Shady Grove

introduced by Sparky and Rhonda Rucker

"Shady Grove" is a traditional Southern Appalachian song. Like many mountain songs that blend Celtic and African influences, it is most often played in a modal tuning. Its origins are murky. The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Volume III, credits it as a "Negro song." In the Journal of American Folklore, the song was collected in both Kentucky and Tennessee. In one of her books, Jean Ritchie reminisced about hearing it as a fiddle tune when she was growing up in eastern Kentucky. We have recorded this song twice — once on our CD, Treasures & Tears, and again on Dear Jean, the Jean Richie tribute album.

A video from our live performance for a Jean Ritchie tribute at KY Music Weekend on July 25, 2015 can be found at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J6yXTrUTvg 

(and is embedded on the right). See the lyrics below or click here to download them (Word document). 

Rhonda says, "Doing the transcription was a challenge because Sparky tends to improvise so much, so each verse and chorus is a little different. Therefore, I went with the melody he used for the first verse and chorus."

 

ShadyGroveTranscribedSparkyRhondaRucker040Click on the image for a downloadable PDF

LYRICS:
(guitar is tuned to “D” Model [D A D G B D] capo at 2nd fret making it “E” Model)

Cheeks as red as the blooming rose
Eyes of the deepest brown
You are the darling of my heart
Stay ‘till the sun goes down

Refrain:
Shady Grove my little love
Shady Grove my darling
Shady Grove my little love
I’m going back to Harlan

When I was a little boy
I used to want a knife
Now I am a big strong man
All I want is a wife

Refrain:
Shady Grove, my true love
Shady grove I know
Shady Grove, my true love
I’m bound for the Shady Grove

The last time I saw Shady Grove
She was standing in the door
Shoes and stockings in her hand
And her little bare feet on the floor

Wish I had a horse so fine
Corn to feed him on
Wish I had little Shady Grove
To feed him when I’m gone

Refrain:
Shady Grove, my true love
Shady grove I know
Shady Grove, my true love
I’m bound for the Shady Grove

Refrain:
Shady Grove my little love
Shady Grove my darling
Shady Grove my little love
I’m going back to Harlan

Wish I had little Shady Grove
I’d put her on the shelf
And every time she smiled at me
I’d climb up there myself

Eleven miles of mountain road
Fifteen miles of sand
If ever you see me back again
Gonna be a married man

Refrain:
Shady Grove, my true love
Shady Grove my darling
Shady Grove, my true love
I’m going back to Harlan

Refrain:
Shady Grove, my true love
Shady grove I know
Shady Grove, my true love
I’m bound for the Shady Grove

Refrain:
Shady Grove, my true love
Shady Grove I say
Gonna marry you someday

Refrain:
Shady Grove, my true love
Shady Grove I say
Shady Grove, my true love
Hey, don’t you wait ‘till the Judgment Day!

Sparky and Rhonda Rucker's music includes old-time blues, Appalachian music, slave songs, and spirituals as well as originals, and they accompany themselves with fingerstyle picking and bottleneck blues guitar, old-time banjo, blues harmonica, piano, spoons, and bones. Over fifty years of performing, Sparky and Rhonda have entertained at the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival as well as appeared on NPR's On Point, Prairie Home Companion, and Mountain Stage. Their recording, Treasures & Tears, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology, Singing Through the Hard Times. The duo's most recent recording is Down by the Riverside.

     
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