The Balladeer is Bobby Wayner, fifty, forever grieved and punished by a lie he'd told when he was a boy in Kentucky. One summer night, Eldon, his older brother was murdered. The lie Bobby had told was partly to blame for his brother's death. Bobby couldn't tolerate his guilt, so he ran away and never reached back for many years. This was during the Second World War in 1944.
Now, thirty-eight years later, after time served in California's Folsom Prison for a barroom killing, Bobby's returning to Kentucky to find out the truth behind Eldon's murder. As he travels on the roads and the rails his ballads and memories take us back to the circumstances of that fatal summer.
He and Eldon had been budding balladeers. They became intrigued with a recluse farmer called Ol' Weber, a German immigrant. Local rumor had it that he was a Nazi and that he'd murdered his own family. The boys were often warned to stay away from Ol' Weber, that he was insane. But they spied on him and discovered that at night, he played a beautiful and haunting piano tune.
Wanting to write a ballad, Eldon determined to discover some of crazy Ol' Weber's secrets. And one night he made the tragic mistake of knocking on his door.