The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #65010   Message #2337737
Posted By: GUEST,Nerd
11-May-08 - 01:32 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Kumbaya
Subject: RE: Origins: Kumbaya
By the way, we can now correct Richie's Post of 17 June 07 (or more accurately, correct the newspaper quotation).

The recording of Ethel Best singing "Come by Here" was not a cylinder recording made by Robert Winslow Gordon (who had left the Library long before 1936), but a disc recording made by John A. Lomax. We can also see that, between that recording and 1941, the archive recorded it several times in Mississippi, Texas, Florida and Alabama.

You can find this by visiting the Archive's online card catalog. Search for "come by here." The search engine doesn't recognize the word "by," so you'll get some extraneous results, but still, you'll agree it's rather neat.

This card catalog covers only the archive's disc-era recordings from about 1933 on, so a first encounter in 1936 doesn't mean the song wasn't out there much earlier. The cylinder recordings are indexed elsewhere, and that isn't yet online, so I can't check except when I'm at the archive. The fact that The archive got this in 1936, three years before the first printing of Frey's version (which he wrote in 1936, an interesting coincidence), is pretty clear evidence it was in American folk tradition first.

Also, the reference in the newspaper to the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals and the confusion over Robert W. Gordon suggests to me that the song appeared in the 1931 book "The Carolina Low-Country," which was published by the Society and contained a chapter on spirituals by Gordon. I can check on this when I'm at the Library...

The statement that a