Mudcat Café message #1645741 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #47571   Message #1645741
Posted By: GUEST,Bob Coltman
10-Jan-06 - 03:25 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Willie Moore
Subject: RE: Origins: Willie Moore
I think it's a fairly sound assumption that "Willie Moore" may have been written by Dick Burnett, of Burnett and Rutherford. Gus Meade's invaluable Country Music Sources traces it no farther back than Randolph, whose Ozark Folk Songs Vol 4 has a version collected in 1941. Its tune is different, words slightly varied, one verse only.

To expand on what the Index says, Randolph notes: "Mr. Paul Wilson, Farmington, Ark, met a Reverend William Moore in Dallas, Exas, in 1936, who claimed that this song was written about him. 'I sure did have some misadventures when I was young,' Moore was quoted as saying. 'I didn't go to Montreal and die, though, like the song says. I just went to East Texas, an' took up preachin' the Word.'"

This would tend to make you think, if Moore can be believed, that there is a longer version of the ballad somewhere, perhaps now lost, that traces Willie to Canada and his own death. I know of no such version, but that might mean one of two things: a) somebody other than Burnett wrote it, or b) he wrote a longer version and cut it short for the record ("keep your tunes down to three minutes, boys, or you'll run off the wax").

Burnett had a great knack of writing songs that sounded like they came from generations back. For example, "I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow" is generally credited to him, and so is "Goin' Round the World" (Banjo Picking Girl) -- both recorded by his friend Emry Arthur in the 1920s. He may even have written Rambling Reckless Hobo, at least in that form, since it appears in his 1913 songbook, though the various other versions may be independent of his.

A biography of Richard Burnett would be of great interest; he was one of the prime movers of music around Kentucky, both with and without fiddler Leonard Rutherford. Somebody want to tackle one?