Kenny Wagner [Laws E7]
DESCRIPTION: Kenny Wagner kills a sheriff in Mississippi and heads for Tennessee, where he is captured. He escapes, but is again taken (this time by a female sheriff). He is imprisoned for life, and is offered as an example to potential lawbreakers
AUTHOR: unknown (see notes)
EARLIEST DATE: 1926 (recording, "Al Craver" (Vernon Dalhart))
KEYWORDS: homicide escape prison punishment
Aug 19, 1926 - Kenny Carl Wagner gives himself up to a female sheriff in Texarkana, TX (source: Cohen)
FOUND IN: US(MW,SE,So)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Laws E7, "Kenny Wagner"
Hudson 105, pp. 243-244, "Kenny Wagner" (1 text)
Cohen-AFS1, p. 338, "Kenny Wagner" (1 text)
DT 778, KENWAGNR
Al Craver [pseud. for Vernon Dalhart], "Kinnie Wagner" (Columbia 15065-D, 1926)
Warde Ford, "Texas Canyon" (AFS 4206 A3, 1938; tr. in AMMEM/Cowell)
cf. "Kenny Wagner's Surrender" [Laws E8] (plot)
NOTES: Evidently [this song] entered oral tradition quickly -- only a few years after Jenkins's recording, the name of the song has changed and so has the locale. The female sheriff, however, remains constant. - PJS
Hudson, who is the primary source for printed texts of both Kenny Wagner ballads, gives some details about his career but no dates. The notes in Brown (presumably from Hudson) calls Wagner simply a bad man of the 1920s. He notes that both songs were in circulation c. 1928; Wagner was apparently still alive at the time Hudson published in 1936.
Hudson was not aware of the authorship of the Kenny Wagner ballads. Laws cites D. K. Wilgus to the effect that Andrew Jenkins composed them both. Certainly Jenkins composed "Kenny Wagner's Surrender [Laws E8]. However, Norm Cohen attributes "Kenny Wagner" to Carson J. Robison -- reasonable, given that Vernon Dalhart recorded it.
Yet "Kenny Wagner's Surrender" says, "I am sure you have heard my story From the Kenny Wagner song." Given that Jenkins wrote the "Surrender" within three months of the events, could he have known of the other song if it were by Robison? And would he have referred to someone else's song? An interesting mystery. - RBW
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