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The Fate of Dewey Lee


On May 8, 1935, the Carter Family recorded seven songs for American Record Company in New York City. Five of them were re-recordings of earlier hits: Wildwood Flower, Keep On The Sunnyside, Lonesome Valley, River of Jordan and Single Girl Married Girl. They also recorded two new songs: God Gave Noah The Rainbow Sign and The Fate of Dewey Lee.

The Fate of Dewey Lee was written by A.P. Carter about a shooting that had occured a few years earlier.

On January 31, 1931, Dewey Lee was shot at a party in the Wise County community of Ramsey. Joe Jenkins was eventually convicted for the slaying. Newspaper reports said Lee pulled a gun while arguing with another man, and as Jenkins fought to disarm Lee, the gun went off. Other accounts mentioned competition between Jenkins and Lee over a woman, and some local folks thought the party was a trap for Lee. In any case, Jenkins' claim of self-defense failed to sway the court and he was sentenced to five years in prison.

The Fate of Dewey Lee was released on Perfect Records as 13153-A, which had been purchased by the American Record Company and is part of my 78 r.p.m. collection.

Twas on one Saturday evening
About the hour of ten
In a little mining town
Where trouble did begin
Everybody there were drinking
There were whiskey everywhere
Dewey Lee got to thinking
He had no business there

He was so tall and handsome
His heart so true and brave
Joe Jenkins pulled his pistol
And sent him to his grave
He took the life of Dewey
When life had just began
And Dewey went to Heaven
While Joe went to the pen

He took the life of Dewey
Because he would not tell
We know he murdered Dewey
For Dewey's pistol fell
His mother sits now weepin'
She weeps and mourns all day
She prays to meet her boy
In a better world some day

So hearken to my story
And what I have to say
Get right with your Maker
We'll meet Him again some day
The clerk said, "Stand up, boy
And listen to your crime!"
They sent him down to Richmond
To serve out his time

Young men all take warning
For this you must outlive
Don't take the life of anyone
For life you cannot give
You may possess great riches
Put many beneath the sod
But money won't hire a lawyer
When you stand before your God

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