December 27

“Worried Man Blues”, a Country Folk Song

“Worried Man Blues” is a folk song in the roots music collection. Having the index number 4753, they cataloged it as a Round Folk Song. Similar to many folk songs passed by oral tradition, the lyrics are different from version to version. However, generally, all contain the same chorus.

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song

I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long

The verses of the song tell the story of a poor man. He was put to prison for unknown reasons.

I went across the river, and I lay down to sleep

When I woke up, had shackles on my feet

The innocent man yearns for his lost love—his love is “on the train and gone”.

Its Different Covers and Versions

In 1930, the Carter Family recorded this song for the Victor Talking Machine Company. After a decade, Woody Guthrie made his own cover. In the years that followed, Woody’s sometimes singing partners Cisco Houston Burl Ives, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott with Derroll Adams, and Pete Seeger sang it too. Seeger included it in his 1955 Folksinger’s Guitar Guide instruction record and booklet—Folkways CRB1. Apart from that, he also played it in his concerts throughout the 1960s.

Another name is Lonnie Donegan. He and his band released a skiffle (jazz, blues, folk and American folk) arrangement in 1955. This version had Dickie Bishop on vocals. Later in an interview, they honored Guthrie and Houston. The Kingston Trio wrote new verses and recorded it in 1959 as “A Worried Man”. Two years later, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs included it on their Foggy Mountain Boys Songs of the Famous Carter Family album. They recorded it with Maybelle Carter.

More artists covered “Worried Man Blues”. These were June Carter and Johnny Cash. They sang the song with Pete Seeger on the final episode of Rainbow Quest television series in 1966. Also, he performed it in concerts and on the Johnny Cash Show TV series.

“Worried Man Blues” - Carter Family
“Worried Man Blues” – Carter Family

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