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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
CarterNut Songs and Tunes for Autoharp? (74* d) Lyr Add: SWEET FERN (Carter Family) 14 May 99

Hey guys and gals, here are the Carter Family words to "Sweet Fern". As I am kind of a small scale Carter historian and a large scale Carter music enthusiast, I could only find that A.P. found the song on one of his song hunting trips. This was a common song around that area (Eastern Tennessee/Southwestern Virginia) and was usually called "Sweet Birds". Actually, the song was written and copyrighted under the latter title in 1876 by Thomas Westendorf and George Persley. However, A.P. Carter is given credit for writing the song by Ralph S. Peer- A.P. essentially changed the original wording and perhaps even the tune while adding the yodel after each chorus.

As recorded by The Carter Family, 1929. (Victor 40126-A, Bluebird 5927, Montgomery Ward 4437)

1. Springtime is coming, sweet lonesome bird,
Your echo in the woodland I hear
Down in the meadow so lonesome you're singing,
While the moonlight is shining so clear.

CHORUS: [But] I know he's away in a far distant land,
A land that's over the sea.
Go fly to him singing your sweet little song
And tell him to come back to me.
Sweet Fern (Sweet Fern), Sweet Fern (Sweet Fern),
Oh, tell me: is my darling still true?
Sweet Fern (Sweet Fern), Sweet Fern (Sweet Fern),
I'll be just as happy as you.


2. Oh, tell me, sweet Fern, is he thinking of me
And the promise we made long ago?
He said he'd return from over the sea.
Oh, why do the years go so slow? CHORUS+YODEL

3. Upon my finger, he placed a small ring
On the day he was leaving his home.
I promised I’d be his own dear little girl
And love him wherever he'd roam. CHORUS+YODEL

The Carter Family recorded this song on February 14, 1929, and over the years many of the members have played the song on the autoharp, for instance, Mother Maybelle, Sara, Janette (Sara and A.P.'s daughter), as well as Helen, June, and Anita. Each has their distinctive way of playing it.

Hope I have been some help.
John J.

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