Deadly Assumptions – In A Country Song

I love Country Music. Classic Country, that is.

Songs by George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Allan Jackson, Randy Travis, Jim Reeves, Charlie Pride, The Judds, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Marty Robbins, Garth Brooks and many more. People who know I’m from Jamaica, the island in the Caribbean and home of Reggae music, are puzzled at my love of country music, and their questions reveal that they would think my preference would be for more ‘upbeat’ music. Barbara Mandrell sang, “I was country when country wasn’t cool.” That’s my answer!

A friend recently referred to me as an “incurably romantic” who finds romance in everything, even business topics. As a teenager growing up in Jamaica I looked forward to the time-slots when my favorite radio station (there were only two when I was growing up) played country music.  Of course, they were referred to as Country and Western songs. Those songs spoke to my romantic spirit.

My Conflict

At 14 years old a friend gave me a Jim Reeves 45 rpm record, and in my 15th year, my brother gave me an LP by Skeeter Davis. In my 17th year, I was introduced to Charlie Pride and shortly thereafter started my collection of LPs. I was hooked, line and sinker. The music of Motown: Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, and the Pips, plus Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and more of that genre battled with country music until I appreciated they could amicably co-exist in my life. Classic Country music tells stories.  The more modern ones probably do as well but only a few appeal to me.

“What’s Your Mama’s Name Child?”

This song was recorded and released in 1973.  It’s sung by Tanya Tucker. While I could have heard it before, I really started paying attention to the words in the past few years and it has such a ring of truth to it that I believe it’s based on a real story. The characters are a man named Buford Wilson, an unnamed woman, a little girl with green eyes, and a town in Memphis that assumed the worse. Here are the lyrics.

What’s Your Mama’s Name?

Tanya Tucker

Thirty some odd years ago a young man came to Memphis
Askin’ ’bout a rose that used to blossom In his world
People never took the time to mind the young man’s questions
Until one day they heard him ask a little green eyed girl

What’s your mama’s name child What’s your mama’s name
Does she ever talk about A place called New Orleans
Has she ever mentioned A man named Buford Wilson
What’s your mama’s name child? What’s your mama’s name?

Twenty some odd years ago A drunk went down in Memphis
Lost a month of life and labor To the county jail
Just because he asked a little green-eyed girl a question
And offered her a nickel’s worth of candy if she’d tell

A year and some odd days ago An old man died in Memphis
Just another wayward So the county had to claim
Inside the old man’s ragged coat They found a faded letter
It said you have a daughter And her eyes are Wilson green

What’s your mama’s name child? What’s your mama’s name?
Does she ever talk about A place called New Orleans
Has she ever mentioned A man named Buford Wilson
What’s your mama’s name child? What’s your mama’s name?

Songwriters: Dallas Frazier / Earl Montgomery

You see while living in New Orleans Buford Wilson met a woman, “a rose who at one time blossomed in his world” and who apparently moved on to live in Memphis.  He came to find her in Memphis, but more importantly, his search went even deeper than that. Everyone ignored him when he tried to find the woman. Apparently, he continued his quest in trying to find her for many years. Then he met a little green-eyed girl.  His mistake was that he offered the little green-eyed girl a nickel’s worth of candy to answer his questions about her mother. Individuals in the town heard him and he was thrown in jail for trying to entice a little girl. He probably never got a chance to tell his story of why he was asking the little girl about her mother and if she’d heard her mom speak of New Orleans. There was something about this little girl that made him wonder if she knew the woman who had blossomed in his world. He probably became broken-hearted and resorted to drinking because he never really found what he came to Memphis to find. Or did he find her and lost her immediately? Was this the little girl he was looking for?

Years later Buford Wilson died in prison. In his ragged coat pocket, before being placed in a pauper’s grave, they found a faded letter telling him that he had a little girl in Memphis with eyes that were “Wilson green.”

What if…?

Buford Wilson was arrested for what, to the eyes and ears of the townspeople, was trying to entice a little girl away by giving her candy.  Was he given a trial?  Was he allowed to speak before a judge? Did he even stand a chance since he was not from Memphis and no one knew him there? He never found his daughter, or may he have found her and lost her immediately? What did his daughter lose?  What type of life did she have without a father in her life?

Danger of Assumptions

There is a popular saying that when we make assumptions, we make an ass of you and of me.  But there is a lot more danger to assumptions that go beyond just making ourselves look idiotic.

Without taking the time to verify information so we can arrive at appropriate conclusions based on facts, assumptions can, among other things, damage relationships, stifle growth, and create misunderstandings that last for years.

The comments made in this article reprinted in the New York Times reveal some of the false assumptions people make and the negative impact they can have.

Whether this song is just a ballad created in the minds of the two persons who wrote it, or it’s based on real people, we do not know. What I do know and encourage is… the next time you start to jump to a conclusion or make an assumption about yourself or someone else, pause and ask yourself, Are these assumptions based on facts or are they only in my imagination?

Yvonne A. Jones
YVONNE is a Personal Business Coach | Relationship Marketing Strategist| Amazon Best-Selling Author| International Speaker. She is the Founder of the 50 and Wiser Community on Facebook – a Group of women who want to DO more, GIVE more, and BE more. As a certified Strategy and Accountability Coach, she helps Entrepreneurs, Coaches, Consultants, and Small Business Owners eliminate limiting beliefs, create a business they love, and have fun doing so. Her favorite client is a highly-motivated woman 50 and Wiser who has been in business for approximately one year and is ready to empower herself and move to the next level. Yvonne’s background is in banking, Human Resources, administration, and Customer Service. At 52 years she handed in her resignation and walked away from Corporate America to start her own business full-time. She has experienced the joys and challenges of owning multiple businesses. She was listed on as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter” and on “One of the Top 15 Most Influential Customer Service Experts to Follow on Twitter.” Despite the recognition and promotions received while in corporate life in Jamaica and America, she now considers herself “unemployable” due to her love of being her own boss and inspiring others to pursue their passion and dreams. Yvonne’s mantra: “Focus on relationships; the money will follow.”


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I absolutely love this one. Being a big traditional country fan it’s right up my alley. When I used to hitchhike across country and going into Café’s in little towns. You could always hear Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard It was kind of the soundtrack to my life. Great great article thank you for sharing

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson

I share your love of country music, and I, like you found that other genres could coexist. To the deeper meaning of your article though, assumptions are like wild fire. So much damage is done when we assume before checking the facts. It’s proven that even our memories are unreliable just a few hours after an event occurs. Cautious, fact finding should be top priority. I hope that song was a fictitious story. That would be a horrible injustice to that man who used inappropriate methods to find his daughter.

Kat O'Keefe-Kanavos
Kat O'Keefe-Kanavos

What a wonderful lesson you taught me through the lyrics of a Country song. You are so right Yvonne, Country songs are about heartbreaks… from everyday life, everyday lessons, everyday people, and you were point-on about assumptions…they do begin with an ass. Thanks for the reminder.



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