Voici le temps des Assassins! Vanavond treden de moordenaars op de voorgrond. Niet bepaald een prettig thema, hoewel galgenhumor een kunstvorm voor fijnproevers is. Toen ik dit programma begon voor te bereiden had ik er geen idee van hoeveel songs er bestaan over moord en moordenaars. Eigenlijk was ik onaangenaam verrast: zo veel werk! Het eerste wat ik deed was alle heavy metal, death metal, et cetera, van de lijst schrappen: ik houd niet van die genres en weet er ook weinig over. In mijn collectie zitten maar enkele heavy metal-platen (hoewel Led Zeppelin dat genre toch wel overstijgt). Zo was ik meteen van honderden serial killers verlost. Wat ik overhield was nog altijd erg veel. Daaruit maakte ik een selectie die me relevant lijkt en ook past in de stijl van Zéro de conduite. Bekende populaire songs afgewisseld met wat obscuurdere melodietjes. De moordenaars die aan bod komen zijn grotendeels Amerikaans en Engels: Zéro de conduite beperkt zich nu eenmaal tot Engelstalige populaire muziek. Tijd nu voor de donkere kant van de mens, les fleurs du mal, the bad seeds…
Killing Theme – Tindersticks – Trouble Every Day
From the soundtrack of ‘Trouble Every Day’(2001), a French erotic horror film directed by Claire Denis and written by Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau. It stars Vincent Gallo, Tricia Vessey, Béatrice Dalle and Alex Descas.
In The Pines – Lead Belly – Smithsonian Folkways: American Roots Collection
‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’, also known as ‘Black Girl’ and ‘In the Pines’, is a traditional American folk song which dates back to at least the 1870s, and is believed to be Southern Appalachian in origin. The song was covered by numerous artists, among them the Triffids, Link Wray and Nirvana.
Pretty Polly – Dock Boggs – Dock Boggs – Country Blues: Complete Early Recordings (1927-29)
‘Pretty Polly’, ‘The Gosport Tragedy’ or ‘The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter’ is a traditional English-language folk song found in the British Isles, Canada, and the Appalachian region of North America, among other places.
The song is a murder ballad, telling of a young woman lured into the forest where she is killed and buried in a shallow grave. Many variants of the story have the villain as a ship’s carpenter who promises to marry Polly but murders her when she becomes pregnant. When he goes back to sea, he is haunted by her ghost, confesses to the murder, goes mad and dies. See also Bob Dylan’s ‘Ballad of Hollis Brown’.
Charles Giteau – Kelly Harrell & The Virginia String Band – Anthology Of American Folk Music, Vol. 1B: Ballads
‘Charles Guiteau’ is a traditional song about the assassination of US President James A. Garfield by Charles J. Guiteau. It is based on another old ballad, ‘James A. Rogers’. For a while, it was believed that Guiteau wrote the song himself, possibly because of the poem ‘I am Going to the Lordy’, which Guiteau actually did write on the day of his execution.
Delia – Bob Dylan – World Gone Wrong
Delia Green (c. 1886 – December 25, 1900) was a 14-year-old African-American murder victim who has been identified as the likely inspiration for several well-known traditional American songs, usually known by the titles ‘Delia’ and ‘Delia’s Gone.’ Delia Green was shot and killed by 15-year-old Mose (or Moses) Houston late on Christmas Eve, 1900 in the Yamacraw neighborhood of Savannah, Georgia after an argument earlier in the evening. Houston, the newspapers implied, had been involved in a sexual relationship with Green for several months. The shooting took place at the home of Willie West, who chased down Houston after the shooting and turned him over to the city police.
The songs inspired by Green’s short life and murder now split into two forms, both staples of the ‘folk revival’ of the 1950s and early 1960s. One version, usually attributed to Blake Alphonso Higgs (the calypso singer also known as ‘Blind Blake’), is known as ‘Delia’s Gone,’ and is explicitly told from her killer’s point of view. ‘Delia’s Gone’ was prominently covered by The Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger and four times by Johnny Cash. The second version, generally attributed to Blind Willie McTell, is usually known as ‘Delia,’ and is told from a more ambiguous point of view. Among the many singers who have covered ‘Delia’ are Bob Dylan and David Bromberg.
Murder In The Red Barn – Tom Waits – Bone Machine
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. – Sufjan Stevens – Come On Feel The Illinoise!
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994), also known as the Killer Clown, was an American serial killer and rapist who was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of a minimum of 33 teenage boys and young men in a series of killings committed between 1972 and 1978 in Chicago, Illinois. All of Gacy’s known murders were committed inside his Norwood Park Township home. His victims would typically be lured to this address by force or deception, and all but one victim were murdered by either asphyxiation or strangulation with a tourniquet (his first victim was stabbed to death). Gacy buried 26 of his victims in the crawl space of his home. Three further victims were buried elsewhere on his property, while the bodies of his last four known victims were discarded in the Des Plaines River.
Suffer Little Children – The Smiths – The Smiths
A song about Ian Brady & Myra Hindley. The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around what is now Greater Manchester, England. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17—Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The murders are so named because two of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor; a third grave was discovered on the moor in 1987, more than 20 years after Brady and Hindley’s trial in 1966.
Henry Lee – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds featuring PJ Harvey – Murder Ballads
‘Young Hunting’ is a traditional folk song. Like most traditional songs, numerous variants of the song exist worldwide, notably under the title of ‘Henry Lee’ and ‘Love Henry’ in the United States and ‘Earl Richard’ and sometimes ‘The Proud Girl’ in the United Kingdom.
The song, which can be traced back as far as the 18th century, narrates the tale of the eponymous protagonist, Young Hunting, who tells a woman, who may have borne him a child, that he is in love with another, more beautiful woman. Despite this, she persuades him to drink until he is drunk, then to come to her bedroom, or at least kiss her farewell. The woman then stabs him to death. She throws his body in the river — sometimes with the help of one of the other women of the town, whom she bribes with a diamond ring — and is taunted by a bird. She tries to lure the bird down from the tree but it tells her that she will kill it if it comes within reach. When the search for Young Hunting starts, she either denies seeing him or claims that he left earlier, but when Hunting’s remains are found, in order to revoke her guilt, she reveals that she murdered him and is later burned at the stake. Nick Cave, who covered the song, referred to the song as “a story about the fury of a scorned woman.”
Turner’s Murder – Merry Clayton Singers – Performance: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
A film by Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell, starring Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg and Jams Fox. It ends with Turner (Mick Jagger) being shot by Chas (James Fox). Chas seems to agree to be ‘welcomed back’ to his former boss Harry Flowers by Rosie, another Flowers thug; we understand that they are going to kill him. As the car drives off, the face we see through the window is ambiguous – it could be Chas or it could be Turner.
Johnny Remember Me – John Leyton – Joe Meek: The Alchemist Of Pop – Home Made Hits & Rarities 1959-1966.
Robert George “Joe” Meek (5 April 1929 – 3 February 1967) was a pioneering English record producer and songwriter. His best-remembered hit is the Tornados’ ‘Telstar’ (1962), which became the first record by a British group to reach number one in the US Hot 100. Meek’s other hits include ‘Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O’ and ‘Cumberland Gap’ by Lonnie Donegan (as engineer), ‘Johnny Remember Me’ by John Leyton, ‘Just Like Eddie’ by Heinz, ‘Angela Jones’ by Michael Cox, ‘Have I the Right?’ by the Honeycombs, and ‘Tribute to Buddy Holly’ by Mike Berry. Meek’s concept album I Hear a New World, which contains innovative use of electronic sounds, was not released in his lifetime.
Meek’s commercial success as a producer was short-lived, and he gradually sank into debt and depression. On 3 February 1967, using a shotgun owned by musician Heinz Burt, Meek killed his landlady Violet Shenton and then shot himself.
Jack The Ripper – Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages – The Alchemist Of Pop
Attacks ascribed to Jack the Ripper typically involved female prostitutes who lived and worked in the slums of London and whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations. The removal of internal organs from at least three of the victims led to proposals that their killer possessed anatomical or surgical knowledge. Rumours that the murders were connected intensified in September and October 1888, and letters from a writer or writers purporting to be the murderer were received by media outlets and Scotland Yard. The ‘From Hell’ letter, received by George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, included half of a preserved human kidney, purportedly taken from one of the victims. Mainly because of the extraordinarily brutal character of the murders, and because of media treatment of the events, the public came increasingly to believe in a single serial killer known as “Jack the Ripper”.
Extensive newspaper coverage bestowed widespread and enduring international notoriety on the Ripper, and his legend solidified. A police investigation into a series of eleven brutal killings in Whitechapel up to 1891 was unable to connect all the killings conclusively to the murders of 1888. Five victims: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, all murdered between 31 August and 9 November 1888, are known as the “canonical five” and their murders are often considered the most likely to be linked. As the murders were never solved, the legends surrounding them became a combination of genuine historical research, folklore, and pseudohistory.
Bonnie And Clyde – Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot – Bonnie and Clyde
‘Bonnie and Clyde’ is based on an English language poem written by Bonnie Parker herself a few weeks before she and Clyde Barrow were shot, entitled ‘The Trail’s End’. The song tells the story of the outlaw couple Bonnie and Clyde. It was released on two albums in 1968: Gainsbourg’s album ‘Initials B.B.’, and Gainsbourg and Bardot’s album ‘Bonnie and Clyde’.
Psycho Killer – Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77
“When I started writing this (I got help later), I imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad. Both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies.” David Byrne
Kill Your Sons – Lou Reed – Sally Can’t Dance
‘Kill Your Sons’ is a reflection of Lou Reed’s stay in a psychiatric hospital at his parents’ insistence, during his teen years.
Deep Red Bells – Neko Case – Blacklisted
A song about Gary Leon Ridgway, an American serial killer known as the Green River Killer. He was initially convicted of 48 separate murders and later confessed to nearly twice that number. As part of his plea bargain, an additional conviction was added, bringing the total number of convictions to 49, making him the most prolific American serial killer in history according to confirmed murders. He murdered numerous women and girls in Washington State and California during the 1980s and 1990s.Most of his victims were alleged to be prostitutes. When the press gave him his nickname after the first five victims were found in the Green River; his identity was not known. He strangled the women, usually by hand but sometimes using ligatures. After strangling them, he would dump their bodies throughout forested and overgrown area in King County, often returning to the dead bodies to have sexual intercourse with them.
Little Sadie – Mark Lanegan – I’ll Take Care Of You
‘Little Sadie’ is a 20th-century American folk ballad. It is also known variously as ‘Bad Lee Brown’, ‘Cocaine Blues’, ‘Transfusion Blues’, ‘East St. Louis Blues’, ‘Late One Night’, ‘Penitentiary Blues’ and other titles. It tells the story of a man who is apprehended after shooting his wife/girlfriend. He is then sentenced by a judge.
Long Black Veil – The Band – Music From Big Pink
‘Long Black Veil’ is a 1959 country ballad, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell.
A saga song, ‘Long Black Veil’ is told from the point of view of an executed man falsely accused of murder. He refuses to provide an alibi, since on the night of the murder he was having an affair with his best friend’s wife, and would rather die and take their secret to his grave than admit the truth. The chorus describes the woman’s mourning visits to his gravesite, wearing a long black veil and enduring a wailing wind.
The writers later stated that they drew on three sources for their inspiration: Red Foley’s recording of ‘God Walks These Hills With Me’, a contemporary newspaper report about the unsolved murder of a priest, and the legend of a mysterious veiled woman who regularly visited Rudolph Valentino’s grave.
Matty Groves – Fairport Convention – Liege & Lief
‘Matty Groves’ is an English folk ballad that describes an adulterous tryst between a man and a woman that is ended when the woman’s husband discovers and kills them. It dates to at least the 17th century, and is one of the Child Ballads collected by 19th-century American scholar Francis James Child. It has several variant names, including ‘Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard.’
Lord Arlen kills Matty Groves in a duel. When his wife spurns him and expresses a preference for her lover, even in death, over her husband, he stabs her through the heart. The ballad may end there, or with the lord’s death, by suicide or execution. Yet another version has him cutting off his wife’s head and kicking it against the wall in anger.
Down In The Willow Garden – The Everly Brothers – Songs Our Daddy Taught Us
‘Down in the Willow Garden’, also known as ‘Rose Connelly’is a traditional Appalachian murder ballad about a man facing the gallows for the murder of his lover: he gave her poisoned wine, stabbed her, and threw her in a river. It originated in the 19th century, probably in Ireland, before becoming established in the United States. The lyrics greatly vary among earlier versions, but professional recordings have stabilized the song in a cut-down form. First professionally recorded in 1927, it was made popular by Charlie Monroe’s 1947 version, and it has been recorded dozens of times since then.
Pretty Boy Floyd – The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo
A song about Charles Arthur Floyd. Floyd was a suspect in the deaths of Kansas City brothers Wally and Boll Ash, who were bootleggers. They were found dead in a burning car on March 25, 1931. A month later on April 23, members of his gang killed Patrolman R. H. Castner of Bowling Green, Ohio. On July 22 Floyd killed Agent Curtis C. Burke of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Kansas City, Missouri.
In 1932, former sheriff Erv Kelley of McIntosh County, Oklahoma, was killed while trying to arrest Floyd on April 7. In November of that year, three members of Floyd’s gang attempted to rob the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Boley, Oklahoma.
Despite his life of crime, Floyd was viewed positively by the general public. When he robbed banks he would destroy mortgage documents, which freed many citizens of their debts. He was protected by citizens of Oklahoma, who referred to him as “Robin Hood of the Cookson Hills
Duncan And Brady – Dave Van Ronk – Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection
‘Duncan and Brady’, also known as ‘Been on the Job Too Long’, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’, or simply ‘Brady’, is a traditional murder ballad about the shooting of a policeman, Brady, by a bartender, Duncan. The song’s lyrics stemmed from actual events, involving the shooting of James Brady in the Charles Starkes Saloon in St. Louis, Missouri. Harry Duncan was convicted of the murder, and later executed.
Going To Memphis – Johnny Cash – Ride This Train (1960)
They all call me crazy for sassin’ Mr Scott
My brother was killed for a deed I did but I disremember what (yeah)
Well another boy is down the shovel burned him out
Let me stand on his body to see what the shoutin’s about
I’m goin’ to Memphis yeah I’m goin’ to Memphis hmm
Like a bitter weed…
Folsom Prison Blues – Charlie Feathers – Wild Side Of Life: Rare And Unissued Recordings Vol. 1
Johnny Cash was inspired to write this song after seeing the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951) while serving in West Germany in the United States Air Force at Landsberg, Bavaria (itself the location of a famous prison). Cash recounted how he came up with the line ‘But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”: “I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think up the worst reason a person could have for killing another person, and that’s what came to mind.”
I’m Gonna Murder My Baby – Pat Hare – Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950 – 1958 Vol. 8
Pat Hare’s guitar solo on James Cotton’s electric blues record ‘Cotton Crop Blues’ (1954) was the first record to use heavily distorted power chords, anticipating elements of heavy metal music. According to Robert Palmer: “Rarely has a grittier, nastier, more ferocious electric guitar sound been captured on record, before or since, and Hare’s repeated use of a rapid series of two downward-modulating power chords, the second of which is allowed to hang menacingly in the air, is a kind of hook or structural glue…”
Shortly after the ‘Cotton Crop Blues’ recording, Pat Hare recorded a version of the early 1940s Doctor Clayton song ‘I’m Gonna Murder My Baby’ on May 14, 1954. In December 1963, Hare shot his girlfriend dead, and also shot a policeman who came to investigate. At the time of his arrest, he was playing in the blues band of Muddy Waters. Hare spent the last 16 years of his life in prison, where he formed a band named Sounds Incarcerated. Hare succumbed to lung cancer in prison, and died in 1980 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
I’m Gonna Kill That Woman – John Lee Hooker – John Lee Hooker Sings Blues
The tracks on this album were cut in 1948/49 in Detroit, in the back room studio of a record shop. Contracted to Modern Records, he used the name of Texas Slim on this session for the King label. As far as we know John Lee Hooker never killed anyone.
Frankie – Mississippi John Hurt – Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 OKeh Recordings
‘Frankie and Johnny’ (sometimes spelled ‘Frankie and Johnnie’; also known as ‘Frankie and Albert’ or just ‘Frankie’) is a traditional American popular song. It tells the story of a woman, Frankie, who finds that her man Johnny was making love to another woman and shoots him dead. Frankie is then arrested; in some versions of the song she is also executed.
The song was inspired by one or more actual murders. One of these took place in an apartment building located at 212 Targee Street in St. Louis, Missouri, at 2:00 on the morning of October 15, 1899. Frankie Baker (1876 – 1952), a 22-year-old woman, shot her 17-year-old lover Allen (also known as ‘Albert’) Britt in the abdomen. Britt had just returned from a cakewalk at a local dance hall, where he and another woman, Nelly Bly (also known as ‘Alice Pryor’), had won a prize in a slow-dancing contest. Britt died of his wounds four days later at the City Hospital. On trial, Baker claimed that Britt had attacked her with a knife and that she acted in self-defense; she was acquitted and died in a Portland, Oregon mental institution in 1952.
Stagger Lee – Taj Mahal – Giant Step & De Ole Folks At Home
‘Stagger Lee’, also known as ‘Stagolee’ and other variants, is a popular American folk song about the murder of Billy Lyons by “Stag” Lee Shelton in St. Louis, Missouri at Christmas, 1895. The song was first published in 1911, and was first recorded in 1923 by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians. A version by Lloyd Price reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959.
Lee Shelton (March 16, 1865 – March 11, 1912), popularly known as ‘Stagolee’, ‘Stagger Lee’, ‘Stack-O-Lee’, and other variations, was an American criminal who became a figure of folklore after murdering Billy Lyons on Christmas 1895. The murder, reportedly motivated partially by the theft of Shelton’s Stetson hat, made Shelton an icon of toughness and style in the minds of early folk and blues musicians, and inspired the popular folk song ‘Stagger Lee’. The story endures in the many versions of the song that have circulated since the late 19th century.
A story appearing in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1895 read:
“William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o’clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Sheldon, a carriage driver. Lyons and Sheldon were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. The discussion drifted to politics, and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Sheldon’s hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Sheldon withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. Lee Sheldon is also known as ‘Stag’ Lee.”
Highway Patrolman – Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
The song tells the story of Joe Roberts, the highway patrolman of the title from whose viewpoint the song is written – and his brother, Franky, and is set in the 1960s. Franky is portrayed as unruly and frequently causing and encountering trouble, while Joe is the more mature, sensible (and likely elder) brother who always comes to his aid. Even though Joe works for the law, he lets his brother Franky escape after he has shot someone.
Sean Penn based the screenplay of his 1991 directorial debut The Indian Runner on the song’s story. All of the songs on ‘Nebraska’ both deal with ordinary, blue collar characters who face a challenge or a turning point in their lives, but also outsiders, criminals and mass murderers, who have little hope for the future – or no future at all, as in the title track ‘Nebraska’, a first-person narrative based on the true story of 19-year-old spree killer Charles Starkweather and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate.
‘Highway Patrolman’ was covered by Johnny Cash on his 1983 album ‘Johnny 99’.
Murder In My Heart For The Judge – Moby Grape – Wow
‘Murder In My Heart For The Judge’ is a blues rock tune written by drummer Don Stevenson that was later recorded by other rock musicians such as Lee Michaels, Three Dog Night and Chrissie Hynde. A song about a long haired freak with a death wish.
The Drifter – Green On Red – Gas Food Lodging
Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy (born Theodore Robert Cowell; November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) was an American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier. Shortly before his execution, after more than a decade of denials, he confessed to 30 homicides committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978.
Bundy was regarded as handsome and charismatic by his young female victims, traits he exploited to win their trust. He typically approached them in public places, feigning injury or disability, or impersonating an authority figure, before overpowering and assaulting them at more secluded locations. He sometimes revisited his secondary crime scenes for hours at a time, grooming and performing sexual acts with the decomposing corpses until putrefaction and destruction by wild animals made further interaction impossible. He decapitated at least 12 of his victims, and kept some of the severed heads in his apartment for a period of time as mementos. On a few occasions he simply broke into dwellings at night and bludgeoned his victims as they slept.
Revolution Blues – Neil Young – On The Beach
Inspired by Charles Manson, whom Young had met in his Topanga Canyon days.
Sex Killer – Jeffrey Lee Pierce – Wildweed
The violence theme practically drips from the album cover, depicting Pierce with a dreamy look and a shotgun slung over his shoulder. Standing amidst what could be the last true vestige of an unspoiled, rural America, it’s a fair bet that he’s ready to shoot anything even slightly disturbing – upon which he probably will utter one final howl before putting himself “to rest” as well. Plenty of those howls are scattered through ‘Wildweed’, which opens with a strong threesome of ‘Love and Desperation’,’Sex Killer’, and ‘Cleopatra Dreams On’. [Allmusic]
Gary Gilmore’s Eyes – The Adverts – Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts
On the evening of July 19, 1976, Gary Gilmore robbed and murdered Max Jensen, a gas station employee in Orem, Utah. The next evening, he robbed and murdered Bennie Bushnell, a motel manager in Provo. Even though they had complied with his demands, he murdered both men. While disposing of the .22 caliber pistol used in both killings, Gilmore accidentally shot himself in his right hand, leaving a trail of blood back to the service garage, where he had left his truck to be repaired prior to murdering Bushnell. Garage mechanic Michael Simpson witnessed Gilmore hiding the gun in the bushes. Seeing the blood on Gilmore’s crudely bandaged right hand when he approached to pay for the repairs to his truck, and hearing on a police scanner of the shooting at the nearby motel, Simpson wrote down Gilmore’s license number and called the police after Gilmore left. Gilmore’s cousin, Brenda, turned him in to police shortly after he phoned her asking for bandages and painkillers for the injury to his hand. The Utah State Police apprehended Gilmore as he tried to drive out of Provo, and he gave up without attempting to flee. He was charged with the murders of Jensen and Bushnell, although the first case was never brought to trial, apparently because there were no eyewitnesses.
Wrong ‘Em Boyo – The Clash – London Calling
This song tells the Stagolee story. See above.
Knoxville Girl – The Lemonheads – Car Button Cloth
‘The Knoxville Girl’ is an Appalachian murder ballad. It is derived from the 19th-century Irish ballad The Wexford Girl, itself derived from the earlier English ballad ‘The Oxford Girl’. Other versions are known as the ‘Waxweed Girl’, ‘The Wexford Murder’. These are in turn derived from Elizabethan era poem or broadside ballad, ‘The Cruel Miller’.
Possibly modelled on the 17th century broadside William Grismond’s Downfall, or A Lamentable Murther by him Committed at Lainterdine in the county of Hereford on March 12, 1650: Together with his lamentation, sometimes known as The Bloody Miller.
Thanks to Greil Marcus, Robert Palmer and many other writers. And to Wikipedia, where I found most of the information about the (serial) killers.
Research and talking: Martin Pulaski