Burke's memory is correct. The note to the Lomax collection is:
Mrs Jones learned 'Turtle Dove' from her ex-slave grandfather, Jet Samson. The old people said this song of rejoicing was sung by the angels when the devil was put out of heaven, 'Sa-sa-la-do' being the solfege of this glorious refrain. This unique spiritual reflects in its many mysterious lines the mysticism of slave Christianity. [Southern Journey Georgia Sea Islands: Biblical Songs and Spirituals Vol 12 Rounder CD 1712]
Lomax also records a conversation between Mrs
SmithJones and himself about the song . She said she used to sing it with her grandfather when she was little and it was 'his song' - her grandfather died at the age of 105 in 1941. She said the song was sung at weddings wherein people jumped over a broom to marry. After slavery, people married by licence.
There's a fine version on Jody Stecher's 'Going Up on the Mountain' which has recently been reissued on CD [Acoustic Disc ACD 39]. Stecher learned it from Mrs
SmithJones. He asked her about the mysterious words, 'Sasalado on Salasari', in the chorus: 'She had sung it on other occasions as 'Fa Sol La Do on Sol La Sa Ri' which is pretty close to solfege. "Doremi Falasido?", she asked. "Why I know what 'Doremi Falasido' means". She probably did too, but she never really said other than delivering a magnetic and elliptical soliloquy about Eden, gifts, speaking "in tongues" and how even the original songmaker did not know the meaning'.