Jesse James


                        Jesse James

                                                 Traditional
                                       Mandolin tablature by 
                                    Elizabeth T. Knuth, 1998

Key: G

Verse:

E--||-------------|---------------------------------|
A--||--4:---------|--2-------2---0------------------|
D--||--4:--0---5--|--0---------------5---5---5------|
G--||-------------|---------------------------------|
           |___|     |       |___|   |___|   |

          Jes-se   James    was  a    lad   who


|---------------------------------|
|--0---------------------------0--|
|------5---5---2---0-------5------|
|---------------------------------|
   |___|   |___|   |       |___|   

killed man-y   a  man.      He    


|---------------------------------|
|--2-------2---0------------------|
|--0---------------5---5---4---5--|
|---------------------------------|
   |       |___|   |___|   |___|

robbed      the     Glen -  dale


|---------------------------------|
|--0---------------------------0--|
|--------------------------5------|
|---------------------------------|
   |       |       |       |___|                                   

 train.                     He

|---------------------------------|
|--2---2---2---0------------------|
|------------------5-------5---5--|
|------------------4--------------|
   |___|   |___|   |       |___|

   stole from the rich    and  he


|---------------------------------|
|--0---------------------------0--|
|------5---5---2---0-------5------|
|---------------------------------|
   |___|   |___|   |       |___|  

   gave   to  the poor.   He'd a


|---------------------------------|
|--2-------2-------0-------2---0--|
|--0-----------5-------5----------|
|---------------------------------|
   |       |___|   |___|   |___|

 hand     and  a   heart  and  a


                     Chorus:
                                               
|---------------------------------|
|--------------------------0---2--|
|--5------------------------------|
|--4------------------------------|
   |       |       |       |___|                                            

 brain.                     Now    


|---------------------------------|
|--3---3---3---3---5-------5---3--|
|--2------------------------------|
|---------------------------------|
   |___|   |___|   |       |___| 

  Jes-se  had  a wife        to


|---------------------------------|
|--2---2---2---0---------------0--|
|--0---------------5-------5------|
|---------------------------------|
   |___|   |___|   |       |___|   

   mourn  for his life,   And the 


|---------------------------------|
|--2-------2-------2--------------|
|--0-----------------------5------|
|---------------------------------|
   |       |       |       |

 chil -  dren,   they    were


|---------------------------------|
|--0---------------------------0--|
|--4-----------------------5------|
|---------------------------------|
   |       |       |       |___|                   

 brave,                   But that                                           


|---------------------------------|
|--2---2---2---0------------------|
|------------------5---5-------5--|
|---------------------------------|
   |___|   |___|   |_  |       |_

  dir-ty  lit-tle cow-ard     that


|---------------------------------|
|--0---------------------------0--|
|------5---5---2---0---0---5------|
|---------------------------------|
   |___|   |___|   |___|   |___|   

   shot   Mis-ter How-ard   has       


|---------------------------------|-------------------------||
|--2-------2-------0-------2---0--|-------------------------||
|--0-------------------5----------|--5----------------------||
|---------------------------------|--4----------------------||
   |       |       |___|   |___|     |       |       |

 laid    poor      Jesse  in  his  grave.

There are several variations on both the lyrics and the tune of this ballad "Jesse James". The author is said in the final verse to be one Billy Gashade. But no one knows for sure who the composer(s) and lyricist(s) really were. The song appeared by 1920 at the latest, and is in the public domain.

Jesse James may not have lived up to this song's depiction of him as a combination of Robin Hood and saint, but "that dirty little coward that shot Mister Howard" deserves every bit of scorn the song heaps on him. With most of his confederates dead or in jail, and a $10,000 reward out for his capture, James was living in semi-retirement in St. Joseph, Missouri, under the assumed name of Tom Howard. Robert and Charlie Ford offered to assist him in a bank robbery, claiming to be relatives, though they were not really kin to James. The Ford brothers were taken into the James home to live with Jesse and his wife and two children. One day while Jesse was dusting a picture on the wall in his home, the Fords drew their pistols. Bob Ford fired one shot to the back of Jesse James' head, killing him. When the Ford boys tried to collect on the ransom, they were charged with murder instead. Robert Ford was himself later shot to death in a barroom brawl.

If you like, you can hear a MIDI file of "Jesse James".


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Jesse James / Rev. 11 December 1998 / © Copyright 1998, Elizabeth T. Knuth / URL: http://www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/mandotab/jessejas.html