Red River Valley (song)

Red River Valley (song)

Infobox Standard
title=Red River Valley
comment="Bright Sherman Valley"

recorded_by=Carl T. Sprague

"Red River Valley" is a folk song and cowboy music standard of controversial origins that has gone by different names—e.g., "Cowboy Love Song", "Bright Sherman Valley", "Bright Laurel Valley", "In the Bright Mohawk Valley", and "Bright Little Valley"—depending on where it has been sung. It is listed as Roud Folk Song Index 756, and by Edith Fowke as FO 13. It is recognizable by its chorus (with several variations)::"Come and sit by my side if you love me,":"Do not hasten to bid me adieu,":"Just remember the Red River Valley":"And the cowboy that has loved you so true."


Edith Fowke offers anecdotal evidence that the song was known in at least five Canadian provinces before 1896. [Edith Fowke, "'The Red River Valley' Re-Examined", "Western Folklore" (1964): 163-171.] This finding led to speculation that the song was composed at the time of the Wolseley Expedition to the northern Red River Valley of 1870 in Manitoba. It expresses the sorrow of a local girl or woman (possibly a "Métis", meaning of French and aboriginal origin) as her soldier/lover prepares to return to Ontario.

The earliest written manuscript of the lyrics, titled "Red River Valley", bears the notations 1879 and 1885 in locations Nemha and Harlan in western Iowa, so it probably dates to at least that era. [Fuld, "The Book of World-Famous Music", p. 457: "A pencil manuscript of the words of "The Red River valley" bears the notation at the bottom 'Nemha 1879, Harlan 1885' and sets forth five stanzas. The University of Iowa, Iowas City, Iowa (Edwin Ford Piper Collection). Nemah and Harlan are towns in western Iowa."]

The song appears in sheet music, titled "In the Bright Mohawk Valley", printed in New York in 1896 with James J. Kerrigan as the writer. [Kerrigan, "In The Bright Mohawk Valley".]

In 1925, Carl T. Sprague, an early singing cowboy from Texas, recorded it as "Cowboy Love Song" (Victor 20067, August 5, 1925), but it was fellow Texan Jules Verne Allen's 1929 "Cowboy's Love Song" (Victor 40167, March 28, 1929), that gave the song its greatest popularity. Allen himself thought the song was from Pennsylvania, perhaps brought over from Europe. [Allen, "Singings Along", p. 83: "The song, 'Red River Valley,' comes from Pennsylvania, possibly brought there by early settlers and has been made over to suit the locale."]


It was recorded by Kelly Harrell under the title "Bright Sherman Valley" (Victor 20527 June 9, 1926).

A version of the song was recorded by Bill Haley and the Four Aces of Western Swing in the late 1940s.

The song and tune have been used in numerous films. It was particularly memorable in John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath", whose tale of displaced Oklahomans associated it with the southern Red River.

Johnny and the Hurricanes recorded a rock and roll adaptation of the song, "Red River Rock", in 1959. It became a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic (#5 in the U.S., #3 in the UK). A remake of this song by British group Silicon Teens is prominently featured in the score for the 1987 film "Planes, Trains & Automobiles".

Johnny Cash wrote and performed a humorous song entitled "Please Don't Play Red River Valley" for his 1966 album "Everybody Loves a Nut".

Garrison Keillor often performs the song on his popular radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion". It is often sung by the Sons of the Pioneers.

In 2000 Art Paul Schlosser released a version in which he incorporated the last part of the poem "Casey at the Bat" into one of the verses. You can check this out at Apple iTunes.

The tune was also used to commemorate the Lincoln Battalion, who fought at the Battle of Jarama for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. See "There's a Valley in Spain called Jarama (Song)."

Liverpool Football Club fans also sing a song based on the same tune, called "Poor Scouser Tommy". [ [ Poor Scouser Tommy] ]



*Edith Fowke and Keith MacMillan. (1973). "The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs". Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin.
*Allen, Jules Verne. "Singing Along" (reprinted from "New Mexico Magazine", 1935). "Roundup of Western Literature: An Anthology for Young Readers" pp. 82-85, edited by Oren Arnold.
*Kerrigan, James J. "In The Bright Mohawk Valley". New York: Howley, Haviland & Co. (1896).
*Fowke, Edith "The Red River Valley Re-examined." "Western Folklore" 23 (July l964) 1630-71.
*Fuld, James J. "The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk". Dover Publications (2000).
*Waltz, Robert B; David G. Engle. " [ The Red River Valley] ". "The Traditional Ballad Index: An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World". Hosted by [ California State University, Fresno, Folklore] , 2007.

External links

Lyrics and MIDI file from the National Institutes of Health [] Powersolo:red river

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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