Sung by: Almeda Riddle
Recorded on 5/14/70

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(Mrs. Riddle: “You understand that I did leave . . . Jack does a much better . . .”
??: “No, that’s not true . . .”
Mrs. Riddle: “. . . I haven’t sung it in so long. He really can. He do a better job of that than I can. He did it for me coming out yesterday.”
??: “We sang duets all the way back from grad school.”
Mrs. Riddle: “. . . I don’t know that I can even do ‘Jesse James.’ Jesse James was . . . and I don’t care, he was a lone cousin to my grandfather. Uncle Robert James was my grandfather’s brother, and he was Jesse’s father. I’ll sing a fragment. I don’t think I remember it all. I think I’ve about forgotten it.”)

Jesse James was a man that had killed many a man . . .

(Mrs. Riddle: I’ve got that too high. Come on, Jack, give me a key on it. I don’t think I’ll reach it, though.”)

Jesse James was a man that had killed many a man,
And he robbed the Danville train.
Then the people, they would say, for many miles away,
“It was robbed by Frank and Jesse James.”

Chorus: Jesse had a wife to mourn for his life,
And children who were brave,
But the dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard
Has laid Jesse James in his grave.

It was Robert Ford, the dirty little coward,
And I wonder just how he feels,
For he ate Jesse’s bread, and he slept in Jesse’s bed.
Then he laid old Jesse in the grave.


It was on a Saturday night, and Jesse was at home,
And talking with his family brave.
Robert Ford came along, and like a thief in the night,
He laid Jesse James in the grave.

My song was made by Billy S. Slade,
Who said, when the news did arrive,
That there was no man with the law in his hand
That could take Jesse James while alive.


(Mrs. Riddle: “And that’s a fragment of the traditional family version of the song. I left out several verses.”
??: “You remembered one that you didn’t remember yesterday. It’s coming back to you.”)

Also found in Randolph, Vol. II, #132; Brown, Vol. II, #243; Belden, p. 401.

All Songs Recorded by John Quincy Wolf, Jr., unless otherwise noted

The John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection
Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas
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