“The Lawson Murder (Charlie Lawson)”

Author: Wiley Morris? Walter "Kid" Smith?
Earliest date: 1930 (recording, The Carolina Buddies)
Keywords: homicide family burial suicide madness children
Found in: US(SE)


Charlie Lawson goes mad on a Christmas evening and shoots first his wife and then, despite their pleas, his six children. He prepares them for burial, bids goodbye, and kills himself also. The family is buried in a common grave


As is typical of songs from the early era of recorded music, the authorship of this is uncertain. D. K. Wilgus credits this to Wiley Morris of the Morris Brothers. But Richard Dress informs me that Walter "Kid" Smith of the Carolina Buddies also claimed to have written it -- and, of course, his recording came first; the Morris recording actually postdates the first field collection (Brown).

Whoever wrote it sure came out with it fast, since the song was released only months after the murder.

It has become quite popular with bluegrass performers in recent years, starting with the Stanley Brothers. - RBW

Historical references

Cross references



  1. Laws F35, "The Lawson Murder (Charlie Lawson)"
  2. Warner 114, "The Lawson Family Murder" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. BrownII 298, "The Lawson Murder" (1 text plus mention of 2 more)
  4. Darling-NAS, pp. 206-207, "The Lawson Murder" (1 text)
  5. DT 729, LAWSNMRD
  6. Roud #697
  7. BI, LF35