The Songs of Charlie Poole--Sources

[I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the Internet!]

Once upon a time, all was right with the world. Then, in 1998, came the abomination called the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (SBCTEA). The bottom line is that unless it has lapsed, the copyright to music composed from 1923 on will not enter the public domain until 2018. Until 1998, the longest copyright a composition could enjoy was 75 years, so a steady stream of old-time music was entering the public domain. Without the SBCTEA, anything composed before 1930 would now (2005) be in the public domain. However, because of the SBCTEA, the only music we can be certain to be in the public domain is music composed before 1923. Additional information can be found at the PD Info website.

Unlike the music of the Original Carter Family, much of which was copyrighted by Ralph Peer, Charlie Poole's music, although recorded between 1925 and 1930, seems to date before 1923. With the resurgence of interest in Poole and his music, it is important to document what songs are in the public domain.

The best evidence for establishing that a song is in the public domain is a source with a pre-1923 publication date. Most of the information on this page was extracted from C. Kinney Rorrer's 1982 book Rambling Blues: The Life and Songs of Charlie Poole, London, UK: Old Time Music. I've contributed a very little so far (Leaving Home and Milwaukee Blues), but this is very much a work in progress. It's more a draft than a polished work. I'll be updating it as I collect more information.

Baltimore Fire: appears in Mowrey's Songster, printed around 1905 Letter That Never Came: written in 1886 by Paul Dresser
Bill Mason Look Before You Leap
Budded Rose Milwaukee Blues: shares many verses with Jay Gould's Daughter; collected in 1915, according to liner notes of Buell Kazee's June Appal Lp
Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight Mister: "Poole's fellow millworkers recall his singing the song prior to WW I" Monkey on a String: Cal Stewart recording in 1908
C from Tennessee: written in 1901 by Shepard N Edmonds Mother's Last Farewell Kiss
Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues: "Tyler Meeks, age 87, recalls learning the tune from a black guitarist named Charlie Blackstock in the summer of 1911." Mother's Plea for Her Son: by Lewis Hall, published in 1893 as The Widow's Plea for Her Son
Falling by the Wayside: written in 1892 by Charles K. Harris My Gypsy Girl
Girl I Left in Sunny Tennessee: written in 1899 by Harry Braisted & Stanley Carter My Wife Went Away and Left Me: A song written in 1889 by Charles D Vann Then My Darling I'll Come Back to Thee bears some relation to Poole's recording. However, Poole's does differ in many instances.
Good-bye Sweet Liza Jane: composed in 1903 by Andrew Sterling & Harry von Tilzer Old and Only in the Way: PJ Downey & LT Billings, copyrighted 1880
Goodbye Booze: written in 1901 by Jean C Havez One Moonlight Night: by GL Spaulding and WB Gray, first published in 1894 as Take Back The Engagement Ring
Goodbye Mary Dear: by Andrew Sterling & Harry von Tilzer, published in 1902 as I'll Be There Mary Dear Only Girl I Ever Loved
Hangman Hangman Slack the Rope: "Poole's version of Child 95" Ramblin' Blues: written in 1916 by WC Handy as Beale Street Blues
He Rambled: 1902 copyright by Will Handy Shootin' Creek
Highwayman Sweet Sixteen
Hungry Hash House Sweet Sunny South: "Some sheet music for this song dates back to the 1860s..."
Husband and Wife Were Angry One Night: by GL Davis, published in 1896 as Let's All of Us Stay at Home Take a Drink on Me
I'm the Man That Rode the Mule 'Round the World: Poole credited with title and first verse; rest is I Was Born 10,000 Years Ago There'll Come a Time: written in 1895 by Charles K Harris
If I Lose I Don't Care Took My Gal a Walkin'
If the River Was Whiskey: "Based on WC Handy's composition Hesitating Blues" Wayward Boy
It's Movin' Day: composed in 1906 by Andrew Sterling & Harry von Tilzer What Is Home Without Babies
I Cannot Call Her Mother: copyrighted in 1855 by Henry Harrison When I'm Far Away
I Left My German Home Where the Whippoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight: written by Rufe K Stanley in 1913
I Once Loved a Sailor: copyrighted in 1904 by George Evans & Ren Shields as Come Take A Trip In My Airship White House Blues
Jealous Mary Write a Letter to My Mother: "Composed at by PB Isaacs and E Bowers at the time of the...Civil War"
Just Keep Waiting Till the Good Time Comes: by Louis Weslyn & George Christie, published in 1911 as Baby Rose Young Boy Left His Home One Day
Leaving Dear Old Ireland: by James McGuire, published in 1889 as Three Leaves of Shamrock You Ain't Talkin' to Me: written in 1909 by Matt Marshall & Sheldon Brooks
Leaving Home: I have a copy of the original sheet music with the 1912 copyright date