T:-)M's Night Shift

WWW = Whisky, Western, Walkin' T:-)M

Spitzweg ,Der arme Poet', www.spitzweg.de There are some remarkable things. First of all, I got one book just on September 11th (-> FW#21 FW#22, FW#24). That is not remarkable as such. Looking at the mail stamp, I had to recognize that it took two months to ship from the US to Europe. (The Irish didn't take that long on their coffin ships, but that was the other way round.) I wonder if it has something to do with the date in question. I don't know what's President Bush's music of choice (except that he took the Taliban for a rock band at the beginning). Germany's ex defence minister Scharping played Dylan's Masters of War in his office during the air raid of Yugoslavia (-> FW#20), and George Bush Sr. is a big fan of country music. And here we are again. But let's kick off with a song.

The old clerk in the parish I know very well,
He often do toll the eight o'clock bell;
He went to the alehouse and got a full pot,
And forgot the old church for to lock-a-lock lock.
A mare and a foal they ran with speed,
The mare from the Bible began for to read.
`Stay,' said the foal, `before you begin,
Whatever you pray for I'll answer Amen.'
`We'll pray for the publicans who draw us our liquor,
Small measure they like, they can fill us the quicker.
If you ask for the best beer they'll draw you the small,
May the devil take publicans!' `Amen,' said the foal.

Ri-lo ri-liddle la-liddle, la-diddle la diddle-i-day. The subject of many a folk song, bible and booze. Eh? Well, we shall return to it later again. Let's talk about John Clare (1793-1864) first, who is regarded by some as the most important poet of the English countryside and rural life in the early 19th century. Clare was born in the village of Helpston, Northamptonshire, the son of an agricultural labourer and important local singer:

`Both my parents was illiterate to the last degree. [My father] was likewise fond of Ballads, & I have heard him make a boast of it over his horn of ale with his merry companions, that he could sing or recite above a hundred; he had a tollerable good voice, & was often calld upon to sing at those convivials of baccanalian merry makings.'
Now some likes a girl that is pretty in the face,
And others likes a girl that is slender in the waist
But give me the girl with a wriggle and twist
That is pleasant and good tempered with a cuckoo's nest.
His first verses were imitations of my fathers songs (and his mother used his early poems as kettle holders & fire lighters). Clare usd to spend my sundays & summer evenings among them [gipsy families] learning to play the fiddle in their manner by the ear & joining in their pastimes, and collected numerous songs, tunes, descriptions of the folk customs and beliefs of his native Helpston, probably the earliest collector of songs in Southern England.

George Deacon spent 15 years as a folk singer, before beginning research on the John Clarewww.francisboutle.demon.co.uk manuscripts. His classic John Clare and the Folk Tradition is now available again in paperback. Clare's song collection and tunes transcribed, some of which have accompanying dance instructions, allow a glance on a dying tradition:

`The disruption to social and economic life that took place in the nineteenth century affected the pattern of social entertainment as radically as it affected all other facets of working-class life ... The growth of music hall and the emergence of an entertainment industry brought to an end the need for selfentertainment ... Choirs and glee clubs became an important part of town and village life. They introduced not only a new repertoire but also a new concept: correctness of performance. For these new choirs and clubs held contests; their music was learnt from scores rather than orally acquired ... Singing became an art rather than a matter of simple enjoyment, and the traditional gave way to the novel ... When I attempted to field-collect songs in the county, it was generally to these choral pieces or Victorian parlour-songs that my informants turned when asked if they could remember any old songs ... It was not singing that had died, but the tradition of the orally acquired song and with it much of the old repertoire.'

A song for which Clare has collected a tune but not the words is `Yankee Doodle,' which is the official state song of Connecticut since 1978. Lewis A. Maverick gives the following as the original and only English text:

Yankee doodle came to town, a riding on a pony.
He stuck a feather in his hat and called him macaroni.
Yankee doodle, keep it up! Yankee doodle, dandy!
Mind the music and the step, and with the girls be handy!

Nakash Grant says:

`Some trace this melody to a song of French vineyard workers; some to a German harvest tune, some to a Spanish sword dance, some to a Dutch peasant song. However, the most likely source is an English nursery rhyme Lucy Locket . The colonists probably got the song during the French and Indian war [1755], when Richard Schakburg, a British army physician, was so amused at the sight of the ragged and disheveled troops under General Braddock that he decided to mock them. He improvised a set of nonsense lyrics to an English tune with which he had long been familiar; he palmed off this concoction on the colonial troops as the latest English song. At the outbreak of the revolution, the colonials appropriated Yankee Doodle. It was heard at every battle, and became a favorite in every camp, both in defeat and in victory. ...
Yankee Doodle is one of the queer tunes existing in several slightly different versions. It can be taken 6/8, in 2/4, and in common time with equal authority. Yankee is a slang or colloquial name given to citizens of the New England states in America, and less correctly applied in familiar European usage, to any citizen of the United States. It is considered to represent the Indian's pronouncing English or Anglais. On the other hand, the Scots Yankie, sharp or clever would seem more probable as the origin. Dutch origination are other suggestion. Thus it may be a corruption of Jonkin diminutive Jon, John.'

But acording to J.A. Leo Lemay,

`the tune is colonial American in origin, with at least two versions existing by 1745, indicating an earlier song that had had time to evolve. In 1745, however, it first became prominent as it was used to make fun of the rag-tag appearance and ill-equipped state of colonial troops as they left to fight the Battle of Louisburg (Cape Breton area, Nova Scotia), which they won. The military versions were basically anti-American, ridiculing the non-uniformed appearance, the lack of training, and the poor quality of the equipment of colonial American soldiers, as seen through educated British eyes. So entrenched was this song as one of derision that the fife and drum corps of the British reinforcements played it while marching into battle at Lexington, MA on April 19, 1775. The British were defeated there, and as the Pennsylvania Gazette reported on June 7, 1775: the Brigade under Lord Percy marched out, playing, by way of contempt, Yankee Doodle; they were afterwards told, they had been made to dance to it.'

Mr Yankee Doodle Dandy, however, became an Irish American, George M. Cohan, author of 1904 smash hit `Give my Regards to Broadway.' (I'll leave it up to you to find out why, you can start here.) - That much to lead up to the next topic. Here we are in Irish America.

Mick Moloney has been born in Castletroy, Co. Limerick. The young Moloney was captivated by the Clancy Brothers (see also news section), and he picked up tenor banjo and mandolin. www.collinspress.com In 1964, he and Donal Lunny formed both the Emmet Folk Group (after Irish patriot Robert Emmet) and the Parnell Folk Group (after Charles Stewart Parnell).

`We were very stubborn. We would pick songs that the Clancy Brothers would never do, or the Dubliners [-> FW#23] would never do. We acknowledged their influence, but we weren't really playing their kind of music. We started playing traditional music with traditional musicians. The Clancy Brothers never did that.'
Afterwards Mick joined a family act called the Johnstons: Adrienne and Luci were two sisters who sang in harmony, and Michael didn't sing at all, he sort of banged away at the 12-string. Michael was never really what you'd call a musician, and they needed more firepower in the music line. Michael was replaced by Moloney's roommate Paul Brady, but the band also changed from a folk act into a pop group.
`Because we were a four-part harmony group, and the Seekers had just disbanded, [the corporate gurus at Transatlantic Records] felt that our road to fame and fortune would be through contemporary material. We were very young, we were very impressionable, and the record company had a lot of power over us. They came up with a lot of orchestral arrangements of songs that we did. When I listen back to some of this, it seems there was a lot more of the arranger, and a lot more of the record company in a lot of those songs, than us. And I think, over the long haul, our traditional stuff holds up much better.'
Mick quit. In 1973 he left for the US and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania to pursue an academic degree in folklore. I came for two years, and you know the way it is... you stay on. Mick devised the `Green Fields of America' tour, a concept of presenting Irish traditional music, singing and dancing from American based performers, featuring names like Tim Britton, Jean Butler, Liz Carroll (CD review in this issue), Seamus Egan (Solas -> FW#17, FW#22), Michael Flatley, Eileen Ivers, Jimmy Keane, Robbie O'Connell, Jerry O'Sullivan. Another series of concerts featured only young women and the band Cherish The Ladies was born (-> FW#4, FW#4, FW#4, FW#10. FW#23, FW#23).

In 1992 Mick finally finished his dissertation on the history and development of Irish music in America. His recent publication Far from the Shamrock Shore (book and CD) is the story of how the Irish in America stored their historical memories in the songs they brought with them and also in the songs that they wrote and sang in their new home (see also -> FW#20).

Farewell to the groves of shillelagh and shamrock,
Farewell to the girls of old Ireland all around.
May your hearts be as merry as ever you could find them,
As far away o'er the ocean I am bound.
So it's pack up your sea-stores, consider no longer,
For ten dollars a week is not very bad pay,
With no taxes or tithes to devour up your wages
When you're on the Green Fields of America.

Religious discrimination, oppression, poverty and hunger were the driving forces for the majority to emigrate. As early as the 17th century, some 100,000 Irish left for America, mostly young men, attracted by everyone worked and no one went hungry. During the 18th century the Scots-Irish followed, the descendants of - mostly presbyterian - English and Scottish farmers who had only been in Ireland for a few generations under Plantation of Ulster, and settled and extended the American frontier (see the Ulster American Folk Park). Several US-Presidents from Andrew Jackson to Bill Clinton claim this heritage, as can Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Their Calvinism still marks millions of Americans. The potato famine 1845-49 caused the death of more than a million people and prompted the same number to emigrate. An estimated 5 million, now Catholics, left Ireland for the US in the next 75 years, including the Kennedys from Wexford and the Reagans from Tipperary. According to the Census 2000, 38,8 million Americans claim Irish and 5,6 million Scotch-Irish descent (of a total population of 281 million).

Instead of farming as they did in Ireland, the Irish were responsible for building the infrastructure the United States needed to become a highly profitable industrial power. But the immigrants from the 1840s onward, most illiterate and unskilled, met the resentment and bigotry from the White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) majority. As early as the late 1600s in Boston a role of Irish names appeared: not approved by the selectmen of Boston to be inhabitants of ye Towne. A German-American wrote in 1854 We are against union with Irishmen who stand nearer barbarism and brutality than civilization and humanity. The Irish are our natural enemies, because they are the truest guards of Popery.

Come Uncle Sam, be `Wide Awake,' too long you have been sleeping
Be on your guard, to crush the snake, that 'round you has been creeping.
Yankee Doodle Wide Awake, be silent you should never
Until you drive the popish snake from off the soil forever.

Many a apelike, subhuman, and anarchic Irish was faced with the advertisement `No Irish Need Apply.' (In fact there was never such sign, but that attitude, e.g. in Woman Wanted. To do general housework. English, Scotch, Welsh, German, or any country or color except Irish.)

I am a dacint Irishman, just come from Ballyfad;
Oh I want a situation and I want it mighty bad.
A position I saw advartised. 'Tis the thing for me, says I;
But the dirty spalpeen ended with: No Irish need apply.
Whoa! Says I; but that's an insult -- but to get this place I'll try.
So, I went to see the blaguard with: No Irish need apply.
Well some may think it a misfortune to be christened Pat or Dan
But to me it is an honor to be born an Irishman.

At the same time Irish danced and sang on the vaudeville stages, often as stereotypical Stage Irishman. Many performed as black-faced minstrels, in turn mocking African Americans. The most famous writer was Stephen Foster. Dan Emmet wrote Dixie, the unofficial anthem of the South. Joel Walker Sweeney popularized the five-string banjo. Even Billy the Kid is reported to be a fine singer and an excellent dancer (see also Steve Tilston's `Slip Jigs and Reels,' recorded by -> FW#19, FW#23).

Things improved with time. The Irish climbed up the social ladder, while new immigrants filled the lower ranks. And the Irish were as numerous as flies, as did Kelly experience while looking for his uncle:

I landed in Hoboken and began without delay
To find my uncle's residence located on Broadway.
I went to the directory me uncle for to find
But I found som many Kellys there that I nearly lost me mind
So I went to ask directions from a friendly German Jew
But he says please excuse me but me name is Kelly too
The Kellys run the statehouse, the Kellys run the banks
The police and fire department, sure the Kellys fill the ranks
Well I went and asked directions from a naturalized Chinese
But he says please excuse me but me name it is Kell Lee.

Today there is a thriving scene of traditional and folk musicians of Irish extraction or newly arrived, from Jimmy Noonan (-> FW#23) and Casey Neill (-> FW#23) to Susan McKeown (-> FW#11, FW#11, FW#17, FW#23) and Larry Kirwan's Black 47 (-> FW#20). Mick Moloney can claim his part of the success story, rightfully honored with the US National Heritage Fellowship in 1999: Mick is an Irish Renaissance man who helped ignite a major resurgence of Irish-American music, dance, and culture in the US.

`Now, he can croon along with the stage-Irish character of Muldoon, the Solid Man, I am a man of great influence, and educated to a high degree. We can look at what might have happened if he had not made the crossing from Limerick to Philadelphia. Two of the country's best Irish music acts would not exist at all, and others would not have received important encouragement along the way. Major festivals and other events presenting Irish music would not exist in their current forms. Seminal recordings would never have been made. Irish music, while it would undoubtedly still be a vital force in this country's musical landscape, would have an entirely different face.' (S. Winick)

Possibly the Scots-Irish and Irish immigrants are the group that contributed most to American folklore. Their music soon became American old-time, bluegrass and - in the 20th century - country music. The term country itself was not chosen before 1953 to define the genre (just at the time when most of the music's fans no longer lived in the `country.'), in the 1920s you could read instead of songs and artists whose names are best known where the square dance has not been supplanted by the fox-trot.

In 1923 millions of people in rural areas and towns all across North America sang and played the fiddle and the guitar, but `country music' was not recognized as a form of music distinct from others. A number of appellations were applied by the early merchandisers, ranging from `Old-time,' `Old Time Tunes,' `Old Familiar Tunes' and `Hearth and Home,' to `Hill and Range,' and `Hillbilly and Western.' ... Credit Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the wave of anti-Communist hysteria that he rode to political prominence. McCarthy tainted the word `folk' by associating it with `Communist.' He did this by attacking the Weavers `folk' group as Communist sympathizers and summoning its most prominent member, Pete Seeger, to testify before his Committee on Un-American Activities. Overnight the word `folk' was dropped from contention. `Folk' was out and the word `country' was simply dropped in its place.

Richard A. Peterson's Creating Country Music traces the development of the country music industry from the 1920s pioneering recordings to 1953, www.press.uchicago.edu when Hank Williams set the country style as we know it today. Peterson is focusing on the most important artists and key promoters, and there is a set of intriguing photographs, displaying the folk versus pop look.

The first country music record was made in 1923 in Atlanta, Georgia, by Fiddlin' John Carson:

`The New York executive overseeing the recording session pronounced the results to be Awful and refused to release the record, but the local record distributor prevailed on him to have 500 copies made for sale in the Atlanta region. These were all sold within days ... there was an untapped market to be exploited.'
Carson was quite a character. He insisted that he had to get drunk and be chewing tobacco to perform, and his usual performance style was until too drunk to continue. No wonder artists and their audience were disliked as poor white trash whose creed and allegiance are to the Bible, the Chautauqua, and the phonograph.

With the craze for old-time fiddling, a number of radio stations began to program the form in the 1920s. The first Saturday-night performer on WSM from Nashville, Tennessee, in 1925 was the 77 year old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson, who had learned some of his songs during the Civil War. A press agent's dream: white-bearded, outspoken, hard-drinking, barking a challenge to the champion of the latest national fiddling contest sponsored by Henry Ford (-> FW#22). `Let him come to Tennessee,' Uncle Jimmy boasted, `and I'll lie with him like a bulldog.' After two hours the announcer tried to finish him off, but Uncle Jimmy said he knew 2,000 tunes and was just getting limbered up.

WSM began its regular Saturday-night country music program, now with a number of performers, and soon became the Grand Ole Opry, a rustic variety show based more on the model of vaudeville than on that of a community barn dance. The booking lay in the hands of George `Judge' Hay: Hay didn't know music; he couldn't memorize tunes. He wouldn't know the difference between `Turkey in the Straw' and `Steamboat Bill.' He liked rapid tunes because he thought the man that was making the most racket was making the most music. Hay insisted that group members look like hillbillies, and

`whether advertiser- or audience-driven ... there was no place fo sexual innuendo, social satire, political commentary, aloof professionalism, or rebel stance in this work environment. Thus the radio work of the 1930s helped to fix the image of the country artist as open, down-home, and utterly conventional--all characteristics that have been part of the country image ever since.'

Country went popular. Jimmie Rodgers, the Father of Country Music and Singing Brakeman sang the blues dressed in a pop artist's outfit. And though Bill Malone put it bluntly: The cowboy contributed nothing to American music (for Malone see also FW#23), Hollywood created singing cowboys such as Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers. Almost all artists dressed in western outfits through the 1940s. After all,

`Few working cowboys played guitar or fiddled and sang, and while a large number of Southerners of the 1920s were musical, most of them were not unlettered, shiftless hillfolk. Rather the singing cowboy and the hillbilly character were deliberately constructed images created selectively out of available symbolic resources and contemporary styles. ...
The featured singing cowboys played guitars rather than fiddles or banjos, bringing this instrument to prominence for the first time. If the fiddle was considered the Devil's box, the guitar was becoming a symbol of seduction as well. The Danville, Virginia, sheriff said that every man seen drunk or carrying a guitar should be immediately arrested.'

In the 1950s Hank Williams became the Personification of Country Music.

`Hank Williams was uniquely able to convincingly evoke in a single performance the dialectic in the epic struggle between good and evil. In the same set he could perform upbeat honky-tonkin' songs, guilt-drenched love laments, and sacred songs with equally convincing sincerity. This mix of sentiments became the formula defining country music for the next generation and more.'
Hank was on the charts with "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive", the same day he died (in the back seat of a Cadillac as he was being driven over icy roads). One of his band members said: Of course he died good. Not old and ugly. Hank died right at the height of his career, so everybody remembers him when he was tops. And a WSM manager returning from the funeral added: If Hank could raise up in his coffin, he'd look up toward the stage and say, `I told you dumb sons of bitches I could draw more dead than you could alive.'
My fishin' pole's broke, the creek is full of sand
My woman run away with another man
A distant uncle passed away and left me quite a batch
And a lawyer proved I wasn't born, I was only hatched.
No matter how I struggle and strive
I'll never get out of this world alive.

Cut! There is an enormous body of American country songs about whiskey, like `Tonight the Malt is Single and so am I' by Rich Hall. There is also a proverb from Appalachia: When English settlers arrive, they build a house, the Germans a barn and the Scotch-Irish a distillery. I don't know if you can imagine that reading books and staying all night long is hard work. So please allow me the pleasure and get the Bushm, sorry, I mean the Glen...

`Whisky - the water of life, perhaps Scotland's best known contribution to humanity. Muse - goddess of creative endeavour. The Whisky Muse - the spark of inspiration to many of Scotland's great poets and songwriters.'

Singer/songwriter Robin Laing (-> FW#1, FW#5, FW#13) combines two of his passions - folk song and whisky:

`OK, I might be a whisky geek, but the truth is that what fascinates me most is not the smell, or the taste, or even the feeling of floating euphoria that follows a couple of drams. It is the culture - the songs, poems and stories that surround our national drink ...
Scotland has always been a nation of extremes when it comes to booze ... www.folkmusic.net/robinlaing/ On the one hand there are those that want to drink copious quantities of it endlessly, to the point of sickness and eventual death, who want to praise it in drunken odes, dab it behind their ears, have it on their breakfast cereal and swim in it for recreation. On the other hand there is the section of the population that pray every night for God to punish the evil people who overindulge ... Somewhat dour, strict-living, God-fearing and Calvinistic ... Maybe it is natural that people who can expect to have their indiscretions forgiven at the next confession are going to be more relaxed than people who think that all sins will be stored up and cast against them on the final day of judgement ...
However, the Protestant work ethic and the values of Calvinism may have contributed to the great success of the whisky industry in Scotland. While the early Irish whiskey makers were drinking their product and only bothering to make more when the last lot was nearly finished, the Scots were developing theirs, improving the production process, doing business plans and market strategies and ploughing profits back into the business. In the Calvinist way of looking at the world, drinking whisky might lead to damnation, but if you can make a successful business enterprise out of the production of whisky, then salvation might be better secured.'
I love Scotland's glens, and whatever else we lose,
Please leave us our glens, our glorious glens.
Take our Highland schottische, our marches, strathspeys and reels,
Take our old Scottish waltz, but leave us our malts.
Take our jobs, take our homes, take anything else you will
Wife, family and friends - but leave us our glens.
Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glendronach, Glen Grant ...
Robin accumulated songs and poems about the alchemy of whisky making, taxation, smuggling, illicit stills, whatever a dram's involved. He praises whisky and its curative and viagric powers (makes us aye cadgy to cuddle the wife), and dispraises Demon Drink (alas! strong drink makes men and women fanatics, and helps to fill our prisons and lunatics).
Noo the English like their ale warm and flat straight oot the pail.
They aye slitter wi' their bitter that would slaughter Jack the Ripper
And they sip their cider rough, sniff their snuff and huff and puff
And as if that was no' enough, they start tae sing.
But their music's far surpassed by the tinkle in the glass
When ye're breakin' oot a bottle o' the best.
And the Irish in their pride o' Erin think they can deride
Oor golden watter wi' their patter when they're a' oot on the batter
Sixteen hundred pints o' stout, a drinkin' bout without a doubt
And if they havenae got the gout, they start tae dance.
But their jigs have nae appeal tae the Scot who likes tae reel
When he's breakin' oot a bottle o' the best.
There is more to discover.
Brian McNeill (-> FW#4, FW#10, FW#10, FW#12, FW#19, FW#22) wrote on the subject of is Uncle Jim during the Prohibition in the US. Alan Reid (Battlefield Band -> FW#5, FW#6, FW#12, FW#19, FW#23) added tune and chorus to Robert Louis Stevenson's `A Mile and a Bittock' (aka `Shining Clear,' recently recorded by -> FW#18, FW#18), and eventually Robin got a fine idea:

`Burns tends to overshadow other literary figures in Scotland. I intend to develop the concept of a Stevenson supper. His birthday being 13 November comes at a useful point in the year and there is enough in his work to build ritual around, including something to do with heather ale and atholl brose!'

Worth to pursue the plan. Slainte bhath, T:-)M.

Oh this evening's passed so quickly, and the music's almost done.
We've heard the piper and the fiddler, the singer and his song.
Time has come for us tae leave ye, one last song before we go.
So button up, and aye be cheery, and
tak a dram afore ye go.

Deacon, George, John Clare and the Folk Tradition. Francis Boutle, London, 2002, ISBN 1-903427-11-9, Paperback, 404pp, GB£15,-.
Laing, Robin, The Whisky Muse - Scotch Whisky in Poem and Song. Luath, Edinburgh, 2002, ISBN 0-946487-95-2, Paperback, 209pp, GB£12.99,-.
Moloney, Mick, Far From the Shamrock Shore - The Story of Irish-American Immigration Through Song. Collins, Cork, 2002, ISBN 1-903464-13-7, Hardcover, 40pp, EUR25,- (with CD).
Peterson, Richard A., Creating Country Music - Fabricating Authenticity. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 2000, ISBN 0-226-66285-3, Paperback, 306pp, US$17,-.

-> T:-)M's Night Shift, FW#23

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