The British Library holds a copy of the sheet music which is credited thus: WILDWOOD FLOWER Words and Music by A.P. Carter, published by Southern Music Publishing Co., Inc of New York. Copyright 1930 and 1955 by Peer International Corporation of New York. It retailed for 60c.
The Library also holds another copy which is credited: Written and Composed by M. Singleton and J. Kennedy, Recorded by Nana Mouskouri on Fontana, published by Flamingo Music Co Ltd of London; Sole Selling Agents: Francis, Day & Hunter Ltd; Copyright M.R.C. Music Inc, of Chicago, 1962; also Editions Radar of Amsterdam, Holland and Flamingo Music Co Ltd of London. This version retailed for 2s6d.
This is not the case of two songs with the same name - there are many songs called "Doctor, Doctor" for example - there are slight variations in both the music and the lyrics but they are the same song. A. P. Carter died in 1960, so the new "writers" simply put their names to this slightly different arrangement and claimed it as theirs. However, Carter himself did not write the song; although The Carter Family should be given credit both for their arrangement and for popularizing "Wildwood Flower," it was actually written by Maud Irving and Joseph Philbrick Webster as "I'll Twine 'Mid The Ringlets
." As revealed in research by E.M. Bram
, "Maud Irving" was likely a pseudonym for J. William Van Namee, a poet who sometimes used the female name when his works were published in magazines targeted to women.
Nobody can copyright the original "I'll Twine Mid the Ringlets" since it is already in the public domain, but Carter, having changed the song with different lyrics (with or without a slightly different tune) has created a derivative work so the Carters could copyright their derivative work "Wildwood Flower." Carter's copyright cannot stop anyone from copying, singing, or playing "I'll Twine Mid the Ringlets," but it can bar anyone from copying their specific derivative work "Wildwood Flower" without permission.