Category Archives: Murder Ballads

Murder Ballad of the Week, 5/25/15: The Red-Headed Stranger

This week’s murder ballad is the Red-Headed Stranger by Eugene Chadbourne and Shockabilly. Yes, I know it’s originally a Willie Nelson song, and maybe I’ll post Willie’s version later in the year. Shockabilly’s version is the first I was exposed to, due to my unusual musical adolescence. And admit it, it’s fucking great.

Nice attempt at side-stepping the law there.  “You can’t hang a man for shooting a woman who’s trying to steal his horse.”

Shockabilly – The Red Headed Stranger

Murder Ballad of the Week, 4/27/15: Frankie Silver

Another murder ballad with lots of oral tradition behind it, linked below the video as usual.

The story involves ax murder and dismemberment of Charlie (Johnny) Silver by his wife Frankie, and subsequent burning of the body parts to destroy the evidence.

Frankie was hanged for her alleged crime.

Bobby McMillon’s interview: The Uncut Story of Frankie Silver

Epilogue to the Ballad of Frankie Silver

More about the Legend of Frankie Silver pt 1
More about the Legend of Frankie Silver pt 2

There’s a movement to have Frankie pardoned: Frankie & Charlie (Put a Stop to it)

Murder Ballad of the Week, 4/13/15: Tom Dooley

Wikipedia states that this is part of a broader genre of “sweetheart” murder ballads. I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with that there. In no culture do we murder our sweethearts. Murdering a love interest is a sure sign of pathological narcissism. NOT LOVE.

Here’s Doc Watson’s version.  The oldest recorded version is by Grayson & Whittier in 1929.

There’s also a couple of video documentaries that discuss the story at the root of the song, linked below:

1. The Story of Tom Dooley

2. Terry Helton’s documentary, part 1
    Terry Helton’s documentary, part 2