Article MT094

Far in the Mountains : Volumes 3 & 4

of Mike Yates' 1979-83 Appalachian Collection

Musical Traditions' third CD release of 2002: Far in the Mountains: Vols 3 & 4 (MTCD323-4), is now available.  See our Records page for details.  As a service to those who may not wish to buy the records, or who might find the small print hard to read, we have reproduced the relevant contents of the CD booklet here.

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [The Recordings] [Volume 3] [Volume 4] [Acknowledgements] [Credits]

Track Lists:

Volume 3Volume 4
Morris Allen
1 Oh Come See Me When You Can
Paul Brown
2 Red Clay Country
Doug Wallin and Berzilla Wallin
3 A Bed of Primroses
4 Brother Green
5 The Carlisle Lady
6 Shoot that Turkey Buzzard
7 The Housecarpenter
8 Tom Dula
9 McKinley
Hattie Presnell
10 Jack and the King’s Chest
Garrett & Norah Arwood
11 Barbara Allen
12 The Butcher’s Boy
13 Poison in a Glass of Wine
14 Shady Grove
Doug Wallin
15 Fair Eleanor and Lord Thomas
16 The Derby Ram
17 Little Willie
18 Liza Jane
19 The Murder of Colonel Sharp
20 T he Youthful Warning
21 The Time Draws Near
Vergie Wallin
22 The Worrisome Woman
Walt Davis & Jay C McCool
23 Graveyard Blues
24 Banjo Clog
25 Power in the Blood
26 Russian Roulette
27 White Oak Stomp
Cas Wallin
28 Lord Daniel
29 Camp a Little While in the Wilderness      
30 Some Have Father’s Gone to Glory
31 The Preacher’s Song
32 Jerusalem Mourn
Benton Flippen
1 Garry Dawson’s Tune
2 Let Me Fall
3 June Apple
4 Cotton-Eyed Joe
Dellie Norton & Inez Chandler
5 Little Honey
6 Black is the Colour
7 Little Betty Ann
8 Little Sparrow
9 Oh, Lord, Ellie
10 The Silkmerchant’s Daughter
Tommy Jarrell
11 Devil in the Strawstack
12 Roundtown Gals
13 Train on the Island
Hattie Presnell
14 Cuckle Pea and His Sister
Mitchel Hopson
15 Snowbird on the Ashbank
Cas Wallin
16 Fair Ellender and Lord Thomas
17 The Little Soldier
18 Pretty Fair Miss All in the Garden
19 The Derby Ram
20 Hesitation Blues
John Hopson
21 Brown’s Dream
Ethel Birchfield
22 The Arishmen Learning to Talk
23 Big Horny and Little Horny
24 Granster and Nippy
Robert Sykes
25 Black-Eyed Susie
26 Paddy on the Turnpike

There is a well-known American fiddle tune called Fire in the Mountains.  In 1929 the Red Headed Fiddlers recorded a version of the tune which, somehow, became mistitled as Far in the Mountain when it was issued on a gramophone record.  As I flew repeatedly across the Atlantic to make these recordings the title came into my mind, and I began to think about how far I was travelling to be in these mountains.


The discovery in recent years that the traditional ballads of England and Scotland are still perpetuated in oral transmission to a somewhat surprising extent in the Southern Appalachians of America has not only turned the attention of scholars in that direction, but has added a new element of romance to that deeply interesting region.  The charm and lure of these highlands are gripping.  Let the traveler (sic) once tread their paths and he will be drawn to them again and again irresistibly because of the peculiar attractiveness and friendliness of these southern peaks and ranges with the soft blue atmosphere.

Mellinger Edward Henry.  Introduction to
Folk-Songs from the Southern Highlands.  1933

Traditional Appalachian music is mostly based upon anglo-celtic folk ballads and instrumental dance tunes.  The former were almost always sung unaccompanied, and usually by women, fulfilling roles as keepers of the families' cultural heritages and rising above dreary monotonous work through fantasies of escape and revenge.  These ballads were from the British tradition of the single personal narrative, but the list was selective; most of the one hundred or so variations of the three hundred classic ballads found in American tradition are to do with sexual struggles from the female standpoint, as Barbary Allen, Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender, and Pretty Polly.  One is less likely to find Scottish ballads of rape and dominance, or those with men as heroes.  A large percentage, perhaps almost half, of the American variations tend to be about pregnant women murdered by their boyfriends.

Debby McClatchy.  Appalachian Traditional Music
A Short History
.  2000


Over the years, approaches to Appalachia and its musical culture have changed.  Note Mellinger Henry's use of the word romance in the 1933 quotation given above.  Cecil Sharp, it is said, saw the mountaineers in terms of a transplanted English peasantry, while a more modern feminist approach has been taken by writers such as Debby McClatchy.  In the early 1990's I was told that many American folklorists had all but washed their hands of Appalachia, feeling that too much energy had already been expended in the area, to the detriment of other regions and other cultures.  The truth, we are told, 'is out there'.  If this is so, then the problem seems to be that one person's truth is not, necessarily, another person's truth.

On the surface, Ms McClatchy is right when she says that in Appalachia the women were the ballad singers.  There are examples of 45 Child ballads in Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (edited by Maud Karpeles in 1932).  In most cases several versions of each ballad has been printed, giving a total of 367 versions of the 45 ballads.  Of these, 290 sets were collected from female singers, and only 74 sets collected from men.  (Three versions came from schoolchildren of unknown gender).  This gives us a ratio of 4:1 in favour of the women singers.  But, Sharp and Karpeles collected most of their material during daytime, wishing to return to their lodgings before nightfall so as not to become lost in the mountains at night, and it may well be that many male singers were working away from home during the daytime, their women folk remaining at home to look after the children.  Over the years collectors have come to find just as many male ballad singers as female.  Think of Doug or Cas Wallin, Dillard Chandler, Nimrod Workman, Hobart Smith, Lee Monroe Presnell and all the others.

And what of ballads that show 'the sexual struggle from the female point of view'?  Jane Hicks Gentry of Hot Springs in Madison County, NC, gave Cecil Sharp more songs and ballads than any other singer, including versions of twenty-one Child ballads.  I think that I am being generous if I say that less than half of Mrs Gentry's Child ballads are concerned with 'the sexual struggle from the female point of view'.  And what about the statement, 'A large percentage, perhaps almost half of the American variations tend to be about pregnant women murdered by their boyfriends'.  Note the use of the word perhaps.  Can we expect an expanded version of Ms McClatchy's article explaining exactly where she gets her figures from?  It is certainly not true to say that Sharp's collection is full of such material, nor, for that matter, is my own Appalachian collection.

Some Appalachian songs do deal with this subject.  Take the song The Cruel Ship's Carpenter - often called Pretty Polly by Appalachian singers - which is almost certainly the best-known in this group.  In fact, Sharp collected no less than twenty-one versions of Pretty Polly, although, with eight of these twenty-one versions coming from male singers, it does seem to suggest that such songs were not the sole prerogative of the women singers.

What I suppose I am trying to say, is that the term Appalachia can mean different things to different people.  I went there in 1979 looking for a new challenge and a new focus for my life.  At the end of my first trip, as I was playing some of the recordings to a folklorist at Ferrum College in Virginia, I realized that many of the songs had not been previously collected from these singers.  'I didn't know that he/she knew that one', he kept saying, before adding, 'I get it!  You've been asking them for songs that we don't ask about'.  In other words, like Sharp, I too had been looking for the kind of songs that I had been collecting in England.  Perhaps the American collectors had been asking for native American ballads, local compositions, or else songs that showed a black American input into Appalachia.  Whatever, I had approached the mountains with my own agenda , conscious or unconscious.  At the end of the day, had I too been seeking a transplanted England, complete with its own peasantry?  Was I trying to return to a world that I had just lost, perhaps to the safety of my childhood, with its memories of long hot summers spent in country hayfields?  I like to think that this was not so, that I was being objective in my approach to the mountain singers.  But yet, the doubts still linger.

In his book All That is Native and Fine (1983), David E Whisnant had this to say about Sharp (who had once, with characteristic modesty, called himself a 'mere' collector).

Clearly, the work of a 'mere' ballad collector has inescapable political dimensions.  It involves presuppositions and judgments about the relative worth of disparate cultural systems; the selection of certain items in preference to others - frequently in accordance with an unspoken theory of culture; the education (not to say manipulation or indoctrination) of a public regarding the worth (or worthlessness) of unfamiliar cultural forms or expressions; and the feeding back of approval-disapproval into the 'subject' culture so as to affect the collective image and self-images (and therefore the survival potential) of its members.
Alan Lomax once said that possibly as much as half the material that he had collected for the Library of Congress was of a religious nature.  Cecil Sharp, on the other hand, hardly mentions such material, feeling that he was 'rather weak on hymnology'.  I suspect that Sharp's reluctance to collect hymns stems from this lack of knowledge.  In my own case, I did collect a few hymns from some of the Sodom Laurel singers.  Like Sharp though, I too am 'weak on hymnology', as the lack of notes to these items will show.


From broadsides to shellac

It was not long after the discovery of printing that printers began to sell the words of songs, printed on one side of a sheet of paper.  Such sheets became known as broadsides.  Later, the same printers issued small eight-page booklets, each containing the words to a number of songs, or, occasionally, the words to one long ballad.  These booklets became known as chapbooks (meaning cheap books).  We know that the texts to most of the songs that Cecil Sharp, Vaughan Williams, Frank Kidson and all the other Edwardian song collectors were noting from the lips of traditional singers had, at some time or other, been printed on the broadsides.  Many songs were printed over and over again.  As well as traditional songs, the broadside printers also issued new and popular songs.  Many songs were composed especially to be issued on broadsides.  There could have been few 19th century executions that did not have its own song, containing the 'last words and dying declaration' of the condemned.  (Often such sheets would be on sale hours before the actual execution took place!)

We must assume that when America was first colonized by European settlers, some of the immigrants were printers.  I say this because we know that broadsides and chapbooks were being printed in some 18th century American towns along the eastern seaboard, much of the stock being similar to that found in the catalogues of contemporary British printers.  One of the most famous American printers of this period was Nathaniel Coverly Jun, of Boston.

We have seen that when Cecil Sharp first entered the Appalachian Mountains he had the notion that he was visiting a transplanted Elizabethan peasantry.  Sharp comments on a number of occasions that some of his singers were illiterate, presumably to suggest that their songs could only have been obtained by word of mouth and not from printed or written sources.  According to one writer, 'Sharp did not visit any (Appalachian) singers who had printed song sheets.  A few had handwritten copies, some done by their children, which they called "ballets".' Jane Gentry, Sharp's most prolific singer, could read and write, although her children say that they never once saw their mother refer to a written or printed text.  All of Mrs.  Gentry's songs were, they said, 'in her head'.

When Cecil Sharp left the mountains in 1918 he was unaware that the Appalachian musical tradition(s) was to change radically within a decade.  And this change came about with the invention and development of the gramophone industry.  True, Sharp was aware of the gramophone - or Victrola as he called it, after the make of one popular model - when he wrote the following shortly before returning to England:

What I want more than anything else is quiet, no children, no Victrolas, nor strumming of rag-time and the singing of sentimental songs - all of which we have suffered incessantly during the last 12 weeks.

In 1918 American folkmusic was still regional in character.  Sharp had experienced the music of one such region and was probably unaware that the characteristics of, say, Texas fiddle music were considerably different from the fiddle music that he had heard played in Kentucky or North Carolina.  In fact, the inhabitants of the Appalachians themselves were probably unaware of such differences.  All this changed in 1922 when Eck Robertson travelled from his home in Texas to New York where he recorded a number of fiddle tunes that were issued on shellac 78rpm records.  One tune, Sally Gooden, a virtuoso performance by any standard, was to change the face of American fiddle music, because regional styles could now be heard anywhere that there was a gramophone in America.  Of course things did not change overnight.  To begin with many of the records were only sent to be sold in the areas where the performers lived.  But, as people migrated across America taking their possessions with them, the records did begin to spread away from their home regions and people began to hear recordings that had originated elsewhere.  Fiddlers were soon hearing, and incorporating, regional styles that were then new to them.  Likewise, new songs began to quickly spread around America, sometimes changing regional repertoires.

In 1923 Fiddlin' John Carson, from Georgia, recorded Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane coupled with Old Hen Cackled for Okeh records.  Within a couple of years dozens, and then hundreds, of local performers were to be heard on shellac.  (Reference to many of these recordings will be found in the notes accompanying the songs and tunes heard on these CDs).  To begin with much of the recorded repertoire comprised traditional songs and ballads ( bearing in mind that each record side had a time limit of about 3 minutes).  Of the first one hundred records issued by Columbia records on their old-timey 15000-D series, 70 sides, or 35%, comprised traditional material.  Even Child ballads, such as The House Carpenter or The Gypsy Laddie were to be found among such recordings.  Performers, such as Dick Burnett - a blind singer and fiddler from Monticello in Kentucky, who had been on the road from Florida to Ohio since 1909, performing and peddling his own compositions on printed broadsides - began to record their own songs as well as some of the traditional pieces that they knew.  Other traditional singers, including Dad Blackard who, as mentioned in the booklet notes to Volumes 1 & 2, had sung songs to Cecil Sharp, and George 'Shortbuckle' Roark from Manchester, Kentucky, who gave songs to Alan Lomax, made records.  (Blackard and his family can be heard singing Billy Grimes the Rover on Yazoo 2029).  In other words, the broadside tradition had shifted away from paper and onto the now more popular commercial records.

In 1965 folklorist D K Wilgus wrote that:

The hill-billy vein has indeed functioned as a broadside tradition since 1923 in accepting material from the folk and transmitting material to the folk.  But it has been as much a continuation as a parallel of older broadside phenomena.  Distinctions among the 'pure' folksinger, the folk minstrel, and the broadside performer may be as imprecise as their interaction in nineteenth century American culture is difficult to document.  But the fact of their interaction seems abundantly clear.
Cecil Sharp, I feel, would not have understood the importance of commercial recordings in old-timey music.  The new technology that came after his Appalachian field trips altered the tradition.  But, it should perhaps be remembered that the musicians and singers involved in recording these items, together with the audience that was listening to the recordings, were all part of a tradition; and a tradition, by definition, is a living entity which, like all living things, is subject to change.  A tradition that cannot change is moribund.

The singers and musicians heard on these CDs are part of this same tradition.  Some of their songs and tunes were learnt directly from family and friends.  On the other hand, some of their repertoire has undoubtedly come via commercial recording.  This is especially true of singers like Eunice Yeatts MacAlexander (as mentioned in the booklet notes to Volumes 1 & 2), who had many ballads from her father, as well as songs learnt from Carter Family records; or Garrett & Norah Arwood who had a number of old 78 rpm records in their home when I visited them.


In the booklet notes to Volumes 1 & 2 of Far in the Mountains I outlined how I had travelled through southwest Virginia, before venturing south into the deep mountains of western North Carolina.  It was 1980 when I first visited the area of Madison County, NC, that is today known as Sodom Laurel.  Doug Wallin, Inez Chandler, Dellie Norton, Cas Wallin and Evelyn Ramsey (who sings on Volume 2) were all active singers then, although I had to return in 1983 to record Doug.

Walt Davis and Jay C McCool, two outstanding musicians from the town of Black Mountain, were also recorded during my second trip.

One of Cecil Sharp's 1917 observations about the Madison County singers was still valid sixty years later.  'They have one vocal peculiarity, however, which I have never noticed amongst English folk-singers, namely, the habit of dwelling arbitrarily upon certain notes of the melody, generally the weaker accents.  This practice, which is almost universal, by disguising the rhythm and breaking up the monotonous regularity of the phrases, produces an effect of improvisation and freedom from rule which is very pleasing'.  Another effect that I heard repeatedly among the Sodom Laurel singers was the technique of 'feathering' notes at the end of a line; a technique described by Judith McCulloh as , 'A sudden or forceful raising of the soft palate against the back wall of the throat and/or a sudden closing of the glottis at the very end of a given note, generally accompanied by a rise in pitch'.

I had to wait three years before I could afford to return to America again.  Paul Brown's home became my base and I spent many evenings with him visiting and recording local fiddle-players Tommy Jarrell, Benton Flippen and Robert Sykes.  Both Tommy and Benton were well-known with a number of record albums (later CDs) to their credit.  Not that fame had affected them.  Tommy would still don an apron and disappear into the kitchen to cook us supper, before getting out his fiddle for an evening's playing.  Benton, a quiet and thoughtful man, would sit on the veranda modestly playing us tunes that he had just composed.  Trips to Robert's home were always memorable.  On one occasion Robert, his wife Hattie, Paul and myself, had to hide in the bathroom so that a neighbouring minister would not see us enjoying some local moonshine.

Ben Jarrell, Tommy's father, had made a number of records in 1927 as part of Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters, and listening today to these recordings I find it almost impossible to tell the difference between Ben and Tommy's singing, their voices sounding so similar.

I also decided to visit Mitchell and Yancy Counties in NC.  Between 11th September and 10th October, 1918, Cecil Sharp had collected no less than 199 songs and ballads in the area around Burnsville in Yancy County.  It was Sharp's final collecting trip in the mountains before he returned to England for the last time.  I found few singers, but I did manage to trace a number of good instrumentalists, including Garrett Arwood, a fiddle maker, and his wife Norah, who sang while making beautiful quilts, Mitchel Hopson and John Hobson.

Roan Mountain stands only a few miles from John Hobson's home.  It is just in Tennessee, and it was here that I recorded some of Ethel Birchfield's many tales.  I loved the music played by her family and was captivated by Ethel's traditional way of telling all manner of folktales.


In 1992 I ended the booklet notes to Crazy About a Song with the words 'Perhaps, one day, I will see those Blue Ridge vistas again'.  At the time it seemed unlikely, most of my free time being taken up with trips to Africa and the Far East.  And then, suddenly, it did become possible.  In 1990 I had married Emma, my second wife - we had married on July 4th, Independence Day!  - and it was Emma who kept asking me about Dan Tate, Tommy Jarrell, Cas Wallin and all the other singers.  Every time I began to pick a tune on my banjo she would ask who taught me that one.  Emma had never visited America and, try as best I could, I knew that I was unable to fully explain just what it had been like during my collecting trips.  In the end there was nothing that I could do, except to suggest that we headed west to retrace my steps.

We flew into New York in May, 1998, landing in the midst of a memorable thunderstorm.  After a few days playing at tourists, we flew on to Greensboro, NC and, within a couple of hours, were standing on top of Pilot Mountain - the same Pilot Mountain that fiddle-player Frank Jenkins had named his band after for their 1929 recording session.  As turkey buzzards soared overhead, we looked across wooded hillsides to where the Blue Ridge escarpment ran along the horizon, before driving to Fancy Gap where I had recorded Dan Tate and his neighbours.  The first thing that I noticed as we pulled off the highway was just how many new houses had appeared in the surrounding fields.  Dan's modest home had undergone a transformation since his death, the house having been repainted (in fact, come to think of it, there was hardly any paint on the house when Dan had lived there, so repainted is not, perhaps, the right word!).  Luckily the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway was just as beautiful as ever and we marvelled at the scenery as we later drove south to Boone in NC.  Boone, I remembered, as a quiet university town, in the hills of Watauga County.  I was not expecting to see how much it had grown in fifteen years.  And, again, once-quiet valleys were now cluttered with homes and offices.  Sad to say, it was the same more or less wherever we drove.  Even Sodom Laurel, once an almost 'lost' backwater valley, had been opened up to tourism and was being touted as a place to take a vacation.  Dusty roads had been metalled and extra lanes added to the roads that had previously been filled with potholes.  Gone were the pickup trucks with rifles slung across the backs of the cabs, gone the roadsigns shot full of holes.  And gone too were most of the singers who had once lived there in quiet desperation.  Cas and Vergie Wallin had died, as had Dellie Norton and Morris Norton.

We called to see Doug Wallin, only to find that he had recently suffered a stroke.  Not that this could stop him singing, and I will never forget the sight of Doug trying to recall verses of The Rainbow Mid the Willows, his hands clasping Emma's hands, tears running down their cheeks.  Later, we drove the couple of miles to Evelyn Ramsey's home, but she was away, visiting relatives elsewhere.

On Sunday 24th May, we met up with the Tennessee folklorist Bobby Fulcher in Hot Springs - a dozen or so miles from Sodom Laurel - where Betty Smith's biography of Jane Gentry (one of Cecil Sharp's chief singers) was to be launched in Jane's former home.  What, I kept asking myself, would Sharp have made of Hot Springs today.  There was now a vegetarian restaurant in the main street (Sharp, himself a vegetarian, once complained that in Appalachia 'even the stewed apples taste of hog's grease') and a Buddhist retreat centre on the edge of town.

Bobby kindly took us to his home in Tennessee, where he introduced us to Charlie Acuff, a wonderful singer and fiddle-player with a zany version of the song The Sow Took the Measles.  On one occasion, as we stopped at a gas station, Bobby pointed to a gap in some nearby low hills.  'That's Coal Creek,' he said, in his quiet, unemotional voice.  Coal Creek had been where early American union activists had taken on the mine company bosses, who had used convict labour to try to break the unions.  Songs such as Pay Day at Coal Creek and Uncle Dave Macon's Buddy Won't You Roll Down the Line, as well as banjo tunes such as Coal Creek March had immortalized the events.  But, today, nobody there seemed to be aware of its historical significance.  The place had been renamed Lake City and the memory of a once-bitter labour struggle had vanished just as surely as had the old-timey singers, fiddlers and banjo-players that I had previously recorded.  If anything, it was a defining moment for me.  During the years 1979 - 83 I had been able to almost step back in time.  I had met people who remembered meeting Cecil Sharp, people who continued the traditions that Sharp had encountered all those years before.  At no time did I think that things would change, or disappear, with such speed.  Only fifteen years had passed, and yet I had returned to an alien landscape.  Or that, at least, was how it seemed to me.

Will I return?  Who knows!  Much that I remembered with love and affection had disappeared.  Not that change had been all bad.  Many black Americans seemed to have gained a confidence that had been absent before and it was encouraging to hear white southerners saying that this was no bad thing.  But, with such a right-wing government in office at the moment, I think that I would find it very hard to cross the pond.  And this is sad, because during all my trips I met with nothing but kindness and generosity.  As Sharp said, 'Some of the happiest hours that I spent sitting on the porch (i.e.  verandah) of a log-cabin, talking and listening to songs were amongst the pleasantest I have ever spent'.  And I could say the same.  So ...  who knows?  Maybe one day I will return.

Mike Yates - April 2002

The Recordings

Child Numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads by Francis James Child, 1882-98.  Laws Numbers, where quoted, refer to entries in American Balladry from British Broadsides by G Malcolm Laws Jr, 1957.

Roud Numbers quoted are from the databases, The Folk Song Index and The Broadside Index, continually updated, compiled by Steve Roud.  Currently containing more than 235,000 records between them, they are described by him as "extensive, but not yet exhaustive".  Copies are held at: The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London; Taisce Ceoil Dúchais Éireann, Dublin; and the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh.  They can also be purchased direct from Steve at Southwood, Maresfield Court, High Street, Maresfield, East Sussex, TN22 2EH, UK.

Recording dates are shown in the sequence day/month/year.

Volume 3

Morris Norton

Morris Norton was Evelyn Ramsey's father.  A singer and mouth-bow player - who also played the fiddle and banjo - he was rather frail when I met him and only managed to sing me short songs or fragments of once longer ballads.  I also tried to record some of his mouth-bow tunes, but, sadly, with only limited success.

1.  Oh Come See Me When You Can (Roud 4947)
(Sung by Morris Norton at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC, 31.8.80)

Said, 'Eat your breakfast before you come, my love,
And bring a little dinner in your hand.
And bring a little corn to feed your old horse
And leave before supper if you can.
Oh, come see me when you can.
Oh, come see me when you can.

Morris Norton's tongue-in-cheek welcome seems like a suitable introduction.  Not because of the implied meanness!  But rather because all the singers and musicians heard on these CDs were just about the most friendly bunch that I have ever encountered.  Oh Come See Me When You Can was recorded in 1928 by the Georgia Yellow Hammers as Come Over and See Me Sometime (Victor V-40091),and the Reverend Gary Davis adapted the idea in his song Come Down and See Me Sometime.

Paul Brown

Although born in New York State, Paul had been living in the mountains for a number of years before I met him.  A highly talented banjo-player, he has played with most of the leading musicians in the Galax/Mt Airy region.  He shares a Rounder CD with Mike Seeger (Way Down in North Carolina Rounder CD 0383).

2.  Red Clay Country (Roud 16966)
(Sung and played on the banjo by Paul Brown at his home near Mount Airy, Surry County, NC.  17.8.80)

I'm going back to the red clay country,
I'm going back to the red clay country,
I'm going back to the red clay country,
That's my home, baby that's my home.

If you see my long-haired buddy,
Tell her I'm gone, babe, tell her I'm gone.
If they ask you where I'm gone to,
Tell 'em you don't know, baby you don't know.

If you see my aging father,
Tell him I'm gone, baby tell him I'm gone.
Oh Lord Hattie, come run to the window,
I'm passing by, babe, I'm passing by.

I'm going back to the red clay country,
That's my home, baby that's my home.

The piedmont area of central North Carolina is characterized by its red soil.  In springtime, following a heavy rainfall, all the local rivers, streams and ponds turn a dull red as they carry the churned-up particles of clay.

Paul's song, which he learnt from his mother, Louise Brown who had been raised in Goode, VA., belongs to a group of songs popular with both black and white singers.  Jimmy Struthers, a convict at the State Farm, Lynn, VA., who was serving a life sentence for murder, recorded a fine version for the Library of Congress in 1936, under the title Take This Hammer.  This has been reissued on Deep River of Song - Virgina and the Piedmont.  Minstrelsy, Work Songs and Blues (Rounder CD 1827).

Doug and Berzilla Wallin

Doug Wallin's farm lies at the head of Crane Branch, two or three miles away from the settlement of Sodom Laurel.  The path up the cove follows, and often crosses, a rock-strewn stream, which is almost impossible to negotiate by car.  When I first called to see Doug (b.1919) and his mother, Berzilla Wallin, the banks of the stream were covered with the most beautiful milky-blue dwarf iris.  Cecil Sharp called this country, "The most magnificent I have ever seen."

Like his neighbours, Doug grew tobacco and corn and also raised a few animals.  Many of his songs came from his great-aunt, Mary Sands of Allenstand, who sang twenty-five songs, including The House Carpenter, to Sharp.  Cas Wallin, Doug's uncle, did not remember Sharp.  But another uncle, Lloyd Chandler, was only 14 when he gave Sharp a fine version of the ballad of Young Hunting.  Many of Doug's fiddle tunes, including Shoot that Turkey Buzzard, came from Mitchell Wallin, Mary Sands' half-brother, who not only played for Cecil Sharp but who also acted as a chauffeur for the collector.  (For further details of Mary Sands and Mitchell Wallin, see the article A Nest of Singing Birds on the internet magazine Musical Traditions).

Berzilla Wallin may be heard singing Love Has Brought Me to Despair, Johnny Doyle and Conversation With Death on the Folkways LP Old Love Songs and Ballads from the Big Laurel (Folkways 2309), while Doug and his brother Jack also have an album, Family Songs and Stories, out on Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40013.

3.  Conversation about Cecil Sharp / A Bed of Primroses (Laws Q27, Roud 280)
(Conversation by Berzilla Wallin, and song from Doug Wallin at their home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  24.5.83)

Spoken: They told me that the lady that was with Cecil Sharp ...  wrote the music and he wrote the words down.  When they first come to the mountains back here you see, at that time, there wasn't many horses and many fine riders around and they rented horses from a liberal (livery) stable, or whatever you call 'em, in Marshall.  An they'd, there's just one little old path that passed our house and they'd ride up by our house and back over into the Sodom Laurel country and, er, finally they didn't, (there) was a suspicion that something might be wrong with them, and then they found out they was a-making a book an they was all right.  But they was sort of scared of 'em at first, and they found out what they was a-doing and the people was more friendly to 'em and, er, corresponded more with them.

One evening so late as I rambled,
On the banks of a clear purling stream.
I 'posed back on a bed of primroses
And gently fell into a dream.

I dreamed that I saw a fair female,
Whose equal I'd never seen before.
Such poise, such grace and such beauty,
Never walked upon Erin's green shore.

Transported with joy I awakened
And found it was only a dream.
Then I 'posed back on a bed of primroses
And soon I was slumbering again.

I dreamed that Lord Lundy came to her,
Saying, 'Maiden, pray tell me your name.
You stand in the midst of great danger,
Or I would not have asked you the same.'

'I'm the daughter of Daniel the King, sir,
From England I've lately sailed o'er.
I've come to awaken this nation,
As she sleeps upon Erin's green shore.'

Young gentlemen be kind to all females
And give them advice as a friend.
Be pious and also live a Christian
And Heaven is yours in the end.

All sins from the book will be omitted,
With the females you'll walk hand in hand.
All troubles on earth will be over
And you'll dwell at your Saviour's right hand.

Doug's mother, Berzilla Wallin, was about 22 years old when Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles visited Madison County in 1916.  Berzilla did not sing for Sharp, although many of her relatives did so.  Berzilla's sister, Zipporah Rice, for example gave Sharp a version of Lord Bateman.  According to Berzilla, the people were scared of Sharp because they thought that he was there to secretly map the area on behalf of the water authority.  It was believed at the time that a dam was to be build, and the land flooded, so that a reservoir could be established to provide water to the nearby town of Marshall.  As Berzilla says, though, the people soon learnt of Sharp's real intentions and their attitude towards him softened.  (Incidentally, it was Sharp who took down the tunes and his assistant, Maud Karpeles, who noted the words.)

Doug's Bed of Primroses is an American version of the Irish Erin's Green Shore, an Aisling or vision song, in which a sleeping person is visited by the spirit of Ireland.  It is easy to see how such a song, which in its original form called for the freedom of Ireland from Britain, should appeal to the independent minded frontiersman of the New World, even if some of the political and classical allusions have become somewhat blurred over the years.  Robert Cinnamond, of Co Tyrone, sang it, as did Elizabeth Cronin and Tom Lenihan, and Sharp heard it in London, in 1908, from Maurice Reardon.  A version from West Virginia, sung by Maggie Hammons Parker, can be heard on Rounder CD 1504/05.

Doug had a paperback edition of some of Cecil Sharp's Appalachian songs in his home and he was extremely proud to be able to sing me a song that Sharp had missed.  It was also, incidentally, Doug's favourite song.

4.  Brother Green (Roud 3395)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83)

Oh Brother Green please stay with me,
For I am shot and bleeding.
This southern foe has laid me low,
Upon the ground to suffer.

Oh here I am in Tennessee,
My folks in Illinois.
No more I'll see their faces sweet,
Nor hear their loving voices.

Oh Brother Green please stay with me,
And write my wife a letter.
Tell her to treat her children kind,
And meet me up in heaven.

According to Leonard Roberts in his book Sang Branch Settlers, 'This melodramatic last farewell of a Civil War Yankee soldier is found as expected in the upper South and the Midwest.' H M Belden suggests that it was composed by a Rev L J Simpson on the death of his brother killed at Fort Donelson in February, 1862 (see: Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folklore Society), while Vance Randolph says that old-timers in the Ozarks insist that it was written by a Federal officer named Sutton who was wounded at the Battle of Wilson's Creek (Ozark Folksongs vol.2, no.211).  An unissued test-pressing from Buell Kazee has been issued on Yazoo CD 2028.  It is, perhaps, one of Kazee's finest recordings and the words are set to a tune that is almost identical to that used by Doug Wallin.

5.  The Carlisle Lady (Laws O25, Roud 396)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83)

Down in Carlisle there lived a lady,
She was so beautiful and gay.
And she determined to live a lady,
And no young man could her betray.

At length there was two loving brothers.
On these she cast her heart's desire.
One of them was a brave lieutenant,
A brave lieutenant, a man of war.
The other was a bold sea captain,
Belonged to a ship, called Colonel Carr.

Up spoke this handsome lady,
Says, 'I cannot be but one man's bride.
But meet me here tomorrow morning,
And on this case we will decide.'

She called for horses and her coaches,
And they were ready at her command.
And then together these three did wander,
Until they came to a lion's den.

There they stopped and there they halted,
With these two brothers musing round.
Was for the space of half an hour,
That she lay speechless on the ground.

But at length she did recover,
And threw her fan in the lion's den.
Saying, 'Which of you, to gain a lady,
Will return to me my fan?'

Up spoke this bold sea captain,
He raised his voice so loud above.
Saying, 'Madam, I'm a man of honour,
But I will not lose my life for love.'

Up spoke this brave lieutenant,
He raised his voice so loud and high.
Saying, 'Madam, I'm a man of honour,
I will return your fan or die.'

Down in the lion's den he ventured,
Where the lions looked so grim.
He whooped, he raged all among them,
Until at last he did return.

And when she saw her lover coming,
And unto him no harm was done.
She threw herself upon his bosom,
Saying, 'Here young man is the prize you've won.'

Up spoke this bold sea captain,
Like a man all troubled with a wandering mind.
Saying, 'Through these lonely woods I'll ramble,
Where no man can e'er me find.'

Originally a blackletter broadside, in five parts, titled The Distressed Lady, or A Trial of True Love.  Cecil Sharp collected four sets from Kentucky singers in 1917 (and three from singers in Somerset in 1908), and a number of versions have also turned up in Ireland and Scotland.  Dillard Chandler, a first cousin of Doug's mother Berzilla, recorded the song for John Cohen in 1965 (Rounder CD 0028) and the superlative performance by Basil May, from Kentucky, is available on Yazoo CD 2014.  A later recording of Doug Wallin singing this ballad may be heard on Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40013.  Interestingly, and understandably, many Appalachian singers have changed the title from The Carlise Lady to The Carolina Lady.

6.  Shoot that Turkey Buzzard
(Played on the fiddle by Doug Wallin at his home in Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83).

Fiddlin' John Carson of Georgia called this tune The Hawk and the Buzzard for his 1925 recording (reissued on Document DOCD-8016).  Others call it Davy Duggar after the following verse.

Shoot old Davy Duggar dead,
Shoot old Davy Duggar dead,
Shoot old Davy Duggar dead,
He stole my wife and ate my bread.

It is often called Coon Dog in Kentucky - see, for example, Roger Cooper's version on Rounder CD 0380 - while some Kentucky bands, such as Walker's Corbin Ramblers, called it Ned Went a Fishing (reissued on Yazoo CD 2013).  It seems to be especially popular in the Ozarks.  In 1926 Fiddlin' Sam Long recorded a differently phrased version, titled Seneca Square Dance, which has been reissued on County CD 3506.  Two years later Fiddlin' Bob Larkin recorded it as Higher Up the Monkey Climbs (reissued on County CD 3507), while another Ozark version is currently available from Bob Hold (Rounder CD 0432).  Both Fiddlin' Doc Roberts and Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters recorded the tune in 1928.  (Reissued on Document DOCD-8043 and DOCD-8041 respectively).

7.  The House Carpenter (Child 243, Roud 14)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83)

'We've met, we've met, my old true-love.
We've met once more,' said he.
'I've just returned from the salt, salt sea,
And it's all for the sake of thee

'Now I could have married a king's daughter dear,
And I'm sure she'd have married me.
But I've forsaken all her gold,
For the love I have for thee.'

'If you could have married a king's daughter dear,
You had better have married she.
For I've lately married a house carpenter,
And a nice young man is he.'

'If you forsake your house carpenter,
And come along with me,
I'll take you where the grass grows green
On the banks of Sicily.'

'If I'll forsake my house carpenter,
And come along with thee,
Pray tell me what you have on land and sea
To keep me from slavery.'

'I have three ships upon the sea,
They're making for dry land.
I have three hundred jolly sailor boys,
You can have them at your own command.'

Then she dressed up in a yellow robe,
Most glorious to behold.
She walked the street around and about,
And she shined like glittering gold.

The she picked up her tender little babe,
And kisses gave it one, two, three.
'Stay at home, stay at home, you tender little babe,
And keep your papa company.'

They hadn't been sailing on the sea two weeks,
I sure it wasn't three.
'Til she began to weep, and she began to mourn,
She wept most bitterly.

'Are you weeping o'er my house?
Are you weeping for my store?
Are you weeping for your house carpenter,
Who's face you'll see no more?'

'No I'm not weeping for your house.
Neither for your store.
I'm weeping for my tender little babe,
Whom I left a-sitting on the floor.'

They hadn't been sailing on the sea three weeks,
I'm sure it wasn't four,
'Til the ship struck a rock, to the bottom she go,
She goes to rise no more.

'Take me out, oh, take me out,
Take me out,' cried she.
'For I'm too rich and cost-er-lee,
To rot in the salt water sea.'

'Now don't you see that white cloud a-rising?
As white as any snow.
There is a place called heaven you know,
Where my tender little babe will go.'

'Now don't you see that black cloud a-rising?
As black as any crow.
There is a place called hell you know,
Where you and I must go.'

Originally titled James Harris, or, The Daemon Lover, this 17th century broadside ballad has survived best in the southern uplands of America, although at least one version has been recorded from an Irish singer, and it was still being collected in England at the turn of the last century.  Doug's reference to heaven and hell is but a shadow of the ballad's original supernatural element in which the seducer turns himself into a cloven hoofed devil.

Early collectors made much of the ballad's supernatural elements, but later writers, such as Dave Harker, have paid more attention to the ballad's role as a vehicle for the social control of married women.  (See Harkers article A Warning in Folk Music Journal volume 6, number 3, 1992, pp.  299 - 338, for example).  Stanza 13, by the way, seems to be from another ballad, The Outlandish Knight (Child 4) while stanza 7 is similar to lines found in the ballad of The Green Wedding, a secondary form of the ballad Katharine Jaffray (Child 221, Roud 93), or to stanzas 4 and 10 of Fair Ellender and Lord Thomas (Child 73) as sung by Doug's uncle, Cas Wallin, on track 16 below.  Interestingly, Doug does not include this verse in his version of Lord Thomas on track 24 below).  North Carolina singer Annie Watson has a good version on Smithsonian Folkways CD SF 40012, whilst the Ozark singer Almeda Riddle sings her version on Rounder CD 1706.  Texas Gladden's version from Virginia can be heard on Rounder CD 1800 and a reissue of Tom Ashley's 78rpm version is available on the Smithsonian Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music (SFW CD 40090).

8.  Tom Dula (Roud 4192)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.23.5.83)

Hang down your head Tom Dula,
Hang down your head and cry.
For the murder of Laura Foster,
Poor boy, you're bound to die.

I met her on the mountain,
I stabbed her with my knife.
I met her on the mountain
And there I took her life.

Hang down your head Tom Dula,
Hang down your head and cry.
For this time tomorrow,
Poor boy, you're bound to die.

Take down my old banjo,
I'll pick it on my knee.
For this time tomorrow,
It'll be no use to me.

Take down my old fiddle,
And play it all you please.
For this time tomorrow,
I'll be hanging from a white-oak tree.

Spoken: Well, as you all know, the story of Tom Dula originated a long time ago, when he killed this girl, Laura Foster.  And this girl, Ann Melton, was supposed to have been involved in the murder, but Tom bitterly denied it to save her from being hung.  And the old-timers had a story that goes...  after Ann Melton started to die, on her death bed, she was so close to Hell that people standing around could hear something like meat a-frying, and black cats ran up the wall a-squalling and cutting some kind of an awful shine.  And the story also says that they were in such a hurry to bury this girl Laura Foster that they dug the grave too short, and she wouldn't fit in the grave.  And when Tom Dula was...  when they brought him out on the scaffold to hang him, he was brave, anyway, because he joked with the sheriff.  The sheriff had a brand new rope, a pretty white rope.  When he put that rope around Tom Dula's neck to hang him, Tom joked with him, and said "Sheriff, if I'd known you was going to use such a pretty white rope I would have washed my neck this morning."

Notes to this song will be found with the version sung by Evelyn Ramsey on Volume 2, track 37, of Far in the Mountains.

9.  McKinley (Roud 787)
(Sung and played on the fiddle by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC, 23.5.83)

Coming down from Tennessee,
Coming on the run.
Going down to the White House,
Going to get in on the fun.
From Buffalo,
To Washington.

Will he jumped on his horse,
And grabbed in his mane.
Told that old horse,
You've got to out-run the train.
From Buffalo,
To Washington.

McKinley, McKinley,
Why didn't you run?
When you saw Zosgo coming,
With an Iver Johnson gun?
Now you've been gone,
A long, long time.

McKinley hollered,
McKinley squalled.
When Doc said, 'McKinley,
I can't find the ball.
You're gonna die,
You're gonna die.'

Roosevelt in the White House,
He's doing his best.
McKinley in the graveyard,
He's taking his rest.
Yes he's been gone.
A long, long time.

Notes on this song will be found on the accompanying Volume 2, track 19, of this set, where the tune is played on the fiddle by Pug Allen.

Hattie Presnell

In the 1940s and '50s Anne & Frank Warner collected a lot of material on Beech Mountain, in Watauga County, NC (See Anne Warner's Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne & Frank Warner Collection.  Syracuse, 1984, and the two CDs Her Bright Smile Haunts me Still and Nothing Seems Better to Me, volumes 1 & 2 of the Warner Collection recordings - Appleseed CD 1035 and CD 1036).  Stopping there, I discovered an affluent winter skiing and summer resort area, and thought that I was too late to find any singers.  Asking around, I was told that I should go 'back of the Beech', to an area that was geographically only a short distance away, but which, economically, was far removed from the holiday resort that much of Beech Mountain had become.  Hattie Hicks Presnell was born in 1907 and was the daughter of Buna and Roby Monroe Hicks.  The ballad singer Lee Monroe Presnell was both her father-in-law and her great-uncle.  Although known as a singer herself, her short stories Jack and the King's Chest and Cuckle Pea and His Sister remind us of yet another mountain tradition.

10.  Jack and the King's Chest
(Told by Hattie Presnell at her home in Beech Creek, Watauga, County, NC, 24.8.80)

One time Jack went to get a job off a king.  He wanted him to mind his cattle and he'd get hungry and he'd go out and ask for something to eat.  So the king said he didn't hardly eat at work.  '"Well", he said.  "That's all right." And he'd go back again.

Well, after a while he went out and killed the king's calves, one of them, and fixed it up and every night he roasted him some meat and eat it.  So the king got out and one of his cattle is gone.  Said, "What happened, Jack?" He said, "I'm bedad if I know...?"...  so he'd kill another.

So he told his mother one day.  Said, "I'm going to put you in a chest and I'm taking you in the chest to Jack's house and leaving it." And he had a keyhole fer her to look out of the keyhole to see what Jack done.  He went home and he told Jack.  He says, "Now it's a-pouring with rain and I'm tired." He said, "I'm going to leave this chest here at night." And Jack said, "All right, bedads." He said, "Just sit it down there."

Well, Jack got his meat out, you know, he was baking it in front of the fire.  He looked back around and he could see something shining out of the keyhole, and it was that woman's eye.  And he opened it up and take a piece of that meat and crammed it down her throat and choked her to death.  Shut the chest back. next morning, the old king came, said, "I'll pick up that chest, Jack." He said, "All right", and he got out apiece.  "What'd you see last night, mother?" Couldn't hear.  "Mother," he said, "what did you see?  Mother, what did Jack do last night?" He sat down and opened it and thar she was, a big piece of meat stuck down her throat, dead!

Many European folktales evolved into the so-called 'Jack Tales'.  Two notable American characteristics are given in this very modest tale (really little more than a single motif).  Firstly, that Jack is lacking in food and that he overcomes this lack, in this case by theft (although the king's meanness does rather mitigate the theft); and secondly that the European king has lost much of his regal splendour.  Only in the Appalachian Mountains would the king be expected to carry his own chest!  Elsewhere, in longer Jack Tales, we find the king not only answering his own castle door, but also working his own fields 'from sun-up to sun-down'.

For studies of the American versions of the Jack Tales, see The Jack Tales by Richard Chase, together with his short article 'The Origin of the Jack Tales' in Southern Folklore Quarterly Vol.  111, No.  3 (Sept.  1939), pp.  187-91.  One of Chase's other books, Grandfather Tales (1948.  Reprinted), is also of great interest.  Duncan Emrich includes Jack Tales in his Folklore on the American Land and there is also a special Jack Tales issue of the North Carolina Folklore Journal, Vol.  26, No.2 (Sept.1978).

Versions of Scottish Jack Tales can be found in a number of books, including A Thorn in the King's Foot, Don't Look Back, Jack and The King and the Lamp, by Duncan & Linda Williamson (1987, 1990 & 2000) and Scottish Traditional Tales by A.J.Bruford & D.A.MacDonald (1994).

Field recordings of Jack Tales may be heard on a Folk-Legacy cassette (Ray Hicks of Beech Mountain, North Carolina - FTA-14) and on two Library of Congress albums - AAFS L47 & L48.  These latter tales are told by Maud Long, a daughter of Sharp's singer Jane Gentry.  Scottish travellers Jeannie Robertson and Andrew Stewart tell Jack tales (Silly Jack and the Factor and The Three Feathers on the double CD set Scottish Traditional Tales - Greentrax CDTRAX 9017D and Duncan Williamson tells Jack and the Money-Lender on the cassette Mary and the Seal & Other Folk-tales (Springthyme SPRC 1019).  Duncan also tells the story Jack Goes Back to School on volume 1 of Travellers' Tales (Kyloe CD K100), which also includes Stanley Robertson telling the story of Hump-Back Jack.  Another of Stanley's Jack Tales, Jack and the Three Jewels, can be heard on volume 2 of the same series (Kyloe CD K101).

Garrett and Norah Arwood

I first came across Garrett's name as a fiddle maker in volume 4 of the Foxfire books (Anchor Press, New York.  1977.  pp.116-122).  Garrett and Norah, who was a fine quilt maker, lived at the head of Pigeon Roost in Mitchell County, NC, far back in the mountains.  It had rained heavily for most of the day when I recorded them, but as in all good story books, the sun came out when Garrett began to play (honest!) and their haunting music just rang out across the mountains.

11.  Barbara Allen (Child 84, Roud 54)
(Sung and played on the fiddle by Garrett & Norah Arwood at their home in Pigeon Roost, Mitchell County, NC.  21.5.83)

In Scarlet town where I was born,
There was a fair maid dwelling.
Made every youth cry, 'Well-away',
Her name was Barbara Allen*.

Was in the merry month of May,
When the spring buds they were swelling.
Sweet William came from a western state,
And courted Barbara Allen.

Was in the merry month of June,
The spring flowers they were blooming.
Sweet William on his deathbed lay,
For the love of Barbara Allen.

He sent his servants to the town,
Where Barbara was a-dwelling.
'Our master's sick, and sent for you,
If your name be Barbara Allen'.

Slowly, slowly, she got up,
And slowly she came near him.
But all she said when she got there,
'Young man, I think you're dying'.

'Yes, I'm sick, I'm very sick,
Death is on me dwelling.
No better, no better, I ever can be,
If I can't have Barbara Allen'.

'Yes, you're sick, you're very sick,
Death is on you dwelling.
No better, no better, you ever will be,
Cause you can't have Barbara Allen'.

As she was on the highway home,
The birds they kept on singing.
They sing so loud, they seem to say,
'Hard-hearted Barbara Allen'.

She looked to the east, she looked to the west,
She spied his corpse a-coming.
'Lay down, lay down, that corpse of clay,
So I might look upon him'.

The more she looked, the more she mourned,
Till she fell to the ground a-weeping.
Said, 'Take me up and carry me home,
For I am now a-dying'.

Sweet William was buried in the old churchyard,
And Barbara Allen beside him.
From William's grave there grew a rose,
From Barbara Allen's a briar.

They grew and grew to the high church top,
And could not grow any higher.
They met and tied in a true-lover's knot,
The rose around the briar.

* I have used the spelling 'Barbara Allen' in the transcription, although the singers seem to vary their pronunciation of the girl's name throughout the song.

Probably the best-known of the ballads that Professor Child included in his monumental English and Scottish Popular Ballads.  Versions have turned up repeatedly throughout the English-speaking world.  Dan Tate also had a version, and when I asked him why he liked it, he said that the ending - with its rose and briar motif - "Just couldn't be beat". Samuel Pepys mentions the ballad in his diary entry for January 2, 1666, saying that it was a pleasure to hear Mrs Knipp (an actress) singing her little Scotch song of Barbary Allen.  Some scholars have suggested that Pepys' comment indicates that the ballads was originally sung on the stage.  Others, including the American scholar Phillips Barry, have suggested that the piece was originally a libel on Charles II and his mistress Barbara Villiers.

Steve Roud lists over 170 recordings, including versions from Texas Gladden (Rounder CD 1800), Joe Heaney (Topic TSCD518D) and Jim Wilson (Musical Traditions MTCD 309-10).  In America, Annadeene Fraley sings a good version on Rounder CD 8041 and the Library of Congress previously issued a full LP - Versions and Variants of the Tunes of Barbara Allen (AAFS L54) - devoted to this single ballad.

12.  The Butcher's Boy (Laws P24, Roud 409)
(Sung and played on the fiddle by Garrett & Norah Arwood at their home in Pigeon Roost, Mitchell County, NC.  21.5.83)

In London city where I did dwell,
The butcher's boy I loved so well.
He courted me my life away
And with me then he would not stay.

There is a strange house in this town,
Where he goes up and sets right down.
He takes another girl on his knee.
He tells her thing he once told me.

I'll have to grieve, I'll tell you why.
Because she has more gold than I.
Her gold will melt and silver fly,
In time of need be as poor as I.

She went upstairs to go to bed,
And nothing to her mother said.
Her momma did seem to say,
'What is the trouble my daughter dear?'

When her father first came home,
'Where is my daughter?  Where has she gone?'
He went upstairs, the door he broke.
He found her hanging to a rope.

He took his knife and cut her down,
And in her bosom these words he found.
'A silly girl I am you know,
To hang myself for the butcher's boy.

Must I go bound while he goes free?
Must I love a boy that don't love me?
Alas, alas, it'll never be,
Till oranges grow on apple trees.'

The Butcher's Boy appears to be derived from at least three separate British broadsides, namely Sheffield Park, The Squire's Daughter (also known as The Cruel Father or The Deceived Maid) and A Brisk Young Sailor, which is also sometimes called There is an Alehouse in Yonder Town.  Frank Hinchliffe sings a version of Sheffield Park on the Musical Traditions double CD Up in the North and Down in the South (MTCD 311-2), while Jasper Smith can be heard singing a version of A Brisk Young Sailor (titled Died for Love) on the CD Hidden English (Topic TSCD 600).  Possibly the only other examples of The Butcher Boy on CD are that by Kelly Harrell of Virginia (Document DOCD 8026) and that from the Virgin Islands by Melcina Smith and Elias Fazer (Root & Branch 1).

13.  Poison in a Glass of Wine (Laws P30, Roud 218)
(Sung and played on the fiddle by Garrett & Norah Arwood at their home in Pigeon Roost, Mitchell County, NC.  21.5.83)

Come little girl and we'll both get married.
I love you so well I'm gonna tell you what it means.
'll work for you, both late and early,
Then my wedded little wife you'll be.

Now Willie dear, let's both consider,
We're too young to get married now.
When we're married we're bound together,
Let's stay single just one more year.

He called her to the bar where he was drinking.
Willie dear what do you want with me?
Come drink wine with the one that loves you,
Don't be with no-one else but me.

While they was at the bar a-drinking,
The same old thought came to his mind.
To kill that girl, his own true-lover,
So he gave her poison in a glass of wine.

She laid her head over on his shoulder.
Said, 'Willie dear, please take me home.
That glass of wine that I've just drinken
Has gone to my head and done me wrong.'

Although well-known as a traditional song in England and Scotland - where it goes under such titles as Jealousy, Oxford City, Down the Green Groves or Young Maria - it seems to be rather uncommon in rural America today, although the Stanley Brothers did record it a couple of times in the 1950s.  Roscoe Holcomb, like the Stanley Brothers from Kentucky, can be heard singing his version on Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40077, and British versions may be heard sung by Louie Saunders (Musical Traditions MTCD 309-10 and Topic TSCD 663 - a different recording), Sheila Stewart (Topic TSCD 515), Joseph Taylor (Topic TSCD 653) and Pop Maynard (Musical Traditions MTCD 309-10).

14.  Shady Grove (Roud 4456)
(Sung, and played on the fiddle, by Garrett & Norah Arwood at their home in Pigeon Roost, Mitchell County, NC.  21.5.83)

Shady Grove pretty little miss,
Shady Grove my darling.
Shady Grove pretty little miss,
I'm going back to Harlan.

If I had no horse to ride
I'd be found a-crawling,
Up and down that rocky road,
Going to see my darling.

Now if I had a banjo string
Made of golden twine,
Every tune I'd pick on it,
Wish that girl was mine.

Shady Grove pretty little miss,
Shady Grove I say.
Shady Grove pretty little miss,
Going back there some day.

If I had a needle and thread
As fine as I could sew,
Sew that girl to my side
Down the road I'd go.

The song Shady Grove probably began life in eastern Kentucky around the beginning of the 20th century.  While certain verses seem to be linked with the tune, other 'floating' verses are often attached by different singers.  The earliest collected set that I know, printed in the Journal of American Folklore, is dated 1915.  Since then the song has spread throughout the mountains and has been recorded frequently.  Doc Watson, for one, sings a good version on The Watson Family (Smithsonian Folkways CD SF40012).

Doug Wallin

15.  Fair Eleanor and Lord Thomas (Child 73, Roud 4)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  24.5.83)

'I riddle to you, my own dear mother,
And ask as your dear son.
Would you marry fair Eleanor now,
Or bring the brown girl home?'(x2)

'I riddle to you, my own dear son,
My own beloved one.
If you ask for my advice,
You'll bring the brown girl home'.(x2)

'For the brown girl has both house and land,
Fair Eleanor she has none.
So my advice would be to you,
To bring the brown girl home'.

'Is this your bride?' fair Eleanor said.
'To me she looks wonderful brown.
When you could have had the fairest young lady,
That ever the sun shone on'.(x2)

The brown girl had a sharp penknife,
It was ground both sharp and keen.
She plunged it between fair Eleanor's ribs,
And made her poor, aching heart rain.(x2)

'What's wrong?  What's wrong?' Lord Thomas said.
'What's wrong?  What's wrong?' he cried.
'Oh, can't you see my own heart's blood,
Come trickling down my side?'(x2)

He took the brown girl by the hand,
And led her down the hall.
He cut her head off, close to her shoulders,
And kicked it against the wall.(x2)

'Oh father, oh father, go dig my grave,
Go dig it wide and deep.
And place fair Eleanor in my arms,
And the brown girl at my feet'.(x2)

Notes to this song are to be found with Cas Wallin's version on CD4, track 16.  It is, though, of interest to note how Doug has reduced the ballad to its emotional core by shedding much of the ballad's background material.

16.  The Derby Ram (Roud 126)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  24.5.83)

As I went down to Derby,
Upon a rainy day.
There I spied the biggest sheep
That was ever fed on hay.
Chorus: To my fol, to my fol, diddle-day.

The old ram had four feet
And upon them he did stand.
And every foot he had
Covered over an acre of land.

The old ram's horns were so high
No man could reach,
And there they built a pulpit
For the preacher man to preach.

The old ram's teeth
Were like unto his horns,
And every tooth he had
Held forty bushels of corn.

The wool upon his back
Was reaching to the sky,
There the eagle built her nest
For I heard the young ones cry.

The wool upon his belly
Was reaching to the ground,
And there they sold to Derby
One hundred thousand pound.

Took all the men and boys in Derby
To haul the bones away.
Took all the pretty girls in Derby
To carry the wool away.

Now the man that killed the sheep
Was drowned in the blood.
And the man that owned the sheep
Was floated in the flood.

The blood it ran ninety miles
And I'm sure it ran no more.
For it turned the biggest water wheel
Was ever turned before.

Now the man that owned this sheep
He was independent rich,
And the boy that wrote this song
Was a lying son of a ...gun.

Notes to this song are to be found with Cas Wallin's version on CD4, track 19.

17.  Little Willie (Roud 3606)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83)

When I was in my sixteenth year,
Little Willie courted me.
He said if I'd run away with him
That his dear little wife I'd be.

When we were far away from home
And little Willie said to me:
'Go home, go home, my dear little girl,
For my wife you'll never be.'

'My mamma was so kind to me
And I know she loved me dear.
Now you have brought me far from home
And how can you leave me here?'

'Nature, nature, my dear little girl,
Oh it's nature for today.
My mind it is to ramble round,
This wide world I'll bid adieu.'

Little Willie is part of a longer song which Cecil Sharp titled Come All You Young and Handsome Girls (see English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians vol.2.p.80; a set collected in Perry County, Kentucky, in 1908 by Mrs Olive Dame Campbell).  Although I have heard other singers use the 'Nature, nature, my dear girl' line, (presumably meaning human nature), there is also the following stanza, collected by Cecil Sharp, which makes equal sense:

Nellie, Nellie, my darling girl
No fault I find with you;
I am bound to ramble all around
Now I bid you adieu.

'Banjo' Bill Cornett of Kentucky recorded a good set for John Cohen in 1959 (Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40077).

18.  Liza Jane (Roud 825)
(Sung and played on the fiddle by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83)

Going up on the mountain,
Going to make me a patch of cane.
Make me a barrel of 'lasses,
Sweeten little Liza Jane.

Chorus: Oh, little Liza, poor little girl,
Oh, little Liza Jane.
Oh, little Liza, poor little girl,
She died on the train.

You go down the new-cut road,
I'll go down the lane.
If you get there before I do,
Kiss little Liza Jane.

If ever in this world I marry at all,
It'll be a fisherman's daughter.
Sitting and fishing in the head of the boat
And the children playing in the water.

Nobody seems certain if Liza Jane was originally from black or white musical tradition, although the early blues singer Henry 'Ragtime Tex' Thomas included verses from the song in his '20s recording Run, Mollie, Run (reissued on Yazoo 1080/1), while a version by the black Texan singer Pete Harris - recorded by John Lomax on behalf of the Library of Congress in 1934 - has been issued on Rounder CD 1821.  Bradley Kincaid used a version of the song as a 'signature tune' for many of his radio shows, and there is a good version on Yazoo CD 2051.  Suffice it to say that it is a highly popular piece today and can be heard on numerous recordings, including Clark Kessinger's influential 1929 recording reissued on Document DOCD-8011.  This is another piece that Doug learnt from Mitchell Wallin.

19.  The Murder of Colonel Sharp (Laws dF38, Roud 4110)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83)

Come gentlemen and ladies I pray you lend an ear,
To a sorrowful transaction that you shall shortly hear.

About a brave young lawyer in old Kentucky State,
Upon his old true-lover with patience he did wait.

She told him she would marry him if he did avenge her heart.
This injury had been done her by one said Colonel Sharp.

She said that he had injured her and brought her spirits low,
And without some satisfaction no pleasure could she know.

They said, 'We'll kill him secretly, no-one will ever know.
He said, 'We'll kill him secretly (them two months o'er ago?)

She made a mask of black silk and slipped it o'er his head,
That he might be taken for another as he ran from his bed.

He slipped along so secretly 'til he came to Colonel Sharp.
He called him from his bedroom and stabbed him to the heart.

Oh wasn't it most pitiful to see him bleed and die,
And leave his wife and children to weep and mourn and cry.

They planned it oh, so slyly, it seemed they could not fail.
But the law did apprehend them and placed them both in jail.

You ask of me good people what might be their names,
Well, Jereboam Beauchamp and Annie Cook's their names.

Was there ever a transaction that caused so much blood?
Was there ever a man more truer to his love?

The following abridged note, which accompanies a set collected 'from mountain whites in North Carolina', appears in a 1915 issue of the Journal of American Folklore (vol.28.  p.166): '(It) occurred in Frankfort (Kentucky) in 1824...Sharp...had been guilty of seducing Miss Ann Cook.  Jereboam Beauchamp, a young law student, fell in love with Cook and asked her to marry him.  She agreed on condition that he killed Sharp.  Later, after marrying Ann Cook, he lured Colonel Sharp (then attorney-general of Frankfort) out of his home one night and killed him disguised as a negro.  He was, however, suspected, arrested and convicted.  He and his wife both tried to commit suicide by drinking poison and the wife died an hour after her husband had been executed.' Another, and as yet unpublished, set can be found in the Cecil Sharp manuscript collection.  Sharp noted the song in 1916 from Frankland B Shelton of Allenstand in Madison County, NC.  Doug Wallin knew both Frankland Shelton and his brother William Riley Shelton - Doug calls the latter 'the brag ballad singer' - who also sang to Cecil Sharp, and can be heard talking about William on his Smithsonian Folkways CD (SF CD 40013).

20.  The Youthful Warning (Laws G21, Roud 711)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83)

A young man courted a handsome lady,
He loved her dear as he loved his life.
And unto him she made this promise,
That she would be his lawful wife.

As soon as his parents came to know this,
They strove to part them night and day.
Saying, 'Son, oh son, can't you remember
That she is poor', they would often say.

As soon as the lady came to know this,
She soon made up what she would do.
She wandered forth and left the city,
The green wild rose no more to be.

And coal black eyes like stars she opened,
Saying, 'Love, oh love, you've come too late.
Prepare to meet me on Mount Zion,
For you will always find me there.'

Then he picked up that bloody dagger,
And stabbed it to his own true heart.
Saying, 'Let this be a youthful warning,
That all true lovers shall never part.'

Notes to this song will be found on Volume 2, track 36, of this set, where a version - titled The Truelover's Warning - is sung by Evelyn Ramsey.

21.  The Time Draws Near (Roud 3601)
(Sung by Doug Wallin at his home at Crane Branch, Madison County, NC.  23.5.83)

The time draws near, my dearest dear,
When you and I must part.
And no-one knows the inner grief
Of my poor aching heart.

Or what I suffer for your sake,
The one I love so dear.
I wish that I could go with you,
Or you could tarry here.

I find my mother hard to leave,
My father's on my mind.
But for your sake, I'll leave them both,
I'll leave them all behind.

I wish your breast was made of glass,
Your heart I might behold.
Upon it I would write my name,
In letters of bright gold.

Upon it I would write my name,
Believe me when I say,
You are the one that I love best
Until my dying day.

When you are on some distant shore,
A line or two pray send;
And when the wind blows high and clear,
Think on your absent friend.

Yes, when the wind blows high and clear,
Pray send them love to me.
So I would know by your hand-write,
How things have been with thee.

Cecil Sharp collected a very similar set, titled My Dearest Dear, on August 5th, 1916, from Mary Sands, Doug Wallin's great-aunt.  Another North Carolina recording, sung by Dolly Greer, may be heard on the album The Doc Watson Family Tradition (Rounder CD 0129), while two other notable recordings of it are Tommy Jarrell's, as My Dearest Dear on (County LP 757 Clawhammer Banjo, Volume 3) and from Dan Tate, as As Time Draws Near on a Prentice-Hall LP anthology, Anglo-American Folksong Style.  Mark Wilson has found it to be popular in Kentucky and the Ozarks and is sure that it is far more popular than its scattered appearances in songbooks would suggest.

Vergie Wallin

Vergie, the wife of Cas Wallin, loved to sing, although her tendency to let her songs merge together, coupled with the fact that she would sometimes sing at breakneck speed, meant that it was often difficult to make out quite what she was singing!  She knew a large number of ballads, including a fine version of The Merry Golden Tree (Child 286), as well as lyrical songs.  One oddity was a song that she called The Cold Professor which I have been unable to trace elsewhere.

22.  The Worrisome Woman (Child 248, Roud 179)
(Sung by Vergie Wallin at her home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  24.5.83)

It was all on one summer evening I heard a pretty fair maid
She was mourning she was weeping for her father
And a-grieving for her mother, thinking all on her true-love John

At last John he came he found the doors all shut
He ringed at the (ding?) he ringed so low
The pretty fair maid rose and hurried on her clothes
To make haste to let Johnny come in.

Johnny come in, all around the waist he caught her
And into the bed he brought her
They laid there a-talking awhile.
She said, 'My pretty feathered fowl
You are the prettiest feathered fowl I ever saw
If you won't crow until it's almost day
Your comb will be of the pure ivory
And your wings of the silver grey, the silver grey'.

But him a-being very young
He crowed two hours before it was day
And she sent her love away by the light of the moon
Before it was day.
She sent her love away by the light of the moon
And thought it was almost day.

Says, 'Oh dear Johnny when will you be back to see me again?'
Says, 'When the seventh moon is past and shines on yonders lea
And you know that will never be'.

Said, 'Oh what a foolish girl was I when I thought my love was as true
As the rocks grow to the ground
But since I've found he's altered in mind
It's better to live single than bound'

Spoken: MY: I'm just going to leave the tape on.  Can you tell me when you first heard that song.

VW: I heard his brother sing it, Jeeter, oh (h)it bin...he'd stayed with us an he'd sing a lot...  and get him a songbook and set down and sing and sing.  I'd just wish for him to worried me, you know.  I told Cas; Cas said, told me some time ago when I got to liking to sing, he'd guessed I'd wished he was back here now (so) I'd sing some with him.

MY: How long ago was that?

VW: Oh, it's along when we first married...he stayed with us.  We've bin married about, going on 47 years.

A version of the ballad usually known as The Grey Cock or Saw You My Father? In 1916 Cecil Sharp found a single set in the repertoire of Jane Hicks Gentry of Hot Springs, a few miles away from Sodom Laurel.  When I first visited the area in 1981 I tried to find the ballad, but without success.  Imagine my surprise two years later when Vergie began to sing it one afternoon as I was helping her cut down some weeds behind her home.  As she explains on the album, she had heard the piece fifty years before, sung by her brother-in-law, Jeeter Wallin, who had since moved to Kentucky.

Jane Hicks Gentry was originally from Beech Mountain, a good way to the north-east of Hot Springs.  The late Frank Proffitt of Vilas, Watauga County, NC, sings a version on Rounder CD 0028.  Vilas is next to Beech Mountain and Frank's text is very similar to that sung by Mrs Gentry, as is the version recorded by Hattie Presnell, also of Beech Mountain (Folk-Legacy FSA 22).

Despite being widely collected in the British Isles, it appears that only versions from Cecilia Costello (Rounder CD1776), Nora Cleary (Topic TSCD653) and Róisín White (Veteran VT126CD) can be found on CD.

Walt Davis and Jay C McCool

When I left Sodom Laurel I travelled back to Paul Brown's home via the town of Black Mountain, just outside Asheville.  Sharp had visited the area in 1916 and had collected a version of the song Swannanoa Tunnel - which he misheard as Swannanoa Town - from a couple of singers there.  (I am not trying to have a go at Sharp, whose hearing - certainly when it came to noting down tunes - was first rate.  When I first met Charlie Woods he played me a banjo-tune which I though he called Slow Foot.  I guessed that it was some sort of tune used for clogging.  A few months later, Frank Weston pointed out that, in fact, Charlie was playing the tune for Slew Foot, a 1930s' country song about a bear with a deformed foot!)

As I had just recorded a version of Swannanoa Tunnel from Dellie Norton - Oh, Lord, Ellie - I was interested to see what sort of music could be found there.  In fact, most of the older musicians had been involved in making records in the 1930s and '40s and had forsaken the ballads and 'love-songs' in favour of a more modern 'old-timey' type of music.  Walt Davis had made records for ARC in 1931 and during the 1940s and 50s was an active radio performer, often in company with his neighbour Jay C McCool.  (There is a splendid 1949 photograph of them both in the Winter, 1971, issue of the John Edward's Memorial Foundation Quarterly).

23.  Graveyard Blues (Roud 4946)
(Sung and played on the guitar by Walt Davis at his home in Black Mountain, Buncombe County, NC. 2.9.80)

Spoken: Well, the first time I ever met this man he was playing on the street in Johnson City, Tennessee.  An he was blind.  An he had an old guitar, didn't look like it was very much.  But, anyhow, I never heard a man who could make as many different notes, blues, as he could on the guitar.  And I would stand around, spellbound, just watching him and listening to him, because it was a mystery to me how a man could play like that.  An this old gentleman played this number, er, some of it.  Now, some of this I put together myself because I couldn't remember all the tones an the sounds that he made.  But, I'll try this in (the key of) A.

Lord, I waked up this morning with the blues all around my bed (x2)
For I dreamed last night that the woman I loved was dead.

Lord, I went to the gravedigger, (fell down/got down) upon my knee (x2)
Say, Look here, Mr Gravedigger, won't you give me back my good woman please?

Lord, the gravedigger just looked me deep in my eyes (x2)
Said, I'm sorry, young man, but you've said your last goodbye.

Here Walt tells of learning Graveyard Blues from a black street singer in Johnson City, Tennessee, sometime in the 1920s.  (The background noise comes from a neighbour's radio.  It was a hot night and all the windows were open.) When I later asked him if he knew the singer's name, Walt promptly replied, 'Blind Lemon'.  Now, it just may have been Blind Lemon Jefferson who was reported to have travelled through the mountains during the '20s, but Jefferson never recorded Graveyard Blues and it is more likely that some local - and unknown - singer was trying to cash in on the great Texas singer's name and reputation.  The song probably began its life in 1923 as Ida Cox's Graveyard Dream Blues (Paramount 12044).  Interestingly, Clarence Greene, who played with Walt in the 1920s and '30s, used more or less the same guitar pattern as Walt's for his Johnson City Blues. Graveyard Blues was also in the repertoire of other mountain musicians, including Roscoe Holcombe (Folkways FA2363) and Hobart Smith (Rounder CD 1702).

24.  Banjo Clog
(Played on the banjo by Walt Davis and guitar by Jay C McCool, at Walt's home in Black Mountain, Buncombe County, NC.  2.9.80)

I asked Walt if he knew the tune Spanish Fandango and he replied that he'd heard the piece, but didn't play it.  Instead he offered me this Banjo Clog, which, he felt, was similar.  The late Dock Boggs also played a banjo-clog (Smithsonian Folkways SF 40108) but it's a different tune.

25.  Power in the Blood
(Played on two guitars by Walt Davis and Jay C McCool at Walt's home in Black Mountain, Buncombe County, NC.  2.9.80)

According to Walt, this is the tune to a Sankey & Moody hymn.

26.  Russian Roulette
(Played on the banjo by Walt Davis and the guitar by Jay C.McCool at Walt's home in Black Mountain, Buncombe County, NC.  2.9.80)

Walt Davis calls this Russian Roulette while Jay C McCool refers to it as Black Mountain Stomp.  Although it has a familiar feel to it, I don't know of any other recordings.

27.  White Oak Stomp
(Played on the fiddle by Jay C McCool and guitar by Walt Davis at Walt's home in Black Mountain, Buncombe County, NC.  2.9.80)

Better known as Beaumont Rag.  For a 1928 recording by Smith's Garage Fiddle Band from Texas, see Document DOCD 8038.  At the time of recording I first thought that Jay called it White Oak Swamp, after the Civil War battle of that name. However, I thought that the tune that he was playing sounded was just too happy to relate to a battle, and so I again asked him for the name of the tune after he had played it.  It was, he said in no uncertain terms, White Oak Stomp!

Cas Wallin

Cas Wallin was one of Doug Wallin's uncles.  Many of the songs that Cas and Doug sang were similar to those that Sharp collected from the singer Mary Sands, who was, in fact, the half-sister of Cas's father, Thomas Wallin.  Cas had farmed for most of his life but was more or less retired when I met him and his wife, Vergie.  They lived close-by to Evelyn and Douston Ramsey and I was sorry not to have been able to spend more time with them.  At one time Cas led the singing in his local Church of God.  Cas can also be heard singing Pretty Saro and Fine Sally on Folkways LP 2309.

28.  Lord Daniel (Child 81, Roud 52)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  27.8.80)

Spoken: I'm gonna sing an old-timey song, Lord Daniel.  Way back, I've heard it all my life.

First come down was dressed in red.
And the next come a-down was green.
Next come a-down Lord Daniel's wife,
She's as fine as any queen, queen,
Just as fine as any queen.

She stepped up to little Mathie Grove,
'Come home with me tonight.'
'I really know by the ring you wear,
You are Lord Daniel's wife, wife,
You are Lord Daniel's wife.'

'It makes no difference who's wife I am,
For you or no other man.
My husband's away, he's away from home,
He's in some distant land, land,
He's in some distant land.

Little Robert Ford was standing nigh,
He's a-hearing every word was said.
'If I don't die before daylight,
Lord Daniel will hear these words, words,
Lord Daniel will hear these words.'

Spoken: He busied hisself, didn't he?

He had a-fifteen miles to go,
Ten of them he run.
Run 'til he came to the fell-down bridge,
And he fell on his breast and swam, swam,
He fell on his breast and swam.

He run 'til he came to Lord Thomas's hall,
He jingled on the bell.
'What's the matter?' Lord Thomas said.
'What's a-making you ring?'
'There's a man in the bed with your true-love,
There's gonna be some old huggin' done, done,
There's gonna be some old huggin' done.

He got him up a few good men,
And started with a free good will.
Placed his bugle to his mouth,
He blewed it loud and shrill, shrill,
He blewed it loud and shrill.

'Let's get up,' little Mattie Grove said,
'Let's get up, put on our clothes.
I hear your husband a-coming home,
I heard his bugle blow, blow.
I heard his bugle blow.'

'Lie down, lie down, lie down,' she says,
'Lie down, go off to sleep.
Nothing but my father's shepherd,
A-calling for his sheep, sheep,
A-calling for his sheep.'

From that they both fell a-huggin' and a-kissing,
And they both fell off to sleep.
When they awoke at the break of day,
Lord Daniel was at their bed feet, feet,
Lord Daniel was at their bed feet.

'Get up, get up, get up,' he says,
'Get up and put on your clothes.
Never wanted it to be said,
That a naked man I slew, slew,
That a naked man I slew.'

'How can I get up?' he says,
'How can I put on my clothes?
There you stand with two glittering swords
And me not as much as a knife, knife,
And me not as much as a knife.'

'Oh yes I have two glittering swords,
They cost me deep in pearl.
But I'll give to you the best
And I will take the worst, worst,
And I will take the worst.'

'You can have the very first lick
And strike it like a man.
I will take the very next lick,
I'll kill you if I can, can,
I'll kill you if I can.'

Little Mathie Grove struck the very first lick,
He struck an awful blow.
Lord Daniel took the very next lick,
He laid him on the floor, floor,
He laid him on the floor.

He took his little bitty wife on his lap,
And he look-ed straight at her.
Says, 'Which one of the two do you like the best?
Little Mathie Grove or me, me,
Little Mathie Grove or me?

'Very well do I like your red rosy cheeks,
Much better do I like your chin.
But I wouldn't give little Mathie Grove
For you and all your kin, kin,
For you and all your kin.'

He took his little bitty wife by the hall (sic)
He led her through the hall.
He took his sword and he cut off her head,
And he kicked it against the wall, wall,
And he kicked it against the wall.

'Dig my grave in the meadow.
Dig it wide and deep.
Bury little Mathie Grove in my arms,
Lord Daniel at my feet, feet,
Lord Daniel at my feet.'

Notes to this ballad will be found with Little Massie Grove sung by Eunice Yeatts MacAlexander on Volume 1, track 22, of this set.

29.  Camp A Little While in the Wilderness (Roud 7699)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  27.8.80)

Spoken: I'm gonna sing this old religious song the old folks used to sing when they'd meet at the church-house.

Oh fathers are you ready?  Ready?  Oh ready?
Oh fathers are you ready?  For I am going home.
And then I'm a-going home,
And then I'm a-going home.
We're all a-making ready,
And then I'm going home.

Chorus: We'll camp a little while in the wilderness,
In the wilderness, in the wilderness.
We'll camp a little while in the wilderness,
And then I'm going home.

Oh mothers etc

Oh children etc

According to Cas, this is a Missionary Baptist song.  When these recordings were made large parts of western North Carolina were still deeply wooded and it is easy to understand why hymns like this gave spiritual sustenance to the early settlers.  I know of no other available recorded versions.

30.  Some Have Father's Gone To Glory (Roud 4213)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  26.8.80)

Spoken: I'm going to sing another old song, people used to get up and sing when they started a Meeting, Some Has Fathers Gone to Glory.

Some have fathers gone to glory (x3)
On the other bright shore.

Some bright day we'll go and see them (x3)
On the other bright shore.

That bright day may be tomorrow (x3)
On the other bright shore.

Won't that be a happy meeting (x3)
On the other bright shore.

Some have mothers etc.

repeat verse 2.

repeat verse 4.

Some have children etc.

repeat verse 2.

There we'll shout and sing forever (x3)
On the other bright shore.

Another hymn from Cas that was unknown to me.

31.  The Preacher's Song (Roud 6984)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  26.8.80)

Spoken: I'm gonna sing this old song, Preacher's Song, it's an old (one), heard it way back.

When I was a sinner, the people would say,
If you want to be converted you had better pray.
Turn to those who've found the Lord,
He has promised them a sure reward.

Chorus: Jesus said, 'If you'll go, I'll go with you.
Preach the Gospel and I'll preach with you'.
'Lord, if I go.  Tell me what to say,
For they won't believe on me'.

My hands was tied and my feet was bound,
The elements a-open and the Lord come down.
Voice I heard it sound so sweet,
The love run down to the sole of my feet.

I turned to see who I could see,
The Heavenly Father was a-speaking to me.
'I am He you seek to find.
I am He.  I turn the water to wine'.

'Go tell the people what I have done.
Spread the light with the sake of my son.
Get the feet out of the muddy clay,
Place them on the King's Highway'.

The King's Highway is high and straight,
The angels a-waiting at the pearly gate.
They will come and carry you home,
There'll be no more trouble, nor sorrow to roam.

Holiness is the King's command,
Hold to God's unchanging hand.
Trials may come and troubles may roll,
I will save your sin-sick soul.

'I want my people (to) be wise and bold.
Be like a-me at a-twelve years old.
I was in the Temple with the great wise men,
Making all of them have a Heavenly end.

Cas told me that he had the words to this in an old hymn-book.  Dillard Chandler, also from Sodom Laurel, sang a similar version on his Folkways LP The End of an Old Song (FA 2418) and the song was also known to the Kentucky singer Sarah Gunning.

32.  Jerusalem Mourn (Roud 4945)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  26.8.80)

Chorus: Don't you hear Jerusalem mourn?
Don't you hear Jerusalem mourn?
Thank God there's a Heaven
That's a-ringing in my soul
And my soul set free.
Don't you hear Jerusalem mourn?

Here's a Baptist preacher, you can tell him by his coat,
Got a bottle in his pocket that he cain't hardly tote.

Here's the Holiness people, they're all right,
They'll roll, they'll tumble, they'll kick out the light.

Here's a Methodist preacher I do know,
He never let's a chicken get big enough to crow.

Here's the Presbyterians, they're so proud,
Their neck's so stiff, that they cain't hardly bow.

Here's a Freewill Baptist, I like to forgot,
They've got to get saved every other day.

Here's a Catholic priest, he'll jingle his bell,
He'll take ten dollars and pray you out of...purgatory!

Most commentators assign this humorous song to the ante-bellum minstrel stage.  At least two early versions exist, Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan? recorded on April 1, 1926 by Gid Tanner and the Skillet-Lickers (Columbia 15104-D, reissued on Document DOCD-8056), and an earlier Jerusalem Mourn by Bill Chitwood and Bud Landress (Brunswick 2809, Silvertone 3048).  The present version seems closest to the Chitwood & Landress recording, with the exception of the final verse, which was composed by Cas.  It seems that there was a Catholic Church in the nearby town of Marshall and Cas liked to include this verse when the priest was in earshot!  Cas asked me not to mention this when I issued the song on volume 1 of Appalachia-the Old Traditions, but, added that I could do so when he, or the priest!, was no longer with us.

Volume 4:

Benton Flippen

James Benton Flippen was born in 1920 and was first influenced as a fiddler by an uncle from Thomasville, NC, who would occasionally visit his parent's home.  From 1948 onwards Benton played on WPAQ, a local radio station, often in company with Esker Hutchins who taught him many local tunes.  Other influences include Fiddlin' Arthur Smith (heard on the radio) and local banjo-player Kyle Creed.  Benton currently has a fine CD out on Rounder (CD 0326).

1.  Gary Dawson's Tune
(Played on the banjo by Benton Flippen and the guitar by Larry Flippen at Benton's home in Toast, Surry County, NC.  7.5.83)

At 2 o'clock one morning, the party all but over, Benton Flippen put down his fiddle, and taking hold of Paul Brown's banjo, began to show those of us who were left how Gary Dawson, a one-time neighbour, used to play two-finger style tunes.  A later recording, on the Rounder CD mentioned above, gives this tune the title Salt River.

2.  Let Me Fall
(Played on the banjo by Benton Flippen and the guitar by Larry Flippen at Benton's home in Toast, Surry County, NC.  7.5.83)

Let Me Fall is another common tune in the Mt Airy/Galax area.  There are a number of verses to the tune including the following.

Oh me, oh my,
Let me fall, little girl, let me fall.
On my knees, on my knees,
Let me fall, little girl, let me fall.

I got drunk, I got drunk,
I got drunk, little girl, take me home.
Take me home, take me home,
I got drunk, little girl, take me home.

If I lose, let me lose,
If I lose, little girl, let me lose.
If I lose a hundred dollars, trying to make a dime,
Well, my baby she has money all the time.

The Camp Creek Boys play a good stringband version on their County CD (CD 2719).  It was also known among regional players, such as Ben Jarrell, as Old Hard Road.  Ben's son Tommy played it as Let Me Fall.  A bluegrass version was issued on 78 rpm record in 1953 as Just Let Me Fall (Blue Ridge 306) by Larry Richardson and Happy Smith - The Blue Ridge Boys.  They learned it from Tommy.

3.  June Apple
(Played on the banjo by Benton Flippen and the guitar by Larry Flippen at Benton's home in Toast, Surry County, NC.  7.5.83)

This is another popular Mt Airy/Galax tune, and, like Let Me Fall, can be heard in a full stringband setting on the Camp Creek Boys CD (County CD 2719).  Tommy Jarrell, and others, sang a number of verses to the tune, including this opener.

Wish I was a June apple,
Hanging on a tree.
Every time my truelove passed me by,
She'd take a bite of me.

4.  Cotton-Eyed Joe
(Played on fiddle by Benton Flippen, on mandolin by Verlen Clifton, on banjo by Paul Brown, and on guitars by Larry Flippen & Paul Sutphin at Benton's home in Toast, Surry County, NC.  7.5.83)

The American collector Alan Lomax has speculated that Cotton-Eyed Joe was named after a person suffering from glaucoma.  There are numerous other recordings of the tune available, including fine versions by The Skillet Lickers (a 1928 recording reissued on Document DOCD-8057), Bookmiller Shannon, an Ozark banjo-player (Rounder CD 1707) and the Camp Creek Boys from Galax (County CD 2719).

Dellie Norton and Inez Chandler

Dellie and Inez were both from Sodom Laurel, although Inez had moved a few miles to the town of Marshall when I met her.  Dellie, who was born in1898, lived up the road from Evelyn and Douston Ramsey, and was the sister of Berzilla Wallin.  One of her other sisters, Zipporah Rice sang a version of Lord Bateman to Cecil Sharp in 1916.  Dellie sang in an older exaggerated style and was one of the most impressive singers that I have ever met.  She told one interviewer, ' I just heard my mother singing and old people way back.  I used to could learn a song first time I heard it'.  One neighbour told me that, 'She loved knowing songs her parents knew and singing along with them'.  In many ways she reminded me of the Scottish singer Belle Stewart, both being similarly proud of their respective traditions.  Inez sang me a number of short, often fragmentary, songs and it was only years later that I discovered that she had known a complete version of The Cherry Tree Carol.

5.  Little Honey (Roud 7701)
(Sung by Dellie Norton at her home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  27.8.80)

Oh, honey, little honey,
God bless your sweet soul.
You caused me for to ramble,
Both hungry and cold.

You've caused me to seek trouble
And a-many downfall.
But oh, honey, little honey,
I love you God knows.

Oftimes I've wondered
How women love men.
And oftimes I've wondered
How they could love them.

But oh, honey, little honey,
I love you God knows.
You've caused me to ramble
Both hungry and cold.
You've caused me to seek trouble
And a-many downfall.

An Appalachian 'blues' comprised of so-called 'floating' verses.  Texas Gladden includes some of this in her Old Kimball (Rounder CD 1800), while British singers include the 'Oftimes I've wondered' verse in the song Green Grow the Laurels (see Daisy Chapman's version on Musical Traditions MTCD308, for example).

6.  Black is the Colour (Roud 3103)
(Sung by Dellie Norton at her home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  26.8.80)

My pretty little pink, so fare you well.
You've slighted me, but I wish you well.
If never on earth I no more see,
I cain't slight you like you've slighted me.

The winter have broke and the leaves are green.
The time has passed that we have seen.
But I hope the time will shortly come,
Never you and I will be as one.

Black is the colour of my truelove's hair.
Her home is on some island fair.
The prettiest face and the neatest hands.
I love the ground whereon she stands.

Off to Clyde for a weep and mourn.
Dissatisfied, I never can sleep.
I'll write to you in a few short lines.
I'd suffer death, ten thousand times.

One of the most beautiful of the Appalachian lyric songs, which Dellie begins with a verse from the separate song Come My Pretty Little Pink.  According to Roger deV Renwick (Recentering Anglo/American Folksong. 2001. pp. 51 - 52), the song is similar, in parts, to versions of The Week Before Easter and to the song The Rambling Boy, which contains verses such as:

The rose is red, the stem is green
The time is past that I have seen
It may be more, it may be few
But I hope to spend them all with you.


Oh my pretty little miss sixteen years old
Her hair just as yeller as the shining gold
The prettiest face and the sweetest hands
Bless the ground on where she stands.

Cecil Sharp noted a single set from Mrs Lizzie Roberts of nearby Hot Springs, NC, in 1916 (see English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932) vol.2 p.31).  The reference to the river Clyde suggests that it may be based on an older Scottish song.

7.  Little Betty Ann (Roud 5720)
(a.  Sung by Dellie Norton at her home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC, 29.8.80.  b.  Sung by Inez Chandler at her home in Marshall, Madison County, NC, 28.8.80)

(a) It's fly around my pretty little miss,
Fly around I say.
Fly around my little Betty Ann,
Girl I'm a-going away.

You slighted me all last Saturday night
And all the night before.
If I live 'til next Saturday night
You'll slight me no more.

Sixteen hundred miles away from home,
The chickens are crowing for day.
Me in the bed with another man's wife,
I'd better be a-getting away.

There's an old train a-coming, love,
She's a-giving the station blow.
Said, 'Give me a hand, my little Betty Ann,
Girl I'm bound to go.'

You slighted me all last Saturday night
And all the night before.
If I live 'til next Saturday night
You'll slight me no more.

(b) 'Til I went down to my little Betty Ann's
And I hadn't been there before.
She fed me out of the little pig trough
And I'll go there no more.

Reel and rock my little Betty Ann,
Reel and rock I say.
Reel and rock my little Betty Ann,
For love I'm going away.

Sixteen years a cannonball,
It's I've been around this line.
Sweethearts is plenty, little love,
But a good wife's hard to find.

Went up on the mountain top,
I give my horn a blow.
Yonder come my pretty little girl,
Yonder come my beau.

The hardest work I ever done
Was working in the rain.
Easiest thing I ever done
Was loving Liza Jane.

Cecil Sharp collected one set of Little Betty Ann from Ellie Johnson of Hot Springs, Madison County, NC, in 1916.  As Inez explained to me, the song really comprises a collection of 'floating' verses which are often used as mnemonics for fiddle-tunes.  Inez Chandler's final verse is more often associated with the song Liza Jane.

8.  Little Sparrow (Roud 451)
(Sung by Dellie Norton at her home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  29.8.80)

It's I wish I were some little sparrow,
I had wings and I could fly.
I'd fly away to my own true lover
And when she courted I'd be by.

But I ain't no little sparrow.
I have no wings nor I cain't fly.
So set right here in grief and sorrow,
I'll set right here until I die.

I'll go down to yonders river,
I'll spend my months, my weeks, my years.
I'd eat nothing but green willow
And I'd drink nothing but my tears.

Roscoe Holcomb, the Kentucky banjo-player and singer, called this Willow Tree (Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40104), whilst other Appalachian singers have used these verses as 'floaters', to add to songs such as Awake, Awake and The Silver Dagger.  Another Kentucky version, this time by Morgan Sexton, was once available on his June Appal LP 0066.

9.  Oh, Lord, Ellie (Roud 3602)
(Sung by Dellie Norton at her home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  26.8.80)

Oh, Lord, Ellie, what's your trouble?
I have none, I have none.

Don't you remember, last December?
The wind blowed cold, babe.  The wind blowed cold.

When you hear my bulldog a-barking,
Somebody around, babe.  Somebody around.

When you hear my pistol a-firing,
Another man dead, babe.  Another man dead.

Oh, Lord, Ellie, what's your trouble?
I have none, I have none.

A fragment of the longer song Swannanoa Tunnel, which was probably written at the time of the digging of the Swannanoa Tunnel through the Blue Ridge east of Asheville, NC.  Other recordings include those by Bascom Lamar Lunsford (Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40082) and Roscoe Holcombe (Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40104 or Rounder CD 0394, a different recording).  Some of the verses also occur in black chain gang songs, such as Black Woman, which was recorded in 1947 at Mississippi's Parchman Farm (Rounder CD 1714).

10.  The Silkmerchant's Daughter (Roud 420)
(Sung by Dellie Norton at her home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.26.8.80)

I am a Silkmerchant's daughter, from London I did came.
I courted a porter, Sweet William was his name.
Her brother being established, so this I do understand,
Said, 'Sister, don't you have him.  He's neither house nor land.
Oh, sister, if you won't have him, here is two handsome gowns,
Besides two more I'd get you, the best in Cumlers Town.'
This filled her heart with sorrow, she stepped aside and beginned to cry.
Saying, 'I'd give all the silks and satin that ever crossed the sea,
So freely would I give them if my friends would all agree.
When her Sweet William come riding in from town,
Instead of any friendship, all on him she must frown.
'Oh, what's the matter Polly?  What makes you look so sad?
Have you (I) gived you any reason?  Or caused you for to be mad?
If I give you any reason, love, it never was my intent,
For you're the only girl in this wide world I ever loved.'

Not the well-known English broadside Silk Merchant's Daughter (Laws N10 Roud 552) but another, and distinct, song, titled The Virginian Lover by Cecil Sharp (see English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932) vol.2, pp.149-50).  Sharp collected it in 1916 from Tom Rice, who lived in an area close to where Dellie was living when I met her.  Because of Dellie's free and open-ended melody I have not attempted to put her lines into a verse format.  Another recording of Dellie singing this song can be heard on the album High Atmosphere (Rounder CD 0028).  According to the notes that accompany this album 'what is memorable here is her ornamented style, with pronounced breathing patterns, melodic turns, twists and the vocal flips that she brings to the singing.' Texas Gladden sings a short fragment of the song on Rounder CD 1800.

Tommy Jarrell

Tommy Jarrell was the son of fiddler Ben Jarrell who recorded sixteen superb sides with Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters in 1927.  (These are available on the reissue Document CD DOCD-8023).  Following his retirement as a heavy equipment operator, Tommy returned to playing the fiddle and banjo, remembering the tunes that he had heard as a boy growing up in the Blue Ridge.  Apart from his father, he also learnt many songs and tunes from near legendary performers such as Charlie Lowe and Esker Hutchins (The same Esker Hutchins who also influenced the young Benton Flippen).  In the 1960s and '70s he appeared at numerous Festivals across America, and recorded a number of outstanding albums on the County label (CD 2702, 2724, 2725, 2726 & 2727) and one on Heriatge CD 038 June Apple.

11.  Devil in the Strawstack
(Played on the fiddle by Tommy Jarrell at Paul Brown's home near Mount Airy, Surry County, NC.  15.5.83)

Spoken at end of tune: An this one I just now played.  I learnt that from Zack Paine.  He was an old Confederate, in the Army, with my granddaddy.  Well, they wasn't right together, I don't guess, But they was all in the same army.

As Tommy says on the recording, he learnt this unusual tune from Zack Paine, who lived near Lambsburg, VA., and who died c.1930.  Zack had played the fife during the Civil War and the tune, played in the key of G, caused quite a stir with Tommy's contemporaries, who preferred tunes in the more common keys of A and D.

12.  Roundtown Girls
(Played on the fiddle by Tommy Jarrell and the banjo by Paul Brown at Paul's home near Mount Airy, Surry County, NC.  15.5.83)

According to Samuel Baynard (Hill Country Tunes Philadelphia,1944) this tune - usually under the title Buffalo Girls or Alabama Girls - is possibly of German origin.  I once heard Tommy sing the following verse:

Old Aunt Polly won't you fill 'em up again?
Fill 'em up again, fill 'em up again?
Old Aunt Polly won't you fill 'em up again?
An' well drink by the light of the moon.

Bookmiller Shannon, a fine Ozark banjo-player, has a good version of the standard tune on Ozark Frontier (Rounder CD 1707) and Earl Johnson & His Clodhoppers recorded a spirited version in 1928 (reissued on Document DOCD-8006).

13.  Train on the Island
(Played on the fiddle by Tommy Jarrell, the banjo by Paul Brown and the guitar by Ernest Creed at Paul's home in Toast, Surry County, NC.  15.5.83)

Train on the Island is a tune that surfaces primarily in the area between Hillsville, VA., Galax, VA.  and Mt Airy, NC.  Tommy's version is similar to that recorded in 1927 by J.P.Nestor and Norman Edmonds of Galax - reissued on the Smithsonian Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music (SFW CD 40090) and Yazoo CD 2028 - though different from the version that was once played by Wade Ward and his family, who were also from the Galax area.  In this latter case, Wade Ward and his family set the words to what was basically the tune for June Apple (see the version played by Benton Flippen on this CD set).  Matokie Slaughter plays a good version on Marimac CD 9028.

Tommy and his neighbours had the following verses:

Train on the island, hear the whistle blow,
Run, go tell my truelove, sick and I cain't go.

Train on the island, heading for the sun,
Run, go tell my truelove, sick and I cain't come.

Train on the island, heading for the west,
Me and my girl we done split up, maybe its for the best.

Hattie Presnell

14.  Cuckle Pea and His Sister
(Told by Hattie Presnell at her home on Beech Creek, Watauga County, NC.  24.8.80)

One time there was an old woman and a man.  They had a little boy and girl; Cuckle Pea was the boy's name.  They didn't have much to eat, so they had about half a bushel of corn and they didn't want them to die in the house, so this took this, er, baked up this cornbread and eat it all up...  a little bit...  little boy...  He said, "Let's go out in the woods and stir around a little bit." He took 'em way off in the woods and sit down an talked to 'em.  They went to sleep.  They slipped off and went back home.  But the little boy had (?) something.  He kept him some little white, flint rocks, and dropped it along the road.  So, they waked up in the night an the moon was shining, he could see these little flint rocks, an he went an took his sister on his back.  He's goin', goin', goin'.  An he climbed up to see how he was getting out, an after awhile he stepped up on his daddy's porch.  He said, "We was poor little Cuckle Pea and his sister.  Here's to help you eat this bread." They got another half a bushel of corn.  Well, when they got gone the little boy kept himself a little piece of bread, an he knowed they'd take him off...he crumbled the bread along the road.  An so, the birds eat it up.  They got to sleep an they left 'em that night.  Well, when he woke up, you see, he couldn't follow the bread, it was gone.

He'd go, an go, an (?) his little sister to climb up in a tree, look away off, see if she could find where (it had) gone.  So, he see'd a light.  An he carried her on, an got on there, an knocked on the door.  This old woman come to the door.  She says, "Lord have mercy.  Children why did you come here?" Said, "My husband's a giant." An says, "He'll eat you." (He) says, "We'll die anyhow.  It don't make no difference", he said, "if he does eat us.  It don't make no difference", he said.  She hid 'em under an old pot until Jack come back.  He said, "Fee, fo, fum.  I smell the blood of the Englishman." "Oh, no" she says, "it's an old sheep hide, down there where you killed that sheep." "Fee, fo, fum.  I smell the blood of the Englishman." "Well", she says, "two poor and starved to death children." Said, "I've got 'em under a pot out there." An he said, "Get 'em out.  Fatten 'em up, an kill 'em an eat 'em." Well, he fed 'em, got 'em pretty fat, an one night he went, he had two little children, an he went to the bed.  He put two red caps on his children's heads, two black ones on (?).  Well, then (?) the boy went and slipped their caps off, changed their caps.  Next morning he went and cut his own children's heads off, put 'em on, cooked 'em, and while he was doing that Cuckle Pea and his sister got away, you know, got out so fer and hid under a rock.  An so he went back to wake his children up an they was gone.

He said, "Old woman get my mile-a-clip boots, get my mile-a-clip boots, quick." She run an got his mile-a-clip boots.  He put 'em on, step a mile a step, you know, an they'se under the rock an he couldn't get 'em out.  An he begged, an begged 'em to come out, and they wouldn't come out.  An he lay down an went to sleep, waiting for 'em to come out.  The little boy come out, got his knife an cut his head off, an took his boots, put 'em on, went back to his home, an told his wife.  Says, "They caught your man, put him in jail, cause he's (ruining?) us." An said, "He said for me to bring a big old sack of money to pay him out." She went, got a big old bag of money, an he put it on his shoulder.  Took it back an hid it under a rock.  Got his little sister out an took her back home.  Told his daddy to go back with him.  They went back an got the big, old bag of money.  An they had plenty to live on ever after.

Hattie's version of the Hansel and Gretal story is very similar to the version printed as The Man and Woman with too Many Children in John Sampson's Gypsy Folk Tales (1933, reprinted).  In Scotland the story is known as Mally Whuppie.  Part of the tale also appears as The Two Lost Babes in Grandfather Tales by Richard Chase (1948, reprinted).  Chase had the story from Stanley Hicks and other Beech Mountain story tellers.

Ethel Birchfield's story of Granster and Nippy , track 22 on this CD, shows a number of similarities.

Mitchel Hopson

It was raining when I drove up Plum Branch to record Mitch Hopson.  I had been told that he was a clawhammer banjo-player (which he was) and was pleasantly surprised when he pulled his fiddle case from beneath the bed.  It also came as a surprise to be told that in his youth he had played alongside Fiddlin' John Carson, the Georgia fiddle-player attributed with recording the first commercial 78 of old-time music.

15.  Snowbird On the Ashbank
(Played on the fiddle by Mitchel Hopson at his home near Burnsville, Yancy County, NC.  22.5.83)

Snowbird On the Ashbank is a title that carries a number of different tunes.  And Mitchel Hopson's tune seems to be different from others that I have heard under this title.  Snowbird In the Ashbank - not On the Ashbank - (played, for example, by the Kentucky fiddle player John Masters on Rounder CD 0377) is also a different tune.  However, it is often the case that tunes bearing these titles are united by the fact that they all seem to mimic bird calls to a greater or lesser degree.  Mitch Hopson told me that this was probably the oldest tune that he knew.

Cas Wallin

16.  Fair Ellender and Lord Thomas (Child 73, Roud 4)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  27.8.80)

Spoken: I'm a gonna sing Fair Ellender and Lord Thomas.  His mother wanted him to marry; marry that brown girl, but she didn't want to do that.  Sometimes they make a mistake in trying to choose for their children way back then.

'Oh mother, oh mother, come riddle or sport,
Come riddle us both as one.
Must I marry Fair Ellender,
Or bring the Brown Girl home?
Or bring the Brown Girl home?'

'The Brown Girl she has land and home,
Fair Ellender she has none.
And if you want your mother's consent,
You'd bring the Brown Girl home.' (x2)

'Oh mother, oh mother, go catch out my horse,
And saddle him up for me.
I'm going to invite Fair Ellender
Unto my wedding day.' (x2)

He dresses in his scarlet red,
And a vest he wore was green.
And every town that he went through,
They took him to be some king.  (x2)

He rode up to Fair Ellender's hall,
He jingled, he jingled the bell.
And none was so ready as Fair Ellender,
To arise and let him come in.  (x2)

'Lord Thomas, Lord Thomas, Lord Thomas,' she says,
'What news have you brought to me?'
'I've come to invite you, my dear,
Unto my wedding day.' (x2)

'Oh mother, oh mother, come riddle or sport,
Come riddle us both as one.
Must I go to Lord Thomas's wedding,
Or stay at home and mourn?' (x2)

'There may be many of your friends there,
And many more of your foes.
But if you want your mother's consent,
Today you'd tarry at home.' (x2)

'There may be many of my friends there,
And many more of my foes.
Bit I'm going to Lord Thomas's wedding,
If I never return any more.  (x2)

She dressed in her yellow robe,
Most glorious to behold.
And every town that she went through,
They took her to be some queen.  (x2)

She rode up to Lord Thomas's hall,
She jingled, she jingled the bell.
And none was so ready as Lord Thomas himself
To arise and let her come in.

He took her by her lily white hands,
He led her through the hall.
He placed her in a golden chair,
That leant against the wall.  (x2)

'Lord Thomas, Lord Thomas, Lord Thomas,' she says,
'Is this the Brown Girl you're going to marry?
She looks mighty thin and pale,
You could have been married to a finer, young lady,
As ever the sun shined around.' (x2)

The Brown Girl she had a point pen-knife,
It cost her deep in pearl.
She stuck Fair Ellender to the heart,
And the blood come twinkling down.  (x2)

'Fair Ellender, Fair Ellender,' Lord Thomas he says,
'What's made you turn so pale?'
'Are you a fool, or cannot you see,
The blood come twinkling down?' (x2)

He took the Brown Girl by the hand
And he led her across the hall.
He took his sword and cut off her head
And he kicked it against the wall.  (x2)

He put the handle against the wall
And the point against his breast.
Says, 'Here ends the life of three true-lovers,
Lord, take their souls to rest.' (x2)

'Oh mother, oh mother, go dig my grave,
Dig it wide and deep.
Bury Fair Ellender in my arms
And the Brown Girl at my feet.' (x2)

Although quite an old ballad, Fair Ellender and Lord Thomas has remained popular with ballad singers over the years.  This may be partly to do with the story, with its dramatic ending, and partly because it was frequently printed on broadsides.  In America it appeared in the popular Forget Me Not Songster.  The earliest known text can be dated from between 1663 to 1685, and there are several eighteenth century broadsides.  In Norway and Denmark the ballad is known by the title Sir Peter and Liten Kerstin which, again, was frequently printed on eighteenth century broadsides.  The Scottish singer Jessie Murray had a fine version (Rounder CD1175), as did the Virginian singer Texas Gladden (Rounder CD 1800).  A version collected from the Ozark singer Dortha Freman can be heard on Rounder CD 1108.  Horton Barker, from Virginia, can be heard singing a version that he recorded for the Library of Congress on Rounder CD 1516 and Lila Mae Ledford had a version on June Appal LP 0078.  A version sung by Cas's nephew, Doug, can be heard on CD3, track 15.  Cecil Sharp noted no less than thirty-one Appalachian versions.

17.  Little Soldier (Laws M27, Roud 321)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  26.8.80)

There was a little soldier who had lately 'turned from war,
He courted a handsome lady, she had money laid in store.
Her riches was so great they could scarcely be told,
But yet she loved that soldier boy because he was so bold.

She says, 'My little soldier, I'd freely be your wife,
If I know'd my cruel father would only spare my life.'
He drew his sword and pistol, he placed them by his side.
He said, 'We'll get married, let what might be tried.'

They had been to church and was returning home that day.
They met her cruel father and seven armed men.
Way down in this valley we've got no time to tatter (tattle?).
The lady held the horse while the soldier fought the battle.

The first one come running, he run him through the main.
The second came running, he served him just the same.
'Let's run', says the rest, 'for we're sure to be slain.
To fight this little soldier we find it's all in vain.'

Up stepped her old father speaking mighty bold.
Says, 'You can have my daughter, ten thousand pound of gold.'
'Fight on', says the lady, 'your (palate?) is too small.'
'Oh stop', says the old man, 'and you can have it all.'

Originally a mid 17th century song The Master Piece of Love Songs which was reprinted by John Ashton in his book A Century of Ballads (1887).  A version that I collected from the English gypsy Harry Brazil of Gloucestershire can be heard on volume 18 of The Voice of the People (Topic TSCD 668).  However, despite there being numerous English versions, it does not appear to have been sung in Scotland or Ireland, and the song seems to have survived best in America, with Cecil Sharp alone finding eight versions in the Appalachians, including sets from the area around Sodom Laurel.  For other Appalachian versions, see Everett White's set on Augusta Heritage cassette 007, and Fields Ward's Sweeet William on either County LP 534 or New World LP NW 245.

18.  Pretty Fair Miss All in the Garden (Laws N42, Roud 264)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC, 27.8.80)

Spoken: This is an old love ballad song, Pretty Fair Miss All in the Garden...  in her Garden.

A pretty fair miss all in her garden,
A very fine soldier come riding by.
It's he stepped up and thus he 'dressed her,
Said, 'My pretty fair miss, will you marry me?'

'Oh no, kind sir, a man of honour',
Says, 'A man of honour you may be.
How can you impose on a fair young lady,
Who never intends your bride to be?'

'I have a truelover gone to the army,
And he's been gone for seven years long.
But if he stays a seven years longer,
No man on earth could marry me.'

'Pre-haps your lover's drownd-ed in the ocean.
Pre-haps he's in some battlefield slain.
Pre-haps he's taken another girl and married.'
'I'd just love that girl that'd marry him.'

His fingers being long and slender,
All from his pockets he brought his hand.
Says, 'Here's a ring that you did give me,
Before I started to the war.'

She threw her lily white arms around him,
And prospered (prostrate?) at his feet did fall.
Says, 'You're the man that used to court me,
Before you started to the war.'

'Yes I've been on the deep sea sailing,
And I've been sailing for seven years long.
But if I'd have stayed there seven years longer,
A-no girl on earth could have married me.'

Pretty Fair Miss All in her Garden is an Old World broadside ballad that was popular with 19th century printers like Catnach and Such.  G Malcolm Laws also lists a number of American broadsides.  It's a popular piece, said by some to be descended from the classic ballad of Hind Horn.  Often, the ring has been broken before the lover's separation and the soldier/sailor is able to match his half of the ring with that kept by the maiden, a motif that also occurs in Homer's Odyssey.

The rumbling that can sometimes be heard in the background to this recording is not, as one reviewer thought, a fault with the microphone; but is the sound of a thunderstorm that was echoing around the surrounding hills.

A version that I collected from the Sussex singer Mabs Hall can be heard on the Veteran Tapes cassette The Horkey Load - Volume 2 (VT109), whilst other American recordings can be heard sung by Cas's nephew Doug Wallin (Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40013), by Wavie Chappell (Augusta Heritage cassette 009), by Corbett Grigsby & Martin Young of Kentucky (Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40077) and by Tom Ashley of Tennessee (Smithsonian Folkways SFCD 40097).  Mary Cash, an Irish traveller then living in London, has a fine version on the cassette Early in the Month of Spring (EFDSS VWML 001), and Daisy Chapman has a rasther different one called Poor and Single Sailor on Ythanside (Musical Traditions MTCD308).

19.  The Derby Ram (Roud 126)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  26.8.80)

Spoken: I'm a-gonna sing The Derby Ram.  Now this song's an old song.  George Washington took children on his lap an taught 'em to sing it...  fer...  there's a lot of fun in it.

As I went down to Derby, all on one market day,
There I spied the biggest sheep that was ever fed on hay.
Chorus: To my fol, to my fol, diddle day.

The wool on this ram's back was reaching to the sky,
The eagle built her nest, for I heard the young ones cry.

This old ram's head was as big as Noah's ark.
My dog run up its nostril and turned around and barked.

The horns on this ram's head was so wide apart,
It took a crow a month or two to fly from horn to horn.

This old ram he had four feet.
When he set them on the ground, each would measure a mile around.

Now the man that cut this ram's throat stood knee-deep in blood,
The man that held the vessel got washed away in the flood.

Now the man that owned this ram must have been independent rich.
Oh, the man that made this song, was a lying son of a ...  gun!

Spoken: That was a big ram.

According to A L Lloyd, this 'tall tale' owes its origin to the 'Old Tup' midwinter luck-visit custom that is still to be found in certain parts of Britain today.  The 'Old Tup' is a man masked as a sheep, who carries a pair of ram's horns mounted on a stick.  Nowadays a comic 'butcher' and 'little boy' accompany the beast on its perambulations.  One can only conjecture that in former times the ritual sacrifice held a far deeper meaning.

It is interesting to note that Cas, and his nephew Doug (CD3, track 16), retain the English pronunciation of the word Derby.  Cecil Sharp noted three versions of the song in the Appalachians, though none was from North Carolina.  An English version, sung by George Fradley of Derbyshire, can be heard on the cassette One of the Best (Veteran Tapes 114) and a Scottish set, sung by Jane Turriff, is on her Springthyme CD (SPRCD 1038).

A number of American jazz and ragtime performers based their Didn't He Ramble song and tune on The Derby Ram.  Several New Orleans performers, including Jelly Roll Morton, included the piece in their performances and Charlie Poole's 1929 recording, titled He Rambled, is available on County CD 3501.  A Texas blues version, recorded by Pete Harris for the Library of Congress in 1934, has been issued on Rounder CD 1821.

20.  Hesitation Blues (Roud 11765)
(Sung by Cas Wallin at his home in Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC.  24.5.83)

I went down to the river
Had a notion to drown,
Spied a red-headed woman
And I couldn't go down.

Chorus: Tell me how long?
Can I get you now?
Must I hesitate?
Will I have to wait?

It's rocks in the mountain
And the fish in the sea.
Well, woman if you love me
Throw your arms around me.

There ain't one thing
That I cain't understand,
Why a bow-legged woman
Likes a pigeon-toed man.

Well, I was born in Cincinnati,
In a rattlesnake's den.
My daily occupation,
Taking women away from men.

Well, if you don't believe
I will shuck your corn,
Slip to my house
When my man's gone.

Now there's another thing
That I cain't understand,
Why the world's full of women
And none of them mine.

Hesitation Blues was copyrighted in 1915 by W C Handy - 'The Father of the Blues' - who also wrote The Memphis Blues and Saint Louis Blues.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Handy arranged (and copyrighted) some of the songs that he had heard being sung in the streets of Memphis at the turn of the century.  Cas Wallin's version of Hesitation Blues is certainly far removed from Handy's version, though it is hard to say whether or not this is a version based on Handy's song, or else a version of the song that had existed independently from Handy's version.  Uncle Dave Macon recorded a good set as I've Got the Mourning Blues, while Buddy Boy Hawkins recorded an eerie set in 1929, titled Voice Throwin' Blues (reissued on both Document DOCD-5035 and Yazoo 2028).

John Hobson

Oscar 'Red' Wilson, a fiddle-player from Bakersville, suggested that I should meet John Hobson, 'a real down-home' player, according to 'Red'.  John was a contemporary of Steve Ledford, another local fiddler who had recorded in the 1930s and had made an album for Rounder Records shortly before his death.  'Red' has said that Steve Ledford was his uncle - and Red certainly played guitar for Steve and Wade Mainer in his youth.  I was especially pleased that Steve's son, Wayne Ledford, and close friend James Gardner were able to come to the wonderful session that we had at John's home that night.

21.  Brown's Dream
(Played on the fiddle by John Hobson, the mandolin by Frank Yelton and guitars by Wayne Ledford and James Gardner, at John's home in Glen Ayre, Mitchell County, NC.  20.5.83)

A version of the John Brown's Dream/Little Rabbit/ Pretty Little Girl family of tunes.  Further notes can be found in the entry for Pretty Little Girl, by Howard Hall & William Marshall, on the accompanying CD1, track 27.

Ethel Birchfield

Ethel Birchfield and her family lived on a farm at the top of Roan Mountain in Tennessee, just a few miles from the home of John Hobson.  (In fact, they were related to John and his family).  The Birchfields had come to notice with their band 'The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers', which began appearing at Festivals in the 1970's.  However, I was also told of Ethel's storytelling and so I visited her in the hope of getting a few of her tales down on tape.  Many of the Hilltoppers' recordings have recently been reissued on the CD Down Home (Roan-001).

22.  The Arishmen Learning to Talk
(Story told by Ethel Birchfield at her home in Hampton Creek, Roan Mountain, Tennessee.  21.5.83)

Well, one time there's three men, they started out learning how to talk.  Well, they went on, up the road, on up the road till they come to a blacksmith's shop.  Well, one of 'em said, "Now I'll go up and see what I can learn." Well, he went up.  He held his ear up to the building.  He heard one say, "Us three.  Us three." Well, he went back as far as he goes, saying, "Us three.  Us three." "Well, what did you learn?" Said, "I learnt 'Us three.  Us three'." Well, other says, "I'll go up and see now what I can learn." Well, he went up.  Well, he held his ear up to the door.  He heard 'em say, "Quarter of a dollar.  Quarter of a dollar." He went back as far as he goes, saying, "Quarter of a dollar.  Quarter of a dollar." "Well, what did you learn?" Said, "I learnt 'A quarter of a dollar'." "Well" he said, "now I'll go up and see what I'll learn." He went up, he heard 'em say, "Sooner the better.  Sooner the better." Well, he went back.  "What did you learn?" "I learnt, 'Sooner the better'." Well, said, "We're ready to go haint we?" "Yes." Well they'se going on, up the road, saying, 'Quarter of a dollar', 'Sooner the better' and what they'd learnt, you see.  Well, they run on up (to) a man laying there dead.  They're just amazed and stands looking at him, you know.  And amazed and studying what done it.  Well, here comes a man up on a horse, an he rode up to 'em.  He says, "Boys, what?  Who done that?" (Arishman*) said, "Us three.  Us three." Said, "What did you do that fer?" (Arishman*) said, "A quarter of a dollar." "Well" said "don't you know you'll be hung?" (Arishman*) said, "Sooner the better.  Sooner the better." An that was the last of them.

* Arishman - I am unable to make out what Ethel says here.  Ethel told me that the story was about three Arishmen (Irishmen) and so I have used the term in the story.

This is Tale Type 1697, We Three: For Money in Aarne/Thompson, The Types of the Folktale (1961).  For a Scottish version, see The Penguin Book of Scottish Folktales edited by Neil Philip (1995.  p.343).

When I first heard this story, told to me in the early 1970s by a young English schoolgirl, the three men were 'Foreigners'.  In other words, people from outside the circle of the teller and her friends.  'Places of Fools' exist in most cultures as a result of xenophobia.  Originally xenophobia meant a 'fear of strangers' and not, as we say today, a 'dislike of strangers'.  Like Stanley Hicks' story The Arishmen and the Squirrel, The Arishmen Learning to Talk probably has nothing, originally, to do with the Irish.

The late Kenny Goldstein, one of America's greatest folklorists, once told me about his experiences collecting folkmusic from white Southerners in North Carolina in the 1950s.  Many of the singers and musicians were members of the Klu Klux Klan who hated Jews, among others.  Kenny was, of course, Jewish, a fact that the Southerners failed to grasp!  On another occasion I once asked Dan Tate, who was blind, why he had a rifle behind his door.  "Mike", he said, "I've heard about the 'Red Menace' and I'll be ready for 'em if they ever come here." The day before Dan had mentioned the names of several visitors - 'friends' he called them - who were interested in his folksongs.  At least two of these people had connections with the American Communist Party.

Clearly, the Southerners liked, and accepted, Kenny Goldstein, just as Dan Tate had liked and accepted his visitors, and I think that these two anecdotes go some way towards showing why certain folktales can only be told against someone who is perceived to be unknown.

23.  Big Horny and Little Horny
(Story told by Ethel Birchfield at her home in Hampton Creek, Roan Mountain, Tennessee.  21.5.83)

OK.  I'm gonna tell you a story about Big Horny and Little Horny.  That was two men.  Well, Big Horny he had two fine, big fat, fine horses.  Well, Little Horny he had no, poor horse...he...skinny, looked bad and everything.  Well, Little Horny he went up to Big Horny's and he borrowed Big Horny's fine team.  Well, he took it, an he was ploughin' and ploughin' with it, you know.  Well, Big Horny he come along, an Little Horny's saying, "Git up all three of my big, fine horses.  Git up all three of my big, fine horses." Big Horny said, "Now look here, Little Horny.  As I come back by, if you're saying that", he says, "I'll kill your horse." Well, he looked to see him coming back by (?) "Git up all three of my big, fine horses.  Git up all three of my big, fine horses." OK.  He took Little Horny's horse and killed it.

Well, Little Horny skinned him and dried his hide, an started up to town to sell it.  Well, he put him on a wheelbarrow, went on up to town, an he went to a lady's house.  He said, "Sir." Said, "Can I come in?" Said, "I have a newsteller to sell." "Oh my", she said, "I always wanted one of them." Said, "My husband is not here." But said, "You come on in".  An said, "You can take it upstairs until he comes in." Said, "I know he'll buy it." Well, he went on upstairs, an he's a-watching down through a knot-hole, watching that woman, you know, everything she done.  Well, this lady's husband come in.  She said, "Oh honey, honey." Said, "There's a man upstairs with a newsteller." An said, "I always wanted one!" Said, "Make him come down an let's hear it talk".  He went and he said, "Hey, come on down".  Said, "I want to hear that thing some".  He said, "OK".  He brought it down there and he shook it and held it up to his ear.  He said, "Now, what did it say?" He said, "There's a baked pig in the stove".  Old woman said, "That's a lie.  That's a black lie".  Said, "Don't you say that.  That's a lie".  He said, "Go see yourself".  Went an see'd and there it was.  "OK.  Make it talk some more".  Well, he shook it and held it up to his ear.  "What'd it say that time?" Said., "There's a pan of baked biscuits in the stove".  "Oh", she said, "you're nothing but a liar.  You're just a liar".  Said, "Go see".  Went and see'd, there it was.  "OK.  Make it talk some more".  He shook it and hold it up to his ear.  "What's it say that time?" "There's a man under the bed".  "Oh", that woman said, "you haint nothing but a black liar, nigger-faced liar".  Said, "You're plumb liar".  Said, "Go see".  "No", he said, "I'll go see for myself".  He went an see'd, there was a man under the bed.  He took him, he run him all over the place.  He come back.  He said, "How much will you take for that thing?" He said, "A half a bushel of gold".  "OK", he said, "I'll git it".  Well, Little Horny sent out to Big Horny's half-bushel to measure it in.  Well, the half-bushel was wet, you see.  Well, some gold stuck to it.  He met Big Horny come to see what he'd done.  "Little Horny, where'd you get so much gold?" He said, "You killed my horse, an I took it up to town and sold it.  That's where I got it".  "OK.  That's ...  we'll go back and kill both of mine and take them up and sell 'em".

He went back and killed both his horses and dried their hides, an took 'em up town.  "Dry hides for sale.  Dry hides for sale.  Dry hides for sale".  They said, "You get out of here, you son of a gun".  Said, "We'll kill you in a minute".  He went back.  He said, "Little Horny, I intend to kill your grandma".  "What fer?" He said, "You caused me to kill my two horses".  Well, he throw'd a bottle at ...  him ...  and killed his grandma.  "Well," he said, "Now you've killed my grandma".  And he said, "You're going to pay for".  Said, "I'll take her up there an see if I can sell her up town".  Well, he put her on a wheelbarrow an started up town, an he met a drunk man.  This drunk man said, "Here, take a drink of liquor".  Little Horny said, "No, I wouldn't care for any.  I don't drink".  Said, "I just don't like that stuff".  "Well", he said, "that old woman".  Said, "Here old lady, take a drink".  She never spoke, nor nothing you see.  He said, "If you don't speak", he said, "I'll knock you off that barrow".  He (hauled?) down.  He knocked her off.  "Now", Little Horny said, "you've killed my grandma." And said, "You're going to pay for it, too".  "Well", he said, "I'll tell you now what I'll do".  He said, "I'll...we'll take this old woman out of here in the woods, an we'll bury her, an never say nothing about (it), an I'll give you a half a bushel of gold".  Little Horny said, "That'll be fine".  Well, they set on an got Big Horny's half bushel again.  Well, it was wet, an gold stuck to it.  He met Big Horny.  "Little Horny, I intend to drown you this time".  "Why?" he said.  "You caused me to kill my grandma".  "Well", he said.

He made him a big box, an took him out to the river to drown him, Little Horny you know.  Well, he went off to get a pole to roll him in, in the river, you know, to drown him.  Old Arishman come along.  He (pecked?) on the box.  He said, "Be faith.  Be Christ.  What're you doing in there?" "Ah", says, "Big Horny"s a-fixing to send me to Heaven".  "Well", he said, "if that's the way", said, "you get out an let me get in there".  An said, "You take this drove cattle.  Go on, let him send me to Heaven".  He said, "All right".  Well, he let Little Horny out.  Little Horny fastened him up in there an went an took the cattle, an went home.  Well, in a day or two then, Big Horny'd seen Little Horny.  "Well", he said, "what are you doing back here?" Said, "I drown-ded you".  He said, "I went to Heaven, got me a drove of cattle, an I come back".  "Well, if that's the way of it, I'll let you send me to Heaven, an I'll get me a gang, an I'll come back".  Well, he made him a big box, an put him in it, an took him to the river.  He rolled him off in the water.  An that was the last of Big Horny.

Tale-Type 1535, The Rich and Poor Peasant.  The best known version is probably the one printed by Hans Christian Anderson as Big Claus and Little Claus.  An Appalachian version can be found in Sang Branch Settlers by Leonard Roberts (1974, pp.212-16) and a Canadian version is included in Folklore of Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia by Helen Creighton (1950, pp.140-45).  Duncan Williamson, the well-known Scottish storyteller, calls his version Jack and the Horse's Skin and a transcription of the tale is included in A Thorn in the King's Foot (1987 pp.101 -112).  A further Scottish version, called Riobaidh and Robaidh and Brionnaidh, this time from an uncle of the well-known Gaelic singer Flora MacNeil of Barra, is printed in Scottish Traditional Tales edited by A J Bruford & D A Williams (1994, pp.190-96).

24.  Granster and Nippy
(Story told by Ethel Birchfield at her home in Hampton Creek, Roan Mountain, Tennessee.  21.5.83)

OK.  I'm gonna tell you a story about Granster and Nippy.  Now I heard this story when I was a child.  I want to tell it to you an let you see how it goes.  Well, one time there was three boys, an they lived by themselves.  An one was named, the least one, was named Nippy.  But now, I don't know the other two's names.  Well, one night the oldest boy he took a notion, him an the next oldest un, to go an steal 'em a goose, an cook her an eat it.  Well, Nippy said, "Boys, let me go with you".  "No", said "you stay here and have a pot of hot water on, we'll cook it an eat it when we come back".  Well, he let 'em get out of sight, an boys he took off, he knowed where Granster lived.  He knowed where they was a-going, you know.  He run to Granster's.  "Hey, Granster.  Hey, Granster.  Hey, Granster".  He said, "Know what?  Two boys are going to steal your geese tonight".  Said, "Give me a pair of pinchers, right quick, an a goose in the morning, and I'll keep 'em from you." "All right, Nippy".  Well, he jumped in the flock where the geese was at.  Well, they come.  The oldest un put his hand in there, an he sort of pinched 'em (with) them pinchers, you see.  "Oh", he said, "I can't get none.  There's an old buttin' gander in there".  "Oh", next oldest un said, "You don't know nothing".  Said, "You ain't got no sense.  Get away an watch me get one.  He stuck his hand in there, an he wrung a piece out of it.  "Oh", he said, "we can't get none.  We just 'well as well go back.  There's an old buttin' gander in there".  Well, they started back home, an Nippy run, just as hard as he could go, an he throwed the pinchers on the porch, an he went back, an he had a big pot of water on.  "Where's your goose, boys?" "Don't say goose to me.  Look-a-here at my arm.  You old buttin' gander has eat me up".  Said, "Tie my arm up".  "Oh boys", he said, I'm going in the morning, now, an get me one".  They said, "You can do nothing".  Next morning he went an he got him one.  He cooked it an he eat it.

Well, the next night, they took 'em a notion to go steal 'em a sheep.  Nippy said, "Boys, let me go with you".  "No.  You stay here and have some water on.  We'll fix it an eat it, when we come back".  "All right, boys".  Well, he let 'em get out of sight an he took a near way, an he run to Granster's.  "Hey, Granster.  Hey, Granster.  Hey, Granster.  Know what?  Two boys are going to steal your sheep tonight.  You give me a sledgehammer an a sheep in the morning, I'll keep 'em from it".  "All right, Nippy".  He grabbed a sledgehammer, an he got in with the sheep.  An one stuck his head in there to get one.  He pecked him a little bit with that hammer".  "Oh God", he said, "I can't get none.  There"s an old buttin' ram in there".  "Ah", he said, "get away".  Said, "You don't know how to get nothing".  He stuck his head there, an he cracked it.  "Oh", he said, "I can't get none".  Said, "That old buttin" ram's butted my brains out".  Well, said, "we just might (as) well go back".  An they started back Nippy flew, an he throwed the sledgehammer on the porch, an he run on, an he had the fire built, an water on.  "Where's your sheep, boys?" "Just don't say sheep to me".  He said, "Get a rag an tie my head up".  Said, "Look here.  It's bust".  "Now, boys", he said, "I'll go get me one in the morning".  Said, "You'll do nothing".  Said, "OK.  Wait till the morning".  An he went, next morning, an he got him one.

Well, the next night then, they took a notion, you know, all to take a trip, all three of 'em.  Well, they went to Granster's house that night, an Granster, at supper-time, he asked 'em.  He said, "Now, boys.  Which you rather eat with?  Me or my dog?" Said, "I wonder what you eat an I wonder what the dogs eat?" Well, said, "My dogs eat milk an' mush, an I pick dead men's bones!" "Oh", they said, "we'd rather eat with your dogs".  Well, at bedtime then.  "Now, boys.  Which do you want to sleep with?  Me or my girls?" "I wonder what you sleep on.  I wonder what your girls sleeps on".  "Well, my girls sleeps on a fine feather bed, an I sleep on three sacks of my hair, an a walking stick".  "Oh, we'd rather sleep with your girls".  Well, they went on upstairs, went to bed.  Well, way in the night, they heard Granster coming upstairs.  Tip-tip, tip-tip, an he come up, an he put a gold locket an a silk cap on all three of his girls.  Well, he went on back downstairs, an Nippy said, "Now boys, time to do something".  Said, "He's a-gonna kill us tonight".  Said, "Let's get them three silk caps, an them three gold lockets, put 'em on our head an on our neck".  An said, "He'll kill his girls".  Well, they did.  Later while hear Granster come back, an he cut all of his girl's heads off.  Well, Nippy he grabbed the silk caps and the gold lockets, an they took down the stairs, an got away.  Well, Granster run 'em to the river.  "Hey, Nippy.  Hey, Nippy.  You've hurt me now".  "What've I done to you, Granster?" "Well, you caused me to kill my three girls, you got my three silk caps, my three gold lockets, an my three sacks o' my hair, an a walking stick.  When you coming back, Nippy?" "I don't know, Grandpa.  I"ll be back in a day or two, I guess".

Well, they went to the King's house.  An the King's oldest girl, an Nippy's older brother, took a notion to marry.  Well, said if they would go, an...  if Nippy would go an get Granster's waggon and team, he might have her.  "I don't know, I (?) know".  Says, "I'll go and see".  They went an Granster was a-hauling wood.  An he went to him, just a (?) An he said, "Hey, Grandpa.  Hey, Grandpa." Said, "If you ever in life want to see Grandma anymore", said, "let me haul that waggon and team, an get there as quick as you can".  Said, "She's a-dying".  "All right, Nippy".  Well, he grabbed the wagon team.  He took it 'cross the river.  (Here it comes?) Granster.  "Hey, Nippy.  Hey, Nippy.  You hurt me now".  "What've I done to you Granster?" "Killed my three girls.  Three silk caps, three gold lockets, three sacks o' my hair, walking stick.  Now my waggon and team.  When you coming back again?" "I don't know, Grandpa.  I'll be back in a day or two".

Well, the King's next oldest girl, an Nippy"s next oldest brother, took a notion to marry.  An the King told 'em if you ever go, get Granster's half-moon, he might have her.  "I don't know if I can get it or not.  I'll go see".  He went, an he run on a man he knowed carrying a big sack of salt.  An he said, "Grandpa", he said, "you're getting old".  Said, "Don't you want me to carry that sack of salt fer you?" Said, "I'm young and you're not".  "Yes", said.  "I would like fer you to carry it fer me".  "Well", he said.  "I'll tell you Grandpa.  Is there a spring running round here?" Said, "I'm a-dying for a drink".  Said, "I'll run around there and wait on you".  He said, "All right".  Well, he run just as hard as he could go, an jumped right up on Granster"s house.  An old woman's making mush.  Well, every time she'd throw in a handful of meal, he'd throw in a handful of salt.  Well, they got dinner ready an they sat down to eat, Granster and his wife.  An old man took him out some mush.  "Hey, old woman.  Run to the spring, grab that half-moon an that pail an get to that spring quick as you can".  Said, "You put too much salt in your mush, an it's a-killing me".  She grabbed the moon and down to there she went.  Nippy jumped over the top of the house, an he took after her.  "Hey, Grandma.  Hey, Grandma.  If you ever in life want to to see Grandpa any more, let me carry that half-moon an you take that pail an go on".  She said, "All right, Nippy".  Well, she went on, an he took across the creek with the half-moon.  He run to the creek.  "Hey, Nippy.  Hey, Nippy, you've ruined me now".  "What've I done to you, Grandpa?" Said, "You took my three caps, my three gold lockets, my three sacks o"hair an walking stick, my waggon and team, now my half-moon.  Now, when you coming back?" "Ah, Grandpa, I'll be back in a day or two", he said.

Well, Nippy an the King's youngest girl took a notion to marry.  He said if he'd go an git Granster's Yankee Doodle, that he might have her.  That's a mouth-harp, you know.  "I don't know whether I can get it or not.  But I'll go try".  Well, he went an they'se all gone to a meeting.  An he hunted, an he hunted.  Well, just as he see'd 'em a-coming, he raised up a bed sheet, an there it was.  Well, he grabbed it an took it to bed with.  Well, they come on in.  He was so keen to hear that Yankee Doodle.  He come in.  "Yankee Doodle, Yankee Doodle, Yankee Doodle".  Old woman said, "Hey, old man hain't you ashamed?  Just come from a meeting an go to playing that old Yankee Doodle, that filthy old Yankee Doodle".  "It ain't me, old woman.  It's that stinking, rotten Nippy, somewhere".  Well, he got to hunting fer him an he found him.  "Now, Nippy", he said, "I want to ask you.  If I'd have done as much to you, as you have me, what would you do to me?" He said, "I'd kill you, Grandpa.  That's exactly what I'd do to you".  "Well", he said, "that's what I"m going to do to you".  "Well", he said, "Grandpa, now I'm a-gonna talk to you".  Said, "I'm not fat enough to make a pie".  An said, "I'll tell you what you do".  Said, "You take me out here and build a pen, an put me in it, and fatten me awhile".  An said, "An I'll make a good pie".  Said, "I'll be fat", an said, "it'll be good".  "All right, Nippy".  Well, one morning went to feed Nippy, an Nippy was barefoot.  Nippy said, "Grandpa", said, "it's a-gittin cold now, an a-frostin", an I guess I'm about as fat as I'll be".  Said, "You just go ahead an make a pie out of me".  Said, "You go off now an invite your friends to come in an help eat me".  Said, "Grandma can fix the pie".  Said, "You know she's a good hand".  "All right, Nippy".  Well, he went on...  she was a-rolling...  had Nippy down in a pot, you know, and she was a-rolling out a big piece of dough to go put over his head.  "Now, Grandma", he said, "you don't know how to make a pie".  Said, "You just don't".  Said, "You let me get out of here, an you get in here".  An he said, "I'll show you how to make a pie that anybody could eat".  "All right, Nippy".  Well, she got down in there.  He went to rolling out the dough and he flammed it over her head, and grabbed a butcher's knife, cut her head off, set it on the stove with no water in.  Well, he grabbed the old Yankee Doodle and he took off.  Old man come back.  "Hey, Nippy.  Hey, Nippy, Hey, Nippy.  You've ruined me now".  "What have I done to you, Grandpa?" "You've caused me to kill my three girls, got my three silk caps, three sacks o' my hair and a walking stick.  And my wagon and team.  My half-moon.  An now killed my old woman.  Got my Yankee Doodle.  When you coming back again, Nippy?" He said, "Never no more, Granster, no more!"

Ethel's story comprises two tale-types (Tale-Type 328 The Boy Steals the Giant's Treasure and Tale-Type 1119 The Ogre Kills His Own Children) which, intestingly were already combined into one story as far back as 1859, when Hector Maclean collected them under the title Maol a Chliobain from Ann MacGilvray of Kilmeny, on the island of Islay.  Maol a Chliobain (the Gaelic name of the story's heroine) was included in John Francis Campbell's Popular Tales of the West Highlands (1862) and is reprinted in The Penguin Book of Scottish Folktales (pp.81 - 85).

The incident where Nippy swaps Granster's caps and lockets is similar to a part of Hattie Presnell's story Cuckle Pea and His Sister, track 14 on this CD.

Robert Sykes

Robert Sykes was a near neighbour of Tommy Jarrell.  A few years younger than Tommy, he had leant to play the fiddle in his youth, but had not played in years.  Tommy, however, encourage Robert to begin again and it was wonderful to hear Robert playing not only old-timey tunes, but also some tunes which seemed to bridge the gap between 'old-time' and 'bluegrass' music.

25.  Black-Eyed Susie
(Played on the fiddle by Robert Sykes, the banjo by Paul Brown and guitars by Ernest Creed & Frank Bode at Paul's home in Toast, Surry County, NC.  31.5.83)

A well-known tune, that is given an additional 'lift' by the use of a subtle flattened note or two.  An unusual aspect of Robert's setting for this 'standard' is that he plays it in the key of A - normally it is played in D.  This, and the fact that he has three strains rather than the usual two, helps account for his striking setting.  For the more standard version, listen to two 1927 recordings by Fiddlin' Doc Roberts' (reissued on Document DOCD-8042) and The Hill Billies (Document DOCD-8040), or else The Skillet Lickers' 1928 recording (reissued on Document DOCD-8057).

One or two American scholars have suggested a connection between this tune and John Gay's eighteenth century poem/song Black-Eyed Susan, which is also known as All In the Downs.  Personally, I doubt this connection.  Listeners, however, may like to compare Robert's tune with a version of All In the Downs that I recorded from Walter Pardon of Knapton in Norfork (Musical Traditions MTCD 305-6).

26.  Paddy On the Turnpike
(Played on the fiddle by Robert Sykes, the banjo by Paul Brown and on guitars by Ernest Creed & Frank Bode at Robert Syke's home in Toast, Surry County, NC.  31.5.83)

A number of American tunes carry the title Paddy (or Patty) on the Turnpike.  At least one of these may be traced directly back to an Irish origin - The Merry Blacksmith - and no doubt the others are of Irish descent too.  See, for example Patty on the Turnpike by the Kessinger Brothers (Document DOCD 8010), Paddy on the Hand Car by The Red Headed Fiddlers (Document DOCD 8038), Paddy on the Turnpike by Paul Smith (Rounder CD 0409) and Paddy on the Turnpike by Ed Haley (Rounder CD 1133/1134).


Firstly to all the performers and their families - many of whom also fed me and offered me accommodation.

In America, Paul Brown went out of his way to help.  As did Blanton Owen, Andria Graham, Rob Ambery, David Holt, Roddy Moore, the Wray Family (then of Fancy Gap) and Oscar & Marie Wilson of Bakersville, NC.

Mark Wilson has generously helped with the song and tune notes.

Marty McGee's book Traditional Musicians of the Central Blue Ridge (2000) has provided biographical background for several of the performers.

Back home in England, Malcolm Taylor & Annie Walker of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London, offered unlimited help; while Tony Russell and Frank Weston & Sylvia Pitcher were, as ever, continually helpful.

Any errors or mistakes in the notes are, of course, my responsibility.

Mike Yates - April 2002


All of the foregoing text was written by Mike Yates, who also made all the recordings and took all the superb photos.  My sincere thanks to Mike, and to everyone who has helped to make this project a reality …

Mark Wilson - for help with the song and tune notes, and for enthusiasm and generosity.

Kerry Blech - for additions to the song and tune notes.

Danny Stradling - for proof-reading.

Tim Normanton - for scanning the colour slides and monochrome negatives of Mike's photos; a technology which is currently beyond me.

Glen Beswetherick - for guillotining services.

Clare Gilliam and the NSA - the complete Yates Collection of original (pre-2000) recordings is now housed in the National Sound Archive at the British Library.  The recordings used here are taken from digital transfers of those originals, done by Clare at the NSA and funded by the National Folk Music Fund.

Steve Roud - for providing MT with a copy of his Folk Song and Ballad Indexes, and allocating Roud numbers to songs new to the Indexes.

Booklet: editing, DTP, printing
digital editing, sound restoration, production
by Rod Stradling, Spring 2002

A Musical Traditions Production © 2002

[Track Lists] [Introduction] [The Recordings] [Volume 3] [Volume 4] [Acknowledgements] [Credits]

Article MT094

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