Red River Valley, The

DESCRIPTION: The singer and his love are parting (either may be singing, and either may be leaving). "Come and sit by my side [ere you leave me]; do not hasten to bid me adieu; just remember the Red River Valley, And the (sweetheart) who loved you so true..."
AUTHOR: "The Bright Mohawk Valley" claimed by James Kerrigan, 1896, but this is almost certainly not the original
KEYWORDS: separation river farewell
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,Ro,SE,So) Canada(West)
REFERENCES (24 citations):
Randolph 730, "The Red River Valley" (2 texts plus 2 excerpts, 1 tune)
BrownIII 260, "Red River Valley" (1 text plus 2 excerpts and mention of 3 more)
BrownSchinhanV 260, "Red RIver Valley" (3 tunes plus text excerpts)
Moore-Southwest 182, "The Red River Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard, #59, "The Red River Valley" (1 text)
Cambiaire, pp. 81-82, "Red River Valley" (1 text)
Fowke/Johnston, pp. 88-89, "The Red River Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/MacMillan 52, "The Red River Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Stout 56, pp. 74-75, "Red River Valley" (1 text)
Sandburg, pp. 130-131, "Red River Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSUSA 65, "Red River Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fife-Cowboy/West 56, "Red River Valley" (3 texts, 1 tune; the first text is "Red River Valley" and the third is the variant "Lost River Desert"; the second is a variant of "Nobody's Darling on Earth"); also 102, "Red River Gal" (1 text, 1 tune, consisting of square dance instructions set to this rune)
Welsch, pp. 32-34, "The Red River Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS2, pp. 511-512, "Red River Valley" (1 text)
Owens-1ed, pp. 190-192, "Bright Sherman Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-2ed, pp. 98-99, "Bright Sherman Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Tinsley, pp. 208-211, "Red RIver Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Arnett, p. 124, "Red River Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Messerli, pp. 46-47, "Red River Valley" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 115, "Red River Valley" (1 text)
Fireside, p. 146, "Red River Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuld-WFM, p. 457, "Red River Valley"
cf. Gardner/Chickering, p. 482, "Red River Valley" (source notes only)

ST R730 (Full)
Roud #756
Gene Autry, "Red River Valley" (Columbia 20085/Columbia 37184, 1946)
Bascom & Blackwell, "Sherman Valley" (OKeh 45008, 1925)
Beverly Hillbillies, "Red River Valley" (Brunswick 421/Supertone S-2049 [as Stone Mountain Boys], 1930;Vocalion 03164, 1936)
Bud Billings Trio, "Red River Valley" (Victor V-40267, 1930; Montgomery Ward M-4058, 1933) [Bud Billings is a pseudonym for Frank Luther; record may have been issued as by Bud Billings & Carson Robison]
Bob Brooks, "Red River Valley" (Columbia 15689-D, 1931)
[Bill] Childers & [Clyde] White, "Red River Valley" (OKeh 45208, 1928)
Luther Clarke & the Blue Ridge Highballers, "Bright Sherman Valley" (Columbia 15069-D, 1926)
Ned Cobben, "Red River Valley" (Harmony 901-H, 1929)
Sid Harkreader, "Red River Valley" (Paramount 3141, 1928; Broadway 8202, c. 1930)
Kelly Harrell, "Bright Sherman Valley" (Victor 20527, 1926; on KHarrell01)
Hill Billies, "Red River Valley" (Regal Zonophone [UK] MR-1698, 1935)
Bradley Kincaid, "Red River Valley" (Champion 15710 [as Dan Hughey]/Supertone 9403, 1929; Champion 45098, c. 1935) (Vocalion 5476, c. 1930/Vocalion 04647, 1939) (Decca 5048, 1934)
Dr. Lloyd & Howard Maxey [Massey], "Bright Sherman Valley" (OKeh, unissued, 1927)
Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "Sherman Valley" (OKeh 45008, 1926)
Frank Luther & Zora Layman, "Bright Sherman Valley" (Decca 5028, 1934)
Harry "Mac" McClintock, "Red River Valley" (Victor 21421, 1928)
Lester McFarland & Robert A. Gardner, "Bright Sherman Valley" (Brunswick 169/Vocalion 5174, 1927; Supertone S-2031 [as Kentucky Mountain Boys], 1930)
Bill Mooney & his Cactus Twisters, "Red River Valley" (Imperial 1096, n.d. but post-World War II)
Holland Puckett, "The Bright Sherman Valley" (Challenge 329 [as by Harvey Watson]/Gennett 6433/Herwin 75562 [as by Robert Howell]/Silvertone 5064, 25064, 8153, 1927/Supertone 9254 [as by Si Puckett; issued 1929])
[Hugh Cross &] Riley Puckett, "Red River Valley" (Columbia 15206-D, 1927) (Bluebird B-8335/Montgomery Ward M-8481, 1940; rec. 1939)
Ranch Boys, "Red River Valley" (Decca 5045, 1934)
Goebel Reeves, "Bright Sherman Valley" (Melotone M-12186, 1931)
Texas Jim Robertson, "Red River Valley" (Victor 27552, 1941)
Carson Robison Trio, "Red River Valley" (Romeo 1233/Banner 0615/Perfect 12591/Jewel 5871/Conqueror 7492, 1930) (Clarion 5109-C, 1930) (Crown 3025, 1930)
Pete Seeger, "Red River Valley" (on PeteSeeger32)
Leo Soileau & his Four Aces, "Red River Valley" (Decca 5182, 1936; rec. 1935)
Carl T. Sprague, "Cowboy Love Song" (Victor 20067, 1926)
Ernest V. Stoneman and the Dixie Mountaineers, "Bright Sherman Valley" (Edison 51951, 1927) (CYL: Edison [BA] 5383, 1927)
Sunshine Sue w. Joe Maphis, "Red River Valley" (Astra 1215, n.d.)
Texas Drifter, "Bright Sherman Valley" (Melotone M-12186, 1931)
Art Thieme, "Red River Valley" [instrumental version] (on Thieme02)
Vagabonds, "Red River Valley" (Bluebird B-5297/Montgomery Ward M-4479, 1934)

When It's Hogcalling Time (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 158)
Gene Autry & Jimmie Long, "Answer to Red River Valley" (OKeh 03101/Vocalion 03101/Conqueror 8485, 1935; ARC 6-08-51, 1936; Conqueror 9512, 1940)
Hartman's Tennessee Ramblers, "New Red River Valley" (Bluebird B-6162, 1935' Bluebird B-8894 [as Tennessee Ramblers], 1941)
NOTES [572 words]: The Fifes consider their "Little Darling" text ("Come sit by my side, little darling, Come lay your cool hand on my brow, And promise me that you will never Be nobody's darling but Mine") to be a Red River Valley variant. As, however, the chorus does not fit the "Red River Valley" tune, and the rest of the words go with this "Nobody's Darling on Earth," I classify it there.
The Lomaxes are responsible for the claim that the original of this was Kerrigan's "Bright Mohawk Valley" text.
Fuld reports a claim by Fowke that this song predates the Kerrigan text, and that the original was sung as early as 1869 in Canada, referring to the Red River of the North. I know of no direct proof of this claim, but certainly there are early Canadian versions. Plus tthe song was recorded repeatedly in the early part of the twentieth century, with major variants in text and few versions mentioning the Mohawk Valley; this is certainly indirect evidence that the song is older than the Kerrigan version and originally referred to some other river, presumably either the northern or the southern Red. Given the nature of the texts found by Fowke, I think the reference is indeed to the Red River of the North.
This claim has been strongly supported by John Garst, whose research is far more detailed than mine; he deserves credit for searching through Fowke's work and pointing it out to me.
In an interesting footnote, A. T. Emery and O. C. Jillson in 1863 published a song, "The Indian Lover," in which an Indian man courts a white woman. And Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 259, says that the tune of that piece "bears some resemblance to the tune of 'Red River Valley.'" Given that the Canadian versions involve an Indian WOMAN and a British MAN, did someone take the tune and reverse the roles? I don't know; I would say that the traditional song is much better, lyrically.
The "Sherman Valley" variant is interesting, because there is no significant river by that name. There is a town called Sherman in Texas, though, not far south of the Red River (it's almost due north of Dallas). There is also a Sherman Peak in Colorado, southwest of Denver; it has no connection with the Red River that I can see. - RBW
The record producer Frank Walker, who worked for Columbia during the 1920s, claimed in a 1962 interview that he had learned the song in his childhood and taught it to Riley Puckett as "Bright Mohawk Valley," but he (Walker) had changed the name to Red River Valley as that would appeal to more customers "because there was no one Red River in the United States but probably eight or ten. ... There is only one Mohawk River." Since Puckett's recording was made on November 3, 1927, and Sandburg had published it as "Red River Valley" earlier that year, Walker's claim is doubtful. Still, it's interesting that Puckett's 1927 Columbia recording (with Hugh Cross) seems to have been the first one to bear that title. -PJS
I'd consider Walker's claim more than questionable. If someone had encountered a "Mohawk Valley" text, he might have changed it, but why go from "bright Mohawk" to "Red River"? Why not, say, "Ohio valley," which would be more familiar than all the Red Rivers combined? And while I can't prove the date of the Red River title (although I think Edith Fowke could have), the evidence is strong that it is older. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
File: R730

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