Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone

When I first heard this song in the 90s I did a double-take. Did he sing what I thought he sang? I had never heard the original version he did in the 60s. I do prefer the 1994 version but both are worth a listen.

Johnny Cash originally recorded this song written by Karl Silbersdorf and Dick Toops on his 1962 The Sound of Johnny Cash album.

He re-recorded it in 1994, on American Recordings produced by the Rick Rubin. He explained why he chose to redo the song: “‘Delia’s Gone’ is the Devil’s deed of daring,” said Cash. “We were talking about ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – and ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’ – and I said, ‘I want another song like that.’ So Rick and I started listening and we found ‘Delia’s Gone.’ We realized I had recorded it in the ’60s, but not the way I’ve recorded it on American, and that I should work it up and do it over. So we started working on it and we did it and we came up with this version.”

It was inspired by a true-life story. In 1900, a certain account of murder became infamous as 14-year old Delia Green was killed on Christmas Day when Mose/Moses Houston, a teenage boy shot Delia dead. The newspaper reports that Delia and Mose had a sexual relationship and the latter was triggered off an argument.

Delia’s Gone

Delia, oh, Delia
Delia all my life
If I hadn’t shot poor Delia
I’d have had her for my wife
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

I went up to Memphis
And I met Delia there
Found her in her parlor
And I tied her to her chair
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

She was low down and trifling
And she was cold and mean
Kind of evil make me want to
Grab my submachine
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

First time I shot her
I shot her in the side
Hard to watch her suffer
But with the second shot she died
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

But jailer, oh, jailer
Jailer, I can’t sleep
‘Cause all around my bedside
I hear the patter of Delia’s feet
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

So if your woman’s devilish
You can let her run
Or you can bring her down and do her
Like Delia got done
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

9 thoughts on “Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone”

  1. This one is indeed dark. I bought his American Recordings CD way back then, and this was not a track I enjoyed listening to. I figured there was a story behind the song, but didn’t know it until now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I shot a Man in Reno” has nothing on this lyric. This one got a lot of airplay on alternative stations here. I was stunned though after never hearing the original.


  2. Some small consolation was that she continued to haunt him, so watch out guys! I heard this for the first time on American Recordings last year and was kind shocked. Cash sang about real life, the good, the bad, and the ugly though, and I’m sure there are a lot of men (and women!) sitting in prison for that very thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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