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Kingston Trio – Jesse James lyrics

Bob Shane/Nick Reynolds/Nick Reynolds

(Recitation) Frank and Jesse James were products of their environment. They were sent out into the woods by their parents to forage for berries, truffles, rutabagas, and roots of all sorts. Put yourself in their'da been mean too!

When Jesse James was a lad he killed many-a man. He robbed the Glendale train.
And the people they did say for many miles away. It was robbed by Frank and Jesse James.

Poor Jesse had a wife who mourned for his life, three children, they were brave.
But that dirty little coward who shot Mister Howard has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

It was on a Saturday night if I remember right when they robbed that Glendale train.
It was one of the Younger boys who gathered in the spoils and he carried Jesse's monies away.


He was standin' on a chair just a-dustin' pictures there. He thought he heard a noise (Yeah, what did he do?)
When he turned his head around, why that bullet smacked him down and it laid poor Jesse on the floor.


Jesse robbed from the poor and he gave to the rich. He never did a friendly thing.
And when his best friend died he was right there by her side and he lifted off her golden wedding ring.


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    The Trio were no friends of the Civil War South, and they truly and deliberately mangled the feeling and words of this song. Jesse James was the famous guerilla and outlaw of western Missouri whose misdeeds ranged from Minnesota to Texas, Mississippi and Kentucky, and who invented train robberies. His father was murdered by Northern soldiers before his eyes at his home, and his revenge lasted 20 years until his assassination by one of his gang members, paid for by Pinkerton Detectives. Jesse had no compunctions about killing railroad employees, townspeople, or lawmen who stood between him and his goals, but he also never robbed anyone who claimed to be a Confederate soldier, (contrary to the Trio's claims), so he could well be labelled the "Last Confederate", a soldier to his dying day. In the original lyrics to the song, one finds the name of James' former slave, who wrote the song in tribute to his former master. The song itself is in the canon of banjo songs, one to be learned by every student of the instrument. It was meant to be sung rather reverently, and not at all with the Kinston Trio's malicious comedic effort.
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