OTTO WOOD, THE BANDIT (Walter "Kid" Smith)

Song lyrics on these pages only for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis

Original recording by Walter "Kid" Smith & The Carolina Buddies, New York, NY, Feb 1931

A native of Wilkes County, North Carolina, Otto came from a section of the Blue Ridge which produced at least two other ballad heroes: Tom Dooley and Claude Allen (the latter a native of Hillsville, Virginia, some fifty miles from Wilkes.
It is said that Wood lost his left hand in a train wreck while working as a railroad brakeman. His criminal career began in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1923 when, having pawned a watch at the shop of A. W. Kaplan, he attempted to redeem it from the pawnbroker only to find it had been sold. Although Kaplan was killed in the argument that followed, Wood was spared execution on the grounds that the crime was not premeditated. Sentenced initially to serve twenty-two to thirty years, he made four daring and successful jail breaks. With a price of $500 on his head, he was killed in a gun battle on December 30th, 1930, by Lee Rankin, police chief of Salisbury, N.C.
Wood's daring won him the sympathy of many, and the people of Salisbury, realizing that his family had no money, took up a collection to clothe the body in a new suit and ship it, as his mother had requested, to their home in Carbondale, West Virginia.
Two songs were written about Otto Wood. Doc sings one which was originally recorded by The Carolina Buddies; the other, with text by Alfonso P. Thompson to the tune of "Jesse Jame," was recorded by a group of which Thompson was a member, the Red Fox Chasers.
RALPH RINZLER, liner notes for "Doc Watson & Son" (1965)


Step up, buddies, and listen to my song
I'll sing it to you right, but you may sing it wrong,
All about a man named Otto Wood,
I can't tell you all, but I wish I could.

He walked in a pawn shop a rainy day,
And with the clerk he had a quarrel, they say.
Pulled out his pistol and he struck him a blow,
And this is the way the story goes.

They spread the news as fast as they could,
The sheriff served a warrant on Otto Wood.
The jury said murder in the second degree,
And the judge passed the sentence to the peniteniary.

CHORUS: Otto, why didn't you run?
Otto's done dead and gone.
Otto Wood, why didn't you run
When the sheriff pulled out his 44 gun?

They put him in the pen, but it done no good,
It wouldn't hold the man they call Otto Wood.
It wasn't very long till he slipped outside,
Drawed a gun on the guard, said, "Take me for a ride."

Second time they caught him was away out west,
In the holdup game, he got shot through the breast.
They brought him back and when he got well,
They locked him down in a dungeon cell.

He was a man they could not run,
He always carried a 44 gun.
He loved the women and he hated the law,
And he just wouldn't take nobody's jaw.

He rambled out west and he rambled all around,
He met the sheriff in a southern town.
And the sheriff says, "Otto, step this way,
'Cause I've been expecting you every day."

He pulled out his gun and then he said,
" If you make a crooked move, you both fall dead.
Crank up your car and take me out of town,"
And a few minutes later, he was graveyard bound.

This page hosted by Get your own Free Home Page

To Top of Page

To Lyrics Page

To Starting Page (Table of Contents)