“Little Bessie”


The little girl tells her mother that she is ill (with what sounds like heart disease). She reports that a voice called her, saying, "Come, be my child." The girl bids her mother not to grieve, then dies

Supplemental text

Little Bessie
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***
From W. K. McNeil, Southern Folk Ballads, Volume II, pp. 172-173.
Collected from Viola Cole, Fancy Gap, Virginia, in 1962. Same
version in Roger D. Abrahams and George Foss, Anglo-American
Folksong Style, pp. 122-123.

Hug me closer, mother, closer;
Put your arms around me tight.
For I',m cold and tired mother
And I feel so strange tonight.

Something hurts me here, dear mother,
Like a stone upon my breast
And I wonder, wonder, mother,
Why it is I cannot rest.

(7 additional stanzas)


McNeil reports that a song called "Little Bessie," credited to "someone named Keutchman," was published in 1870. No copies of this piece are known, however, so it cannot be determined if the two are the same.

Given how often this was recorded by old-time bands, and how rare it is in tradition, I have to suspect that Viola Cole (Foss's informant) learned it, at least indirectly, from a recording. - RBW


  • Leroy Anderson, "Little Bessie" (Champion 45059, 1935)
  • Blue Sky Boys, "Little Bessie" (Bluebird B-8017, 1939)
  • Dixon Brothers, "Little Bessie" (Montgomery Ward M-7171, 1937)
  • Kelly Harrell, "I Heard Somebody Call My Name" (Victor 23747, 1929; on KHarrell02)
  • Roscoe Holcomb, "Little Bessie" (on Holcomb1, HolcombCD1)
  • Buell Kazee, "Little Bessie" (Brunswick 215, 1928)
  • Holland Puckett, "Little Bessie" (Gennett 6720, 1928/Supertone 9324, 1929)
  • Kid Smith [Walter Smith] & Family, "Little Bessie" (Victor 23576, 1931)


  1. McNeil-SFB2, pp. 172-173, "Little Bessie" (1 text, the same as that in Abrahams/Foss; 1 tune)
  2. MHenry-Appalachians, pp. 132-134, "Little Bessie" (1 text)
  3. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 122-123, "Little Bessie" (1 text, the same as that in McNeil-SFB2; 1 tune)
  4. ST MN2172 (Partial)
  5. Roud #4778
  6. BI, MN2172


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1928 (Recording, Buell Kazee)
Found in: US(Ap,SE)