Heading for Home Notes
THE ALBUM is one I have been planning to record for years. I just needed the push. For years I have not recorded traditional songs as so many other singers have done so. The songs on Heading for Home are, all but one, Anglo-American traditional pieces. The selection is classic, the accompaniments simple. These are songs with which I feel completely at home, songs which have lasted for generations and which, I hope, will last for generations more.
The 'push' came from my partner, Irene Pyper-Scott and from my children Neill, Calum and Kitty MacColl. Irene sings with me on one song, Neill and Calum are responsible for the recording, accompaniments, direction and production. They also donated supporting vocals as did my daughter Kitty who, with her friend Katie Lillington designed the booklet and the cover.
A total family production! Heading for Home is the first album of THE HOME TRILOGY. It is the most serious of the three projected CDs. Love, Call Me Home (2004 issue, hopefully) will be a mix of heavy and light traditional songs with a few new songs that are in the Anglo-American folk idiom. She's Coming Home (2005?) will be almost entirely in a light and bawdy vein. This website will announce their arrival.
For those who are interested: the cover photograph was taken ca. 1921. It portrays my father with his first wife, Constance (a superb violinist) and their three boys. Charles and John are in the car with my father's hand on John's shoulder. Pete stands by his mother.
THE NOTES have been written by Joe Hickerson. I have been friends with Joe, from nearby and at a distance, for nearly fifty years. He knows about as many songs as I do but seems to remember them better these days. I first met him at Oberlin College in 1957 when I was barrelling west on my Lambretta motor scooter from New York to Chicago, where I was taking up a three-month stint at The Gate of Horn. I asked him to write the notes because I literally could not write them properly myself. I made suggestions and did a modicum of editing. About himself, Joe writes the following:
Pete Seeger has called him "a great songleader." Peggy calls him "my friend Joe." He calls himself a "vintage pre-plugged paleo-acoustic folksinger." Over the past 50 years, Joe Hickerson has performed over a thousand times throughout the U.S.A. and in Canada, Finland, and Ukraine. His repertoire includes a vast array of folksongs and allied forms in the English language, many with choruses. In 1957 (the year he met Peggy Seeger) he was the first President of the Oberlin College Folk Song Club. In 1960 he wrote the 4th and 5th verses of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." From 1957 to 2003 he recorded for Folk-Legacy and Folkways. His concerts are guaranteed to "Drive Dull Care Away." Joe also has a career as folklorist, ethnomusicologist, archivist and librarian; after studying and working in these areas at Indiana University (1957-63), he was employed from 1963 to 1998 as Librarian and Director of the Archive of Folk Song/Culture at the Library of Congress. He lectures and writes on a variety of folk music topics, and is available for song and copyright researches. And he now coordinates the "Songfinder" column for Sing Out! magazine.
For hiring information and annotated list of recordings, please contact Joe Hickerson, 43 Philadelphia Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912(tel: 301/270-1107; e.mail: email@example.com; website: www.joehickerson.com
SONG NOTES, TEXTS & TUNINGS
THE TUNINGS are given after each set of notes. To make it easier, I give the key in which the song is sung, then the actual pitch of each string. For the 5-string banjo, begin with the tuning of the 5th string, then progress with the 4th, 3rd, 2nd and lst. With the Appalachian dulcimer, I begin with the string nearest the player's body. I double the higher strings so that the dulcimer has four strings instead of three.
THE SONG TEXTS - scroll down for notes and texts for all of the songs on the album.
HEADING FOR HOME
words and music: Peggy Seeger © 1999 Peggy Seeger, administered by Bucks Music
I wrote this song after meeting Crystal Nicholas, of Greene, Maine. in October 1999. Crystal is a painter - when I asked her what she painted she told me she paints Maine. At my behest, she sent me some slides of her work plus some examples of the work of other Maine painters. Whilst looking at these wonderful and imaginative images of a state that I seldom visit, I was blessed with a vision. Sounds melodramatic but it was definitely a vision of my place in the universe, small and precious only as we all are to ourselves and to our friends, family, acquaintances and workmates. I felt as if I was looking at pictures of home. Feeling my age, I felt less afraid of going on (back?) to the Real Home from whence we come. The song began its life with four verses, which I sang for the first time on a radio show in Chicago. My friend and agent, Josh Dunson, was present and he felt that the song was missing political and social involvement. He elaborated and I distilled his suggestions into verse 3, which I believe made the song complete. Thank you, Josh. (Peggy Seeger)
5-string BANJO TUNING: sung in the key of Eb; tuning: low Bb, low Eb. low Bb, D, F - so Eb; when recording, I put a 3rd string in 5th-string position so that the low Bb on the 5th string (which matches the pitch on the 3rd string) will not buzz. If you don't do that and just tune the 5th string down then you will have to play very gently so that the string doesn't buzz and go out of tune.
My face to the sky, my back to the wind
Winter is entering my bones
The day has been long, night's drawing in
And I'm thinking of heading for home. (2)
The cradle and grave, the fruit and the seed,
The seasons mirror my own
The geese flying south are calling to me
And I'm thinking of heading for home. (2)
Always on the move with banner unfurled,
Yet gathering moss on the stone,
I sing for the children and cry for the world
And I'm thinking of heading for home (2)
As Time's my old friend and Death's my new kin
I'm not taking the journey alone,
I am old, I am young, I am all that I've been
And I'm thinking of heading for home. (2)
The memory of love will burn in my heart
Till embers and ashes are gone,
The light in your window is my northern star
And I'm thinking of heading for home. (2)
And it's time I was heading for home, (2)
Peggy's version is based on that sung by Moran Lee "Dock" Boggs (Virginia). Boggs had learned it as "Hustling Gamblers" ca. 1914-18 from Homer Crawford, a traveling photographer, fiddler, banjo picker, and singer. The song is part of a family that includes "Darling Corey" and "Little Maggie."
Dock Boggs first recorded the re-named "Country Blues" in 1927 for Brunswick Records (Brunswick 131). This recording was re-released in 1952 on Folkways FA 2953 Anthology of American Folk Music, Volume 3: Songs (itself reissued on SFW 40090 in 1997), in 1983 on RBF 654 His Twelve Original Recordings, and in 1998 on Revenant RVN 205 Country Blues: Complete Early Recordings (1927-29). Transcriptions appear in Sing Out!, vol. 14, no. 3, July 1964; Reprints from Sing Out! vol. 12 (1973); and Anthology of American Folk Music edited by Josh Dunson, and Ethel Raim (New York, Oak Publications, 1973).
Boggs recorded the song again for Mike Seeger in 1963. This rendition was released on Folkways FA 2351 Dock Boggs (1964), Verve Folkways FV 9025 The Legendary Dock Boggs (1966), and Smithsonian Folkways SFW 40108 Dock Boggs: Complete Early Recordings (1927-29). (Joe Hickerson, August 2003).
Peggy comments: Most of the songs of this genre, like Dock Boggs' version. have a male anti-hero. As I have a precedent in Hally Wood's version of "The Streets of Laredo", in which the main character is not a dying cowboy but a dying whore, I have engineered a sex change in "Country Blues" and altered nomenclature and small details accordingly. Both genders can have country blues.
5-string BANJO TUNING: sung in the key of F-minor; tuning: high A, low F, low C, Eb, F
Now come all you good kind people
While I've got money to spend;
Tomorrow may be Monday
And I'll neither have a dollar nor a friend.
Now when I had plenty of money, good people,
My friends were all standing around;
But as soon as my pocketbook is empty
Not a friend on earth could be found.
My papa told me a plenty, kind people,
My momma told me more.
Said 'Honey, if you don't quit your rambling ways
Find trouble at your door.'
O, if I had-a listened to my momma, good people,
I would not have been here today;
But drinking and a-ramblin' and gamblin'
At home I could not stay.
All around this old jailhouse you see me, good people,
Forty dollar won't pay my fine;
Those men have ruined my body
Corn liquor has ruined my mind.
Dig a hole, dig a hole in the meadow, kind people,
Dig it deep in the cold, cold ground.
Come gather around all you kind friends
And see your poor Honey go down.
And when I'm dead and buried
My pale face turned to the sun.
Will you stand around and mourn, little lover,
And think on the harm you have done?
Peggy learned "Jackie Rover" from Norman Cazden's book Merry Ditties (1958) which in turn was a reprint of the second half of his Abelard Folk Song Book (1958). Milt Okun also sings this version on Riverside RLP 12-603 Merrie Ditties. The book says: "We have adapted the lines from a Massachusetts version" and "the tune somewhat resembles The Bold Soldier." To me the tune smacks of "Blow the Candles Out." A number of English examples are cited by Peter Kennedy in his Folksongs of Britain and Ireland (1975) with titles referring to various place names ("Has[z]elbury Girl" [or Happisburgh, Aylesbury, Salisbury]) as well as "Jack the Rover," "The Ups and Downs," and the earlier "Maid of Tottenham."
Versions from Arkansas and Missouri ("To Market, To Market" and "Tottingham Fair") are given in Vance Randolph and G. Legman's Roll Me in Your Arms: "Unprintable" Ozark Folksongs and Folklore Volume I: Folksongs and Music (1992). Legman dates the earliest printing of "Maid of Tottenham" to London 1656 and cites further North American versions from Idaho, North Carolina, and Ontario (nothing from Massachusetts). The 1939 printing in Louis W. Chappell's Folk-Songs of Roanoke and the Albermarle (as sung 1924 by Columbus Hooker in East Lake, North Carolina) is explicit: "ribbon" is "garter;" "tender arms" are "pretty little thighs;" the final verse is "Since I lost my maidenhead, Although I let her go, You are a ducking (sic) son of a bitch, And I'm your fancy whore." Legman lauds this as "the very first erotic ballad openly published in America." He refers to a 1953 Ontario version "Derby Town" collected by Edith Fowke as "the most vivid."
Legman and others posit a probable precursor of this ballad as Child 110 "The Knight and Shepherd's Daughter" and possibly Child 111 "Crow and Pie." (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
On business to market, butter and cheese to buy
He rode out a-singing all on the diddle-i-day
There he spied a pretty girl and a-being so inclined,
It's 'Do you want to ride along?" Well, she hopped on behind.
They rode on together so pleasant was the scene.
They chatted and they ambled till they come to yonder green.
She stepped down to tarry, 'twas then he did espy,
My dearest pretty darling: your ribbon's come untied.
O, sir, would you be willing, sir would you be kind
For to tie it up again? Dear girl, I wouldn't mind.
She held wide her tender arms and he fell right between
Such a tying of a ribbon, love, as never has been seen.
Now since you've been so forward, tell to me your name
And what is your business and wherefrom have you came?
My name is Jackie Rover, I hail from Back Bay
I spend my time in ups and downs all on the diddle-i-day.
They talked on a little further, being so inclined
Forgetting all their business nor never once brought to mind.
She looped her tender arms again and he rolled right between
Untied her little ribbon, love, then tied it up again.
tune by Bob Coltman?
Peggy recalls learning this song from Bonnie Dobson at a Canadian folk club in 1960. In her notes to her Prestige LP (issued with three prefixes, 13031, 14007 and 7801!) Bonnie comments that she learned the song from Dr. James Butler of Vancouver, British Columbia, with the text derived from Sharp and the tune the work of Bob Coltman. Bob Coltman's melody sounded a bit familiar ("Jealous Brothers"?), and when I played it to some friends, the following possible cognates also came to mind: "Adieu False Heart," "Going To the West," and "Silver Dagger."
Cecil Sharp's lone version (vol. 2, p. 109 in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians ) was obtained in 1916 from Mrs. Rosie Hensley of Carmen, NC. It has four verses and a tune closely resembling "Wondrous Love." This version also appeared in the widely distributed pocket songbook Songs of All Time, which was published in 1957 for the Council of the Southern Mountains by the Co-operative Recreation Service of Delaware, Ohio.
The verses of "Dear Companion" have traveled widely through a number of related southern U.S. lyric folksongs, most notably "Fond Affection." In Scotland it was called "Go and Leave Me (If You Wish It)." Titles in American folksong collections include "Broken Vow(s)," "The Broken Heart," and "Thou Hast Learned To Love Another." Guthrie Meade in his vast 2002 compendium, Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, divides the "Dear Companion" family and its relations as follows: "Fond Affection" (including "Goodbye Booze," "When the Cold, Cold Clay Is Laid Around Me," "If You Ever Learn To Love Me," "Lay Me Where the Sweet Flowers Blossom," "Fair Young Lover," "Pretty Little Girls Are Made To Marry"); "Go and Leave Me If You Wish To;" "Many Times With You I've Wandered;" "Bye and Bye You Will Forget Me" (dating from 1884); "The Railway (Railroad) Flagman's Sweetheart;" "Broken Hearted Lover;" "Darling Do You Know Who Loves You;" "Little Darling Pal of Mine;" and "Columbus Stockade Blues." Meade follows this grouping with a similar one which includes "Thou Hast Learned To Love Another" (dating from ca. 1849); "We Have Met & We Have Parted" (dating from ca. 1870); and "Lover's Farewell." (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
Once I had a dear companion
Indeed I thought his love my own
But then a dark-eyed girl persuaded
Now he cares for me no more.
O, go and leave me if you want to
That will never trouble me.
If it's in your heart to love another
Then in my grave I would rather be.
Many a night while you lie sleeping
Dreaming in your sweet repose.
There's me, poor girl, lies here a-weeping
Listening to the wind that blows.
When I see your baby laughing
It makes me think of your sweet face.
But when I hear your baby crying
It makes me think on my disgrace.
I am writing you a letter
Telling you that you are free.
From this moment and forever
I will care no more for thee.
This is number F4 in the "Murder Ballads" section of G. Malcolm Laws's Native American Balladry (1950; 1964) under the titles "Poor Omie (John Lewis) (Little Omie Wise)." It has been found under these and other titles in virtually all southern states, as well as in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah. Some singers have placed the murder location in Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and The Ozarks, but North Carolina is the true home of the incident.
The murder of 19-year-old Naomi Wise occurred in Deep River, Randolph County, in what was believed to be 1808. Writings about the event tell us that the alleged perpetrator, Jonathan Lewis, was arrested and escaped jail, and in 1815 was re-captured, tried and acquitted. He was also believed by some to have confessed to the murder a few years later on his deathbed. Details of these incidents appeared in the January and February 1851 issues of Evergreen and later publications as authored by Braxton Craven, then president of Trinity College (the precursor of Duke University).
The Frank C. Brown collection quotes extensively from a 1874 version of Craven's account, and it forms the historical background for Richard Williams's "'Omie Wise': A Cultural Perspective," Kentucky Folklore Record, vol. 23, no. 1, Jan.-Mar. 1977. However, Robert Roote refutes many of Craven's facts by quoting extensively from Randolph County records in his article "The Historical Events Behind the Celebrated Ballad 'Naomi Wise'," North Carolina Folklore Journal, vol. 32, no. 2, Fall-Winter 1984, including the fact that the murder and initial court proceedings took place in 1807, not 1808. An 88-page study by Eleanor R. Long- Wilgus, "Naomi Wise: Creation, Re-creation, and Continuity in an American Ballad Tradition", is listed for publication by Chapel Hill Press in 2003.
A totally different "Naomi Wise" was penned by Carson J. Robison and recorded six times for ten different labels between 11/24/25 and 2/3/26 by Vernon Dalhart. This new piece became to be regarded as traditional but is not as widespread as the earlier ballad.
Peggy learned her version from a recording of the Ashe County master singer/banjoist Clarence "Tom" Ashley (1895-1967). (For information on Ashley, including the various forms of his name, see www.clarenceashley.com.) He recorded "Naomi Wise" in 1929 in Johnson City, Tennessee, with an April 1930 release on Columbia 15522-D. This in turn was recently reissued on County 3520, Greenback Dollar. A 1962 taping by Mike Seeger and Ralph Rinzler appeared as "Poor Omie" on Folkways FA 2359, Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's Part II (reissued as Smithsonian Folkways SF 40030). Transcriptions appeared as "Omie Wise" in Sing Out!, vol. 14, no. 2, Apr.-May 1964, and in Reprints from Sing Out, vol. 10, 1967. An April 1966 performance is transcribed as "Omy Wise" in Thomas G. Burton's Collection of Folklore: Folksongs (Johnson City: East Tenn. State Univ., 1967) and as "Omie Wise" in Ambrose N. Manning and Minnie M. Miller's essay "Tom Ashley" which appears in Tom Ashley, Sam McGee, Bukka White: Tennessee Traditional Singers (Knoxville: Univ. of Tenn. Press, 1981).
5-string BANJO TUNING: sung in the key of D; tuning: high A, low D, low A, C, D)
I'll sing you the story of little Oma Wise
How she was deluded by John Lewis's lies.
He promised to meet her at Adams's Spring
Said he'd bring her some money and some other fine thing.
He brought her no money but he flattered her case,
Said, We'll go and get married, there'll be no disgrace.
So hop up behind me and away we will ride,
We'll go and get married and you'll be my bride.
She got up behind him and away they did go
Riding down to that river where deep water flow.
John Lewis, John Lewis, tell me your mind,
Is your mind for to marry me or leave me behind?
Little Oma, Little Oma, I'll tell you my mind,
My mind is to kill you and leave you behind.
O pity, pity, spare me my life!
And I'll go a-beggin', I won't never be your wife.
No pity, no pity, I won't spare your life,
You won't go a-beggin', nor you won't be my wife.
He hugged her, he kissed her and turned her around
Throwed her in the river where he knowed she would drown.
The people all come from the city and town,
They're coming to that place where little Oma was drowned.
They sent for John Lewis to come to that place,
They set her up before him so he could see her face.
They took him to the jailhouse and locked him inside,
You know, he would not have been there if he had not killed his bride.
From window to window, slowly he go,
Looking down to that river where deep water flow.
JOHN GILBERT IS THE BOAT
Peggy learned this song in 1954 from Tony Saletan, the Massachusetts singer. Saletan had worked at the Shaker Village Work Camp in New Lebanon, NY, and Pittsfield, MA. In his search for songs for a mimeographed camp songbook, "Songs of Work", he had previously combed the collections of Harvard's Widener Library, where he discovered such gems as this song and "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore." His source for "John Gilbert" was either of two books by Mary Wheeler: Roustabout Songs: A Collection of Ohio River Valley Songs (NY: Remick Music Corp., 1939) and Steamboatin' Days: Folk Songs of the River Packet Era (Baton Rouge: La. State Univ. Press, 1944). In the latter, Wheeler states: "The John Gilbert ran from Cincinnati to Florence, Alabama. She was built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1881, and was named for Captain John Gilbert, of Evansville, Indiana, president of the Ohio and Tennessee River Packet Company. A certain section through which the boat passed was known for its trade in peanuts. The John Gilbert was loaded with this product by the thousand pounds and the vessel was nicknamed by the rousters, 'The Peanut John'."
Peggy recalls singing "John Gilbert" as the theme song for a late 1950s English television serial production of Tom Sawyer. It is transcribed in her 1964 Oak Publications songbook (Folksongs of Peggy Seeger, edited by Ethel Raim). From thence it appeared in Sing Out!, vol. 15, no. 2, Sept. 1965. Other recordings based on Wheeler's transcription were made by Conrad Thibault (1946), Robin Christenson (1962), and Bertha Wenzel (1970s). Finally, the vessel itself inspired Claude Marion Almand to compose "John Gilbert: A Steamboat Overture" for the Louisville Philharmonic Society; it was recorded by the Louisville Orchestra in 1960. (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
CHORUS: John Gilbert is the boat
Di-dee O, Di-dee O,
John Gilbert is the boat,
Runnin' in the Cincinnati trade.
You see that boat a -comin'
Comin' round the bend.
Loaded down with cotton
She's comin' in again. (chorus)
She run peanuts and cotton
And then she run so many,
Her men they run from her
Never get a penny. (chorus)
You see that boat a-comin',
Comin' round the bend,
Loaded to the bottom
With Louisiana men. (chorus)
There are many such ballads about returned lovers. Usually they involve an object that is shared between them (a "broken token"). Our ballad does not have such an object. For a discussion of this genre, see Robert M. Rennick's "The Disguised Lover Theme and the Ballad," Southern Folklore Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 4, Dec. 1959. Another example of this group is Laws N42, "Pretty Fair Maid." A text of this ballad with a new tune composed in the 1950s by Chicagoan Rick Neff and subsequently sung by Bob Gibson, Myra Ross, Joan Baez and others was erroneously titled "John Riley." It is, of course, not our song.
There are two ballads titled "John (George) Riley" in G. Malcolm Laws's American Balladry from British Broadsides (1957). In number N36, the returned man claims that Riley was killed so as to test his lover's steadfastness. In number N37, which is our ballad, there is no such claim. Rather, he suggests they sail away to Pennsylvania; when she refuses, he reveals his identity. In the many versions found, the man's last name is spelled in various ways, and in some cases he is "Young Riley." Several scholars cite a possible origin in "The Constant Damsel," published in a 1791 Dublin songbook.
Peggy's learned the song in childhood from a field recording in the Library of Congress Folk Archive: AFS 1504B1 as sung by Mrs. Lucy Garrison and recorded by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in Providence, Kentucky, in 1937. This was transcribed by Ruth Crawford Seeger and included in John and Alan Lomax's Our Singing Country (1941), p. 168. Previously, the first verse and melody as collected from Mrs. Garrison at Little Goose Creek, Manchester, Clay Co., Kentucky, in 1917 appeared in Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932), vol. 2, p. 22. Peggy's singing is listed as the source for the ballad on pp. 161-162 of Alan Lomax's The Folk Songs of North America in the English Language (1960), with "melodies and guitar chords transcribed by Peggy Seeger." In 1964 it appeared on p. 39 of Peggy's Folk Songs of Peggy Seeger (Oak Publications. edited by Ethel Raim). Peggy recorded it on Folk-Lyric FL114, American Folk Songs for Banjo and her brother Pete included this version on his first Folkways LP, FP 3 (FA 2003), Darling Corey (1950). (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
APPALACHIAN DULCIMER TUNING: sung in the key of C; tuning: middle C, middle C, G below middle C, low C
As I walked out one morning early
To take the sweet and pleasant air
Who should I spy but a fair young lady
Her cheeks being like a lily fair.
I stepped up to her, right boldly asking
Would she be a sailor's wife?
O no, kind sir, I'd rather tarry
And remain single for all my life.
Tell me, kind miss, and what makes you differ
From all the rest of womankind?
I see you're fair, you are young, you're handsome
And for to marry might be inclined.
The truth, kind sir, I will plainly tell you
I might have married three years ago
To one John Riley who left this country
He is the cause of all my woe.
Come along with me, don't you think on Riley,
Come along with me to some distant shore;
We will set sail for Pennsylvanie
Adieu, sweet England, forevermore.
I'll not go with you to Pennsylvanie
I'll not go with you that distant shore;
My heart's with Riley, I will ne'er forget him
Although I may never see him no more.
And when he seen she truly loved him
He give her kisses, one two and three,
Says, I am Riley, your own true lover
That's been the cause of your misery.
If you be he, and your name is Riley,
I'll go with you to that distant shore.
We will set sail to Pennsylvanie,
Adieu, kind friends, forevermore.
Peggy first heard Soldier's Farewell while her mother was transcribing songs for the songbook American Folk Songs for Children. It was a three-verse fragment from the Library of Congress Folk Archive: AFS 1564B2 - 1565A, entitled "I'm Goin' To Join the Army," sung with banjo by J. M. Mullins and recorded in West Liberty, Kentucky, in 1937 by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax. In that recording it was a three-verse fragment which Peggy collated with other versions to make the one sung here. Other singers and other versions from Missouri (Belden and Randolph) and North Carolina (Frank C. Brown) allude to the Civil War as the setting for the song. Peggy has also recorded this song with her brother Mike on Rounder CD 11543, vol. 1 of American Folk Songs for Children. (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
5-string BANJO TUNING: sung in the key of F; tuning: high A, low F, low A, C, F)
I'm going to join the army
I'm going to volunteer
I'm going to be a soldier
Before another year.
I'm going to Pensacola
To tarry awhile;
Far from you, my darling,
More than a hundred miles.
O hear the cannon roaring,
See the bullets fly
Hear the drum a-beating
To drown the soldier's cry.
O stay at home, dear Johnny,
Make me your wife
If you go to Pensacola
They'll surely take your life.
They'll put you in the center,
There you'll be slain
It'll burst my heart asunder
To never see you again.
Let me go with you, Johnny
I'll travel at your side
When the war is over
Then I will be your bride.
No stay at home, dear Nancy
Lead a single life
If I do come back again
I'll make you my wife.
They marched him through the country
Marched him into town
He marched to Pensacola
And there they shot him down.
I'm weary of the fighting
Weary of the war
Farewell, my Johnny
I'll never see you no more.
JENNY'S GONE AWAY
In June 1959 folksong collector Philip Kennedy attended a Tart family reunion in Benson, North Carolina, where he heard Carlie Tart and his sister leading a 3-verse song about Ginnie. He described the incident in his article "An Unusual Work-Song Found in North Carolina: "Ginnie's Gone to Ohio'," in North Carolina Folklore, volume 15, number 1, May 1967, pp. 30-34. The song was part of a family "group-singing" tradition going back at least a century and had originally been learned from black singers. The three verses began with "Ginnie's gone to Ohio, Ginnie's gone away," "Ginnie's a pretty girl, don't you know," and "Ginnie's dressed in her strings and rags." The chorus was "(Oh) Ginnie's gone away, Ginnie's gone to Ohio, Ginnie's gone away." In the article, Phil mentions two parallels to the song: "Jenny shake her toe at me, Jenny gone away," which was reported as early as 1839 from black singers on St. Simon's Island, Georgia; and the sea chantey, "Tom's Gone to Hilo."
I learned the song from Phil Kennedy in 1960. I soon added three verses and have performed it many times since, occasionally as "Jenny's Gone To Ohio." My melody with Kennedy's words and notes appeared in Sing Out!, vol. 17, no. 2, April-May 1967, pp. 16-17.
In 1977 Rich Kirby and Michael Kline recorded a version titled "Jenny's Gone Away" on their LP, June Appal JA 0012, They Can't Take It Back. This version is printed on p. 146 of Rise Up Singing: The Group-Singing Song Book (1988), with credit for new words by Rich and Michael. Their verses, based on experiences while working in Appalachia, include: ".... worked until her hair turned gray," "Jenny's man died in the Farmington mine ... company insurance didn't treat her so kind," and "Jenny didn't want to go away ... the company took her place to stay." (The local reference is to the Farmington mine in Marion County, West Virginia, where seventy-eight miners were killed in an explosion on November 20, 1968.)
Peggy recalls learning the song in England from an American singer. So, from wherever Ginnie or Ginny or Jenny started her journey to Ohio, her peregrinations (with added details from myself and others) eventually took her from the USA to England and back to the USA and, of course, to all those places good songs go. (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
Jenny's wearing strings and rags.
Jenny's gone away,
Jenny's wearing strings and rags,
Jenny's gone away,
CHORUS: Jenny's gone away,
Jenny's gone to Ohio,
Jenny's gone away.
Jenny left her baby when she went away,
Jenny's gone away,
Wanted to keep him, couldn't find a way,
Jenny's gone away, (chorus)
Jenny was young when her hair turned gray,
Jenny's gone away,
Jenny was a pretty girl in her day
Jenny's gone away, (chorus)
Jenny didn't want to go away,
Jenny's gone away,
Company took her house away.
Jenny's gone away,
Jenny's man died in the Farmington mine,
Jenny's gone away,
Company insurance didn't give her a dime,
Jenny's gone away, (chorus)
Peggy recalls learning this song from Gale Huntington's Songs the Whalemen Sang (Barre, MA: Barre Publishers, 1964; reprinted by Dover Publications, 1970) where a 5-verse text is printed as "The First Time I Saw My Love" from a 1856 journal from a vessel called the Catalpa. In the 1960s a version was sung by the master English singer/scholar on his Prestige 13006 LP, The Best of A. L. Lloyd; no source is indicated. In 1968 the song appeared on Argo ZDA 82, Female Frolic, an LP of women's songs sung by Frankie Armstrong, Sandra Kerr and Peggy Seeger. Armstrong wrote in the notes for her solo recording of "Generous Lover" that "the singing is from Mary Hackett of Limerick, the text is part collated from The Irish Folk Song Journal. A. L. Lloyd collected the song from Mary Hackett in Dublin in 1947. Although variants of the tune have turned up since in Ireland, no other set of words has been found." (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
O, the first time I saw my love, happy was I
I knew not what love was, nor how to deny;
So I made too much freedom of my love's company,
Saying, My generous lover, you're welcome to me.
My friends and relations, they angry are all
Because I went with you from my father's fine hall,
But my friends and relations, let them all angry be,
For my generous lover, you're welcome to me.
He said, Now my darling, it's I must away,
For I no longer in this country can stay;
So keep your mind easy. love. keep your heart free,
And let no man by thy sharer, my darling, but me.
This poor pretty creature she turned herself round
With her cheeks white as ivory and the tears pouring down,
Jimmy, dear Jimmy, you're the first one e'er wooed me,
And I'm sorry now I ever said 'You're welcome to me.'
O, happy's the girl that ne'er loved a man
She may easy tie up her narrow waistband;
She's free from all sorrow, all sad misery
That never said, my lover, you're welcome to me.
This glorious version of Child Ballad # 68, "Young Hunting." is one of Peggy's favorites. Her text is an amalgam from many sources; the tune is derived from that sung by Jane Gentry to Cecil Sharp at Hot Springs, NC, 1916. This in turn has been printed in Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932), vol. 1, p. 101; in Bertrand Harris Bronson's The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, vol. 2, p. 78; and in Betty Smith's Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers (1998), p. 146. For full notes and sources, see Tristram Potter Coffin and Roger deV. Renwick's The British Traditional Ballad in North America (1977), pp. 66-68. Peggy's version fits their Story Type A. She recorded it previously on Prestige 13005, The Best of Peggy Seeger. For comparative purposes, check out her rendition of the Dick Justice version of this ballad on Prestige 13029, Three Sisters. (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
5-string BANJO TUNING sung in the key of F#; tuning: high F#, low C#, F#, C#, C#
Light down, light down, love Henry Lee
And stay with me this night.
You will have my candle and coal
And my fire's burning bright,
My fire's burning bright.
I won't light down, I can't light down
Nor stay all night with thee;
There's a lady ten times fairer than you
In Lord Barnet's hall for me, (2)
He's leaned him o'er her soft pillow
For to give her a kiss so sweet;
With her little pen-knife held keen and sharp
She's wounded him full deep, (2)
I will light down, I must light down
I will come in, said he.
There is no lady in Barnet's hall
That I love more better than thee, (2)
O live, my love, Lord Henry, she said
For an hour or two or three -
And all these cards about my waist
I'd freely give to thee, (2)
All them cards about your waist
They'd do no good to me;
Love, don't you see my own heart's blood
Come twinkling at my knee, (2)
She took him by his long yellow hair,
She dragged him by his feet,
She threw him down her cool draw-well
Full fifty fathoms deep, (2)
Lie there, lie there, you Henry Lee
I know you will not swim;
That lady ten times fairer than me
She'll never see you again, (2)
Light down, light down, you pretty little bird
Light down all on my knee.
No, a girl who'd murder her own true love
Would kill a little bird like me, (2)
I wish I had my bending bow
My arrow and my string -
I'd shoot my dart so nigh your heart
That you'd no longer sing, (2)
I wish you had your bending bow
Your arrow and your string -
I'd fly away to Barnet's hall
You'd always hear me sing, (2)
FATAL FLOWER GARDEN
Here is the tale of the unfortunate little "Sir Hugh," murdered by "The Jew's Daughter" in her garden - at least that's how early versions would have it. Child (#155) and others cite an incident in Lincoln, England, which was reported from ca. 1255 involving the ritualistic crucifixion of a boy named Hugh and the subsequent supernaturally perpetrated retribution of the guilty parties, who were a group of Jews. Although more than half of American versions attribute the murder to a Jewish woman, the anti-Semitic sentiments and supernatural elements of Old World examples of the story have all but vanished. In other American versions the villain is a king or duke's daughter, estranged mother, aunt, unspecified person, "they," etc. An excellent summary with sources can be found in Tristram Potter Coffin and Roger deV. Renwick's The British Traditional Ballad in North America (1977), pp. 107-109. In addition, there have been at least a dozen articles written on aspects of this ballad and its antecedents.
Peggy's version is from Nelstone's Hawaiians (southern Alabama musicians Hubert Nelson and James D. Touchstone), who recorded it 1929 in Atlanta for Victor Records (issued as V40193 in 1930). This was in turn reissued 22 years later on Harry Smith's influential Anthology of American Folk Music (Folkways FP 251 and FA 2951 which was in turn reissued on Smithsonian Folkways 40090). Peggy also recorded it on Argo (Z)DA 70, vol. 5 of the Long Harvest ballad series (1966-68 with Ewan McCall). She and her brother Mike sing a fragment of a different version titled "It Rained a Mist" on Rounder CD 11543, vol. 1 of American Folk Songs for Children. (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
Peggy comments: With Ewan Ewan MacColl, I recorded several versions of this song in England, notably from the Dorset Gypsy, Queen Caroline Hughes and the English Traveller Nelson Ridley. Queen Caroline, when asked about the song, told its story in prose, recited its text as poetry and then lilted the tune but refused to sing the song as a whole. She professed to disliking the song even though she kept it in her memory. Ridley also gave us the text and also refused to sing it. I sing it because I placed it in my memory banks in my teens and because I love the harmonies but I too dislike the story. But if one were to avoid singing violent songs, one would probably removed the majority of the Anglo-American tradition.
In Lincoln (England) there is old cobbled hil about a mile long that leads up to the cathedral. On this narrow street, now closed to automobile traffic, is a very old building called 'The Jew's House' where the little Sir Hugh was supposedly murdered. In the cathedral there is also a plaque to the effect that rumours and folklore such as that contained in the legend of the boy's murder are dangerous and deadly and, in the end, partly responsible for the horrendous mass massacres of Jewish people that have taken place in the past few centuries. When I next visit Lincoln I will get the exact wording, for it was excellently written.
It rained, it poured, it rained so hard,
Rained so hard all day.
That all the boys in our school
Came out to toss and play.
They tossed their ball again so high,
Then again so low;
They tossed into a flower garden
Where no one was allowed to go.
Up stepped a beautiful lady
All dressed in yellow and green;
Come in, come in, my pretty little boy
And fetch your ball again.
I won't come in, I shan't come in
Without my playmates all;
I'll go to my father and tell him about it,
And that'll cause tears to fall.
She first showed him an apple seed,
Then a guinea gold ring;
Then she showed him a diamond,
And that enticed him in.
She took him by his lily white hand
And she led him through the hall;
She put him into an uppermost room
Where no one could hear him call.
O, take these finger-rings off my fingers,
Smoke them with your breath;
If any of my friends should call for me,
Tell them that I'm at rest.
Tether the Bible at my head,
The Testament at my feet,
If my dear mother should call for me,
Tell her that I'm asleep.
Tether the Bible at my feet,
The Testament at my head;
If my dear father should call for me,
Tell him that I am dead.
GIRL OF CONSTANT SORROW
Composed by Sarah Ogan Gunning (1910-1983) this song was based on an earlier piece, "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," recently made popular by its appearance in the film O Brother Where Art Thou? Gunning first recorded her song in 1937 for Alan Lomax (Library of Congress Archive of American Folk-Song (# AFS 1945A). It was printed in People's Songs Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 3, April 1946 (and thence in Reprints from People's Songs Bulletin, 1961). Gunning later sang it at the Newport Folk Festival (Vanguard 9182, Traditional Music at Newport 1964 - Part I) and on Folk-Legacy FSA 26, Girl of Constant Sorrow (1965). Archie Green's notes to the latter LP date Gunning's recomposition to "about 1936 in New York, where her first husband, Andrew Ogan, was fatally ill." She had learned the tune from one of Emry Arthur's recordings of "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," which were issued in 1928 and 1931.
The original "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" first appeared in the 2nd decade of the 20th century, once in a 1913 pocket songbook distributed by the blind Kentucky singer, Dick Burnett, and then as part of a variant of "In Old Virginny" sung to Cecil Sharp by Mrs. Frances Richard at St. Peter's School, Callaway, VA, 1918 (English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians , pp. 233-234). Burnett's version, which was his reworking of an earlier hymn, was Emry Arthur's source.
Peggy's version is from John Greenway's American Folksongs of Protest (1953). She included it in her own songbook, Folk Songs of Peggy Seeger (1964). She also recorded it on Female Frolic (Argo ZDA 82), and on A Song For You and Me (Prestige 23058). (Joe Hickerson, August 2003)
I am a girl of constant sorrow
I 've seen trouble all my days
I left my home in old Kentucky
The place where I was borned and raised.
My mother how I hated to leave her
Mother dear, now she is dead
But I had to go and leave her
So my children could have bread.
Perhaps, dear friends, you're a-wondering
What the miners eat and wear
This question I will try to answer
For I think that it is fair.
For breakfast we have bulldog gravy
For dinner we have beans and bread
For the miners don't have any supper
Just a tick of straw that we call a bed.
For our clothes be always ragged
And our feet be always bare
And I'm sure if there's a heaven
That the miners will be there.