New River Train
DESCRIPTION: "(Honey Babe/Darling), you can't love one (x2), You can't love one and still have any fun, Honey Babe, you can't..." Similarly, "You can't love two and still be true..." "You can't love three and still have me..." Etc.
EARLIEST DATE: 1924 (recording, Henry Whitter)
KEYWORDS: love nonballad infidelity floatingverses
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (10 citations):
Cohen-LongSteelRail, pp. 466-471, "New River Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore3 103, "Darling, You Can't Love but One" (1 text)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore5 "Darling, You Can't Love but One" (1 tune plus a text excerpt)
Scarborough-ASongCatcherInSouthernMountains, pp. 124-125, "Honey Babe" (1 text, without the chorus, filed under Child #76 along with a "Pretty Little Foot" fragment and a version of "I Truly Undertand That You Love Some Other Man")
Abrahams/Foss-AngloAmericanFolksongStyle, p. 73, "Darlin' You Can't Have One" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 158-159, "Darlin'" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cray-AshGrove, p. 19, "New River Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
Seeger-AmericanFavoriteBallads, p. 74, "New River Train" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 143, "New River Train" (1 text)
NorthCarolinaFolkloreJournal, Portia Naomi Crawford, "A Study of Negro Folk Songs from Greensboro, North Carolina and Surrounding Towns," Vol. XVI, No. 2 (Oct 1968), pp. 104-105, "Honey Bee" (1 fragment, 1 tune, which appears to be either "Crawdad" or "New River Train," although it has a "Honey Bee" for the "Honey Babe")
Al Bernard, "New River Train" (Grey Gull 4150/Radiex 4150/Van Dyke 74150/Madison 1918, 1927)
Cauley Family, "New River Train" (Banner 33146/Melotone 13113/Perfect 13032/Oriole 8372/Romeo 5372, 1934)
Crazy Hillbillies Band, "Leaving on the New River Train" (OKeh 45579, 1934)
Vernon Dalhart, "New River Train" (Columbia 15032-D, c. 1925) (Herwin 75506, mid-to-late 1920s)
Sid Harkreader, "New River Train" (Vocalion 15035, 1925)
Kelly Harrell, "New River Train" (Victor 19596, 1925; on KHarrell01) (Victor 20171, 1926; on KHarrell01)
Iron Mountain String Band, "New River Train" (on ClassRR)
Monroe Brothers, "New River Train" (Bluebird B-6645, 1936)
Old Brother Charlie & the Corn Crib Trio, "New River Train" (Mercury 6206, 1949)
Ridge Rangers, "The New River Train" (AFS 1693 A2, 1939; on LC61)
Pete Seeger, "New River Train" (on PeteSeeger24), (on PeteSeeger33, PeteSeegerCD03)
Ernest V. Stoneman Family, "New River Train" (on Stonemans01); Ernest V. Stoneman, Willie Stoneman, and the Sweet Brothers, "New River Train" (Gennett 6619 [as by Justin Winfield] /Supertone 9400 [as by Uncle Ben Hawkins], 1929)
Wade Ward, "New River Train" [instrumental] (on Holcomb-Ward1)
Henry Whitter, "The New River Train" (OKeh 40143, 1924)
cf. "Mole in the Ground" (tune, floating lyrics)
cf. "My Last Gold Dollar" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Going Around the World (Banjo Pickin' Girl, Baby Mine)"
NOTES [225 words]: "Honey Babe" and "New River Train" are two versions of the same set of verses, the difference being that the latter has a chorus about the "New River Train" ("Riding on that new river train (x2), Same old train that brought me here Is soon gonna carry me away").
It's not clear which is the original form, but I'm guessing the former. - RBW
Well, [you] may be wrong here; the "New River Train" version dates back to at least 1924 (Whitter's recording). And Fields Ward says he learned it c. 1895. - PJS
In any case, "New River Train" is now the more familiar version (see the recording list), so I eventually adopted that title.
Cohen has notes about the origin of the name "New River Train"; there apparently was no line with that name, but several railroads had track in the New River area and would presumably have been given that name informally. What's more, the earliest recordings he cites (Whitter's and Harrell's) are by residents of that part of Virginia. Vernon Dalhart's recording was similar to and likely based on Harrell's, and that no doubt helped put the song in popular consciousness.
Cohen does report, however, that few versions other than Ernest Stoneman's have much real railroad content. That is the main reason why I thought (and still sort of think) the versions without the New River Train chorus likely to be original. - RBW
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