Lefty Frizzell performs “The Long Black Veil” Original Single 1959.

The song reached the position number # 6 of the lists of US hot country singles. The lyrics refer to a man accused of murder by circumstantial evidence, who will not speak to exonerate himself because he was sleeping with his best friend's wife on the fatal night.

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The Long Black Veil:

Song written by Marijohn Wilkin & Danny Dill, was recorded by Lefty Frizzell, for the Columbia label, was recorded on March 3, 1959, at Bradley Film and Recording Studio, 804 16th Ave. South, Nashville, TN. Lefty, was accompanied in the recording by, Lefty Frizzell [vocal], Wilma Lee Cooper [vocal], Grady Martin [guitar], Harold Bradley [guitar], Don Helms [steel], Joseph Zinkan [bass], Buddy Harman [drums], Marijohn Wilkin [piano], with the production of Don Law. It was released on April 20, 1959, the song reached the position number # 6 of the lists of US hot country singles.

Lp cover Lefty Frizzell ( Columbia 1966 )
Lp cover Lefty Frizzell ( Columbia 1966 )

The cancion was included in Lefty’s compilation album, the Greatest Hits (Columbia 1966), released in late 1966. Ironically, Dill had imagined a folk song, but “Long Black Veil” was brought to the charts by the star of the show. Country Lefty Frizzell.
However, perhaps his most iconic rendition of the song came at his landmark Johnny Cash on the Folsom prison album in 1968, which was a great comeback for The Man in Black after the drug dependence had prevented its momentum in the mid-60s.

 

Story behind the song:

The composers said they were inspired by Red Buttons’ “God Walks These Hills With Me,” as well as contemporary news reports on the death of a New Jersey priest who was killed in the light of a city hall in the presence of 50 witnesses. Neither the motive nor the murderer were named. The writers combined these elements with the story of the mysterious veiled woman who visits the tomb of Rudolph Valentino annually to leave red roses.
The lyrics refer to a man accused of murder by circumstantial evidence, who will not speak to exonerate himself because he was sleeping with his best friend’s wife on the fatal night. Remaining silent to save his life and reputation, he goes to the gallows, and she visits his grave in secret.

Long Black Veil, “ has been sung by a lot of people over the years, including iconic voices like Burl Ives, Jerry Garcia, Rick Danko and Levon Helm from The Band, Joan Baez, Mick Jagger and Dave Matthews, up to more than a hundred versions.

Single cover Bobby Bare ( RCA 1966 )
Single cover Bobby Bare ( RCA 1966 )

Some versions:
Danny Hill 1960 (MGM)
The Country Gentlemen 1960 (Folkways)
Burl Ives 1961 (Decca)
Roy Drusky 1964 (Mercury)
Faron Young 1964 (Mercury)
Bobby Bare 1966 ( RCA )
Johnny Cash 1968 (Columbia)
Ronnie Hawkins 1968 (Yorkville)
Del Reeves 1973 (Unaited Artist Records)
Sammi Smith 1974 (Mega)

And many more…..

Lefty Frizzell -The Long Black Veil Lyrics

Ten years ago, on a cold, dark night
There was someone killed ‘neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene, but they all agreed
That the slayer who ran looked a lot like me

The judge said, “Son what is your alibi?
If you were somewhere else, then you won’t have to die”
I spoke not a word, though it meant my life
For I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

The scaffold was high and eternity nears
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But sometimes at night when the cold wind moans
In a long black veil, she cries over my bones

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me
Nobody knows but me
Nobody knows but me

Single Lefty Frizzell ( Columbia 1959 )
Single Lefty Frizzell ( Columbia 1959 )

Miquel Batlle
djmiquel@whenthecowboysings.org