Red River Valley (song)

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"Red River Valley (also "Cowboy's Love Song")"
Song by Jules Verne Allen
Writtenc. 1890s
GenreCanadian folk music, cowboy music

"Red River Valley" is a folk song and cowboy music standard of uncertain origins that has gone by different names (such as "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, ranked #10.[1]


According to Canadian folklorist Edith Fowke, there is 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 1870 Wolseley Expedition to Manitoba's northern Red River Valley. It expresses the sorrow of a local woman (possibly a Métis) 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 ]

Another important recording in this song's history was the 1927 Columbia Records master (15206-D) performed by Hugh Cross and Riley Puckett, under the actual title of "Red River Valley". This was the very first commercially available recording of this song under its most familiar title, and was the inspiration for many of the recordings that followed.[9]

Jimmie Rodgers wrote new lyrics titled Dear Old Sunny South by the Sea and recorded by himself in 1928.


"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, 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, Tex Morton, Billy Walker, Roger Whittaker, Cassandra Wilson, Glenn Yarbrough, James McMurtry and George Strait.

Film appearances[edit]

Other cultural references[edit]

  • The song is played by Randall in Recess in the episode One Stayed Clean while he is sitting with TJ, Gus and the diggers in their hole. In the episode, the gang helps Gus (who has never had a picture day because of his constantly changing schools) stay clean so he can have a great school photo.
  • "Red River Valley" was the theme song of Our Gal Sunday, a soap opera broadcast on CBS radio from 1937 to 1959.[20]
  • "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 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. This version was based on the song "Can I Sleep in your Barn Tonight Mister."
  • Johnny Cash wrote and performed a humorous song entitled "Please Don't Play Red River Valley" for his 1966 album Everybody Loves a Nut
  • Bob Dylan wrote and recorded "Red River Shore"—which uses motifs and plays with themes from "Red River Valley"—for Time Out of Mind (1997). Left off the album, two versions of it were included in The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989–2006 in 2008.
  • The Kidsongs Kids parodied this song on their 1995 Let's Put on a Show video as "We'll Put on a Show".
  • The Swedish song "I'm a Lapp", recorded in 1959 by Sven-Gösta Jonsson, is based on the melody of "Red River Valley." [21]
  • 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), the UK (#3), and Canada (#3)(#60 year end).
  • The tune of "Red River Valley" was used for the verses of the 1963 Connie Francis hit "Drownin' My Sorrows" (#36).[22]
  • "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.
  • The premier Czech vocalist Helena Vondráčková made her recording debut in September 1964 with "Červená řeka", a rendering of "Red River Valley".
  • A fatalistic chorus can be found in some sources related to F-105 pilots in Vietnam:[23]

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

  • In its soundtrack, the 2010 video game Fallout: New Vegas adapted the lyrics and tune of "Red River Valley" as "New Vegas Valley".
  • The first 4 verses of the chant "Scouser Tommy", sung by supporters of Liverpool F.C., is to the tune of "Red River Valley".

See also[edit]

  • David McEnery (1914–2002), singer-songwriter otherwise known as Red River Dave


  • 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.


  1. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 13 August 2014.
  2. ^ Fowke, Edith (1964). "'The Red River Valley' Re-Examined". Western Folklore: 163–171. doi:10.2307/1498900. JSTOR 1498900.
  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. Retrieved 2014-07-06.
  8. ^ Allen, "Singings Along", p. 83.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Jo Stafford Discography". Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  12. ^ "". Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  13. ^ "". Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  14. ^ "Kaugel, kaugel, kus on minu kodu" (in Estonian). Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  15. ^ "Originaal ja koopia: Originaal ja koopia, 1" (in Estonian). Vikerraadio. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  16. ^ Hickey, Matthew (May–June 1996). "TV's Silent Panic: Harpo Marx & the Golden Age of Television". Filmfax magazine. pp. 64–69.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Cannibal Ferox (1981), retrieved 2017-06-20
  19. ^ Planes, Trains and Automobiles | Retrieved on 2017-04-11.
  20. ^ Fairfax, Arthur (December 28, 1940). "Mr. Fairfax Replies" (PDF). Movie Radio Guide. 10 (12): 43. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  21. ^ Jones-Bamman, Richard (2001). "From 'I'm a Lapp' to 'I'm a Saami': Popular Music and Changing Images of Indigenous Ethnicity in Scandinavia". Journal of Intercultural Studies. 22 (2): 189–210. doi:10.1080/07256860120069602. S2CID 145791883.
  22. ^ Billboard Vol. 75 #29 (July 20, 1963) p.4
  23. ^ There Is a Way – F-105 Jets / United States Air Force 1967 Educational Documentary – WDTVLIVE42. YouTube (2012-06-27). Retrieved on 2017-04-11.

External links[edit]