Song 77 – Knoxville Girl

SONG: Knoxville Girl

ARTIST: The Louvin Brothers

YEAR: 1956

Listen to it here: 


Ah, good. It’s been months since we’ve talked about a good ol’ murder ballad. And that is exactly the genre under which Knoxville Girl falls. This song was derived from a 19th Century Irish ballad “The Wexford Girl”, which was itself derived from an English ballad “The Bloody Miller or Hanged I Shall Be” about a murder in 1683. The Louvin Brothers made it their own, and just so you all can really get into the song, I present you the lyrics:

I met a little girl in Knoxville, a town we all know well

And every Sunday evening, out in her home, I’d dwell

We went to take an evening walk about a mile from town

I picked a stick up off the ground and knocked that fair girl down

She fell down on her bended knees, for mercy she did cry

“Oh Willy dear, don’t kill me here, I’m unprepared to die”

She never spoke another word, I only beat her more

Until the ground around me within her blood did flow

I took her by her golden curls and I drug her round and around

Throwing her into the river that flows through Knoxville town

Go down, go down, you Knoxville girl with the dark and rolling eyes

Go down, go down, you Knoxville girl, you can never be my bride

I started back to Knoxville, got there about midnight

My mother, she was worried and woke up in a fright

Saying “dear son, what have you done to bloody your clothes so?”

I told my anxious mother I was bleeding at my nose

I called for me a candle to light myself to bed

I called for me a handkerchief to bind my aching head

Rolled and tumbled the whole night through, as troubles was for me

Like flames of hell around my bed and in my eyes could see

They carried me down to Knoxville and put me in a cell

My friends all tried to get me out but none could go my bail

I’m here to waste my life away down in this dirty old jail

Because I murdered that Knoxville girl, the girl I loved so well


For more information on the morbid Louvin Brothers, please see our Album review from November 2020, Tragic Songs of Life


I know this was already a factoid when we first talked about the Louvin Brothers, but just so we all see it again, they also did an album called “Satan is Real”:


Not these guys again.  I thought we were past that super aggressively twangy, tight-harmonied weirdness of this brother duo, but here we are.  What the fuck can I say about this song.  What can I say about this song that I didn’t already say in our album review?  It’s a song about a guy who murders his girlfriend and throws her body in the river…because?  Did she cheat on you?  Was she abusing you?  Are you just a murderer?  And I’m assuming the song wasn’t meant to be provocative or satirical because from listening to an entire album by these 2 nerds, there’s no room in their music for satire.  The good – tight harmonies.  Mandolin sounds good, I guess.  The bad – so much.  The content.  The monotony.  There’s no musical or rhythmic variation in any of the verses, not really a chorus, just a hillbilly durge.  Still not for me.  


I really thought that the Louvin Brothers were clearly placed in our rearview mirror by this point, but no, they’re back. And they’re still not my thing. However, a listen to one song was much better than repeated listens to the whole album. I still think they are a very good duo, with voices that blend together really well, and Ira’s mandolin playing is great. I just don’t love the twangy sound in their voices. This is also a fairly long song compared to a lot of our other listens, that stays steadfastly in the lane it’s established for itself from measure one. There is no variety of rhythm, key change, maybe try some minor chords when you’re singing about knocking a girl bloody and dumping her body into a lake? It’s very one colour to me. But they do that one colour well! 

Average mark out of 10:

Holly: 5/10

Kelly: 4/10

Other notable versions of this song:

Same song, different singer:

Same song, different brothers:

Listen with us!

Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:

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