Photograph of Moly O'Day
Lynn Davis holding his favorite picture of Molly and her banjo, Huntington, West Virginia, October 1997.   Photo by Geoff Eacker

“POOR ELLEN SMITH” by Molly O’Day: Another Appalachian ballad with woman as victim. From a true event purposed to have taken place in Mt. Airy, North Carolina in 1893 when Ellen’s “lover” finds that she is pregnant and kills both mother and unborn child. A tune so popular that Dora Mae Wagers says: “Everybody’s grandfather claims to have killed Poor Ellen Smith and gotten away with it!” Molly’s husband Lynn Davis holds the copyright on this song, used here by permission of Brother Davis (and permission extended by his sister, Mildred Samons of Huntington, West Virginia). Recorded at Castle Studios in Nashville on April 4, 1949. Molly plays a fast, hard-driving clawhammer banjo on this tune. Columbia Records producer Art Satherly called Molly “the greatest female country singer of all time.” She is accompanied on this piece by Lynn Davis on guitar and Molly’s brother Cecil “Skeets” Williamson on fiddle. Taken from Molly O’Day and the Cumberland Mountain Folks, a 2-CD set issued by Family Records in 1992 (BCD15565).

PERFORMANCE:   “Poor Ellen Smith”

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