“Willy, Poor Boy”


Floating verses, utterly unconnected. "The train was almost started/The conductor come by with his lamp...." "I asked her if she loved me/She said she loved me some...." "Sometimes I live in the country, sometimes I live in town...."


This song is almost impossible to describe; it is so disjointed as to be meaningless. - PJS

In fact it seems to consist entirely of lines borrowed from other songs. But it borrows from so MANY other songs that it has to file under its own name.... - RBW

Note that the "Sometimes I live in the country/Sometimes I live in town/Sometimes I take a fool notion/To jump in the river and drown" verse in this song predates the first recording of Lead Belly's "Goodnight Irene," with which the verse is usually associated, by two years. - PJS

Cross references


  • Roy Harvey & Jess Johnston (or Roy Harvey & the North Carolina Ramblers) "No Room for a Tramp" (Champion 16187, 1931; on TimesAint05)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Willy, Poor Boy" (on NLCR03)


  1. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 112, "Willy, Poor Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, CSW112


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1931 (recording, Roy Harvey & Jess Johnston)
Found in: US(SE)