Recently I have been practicing an old country classic by the Carter Family called “Wildwood Flower”. It is a ballad of spurned love, and definitely has roots in the ballads from British Isles, as many of our original country songs do. The song has been a challenge to me, for on the mandolin it is played with double stops — strumming 2 strings in various progressions. This song is still recorded by a lot of artists who reach back to the roots of country music for depth and connection.
I am fairly new to this song, however. My basis for even knowing the melody comes from a song from the 1970’s called “The Wildwood Weed.” It was a humorous song by comedian and musician Jim Stafford. It is only in the last couple of years I’ve understood more about Jim Stafford. He is a Florida boy and played in a band called The Legends with Gram Parsons, back in the early 1960’s. They were well known in Florida, even though Gram was still in high school. Read more about “The Legends” here.
This past December, there was an event in Winter Haven, Florida, where the Legends reunited. Jim Stafford was his usual self-deprecating self, making fun of his own guitar playing although, truthfully, he is quite a good guitar player. I found a Youtube video of him playing guitar along with the famous Chet Atkins, and Stafford definitely holds his own.
At the beginning of “Wildwood Weed” he introduces it as “Wildwood Flower” — the melodies are basically the same. He did not write the song — it was written by Don Bowen in the 1960’s, but was declared too risque to be published. By the 1970’s that was no longer an issue — although today I think it would be highly doubtful a song about smoking weed would be a fairly popular hit on the radio.
Today this is my little tribute to this song that has traveled so far, been sung by so many, and even made into a crazy little hit song when I was in high school. If you’ve never heard “Wildwood Weed” here it is with lyrics.