I suggest that we find a copy so that the SDMB Folk Ensemble can record it and distribute it.
I’m a bit cornfuzed by the Wikipedia entries:
Blind Lemon Jefferson died in 1929.
Leadbelly died in 1949.
In Brockett’s entry, it says that it’s Leadbelly’s song “via Blind Lemon Jefferson”. I’d normally take that to mean that BLJ made it famous, or at least well known, but BLJ was never a popular artist in any case. Maybe it means he helped write it?
Jaime Brockett recorded it, we must assume, around around 1968, since his first release was in 1969 and Voyager remembers it from around that time.
That version is stated as being “co-written with Chris Smither” which I’d guess means that some changes were made to the Leadbelly original, and Mr. Smither helped.
Obviously Brockett (or Smither) heard a recording of it (possibly the one referenced by dropzone) rather than getting it from the source, since neither of them was of an age to remember anything at the time Leadbelly died.
So, who wrote the song? Looking at the lyrics provided by Exapno Mapcase, I can well believe that the original was somewhat altered. And how did it get to Brockett? There are questions we want answered here!
The most important being: where can I get a copy of the Brockett version?