> Martin Carthy > Songs > My Girl

In the Pines / My Girl

[ Roud 3421 ; Ballad Index Rich059 ; VWML CJS2/10/3882 ; trad.]

Martin Carthy, Rory McEwen and Lisa Turner sang two Lead Belly songs, My Girl and Duncan and Brady, on the 1964 Hullabaloo TV programme. Both tracks were released in 2001 on The Carthy Chronicles..

Nimrod Workman from Chattaroy, West Virginia, sang In the Pines to Mark Wilson and Ken Irwin in March 1976. This recording was released in the same year on his Rounder album and in 2011 on his Musical Traditions anthology of the same name, Mother Jones' Will. Mark Wilson noted:

Norm Cohen's celebrated Long Steel Rail provides an extensive head note on this complicated song cluster, based in part upon Judith McCulloh's earlier research. The piece's sundry motifs drift from one song to another, spilling over into Old Rueben, Them Rolling Mills Is Burning Down, Nine Hundred Miles and many others. Cohen notes the curious fact that the best known prototype of this piece amongst revivalists—Leadbelly's Black Girl—appears to represent a feedback from the pages of Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians through the agency of some revivalist intermediary (a similar background lies behind the emergence of The House of the Rising Sun as a “well known black folk song”). Asa Martin recorded an interesting version for me as a guitar parlour piece which I hope to issue someday. Nimrod's humming at the end shows an awareness of Bill Monroe's well-known bluegrass setting, although otherwise Nimrod's text seems to be his own.

Dolly Parton sang In the Pines on her 1994 album Heartsongs.

Charlie Louvin sang In the Pines on his 1996 album The Longest Train.

Jackson C. Frank sang In the Pines in a 1997 home recording that was included in 2003 on the 2 CD deluxe reissue of his CD Blues Run the Game.

Blue Blokes 3 (Ian A. Anderson, Lu Edmonds and Ben Mandelson) sang In the Pines in 2008 on their Fledg'ling album Stubble.

Sarah McQuaid sang In the Pines on her 2008 album I Won't Go Home 'Til Morning. She noted:

Also known as Black Girl and Where Did You Sleep Last Night, this song is often credited to Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly (1888-1949), but in fact it dates back to at least the 1870s, and is probably Southern Appalachian in origin. Cecil Sharp collected it from a Miss Lizzie Abner in Oneida, Kentucky, on 18 August 1917, under the name Black Girl [VWML CJS2/10/3882] and comprising just four lines:

Black girl, black girl, don’t lie to me
Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines
And shivered when the cold wind blows

In Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong (2000), Norm and David Cohen write:

Two years later, Newman I. White obtained four lines that a student of his had heard sung by a black railroad work gang in Buncombe County, North Carolina:

The longest train I ever saw
Was on the Seaboard Air Line,
The engin pas' at a ha' pas’ one,
And the caboose went pas' at nine.

In 1921-22, Frank C. Brown obtained a long text from Pearl Webb of Pineola, Avery County, North Carolina, that included both the “in the pines” couplet and the “longest train” couplet … during the years 1921-22, Brown did obtain recordings of In the Pine—the earliest ones to be made.

I first heard In the Pines being sung by Sissy Spacek in the 1980 Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter. She only sings a couple of lines of it, but I couldn’t get them out of my head. A year or two later, I bought a second hand LP by Jack Tottle called Back Road Mandolin, and that’s where I got my lyrics for In the Pines, including the substitution of “Little girl” for the more usual “Black girl”.

Driving home at the end of the day on which I recorded the song for this album, I switched on the car radio just in time to hear Nirvana’s version being played. Spooky!

Martin Simpson sang In the Pines in 2011 on his Topic album Purpose+Grace. He noted:

I first heard In the Pines sung by Leadbelly when I was about twelve years old. It has a darkness which I love, whether in the minor key versions or in this major version. The very excellent Dick Connette did a wonderful version of the song which inspired me to sing it again. The first recording of the song was made in 1927 by the old timey guitar and fiddle duo, Henry Whitter and GB Grayson, and it has bounced across racial barriers as songs so successfully do, before and since then.

Said the Maiden sang In the Pines on their 2017 album Here's a Health. They noted:

Every folk band needs at least one murder ballad in their repertoire. Inspired by both the Lead Belly and Nirvana versions, we tend to think of this traditional American song as our ‘angry’ song.

Lyrics

Martin Carthy, Rory McEwen and Lisa Turner sing My Girl

My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And I shivered the whole night through

My husband was a hard-working man
Killed a mile and a half from here
His head was found in the driving wheel
And his body never had been found

My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And I shivered the whole night through

My girl, my girl, don't lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
You caused me to weep and you caused me to moan
And you caused me to leave my home

My girl, my girl, where will you go
I'm a-going where the cold winds blow
In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
And I shivered the whole night through

Nimrod Workman sings In the Pines

Chorus (after each verse):
In the pines, in the pines
In the cold, cold pines
Lord, I shivered when the cold wind blow.

The longest train I ever saw
Run down that Georgia line
The engine passed at six o'clock
And the cabin rolled by at nine.

The train run back one mile from town
And killed my girl, you know
Her head got caught in the driver's wheel
And her body I never could find.

I asked my captain for the time of day
He said, “I threw my watch away.”

Little girl, little girl, what have I done?
You've turned your back on me
Took all of my clothes
Throwed them out of doors
Goodbye, little girl, goodbye.

Well, a long steel rail and a short cross tie
I'm beating my way back home.

Sarah McQuaid sings In the Pines

The longest train I ever saw
Came down that Georgia line
The engine passed at six o’clock
And the cab passed by at nine

Chorus (after each verse):
In the pines, in the pines
Where the sun never shines
And we shiver when the cold winds blow
Ooh …

I asked the captain for the time of day
He said he throwed his watch away
It’s a long steel rail and a short cross tie
I’m on my way back home

Little girl, little girl, where’d you stay last night
Not even your mother knows
Well I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines
And we shiver when the cold winds blow