Inquiries into the early years of SJI

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One more "Let Her Go" lyric

Over the past couple of months we have looked at several turn-of-the-twentieth-century songs that contain the infamous "Let her go, God bless her" lyric. Here's one more. (Many thanks to Root Hog or Die for telling me about this one!)

In 1929 the fiddler Leonard Rutherford and the guitarist/singer John D. Foster teamed up to record a handful of tunes for Gennett Records. One of those songs bumps into "St. James Infirmary" at least a couple of times.

The chorus of "Let Her Go, I'll Meet Her" sounds familiar:

Let her go, go, I'll meet her
Let her go, go, I'll meet her
Let her go, go, God bless her so
She is mine wherever she may be

The song is also one of the few that reflect the odd sailor verse that appears now and again in versions of SJI. Mattie Hite, for instance, phrased it like this:

I may be killed on the ocean
I may be killed by a cannonball
But let me tell you buddy
That a woman was the cause of it all

The Rutherford & Foster variation puts it like this:

I have a ship on the ocean
A boat that sails on the sea
A pretty girl that lives in the country, boys
Has sure made a fool out of me

Admittedly, those are fairly far apart, but close enough to be entered into the list of possible influences in the early evolution of "St. James Infirmary."

As with the Louvin Brothers version (see below), "Let Her Go, I'll Meet Her" contains the "Sometimes I live in the country" verse which is most famous as part of Leadbelly's "Goodnight, Irene."

To hear this song click on: "Let Her Go, I'll Meet Her" MP3

Lyrics to "Let Her Go, I'll Meet Her"

LET HER GO, I'LL MEET HER
- Recorded by Rutherford and Foster, 1929

Oh where did you stay last night
Yes, and the night before
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines
And shivered when the cold wind blew

Let her go, go, I’ll meet her
Let her go, go , I’ll meet her
Let her go, go , God bless her so
She is mine wherever she may be

Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in town
Sometimes I take a fool notion like this
To jump in the river and drown

Let her go, go, I’ll meet her
Let her go, go , I’ll meet her
Let her go, go , God bless her so
She is mine wherever she may be

I have a ship on the ocean
A boat that sails on the sea
A pretty girl that lives in the country, boys
Has sure made a fool out of me

Let her go, go, I’ll meet her
Let her go, go , I’ll meet her
Let her go, go , God bless her so
She is mine wherever she may be