VERSIONS: “Old Paint”

Another in our series of “VERSIONS” in which our writers was lyrical about a song in all its different glories. This time Gordon Sharpe puts ‘Old Paint’ under the spotlight. Maybe he’s planning some decorating during lockdown?

I think as writers that sometimes we see a ‘VERSIONS’ article as something relatively easy to research and produce. Well not always. ‘Goodbye Old Paint / Old Paint’, is a traditional song with its roots lost in the mists of time – there do seem to be similarly titled songs albeit with quite different lyrics. For example, Pharis and Jason Romero below and their interesting account of where their version of, ‘Goodbye Old Paint’, comes from, stretching back via Alan Lomax, Jess Mitland and Charlie Willis. In this version someone leaves Cheyenne but no mention of Montana or the bizarre funeral arrangements recounted below – though we do hear about a tree in the middle of the ocean. ‘How lovely’ opines the presenter – quite so.

It will be useful to recount the basic story of our main version. First up we have the rider leaving Cheyenne heading for Montana – and the reasons why. This then leads us into the tale of Bill Brown / Jones, his daughters, (one a ne’er do well and one the opposite) and his wife – a woman who lost her life in a pool room brawl. Finally the singer makes a wish for the disposal of his body – tie it to that rather unfortunate horse and cut them both loose headed West. I’m not exactly sure what is expected to become of the horse?

From nearly 50 years ago, Townes Van Zandt offers a typically sparse version:

There is welcome restraint in Linda Ronstadt’s singing and avoidance of her tendency toward occasional shrillness. I’d be keen to know what a ‘snuffy’ is?

Entitled ‘I Ride an Old Paint / Leaving CheyenneColter Wall, appropriately attired with suitable pictures on the wall, gives us a version that feels as authentic as you like – becoming at times almost spoken word.

An advert SpecSavers are yet to make Nana Mouskouri lends her impeccable pipes to our signature tune. How many of you out there remember her as the staple of many a Saturday night TV variety show and for some reason always rather derided by music ‘fans’? Still with us at 86.

About Paul Villers 187 Articles
I am a professional curmudgeon. I don't care and neither should you. Buy me gin and we can possibly be friends.

4 Comments

  1. Hey , you forgot Tom Russell again ! Tut tut . This time duetting “Old Paint” with Gretchen Peters from the most wonderful “One to the heart , one to the head” album .

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