Black, Brown, and White
Bill Broonzy

[click here for lyrics]

Big Bill Broonzy, Black, Brown and White, Storyville SLP 30006/7, LP
Big Bill Broonzy, Folk Box, Elektra EKL-9001, LP

musical notation:
Folk Blues: One Handred and Ten American Folk Blues, ed. Jerry Silverman. New York: Oak Publications, 1958.
The Folk Songs of North America, by Alan Lomax. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1975
Carry It On! A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America, Pete Seeger & Bob Reiser. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985.

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Black, Brown and White

The term „Jim Crow“ comes from an old minstrel song written in the 1830s by Thomas Dartmouth „Daddy“ Rice. He is said to have gotten the term from a man named James Crow from Kentucky . Rice sang and danced to the song for the first time in 1832 in New York 's Bowery Theater.

And do just so
Wheel about and turn about
Every time I wheel about
I jump Jim Crow.

The song was the first international hit from the United States . By 1838, the term „Jim Crow“ had become synonymous with black. Already in 1841, the first „Jim Crow law“ was passed in Massachusetts. With time the term came to mean the system of racial oppression and segregation after emancipation.

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared the slaved in those areas which were in rebellion against the United States to be forever free. But only the surrender of the South brought an end to the institution of slavery. Blacks were, however, by no means free. They had nothing, could neither read nor write, had no means of making a living. Many had to go back and work for their former owner, had to because there was no where else to go or were forced to do so by officers of the American army who made common cause with the white traitors.

During the first decade after the war, Blacks were under the protection of the occupation troops from the North. They could vote and they even took over some political offices. Black senators were sent to Washington ; a black man was briefly governor of Louisiana . After the end of Reconstruction and the withdrawal of Northern troops, Southern Whites went to work to roll back all the progress Blacks had made since the end of the war. The life of Blacks, now „free“ American citizens, became a nightmare.

Blacks were expected to know and stay in „their place“ in society, and that place was at the bottom of society. „Sassiness“ or what white people interpreted as such could have dire consequences, could even mean death. Blacks had to experience being humiliated, being treated like children, being subject to violence without the possibility of defending themselves, their women being treated as fair game by white men, and having no legal rights. When a black child asked why Blacks were treated so, his parents answered, „Well son, that's they way it is. I don't know hat we can do about it. Their ain't nothing we can do about it. Because if we do anything about it, they kill you.“ [Leon F. Litwack, Trouble in Mind, p. 24.]

Blacks had to be careful not to become a „white man's nigger.“ It was easy to lose ones self-respect. It was a hard road not to become a bootlicker and still survive. Self-hate was not unknown. To be white was the ideal. A whole industry was created with products designed to lightened one's skin and hair. Most Blacks had two faces, one for the white people and one for their own people.

The white South went about segregating the races, legally as well as in daily life. Any social contact was avoided, be it in the park, in prison, in orphanages, in bars, in the hospital or at the cemetery. Signs reading „Whites Only“ and „Colored“ or „Negroes“ could be seen all over the South. In movie houses, there were separate ticket lines and Blacks had to sit in the balcony. When the races did come together, at the post office, for example, Blacks had to wait until all the Whites had been served. When black women shopped in „white“ clothing stores, they were not allowed to try anything on. At the work place, it was necessary to take measures to guarantee racial segregation. In South Carolina , it was forbidden for Blacks and Whites to work in the same room and they could not use the same entrances and exits, the same toilets or the same stairs. Blacks were banned from most public facilities: swimming pools, bowling alleys or tennis courts. At the entrances to many public parks, one could see signs reading: „Negroes and Dogs Not Allowed.“ In some towns, Blacks could enter the parks only on certain days. A few towns established parks just for Blacks.

As more and more people purchased cars, new regulations had to be thought up. In some towns black use of certain streets was limited and parking places were racially segregated. When a black driver passed a white driver, it was looked upon as a sign of being „uppity“. It was considered normal that Blacks stepped aside on sidewalks when white people passed, even if it meant having to step into the street. Public transportation was racially segregated. Blacks sat either at the back of the bus or they had to get up if there were not enough seats for the white passengers. On street cars and trains, there were sometimes extra „Jim Crow“ cars.

By 1885, almost all southern states had established segregated school systems. There were even different school books. In 1896, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned racial segregation on the basis of „separate but equal.“ After that decision, the poison of „Jim Crow“ spread to practically all aspects of southern life. By 1910, there were almost no Blacks at all who were still allowed to vote. In court, Blacks and Whites swore their oaths on separate Bibles. There were separate telephone booths, separate windows at banks. In large buildings, there was one elevator for whites and one for freight and Blacks. In New Orleans , even prostitution was legally regulated. Some prostitutes were only allowed to serve white customers, others only black customers, which does not mean, however, that all the women who served white men were themselves white. Marriage or cohabitation of Blacks and Whites was banned.

Blacks did not accept all this without resistance. Between 1890 and the outbreak of World War I, Blacks organized boycotts of public transportation systems in no less than 25 southern towns and even had small successes, though overall nothing changed.

Blacks could expect no help from the courts. They were not allowed to testify against Whites ans they were punished faster and harder. A white police chief was once supposed to have said, „If a nigger kills a white man, that's murder. If a white man kills a nigger, that's justifiable homicide. If a nigger kills another nigger, that's one less nigger.“ [Leon F. Litwack, Trouble in Mind,
p. 24.]

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Buddy, Won't You Roll Down the Line

Way back yonder in Tennessee ,
They leased the convicts out.
Put them working in the mine
Against free labor stout.
Free labor rebelled against it;
To win it took some time.
But while the lease was in effect,
They made 'em rise and shine.

Buddy, won't you roll down the line?
Buddy, won't you roll down the line?
Yonder comes my darlin', comin' down the line.
Buddy, won't you roll down the line?
Buddy, won't you roll down the line?
Yonder comes my darlin', comin' down the line.

Early Monday morning
They get you up on time,
Send you down the Lone Rock
Just to look into that mine;
Send you down the Lone Rock
Just to look into that hole,
Very next thing the captain says,
„You better get your pole.“

The beans they are half done,
The bread is not so well;
The meat is all burnt up
And the coffee's black as heck!
But when you get your task done,
And it's on the floor you fall,
Anything you get to eat
It'd taste good done or raw.

The bank boss, he's a hard man,
A man you all know well;
And if you don't get your task done
He's gonna give you hallelujah!
Carry you to the stockade,
And it's on the floor you fall,
Very next word you hear,
„You better get your pole.“


recordings of “Buddy, Won't You Roll Down the Line”
Allen Brothers, Are You From Dixie ? Great Country Brother Teams of the 1930's, RCA Victor, 8417-4-R, Cas
Carolina Tar Heels, Carolina Tar Heels, Old Homestead, OHCS 113, LP (Roll On Boys)
Gateway Singers, At the hungry i, Decca DL 8671, LP
Uncle Dave Macon, American Folk Music; Vol. 3, Songs, Folkways FA 2953,
Uncle Dave Macon, Go 'Long Mule, County 545, LP
Uncle Dave Macon, Wait Till the Clouds Roll By, Historical HLP-8006, LP
Tom Paley,
Old Tom Moore and More, Global Village C 309, Cas
Pete Seeger, American Industrial Ballads, Smithsonian/ Folkways SF 40058, CD
Pete Seeger, Can't You See This System's Rotten Through and Through , Greenwich Village GVR 234, LP
Pete Seeger, Pete Seeger and Sonny Terry, Folkways FA2412, LP

musical notation
Old-Time String Band Songbook, New Lost City Ramblers, Oak, 1964/1976
Carry It On! A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America , Pete Seeger & Bob Reiser. New York : Simon & Schuster, 1985.
Sing Out! 2/7 & 25/1
Songs of Work and Protest , Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer. New York : Dover Publications, 1973.
Here's to Women
Liberated Woman's Songbook
Folksong Encyclopedia
Vol. 1, Jerry Silverman. Chappell Music, Inc., 1963.
All Our Lives



Buddy, Won't You Roll Down the Line

The system of leasing convicts, almost always black convicts, began in the 1870s and became widespread. For the states, the system was a source of income and saved the costs of building new prisons. The employees got cheap, obedient laborers. The system was so profitable that innocent men, as a rule Blacks, could suddenly find themselves in prison. Convicts worked in mines, sawmills, in agriculture, and in railroad and dam construction.

Some employers drove the convicts to their death. In 1870, 41% on all leased convicts died. During the 1880s in Mississippi , the death rate for leased convicts ranged between 9% and 14%. In 1884, almost 15% on all leased convicts died. Few of those sentenced to ten years or more survived. The official death rate would have been much higher if many who had become unable to work had not been sent back to prison to die. In many ways, it was worse than slavery times. When the Blacks were slaves, their owner looked after their health in order to protect his investment. Now, if one convict died, they simply got another.

As a result of protests, especially by the unions, many states outside the South had done away with the system by 1891. But Tennessee , Georgia , Alabama , Texas and other southern states were still in business.

In Tennessee , the state was so determined to make a profit on the state's convicts, that their urine was gathered and sold to tanneries. In Nashville , students of medicine used the corpses of black convicts to practice their craft.

During the 1880s, miners in Tennessee attempted to organize themselves into the Knights of Labor. Their efforts were undermined by the thousands of convicts that the state leased to the coal companies. Any strike could be broken by convict labor. In 1889, Tennessee began leasing convicts to the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, which controlled most of the mines in eastern Tennessee . The state received $60 per convict. If the company had too many convicts, these were subleased to other companies at a profit.

In April 1891, the miners of Briceville, not far from the town of Coal Creek, decided to strike against the Tennessee Coal and Mining Company. The contract between the company and the Knights of Labor had expired. The company announced that in the future it would only be willing to employ those men willing to guarantee in writing that they were not members of a union. Further, the miners were no longer to have their own weight controllers, though a law from the year 1887 guaranteed them that right. The workers refused to sign such an agreement. They were locked out and the company reached an agreement with the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company to lease convicts to replace the striking workers. From April to July 1891, the mines were shut down. On July 4, the Tennessee Coal and Mining Company announced it was getting convicts as strike breakers. Forty convicts arrived the following day and were put to work tearing down the houses in which the striking workers had been living and from which the company had evicted them. The boards were used to build a provisional camp for the 150 convicts scheduled to arrive on July 15 th .

In a mass meeting, the miners and the other residents of Briceville decided not to accept the company's actions. Shorty after midnight on July 15, three hundred armed men marched to the camp. The watchmen realized that they had no chance and surrendered. The convicts and the watchmen were taken to the railway station at Coal Creek and put on a train heading for Knoxville .

The strikers appealed to the governor of Tennessee , John P. Buchanan, for help. The governor called out the state militia, but not to support the striking miners. Union men all over Tennessee offered the striking miners their help. Many soldiers refused to obey orders, so they would not have to take action against the miners. Soldiers moved into the camp.

The workers organized themselves militarily. Almost all possessed weapons and their leaders were veterans of the Civil War. What was especially astonishing was that Blacks and Whites stood together, and that in a former slave state.

Again the armed workers marched to the company camp and forced the militia to surrender. They, too, were put on a train to Knoxville . While they waited for the train in Coal Creek, they were hosted by the miners. The soldiers, many of whom sympathized with the miners, left in the best of moods. Then the workers freed 125 convicts who worked for another company, the Knoxville Iron Company, and shipped them to Knoxville as well. Not a shot had yet been fired in the „Coal Creek Rebellion.“ To prevent sabotage, the workers posted guards around company property. They feared the company itself could commit sabotage and then blame it on the strikers.

The governor now called out the entire state militia and prepared for a military confrontation. Under military escort and accompanied by the governor personally, the convicts were returned to Coal Creek. In an emergency session of the state legislature, the system of convict leasing was even strengthened. Faced with this situation, the strike committee resigned on October 28.

But on October 31, 1500 armed miners once again marched to the camp and freed the convicts. They were given civilian clothing and liberated. The leased convicts of the Knoxville Iron Company were also freed and provided with civilian clothes. Workers hid the convicts and helped some of them cross the state line. The whole action was completed without firing a shot. Some newspapers compared it with the storming of the Bastille; others damned the workers.

For a time,the situation calmed down and the companies affected expressed their willingness to meet with representatives on the United Mine Workers. They accepted union weight controllers and promised to do without convict labor. The miners celebrated.

They celebrated too soon. The Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company gradually bought out the smaller companies which had reached agreement with the union. The old camps were rebuilt and more were added. Again, convicts were employed. The worked full-time while the free laborers were only given work for two or three days a week. Workers who had been actively involved in the rebellion were fired and blacklisted.

That appeared to be the end of the rebellion, but in Tracy , Tennessee , where the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company had been using convict labor since 1871, the working time of the free laborers was cut in half while the convicts worked full-time. A delegation of workers asked the company to give them more work as soon as the company's financial situation allowed. The company reacted by leasing even more convicts. On August 13, at five o'clock in the morning, another delegation of workers requested equal working conditions with the convicts. The company's answer was vague and at nine o'clock 150 miners marched to the convict camp near Oliver Springs , demanded the key, freed the convicts, and set fire to the camp. The convicts were put on a train to Nashville .

The governor sent soldiers, the convicts were caught, the camp rebuilt and soldiers were stationed at Coal Creek.

A meeting of miners on August 15 in Coal Creek approved the actions of the workers in Tracy City . On the following day, miners from all over Tennessee arrived in Coal Creek. Freight cars were confiscated in order to transport the workers' army of three thousand men to Oliver Springs . They arrived at half past four in the morning and demanded the release on the convicts. As before, the militiamen surrendered, the guards were disarmed and once again a train full of convicts were sent to Nashville .

A regiment of militia was to be sent to Oliver Springs , but the railway workers refused to transport them. The governor mobilized the entire militia, the marshals and asked for volunteers, „to guarantee law and order in Coal Creek.“

On August 19, heavily-armed soldiers arrived in Coal Creek. The workers could not resist the attack and had to capitulate. Hundreds were arrested. Soon the prisons were full and the school and the Methodist Church were misused as jails. Jake Witson, one of the leaders of the miners was shot dead. He was black. Thousands of white fellow workers and neighbors attended his funeral.

Until the spring of 1893, things remained relatively quiet. Then on April 19, around 150 miners attacked the rebuilt camp at Tracy City . Troops were immediately called up. When they arrived in Tracy City , the workers hid in the woods. It was to be the last battle in the Coal Creek Rebellion.

It appeared that the miners had been thoroughly beaten, but public pressure on the state to do away with the system of leasing convicts became ever more intense. In the end, the miners fight was not in vain. The Coal Creek Rebellion had made the leasing of convicts unprofitable and at the next election, the old state government was booted out of office. The new state government ended the convict leasing system and freed the union leaders. Alabama , by contrast, had to wait another twenty years before the leasing of convicts was ended.

Out of the rebellion came two songs and an instrumental which are still played today: „Coal Creek March,“ „Pay Day at Coal Creek“ and „Buddy, Won't You Roll Down the Line.“ The last probably came from a black prisoner and became well-known through the singing of Uncle Dave Macon. Today, Coal Creek is called Lake City .

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Days of '49

I'm Old Tom Moore from the Bummer's Shore, in the good old golden days
They call me a bummer and a ginsot, too, but what cares I for praise
I wander 'round from town to town just like a roving sign
and all the people say, "There goes Tom Moore," in the days of '49.

In the days of old, in the days of gold, how oft times I repine
for the days of old when we dug up the gold in the days of '49.

My comrades they all loved me well, jolly, saucy crew
A few hard cases I will recall, though they were brave and true
Whatever the pinch, they never would flinch, they never would fret or whine
The good old bricks, they stood the kicks, in the days of '49.

There was New York Jake, the butcher's boy, he was always getting tight
And every time that he'd get full he was spoiling for a fight
Then Jake rampaged against the knife in the hands of old Bob Sign
And over Jake they held a wake in the days of '49.

There was Poker Bill, one of the boys who was always in a game
Whether he lost or whether he won, to him it was always the same
He would ante up and draw his cards and he would go hat-ful blind
In a game with death Bill lost his breath in the days of '49.

There was Rag Shag Bill from Buffalo I never will forget
He would roar all day and he'd roar all night and I guess he's roarin' yet
One day he fell in a prospect hole on a roarin' bad design
And in that hole he roared out his soul in the days of '49.

Oh, the comrades all that I've had there's none that's left to boast
And I'm left alone in my misery like some poor wandering ghost
And I've passed by from town to town, they call me the ramblin' sign
"There goes Tom Moore of the Bummer's Shore in the days of '49.

recordings of “Days of 49”:
Jules Verne Allen, Victor 21627, reissued on The Texas Cowboy, Folk Variety IN 12502, reissued as Bear Family BF 15502
Bog Trotters, Dance Music, Breakdowns and Waltzes, Music Division, Library of Congress LBC 3
Bog Trotters, Folk Music in America, Vol. 3, Dance Music, Breakdowns & Waltzes, Library of Congress LBC-03, LP
Sandy & Jeanie Darlington, Sandy and Jeanie Darlington, Folk Legacy FSI-028, LP
Bob Dylan, Self-Portrait, Columbia CD460112 2, CD
Logan English, The Days of '49; Songs of the Gold Rush, Folkways FH5255, LP
Larry Hanksd, Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail, Long Sleeve LS 104, LP (1982)
Fred Holstein, Chicago and Other Ports, Philo 1030, LP
Ed McCurdy, Song of the West, Tradition TLP 2061, LP
Glenn Ohrlin, The Hell-Bound Train, University of lllinois, Campus Folksong Club CFC 301
Glenn Ohrlin, The Wild Buckaroo, Rounder 0158
Milt Okun, Adirondack Folk Songs and Ballads, Stinson SLP 82, LP
Pete Stone, Chicago Mob Scene. A Folk Song Jam Session, Riverside RLP 12-641, LP
George S. Taggart on, The New Beehive Songster, Okehdokee OK 75003
Jeff Warner and Jeff Davis, Days of Forty Nine, Minstrel JD-206, LP
Frank Warner, Come All You Good People, Minstrel JD-204, LP
Frank Warner, Frank Warner Sings American Folk Songs and Ballads, Elektra JH 504, LP
Frank Warner, Hudson Valley Songs, Disc 661.


Days of 49

On January 25, 1848, James Marschall saw something shiny in the waters of the American River in California. It was a decisive moment in the history of the United States. Marshall worked for John August Sutter and was repairing a waterwheel that drove a sawmill.

Sutter was a bankrupt shopkeeper, who had fled his creditors, his wife and five children in Switzerland. He had traveled to Oregon by 1836 and in 1839, coming from Hawaii with two Germans and ten Hawaiians, he arrived in Monterey . He put on an old French uniform and visited the Mexican governor. Sutter convinced the governor to give him 50,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley. There Sutter founded the colony „New Helvetia.“ In 1841, Sutter purchased Fort Ross for $30,000. The fort had been founded in 1812 as an outpost of the Russian Empire on the California coast north of San Francisco, and was supposed to supply Alaska, then still Russian territory, with food, an effort which was not successful. Sutter had everything that was not tied down brought to his fort: furniture, tools, sheep and cattle herds, uniforms and several canons. He ran his colony like a feudal lord, drilled an Indian army, dealt out his own brand of justice, had orchards planted and slept with many young girls.

Two days after the find on the American River, Marshall showed Sutter what he had found and they determined that it really was gold. The spectacular find could not and did not remain a secret and started an avalance of greed, which changed Sutter's life, California and the United States. Within six months, three-fourths of the male residents of San Francisco had left town. Other coastal settlements emptied as well. The people headed for Sutter's land to look for gold. Sailors jumped ship, men abandoned their families, soldiers deserted. At the time Marshall discovered the gold, the United States was at war with Mexico. On February 2, 1848, after American troops had occupied Mexico City, Mexican representatives signed the Treaty of Hildalgo, which ended the war. Mexico lost half its territory. The war had been incited by the administration of James K. Polk in May of 1846, after negotiations concerning the purchase of New Mexico and California and a new border (along the Rio Grande) between Texas and Mexico had broken down.

The new American governor of California reported that there was enough gold in California to pay for the war a hundred times over. During the first few months, gold with a value of $300,000 to $500,000 a day was dug, an enormous sum at the time. The news of gold in California reached Washington in August 1848. President Polk confirmed the find and the news spread around the world. Entire armies of men in the East set off for California , One who experienced the gold rush, wrote, „It revolutionized America. It was the beginning of our national madness, our insanity of greed.“ (Geoffrey C. Ward, The West: An Illustrated History. New York : Little, Brown and Company, 1996. p. 120.)

The path to California by land was impassable until the spring of 1849. Those who were in a hurry took a ship around Cape Horn, 18,000 sea miles. Those who were in even more of a hurry sailed to Panama, hiked through the jungle and borded another ship on the Pacific side. Among the first to arrive in the gold fields were Mexicans from California, South Americans or Europeans. Then in April 1849, 30,000 American gold seekers set off overland to California. At least 1,500 died without having reached the promised land. Another 25,000 reached California by water in 1849. By the end of 1849, the population of California had risen from 20,000 to 100,000. Of the 80,000 newcomers, almost all were men, the majority under thirty years of age. Gold camps mushroomed and most disappeared just a quickly. Not only Americans, but also men from Peru, Chile, Australia, Hawaii, China, Japan, Russia, Malaysia and Europe could be found in the camps. Under these conditions, crime and chaos were rampant. California was still without a civil government and the military was not in a position to bring the chaos and crime in the camps under control.

In an effort to create order, President Taylor suggested making California a state without the transitional period as a territory. In October 1849, delegates to a constitutional convention presented a draft constitution. In 1850, California became a state, but not until after an new debate on slavery had almost split the United States. The California constitution forbid slavery and that threatened the balance between the North and South.

The life of the so-called „49ers“ has often been romanticized, but the truth was far from romantic. A gold seeker summed up the situation: „We lived more like animals than people.“ The men did extremely heavy physical labor, slept in primitive dwellings, often with many other men in tight quarters. The sanitary conditions did not meet even the most primitive standards. The gold seekers lived in an area without law, but in which there was incredible wealth, from which only a very few, however, ever profited. Few gold seekers ever became rich. Those who profited most from the situation were not the men (and the few women) digging for gold, but the merchants in San Francisco and Sacramento who sold the gold seekers the goods they needed at astronomically high prices. Frustration and the willingness to resort to violence ran high. Intolerance grew. The new constitution had forbidden slavery, but certainly not because the new Californians were lacking on racial prejudice. The reason for the ban was surely that they feared the competition from slave labor. In California , Blacks could neither work nor attend school with white people.

The fact is, racism and envy characterized the first years in the history of California. Soon, by way of discriminating laws, threats and naked violence, attempts were made to drive out all those who were not citizens of the United States. Many old-established Californios lost their land and were treated like foreigners, even though the Treaty of Hildalgo had guaranteed their land rights as well as their rights as American citizens. Many Mexicans gave up and left California.

It was not so easy to be rid of the 20,000 Chinese who had come to California. Most were from the province of Guangdong and had gone into debt to pay their passage. They were disciplined, accustomed to hard work and successfully worked areas the Americans had already given up. But the white Americans looked upon them as racially and culturally inferior. The people who suffered most were the native peoples of California. The wild game which had fed them was killed off by the gold seekers. The native Californians were going hungry. In desperation, they began raiding gold camps and stealing horses and cattle. The gold seekers sought revenge. Many natives were practically enslaved and without rights. Thousands died of diseases that the Whites had brought with them. Thousands more were simply murdered. Some gold seekers spent their weekends raping native women and shooting any man who tried to stop them. Some gold camps put out a bounty on Indians. Shasta City paid five dollars for every Indian head. Militias were organized and war was made on the poorly-armed tribes. These campaigns usually ended in massacres not only the of the native warriors, but also the old, the women and the children. When gold was discovered, there were about 150,000 natives living in California. In 1870, there were fewer than 30,000.

By 1852, the gold that lie near the surface was all but exhausted. The era of the individual gold miner was over. „Days of 49“ looks back at the life in the gold camps. It probably comes from San Francisco, the settlement that the gold transformed into a city. In the fall of 1849, San Francisco had 2,000 inhabitants. A year later, it had 35,000. The city had twelve daily newspapers, fifteen fire stations, sixteen hotels, twenty public baths, three hospitals, ten churches and an orphanage. San Francisco also had 46 casinos, 48 whore houses and 637 bars. Though most gold seekers were just as poor after the gold rush as they had been before it, some did strike it rich and spent their newly-found riches generously.

In San Francisco, opera houses were built, bringing plays and musical shows to the city. San Francisco drew entertainers from all over the world, from opera singers to professional gamblers. Small circuses and musical troupes with blackened faces went from gold camp to gold camp. Productions of Shakespearean plays always drew large, well-informed audiences, which did not hesitate to correct actors who made mistakes and showed no mercy for poor actors. Many songs were made about the gold seekers. In 1858, two collections of songs were published: Put's Original California Songbook and Put's Golden Songster.

„Days of 49“ is said to have been a big success for Billy Emerson's Minstrels in the Alhambra Theater in San Francisco. It was first printed in 1872 in The Great Popular Songster, published in San Francisco. It was probably written by Charles Bensell (stage name: Charley Rhoads), who died in 1877. The song entered the oral tradition and Frank Warner learned it from the former logger Yankee John Galusha in New York. It also appeared in the collection Folk Songs of the Catskill by Norman Cazden (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982.) Utah Phillips, who resides in the old mining town of Nevada City, summed up his view of the Gold Rush when asked to perform in the sesquicentennial celebration: „That was an ecological catastrophe and an act of genocidal madness. Include me out, thank you. I'm not going to take their bullshit. The gold rush was a disaster. We were better off with the metals in the ground.“ (Utah Phillips, The Moscow Hold and Other Stories. Red House Records, 1999, CD.)

The Age of Gold : The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream , H. W. Brands. Anchor, 2003.
Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush , Susan Lee Johnson. W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.
Rooted in Barbarous Soil: People, Culture, and Community in Gold Rush California ( California History Sesquicentennial Series), California Historical Society, edited by Kevin Starr and Richard J. Orsi. University of California Press, 2000.
They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush , Jo Ann Levy. University of Oklahoma Press ; Reprint edition, 1992.
With Great Hope: Women of the California Gold Rush , JoAnn Chartier. Falcon, 2000.
Women's Voices from the Mother Lode: Tales from the California Gold Rush (Women's Voices), Susan G. Butruille. Tamarack Books, 1998.
The World Rushed in: The California Gold Rush Experience , Howard R. Lamar (Foreward), J. S. Holliday, William Swain. University of Oklahoma Press ; Red River edition, 2002.

"The Discovery of Gold in California," by John A. Sutter.

Gold Rush in internet

back to stories behind the song



Tom Dooley

Hang your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang your head and cry;
You killed little Laurie Foster,
Poor boy, you're bound to die.

You met her on the mountain,
There you took her life
You met her on the hillside
You stabbed her with a knife.

This time tomorrow,
Reckon where I'll be
Down in yonders valley
A-hanging on a white oak tree

This time tomorrow
Reckon where I'll be,
Hadn't been for Grayson,
I'd a been in Tennessee .

You met her on the mountain,
It was there, I suppose,
There you went and killed her
And then you hid her clothes

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

Doc Watson's version of "Tom Dooley
Kingston Trio version of "Tom Dooley"

recordings of “Tom Dooley”
Paul Clayton, Bloody Ballads, Riverside RLP 12-615, LP 1956. “Tom Dula”
Grayson and Whitter, Going Down Lee Highway, Davis Unlimited DU 33033, LP, 1977.
Hank Hill and the Tennessee Folk Trio, Folk Song Hall of Fame, Palace M-716, LP.
Kingston Trio, Kingston Trio, Capitol T 0996, LP, 1958.
Glen Neaves and the Grayson County Boys, Traditional Music From Grayson and Carroll Counties, Folkways FS 3811, LP, 1962.
New Lost City Ramblers, Sing Songs of the New Lost City Ramblers, Aravel AB-1005, LP.
New Lost City Ramblers, New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 2, Folkways FA 2397, LP, 1960.
Bill Owens and the Kinfolk, Songs of the Smokey Mountains, REM LP-1024, LP.
Frank Proffitt, Frank Proffitt of Reese, North Carolina , Folk Legacy FSA-001, Cassette.
Tarriers, Tarriers, Glory PG 1200, LP.
Henry Vanoy, Comin' Round the Mountain, Voyager VLRP 302, LP, 1968.
Doc Watson, Out in the Country, Intermedia/Quicksilver QS 5031, LP, 1982.
Doc Watson, Doc Watson, Vanguard VSD-79152, LP 1964.
Doc Watson, Essential Doc Watson, Vanguard.VCD 45/46, CD 1986.

musical notation
Jerry Snyder, Golden Guitar Folk Sing Book, Charles Hansen, 1972.
Albert B. Friedman, Viking Book of Folk Ballads of the English, Viking, 1 956/1963.
John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, Folk Song USA, Signet, 1947/1966.
Frank Lynn, Songs for Swinging Housemothers, Fearon, 1963/1961.
Sing Out! Reprints, Sing Out.
Alan Lomax, Folksongs of North America, Doubleday Dolphin, 1960/1975.
Peter Blood, Peter; and Annie Patterson (eds.), Rise Up Singing, Sing Out, 1989/1992.
Henry Taussig, Folk-Style Guitar, Oak, 1973.
Henry Taussig, Teach Yourself Guitar, Oak, 1971.
Henry Taussig, Instrumental Techniques of American Folk Guitar, Traditional Stringed Instruments, 1965.
New Lost City Ramblers, Old Time String Band Songbook, Oak, 1976/1964.
New Lost City Ramblers, Asch, Moses (ed)., 124 Folk Songs as Sung and Recorded on Folkways Records, Robbins Music, 1965.
Doc Watson, Songs of Doc Watson, Oak, 1971.


Tom Dooley

When in October 1958 Capitol Records released the Kingston Trio's recording of the old North Carolina ballad “Tom Dooley,” it generated a growing interest in the traditional music of the United States. “Tom Dooley” remained in the Billboard Top Ten Single charts for over four months, selling more than six million copies. The story of the song is almost as interesting as the story the song relates

In 1937, song collectors Frank and Anne Warner visited Nathen Hicks in North Carolina looking for traditional songs. When they returned in June of 1938, Nathan Hicks had invited his son-in-law Frank Proffitt from Pick Britches Valley to join them. Frank Proffitt: “Frank asked me if I knew any songs about hangings – about gallows and ropes and such – so I tried to thin of some. ‘Tom Dooley' came to mind right off, of course, and I so I sang it for him…” [from the booklet, Frank Proffitt of Reese, North Carolina. Folk Legacy Records, FSA 1] “Tom Dooley” was the story of a man named Tom Dula, who in 1868 was hanged for the murder of Laura Foster. Frank's grandmother had known Laura Foster and “Tom Dooley” had been the first song Frank Proffitt had heard his father play on the banjo. The song Proffitt sang was one of several ballads which had been made up about the deed. Around the time of the hanging, a local poet, Thomas Land, wrote a poem about the case. He is sometimes credited as the author of the song, but his verses have no relationship to any versions of the song. It was Frank Warner who made the song known among folksingers. With Frank Proffitt's permission, Warner saw to it that a much-altered version of the lyrics above was published in Alan Lomax's book Folk Song , U.S.A. [Alan Lomax, Folk Song: U.S.A. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947.] Frank Warner recorded the song himself for Elektra in 1952. But that was not the first recording of the ballad. Grayson and Whitter had already recorded it on May 2,1930, [ G.B. Grayson and Henry Whittier, Early Classics, Vol.1, Old Homestead]

Frank Proffitt heard the Kingston Trio sing “Tom Dooley” on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and was entirely unaware not only that they had recorded it but had also copyrighted it. Later, Frank Warner and Proffitt successfully sued for legal claim to “Tom Dooley.” After the success of the Kingston Trio's recording of “Tom Dooley,” Frank Proffitt enjoyed a brief career as a folksinger.

At least ten versions of the song exist. The version above is that recorded by Frank Proffitt. Doc Watson, whose great-grandparents had been neighbors of the Dula family, and whose grandparents had known Tom Dula's parents, recorded a longer version of the song for Vanguard in 1964.

It is not easy to tell the story of Tom Dula for it has been told many, many times and often with as much fantasy as fact, so that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Tom [Thomas C.] Dula was born on June 20, 1844 in Elkville, NC , now Ferguson, Wilkes County . He was the son of Thomas and Mary Keaton Dula. On March 15, 1862, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the Confederate Army, serving in Company K of the Forty-Second Regiment of the North Carolina Infantry until he was taken prisoner of war. He was imprisoned at Point Lookout, Maryland. Some sources claim he was a good musician, playing either the banjo of fiddle, and spent the war as the regiment musician. It is also said that before the war he had played for local dances.

After the war, he returned to Happy Valley, North Carolina . He was said to be a handsome man known for his easy-going relationships to women. Before the war, he had been involved with Laura Foster as well as her cousin Ann Foster. After is return, he took up his relationship with Laura again. During the war, Ann had married James Melton and become the mother of two children. But apparently, she had not given Tom up and was jealous of her cousin Laura. On the morning of May 26, 1866, Tom woke the 22-year-old Laura with the news that he intended to marry her that very day. Tom left, supposedly to get the justice of the peace. Laura packed her best clothes, took her father's best horse and left for her rendezvous with Dula. She was never seen alive again. Tom Dula fled. He went to Watauga County and under a false name worked on the farm of Col. James Grayson, a Tenessee politician. [In the song, he became Sheriff Grayson.] Tom stayed long enough to earn money for a pair of boots and continued on to Trade, Tennessee .

In July, Tom Dula and a man named Jack Keaton were brought into town by a group of men who with the help of James Grayson, had tracked him down in Tennessee and returned them illegally to North Carolina. They were jailed in Wilkesboro. Keaton had an alibi and was soon released.

Some time later, Ann Melton and her sister Pauline Foster got into a terrible argument in the course of which it became clear that they had knowledge of Laura's fate. Under pressure, Pauline said that Tom Dula had killed Laura. Based upon information received from the two women, Laura's burial place was found on September 1, 1866. She had been stabbed in the breast and both of her legs were broken. A bag with her clothes was also found. She was buried on a hill that has since been known as “Laura Foster Hill.” Perline Foster was arrested, but later released when Ann was arrested.

Former North Carolina governor Zebulon B. Vance agreed to represent Tom and Ann. The trial began on October 4, 1966 in Wilkesboro with Judge Ralph P. Buxton presiding. Vance asked immediately for a change of venue believing Tom could never receive a fair trial in Wilkesboro. The case was transferred to Statesville , North Carolina. Again, Judge Buxton presided. Tom Dula was charged with murder, Ann Melton with “influencing him to commit murder.” The first defence motion was for a severance of the trails. It was granted. The trial was on the 19 th and 20 th of October. On the 21st, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. From the beginning, Tom Dula had claimed to be innocent and but remained silent throughout the trial. His lawyer successfully appealed the verdict to the North Carolina Supreme Court. In a second trial, Tom Dula was again found guilty on January 21, 1868. Again Vance appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court, this time unsuccessfully. The night before his hanging, he wrote a note declaring that he was the only person involved in the death of Laura Foster. Tom Dula was hanged on May 1, 1868 in Statesville, North Carolina .

Many legends have grown up around the execution of Tom Dula. Frank Proffitt's grandmother, Adeline Perdue, who lived in Wilkes County at the time, said she saw Tom Dula riding in a coffin and claimed he sang the very song that she taught her grandchildren. Others say he rode a wagon through town, sitting on his coffin, picking his favorite tune on the banjo and also contend that he sang a ballad about his own death. To the very end he claimed to be innocent. Tom's sister and her husband took the casket containing his body back to Elkville, where he was buried the property of his cousin Bennett Dula III, beside the Yadkin River. The grave of Tom Dula with its much damaged headstone still exists today.

Ann Melton was tried during the fall of 1868, but based on the statement made by Tom Dula on the night before his execution, she was acquitted. She died a few years later.

John Foster West, The Ballad of Tom Dula: The Documented Story Behind the Murder of Laura Foster and the Trials and Execution of Tom Dula. Durham, NC: Moore Publishing, 1970.
John Foster West, Lift up Your Head, Tom Dooley: The True Story of the Appalachian Murder That Inspired One of America's Most Popular Ballads, Down Home Press, 1993.

Tom Dooley site
David Holt's Tom Dula page
pictures of Tom Dula's grave
picture of Tom Dula's cell
Frank and Anne Warner
Frank Warner
The Warner Collection, Vol. I
The Warner Collection, Vol. II
Traditional American Folksongs, collected by Frank and Anne Warner
Traditional American Folk Songs (Warner) Amazon
poem by Thomas Land
Grayson and Whitter
Kingston Trio

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Bourgeois Blues
Huddie Ledbetter

Look a here people, listen to me,
Don't try to find no home in Washington , D.C.

Lord, it's a bourgeois town.
Ooh, it's a bourgeois town.
I got the Bourgeois Blues
I'm gonna spread the news all around.

Me and Martha was standin' upstairs,
I heard a white man say, „Don't want no colored up there.“

Home of the brave, land of the free –
I don't want to be mistreated by no bourgeoisie.

White folks in Washington , they know how,
Throw a colored man a nickel just to watch him bow.

Tell all the colored folks to listen to me,
Don't try to find a home in Washington , D.C.

recordings of “Bourgeois Blues”
Ry Cooder, Chicken Skin Music, Warner Brothers CD2254, CD
Lead Belly, Bourgeouis Blues, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40045, CD
Lead Belly, Easy Ridin', Catfish KATCD 131, CD
Lead Belly, Folkways, the Original Vision, Smithsonian/Folkways CD 0-9307-40001-20, CD
Pete Seeger, The Essential Pete Seeger, Vanguard 97/98, LP
Pete Seeger, Gazette – Vol. 2, Folkways FN2502, LP
Pete Seeger, If I Had a Hammer: Songs of Hope & Struggle, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40096, CD
Pete Seeger Sings Leadbelly, Folkways FTS31022
Pete Seeger, Songs of Struggle and Protest, Folkways FH5233, LP
Taj Mahal, A Vision Shared, A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, Columbia CK 44034, CD

musical notataion
Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People, Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger. New York : Oak Publications, 1967.
Sing Out! 14/1
The Leadbelly Songbook, Oak Publications, 1962
Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Its Songs, Guy and Candie Carawan. Sing Out Publications, 1990.

Bourgeois Blues

In June 1937, Huddie Ledbetter and his wife Martha traveled to Washington , D.C. to make recordings for the Library of Congress. The first night, they slept on the floor of Alan Lomax's apartment. The were awoken the next morning to the sound of loud voices. His landlord was yelling at Lomax: „You brought niggers into my house? I don't want any niggers up there.„ The law at the time was on the landlord's side and Lomax had to find other accommodations for his quests. The search was complicated by the fact that the Ledbetters had come to Washington with two white friends. It was almost impossible to find a room. Even Blacks would not take in the Ledbetters because they were with Whites. There was also no place wher they could eat together. Even black restaurants would only allow the Ledbetters to eat there if they were without the white people. Lomax and the Ledbetters white friends became angry about „Jim Crow“ in the nation's capital and complained about how „bourgeois“ Washington was. Huddie had no idea what the word meant, but he liked the word. After the meaning of the word was explained to him, he liked it even more. He created the „Bourgeois Blues.„ Huddie began to sing the song all over and recorded it in a New York studio in 1938 and sent it to the Library of Congress.

The popularity of „Bourgeois Blues“ led Huddie Ledbetter to write other topical songs. Soon he was counted among the protest singers in New York, along with Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Sara Ogan, Jim Garland and others. The term „folk singer“ began to be identified with political activism at the left end of the political spectrum and it was to remain so for many years. But Pete Seeger felt that Huddie Ledbetter was not a protest singer. He was willing to sing for certain causes in order to make money and be together with people who valued his music. The Communist Party of the USA was happy to give Lead Belly an opportunity to sing. He talked about how it was to be black in the South. The Communists showed him respect.

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Bruce Springsteen


recording of “Youngstown”
Bruce Springsteen, The Ghost of Tom Joad, Columbia 481650-2, CD

musical notation
The Ghost of Tom Joad



After small amounts of iron ore had been found in the area, Daniel and James Heaton built the first blast furnace in Ohio. Later, coal and limestone, needed for smelting the iron ore, were found. As a result, Youngstown became one of the most productive iron producing areas in the United States. In 1895, steel was produced for the first time and Youngstown adapted itself to the production of steel. Steel mills were built along the Mahoning River. Sixty miles southeast of Cleveland , Youngstown was ideally situated halfway between New York and Chicago. At the end of the 1970s, the decline of the steel industry began when Youngstown Sheet and Tube let go 5000 workers and merged with another steel company to become the third largest producer in the country.

„Jenny“ is the blast furnace. The workers, who had made the country rich and defended it, felt betrayed by the closure of the steel works.

Youngstown , Ohio

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Low Bridge, Everybody Down (Erie Canal)(Mule Named Sal)
Thomas S. Allen

I've got a mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She's a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal

We haul'd some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal, and hay
We know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, yeah we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If ya ever navigated on the Erie Canal

We'd better look around for a job, old gal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
You can bet your life I'll never part with Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal

Get up mule, here comes a lock
We'll make Rome 'bout six o'clock
One more trip and back we'll go
Right back home to Buffalo

Where would I be if I lost my pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
I'd like to see a mule good as my Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal

A friend of mine once got her sore
Now he's got a broken jaw
'Cause she let fly with an iron toe
And kicked him back to Buffalo


recordings of "Low Bridge, Everybody Down"

Hank Hill and the Tennessee Folk Trio, Folk Song Hall of Fame, Palace M-716, LP (Erie Canal)
Pete Seeger, Children's Concert at Town Hall, Columbia, CL 1947, LP (Erie Canal)
Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome. The Seeger Sessions, Columbia CD 82876830742 (Erie Canal)
Glenn Yarbrough, Come and Sit by My Side, Tradition, TLP 1019, LP (My Mule Sal)

Image of original sheet music

musical notation
John A. Lomax, and Alan Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, MacMillan, 1934.
Sigmund Spaeth, Read 'Em and Weep, Arco, 1926/1959.
Jerry Snyder, (arr.), Golden Guitar Folk Sing Book, Charles Hansen, 1972. (Erie Canal).
Frank Lynn (ed.), Songs for Swinging Housemothers, Fearon , 1963/1961. (Erie Canal).
Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer (eds.), Songs of Work and Protest, Dover, 1960/1973.
Harold W. Thompson, Body, Boots & Britches. Dover, 1939.
Charles O'Brien Kennedy, American Ballads - Naughty, Ribald and Classic, Premier Book , 1952/1956. (Erie Canal). Charles O'Brien Kennedy, Treasury of American Ballads; Gay, Naugthy, McBride, 1954. (Erie Canal).
Peter Blood and Annie Patterson (eds.), Rise Up Singin, Sing Out, 1989/1992. (Erie Canal).

Low Bridge, Everybody Down (Erie Canal)(Mule Named Sal)

When this song was written by songwriter Thomas S. Allen in 1905, mules no longer pulled the barges along the Erie Canal , so it was already a sentimental memory of times past. It was, as we would say today, a “pop song,” but like the songs of Stephan Foster, it quickly moved to the category of folk song.  

The driving force behind the construction of the Erie Canal was the Governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton, former mayor of New York City, a man said to have presidential ambitions. His advocacy of the construction of a canal had been decisive in his winning election as governor. Critics derided the project as “Clinton 's Folly” or “Clinton 's Ditch.” After all, it would be an unprecedented engineering feat, a 363-mile canal crossing rivers, cutting through stone, crossing swamps and passing through forests, by far the longest canal ever built. It would connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes, radically altering transportation patterns in the young United States. 

The obstacles were enormous and yet the technology at hand to do the job was primitive, the work would have to be done by hand and horse. The canal rose 600 feet (183m) in elevation, requiring the construction of 83 locks. Initially, the canal was 28 feet wide at the bottom and 40 feet wide at the top and 4 feet deep. Construction began in Rome on July 4, 1817. The work was done by local laborers as well as Irish immigrants. Countless laborers died of malaria and pneumonia during work in the swamps west of Syracuse. The costs exceeded the then enormous sum of $7 millions dollars.  

The Erie Canal was finished on October 26, 1825. For the occasion, Governor Clinton travelled to Buffalo and journeyed down the canal while celebrations took place all along the route. The flotilla, led by the chief of the Seneca nation, arrived in New York City after eleven days. There Governor Clinton poured a keg of water from Erie Lake into the sea, celebrating the “wedding of the waters” on November 4, 1825. The construction of the canal had been completed without the aid of a single trained engineer, by men who learned on the job.  

The Erie Canal changed America. Among other things, it encouraged the settlement of the American interior, providing a much faster and more comfortable means of transportation to the West. Thousands of immigrants arriving at New York City continued their journeys west along the Erie Canal. Up to then, manufactured goods shipped west had had to be transported up the Hudson River and then carried by wagons. Farmers had shipped their produce south to Pittsburgh or New Orleans or north to Montreal. The canal changed all that. Before the construction of the canal, it had cost between $90 and $125 to ship a ton of cargo between New York City and Buffalo. By 1835, the cost had been reduced to just $4. Before the construction of the canal, New York City had been the country's fifth largest seaport after Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Orleans. By 1840, New York City had become the nation's busiest port and the commercial center of the continent.  

The canal was such a success that it had to be enlarged, work beginning just ten years after the opening of the canal. By 1845, tolls collected had paid for the construction and by 1882, when tolls were dropped, the state had collected $42 million. Between 1903 and 1918 the Barge Canal was built to accommodate larger vessels. It remained in use until 1994. 

Today, what is left of the original Erie Canal is used principally for recreational purposes.

picture: opening of the Erie Canal

Songs of the Erie Canal
The Dady Brothers
Landmark Society of Western New York, 2001

Andrist, Ralph K.; The Erie Canal , New York, NY: American Heritage, 1964.
Shaw, Ronald; Erie Water West, Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1996.
Sheriff, Carol; The Artificial River, New York , NY: Hill and Wang, 1996

The Erie Canal Museum

the Erie Canal in internet
books and videos about the Erie Canal
links concerning the Erie Canal
pictures of the Erie Canal

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Dark as a Dungeon
Merle Travis

Come listen you fellows so young and so fine
And seek not your fortune in the dark dreary mine
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul
'Till the stream of your blood is as black as the coal.

It's dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew
There the danger is double, and the pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mines.

It's many a man I've seen in my day
Who lived just to labor his whole life away.
Like a fiend with his dope, and a drunkard his wine
A man will have lust for the lure of the mine.

I hope when I'm gone and the ages shall roll
My body will blacken and turn into coal
Then I'll look from the door of my heavenly home
And pity the miner a-diggin' my bones.

recordings of “Dark as a Dungeon”
Joan Baez, Joan Baez in San Francisco,Fantasy 5015, LP
The Chieftains and Vince Gill, Down the Old Plank Road. The Nashville Sessions. RCA Victor 09026 63971 2, CD
Bob DeCormier & Pete Seeger, Hootenanny Tonight, Folkways FN 2511, LP
Cisco Houston, Cisco Houston: The Folkways Years 1944-1961, Smithsonian Folkways 40059
Cisco Houston, Cisco Special, Vanguard, VSD-2042, LP
Jim Kweskin, America
Jim Kweskin, Jim Kweskin's America, Reprise 6464, LP
Grandpa Jones, With Ramona
Rose Maddox and the Vern Williams Band, This is Rose Maddox, Arhoolie 5024, LP
Patrick Sky, Through a Window
Pete Seeger, Hootenanny Tonight , Folkways FN 2511, LP
Merle Travis, Back Home
Merle Travis, Country Music, South and West, New World, NW 287, LP
Merle Travis, Folk Music in America, Vol. 8, Songs of Labor & Livelihood, Library of Congress , LBC-08, LP
Merle Travis, Folksongs of the Hills, Bear Family CD15636, CD
Merle Travis, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, CAP CD46589, CD
Weavers, Weavers Together Again, Loom Records, 1681, LP
Glenn Yarbrough, Come and Sit by My Side, Tradition, TLP 1019, LP

Dark as a Dungeon

After World War II, someone at Capitol Records had the idea of releasing s series of albums under the heading „ Americana ,“ albums centered around special topics, for example, cowboys or seamen. The first album of this planned series was Folk Songs of the Hills by Merle Travis, songs from his home state of Kentucky and coal mining. Four folk songs were on the album, in part reworked by Travis: „John Henry,“ „Nine Pound Hammer,“ „Muskrat“ and „I Am a Pilgrim;“ a gospel song, „That's All;“ as well as three new songs by Travis, „Over by Number Nine,“ „Sixteen Tons“ and „Dark as a Dungeon.“

Almost from the beginning, Travis' songs were looked upon as folk songs. In the year of its release, Folk Songs of the Hills was included in the discography on the song collection Folk Song U.S.A. by John A. and Alan Lomax. The words of „Dark as a Dungeon“ were published in the collection A Treasury of Southern Folklore in 1949 with author and record credits. In 1950, „Dark as a Dungeon“ was covered for the first time, by Travis' friend Grandpa Jones. „Jones“ was listed as the author. In 1951, Folkways Records released an album of work songs, among them „Dark as a Dungeon“ under the title „Down in the Mines,“ sung by Cisco Houston. Sing Out! published „Dark as a Dungeon“ in 1953 without mentioning the author. The following year, Pete Seeger and Bob De Cormier sang the song on the album Hootenanny Tonight , again without mentioning Travis as the composer. As a matter of fact, „Dark as a Dungeon“ was not copyrighted until 1956. That was following the huge success of „Sixteen Tons“ by Tennessee Ernie Ford. It was copyrighted with an up to then unknown verse.

The midnight, the morning, or the middle of the day
Is the same to the miner who labors away
Where the demons of death often come by surprise.
One fall of the slate and you're buried alive.
[Quoted in Archie Green, Only a Miner: Studies in Recorded Coal-Mining Songs, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972, p. 298.]

After the success of „Sixteen Tons,“ Merle Travis was asked to tell about his early life. In the United Mineworkers' Journal, he wrote,

„Taylor, my oldest brother, would come home and get ‘washed up.‘ How well I remember the galvanized tub set in the middle of the floor – the big black pot of water poured in – the steam – and then enough cold water to make it just right. When I‘d watch him wash the black coal dust from a little rose tattoo on his arm I longed for the day when I could work in the mine and have a tattoo...He practically broke every rib in his body in a mine accident and it changed his whole life,“

Although Travis had never worked in the mines himself, „Dark as a Dungeon“ gives a sense of the isolation, the loneliness and the presence of death felt by the men working under the ground and the strange attraction the work has on the men. On the record, the singer tells the story,

„I never will forget one time when I was on a little visit down home in Ebenezer , Kentucky . I was a-talkin‘ to an old man that had known me ever since the day I was born - and an old friend of the family, he says, ‘Son, you don‘t know how lucky you are to have a nice job like the one you‘ve got and don‘t have to dig out a livin‘ from under these hills and hollers, like me and your pappy used to.‘ When I asked him why he had never left and tried some other kind of work, he said, Nawsir, you just won‘t do that. If you ever get this old coal dust in your blood, you‘re just gonna be a plain old coal miner as long as you live.‘ He went on to say, ‚It‘s a habit - sorta like chewin‘ tobaccer.“ [Alan Lomax, The Folk Songs of North America in the English Language. p. 282.]

Yet, „Dark as a Dungeon“ was written a long way away from Kentucky. In his book, Only a Miner , Archie Green tells the story of its composition.

„Shortly before his Hollywood recording session, Travis was returning home from a Redondo Beach date. While reminiscing with his girlfriend about his childhood, the song‘s images as well as a tune had come to mind. On the way home, he pulled his car up under a streetlamp and scribbled the stanzas on the back of an old envelope. Later, in the studio, he transferred the text to a cardboard propped against the microphone and worked out the melody on his guitar.“ [Archie Green, Only a Miner, p.286.]

related website

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Merle Travis

Merle Travis was born on November 29, 1917 in Rosewood in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. When Merle was a boy, his father gave up tobacco farming and in 1926, the family moved to Ebenezer, where his father had found work in a coal mine. There Merle ended his eight years of schooling. His father had taught him the two-finger banjo style at age six. He had learned to play the guitar from two miners, Mose Rager and Ike Everly, the father of the Everly Brothers. Merle utilized the banjo technique and developed the so-called „Travis picking.“

In 1935, Travis was playing with the Tennessee Tomcats in Evansville, Indiana, later with the Georgia Wildcats. In 1937, he joined the Drifting Pioneers, who played for station WLW in Cincinnati. Travis joined the WLW Boone County Jamboree, where, together with Grandpa Jones and the Delmore Brothers, he was part of the informal group Brown's Ferry Four.

During the Second World War Merle Travis served with the Marines. After release from the service, he settled in California, where he played in various western swing bands. For Capitol Records, he had a number of hits: „Divorce Me C.O.D.“, „No Vacancy“, and „So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed“. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

In 1948, Travis developed the first solid-body electric guitar for Fender. He also appeared in movies, From Here to Eternity and in the Clint Eastwood movie Honky Tonk Man .

In 1971, Merle Travis was featured on the Will the Circle Be Unbroken project. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Famein 1977. But Travis fell victim to drug and alcohol abuse. He died in October 1983.

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Merle Travis: "Nine Pound Hammer"
Merle Travis: "Cannonball Rag"

Best of Merle Travis, Rhino
Folk Songs of the Hills, Capitol AD 50 , CD
Guitar Rags and a Too Far Past, Bear Family
Guitar Retrospective, CMH
Guitar Standards, CMH
Light Singin' and Heavy Pickin', CMH
Rough, Rowdy, and Blue, CMH
Merle Travis Story, CMH
Travis Pickin', CMH
Walkin' the Strings, Capitol

(with Joe Maphis)
Country Guitar Giants, CMH

(with Mac Wiseman)
Clayton McMichon Story, CMH

(with Grandpa Jones)
Merle and Grandpa's Farm and Home, CMH

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Goin' Across the Mountain

Goin' across the mountain
Oh, fare you well,
Goin' across the mountain,
You can hear my banjo tell.

Got my rations on my back
My powder it is dry
I'm a-goin' across the mountain
Chrissie, don't you cry.

Goin' across the mountain
To join the boys in Blue
When this war is over
I'll come back to you.

Goin' across the mountain
If I have to crawl
To give old Jeff's men
A little of my rifle ball.

Way before it's good daylight
If nothing happens to me
I'll be way down yonder
In old Tennessee .

I expect you'll miss me when I'm gone
But I'm goin' through
When this war is over
I'll come back to you.

Goin' across the mountain
Oh fare you well
Goin' across the mountain
Oh fare you well

recordings of “Goin' Across the Mountain”
Frank Proffitt, Frank Proffitt, Folk-Legacy FSA-1, LP
Pete Seeger, Dangerous Songs, Columbia CD65261, CD

musical notation
Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne & Frank Warner Collection, Anne Warner, Syracuse University Press, 1984.

Goin‘ Across the Mountain

When the nation was divided between North and South in 1861, the line of division was not clear cut. Though the southern states spoke of „states rights,“ the right of states to reject federal laws, the deeper cause of the conflict was slavery and the different life styles and economic systems which grew up in the two halves of the country. Yet a few slave states remained loyal to the Union and not every Southerner was willing to fight for the division of the nation.

In the Appalachians, there had never been large numbers of slaves, but there had been a large number of free Blacks. Some Whites rejected slavery on moral grounds, the Quakers and many Germans, also some Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians. Others rejected slavery for other reasons. There was a rivalry between the people of the mountains and the people of the lowlands, where the owners of large plantations were in possession not only of slaves but also political power. The plantation owners rejected, for example, a public school system and had their children educated by private tutors. The poor mountaineers suffered from the system. Many of them supported the idea of free labor because free laborers and craftsmen could be pressured and forced to work for low wages by the existence of slaves. In Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky , many slaves were put to work in industry, which cost Whites jobs.

The Civil War divided the people of the Appalachians, but less in the moral question of slavery than in the question of national unity. Many people in the Appalachians felt closer emotional ties to the Federal Government than the power brokers of the South. The eastern part of Tennessee, for example, voted by a large majority against secession from the Union, 34,000 to 7550. From no other state did so many men serve in the Northern army than Tennessee. The Civil War crisis heated up old conflicts between the people of the mountains and the lowlands. The people of the Appalachians were divided, town against town, county against county, family against family, often brother against brother. Maybe a third of the population strongly supported the Union. The war left behind a deep scar in Appalachian society.

In the mountainous section of Virginia, 27 counties resisted secession and organized a new government. In 1863, West Virginia was admitted as a new, seperate state. It took that long, however, because the first two drafts of the new state constitution had not forbidden slavery. That is to say, the loyalty to the Federal Government was not based on opposition to slavery. In northern Alabama, eight to ten thousand supporters of the United States attempted to organize a new state. In Pickens County, Georgia, the Stars and Stripes waved throughout the war.

In the mountains of North Carolina, many men faced a conflict of conscience. As mountain farmers, they had to work hard to survive. They had little in common with the big farmers who lived from the labor of slaves and there was precious little love lost. In the counties bordering Tennessee: Henderson, Transylvania, Yancy, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga, Ash and Allegheny, there was strong support for the Federal Government. An underground railway was organized, this time not with the intention of smuggling slaves north but young white men who were willing to fight for the North.

Frank Proffitt 's grandfather, a supporter of Abraham Lincoln, was among those „southern Yankees“ who went over the mountains. Frank Proffitt learned „Goin‘ Across the Mountain“ from his father Wiley Proffitt. He explained that the melody was a banjo piece and also a play party, a song that accompanied a children‘s game.

The division in the society was to have serious effects during the postwar period. After the end of the federally controlled Reconstruction, the old elites regained power. The rebellious mountain areas were neglected by the state governments. This facilitated the later exploitation of the Appalachians .

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Songs of the American Civil War

The Civil War (1861-1865) was an orgy of blood which saved the nation and shaped its future. It was the first modern war with mass armies and mass death and in the end was directed against the civilian population. But this war produced songs, many songs. Irwin Silber estimates the number at about ten thousand. ( The Songs of the Civil War , edited by Irwin Silber. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960, p. 4. ) Many are still known today: „Dixie,“ „The Battle Hymn of the Republic,“ or „When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.“ A dance well-known in the Southern army, „Soldier‘s Joy,“ is loved by instrumentalists all over the world today. „Maryland, My Maryland,“ a song written to demand the secession of the state from the Union – which did not happen – became the state song of Maryland in 1939. Another song survived in an altered form. The melody of the Civil War ballad „Annie Liste“ was made popular by Elvis Presley as „Love Me Tender.“

Music probably played a greater role in the Civil War than in any other war. Many regiments had their own band. At first, musicians received double-pay. So many bands were formed and they became so expensive that the War Department ordered them disbanded. Yet by the end of the war, fifty still survived. Southern general J.E.B. Stuart made sure he was always accompanied by a fiddler and a banjo player. Singing was a popular way to pass the time in both armies. Many songs gained popularity in both halves of the country, some melodies receiving different lyrics in the North and the South. Songs were composed about battles, generals, bad food, about dying comrades, about mother and also about slavery. Among the most well-known composers were George F. Root and Henry Clay Work. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln is said to have inspired at least five hundred songs.

Music publishers saw to it that songs were published quickly and became widely known. The sheet music of the first song about the outbreak of the war, „The First Gun is Fired! May God Protect the Right,“ by George F. Root, could be purchased three days after the first shots were fired. Many of the songs composed during the war passed into the oral tradition. Needless to say, Blacks, be they slave or soldier, also formed new songs out of their musical tradition.

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Allan‘s Lone Star Ballads: A Collection of Southern Patriotic Songs, made during Confederate Times, Francis D. Allan. Galveston, Texas: J. D. Sawyer, 1874.
Ballads & Songs of the Civil War, Wayne Erbsen. MB200.
The Civil War Songbook: Complete Original Sheet Music for 37 Songs, Richard Crawford. New York: Dover Publishers, 1977.
Confederate Music, Richard B. Harwell. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1950.
The Rebel Songster. Songs the Confederates Sang, Manly W. Wellman. Charlotte, NC : Heritage Hause, 1959.
Rousing Songs and True Tales of the Civil War, Wayne Erbsen, Native Ground Books NGB-950.
The Sable Arm Black Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865 , Dudley Cornish. Lawrence, Kansas University Press of Kansas, 1987
The Singing Sixties: The Spirit of Civil War Days, Willard Heaps Norman, 0klahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.
Singing Soldiers A History of the Civil War in Song, Paul Glass & Louis C. Singer. New York: Da Capo Press 1975.
The Songs of the Civil War, compiled and edited by Irwin Silber. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960.

Authentic Songs of the Civil War
, Rhino
Wayne Erbsen, Ballads & Songs of the Civil War, Native Ground NG-CD-004, CD
Sparky & Rhonda Rucker, The Blue and Gray in Black and White, Flying Fish CD611
Chants de la Guerre de Secession, Folkways/Le Chant du Monde FWX-55717
The Civil War, Elektra/Nonesuch, Filmmusik der PBS Serie The Civil War
Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, Civil War Classics, FAD-CD102
Jim Taylor, The Civil War Collection, Pearm-CD004
Wayne Erbsen, The Home Front, Native Ground CD006
Glory, Virgin Records. Music in the spirit of the Civil War
Just Before the Battle; Being personal Interpretations of the Music of the Civil War, JMS Productions
Wayne Erbsen, Love Songs of the Civil War, Native Ground NG-009-CD
Songs of Faith 1861-1865, Homespun
Songs of the Civil War, CMH-CD8028
Songs of the Civil War, Columbia/Sony, produced by Jim Brown and Ken Burns for the PBS series The Civil War .
Pete Seeger, Songs of the Civil War, Folkways FH 5717
Songs of the Civil War: Battlefields and Campfires, Vol. 1, Smoothbore Music. The 97th Regimental String Band
Songs of the Civil War: Tenting on the Old Camp Ground, Vol 4, Smoothbore Music. The 97th Regimental String Band
Songs of the CSA, Homespun
Songs of the Union Army, Homespun
Wayne Erbsen, Southern Soldier Boy, Native Ground, NG-CD-005 CD

Songs of the Civil War in Internet

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return to American Folk Music

Pat Works on the Railway

I put my corderoy breeches on
I put my corderoy breeches on
To work upon the railway.

To work on the railway.

I left the old world for the new,
Bad cess to the luck that brought me through
To work upon the Railway

T'was then I met sweet Biddy McGhee
She's been an elegant wife to me
While working on the railway.

I thought I couldn't take no more,
I thought I couldn't no more
Of working on the railway.

I felt myself more dead than alive,
I felt myself more dead than alive,
While working on the railway.

They pelted me with stones and sticks.
I was in a hell of a fix,
Working on the railway.

It's Pat do this and Pat do that
Without a stocking or cravat,
With nothing but an old straw hat
Working on the railway.

Sweet Biddy McGee she went to heaven,
If she left one child she left eleven
To work upon the railway

I learned to drink the whisky straight
It's an elegant drink that can't be beat
For working on the railway.

recordings of “Pat Works on the Railway”
Bree Barley, Castles in the Air, Shanachie 52010, LP
Sam Hinton, Real McCoy, Decca DL 857, LP
Pete Seeger, Frontier Ballads – Vol. II, Folkways FA2176, 10“
Pete Seeger, Pete Seeger, Archive of Folksong FS-201, LP
Pete Seeger, A Pete Seeger Concert, Tradition 2107

musical notation
The American Songbag, Carl Sandburg and Garrison Keillor, Harcourt Brace, 1990.
Song Fest
Fireside Book of Folksongs, Margaret Boni & Norman Lloyd, Simon & Schuster, 1947.

Pat Works on the Railway

During the 19th century, the United States was busy building its infrastructure. The construction of roads, canals and the railroad demanded large numbers of unskilled laborers. The United States had always suffered from a labor shortage and it was worsened by the fact that few Americans were willing to do heavy physical labor. The country looked to Europe. During the first quarter of the 19th century, Ireland was the most thickly populated country in Europe and many young Irishmen sought their fortune in America . In 1827, around twenty thousand Irish arrived in the United States . In 1832, the number had increased to more than 65,000.

In 1845, Ireland was hit by the potato blight, which destroyed from a third to half the potato crop on which the rural population was almost totally dependent. The following year was even worse for stores of food had been used up. Half a million people died. The blight led to the collapse of the Irish economy. More and more animals died or were slaughtered because the potato peelings which had been used for feed were no longer available. Commerce broke down.

Before the potato blight, emigration to America had been looked upon as going into exile. After the outbreak of the blight, it could mean the alternative to death. The mass migration was worsened by the fact that British landowners drove Irish off the land in order to create larger pastures. Many came with the conviction that Ireland was damned. Up to 1864, two and a half million Irish had immigrated to America; by 1929 it was up to four and a half million and the migration continued. During the crossing, packed into unhealthy, poorly provisioned ships – “coffin ships” - weakened by hunger, the emigrants died like flies. For the Irish though, their misery did not end when they arrived in the New World. Most of the Irish immigrant were unskilled laborers, many, if not most, spoke no English. At first, they remained in the big cities, where they helped build the urban infrastructure: streets, sewers, gas and water systems, The women worked as cooks, nannies or cleaning women. A very large number of Irish joined the police and fire departments. Gradually, they conquered a prominent place in local politics.

The Irish suffered discrimination and hate when they came to America. They were the first very large group of non-English immigrants and on top of that they were Catholic. It was said, the Irish were criminals and morally decadent. Job ads often carried the notice, „NINA“, no Irish need apply.

After the Civil War, many Irish built the Union Pacific Railway, which met the Central Pacific in Utah and completed the transcontinental connection. So many died that it was said, „There is an Irishman buried under every tie.“ The railroad companies exploited them and cheated them for half their pay. [Out of Ireland – The Story of Irish Emigration to America , Shanancie-CD79092]

The Irish In America: Long Journey Home
Walt Disney Video, 1998

Irish in America: Losing Their Identity
From Huddled Masses to the White House

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Rolling Down to Old Maui

It‘s a damn tough life full of toil and strife we whalemen undergo
And we don‘t give damn when the gale is done how hard the winds did blow
‘Cause we‘re homeward bound from the Arctic Ground with a good ship taut and free
And we won‘t give a damn when we drink our rum with the girls of Old Maui

Rolling down to Old Maui, me boys, rolling down to Old Maui
We‘re homeward bound from the Arctic Ground
Rolling down to Old Maui.

Once more we sail with the northerly gale through the ice and wind and rain
Them coconut fronds, them tropical lands we soon shall see again
Six hellish months we‘ve passed away on the cold Kamchatka Sea
But now, we‘re bound from the Arctic Ground, rolling down to old Maui

Once more we sail with the northerly gale towards our island home
Our main mast sprung, our whaling done and we ain‘t got far to roam
Our stun‘s‘l bones is carried away, what care we for that sound
A living gale is after us, thank God we‘re homeward bound

How soft the breeze through the island trees, now the ice is far a-stern
Them native maids, them tropical glades is awaiting our return
Even now their big brown eyes look out hoping some fine day to see
Our baggy sails, running ‘fore the gales, rolling down to old Maui

recordings of “Rolling Down to Old Maui”
Ancient Orphic Mystery Band, Troubadour TR-9, LP (“Old Maui”)
David Coffin, Homeward Bound, Revels 2002, CD
Ian Giles Group, Sea Shanties, Gift of Music CCL CD10
Howling Gael, Second Wind, Grassroots GR 008, LP 1980
Morrigan, By Land and Sea, Folkways FTS 37321, LP
Stan Rogers, Between the Breaks…Live, Fogarty's Cove FCM, LP 1979

Rolling Down to Old Maui

The legend has it that Hawai'i-loa and eight other seafarers traveled 2000 miles from the Marquesa Islands to discover the uninhabited island of Maui and the other islands which were to become known as Hawai'i . That was sometime between 500 and 750 AD.

In the 12 th century, Tahitians arrived in Maui . The Tahitian chiefs became the ali'i , the ruling class, introduced the Tahitian religion and the kapu system, a rigid social structure which became the foundation of Hawaiian society.

Not until about 1550 was the rivalry among the competing ali'i of Maui settled when Ali'i Pi'iloni united all of Maui . After his death, his two sons fought for the control of the island. Kiha-a-pi'ilani emerged as the ruler of Maui thanks to the help of warriors from Hawai'i .

From the coming of the Tahitians until the arrival of the British explored Captain James Cook, the Hawaiians had virtually no contact with the outside world. Cook landed in Kahului Bay on Maui in November 26, 1778. It was a watershed in the history of Maui and the other islands, disrupting the native culture and leading to violent clashes. Cook himself was killed in Maui at Kealakekua Bay on February 14, 1779. In 1786, the French explorer Captain Jean-Francois La Pérouse became the first Westerner to settle in Maui .

Shortly before the coming of Captain Cook, the ruler of the island of Hawai'i , Kamehemeha I, had begun invading the adjecent islands in an attempt to establish a united Kingdom of Hawai'i . In 1776, just two years before the arrival of Cook, an attack on Maui had been repelled. But a second invasion in 1790 ended in the conquest of Maui . His success had been made possible through the acquisition of superior weapons from the British. In 1802, Kamehameha I had a palace built in Lahaina.

The first Christian mission in Maui was established in 1823 in Lahaina by Reverend Richards. Almost at the same time, whaling began to boom and brought with it less desirable influences of Western society. One of the most important tasks of the missionaries was the education of the local population. Instruction was in Hawaiian. Because Hawaiian had no written language, the missionaries developed a written language based on a 12-letter alphabet. From 1835, all the children of Maui over the age of four were required to attend school, where they were taught reading, writing and the Bible. By mid-century, the Hawaiian islands had the highest literacy rate in the world.

The Westerners who came to Hawai'i also brought with them diseases to which the native Hawaiian population had no resistance. Viruses such as measles had devastating effects on the Hawaiians, soon radically changing the ratio of natives to immigrants. During the first century after the arrival of James Cook, the number of native Hawaiians was reduced from perhaps 300,000 to less than 54,000.

With the rapid expansion of trade and whaling in the Pacific, Lahaina became a major port. By the 1840s, hundreds of ships anchored there, bringing with them merchants, prostitution, saloons and gambling.

But the island was changing in other ways as well. The island's first sugar plantation had been established in Hana. After an 1853-1854 smallpox epidemic had killed many Hawaiians, devastating the work force, large numbers of immigrants came from China , Japan , the Philippines and to a lesser extent Europe came to Maui to work in the cane fields. Americans began to invest in pineapple and sugar plantations and their influence was increasing. This eventually led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. In the following year, the American pineapple tycoon Jim Dole became governor of the Republic of Hawaii . The United States annexed Hawai'i in 1898. Hawai'i became the 50 th state of the United States in 1959.

“Rolling Down to Old Maui” is a song from the middle of the 19 th century, from the golden age of whaling, from the time described in the novel Mody Dick . A version of the song was found in the 1858 log of the ship Atkins Adams and included in Gale Huntington's collection, Songs the Whaleman Sang . It is not a shanty, but a song sung by sailors off-duty. Like most old folk songs, there are many verses and versions.

Already in 1819 the Hawaiian islands were serving British and American whalers as a provisioning station. The whaling trips lasted three to four months. The whalers met in Maui or Oahu twice a year, in March and November. In the summer, they hunted along the Kamchatka Peninsula and further north in the Arctic Sea . In the winter, the whalers were in the South Pacific. Among the whalers, who might very well have heard or sung this song was Herman Melville. At the highpoint of Pacific whaling, as many as 400 ships wintered in Hawai'i . In the 1840s seamen spent as much as $15 million annually in Hawai'i. By the 1860s, the great age of whaling in the Pacific was past. The decline in the whale population, the use of new raw materials such as petroleum and the disruptions of the Civil War accelerated it end.

Shanties and Sea Songs
International Shanty and Seasong Association
Maritime History on the Internet
Maui Historical Society
Pacific Whale Foundation Maui
Hawai'i and its history

discography of songs of the sea:
Shanties and Songs of the Sea, Johnny Collins
Air Mail Music: Sea Shanties, Johnny Collins and the Windjammers
Sailor's Songs & Sea Shanties, various artists
Roast Beef of Old England, Starboard Mess
Sea Shanties Volume I, various artists
Sea Shanties Volume II, various artists
Sailing and Whaling Songs, Paul Clayton
Blow Ye Winds in the Morning, the Revels
Blow the Man Down, various artists
Blow Boys Blow
Sea Songs and from the Last Days of Sail, various artists.
Away You Shanty! - Traditional Sea Songs and Chanteys
, Wickford Express.
Seven Seas, William Pint and Felicia Dale.
Hearts of Gold, William Pint and Felicia Dale.
Round the Corner, William Pint and Felicia Dale.
Songs of the Tall Ships/Cruising 'Round Yardmouth, Starboard List.
American Sea Shanties and Songs, various artists. From the Library of Congress collection.
West-Sud-West - Shanties and Sailors' Songs, De Buddelschipper

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Immigrant Eyes
Guy Clark

click here for lyrics

recordings of “Immigrant Eyes”:
Guy Clark, Old Friends, Sugar Hill SH-CD 1025, CD
Dolores Keane, Solid Ground, DARA DARA CD 065, CD („Emigrant Eyes“)

Immigrant Eyes

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Every child in America is taught that. And the country is a melting pot. That all sounds clear and simple, but history is more complex. First of all, it excludes the peoples native to the continent. Their distant ancestors were surely also immigrants, but after at least 30,000 years it seems fair to consider them natives.

In school children are taught that people came to America to seek freedom. That is surely true in a sense, but as often as not they were fleeing from something rather than to something. The goal was to flee their old life. Emigrating to America was a way out when conditions seemed unbearable, be it Irish, who were fleeing hunger, Germans, who were forced to leave their homeland after the revolution of 1848, Scandinavians, who were unable to acquire land in the own country, Mexicans, who fled from poverty, or Vietnamese, who had to leave their home after the American war. Many came of their own free will. A large portion were „economic refugees.“ They were less concerned with the ideal of freedom than their own economic advancement.

The immigrants were rarely made to feel welcome. Up to the 20 th century, America desperately needed workers and settlers, yet the newcomers often faced mistrust and rejection. Anti-foreign, or „nativist“ movements are just as much a part of American history as immigration. As a rule, the immigrants remained strangers in their new land, with an incomplete command of the language, without the hoped-for economic success. It was usually the second generation which reaped the fruits of their parents deeds.

The melting pot legend should also be scrutinized a bit more closely. There is much truth in it. People of many different nationalities were successfully Americanized. The children of the immigrants learned the new language, the grandchildren could no longer speak the old one and married a partner of a different national background. That has been the common path of Americanization. But the process has certainly not always been so peaceful, voluntary and rarely as complete as the legend suggests. Every wave of immigrants brought it culture with in and changed their new home. What it means to be an American has always been constantly changing. And some national groups have been astonishingly resistant to assimilation.

Up to the American Civil War, for example, the Germans in America were looked upon with great mistrust. They stuck together and many of their ways were disconcerting to the „Americans.“ Instead of spending Sundays at home with the family, they enjoyed sitting in beer gardens listening to brass bands. Many were Catholics or freethinkers. But with time, they became accepted although they retained their language, had their own organizations and newspapers and formed a community within the larger American community. They were, after all, hard-working and law-abiding.

Then the First World War broke out. The German-American community took the Kaiser's side and did what it could to keep the United States out of the war. When the United States did enter the war against Germany , a wave of patriotic passion hit the „Germans,“ although they proved entirely loyal to their country. It became fashion to question the loyalty of all „hyphenated Americans.“ But the „Germans“ were the most visible target. They were physically attacked, German stores were demolished, German newspapers banned, German language instruction dropped from school the curricula. The German community in the United States did not survive the war. Many a German-American as well as other „hyphenated Americans“ anglicized the names.

Yet the cultures of the immigrants never perished entirely, not even the German. The United States continues to be and is perhaps increasingly a multi-cultural society. For example, one can still hear music from Germany , Spain , Finland , Norway , Poland and many other cultures. The Irish musical tradition in America is especially lively.

Then there were the other „immigrants,“ the entirely involuntary ones, the Africans. Every effort was made to rob them of their cultural identities and languages, and yet at the same time not allowing them to integrate themselves into the American society until well into the 20th century, a process as yet not completed, one that perhaps never will be. Still, the influence of the African-Americans on American culture, especially music, is immeasurable.

Being a land of immigrants means being a land which is a constantly changing mosaic. When a piece is lost, another is added and the picture becomes ever more colorful.

In 1890, the Immigration Service made Ellis Island, a former munitions storage area, a mile from Manhatten and half a mile from the Statue of Liberty, the new reception center for immigrants. The old center, Castle Gardens in Manhatten, could no longer handle the crush. The new center on Ellis Island was opened on January 1, 1892, just in time for the big wave of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The island was even enlarged from 3 to almost 25 acres with earth from the construction of the New York subway.

When a ship arrived, passengers in first and second class were allowed to land after a brief interview on board ship. The other passengers were numbered and brought to Ellis Island. They had to stand in long lines. First, they were checked by a doctor for infectious diseases, psychiatric disorders or disabilities which could prevent them from making a living. With the help of translators, they were interviewed. Twenty-nine questions had to be answered. Along with the usual biographical questions, one was asked if one were an anarchist. Then one was accepted or rejected.

The whole procedure lasted from two to five hours. About 5% (1000 to 10,000) were rejected each month. Some of those rejected committed suicide.

Hundreds of engaged or long separated couples married on the island. Catholic priests were almost always present and clergymen from other denominations could be called on short notice.

Under the new more restrictive immigration laws, the number of immigrants dropped radically during and after the First World War. During the Second World War, illegal aliens were detained on the island. In 1954, the history of Ellis Island as reception center came to an end. More than twenty million immigrants had passed through the center. The ancestors of 40% on all Americans entered the country by way of Ellis Island.

Photographic Tour of Ellis Island

discography of ethnic music in the United States:
The World in Our Backyard (Music in and around New York City: Irish, Bulgarian, Thai, Peruvian, Portuguese, Hungarian, Jordanien and more), Chub CD1005
Deep Polka: Dance Music from the Midwest (German, Polish, Slovenian, Czech, Finnish, Croatian, and Norwegian), Smithsonian Folkways CD40088
Texas-Czech, Bohemian – Moravian Bands 1929-1959, Arhoolie CD 7026
Music of New Mexico: Hispanic Traditions, Smithsonian Folkways, CD40409
The Texas-Mexican Conjunto – 1936-1966, Arhoolie Cas 9049
Pawlo Humeniuk, King of the Ukrainian Fiddlers, Arhoolie CD7025
The Wheels of the World Vol. 1: Early Irish-American Music, Yazoo-CD7009
Klezmania: Klezmer for the New Millennium, Shenachie CD67007
Masters: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Instrumental Collection, Dancing Cat-CD38032
Les flemmes d'enfer/ Flames of Hell: Best of Cajun/Zydeco Tradition Swamp Music Vol. 1, Trikont US 0156-E/U
Aziz Herawi, Master of Afghani Lutes, Arhooloe CD 387

Guy Clark

Guy Clark was born on November 6, 1941 in Monahans, in the West of Texas, between Pecos and Odessa. His father was in the army and his mother worked, so Guy was raised mostly by his grandmother, who ran the town hotel. When he was six years old, the family moved to Rockport, on the Gulf of Mexico. His father, Ellis Clark, was a lawyer. His parents were not musical, but were interested in literature. In the evening, they read poetry, from Robert Service to Stephan Vincent Benet. A colleague of his father played the guitar and sang Mexican songs. “My father‘s law partner, Lola Bonner, played Mexican music. When I heard her play guitar the attraction was just instantaneous. It was so beautiful and mystical. The next time I went to Mexico I bought a cheap guitar. I came back and learned everything I could from her; the first songs I learned were mostly in Spanish. When you live in South Texas, there are so many musical styles that you‘re also exposed to and influenced by blues, country, Cajun, and Mexican, as well as the music of the European people who settled there, people from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.“ (booklet in the CD Boats to Build, Guy Clark. Elektra 61442.)

After high school and attendance at several colleges, Clark landed in Houston and came into contact with John Lomax, Jr. and the Houston Folklore Society. He got to hear singers like Lightning Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. He also met Jerry Jeff Walker and Townes Van Zandt and sang in coffee houses in Houston, Dallas, and Austin. In the sixties, he moved to the west coast. While living in San Francisco, he met and married Susanne, a painter. They relocated to Los Angeles, where Guy found a job with the Dopyera Brothers factory, where Dobros were built. (Guy is today himself a guitar-builder.) After returning from California, he worked for a year as art director at a television station. With the suppost of his wife, he decided to make music his career. In 1971, the Clarks moved to Nashville to sell his songs, which met with ever-increasing success. Susanne Clark, a painter, also began to write songs. In the early seventies, Guy Clark signed a recording contract with RCA, but it took almost three years to complete Old Nr. 1, which was released in 1975. The album received critical acclaim, but was not a commercial success. In 1976, Texas Cookin‘ was released and two years later Guy Clark.

Though an excellent entertainer, Guy Clark prefers to stay at home and work on new songs rather than tour extensively. His reputation as a songwriter is testified to by the incredible list of singers who have covered his songs: Emmy Lou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Waylon Jennings, Rosanne Cash, Jerry Jeff Walker, the Earl Scruggs Revue, the Everly Brothers, Jim Ed Brown, Rita Coolidge, Tom Rush, David Allen Coe, Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, John Conlee, Steve Wariner, the Highwaymen, George Strait, and Rodney Crowell.

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Guy Clark in internet

Guy Clark: "Dublin Blues"
Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris: "Black Diamond Strings"


Boats to Build, Elektra 61442, CD
Craftsman, Philo, CD1185/5, CD
The Dark, Sugar Hill, SUG-CD 1070
Dublin Blues, Elektra 61725, CD
The Essential Guy Clark, RCA CD67404, CD
Keepers: A Live Recording, Sugar Hill CD1055, CD
Old Friends, Sugar Hill SH-CD-1025, CD
Old No. 1, Sugar Hill CD1030, CD
Texas Cookin', Sugar Hill CD1031, CD
Workbench Songs, Dualtone 80302-01239-2, CD

Nick Evans & Jeff Horne, Songbuilder: The Life and Music of Guy Clark. Amber Waves, 1998.

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