13 “Ommie Wise” by G.B. Grayson


February 4, 2009 by gadaya

Grayson & Whitter’s World

graysonwhitter “Ommie Wise” is a solo performance by Gillian Banmon Grayson (1888-1930), a blind fiddler from East Tennessee who sang this murder ballad along with his fiddle  and gaves us one of the most haunting song on the Anthology. This is the only track that Grayson recorded alone during his recording career as a duet with Henry Whitter, a guitar player who was one of the first “hillbilly” to record. Together, they recorded many songs that would became “standards” of folk and bluegrass: Handsome Molly, Train 45 (Ruben), Little Maggie, Tom Dooley, Lee Highway, etc…

-On this page, you’ll read the full  biography of Grayson & Whitter -I’ve selected 20 sides of the duo, with all their famous songs.


1.Nobody’s darling

l_0d6ab9acc6580391d5009ebcd109b0bd2.I’ll never be yours (Banks of the Ohio)

3.Handsome Molly

4.Train 45

5.He’s coming to us dead

6.Rose Conley

7.Sally Gooden

8.My mind is to marry

9.Cluck old hen

10.Old Jimmy Sutton

8 11.Joking Henry

12.The nine-pound hammer

13.Short life of trouble

14.I’ve always been a rambler

15.Where are you going Alice?

16.Little Maggie

17.On the banks of old Tennessee

18.Tom Dooley

19.Going down the Lee highway

20.I saw a man at the close of day



The Ommie Wise Variations

This american murder ballad was based on true events that happened two centuries ago in North Carolina. A certain Jonathan Lewis was arrested for the murder of Naomi Wise but was acquitted soon after. But everybody was conviced that he did murder her and a folk ballad carried the memory of the event until today. There’s of course a lot of variants from one performer to another in the text of the ballad, from the names of the protagonists to the little details that makes the story.

-Go and read this article, which gives also the lyrics of the song

-There’s also a wikipedia page on the subject

-I’ve compiled 20 performances of the song, some old, some new, as usual. Sometimes the melody is sung in a minor mode, sometimes in a major mode, many sang it unaccompanied and many used the 5-string banjo … “Tragic romance” is a bluegrass variant that takes the story and melody of “Omie Wise” and made a new song out of it.

Hope you enjoy…


1.Ommie Wise, G.B. Grayson, from the Anthology Of American Folk Music

2.Naomi Wise, Clarence “Tom” Ashley, from “Greenback Dollar 1929-1933”

3.Little Norma, Mrs Ben Daugherty, from “Ozark Folksongs”

4.Little Omie, Harrison Burnett, from the Max Hunter Folksong Collection

5.Omie Wise, Paul Clayton, from “Folk Ballads of the English-Speaking World”

6.Little Omie Wise (Live), Doc Watson, from “The Essential Doc Watson”

7.Omie Wise, Doug and Jack Wallin, from “Family Songs and Stories from the North Carolina Mountains”

8.Omie Wise, Pentangle, from “A Maid That’s Deep In Love”

9.Little Lonie, Almeda Riddle, from Ozark Folksongs

10.Omie Wise, Tim Eriksen, from “Every Sound Below”

11.Tragic Romance,  Kilby Snow with Hazel Dickens & Mike Seeger , from “Masters of Old-Time Country Autoharp”1400x1400

12.Tragic Romance, The Lilly Brothers, from “Early Recordings”

13.Omie Wise, Mason Brown, from “When Humans Walked the Earth”

14.Naomia Wise, Bill Baker, from the Max Hunter Folksong Collection

15.Omie Wise, Okkervile River, from “Julie Doiron & Okerville River”

16.Little Omie Wise, Dock Boggs, from “His Folkways Years 1963-1968 “

17.Little Omie Wise, Addie Graham, from the Digital Library of Appalachia

18.Omie Wise, Roscoe Holcomb, from “The High Lonesome Sound”

19.Omie Wise, Dolly Greer, from “The Doc Watson Family Tradition”

20.Omie Wise, Mountain Home, from “Mountain Home”




6 thoughts on “13 “Ommie Wise” by G.B. Grayson

  1. Bob Eagelston says:

    I am surprised that you list “Tragic Romance” as a variant of “Ommie Wise”.

    “Tragic Romance”, a song of disputed authorship, describes a love affair ended by a case of mistaken identity. There is no murder nor malice of any kind involved, nor is the melody similar to any version of “Ommie Wise” that I have heard.

    The Kilby Snow recording is an intrumental version. I have not heard the Lilly Brothers recording.

    • gadaya says:

      If you listen to the G.B. Grayson’s version of “Ommie Wise” on the Anthology, you’ll hear that the song “Tragic romance” took the same melody, but played in a bluegrass style. But you’re right, the lyrics are not related.

  2. Hayden says:

    Have you heard gregg graffin’s version of Omie Wise from his album “Cold As The Clay” it is very nice

  3. […] For the best sampling of the various versions floating around there, go to the bottom of this page at The Old, Weird America. […]

  4. Marie says:

    Hi Gadaya,

    I just wanted to let you know how much I admire all of the work that you’ve put into this site, as well as the generosity you’ve shown in sharing it.

    I hope you’ll find a way to continue your blog even when you run out of Anthology tunes

  5. Steven Christian Amendola says:

    Shirley Collins has a version of Omie Wise on her album Sweet England. I haven’t heard most of the 20 you have listed here, though. I’d like to download them but that download link is broken.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Thanks for supporting “The Old Weird America” by making a donation

Please make some donations

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 581 other subscribers



%d bloggers like this: