Article MT218

From Journalism to Gypsy Folk Song

The Road to Orality of an English Ballad:
Three Brothers in Fair Warwickshire

Earlier this year I entered into an e-mail correspondence with Tom Pettitt regarding the song Three Brothers in Fair Warwickshire as sung by Danny Brazil on MT Records' release The Brazil Family: Down by the Old Riverside (MTCD345-7).  Tom was interested in writing an article on the way in which the song had developed in the 150 years between its publication as a broadside ballad and its recording as part of the repertoire of an English Gypsy family.

Tom Pettitt is an associate professor at the Institute of Literature, Culture, and Media Studies of the University of Southern Denmark, where he teaches late medieval and early modern literature and theatre within the degree programs in English and Comparative Literature.  His research is devoted to renegotiating the boundaries between literature, theater, and folklore, toward which end he studies vernacular traditions in narrative, song, and custom, both in their own right and in relation to medieval and Renaissance theatre.

His completed article has recently been published in the fully refereed academic journal, Oral Tradition, Issue 23.1 (2008): 87-117.  Oral Tradition was founded in 1986 to serve as an international and interdisciplinary forum for discussion of worldwide oral traditions and related forms, with all manuscripts reviewed by a specialist and a generalist before publication.  The OT synopsis of the article reads:

This essay provides an ingenious analysis of indigenous and enduring folksongs within the Gypsy oral tradition in England.  It traces a brief history of scholarship on Gypsy folksong, as well as treats the inherently tricky issue of what a ballad is, before entering into a discussion of the interaction between orally transmitted folksongs and written broadsides.  Ultimately, Pettitt illustrates how discernible trends may provide valuable insights into the ways in which oral tradition interacts with and influences verbal performance culture.
You can find the magazine, and not only the current issue, but also the entire 22 years and 10,000 pages of back issues at:

Since OT states that anyone may redistribute any or all contents as they wish, with the sole condition that the original publication source is accurately cited, I have decided to reproduce it here.  Furthermore, Tom Pettitt is happy for us to do so, kindly saying "It could not have been written without your Brazils CDs, so many thanks once again."

Read the PDF file here.


Article MT218.  This first appeared as: Article: Pettitt, Tom. "From Journalism to Gypsy Folk Song: The Road to Orality of an English Ballad". Oral Tradition. 23.1 (2008): 87-117. at

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