"Silver Dagger", or "Katy Dear", is an American folk ballad. It likely traces its roots to the British Isles of late 19th century, though possibly much earlier; the first published version appeared in 1907.
In the song, the narrator turns away a potential suitor, as her mother has warned her to avoid the advances of men, in an attempt to spare her daughter the heartbreak that she herself has endured.
The 1960 recording by Joan Baez, arguably the most famous version of the song, is a fragment of a much longer song, as the 1907 version contains many additional verses. "Katy Dear" uses the same melody but different lyrics, telling a similar story from a different perspective. This version was most notably recorded by folk duo Ian & Sylvia in 1964.
Numerous versions of the song were performed and recorded by the early baladeers in the genre now known as "old-time music", though certainly these songs did not achieve the fame or widespread renown that was possible in later times. It is very likely that the versions popularized in the 1960s were learned directly from these old-time baladeers via field visits and recordings in rural Appalachia, which was popular activity of the more...