuscript of the lyrics, titled The Red River Valley,[4] bears the notations "Nemaha 1879" and "Harlan 1885."[5] Nemaha and Harlan are the names of counties in Nebraska, and are also the names of towns in Iowa.

The song appears in sheet music, titled In the Bright Mohawk Valley, printed in New York in 1896 with James J. Kerrigan as the writer.[6] The tune and lyrics were collected and published in Carl Sandburg's 1927 American Songbag.[7]

In 1925, Carl T. Sprague, an early singing cowboy from Texas, recorded it as Cowboy Love Song (Victor 20067, August 5, 1925), but it was fellow Texan Jules Verne Allen's 1929 Cowboy's Love Song (Victor 40167, March 28, 1929), that gave the song its greatest popularity. Allen himself thought the song was from Pennsylvania, perhaps brought over from Europe.[8][dubious ]

Recordings/ Performances[edit]

"Red River Rock"
Single by Johnny and the Hurricanes
from the album Johnny & the Hurricanes
B-side "Buckeye"
Released July 1959 (1959-07)
Format 7"
Genre Rock and roll
Label Warwick
509

Kelly Harrell recorded "Red River Valley" under the title "Bright Sherman Valley" (Victor 20527 9 June 1926).

Gene Autry recorded the song for the 1936 film Red River Valley. He re-recorded the song with the Cass County Boys for the 1946 film Sioux City Sue. Autry's recording later appeared on various Autry compilations, including Gene Autry's Western Classics and The Essential Gene Autry 1933-1946.

In the 1938 film The Dawn Patrol the melody is used by the British pilots in their fatalistic song “Hurrah for the next man who dies”.

An instrumental version appeared in the 1943 film The Ox-Bow Incident.

Woody Guthrie recorded "Red River Valley" for Asch Recordings 19 April 1944. Guthrie also recorded for Asch the Spanish Civil War version, "Jarama Valley".

Bill Haley and the Four Aces of Western Swing recorded a version in the late 1940s.

In the 1950s Peter Pan Records issued "Red River Valley" on an extended play 45 which also featured "The Arkansas Traveler" and on the other side "My Grandfather's Clock" and "The Syncopated Clock".

Jo Stafford and the Starlighters released a version in October in 1949. Stafford re-recorded the song for her 1953 Starring Jo Stafford album.

Johnny and the Hurricanes recorded a rock and roll instrumental version in 1959 of the song entitled "Red River Rock" which became a hit in both the U.S. (#5) and in the UK (#3). It was covered by the Ventures for their 1963 album The Ventures Play Telstar and The Lonely Bull. An electronic rendition was recorded by Silicon Teens, and featured in the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.[9]

A small combo of soldier-musicians jobbing around Fort Benning, GA, during the late'61 - early'62 Berlin Crisis regularly played "Red River Valley" as a Twist during some of that dance craze.

The tune of "Red River Valley" was used for the verses of the 1963 Connie Francis hit "Drownin' My Sorrows" (#36).[10] Francis had recorded "Red River Valley" for her 1961 album release Connie Francis Sings Folk Song Favorites with the track subsequently being featured on the 1964 Connie Francis album In the Summer of His Years. "Drownin' My Sorrows" was covered in German as "Ich tausche mit keinem auf der Welt" in 1964 by Margot Eskens and in Croatian as "Uz Tebe Sam Sretna" in 1968 by Ana Štefok.

"Jarama Valley", a song about the Battle of Jarama of the Spanish Civil War, used the tune to "Red River Valley". It was recorded by Woody Guthrie and The Almanac Singers, featuring Pete Seeger.

The premier Czech vocalist Helena Vondráčková made her recording debut in September 1964 with "Červená řeka", a rendering of "Red River Valley".

Swedish singer Sven-Gösta Jonsson recorded a Swedish version titled Vid foten av fjället (By the foot of the mountain).

The tune to "Red River Valley", set to new lyrics and entitled "Can I Sleep In Your Arms", was used on Willie Nelson's 1975 album Red Headed Stranger.

Slim Whitman's version was included on his 1977 #1 UK album Red River Valley.

"Red River Valley" has also been recorded by Roy Acuff, Arlo Guthrie, Lynn Anderson, the Andrews Sisters, Eddy Arnold, Moe Bandy, Suzy Bogguss, Johnny Bond, Boxcar Willie, Elton Britt, Josephine Cameron, John Darnielle, Foster & Allen, Larry Groce, the McGuire Sisters, the Mills Brothers, Michael Martin Murphey, Johnnie Ray, Riders in the Sky, Riders of the Purple Sage, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Rogers, Pete Seeger, the Sons of the Pioneers, Billy Walker, Roger Whittaker, Cassandra Wilson and Glenn Yarbrough.

Johnny Cash wrote and performed a humorous song entitled "Please Don't Play Red River Valley" for his 1966 album Everybody Loves a Nut.

Leonard Cohen, a lifelong country music enthusiast, has been recorded playing the song live in concert.

A version of this song is featured on "Songs of the West," recorded by the Norman Luboff Choir.

The song and tune have been used in numerous films. It was particularly memorable in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath, whose tale of displaced Oklahomans associated it with the southern Red River. Another film it had important - but more subtle - usage in was The Last Picture Show, a film about the internal decay of small town Texas in the early 1950s.

WW2 British Paratroopers used the tune, with the fatalistic chorus -

So come stand by the bar with your glasses,
Drink a toast of the men of the sky,
Drink a toast to the men dead already,
THREE CHEERS FOR THE NEXT MAN TO DIE !

A similarly fatalistic chorus can be found in some sources related to F-105 pilots in Vietnam [11]

Come and sit by my side at the briefing,
We will sit there and tickle the beads,
Then we'll head for the Red River Valley,
And today I'll be flying Teak lead,

To the valley he said we are flying,
With a Thud of the plane to the earth,
Many jockeys have flown to the valley,
And a number have never returned

Sung by Dana Delany in the 1994 film Tombstone, though not in its entirety.

Chris Isaak and Stevie Nicks performed a duet of the song on The Chris Isaak Hour.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Edith Fowke and Keith MacMillan. (1973). The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin.
  • Allen, Jules Verne. "Singing Along" (reprinted from New Mexico Magazine, 1935). Roundup of Western Literature: An Anthology for Young Readers pp. 82–85, edited by Oren Arnold.
  • Kerrigan, James J. "In The Bright Mohawk Valley". New York: Howley, Haviland & Co. (1896).
  • Fowke, Edith "The Red River Valley Re-examined." Western Folklore 23 (July 1964) 1630-71.
  • Fuld, James J. The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk. Dover Publications (2000).
  • Waltz, Robert B; David G. Engle. "The Red River Valley". The Traditional Ballad Index: An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World. Hosted by California State University, Fresno, Folklore, 2007.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Western Writers of America. "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  2. ^ Fowke, Edith (1964). "'The Red River Valley' Re-Examined". Western Folklore: 163–171. 
  3. ^ H. Stewart Hendrickson (Research Professor Emeritus, University of Washington), Red River Valley (Retrieved 23 March 2014)
  4. ^ The Red River Valley, Edwin Ford Piper Collection, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.
  5. ^ Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music (1966), p. 457.
  6. ^ Kerrigan, In The Bright Mohawk Valley.
  7. ^ Sandburg, Carl (1927). The American Songbag. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company. p. 130. Archived from the original on 2005-06-23. Retrieved 2014-07-06. 
  8. ^ Allen, "Singings Along", p. 83.
  9. ^ Planes, Trains and Automobiles at Hollywood.com
  10. ^ Billboard Vol. 75 #29 (July 20, 1963) p.4
  11. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKJ_tkYu4Uo

External links[edit]