11. Danville Girl
(Woody Guthrie/Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc., BMI)
Track 11 – Danville Girl (MASTER MA 1226)
There is a poignancy in this ballad of the “wild and reckless hobo” (an alternate title) torn between his love of a Danville, Virginia, girl and the call of the open road – though as Guthrie sings it the love story is barely hinted. Further, the ballad is enhanced by as fine a melody, in 3/4 or waltz time, as one could imagine. That might explain its popularity among early country and western artists. (Meade, Spottswood, and Meade list no fewer than twenty-seven recordings of the ballad on fifty-five (!) labels; one master might serve many masters, if a play on words is permitted.) Those who might claim Jimmie Rodgers’ “Waiting for a Train” as the original must
contend with Nolan Porterfield’s biography of Rodgers. Porterfield quotes RCA Victor’s artist and repertoire man, Ralph Peer, asserting a garbled version of “an old minstrel song…was in the public domain anyway, but the way he changed it, it was obviously a great song. So I didn’t hesitate to put his name to it.” (See Porterfield’s Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America’s Blue Yodeler [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979], pp. 162-63.) Guthrie’s song has no bearing on Rodgers’.
Other versions are cited in G.Malcolm Laws, Jr., Native American Balladry, revised edition (Philadelphia: American Folklore Society, 1964, under the rubric H 2, “Ten Thousand Miles from Home,” pp. 230-31) but the most thoughtful history of the ballad is in Cohen’s Long Steel Rail, pp. 355-366.
Here Terry sits out, while Guthrie and Houston play guitars.