“Darling Little Joe”


The dying boy asks how life will be when he is dead, e.g. "Oh what will the birds do, mother, in the spring... Will they harp at the door... Asking why Joe wanders out no more?" The boy asks mother to care for his pets, and tells her he will be in heaven


Cohen notes two sheet music printings, one (dated 1876) crediting it to Charles E. Addison, the other (1866) by V. E. Marsten. Draw your own conclusions. - RBW

The 1866 sheet music lists V. M. Marston as the composer, with no information as to the lyricist. It includes a chorus ("Little Joe will soon, will soon be sleeping, sleeping calmly...") which does not seem to have entered oral tradition. - PJS

Broadside LOCSheet sm1876 10660: "Composed and sung by Maj. Chas. E. Addison the noted Confederate Spy and Scout of Gen. John H. Morgan's Command." Attributed to the same author, and published the same year by the same publisher is

LOCSheet, sm1876 10661, "The Dying Message" ("Raise the window, Mother darling, Let the soft breeze fan me now," Blackmar & Finney (New Orleans), 1876 (tune) - BS


  • Levy 105.044, "The Death of Little Joe," G. Andre & Co., Philadelphia, 1866
  • LOCSheet, sm1876 10660, "Little Joe," Blackmar & Finney (New Orleans), 1876 (tune)


  • Carter Family, "Darling Little Joe" (Victor [Canada] CNV-102, n.d.); "Little Joe" (Decca 5632, 1939)
  • Bradley Kincaid, "Little Joe" (Montgomery Ward M-4457, 1934)
  • Monroe Brothers, "Little Joe" (Bluebird B-7598, 1938)
  • Charles Nabell, "Little Joe" (OKeh 40418, 1925)


  1. Randolph 712, "Darling Little Joe" (3 texts plus a fragment, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 460-461, "Darling Little Joe" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 712A)
  3. Roud #3545
  4. BI, R712


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1866 (sheet music, "The Death of Little Joe")
Found in: US(So)