The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #76194   Message #1619519
Posted By: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
03-Dec-05 - 07:04 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Jimmy Stewart)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Jimmy Stewart's Barbara Allen
Roberto- Someone has refreshed this year-old thread, and I realize that it's a long time I've taken to find this song for you...Reasons: All our collected material is on tapes, recorded on an early tape recorder (Magnacord,or Magnacorder, I think- I'm forgetting names of things at my age). Good quality, but now the tapes are brittle and fragile, and the old Magnacorder is missing bits and pieces and is hard to load and manage without breaking the tapes. But I promise I'll get my family involved and we'll set it up; surely you'll get an answer in 2006...? Meanwhile, here's some background, if you'd like.

Jimmy Stewart was Jeannie Robertson's uncle, and it was Jeannie who brought us to see him. We visited, talked and recorded out of doors, on a hillside in Scotland. He was a fine friendly old man, kept insisting that his voice wasn't what it used to be, and had to excuse himself for coughing several times during his singing of the ballad. But he had a good voice and it is a grand version of, "Barbara Allen." He also gave us, "Forester in These Woods," and a few others before his voice gave out. I don't think that George took his camera along that day, so we don't have a photo of him- I've always regretted that. We do have some of Jeannie, however, and Isaac, and Lizzie, along with Hamish Henderson (our guide though Scotland) and me on the parapet at Edinburgh Castle, with Auld Reekie in the background. What memories!

As to Barbara Allen, it was a favorite in our Kentucky family, only we named her, Barbry Ellen- and thought of it as a double-first name, since everyone in the American south in those days had a middle name...what her last name was, we didn't know nor care about! It's on my ballad CD at Smithsonian Folkways (recorded as an album in the 50s for Folkways), and I guess that's how it got heard and used as the beginning song on the "Rose and Briar" CD this past year.

Barbara Allen is such a widely known song, that I used it as my best collecting technique throughout England, Scotland and Ireland in 1952-53. People would ask what sort of song we were looking for, and I'd ask them if they knew Barbara Allen, maybe sing a few verses of "my" version for them- their faces would light up, and they'd know that it was the beloved OLD songs we were after. Barbary Ellen surely did make many friends for us!

All the best, and good luck on your quest,    Jean Ritchie