Darling Nelly Gray - New England Music Scrapbook
Darling Nelly Gray
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There's a lone green valley by the old Kentucky shore

Where we've whil'd many happy hours away;

A-sitting and a-singing by the little cottage door

Where dwelt my lovely Nelly Gray.

Oh! my poor Nelly Gray, they have taken you away,

And I'll never see my darling any more;

I am sitting by the river and I'm weeping all the day,

For you're gone from the old Kentucky shore.


When the moon had climb'd the mountain & the stars were shining too

Then I took my lovely Nelly Gray,

And I travell'd down the river in my little red canoe

While the banjo sweetly I did play.

Oh! my poor Nelly Gray, they have taken you away,

And I'll never see my darling any more;

I am sitting by the river and I'm weeping all the day,

For you're gone from the old Kentucky shore.


Oh! my eyes are getting blinded and I cannot see my way;

Hark! there's somebody knocking at the door.

I hear the angels calling and I see my Nelly Gray,

Farewell to my old Kentucky shore.

Oh! my poor Nelly Gray, they have taken you away,

And I'll never see my darling any more;

I am sitting by the river and I'm weeping all the day,

For you're gone from the old Kentucky shore.



Hutchinson Family

Benjamin Russel Hanby. "Darling Nelly Gray: Song and Chorus." Music and lyrics: B. R. Hanby. First line: "There's a low green valley on the old Kentucky shore." First line of chorus: "Oh! my poor Nelly Gray, they have taken you away." Boston: Oliver Ditson. 1856.

  • Score may be found at "The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music," levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu.
  • "Darling Nelly Gray" turned up prominently in Hutchinson Family concert programs, starting sometime in the years 1856-1858. (Many available printed programs from that period are undated and, at least for now, can not be dated with any more precision.) Clearly, though, this song became an important part of the Hutchinson Family repertoire; and it continued to appear on concert programs of Judson Hutchinson after the main group broke up. As far as I know, though, it does not appear elsewhere in the commonly-known and otherwise-exhaustive Hutchinson Family records. Thus, many of our visitors may be surprised to find "Darling Nelly Gray" connected with the Hutchinson Family.
  • "Darling Nelly Gray" was transformed by the folk process into the sailor song, "Maggie May," which, strange to say, can be heard on the Beatles' album, Let It Be. "Maggie May" was popular among Liverpool sailors, so I suppose . . .   By the way, Jack Lennon, John's grandfather, was no stranger to Transatlantic travel. Born in Northern Ireland, he was in the United States in the 1890s, performing as a soloist in Andrew Robertson's band, the Kentucky Minstrels. There were three known traveling Hutchinson Family acts in the 1890s, so it's entirely possible they crossed paths with Jack Lennon, though it's doubtful they were singing to particularly similar audiences.
  • Nellie Gray, incidentally, became a Hutchinson Family name. Sister Rhoda's daughter, Nellie Gray Webster (1860-1947), had what may have been the best female singing voice of her generation in the family. Not surprisingly, it was the ever-nurturing Joshua Hutchinson who took her under his wing. "He was confident of success," wrote Brother John, "and had a right to be, for Nellie had a beautiful voice, which simply astonished me by its sweetness." - John W. Hutchinson, Story of the Hutchinsons (1896, Boston: Lee and Shepard, Vol. 2 pages 43-44).

Alan Lewis






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Notes copyright © 2002 by Alan Lewis.
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