The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310   Message #3889457
Posted By: Brian Peters
20-Nov-17 - 10:58 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
"Maynard evidently told Sires specifically (and without knowledge of this thread) that he adapted his "Dying Cowboy" directly from a version of "The Dying Girl" which included the name "St. James Hospital."

Ker-pow! Another piece of the jigsaw pops into place. Thanks for that.

I've had a look at the Thorp (1921) book that I downloaded this morning. The 'Cowboy's Lament' in there begins 'As I walked out in the streets of Laredo' and was apparently "credited to Troy Hale, Battle Creek, Nebraska... I [Thorp] first heard it sung in a bar-room at Wisner, Nebraska, about 1886"

It's very similar to the Maynard text above, except for the first line, the substitution of 'cowboy' for 'ranger' throughout, and two additional verses, one beginning 'my friends and relations they live in the nation', and another 'swing your rope slowly and rattle your spurs lowly' (in addition to the usual drums and fifes stanza).

Is this likely to be authentic, and if so does it represent another 'new composition', this time based on Maynard's?

The court decision notes: "In March, 1929, the plaintiffs revived the old song under the title 'St. James' Infirmary.' *The infirmary heretofore unidentified was given a name* [my emphasis - L]. They put forward an advertising and publicity campaign to sell the old composition under the new name."

This passed me by the last time you posted it. Do you think it fair to assume that in introducing 'St James' to 'Gambler's Blues' in order to make it a 'new song', the authors were drawing on their knowledge of the old 'Dying Girl' song? Could it possibly be coincidence?

"I meant what are the consequences for us as people who sing these songs..."

There need be none, Al. Enjoy the song for what it is, and be bothered about the history only if that sort of thing interests you. Though having said that' I fear it does affect my personal attitude to a song if I find it was cobbled together in the 1960s so, although I enjoy Bert singing his version of 'St James', I'd research a different one to sing myself.

"there are a lot of songs about funerals, Brian. Finnegans Wake, Barbara Allen, Teenage Cremation..... If I add a verse about six pall bearers to these songs do they become related to The Streets of Laredo and St James's Infirmary?"

No, and I'm not sure I'd want to hear 'Teenage Cremation' in the first place....

"Talking of Hamish Imlach - I wonder if you remember how he used to do Black is the Colour - like a blues song, really swinging that Aminor chord. always sounded odd to me."

Didn't sound half as odd as Lizzie Roberts (the original source of the song, from Hot Springs, NC) singing it to Maud Karpeles accompanying herself on a harmonium in a resolutely major key.