Alberta (blues)

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Alberta is the name of more than one traditional blues song.

Lead Belly song[edit]

Lead Belly and his wife Martha Promise Ledbetter in Wilton, Conn., February 1935. On January 20 of the same year, the two were married at Mary Elizabeth Barnicle's Wilton farmhouse, and on the same day Lead Belly made the first recording of "Alberta" there for John Lomax and the Library of Congress.

Lead Belly recorded a song "Alberta" in four versions. One of these was recorded in New York on January 23, 1935 (for ARC Records, which did not issue it), and a similar version was recorded in New York on June 15, 1940 (included on Leadbelly: Complete Recorded Works, vol. 1, 1 April 1939 to 15 June 1940).[1] Another version, recorded in Wilton, Connecticut, on January 20, 1935, included the lyrics "Take me, Alberta, take me down in your rocking chair"[2] and is included on Gwine Dig a Hole to Put the Devil In (Rounder Records, Library of Congress Recordings, vol. 2). Lead Belly's fourth recorded version survives on recording disc BC-122 of the Mary Elizabeth Barnicle–Tillman Cadle Collection at East Tennessee State University,[3] recorded near the date of June 15, 1948, with which several related discs are labeled.

Wheeler 1944 song[edit]

Mary Wheeler, in her Steamboatin' Days: Folk Songs of the River Packet Era (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1944), records a song she collected from Gabriel "Uncle Gabe" Hester, with the lyrics:

Alberta, let yo' hair hang low,
Alberta, let yo' hair hand low,
I'll give you mo' gold than yo' apron will hold,
Ef you'll jes' let yo' hair hang low.
Alberta, what's on yo' mind?
Alberta, what's on yo' mind?
You keep me worried, you keep me bothered, all the time.
Alberta, what's on yo' mind?
Alberta, don't you treat me unkind,
Alberta, don't you treat me unkind,
'Cause I'm worried, 'cause I'm bothered, all the time.
Alberta, don't you treat me unkind.

Wheeler also reports Hester's reminiscences of the steamboat work songs he had sung as a roustabout in his younger days. However, Wheeler's account does not explicitly give any evidence for Roger McGuinn's statement that, "This is a song sung by the stevedores who worked on the Ohio River."[4]

The song became popular in the American folk music revival. Bob Gibson recorded it for his Carnegie Concert (1957), and it was published in Sing Out!, vol. 8, no. 3 (1959). Subsequent recordings include:

"Alberta #1"
Song by Bob Dylan from the album Self Portrait
Released June 8, 1970
Genre Rock, Folk rock
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Bob Johnston
Self Portrait track listing
"All the Tired Horses"
"Alberta #1"
"I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know"

Other blues songs[edit]

Eric Clapton's "Alberta" is a cover of the Snooks Eaglin variant of "Alberta." Clapton performed the song on his Unplugged album.

There are other traditional songs in which the singer implores the beloved to let her hair down, for example, "I Wish I Was a Mole In the Ground."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lyrics of January 23, 1935, version. Compare Gavan Tredoux's Leadbelly Discography.
  2. ^ John Lightfoot, "Early Texas Bluesmen," in Clayton and Specht (eds.), The Roots of Texas Music, Texas A&M University Press, p. 102.
  3. ^ "Archives of Appalachia". 2014-01-21. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  4. ^ "Humming A Diff'rent Tune: Bob Dylan, "Alberta (Let Your Hair Hang Low)"". 2009-03-28. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 

External links[edit]