“Billy Grimes the Rover”


The girl comes to her mother and asks if she can marry Billy Grimes. Mother refuses her blessing; Billy is poor and dirty. The girl points out that Billy has just come into a large inheritance; the mother suddenly praises Billy and gives her blessing

Supplemental text

Billy Grimes the Rover
  Complete text(s)

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From "The Dime Song Book #2" (1860), p. 46.
The final stanzas seem to be atypical in tradition.

To-morrow morn I'm sweet sixteen, and Billy Grimes the rover
 as (sic.) popp'd th question to me mamma, and wants to be my lover;
To-morrow morn, he says mamma, he's coming bright and early,
To take a pleasant trip with me across the fields of barley.

You must not go, my daughter dear, it is no use a talking,
You can not go across the field with Billy Grime a walking;
To think of his presumption now, the dirty ugly drover,
I wonder where your pride has gone to think of such a rover.

Old Grimes is dead,  you know, mamma, and Billy is so lonely,
Besides they say, too, Grimes has said, that Billy is the only.
So I'll be heir to all he's left, and that they say is nearly
A good ten thousand dollars' worth, and about six hundred yearly.

I did not hear, my daughter dear, your last remark quite clearly;
But Billy is a clever lad, and no doubt loves you dearly,
Be ready, then, to-morrow morn, and be up bright and early,
To take a pleasant walk with him across the fields of barley.

And when we're married, dear mamma, we both shall look so neatly,
I'll wear a thousand-dollar shawl -- 'twill make me look so sweetly;
This common frock is geting old, and silks will soon be fashion,
I'll turn his pockets inside-out, and meet with a short, I guess him.

Not quite so fast, my pretty miss, don't try to win the drover
Who's travelled this whole country through in search of a true lover;
My money ne'er shall buy your shawl, nor build your castle higher,
Please, madam, take your daughter home, I only did it to try her.


Belden asserts that Billy Grimes was properly a "drover," not a "rover" (even though his informant used the word "rover"), and it's possible that this was original -- but, as the list of titles shows -- Billy quickly became transformed.

The composite text in Brown ends with the drover rejecting the girl because she wants his money. Chappell also has this ending This is, however, the "minority version" even in Brown, and seems rare elsewhere; if it is original, it had generally been dropped. More likely it's a North Carolina variant. - RBW

The following broadsides are duplicates, or so close to being duplicates that I don't find a difference:

LOCSheet sm1852 510300 and sm1852 691750: these claim "words by Richard Coe, Esq Music by W.H. Oakley"

LOCSheet sm1853 540400 and sm1853 700610: these claim the song was "composed by [usually meaning "music by" ] Wm H Oakes"; the story ends with the mother explaining that she is in favor of Billy.

LOCSinging as101050, as101060 and sb10018b[same text, different printer]: no attribution; the story has Billy reject her at the end.

The remaining American Memory broadside, LOCSheet sm1852 520830 is "by N C Morse"; it ends when the daughter announces Billy's ten thousand pound capitalization and 600 pound annual income."

Broadside LOCSinging as101050: J. Andrews dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Cross references


  • LOCSheet, sm1852 510300, "Billy Grimes" or "The Country Lassie and her Mother," Firth, Pond and Co. (New York), 1852; same broadside as sm1852 691750; sm1852 520830, "Billy Grimes the Drover"; sm1853 540400, "Billy Grimes" same broadside as sm1853 700610 (tune)
  • LOCSinging, as101050, "Billy Grimes the Rover," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859; also as101060, sb10018b, "Billy Grimes the Rover"


  • I. G. Greer, "Billy Grimes" (AFS; on LC14, TimesAint02)
  • Marie Hare, "Billy Grimes the Drover" (on MRMHare01)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Billy Grimes the Rover" (on NLCR04, NLCR11)
  • Shelor Family, "Billy Grimes the Rover" (Victor 20865, 1927; on GoingDown)


  1. Belden, pp. 251-252, "Billy Grimes" (1 text)
  2. McNeil-SFB2, pp. 33-34, "Billy Grimes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. BrownII 193, "Billy Grimes the Drover" (1 composite text derived from 8 unprinted versions)
  4. Chappell-FSRA 76, "Billy Grimes" (1 text)
  5. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 58, "Billy Grimes, the Rover" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. LPound-ABS, 96, pp. 205-206, "The Courtship of Billy Grimes" (1 text)
  7. Manny/Wilson 59, "Billy Grimes the Drover" (1 text plus an excerpt, 1 tune)
  8. SharpAp 176, "Billy Grimes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. DSB2, p. 46, "Billy Grimes the Rover" (1 text)
  10. cf. Gardner/Chickering, p. 477, "Billy Grimes" (source notes only)
  12. ST MN2033 (Full)
  13. Roud #468
  14. BI, MN2033


Author: unknown
Earliest date: c. 1852 (published by an N.C. Morse, who claimed authorship)
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW,SE) Canada(Mar)