I’m on My Way Back to the Old Home
Bill Monroe

Back in the days of my childhood,
In the evening when everything was still,
I used to sit and listen to the foxhounds
With my dad in them old Kentucky hills.

I’m on my way back to the old home,
The roads winds on up the hill,
But there’s no light in the window,
That shined long ago where I live.

Soon my childhood days were over,
I had to leave my old home,
For Mother and Dad were called to heaven,
I was left in this world all alone.

High in the hills of old Kentucky,
Stands the fondest spot in my memory.
I’m on my way back to the old home,
The light in the window I long to see.


recordings of “I’m On My Way Back to the Old Home”
Red Allen, Lonesome and Blue: The Complete County Recordings
Red Allen and the Kentuckians, Bluegrass Country, County 704, LP
Everly Brothers, Silver Meteor; A Progressive Country Anthology, Sierra/Briar
RS-8706, LP
Nate Leath, I’ve Always Been a Rambler
Del McCoury, True Life Blues. The Songs of Bill Monroe, Sugar Hill SHCD-2209, CD
Bill Monroe, Bluegrass Breakdown
Bill Monroe, High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music, CMH CD-8007, CD
Bill Monroe, The Music of Bill Monroe from 1936 to 1994, MCA MCA D4 11048, CD
Bill Monroe, The World’s Greatest Bluegrass Live
Chris Montgomery, Faded Memories,Star SLP12690, Cas
New Lost City Ramblers, There Ain't No Way Out, Smithsonian/Folkways SF CD 40098, CD
Peter Rowan, The First Whipporwill
Shoregrass, Going Home
Ralph Stanley, Live! At McClure
Gilian Welch, Music from the Revelator Collection
Vern Williams, Traditional Bluegrass

youTube: "I'm on My Way Back to the Old Home"


I’m on My Way Back to the Old Home

When Bill Monroe was a young boy, the road in front of his house was used only by wagon teams. It was, however, the main road to Rosine. Whoever wanted to go to Rosine, had to pass the house. Most stopped. With „I’m On My Way Back to the Old Home“ he spoke to a generation which, like himself, had to leave home for economic reasons.



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All Used Up
Bruce Philips

I spent my whole life making somebody rich
I busted my ass for that son-of-bitch
And he left me to die like a dog in a ditch
And told me I'm all used up
He used up my labor, he used up my time
He plundered my body and squandered my mind
And gave me a pension of handouts and wine
And told me I’m all used up.

My kids are in hock to a god they call work
Slaving their lives for some other jerk
My youngest in Frisco just made shipping clerk
And he doesn't know I'm all used up
Young people reaching for power and gold
Don't have respect for anything old
For pennies they're bought and for promises sold
Someday they'll all be used up.

They use up the oil, they use up the trees
They use us the air and they use up the sea
Well, how about you, friend, and how about me?
What's left when were all used up?
I’ll finish my life in this crummy hotel
It's lousy with bugs and my God, what a smell!
But my plumbing still works and I’m clear as a bell
Don’t tell me I’m all used up.

Outside my window the world passes by
It gives me a handout and spits in my eye
And no one can tell me, cause no one knows why
I'm livin', but I'm all used up
Sometimes in my dreams I sit by a tree
My life is a book of how things used to be
And kids gather 'round and listen to me
And they don't think I'm all used up.

And there's songs and there's laughter and things I can do
And all that I've learned I can give back to you
I'd give my last breath just to make it come true
No, I'm not used up
They use up the oil, they use up the trees
They use us the air and they use up the sea
Well, how about you, friend, and how about me?
Whats left when we're all used up?

recordings of “All Used Up”:
Utah Phillips, All Used Up: A Scrapbook, Philo PH-1050, LP
Utah Phillips, The Long Memory, Red House RHR CD83, CD
Utah Phillips, The Telling Takes Me Home, Philo PH 1210, CD
Utah Phillips, Starlight on the Rails: A Songbook. Daemon Records, 2005. CD.
John McCutcheon, Singing Through the Hard Times: A Tribute to Utah Phillips. Righteous Babe, 2009. CD.

musical notation of “All Used Up”
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.

Utah Phillips: "All Used Up"


All Used Up

Utah Phillips: „’All Used Up‘ was written for an old man in Spokane, Washington, who sat in the window of the Clem Hotel day after day gazing out at the parking lot - one of those booming workers who used to come into Spokane looking for a job, and now, too old to work, jungles up in the flops, waiting to die. All used up.“[Booklet in the CD The Long Memory, Rosalie Sorrels, U. Utah Phillipp. Red House RHR CD83]
When I was a young man, I travelled through the American Northwest and the Canadian Southwest, usually hitchhiking, and stayed in those run-down hotels in the old parts of Seattle or Vancouver, hotels no tourist of businessman would frequent. The residents were old people, mostly men, who were, at the end of their lives, stranded there. No one cared about them, but what was worse, no one even took note of their continued existence. They were people who had done the dirty, poorly-paid jobs. Few had a pension, most lived from meager welfare payments. They were “all used up”, no longer economically useful; they had become refuge in our society.



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Irma Jackson
Merle Haggard

I’d like to shout my feelings from a mountain high,
Tell the world I love her and I will til I die.
There’s no way the world will understand that love is colorblind.
That’s why Irma Jackson can’t be mine.
I remember when no one cared about us being friends.
We were only children and it really didn’t matter then.
But we grew up too quickly in a world that draws a line,
Where they say Irma Jackson can’t be mine.

If my lovin’ Irma Jackson is a sin,
Then I don’t understand this crazy world we’re livin’ in.
There’s a mighty wall between us standing high,
But I’ll love Irma Jackson til I die.
She tells me she’s decided that she’ll go away,
And I guess it’s right that she alone should have the final say.
But in spite of her decision forcing us to say good-bye,
I’ll still love Irma Jackson til I die.

recording of "Irma Jackson":
Merle Haggard: "Down Every Road 1962-1994.

Merle Haggard: "Irma Jackson"


Irma Jackson

After the controversy over his song „Okie from Muskogee,“ which led many to brand him a political right-winger, Merle Haggard wanted to release „Irma Jackson“ as his next single. Capitol Records advised against it. At the time, sexual relationships between Blacks and Whites were still taboo.

return to list of all songs
return to song of the month







The Railroad Corral
Joseph Mills Hanson

We're up in the morning at breaking of day,
The chuck wagon's busy, the flapjacks in play.
The herd is astir over hillside and vale
With the night riders crowding them onto the trail.
Come take up your cinches and shake out your reins,
Come wake your old bronco and break for the plains.
Come roust out your steers from the long chaparral
For the outfit is off to the railroad corral.
The sun circles upward, the steers as they plod
Are pounding to powder the hot prairie sod.
And it seems, as the dust makes you dizzy and sick
That we'll never reach noon and the cool shady creek.
But tie up your kerchief and ply up your nag
Come dry up your grumbles and try not to lag.
Come drive out your steers from the long chaparral
For we're far on the road to the railroad corral.
The afternoon shadows are starting to lean,
When the chuck wagon sticks in a marshy ravine.
The herd scatters farther than vision can look
You can bet all the punchers will help out the cook.
Come shake out your rawhide and shake it up fair
Come break your old bronco and take in your share.
Come roust out your steers from the long chapparal
For its all in the drive to the railroad corral.
But the longest of days must reach evening at last,
The hills are all climbed and the creeks are all passed.
The tired herd droops in the yellowing light
Let 'em loaf if they will, for the railroad's in sight.
So flap up your holster and snap up your belt
And strap up your saddle whose lap you have felt.
Good bye to the steers from the long chapparal
There's a town that's a trump by the railroad corral.

recordings of “The Railroad Corral”
Roy Rogers And Dale Evans, „16 Great Songs Of The Old West
Fiddlin' Pete Watercott, „Folk Songs and Fiddle Tunes Volume Two
Steve Eckels, „Cowboy Classics
Michael Martin Murphey, „Tall Grass & Cool Water
Wayne Erbsen, „Railroadin' Classics
Rex Allen, „My Country
Rex Allen, „Cowboy Essentials
Gregg Smith Singers, „American Folk Songs
Don Edwards, „Saddle Songs
Rodger Maxwell, „Son of a Cowboy Singer Volume 2
Rex Trailer and The Playboys, „Country and Western
Juni Fisher, „Gone for Colorado

Musical notation:
Saddle Songs. A Cowboy Songbag. Don Edwards. Sevenshoux Enterprise Books, 2003.
Cowboy and Western Songs. A Comprehensive Anthology. Austin E. and Alta S. Fife. Creative Concepts Publishing Coorperation, 1969.

The Railroad Corral - Norman Luboff Choir.avi
Johnny Cash The Railroad Corral (a variation)


The Railroad Corral
The song „The Railroad Corral“ was written in 1904 by Joseph Mills Hanson. It was an adaptation of the old Scottish song “Bonnie Dundee.” It was published in the Frank Leslie’s Monthly Magazine under the title “Cowboy Song.” Six years later Hanson published a volume of his song texts, Frontier Ballads. In the same year, John A. Lomax included the song under the title “The Railroad Corral” in her pioneering book Cowboy Songs and other Frontier Ballads. That is to say, the song had already entered the oral tradition. In 1914, a part of the text was published in the Literary Digest as an example of a song with more than one unknown author. Hanson saw to it that this impression was corrected.
The song presents us with a picture of the last days of a cattle drive, when the cattle are loaded into railroad cars to be shipped to the markets in the East from one of a series of railroad heads in Kansas and later Nebraska. [see notes to “The Old Chisholm Trail] After the long, primitive trail drive, the then new technology of the railroad was necessary to bring the cattle to market. The cowboys also returned to Texas by rail. After the song entered the oral tradition, it was often adapted and added to, but all variations remain close to the original.


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Hungry Eyes/They're Tearing the Labor Camps Down

Hungry Eyes
Merle Haggard

A canvas-covered cabin in a crowded labor camp
Stand out in this memory I revive.
Cause my daddy raised a family there with two hard-working hands
And tried to feed my mama’s hungry eyes.

He dreamed of something better and Mama’s faith was strong,
And us kids were just too young to realize
That another class of people put us somewhere just below,
One more reason for my mama’s hungry eyes.

Mama never had the luxury she wanted,
But it wasn’t cause my daddy didn’t try.
She only wanted things she really needed,
One more reason for my mama’s hungry eyes.

I remember Daddy praying for a better way of life,
But I don’t recall a change of any size,
Just a little loss of courage as their age began to show,
And more sadness in my mama’s hungry eyes.

Merle Haggard, “Hungry Eyes”

They’re Tearing the Labor Camps Down
Merle Haggard
I came back to this ole town cause my home was here
And to try to find some things I'd left behind
Tho' I've only been away for just a few short years
But I'd forgot about the pace of modern times.
I saw changes all around me and some were good
But I hardly recognized my side of town
They tore down the swingin' casing from the cottonwood
And that tree was all that marked familar ground.
Oh, they're tearin' the labor camps down
And I feel a little sentimental shame
Where's a hungry man gonna live at in this town
Oh, they're tearin' the labor camps down.
The Hilltop family market had been moved somewhere
And the name was changed to fit the newer homes
The folks that I remember were no longer there
And the cabin that my daddy built was gone.

Merle Haggard, „They’re Tearing the Labor Camps Down“

Hungry Eyes/They're Tearing the Labor Camps Down

In the 1930’s the Farm Security Administration constructed labor camps to house the migrants from the Dust Bowl and elsewhere, who had come to work in agriculture in California. More than a dozen camps were being operated in California by 1940. After the outbreak of war, when unemployment virtually disappeared, the camps were continued, as a way of mobilizing enough farm laborers. During the war years, there were ninety-five camps capable of housing 75,000 people.
The camps were conceived to be more than temporary housing facilities, but complete communities. They had elected councils, a community court and committees to oversee the operation of the camp.
The growers as well as portions of the business community were opposed to the camps or any government help for the migrant workers. They feared unionisation and could only benefit for workers who were entirely dependent on them. Many who opposed the camps feared that the government was sponsoring communism.
In John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel the Grapes of Wrath, the Joads find refuge in a labor camps and Tom Joad is politicized in the camp. After the publication of the book, John Steinbeck’s life war threatened. [http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/fsahtml/fachap06.html]
Although Merle Haggard stands for the idea of “rugged individualism,“ in contrast to the socialist ideas of Woody Guthrie, he twice took up the subject of government labor camps, though camps which tried to ease the situation of the displaced “Okies.” „Hungry Eyes,“ written from the perspective of a child of the Dust Bowl refugees, is the story of people who didn’t „make it.“ Country music historian Bill Malone considers „Hungry Eyes“ Haggard’s best song. [Bill Malone, Country Music, U.S.A., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985, p. 294.] His song „They’re Tearing the Labor Camps Down“ laments the end of this institution.
“Hungry Eyes” was recorded in December 1968 and released in February of the following year. It was on Haggard’s 1969 album, “A Portrait of Merle Haggard.” In February 1969 “Hungry Eyes” reached number one on the country music charts. The song is not autobiographical, as the Haggard family never lived in a labor camp and his father died early, but certainly grows out of Haggard’s life experience. Merle Haggard belonged to the generation after Woody Guthrie and had the sensitivity to see the effects of the uprooting of so many families.

"They’re Tearing the Labor Camps Down” appeared on the 1972 release “Let Me Tell You About a Song” It recalled his impressions of the changes he saw after his release from San Quentin Prison. Among other things he noted the disappearance of the labor camps in the San Joachin Valley and his concern for those laborers who had lived in those camps. “And I couldn't help but wonder what's gonna happen to the farm workers and the fruit pickers who move from town to town. The man with the big family who can't afford the ole high standard of livin'..." [http://www.funtrivia.com/en/subtopics/Tulare-Dust-316080.html]


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California Cottonfields
Dallas Frazier

My driftin' memory goes back to the spring of '43,
When I was just a child in momma's arms.
My daddy plowed the ground and promised someday we would leave
This run-down mortgaged Oklahoma farm.
Then one night I heard my daddy sayin' to my momma
That he'd finally saved enough to go.
California was his dream, a paradise, for he had seen
Pictures in magazines that told him so.

California Cottonfields,
Where labor camps were filled with weary men with broken dreams.
California Cottonfields,
As close to wealth as daddy ever came.

Nearly everything we had was sold or left behind,
From my daddy's plow to the soup that momma canned.
Some folks came to say farewell or see what all we had to sell;
Some just came to shake my daddy's hand.
That model A was loaded down and California bound;
A change of luck was just 4 days away.
But the only change that I remember seeing in my daddy
Was when his dark hair turned to silver grey.

recordings of "California Cottonfields":
Merle Haggard, Hag.
Merle Haggard and the Strangers, Down Every Road 1962-1994.
Merle Haggard, Someday, We'll Look Back.
The Seldom Scene, Live at the Cellar Door.
The Gordons, Live in Holland.
Hazel Dickens, It's Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song.
Flexibility, European World of Bluegrass 2000.

Dallas Frazier "California Cotton Fields"
Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris: "California Cotton Fields"
Merle Haggard: "California Cotton Fields"

California Cottonfields

Like several songs of Merle Haggard, “California Cottonfields” is in the tradition of Woody Guthrie. The man-made Dust Bowl had devastated the lands it had touched and even today, there are zones where little can be grown and life is hard. Timothy Egan tells the story in his book, The Worst Hard Times. After the dust clouds stopped rolling and the first wave of emigrants had made their way to California, people continued to leave and the dream remained California. One hoped for a paradise on earth, but there too people had to work for their living. Families lived in government-run labor camps and as result of the large numbers of Okies and Arkies and other immigrants, they were forced to work for low wages. The high-flying dreams were all too often shattered in the face of this reality.

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return to song of the month







The Telling Takes Me Home
Utah Phillips

Let me sing for you all the old songs I know
Of the wild, windy places lost in timeless snow
And the wide crimson deserts where muddy rivers flow
It's sad, but the telling takes me home.

Come along with me to some places that I've been
Where the people all look back and still remember when
And the quicksilver legends like sunlight turn and bend
It's sad, but the telling takes me home.

We'll travel down the wagon roads or along the iron rail
Past lines of rusty Cadillacs that mark the boomtown trail
Where dreamers never win and doers never fail
It's sad, but the telling takes me home.

I could tell you all some lies that were just made up for fun
Where the meanest, loudest brag could beat the fastest gun
I'll show you nameless graves that tell the way the West was won
It's sad, but the telling takes me home.

I'll sing of my amigos who come from down below
And whisper in their loving tongue the songs of Mexico
They work their stolen Eden, lost so long ago
It's sad, but the telling takes me home.

I'll sing about an emptiness the East has never known
Where coyotes don't pay taxes and a man can be alone
And you'd have to walk forever to find a telephone
It's sad, but the telling takes me home.

recordings of "The Telling Takes Me Home":
Utah Phillips, El Capitan, Philo C1016, Cas
Utah Philllips, The Telling Takes Me Home, Rounder
Guy Carawan, Telling Takes Me Home, Curnon CNL-722, LP
Fred Holstein, Chicago and Other Ports, Philo 1030, LP
Ed Trickett, Telling Takes Me Home, Folk Legacy FSI 046, LP
Singing Through the Hard Times: A Tribute to Utah Phillips, sung by Ed Trickett, Righteous Babe.


The Telling Takes Me Home

A song about the American West, but it is not the West of Hollywood films. The history and the present reality of the region is much more complex than usually thought.
Utah Phillips to this song:
„When I talk about the West, I don‘t mean anybody‘s West but my own. I don‘t think about it in terms of the movie and tv westerns, or even in terms of the standard histories. the “Westward, Ho!“ - a highly romanticized and highly publicized view of the West.
„I think of Ernest Wilkinson, back in his lawyer days before he became president of Brigham Young University, suing the Federal government for millions of dollars on behalf of the Ute Indian tribe. For want of having a tribal council they simply divided the money among all the people in the tribe, and they all went out and bought Cadillacs. You go down to Nine Mile Pass and Indian Canyon and you can see the remains of those Cadillacs just scattered all over hell because that kind of car just wasn‘t made for that territory.
„I think of the 40, 000 migrants who work through Utah every year, mainly Chicanos who come up from south Texas. The people who work our crops, our sugar beets and our peas. are working at the lowest wages and under the worst possible conditions on land that their grandfathers and great-grandfathers once owned. That‘s the part of the history you don‘t get.
„And of course I think about the parts, especially of my own state, that are pretty much untouched by the tourists and the developers, large primitive areas and wilderness. Not that they‘re areas people wouldn‘t want; it‘s just that they‘re hard to get to. Up in the high Uintas, the highest mountains in Utah, there are a thousand little lakes and great pine forests.
„There are other parts of the state nobody would want on a bet; nobody would take if you gave it to them. That‘s the red rock country. Parts of it are national parks now. There‘s no water out there, nothing will grow, there‘s almost no wildlife. It‘s a part of the world that used to be inhabited by the old Anasazi, the ancient ones, “basket makers“ the anthropologists call them. There was a twenty year drought that killed them off and drove them out. Nobody‘s been back there since. You can go in there and see their remains in all that red rock. You can see where they‘ve chipped their story in the rock in petroglyphs. Newspaper Rock has the writings of four or five different cultures, one chipped over the top of the others. A hard place to get to, but worth visiting.
„That‘s the West I grew up with, and it‘s not the West you would know about unless you went and looked for it..“ [Utah Phillips, Starlight on the Rails, p.4.]


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Ballad of Hollis Brown
Bob Dylan

Hollis Brown, he lived on the outside of town
Hollis Brown, he lived on the outside of town
With his wife and five children in a cabin tumbled down.

You look for work and money and you walk a ragged mile
You look for work and money and you walk a ragged mile
Your children are so hungry, they don't know how to smile.

Rats have got your flour, bad blood it's got your mare (X2)
Is there anyone who knows, is there anyone who cares?

Your baby is a-cryin', it's a-tuggin' at your sleeve
You walk the floor and wonder why with every breath you breathe.

You pray to the Lord above, oh, please send you a friend
You ain't got no money, you ain't got no friend.

Your babe's a-cryin' louder now, it's a-poundin' on your brain
Your wife's screams are stabbin' like the dirty drivin' rain.

Your grass is turnin' black, there's no water in your well
You spend your last lone dollar on seven shotgun shells.

Way out in the wilderness, a cold coyote calls
Your eyes fix on the shotgun that's hangin' on the wall.

Your brain is a-bleedin' and your legs can't seem to stand
Your eyes fix on the shotgun you're holding in your hand.

There's seven breezes blowin' all around the cabin door
Seven shots ring out like the ocean's pounding roar.

There's seven people dead on a South Dakota farm
Somewhere's in the distance there are seven new people born.


recordings of "Ballad of Hollis Brown":
Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Columbia CD8786, CD
Bob Dylan und Mike Seeger, The Third Annual Farewell Reunion, Rounder 0313, CD
The Neville Brother, Yellow Moon, A & M 395 240-1, LP

musical notation:
Bob Dylan Song Book, New York: M.Witmark & Son

Nina Simone
Dobro Dan



Ballad of Hollis Brown

The idea for the song came from a newspaper article about a mass murderer in South Dakota. Just as the song „Dakota Land,“ it reflects the harshness of life on the northern plains. The melody is from the old English ballad „Pretty Polly.“ Greil Marcus wrote, „Willie changes his name, marries Polly, becomes a farmer, sires five children, and when his farm fails shoots his family and fires his gun into himself.“ [Greil Marcus, Invisible Republic. p. 177.]
The song was sung publicly for the first time at a hootenanny in Carnegie Hall on September 22, 1962. On August 7, 1963, Dylan recorded it for his album The Times They are A-Changin’.


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Blue Ridge Mountain Refugees/ Hills of Home

Blue Ridge Mountain Refugees
Si Kahn

I'm working in a factory
And thinking how it feels
To be bringing home good money
Like my Daddy never seen
But a feeling follows after me
Like a hounddog at my heels
'Cause I know that I'll never see
My mountain home again

Oh they say that you can't go home again
Never sit and talk among your childhood friends
Never live among your neighbors and your kin
No, you'll never see your mountain home again
Down by the railway station
In the early afternoon
You can see them carrying bandles
That are all done up in twine
And they hear the whistle from the South
They're saying their goodbyes
And they say they'll be back
But they're leaving for all time

Don't they know that they can't go home again
Never sit and talk among their childhood friends
Never live among their neighbors and their kin
No, they'll never see their mountain homes again
In Cincinnnati, Baltimore
Chicago and Detroit
You can find us by the thousands
With our husbands and our wives
If you wonder what we're doing here
So far from our mountain homes
We're Blue Ridge Mountain Refugees
Fighting for our lives

And we know that we can't go home again
Never sit and talk among our childhood friends
Never lives among our neighbors and our kin
No, we'll never see our mountain homes again


Hills of Home
Hazel Dickens

There ain't much that is left here
That ain't all run down.
Gone are the echoes of old familiar sounds.
The families have scattered, parted and gone
Left a lot of good things
To whither away back home.

Can't you feel those hills around you?
Can't you feel a touch of home?
Don't you wish you'd never gone?
There are some things that memories can't bring home.
Hills of home, hills of home
These old hills that have been passed by
Well they've seen their share of leavin' in their time.
Old familiar dirt road
Winds through the piney glade
Where all the longing
of childhood dreams were made
Flowery path, the mossy mound
Where I could run and play
Never a care to cross my mind
All the livelong day.


recording of “Blue Ridge Mountain Refugees”:
Si Kahn,
Doing My Job, Flying Fish FF 221, LP
John McCutcheon, How Can I Keep from Singing?, June Appal JA 0003, LP

musical notation “Blue Ridge Mountain Refugees”
Si Kahn songbook, Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing Company, 1989.

recording of “Hills of Home”:
It's Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song, Rounder CD0226, CD


Blue Ridge Mountain Refugees/ Hills of Home
The Great Depression hit Appalachia even harder than it did other areas. The entire industrial system which had lured the people from their farms collapsed. Three-fourths of the people became dependent on government assistance. Thousands left the coal camps and tried anew to make a living from their farms. But their small holdings made it impossible to produce a surplus to sell for cash. The markets had changed, the agricultural infrastructure had been neglected. The mountain people could just keep their heads above water.
As part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created. It was charged with regional planning. The TVA was supposed to „develop“ the Tennessee River valley, among other things through the production of inexpensive electricity. The first director supported local initiatives which tried to take matters into their own hands. His successor, though, was only interested in the production of electricity. In 1949, nine dams were built along the Tennessee River.
The Second World War tossed the mountain people into the wide world, where they often felt inferior on account of their dialect and poor education, and that is how they were treated. After the war, these people were the core of the migration movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Between 1945 and 1965, 3.3 million people left the Appalachians to seek a new life in the cities, usually in the North. There they lived, like earlier immigrant groups, in closed communities and like other ethnic minorities, they suffered from prejudice. It was especially bitter that the better educated left the mountains.
The continued destruction of jobs in the coal mines accelerated the migration. In 1940, 476,000 men had still been employed in the mines. In 1960, it was only 198,000. Further destroying jobs was the increased use of strip mines, which required far less manpower. In 1960, strip mines still accounted for less than 25% on the coal production in Kentucky. Then the TVA signed a contract with the Kentucky Oak Mining Company to buy coal for the production of electricity. The TVA put the coal company under pressure to go over to the cheaper strip mining method. It was the beginning of the massive expansion of strip mining in Kentucky, which totally destroyed large portions of the landscape. By the mid-seventies, 150,000 miners were producing the same amount of coal as three times that number had done at the end of World War II.
Si Kahn: „Something like three million people have migrated from the Southern mountains over the last fifly years. Some of the ’Little Appalachias’ in Northern cities, like Cincinnati ‘s ’Over-the-Rhine,’ have more mountain people living in them than whole counties back home. Almost every one of them would have stayed where they were if they could have found good work. Most of them would still go back home if they could.“ [Si Kahn Songbook, p. 80]
Feeling lost in the city, discriminated against on account of their culture and their poverty, many former mountain people tended to romanticize their former homes, but a sober look back made them accept the fact that there was no going back. This fact surely accounts for the melancholy tone of so many bluegrass songs.

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Lost Herd
Ian Tyson

Which away the wind blows
which away the game goes
how she'll tally up the Lord only knows
and he might never come this way again
lost herd drifts with the wind
Sun came up blood red
songs got sung - words got said
but the silence now is like to raise the dead
and they ain't comin' thru this way again
lost herd drifts with the wind
Fax machines that never sleeps
the mail box junk
the cell phone beep
the old chant buried in some canyon deep
what would you give to hear the chant again
lost herd drifts with the wind
Run too far
run too fast
outrun the night and the ghosts of the past
sky too dark in a range too vast
how will we ever get back home again
lost herd drifts with the wind

recording of “Lost Herd”;
Ian Tyson, Lost Herd, (Stony Plain, 1999)


Lost Herd

One critic described the album "Lost Herd" as being infused with, „the distinctly melancholy cowboy preoccupation with legends and things passing into history.“ [Andrew Flynn, „Cowboy of the Real West Passion for Tyson.“ Calgary Herald,, April 16, 1999.]
The West is changing, but it has always been changing. The people of the West complain about the detrimental influence of outsiders, but they have always done that. Every generation mourns the destruction of their West, the real West in which they live as well as the West of their imagination. The last free Plains tribes saw a way of life end with their military defeat. But the introduction of the horse and the firearm, the pressure from migrating tribes pushed west as well as trade with the Europeans and the Americans had already changed the world of their ancestors beyond recognition. The mountain men, the first outsiders, complained about the destruction of their West, yet they were the pathfinders and later the guides for those who followed them and by way of their work of trapping they had themselves already altered the natural balance of the West they had initially discovered. And so it has gone on from one generation to the next.
Today, many Westerners, and with good reason, look askance at the so-called „trophy homes“ being built all across the West, huge houses constructed by the affluent, most of them only recently arrived or only part-time residents, which are filling up valley after valley. [A woman I met from Bozeman, Montana observed that these huge houses may someday play the role of the old ghost towns from the mining period.]Many of those complaining may have only migrated to the West twenty years earlier. Westerners bemoan the destruction of small ranchers by multi-national agri-business corporations. But even the first big ranchers, beginning with Charles Goodnight, were dependent on and welcomed foreign capital.
Yes, the West is changing and the pace of change is accelerating and of course their is reason to criticize and complain and to mourn. The semi-arid land is forced to support ever more people while the natural base is being erroded. And each generations has to learn anew to live with the physical realities of the West. Old ways are passing. Old ways are always passing. The West has always as much a myth as a reality and Westerners live in the present while always looking back over their shoulders.
Ian Tyson’s subject matter is the world of the working cowboy. Of his music, it has been written, „The West that Tyson draws on to inspire his words and music isn’t a myth, it’s an everyday reality of long cold winters what seem to never end, of sudden spring snowstorms at calving time, of sharing his music, his life with other real cowboys...He ponders how long the West will remain as he knows it...“ [Barbara Dacks, „Proud to Be a Cowboy,“ Legacy – Alberta’s Heritage Magazine, Summer, 1996.]


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Many Thousand Gone
(No More Auction Block for Me)

No more auction block for me,
No more, no more,
No more auction block for me,
Many thousand gone.
No more driver’s lash for me,
No more, no more,
No more driver’s lash for me,
Many thousand gone.
No more peck of corn for me,
No more, no more,
No more peck of corn for me,
Many thousand gone.
No more pint of salt for me,
No more, no more,
No more pint of salt for me,
Many thousand gone.

"Many Thousands Gone" - youTube:
Paul Robeson


Many Thousands Gone (No More Auction Block for Me)
This song was probably created during the „Year of Jubilo,“ the year which began with Abraham Lincoln‘s Emancipation Proclamation, 1863. During the Civil War, former slave Frederick Douglass called on Blacks to take up arms and fight against the South, for, as he reasoned, the thankfulness of the nation (at least the northern half of it) would be assured.
At the end of the year 1863, fifty thousand Blacks were already serving in the United States Army. At the war‘s end, the army had 186,000 Blacks in its ranks, 10% of all soldiers. 134,111 had been recruited in the slave states.
Black soldiers were, however, disappointed that they were not treated equally. While a white soldier got $13 a month in pay plus $3.50 for clothing, his black comrade in arms was paid only $10, from which $3 was deducted for clothing. It required serious protests before the imbalance was rectified.
More than a third of all black soldiers were reported dead or missing, 2,751 died in battle, all the rest died of disease.
Not until March 13, 1865, did the Congress of the Confederacy authorize the recruitment of Blacks into the Southern army. No Blacks, however, saw any action. Yet many slaves had already served the Confederate Army, as cooks, teamsters, in hospitals, as musicians or as the personal servants of their owners if these were officers. In the Southern armaments industry, the majority ot those employed were slaves.
The black soldiers took their spirituals to war with them and new songs were created as well, like, „Oh Freedom“.
Oh, freedom! Oh, freedom!
Oh, freedom, over me;
And before I’d be a slave,
I’ll lie buried in my grave,
And go home to my Lord and be free
Another of these songs was „Many Thousands Gone.“ A peck of corn and a pint of salt were the rations which a slave had been granted.

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Si Kahn

Alabama ain’t no jubilee
Carolina moon don’t shine on me
All over the Southland the changes keep coming
The old ways are crumbling
Like tenant shacks falling down
They’ve been damming our rivers and tearing up our hills
And wearing down our people
In run-a-way mills in some town

I got Georgia’s old days on my mind
Mississippi magic that I tried to find
You can hear the soft voices of old people talking
They’re only dream-walking
The old ways just ain’t coming back
And the storm clouds of color are coming together
Like a turn in the weather
Or looking down a long railroad track

Carry me back to old Virginia dreams
Old Kentucky home ain’t what it seems
The stone walls of fear that were built to divide us
We’re putting them behind us
We’re finding our hearts are the same
We’re growing together and talking out loud
We’re strong and we’re proud
We’re calling each other by name

T for Texas, T for Tennessee
T for trying hard to be free
But we’re talking back now and starting to fight
We’re black and we’re white
We’re child and women and men
And just like at sunrise
We’re opening our eyes
You know that we will rise again

recording of “Sunrise”:
Si Kahn, New Wood, Philo CD1168, CD

musical notation:
Sing Out! 27/4
Si Kahn songbook, Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing Company, 1989.


Si Kahn went to the South to work in the civil rights movement, and he remained in the South. He has been able to observe the changes in the region. This song reminds Kahn of a traditional American quilt made of old pieces of material. In it he quotes old sentimental songs about the South in order to describe the „new South.“ The civil rights movement was a true revolution, which shook the centuries-old social structures of the South and made it possible for new ones to develop. „My work with the Southern civil rights and trade union movements in the 1960s and 1970s convinced me that the key issue in Southern organizing was finding ways to bridge the divisions between Black and White in the South.“ [www.sikahn.com]„Sunrise was recorded in 1975. Since then decades have passed. The clock cannot be turned back and the generations which knew only racial separation, repression, and violence are being replaced by people for whom, though not without racial prejudices, living with one another is taken for granted. The problems of the South are the common problems of Black and White.

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