Recorded by John A. Lomax in Darrington State Prison near Sandy Point, Texas. Allegory in the style of Uncle Remus and Brer' Rabbit. That grey goose stands for the unbeatable negro ("They shot him, plucked him, parboiled him, but still he was too tough to eat..."). This song probably goes back into the darkest ages of slavery and all the while was kept alive by generations of Texan chain gangs (see also the first covers).
James 'Iron Head' Baker [other Lomax recording in Sugarland, TX; forced laborer who learned all of his songs from older prisoners; Lead Belly learned a lot from him (they both served time in Sugarland, Texas in the early twenties)]
Augustus 'Track Horse' Haggerty [third Lomax recording, when Lead Belly was his driver]
Lead Belly [as Grey Goose]
Ramblin' Jack Elliott [idem]
Alan Lomax [with Alexis Korner and Guy Carawan]
Bessie Jones [idem]
Sweet Honey In The Rock [idem]
Nirvana [demo released posthumously ('04)]
Not to be confused with fiddle tune Old Grey Goose, cut by the Tar Heel Ramblers in '29, by Lonnie Donegan as Aunt Riley in '59 and with roots in 18th century France.