[NOTE: This is a new version of a traditional folk song collected from singers in Ireland, Australia, England, Canada and the United States and recorded many times over the years, perhaps most famously in the 1960s by the Irish Rovers as the B-side of their hit single “The Unicorn.” The original version described how a young man was tricked into committing a crime then sentenced for transportation to Australia, a common punishment in the British Empire during the 19th century; this new version is a partially fictionalized account of someone I knew as a teenager, whose first experience with love wasn't quite what he'd hoped it would be.]

The Black Velvet Band 

(Traditional; new lyrics by John Allen Small)


Her eyes, they shone just like diamonds;

You'd think she was queen of the land.

And her hair hung over her shoulder,

Tied up with a black velvet band.

In a Illinois village called Bradley

Is where as a lad I’d be found,

And days of both sorrow and happiness

I spent in that odd little town.

I was loved by my friends and relations,

But I spent much of my time alone

Reading my books and writing poetry

And dreaming of a girl of my own.

(Repeat Chorus)

I met her when I started high school…

The prettiest girl there, by far.

She was a full three years older than me, 

And she had her very own car.

Her pa was a retired preacher,

Her ma was a sickly housewife…

Her family had secrets great and dark

That had pretty well messed up her life.

(Repeat Chorus)

When she smiled at me I was smitten;

I fell deep in love then and there,

But when I told her she merely laughed

And acted like she didn't care.

She let me hold her and kiss her;

She taught me how to be a man.

But when I pledged my heart she laughed again

And went off to bed with my friend.

(Repeat Chorus)

My friend nearly cried when he told me;

He claimed she'd betrayed him as well.

I just walked away - but as I left

I said they could both go to hell.

I felt like my heart had been ripped out;

I thought I'd be alone all my days.

But Fate, he had other plans for me

And my one true love soon came my way.

(Repeat Chorus)

So my story has a happy ending:

My one true love became my wife.

We’ve been together for all these years

And it's been a jolly good life.

But if I can make a confession:

My thoughts stray back there now and then,

And sometimes I still see her in my dreams

Wearing only that black velvet band.

(Repeat Chorus twice)