"Goodbye Old Paint" is a well known trail song written by Charley Willis and made famous by John Lomax in 1947. Lomaz was a folklorist who sang and recorded "Goodbye Old Paint" and sent it to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. By doing this the song was preserved. It should also be noted that Willis taught his favorite song to Jess Morris, his son. Jess was only seven years of age. Jess later became a talented fiddler and helped to popularize the song.
Charley Willis was born a slave in Austin, Texas--Milam County--in 1847. He became a well respected cowhand breaking wild horses at the Morris Ranch in Bartlett, Texas. At the age of 18, after the Civil War, he was freed. At 24 years of age, Charley married Laura Davis. In 1871 Mr. Willis rode 1,000 miles into Wyoming Territory. He was a drover riding the Chisholm Trail. Charley Willis fathered 7 children, 4 sons and 3 daughters. He died at age 80 in the year 1930. Mr. Willis had property near Bartlett and was buried in the Davilla Cemetery --adjacent to his property.
It is family lore, thought to be accurate, that Charley had a horse named Old Paint. Charley loved and trusted his loyal mount and companion on the trail.
For More Information:Milam County Historical Commission