"Oh My Darling, Clementine" is an American western folk ballad usually credited to Percy Montrose (1884), although it is sometimes credited to Barker Bradford. The song is believed to have been based on another song called "Down by the River Liv'd a Maiden" by H. S. Thompson (1863). Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
Gerald Brenan attributes the melody to originally being an old Spanish ballad in his book South from Granada. It was made popular by Mexican miners during the California Gold Rush. The melody was best known from Romance del Conde Olinos o Niño, a sad love story very popular in Spanish-speaking cultures. It was also given various English texts. No particular source is cited to verify that the song he used to hear in the 1920s in a remote Spanish village was not an old text with new music, but Brenan states in his preface that all facts mentioned in the book have been checked reasonably well.
It is unclear when, where and by whom the song was first recorded in English for others to hear but the first version to reach the Billboard charts was that by Bing Crosby recorded on June 14, 1941 and this briefly touched the No. 20 spot. It was given an up-dated and up-tempo treatment in an arrangement by Hal Hopper and John Scott Trotter. The re-written lyrics include a reference to Gene Autry ("could he sue me, Clementine?") amongst the five swinging verses.
A video for this song: