Daddy, Oh 1940s Daddy

Big Bill Lister

In 1949 a 6 foot 7 1/2 inch Texas singer named Bill Lister recorded an odd little “daddy” themed song with Oklahoma singer and pal Del Dunbar. They sing it in close harmony, just the two of them with guitars in the style of the Louvin Brothers or Blue Sky Boys. It’s a simple and plaintive narration of a drunkard home from a hard night out to find his wife and little girl have finally had enough. All that is left is a note, written by his daughter and placed on his pillow. Perhaps the one place he was sure to look.

The apologetic note explains to him that he drinks too much, spends their money and only ventures home when broke. He then gets a good nights sleep. The next morning he begins his search with the unintentionally funny claim that it’s his wife and daughter who have strayed. Yes, stray rhymes with day, but taken as a whole, the apologetic tone of the note and the coming reconciliation it’s hard not to hear this as the man’s belief that they haven’t left him, they have strayed.

All this is confirmed when he does find them “pinning and alone” and crying “daddy, oh daddy, please take us back home.” Then with no mention of turning from his drinking habits and at best neglectful ways, the man, like a benevolent shepherd, gathers his flock.

All’s well that ends well.

Daddy, Oh Daddy; Big Bill Lister & Del Dunbar

Del Dunbar

Post Script ~ Big Bill Lister would go on to be best known as the guy who first recorded There’s a Tear In My Beer. He had been playing shows with Hank Williams and had mentioned he needed a good drinking song. Hank had written the song and recorded a rough demo version of it, but wasn’t allowed to do it in a proper session as his label didn’t think it would do much for his already tarnished image, so he gave it to Lister. Lister recorded it in 1951, but it didn’t do much for him and that original demo sat in Lister’s attic until the 1980s when his wife found it. They gave it to Hank, Jr, who overdubbed himself on it, and the world finally had a father son duet.

There’s a Tear in My Beer; Hank Williams, the original acetate demo recorded on October 25, 1951

There’s a Tear in My Beer; Big Bill Lister, October 26, 1951. Note the backing band is Hank’s Drifting Cowboys.

There’s a Tear in My Beer; Hank Sr. & Hank Jr., 1988


About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Bluegrass, Country, Folk, Honky Tonk, Music, Oldtime, Radio, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Daddy, Oh 1940s Daddy

  1. Steph says:

    Great story!

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