67 “Single Girl, Married Girl” by The Carter Family


November 19, 2012 by gadaya

The Carter Family recorded twice “Single Girl, Married Girl”, the first time at their very first recording session in 1927, in Bristol Tennessee, and the second time a few years later, in 1936, in New York City. It’s striking to hear the differences between the two versions. In 1927, Sara Carter, at age 29, still sings with the high voice of the mountain girl while Maybelle sets a fast tempo on her guitar, who almost sounds like a banjo played in the clawhammer style, playing the syncopated melody on the bass strings. Sara’s been married to A.P. Carter for 12 years now, is a mother (of the young Janette)  and she knows what she’s singing about but the song, while warning of the different lives of the single and the married girl, keep some of its mocking humor, like a little children’s ditty. By 1936, as Sara and A.P. Carter’s wedding is dissolving, the tempo has slowed down, Sara’s voice has evolved in a deeper and lower tone, and you can really feel the tiredness and the bitterness in her new rendition.

Here are the two versions:

For more info and music of the Carter Family, see my other posts about “John Hardy”, “Engine 143” and “Little Moses”.

The Single Girl (and boy) Variations

The theme of the single girl’s life versus the married girl’s life is an universal topic found in many folk songs traditions around the world, so much more relevant in the old days where the women were married at a young age and depended exclusively on their husband in order to survive. But men also sung about the joys of the bachelor’s life and the despairs of being married to a shrew…

I’ve selected some of my favorite renditions of “Single, Girl, Married Girl” with also a few versions of the similar song “I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again” coupled with other songs, some from the man’s point of view on unhappy marriage and the bachelor’s life.

  • Come All You Virginia Girl Foghorn Stringband (Outshine the Sun)
  • Single Girl Frank Proffitt (Essential Folk Masters)
  • Bachelor’s Hall Fiddlin’ John Carson (Times Ain’t Like They Used To Be – Volume 4)
  • Single Girl, Single Girl The Pearly Snaps (The Pearly Snaps)
  • The Bald-Headed End of a Broom Smith Walter (Good For What Ails You)
  • I Wish I Was A Single Girl, Again Cousin Emmy (Kentucky Moutain Ballads)
  • Pleasure of a Single Life John M. Salyer  (Digital Library of Appalachia)
  • Single Girl Roscoe Holcomb (An Untamed Sense of Control)
  • Stern old bachelor Gladys Pace (I kind of believe it’s a gift:Traditional music from Kentucky)
  • Single Girl Ruby Vass (Southern Journey vol.2- Ballads and Breakdowns)
  • Single Life Roba Stanley (Women In Early Country Music 1923-1939)
  • Single Girl The Spontaneous String Band (String Band Project on Elektra Records)
  • Single Girl, Married Girl Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin (Songs Of The Carter Family)
  • Single Girl Silver Thread Trio (Silver Thread Trio)
  • Single Girl Married Girl Woolum Dave & Noah Crase (Bluegrass – Historic Cuts)
  • The Man Who Wrote Home Sweet Home Never Was a Married Man  Parker & Woolbright (Good For What Ails You)
  • Married Life Blues Roscoe Holcomb (The High Lonesome Sound)
  • Single Girl, Married Girl (Orpheus Supertones Going to Town)

Click on Harry Smith to enjoy the music!


13 thoughts on “67 “Single Girl, Married Girl” by The Carter Family

  1. Shadonoz says:

    Thanks for another great post, Gadaya. And thanks for that great rare photo of AP and Sara. I’d never seen that one before.

  2. Shadonoz says:

    And since you included Bald-Headed End of a Broom, you might enjoy two other versions that I’m aware of: one by Kaleidoscope (60s American multi-ethnic/rock band, played in jug band style), and one by Walter “Kid” Smith (string band style) which can be found on “Good for What Ails You- Music of the Medicine Shows, 1926 – 1937”, a great 48 track compilation in the spirit of the AAFM, currently available on the Old Hat label.

    BTW, glad you could find a new file sharing site!

  3. Have you been following the Carter Family Comix blog? Their book just came out. They printed a nice sequence recently on the recording of Single Girl, Married Girl. http://carterfamilycomix.blogspot.com/

  4. inthealley says:

    Thanks so much for the next post, Gadaya, much earlier than expected!!

  5. Michael Jones says:

    I have always loved this tune. I was not aware the Carter Family recorded it twice. I had only heard the first version. Great blog. Thanks

  6. Michael says:

    thanks for some good ole memory tunes. reminds of a time lost

  7. Les says:

    Yikes! Box.com says, “The user hosting this content is out of bandwidth.”

  8. oldfolkie says:

    Same as Les. A day late and a dollar short, I guess….

  9. […] Via Harry Smith’s Old, Weird America: “The Carter Family recorded twice “Single Girl, Married Girl,” the first time at […]

  10. ssism says:

    it’s taken so much digging to find a good quality source for music like this. just wanted to say thank you!!

  11. Max says:

    Thank you so much for great music.
    This is the best website about the roots of rock and many other styles!

  12. Bob says:

    Is the writer of the song known?

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