“Johnny Sands”


Johnny says he is tired of life and asks his wife to help him drown. She is to tie his hands and push him into the river. As she comes running down the slope, he steps aside and falls in. When she calls for help, he points out that she has tied his hands


A number of editors confuse "Johnny Sands" [Laws Q3] and "Marrowbones" [Laws Q2]. They obviously have thematic similarity, and probably have exchanged parts. But the "gimmick" is different in each case; there seems no doubt that they are now separate songs. - RBW

Cross references


  • Grace Carr, "Johnny Sands" (on Saskatch01)


  1. Laws Q3, "Johnny Sands"
  2. Belden, pp. 237-239, "Johnny Sands" (2 texts, but only the first text, "A", is this piece; there are references to 4 more, probably this but some might be "Marrowbones")
  3. Randolph 754, "Johnny Sands" (2 texts, 2 tunes, but the "B" text goes with "Marrowbones" [Laws Q2])
  4. BrownII 181, "Johnny Sands" (1 text plus excerpts from 2 more and mention of 1 more)
  5. Hudson 71, pp. 198-199, "Johnny Sands" (1 text plus mention of 2 more)
  6. Brewster 51, "Johnny Sands" (1 text plus an excerpt and mention of 1 more; 1 tune)
  7. Flanders/Olney, pp. 13-14, "The Drowning Lady (The Witch Song)" (1 fragment, 1 tune, which might be either "Marrowbones" or "Johnnie Sands")
  8. Eddy 29, "Johnnie Sands" (1 text)
  9. Warner 54, "Johnny Sands" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Ord, p. 93, "Johnny Sands" (1 text)
  11. Friedman, p. 451, "Johnny Sands" (1 text)
  12. Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 222-223, "Johnny Sands" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 575-576, "Johnny Sands" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. LPound-ABS, 48, pp. 114-115, "Johnny Sands"; pp. 115-116, "Johnny Sands" (2 texts)
  15. cf. Gardner/Chickering, p. 480, "Johnny Sands" (source notes only)
  16. DT 344, MARBONE4
  17. Roud #184
  18. BI, LQ03


Alternate titles: “Johnny Vands”
Author: unknown (claimed by John Sinclair in an 1842 broadside)
Earliest date: 1842
Found in: US(Ap,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Ireland Britain(England(South),Scotland) Canada(West)