Mudcat Café message #2830620 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #1439   Message #2830620
Posted By: Sarah McQuaid
05-Feb-10 - 10:05 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: In the Pines (Joan Baez/Leadbelly?)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: In the Pines (Joan Baez/Leadbelly?)
Thanks autoharpBob for the kind comment about my singing! I actually did quite a bit of research on this song for the (24-page!) booklet of the CD I recorded it on. Here's the text from my booklet notes:

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' 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 Parl 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 Pines" 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 secondhand 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!

And here are the song lyrics as I sing them:

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

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


For more info or to listen to my version of the song, see