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Obit: Fred Geis (January, 2009)


Related thread:
Lyr Req: I'm Going Home (Fred Geis) (19) (closed)

Art Thieme 05 Feb 09 - 09:43 PM
Stilly River Sage 05 Feb 09 - 10:35 PM
Joe Offer 05 Feb 09 - 11:11 PM
Joe Offer 05 Feb 09 - 11:28 PM
katlaughing 06 Feb 09 - 12:12 AM
GUEST,Ken Brock 06 Feb 09 - 08:06 AM
Art Thieme 06 Feb 09 - 08:44 PM
GUEST,Greg Paul 07 Feb 09 - 12:02 AM
GUEST,Tom Nelligan 07 Feb 09 - 10:27 AM
GUEST,BLUE SUSAN 08 Feb 09 - 12:35 PM
Art Thieme 08 Feb 09 - 04:22 PM
Art Thieme 08 Feb 09 - 04:52 PM
Art Thieme 08 Feb 09 - 05:30 PM
Art Thieme 08 Feb 09 - 06:18 PM
Art Thieme 08 Feb 09 - 06:54 PM
Art Thieme 02 Mar 09 - 12:08 AM
GUEST,His Friends Ron and Pam with our feline, Pub 16 Jun 09 - 10:44 PM
GUEST,Steve S 08 May 11 - 01:33 PM
Art Thieme 09 May 11 - 10:48 AM
katlaughing 10 May 11 - 04:35 PM
GUEST,Nancy Hermanns 15 Dec 11 - 10:27 PM
GUEST 24 Jan 12 - 04:36 PM
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Subject: Obit: FRED GEIS
From: Art Thieme
Date: 05 Feb 09 - 09:43 PM

I've just been told that Fred Geis died---last month -- in California---although he had lived in Colorado for the last decade or so.

I knew Fred in the early 1960s Chicago folk scene. He was one of us whose lifestyle tended toward emulating Woody and Cisco and the adventurer/folksinger/traveler/wanderer song-magnet treasure-hunter who traversed the USA from shore to shore and back again back then. -- And Fred was a writer of a few of those songs. Fred was the kind of songwriter who put pebbles in his work boots so he might manufacture the pain that, he figured, would allow him to write songs like Mr. Guthrie and Joe Hill did. Three or four (or five) of the songs by Fred Geis came close.

One song, as done by the original Kingston Trio, even made it to number one on the charts before it was discovered that the tune was dually ripped off from both and aria from Gounod's Faust and a musical of early Israel called "Land Of Milk And Honey".
The song, titled "I'm Going Home" was pulled from the record stores and rarely spoken about again. BUT I found it on a live CD by the K.T. about a year ago. (It sounds like a bootleg!)

Fred Geis made some recordings in the middle of the floor of my old coach house in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood in 1963. About 2 years ago I was able to put those taped songs onto a CD. Aside from having lost some fidelity on the original reel-to-reel tapes due to ageing, as well as having survived the transferring to a cassette 20 or so years later, I think they still sound pretty good---or at least O.K.

Put Fred Geis into a DT or Forum search and you will, undoubtedly, find other things I've posted about Fred Geis and/or his music.

I will strive to come back to this thread and post some of his songs. To paraphrase an old coal mining song called "Only A Miner" :

He was only a folksinger---and one more is gone,
Only a folksinger now deep in ground..."

And tonight I'm thinking about him.

Art Thieme

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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 05 Feb 09 - 10:35 PM

Thanks for posting this Art, and for including the insights about his art.


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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Feb 09 - 11:11 PM

A few excerpts from posts from Art:
  • Fred Geis--last heard that you were rooming with Richard Harding, the 60s % 70's owner of Poor Richard's in Chicago. Fred was originally from Sacramento. Wrote "Goin' Home" (made a hit by Kinston Trio--was #1 for a week before it was noticed that the tune was taken from an aria in Gounod's FAUST. Also wrote "Lament For Brendan Behan" that was recorded by the Clancy's & Tommy Makem---and many others. (25 Dec 1998)
  • "I'm Going Home"----as done by the Kingston Trio was written by FRED GEIS from Sacramento, California---early 1960s. The song climbed the charts to number ONE almost as soon as it came out. THEN it left the charts as quickly as it had arrived. Someone noticed that the tune for this song was the same as one Gounod had used in his opera FAUST. Later, it was used in a musical Broadway show about early Israel. It was the tune of the title song, "Land Of Milk And Honey".
    I sang it on and off for about 40 years. FRED HOLSTEIN recorded it in the late 1960s on a very fine compilation album of Chicago folksingers who played at Earl Pionke's great Wells Street folk bar called The Earl Of Old Town.
    Also on this album was Steve Goodman's first ever recording of his famous song "The City Of New Orleans". (2 July 2003)
  • Here's the very first assassination song I found: It's by Fred Geis---Fred, if you're out there it'd be great to hear from you! TITLE" _THE LORD OF THE LAND_ The song was finished before Oswald was killed and the verse about Ruby shooting Oswald ("the slayer lies dead at his feet") was added a day or two later. (16 Feb 1998)
  • A Night At The Earl Of Old Town. Everyone did one or two songs. Also on this LP was the very first recording of Steve doing his own "CITY OF NEW ORLEANS" --- And Fred Holstein did Fred Geis's really fine song called "GOING HOME." The Kingston Trio recorded this song too---and it jumped to number one on the pop charts. It stayed there for a couple of weeks as I recall. THEN someone figured out that the tune of the song was lifted from the opera FAUST by Gounod. (Also, the same tune had been used by the guy who wrote the main song in a stage play/show called LAND OF MILK AND HONEY---a musical about the early state of Israel.)------------------ Well, the Kinston Trio's version of GOING HOME disapeared quicker than a beer on a hundred degree day. I was happy to find a live version of it on a VERY cheap Kingston Trio CD that I lucked onto in a K-Mart sale bin. (13 Sep 2004)
I'm sorry about the loss of your friend, Art. Sounds like he was a good one. I crosslinked other Fred Geis threads and songs above.

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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Feb 09 - 11:28 PM

I found this brief obituary at KDNK Carbondale (Colorado) Community Access Radio:
    Fred Geis---hobo, folksinger, composer, poet, bus driver and DJ--- died Monday, January 26 in Canon City, CO at the age of 74. Longtime listeners of Celtic Thunder on KDNK will remember Fred as the originator of this program.

    Born and raised in the Central Valley of California, as a young man Fred spent time in various folksinger circles around the country, including Greenwich Village, Chicago and Denver. At one point he was included on a compilation of upcoming folk artists which included a very young Bob Dylan. Fred composed a tune called "I'm Going Home," which was recorded by the Kingston Trio in the early 1960's. He also wrote "A Lament for Brendan Behan" which was recorded by the Clancy Brothers.

    Fred moved to Aspen in the mid 70's and by 1987 he had created the Celtic Thunder Show here on KDNK which has survived several permutations since then.

    Around the turn of the century Fred relocated to California. But he spent his last year in Canon City so he could be closer to his beloved Dormition Skete Orthodox community near Buena Vista, which is where he was laid to rest February 4.

    Join us in remembering Fred, and saluting him.

    © 2007 Carbondale Community Access Radio

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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Feb 09 - 12:12 AM

Thanks, Art and Joe. Art, sorry for the loss of one more of your dear and good friends. What you have posted about him is meaningful and priceless. Thank you, again, my friend.


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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: GUEST,Ken Brock
Date: 06 Feb 09 - 08:06 AM

btw MILK AND HONEY was an early musical by Jerry Herman, who a few years later wrote HELLO DOLLY and MAME, and later MACK AND MABEL, DEAR WORLD, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and others.

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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 06 Feb 09 - 08:44 PM

Thanks, Joe, and all who fleshed out my long ago memories of Fred. All of the 'new' insights are welcomed and help me to see the man Mr. Geis became. I'm glad others recall him with affection. And I wish I'd known him better.


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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: GUEST,Greg Paul
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 12:02 AM

I worked with Fred in the late 80's and 90's at the Roaring Fork Transit system in Aspen as bus drivers. He had a unique view of life and had high standards to be met by those who would be friends. By the time I knew him he was quit a bit toned down from his earlier years, as I understand them, but still had that wild rascal side. He was a large (300lbs.) person physically and intellectually, tho last I saw him he had lost weight. He sang a ditty at my/our wedding with his booming celtic voice. I wished I had known he was still so close so we could have visited.

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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: GUEST,Tom Nelligan
Date: 07 Feb 09 - 10:27 AM

I well remember the Kingston Trio's version of "I'm Going Home". But why the big flap about the borrowed melody? Dylan launched his career that way, and it's hardly contrary to the folk process.

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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 12:35 PM

Blue Susan was the name Fred chose for me when we became friends in Aspen while driving Buses for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.    We would join each other between driving runs and sing our songs accopella to each other. By this time Fred was mostly singing Irish Ballads. I would sing my love songs, asking him to critique the writing and performance. He would never critique, he would just rave about it. He wrote lyrics for "Blue Susan" and I have them stashed away somewhere, and will try hard to find them to complete his song to me.

Fred' health was greatly affected by his weight during this time. He became quite ill, and during his recovery he lost 100 pounds. He had left the bus company and it wasn't until he came to my wedding that all his friends saw his weight loss and return to health. He sang an Irish Folk Song during the reception, and during the wedding he spoke loving words to us, especially regarding his joy at seeing what a special man my groom was. They had known each other a long time but had never really seen each others fine qualities until witnessed through my love for each of them.

Before Fred left Colorado he competed in a state wide competition of Celtic singing in Estes Park, during their Summer festival and won! Good for you Fred. You were a unique, gifted and loving person.

We lost touch after Fred moved to California. The Christmas Letters came back undeliverable and I was saddened, knowing that Fred's health was continuing to fail. I always hoped to see him, and sing to him again. I was happy that he found his inner peace through his religion. It cheers me to know he was with fellow faithful during the end of his life.

Thank you Art for allowing Fred's friends to share our memories of him with each other through this medium.

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Subject: ADD: Bold Brendan (Fred Geis)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 04:22 PM

Here is Fred Geis' song "BOLD BRENDAN" --- a lament For Brendan Behan (sung unaccompanied) This was recorded on a Clancy Brothers LP for Columbia Records as sung by Liam Clancy:

BOLD BRENDAN" --- a lament For Brendan Behan
(Fred Geis)

Word has come from Dublin City,
Word has come to our town,
Word has come from Dublin city,
They tell me bold Brendan is dead.

He died, 'tis said, in Dublin city,
In a cold white hospital bed,
And tonight he sleeps with the earth as his pillow,
They tell me bold Brendan is dead.

Born in '23 in a slum in north Dublin,
With a tenement over his head,
Born with a spirit his flesh could not contain,
They tell me bold Brendan is dead.

The cold cobbled streets are cloudy and gray,
The Liffey flows slow on it's way,
In the Georgian tenements the children hush their singing,
They know that bold Brendan is dead.

Five long years he spent in a borstal
For a ruckus in 1941,
And many bold _____ he saw after that,
Yet they tell me bold Brendan is dead.

No stranger to the class he fought all his life,
No stranger to the glass in his hand,
No stranger to life -- he lived right enough,
And they tell ma bold Brendan is dead.

Oh, Ireland has lost it's sweet angry singer,
No longer his poems of fine design
Will ring out in Gaelic and resound down the lane,
For, alas, bold Brendan is dead!

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Subject: ADD: Lord of the Land (Fred Geis)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 04:52 PM

...and here is the song Lord Of The Land that Fred Geis wrote in 1963 ---- right after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The last verse was added a short time later, after Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald. Fred backed himself up on banjo. He made these tapes of his songs in my coach house at 1844 Cleveland in Chicago. Fred called this "a non-specific ballad about the killing." (Some songs were taped in 1964.)

From a 1964 tape we made of Fred.

(Fred Geis)

Where is the master of the house?
Where is the lord of the land?
He's gone to sleep with his youngest son,
Gone to another land.

Where is the wife of the lord or the land?
What of his kindred and keep?
His mourning wife sails on a bonny great ship,
Over the ocean and deep.

Where is the brother of the lord of the land?
What sins does he repent?
He lies and he cries in the arms of his love
And his sorrows his wounds do all rent.

What of the people who lived in the town?
What of the crofters and fens?
There's crying in the villages and weeping in the towns,
Their lamenting is heard in the glens.

What of the slayer whose arrow did quick
To kill the lord of the land?
He lies in a cell and he ponders his fate,
He knows not what sprang from his hand.

All the leaves on the trees are dying and dead,
The flowers are dead on the heath,
The lord of the land lies dead in his grave,
The slayer lies dead at his feet.

Art Thieme

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Subject: Lyr Add: SAN JOAQUIN BLUES (Fred Geis)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 05:30 PM

(Fred Geis)

Take a trip with me to the old San Joaquin,
The people out there are exceedingly mean,
They'll take you and work you while telling you lies,
And anxiously await your hard work's demise,
   And it's hard times.

The Baron of Mandeville Island's the same,
He'll take you and work you and not know your name,
On civic committees, he's the head of them all,
But when he gets home, he's a regular outlaw,
    And it's hard times.

And he's not the only outlaw I know,
There's plenty of others---I'm telling you so,
The labor contractors--they're the worst that we've got,
When bleeding the migrant he grins at their lot,
    And it's hard times.

We top those white jumbos for a dollar a day,
This is no story, for it's piecework I say,
You fill up a gunny for seventeen cents,
And when you get home you can't pay your board,
    And it's hard times.

Well, it's in-between orchard crops this time of year,
The cherries are gone----and the peaches aren't here,
The apricots burst from hot weather I know,
It's stoop labor we deem with a short-handled hoe,
    And it's hard times.

So I left that hot valley and went down to the town,
I looked all my friends up and they showed me around,
But now they do use me, and it's soon I must go,
To look up and down that King Island row,
    And it's hard times.

So kind friends and relations have patience I pray,
And work in this struggle in your own quiet way,
For foxes have holes--and birds have their nests,
But the weary old migrant has no place to rest,
    And it's hard times.

-- written in summer of 1960 in Berkeley, California when he was working with migrant labor issues for San Joaquin County. The tune is close to Woody Guthrie's "1913 Massacre." I sang this song for over 30 years.

Art Thieme

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Subject: ADD: Pony Jack Daniels (Fred Geis)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 06:18 PM

Here is Fred Geis' song called Pony Jack Daniels. He wrote it in 1963. It is mainly fictional. It is a grand ballad I always thought. For some reason, I put off learning this one---and never did. Some of the phraseology seemed a bit forced and just to make a rhyme to me--not conversational.

(Fred Geis)

I had me a pony, Jack Daniels by name,
I rode him on the mountain, I rode him on the plain,
I rode him in the forest underneath those big trees,
He was quick as quicksilver, and swift as the breeze.

I looked for a job in Balbury town,
I got one widening bridges to Pecos and around,
I worked for a contractor--Jack Freeland by name,
He took every penny I had to my name.

Jack Freeland walked up and said, "Can you tie steel?"
I said, "Hand me a twister and I'll show you for real!"
I tied me more steel that whole country around,
I put up every rod girder in this living town.

I tied those rod girders all down the work line,
The concrete man said they were true strong and fine,
I handed them hammers, I handed them saws,
I was the best carpenter's helper that town ever saw.

Those pilings and concrete forms went up so fine,
I thought I'd collect and hit Stockton on time,
But the winds and those flash-floods I did not foresee,
And that west Texas water was near death to me.

I got caught on a piling in the midst of a stream,
I let out a cry, I let out a scream,
Well, who did I see moving fast to my side
But Pony Jack Daniels--he looked like a bride.

He had on his saddle, black blanket and all,
Onto his back I straightway did fall,
I had hold of his neck--I let loose of his reigns,
He commenced to propel me like a silver ______ train.

Now, some owe their life to their honor and fame,
And some owe their life to their own precious name,
But I owe my life to no lord and no dame,
I owe it to Pony Jack Daniels by name.

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Subject: ADD: Going Home (Fred Geis)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Feb 09 - 06:54 PM

Here's Fred's song he called "GOING HOME. This is as he sang it for me. The K.T. changed some parts of it. They made a chorus of sorts out of the verse starting with "California Could Not Hold Me." Also, I seem to remember that the mention of the "boxcar" was removed too. Go figure.

(Fred Geis)

Well, no matter where I wander,
I know I'll always find a welcome,
At the end of every journey
There are people always waiting.

California could not hold me,
Though I loved her timber mountains,
I saw her fields and I saw her orchards,
Up and down her Central Valley.

I have ridden open boxcars,
Through the golden Utah valleys,
Saw the rivers, watched it's gliding,
Waved my hands to friendly people.

Those that know me call me a drifter,
They don't know I'll stop my ramblin'
They don't know that some day, somewhere
Somebody's gonna make me settle down
   I'm goin' home,
   I'm goin' home!

Well, no matter where I wander
I know I'll always find a welcome,
At the end of every journey
There are people always waiting.

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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 02 Mar 09 - 12:08 AM

refresh for an old friend of Fred's who missed this.


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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: GUEST,His Friends Ron and Pam with our feline, Pub
Date: 16 Jun 09 - 10:44 PM

Our friend and yours and the many had more than our opportunity to meet and greet Fred who resided in Willits, Mendocino County, California for many years before he returned to his beloved Colorado...He was a poet among us with music in his voice and in his hands with the piano and the 3 string banjo...Yes, I am not a musician but we shared many hours, days, weeks, and months discussing anything...Fred also loved to read the thicker books...He loved nature and had a quick comment to make most of the time...We will miss him but his memories with us are his and our life...With Peace, Health, and Harmony: be thankful...and most importantly be Whee...And, with love which we all must have, too...We do miss you, my friend...

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Subject: Fred Geis
From: GUEST,Steve S
Date: 08 May 11 - 01:33 PM

I've read with interest postings about Fred Geis, 60s s/sw of some reknown in the Chicago scene and Carbondale CO.

I knew Geis about summer 1962-he was my cabin counselor at a Jewish summer sleep-away camp near Andes, NY. He was also a specialist counselor; the "folk song counselor". My memories of him are very detailed, and became "tied together" after I got heavily into the Philly scene ca. 1980 as a blues and oldtime musician.

Geis played a Gibson J45, ca 1960-62. He had a flexible tenor voice with falsetto ability, but he didn't yodel. He flat picked and did some basic finger picking. His song repertoire was odd...mostly college boy folk (KT, etc) and a little Baez/Bob Gibson rep, spiced with Mexican revolution songs, Spanish Loyalist songs, Yiddish and Israeli songs, Boer songs (from Marias and Miranda), Guthrie children's songs...about as socio-political as he got was "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream". Visually, he was rail thin, and affected a "Tom Rush" look.

He was a vicious competitor at tennis. He was held in contempt by many of the "jock" counselors, as well as many campers. He seemed to truly dislike kids. He appeared to be a practicing, if not devout Jew.

His "California/labor/hobo" persona is questionable. More than one counselor told me he was a Long Island kid who attended CCNY and flunked out of Albany-Upstate med school....his mode of travel at the time was a shiny new VW bug.

He often led the campers in singing "This is the Land of Milk and Honey" from the 1961 musical, possibly the genesis of his infamous "California- Goin' Home" lawsuit song.

I'd be interested in other recollections of Geis.


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Subject: RE: Fred Geis
From: Art Thieme
Date: 09 May 11 - 10:48 AM

Amazingly, that sounds like a completely different person than the Fred Geis that was in Chicago in the early sixties. I never had an inkling that he was Jewish. And I never heard him sing anything like K.Trio songs or even Strangest Dream. The Fred I knew was rather gamy and needed a bath. He definitely was not thin. As payment for sitting down and making tapes for me of his songs, he pretty much emptied my refrigerator into himself while standing in front of it. I still have the songs Fred sang into my tape recorder so many years ago.

Could be we're talking about two people who share the name Fred Geis?!
But I doubt it.

Art Thieme

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Subject: RE: Fred Geis
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 May 11 - 04:35 PM

There's more about him in his obit thread from 2009, HERE.

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Subject: RE: Obit: FRED GEIS (January, 2009)
From: GUEST,Nancy Hermanns
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 10:27 PM

My husband is his nephew and had lost touch with his Uncle, as Randy's mom didn't get along with her brother well. We don't know much about him and sure appreciate the story's shared. If you have more info or stories, you can reach me at

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Date: 24 Jan 12 - 04:36 PM

In Fred Geis handwriting I found one of his songs Bo Lamkins. Learned from Frank Proffitt of Avery County North Carolina in 1961.

Bo Lambkins was as fine a mason
As ever laid a stone
He built a high castle
And the pay he got none

Bo Lambkins went to the castle
And he knocked loud and long
There was none so ready as the faultress
She rose and let him in

O'where is the land lord
And is he at home
Ah no he's gone to merry England
To visit his son

Where is the landlord's lady
Did she go with him
O' no cried the faultress
She's upstairs sleeping

How can we get her downstairs
Such a dark night as it is
Stick pins and needles
Into the little baby

Bo Lambkins rocked the cradle
And the false nurse she sung
While the tears and the red blood
From the cradle did run

The lady coming downstairs
Not thinkin' no harm
Bo Lambkins stood ready
And caught her in his arm

Bo Lambkins, Bo Lambkins
Spare my life one hour
You can have my daughter Betsy
My own blooming flower

Bo Lambkins, Bo Lambkins
Spare my life one day
You can have all the gay gold
Your horse can carry away

Keep your daughter Betsy
To go through the flood
She can scour the silver basin
That catches your heart's blood

Daughter Betsy was sittin
In the tower so high
When she saw her dear father
Come riding hard by

O Father O Father
Come see what's been done
Bo Lambkins has been here
And killed your dear son

Bo Lambkins has been here
And killed your baby
Bo Lambkins has been here
And killed your lady

Bo Lambkins was hung
To the scaffolo so high
And the false nurse was burned
In the fire nearby

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