In the Hills of Roane County
DESCRIPTION: Singer courts and marries; his wife's brother Tom stabs him. Three months later, he kills Tom. He's sentenced to life in prison. His family mourns; he tells prison friends that when they write home, "put one of my songs in your letter for me"
EARLIEST DATE: 1940 (recording, Blue Sky Boys)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Singer courts and marries; for unknown reasons, his wife's brother Tom stabs him. Three months later, he kills Tom. Tried, no one will speak up for him, and he's sentenced to life in prison. His mother weeps and his sister watches as his train departs; he now works in a prison foundry and awaits death, telling prison friends that when they write home, "put one of my songs in your letter for me"
KEYWORDS: grief courting love marriage fight violence farewell crime punishment prison revenge brother wife
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,So)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
AbrahamsRiddle, pp. 37-38," Rome County" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: _Sing Out_ magazine, Volume 26, #2 (1977), p, 9, "Hills of Roane County" (1 text, 1 tune, the Wilma Lee Cooper version)
Blue Sky Boys, "In the Hills of Roane County" (Bluebird B-8693/Montgomery Ward M-8848, 1941; on ConstSor1; rec. 1940)
Jimmie Osborne, "Hills of Roane County" (King 1231, 1953)
cf. "The Cruel Brother" (theme, sort of)
cf. "Roane County Strike at Harriman, Tennessee" (form)
Rhone County Prison
Hills of Rome County
NOTES: I could *swear* we did this one someplace else. - PJS
That happens to me all the time. The interesting thing, to me, is whether the song was known prior to the Blue Sky Boys recording. Roud has an interesting mention of a collection by Beck, possibly in the 1930s, but this does not seem to be well-documented or publicly available. Wilma Lee Cooper does claim to have learned it from her family, which would predate the Blue Sky Boys recording if her memory is correct. Ditto for Almeda Riddle's version, which we note has been folk processed enough to get the name of the county "wrong."
In addition, Henry Garrett recorded (and probably wrote) "Roane County Strike at Harriman, Tennessee" in 1936, and it probably derived from this song. So that's more evidence that the song is older. - RBW
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