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Where the Walker runs down to the Carson Valley plain,
There lived a maiden, Darcy Farrow was her name
The daughter of old Dundee and fair was she
And the sweetest flower that bloomed o'er the range.
Her voice was sweet as the sugar candy
She was courted by young Vandermeer
But her pony did stumble and she did fall.
They sing of Darcy Farrow where the Truckee runs through
© 1965 Compass Rose Music, BMI / Rumpole Dumple Music, BMI
People Who Have Sung Darcy Farrow
Eddie Adcock Dan Armstrong Mack Bailey Robin Batteau Lou & Peter Berryman The Bluegrass Cardinals Cece Borjeson Bryan Bowers Randy Burns David Buskin Tom Campbell Chesapeake Francis Collins Cowboy Country The Country Gentlemen Jim Croce John Denver Lindsay Ferguson Jim Fine Steve Fromholz Steve Gillette Jimmy Dale Gilmore Tommy Goldsmith Nanci Griffith Larry Groce Bill Hall George Hamilton IV The Hard Travellers Kevin Harvey Bill and Bonnie Hearne Anne Hills Hoot & Annie Michael Hughes Walter Hyatt Ian and Sylvia Doris Justis & Sean McGhee The Kingston Trio Dicky Lee Gordon Lightfoot Bob McNevin Cindy Mangsen Ian Matthews Greg and Margie Mirken Tom Mitchell Alan Munde (banjo Instrumental) Michael Martin Murphy The New Folk Revival The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Penny Nichols and John McEuen Bob Oerman Herb Peterson Faith Petric Pierce Pettis Jeffrey Pine Tony Rice Josh Ritter Garnet Rogers Chuck Romanoff Steve Romanoff Linda Ronstadt Tom Rowe Tom Russell Michael Smith Roger Sprung John Stephens The Sunshine Company Art Thieme Harry Tuft Townes Van Zandt Jerry Jeff Walker Doc Watson David Wilcox Mike Williams
About Darcy Farrow
There has been a recent flurry of interest in the song, possibly due to recordings by Nanci Griffith, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and Chesapeake. John Denver's recording of it is where many people first heard the song. (He actually recorded the song three times). His "Rocky Mountain High" LP has sold over four million copies. The song has really entered into the oral tradition, not an unwelcome thing but there are some misconceptions about it.
The song was written in 1964, by Tom Campbell and Steve Gillette and is based on something that happened to Steve's little sister whose name is Darcy. At twelve years old she was running behind her horse, chasing the horse into the corral, when she was kicked. She broke her cheekbone, but had no other lasting effects. She did spend three days in the hospital and all were concerned that she might have a concussion. She's fine today and has two grown sons.
During that time, Tom Campbell took a melody that Steve had written and came up with a story about the two young lovers and the tragic fall. Steve was a little horrified at the idea since it was so dark, and involved his sister's name, but as they worked with it and steered it in the direction of the old cowboy songs, he was much more comfortable with it. So many of the old cowboy songs take their melodies from the Scottish, English and Irish musical traditions.
The place names are actual places around the region of the high valleys and the Walker River. The Truckee River runs through Reno. Tom lived in Yerrington for a time when he was eight or nine years old, his dad was an engineer and was involved in the mining industry there. People say that they have captured something of the feeling of the high desert, and some have even looked for graves or other evidence of the old story.
Garnet Rogers (brother of Stan Rogers) is a great songwriter and storyteller. He was driving on highway 395 up near that part of the world when he saw some tail lights ahead and pulled over to call 911 to report a fender bender. As the dispatcher came on the line she asked where the accident was and he replied, "Where the Walker runs down into the Carson Valley plain."
When they had finished the song in the summer of 1964, Tom and Steve had a chance to sing it for Ian & Sylvia who were the first to record it. Tom had taken a folklore class with D.K. Wilgus at UCLA and mentioned to Ian that he used to turn in songs he had written or added to and claimed he had collected them from his grandfather. Ian got a big kick out of that idea, and incorporated it into his introduction to the song. In their travels, Ian and Sylvia spread that story to lots of people around the country. Of course, they introduced the song to all those people at the same time.
It has since been sung by Gordon Lightfoot (although he never put it on a record) George Hamilton IV, David Wilcox, Steve Fromholtz, Jim Croce, Townes Van Zandt, Iain Matthews, Bill and Bonnie Hearne, and lots of other folks. One fellow has written a novel based on the story, and the song has even inspired a drink recipe featured in Esquire Magazine. All in all, the song has been recorded by more than three-hundred people and sung by many hundreds more. A partial list is shown here at the left.
There are many versions on the Internet, Steve's is here, as well as a two-part tutorial on how he plays the song.
Shown here are the lyrics as we currently sing it.