Pretty Little Girl With The Red Dress On

SA, piano

A tender, poigant look at loss and legacy drawn from the American folk song “Po’ Howard.”

Reginald Unterseher ยท Pretty Little Girl With The Red Dress On, Reginald Unterseher, arr.
Enter name for license to copy

Minimum Purchase of 10 Copies Required


Fragments and phrases of this song show up all over the folk music of the American South. The meaning of this song in the form that I first heard it, in a recording by Leadbelly, appears to refer the relationship between “Po’ Howard” and his lover with a wandering eye. It is sung at a much faster tempo and rhythmic structure than this arrangement. I have taken a much different view of it, the view of a person in that stage of life between the loss of their parents and the realization that their own children will experience that loss when they pass on.


Take your time with the phrase shapes, and carry them through to the end. Don’t be afraid of the spaces between singing. Use American soft non-plosive “t’s” in the words “pretty” and “little.” It should be sung with a sweet, nostalgic attitude, loving and sad at the same time.


Traditional American Folk Song

Poor old Howard’s dead and gone
left me here to sing this song
Who’ll be here when I am gone?
Pretty little girl with the red dress on… who knows?