I thought I got this from Cisco Houston, yet again, because his name was on the record jacket… but that was just Everest Records’ way of getting extra mileage from the Asch/Stinson catalog. Their Cisco Houston album was a collection of folk songs recorded by Cisco with Woody Guthrie, usually with Woody singing lead, and “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” also has Sonny Terry playing harmonica and whooping in the background.
Aside from that, I just went back and listened to their recording and find that I mostly sing different verses, which suggests that although I heard it on this record, I learned the lyric elsewhere. That’s not surprising at all, because it was a big favorite by the Carter Family, and their records were picked up as sources for singers all over the South — and since Henry Whitter recorded it shortly before they did, it may have already been common before that. I assume the Carters were Woody’s source, since he sang so many of their songs, even though they sing different verses — closer to the ones I sing, as it happens. They also sing a different chorus, which I switched to last year after playing a gig with a Carter Family tribute band, the Wayworn Travelers: I had always sung “Bury me beneath the willow,” but the Carters sing “Bury me under the weeping willow,” and although that feels less “poetic” and doesn’t scan as well, I just found it felt right for me.