Down in the Valley

DESCRIPTION: "Down in the valley, valley so low, Hang your head over, hear the wind blow." The singer tells of his deep, unrequited love for (his/her) sweetheart. (He) bids farewell: "If you don't love me, love whom you please." (He says to write to Birmingham Jail.)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1909 (Belden)
KEYWORDS: love courting separation prison lyric
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,SE,So)
REFERENCES (25 citations):
Belden, p. 488, "Down in the Valley"; pp. 488-489, "Bird in a Cage" (2 texts)
Randolph 772, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownIII 281, "Down in the Valley (Birmingham Jail)" (1 text plus a fragment); also probably 282, "I Sent My Love a Letter" (3 texts, of which "A" is likely to be this piece and "C" is a mess with some "Down in the Valley" verses and others about Lulu, though it's not clear which Lulu; "B" is "Green Grows the Laurel (Green Grow the Lilacs)")
BrownSchinhanV 281, "Down in the Valley (Birmingham Jail)" (1 tune plus a text excerpt)
Morris, #31, "Birmingham Jail" 2 texts, 1 tune)
Fuson, p. 142, "Bird in the Cage" (1 text)
Sulzer, pp. 6-7, "Down in the Valley" (1 text plus some additional verses, 3 tunes)
MHenry-Appalachians, p. 179, "Down in the Valley" (1 text)
Sandburg, p. 148, "Down in the Valley"; 213, "Bird in a Cage" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax-FSUSA 19, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 147-149, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 150, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-Singing, pp. 310-311, "Little Willie's My Darling" (1 text, 1 tune, with a plot of "Twenty-One Years" [Laws E16] but which has swallowed "Down in the Valley" almost entire)
Cohen-AFS1, p. 332, "Birmingham Jail" (1 text)
Owens-1ed, pp. 149-151, "The Birmingham Jail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-2ed, pp. 92-93, "The Birmingham Jail" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fife-Cowboy/West 58, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 902-903, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
PSeeger-AFB, p. 33, "Down In The Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 290, "Down in the Valley" (1 text)
Fireside, p. 99, "Down in the Valley" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 150, "Down In The Valley" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 201-202, "Down in the Valley"
DT, DOWNVALY*
ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), p. 212, (no title) (1 fragment)

Roud #943
RECORDINGS:
[Tom] Darby & [Jimmie] Tarlton, "Birmingham Jail" (Columbia 15212-D, 1927)
Ezra Hill & Henry Johnson, "Birmingham Jail" (Challenge 15750, 1929)
Frank Proffitt, "Down in the Valley" (on Proffitt03)
Riley Puckett, "Down in the Valley" (Regal Zonophone [Australia] G22464, n.d.)
Pete Seeger, "Down in the Valley" (on LonesomeValley) (on PeteSeeger17)
Unidentified group of singers, "Down in the Valley" (on JThomas01)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Charlotte the Harlot (III)" (tune)
cf. "Bull Connor's Jail" (tune)
cf. "The Stolen Bride" (tune)
cf. "Billy My Darling" (lyrics)
SAME TUNE:
Hang Your Head Over (Suck Your Big Toe) (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 110)
Tom Darby & Jimmie Tarlton, "Birmingham Jail - No. 2" (Columbia 15375-D, 1929; rec. 1928); "New Birmingham Jail" (Columbia 15629-D, 1930 -- note that two different takes were issued under this record number)
NOTES: "Birmingham Jail" (sometimes credited to E.V. Body) is considered by some a separate song, but it can hardly be distinguished from "Down in the Valley." The same can be said of Sandburg's and Belden's "Bird in a Cage" texts; it lacks the "Down in the Valley" stanza, but the other verses are common. - RBW
This song is often called "Birmingham Jail," particularly on early recordings; there is also, however, another song called "Birmingham Jail", which is part of the "Sweet Thing/Crawdad Hole" family, and no relation to this. - PJS
Last updated in version 4.1
File: R772

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