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Lyr Add: The Ballad of Giddings' Fall (Bob Clark)

Don Firth 26 Oct 07 - 07:44 PM
michaelr 26 Oct 07 - 08:43 PM
Peace 26 Oct 07 - 09:20 PM
Don Firth 14 Apr 09 - 02:23 PM
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From: Don Firth
Date: 26 Oct 07 - 07:44 PM

A Song Too Good to be Forgotten

I learned a song in the late 1950s or early 1960s that is far too good a song to be allowed to vanish into the mists of yesteryear and the veil of forgetfulness. I learned it from the author/poet/minstrel, as did a couple of other people at the time, and for a few years, it was sung around here with some gusto. The song—ballad, to be exact—deals with and epic battle that ended in the come-uppance of a large and strong young man who, although a gentle soul when sober (a rare occurrence in those days), became bellicose and bent on mayhem when deep in his cups. It is not that he bore any ill-will toward those with whom he tangled. He just enjoyed the exercise. And it also takes a look at some "goings-ons" among the spectators.

Although the phrase does not occur in the song, it is very much in the mold of the traditional "Come-all-ye" ballads. It has the appeal of considerable humor, and the further virtue that the events it narrates actually happened. The story it tells is true.

Apart from the very early 1960s, I haven't heard it sung by anyone, and most of the people who did sing it then are no longer around. As to the author, the last time I saw him was in August of 1965. I have no idea of where he is now or if he is even in the land of the living. As far as I know, I could be the only person in existence who knows the song. Hence, I feel a certain responsibility.

During this period, I was acquainted with two men named Bob Clark. One owned the Guild 45th Street Theater in the Seattle's Wallingford District, and "The Place Next Door" (next door to the theater, of course), a somewhat up-scale coffee house and the first in Seattle that hired—and paid—folk singers to entertain, and where I sang regularly on weekends during the late Fifties and early Sixties.

The other Bob Clark (by the way, both Bob Clarks knew each other and each referred to the other Bob Clark as "the other Bob Clark") was co-proprietor, with Ken Prichard, of a restaurant half a block from the University of Washington campus, called "The Chalet." It was at this restaurant one weekend evening in 1952 that I first heard Walt Robertson sing. They closed The Chalet for regular business and devoted the evening to a concert by Walt. I mark that evening as the point that changed my life, in that it inspired me to take a very serious interest in learning and singing folk songs and ballads myself.

This Bob Clark played the guitar and sang. The first time I saw him perform was a bit of a surprise, because I had noticed that he was missing a thumb and the first and second fingers on his left hand. He played a left-handed guitar and either strummed, or manipulated a pick by holding the pick between the two remaining fingers of his left hand. His singing voice was a good, solid baritone.

It is this latter Bob Clark who wrote the song I am speaking of.

Some blocks from the University of Washington sits the Blue Moon Tavern. It was saved from the bulldozer by public sentiment and although the campaign to have it declared a "Historical Landmark" failed, it still exists in the same location, and it is now a bit tidier perhaps than it was in the days of yore. Back in those days, it was simply a neighborhood beer joint. Its uniqueness lay in those who frequented the place. Poet Theodore Roethke wet his nose there often, as did Northwest artist Guy Anderson, and author Tom Robbins (Another Roadside Attraction, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker, and many others), with occasional visits by people such as Dylan Thomas (before my time) and Allen Ginsberg. I spent many an hour there arguing politics and otherwise saving the world with science-fiction writer Jerry Pournelle (author of Falkenberg's Legion and Starswarm, as well as co-author with Larry Niven of The Mote in God's Eye, Lucifer's Hammer, Footfall and, also, many others) as we exercised our elbows lifting schooner glasses to our mouths and wiping the foam off our upper lips. Someone once commented about the Blue Moon Tavern that "on any given evening, there are probably more PhD.s in that beer joint than you'll find on most college campuses!"

The dramatis personae of the ballad include the protagonist (?) Ed Giddings, two of his drinking companions of the evening, Ljubin Petric, a local artist, and Ann Enscoe, who, I believe was a school teacher. Pat Sweeney, who owned the "cabin" in question—actually one of the many houseboats on Lake Union—was a quiet, affable man, but unknown to Ed Giddings, Sweeney had been a judo instructor in the Marine Corps. Giddings' wife, Carolyn, also in attendance at the described happenings, made jewelry, and she clamed that she could tell the quality of metal by the time-honored method of biting it. Bob did not know this at the time he wrote the song! He learned this later, to his amusement and amazement!

None of the names have been changed to protect the innocent—because there weren't any! The only name that is fictional is "Bill Brannon, a man of the plainclothes police," because no one there ever did learn his name, so Bob gave him one.

I take it upon myself to present this song. I hope this is all right with Bob. As I said, I don't know where he is or how to get in touch with him, and although he's not really that much older than I am, I don't know if he still resides on this planet. I'm sure he didn't copyright it or anything like that (but if it were to come to that, I can certainly vouch as to Bob's authorship), he wrote it simply because he was there, it needed to be written, and he had the ability. As to the others, at this late date, I don't believe I would be holding any of them up to public scorn and obloquy, because there is a sufficient number of Ed Giddingses in the country that, even if he is still among the living, only he could confirm that he's the one in the ballad. Actually, he had heard the ballad way back then and although he was not too enthusiastic about its existence, he bore Bob no ill-will for writing it, and declared it "kinda funny, really."

Without further ado, here is
The Ballad of Giddings' Fall
(words by Bob Clark, to the tune of "Blue Mountain Lake.")

Of all of the tap-hounds who drink at the Moon,
A most unabashed and particular goon
Was a fellow named Giddings, near seven foot tall.
Who plays games with his fist, poking holes in the wall.
REFRAIN: Derry down, down, down derry down.

One night when Ed Giddings had closed up the Moon,
Complaining at ending his evening so soon,
With Lubin and Enscoe his way he did make
To a party at Sweeney's way down by the lake. REF:

Now, the guests were all merry, the liquor flowed free;
Soon Giddings was drunk as he ever would be.
He reeled round the cabin, a terrible sight,
And challenged each man in the place to a fight. REF:

Now, the roof of the cabin was propped with a post,
And Giddings declared that he'd fight with his host.
So he laid hands upon it and planted his boots
And swore that he'd tear the post out by its roots. REF:

'Til now Pat Sweeney had remained quite aloof,
But aroused by this threat to his house and his roof,
In half of the time that I tell of the task,
Pat Sweeney threw Giddings right down on his—REF:

Now, Giddings declared that this never could be,
But the truth of the matter was easy to see.
Pat Sweeney threw Giddings right out through the door
And there on the outside, they tussled some more. REF:

The noise of the fighting was raucous and loud.
Soon all of the neighbors had joined in the crowd.
The last to arrive at this breach of the peace
Was Bill Brannon, a man of the plainclothes police. REF:

Bill Brannon was one who was used to command,
And a way through the crowd he was quick to demand.
Conceive his frustration, disgust, and dismay
When they bid him, "Good evening," and then turned away. REF:

He elbowed his way toward the scene of the strife,
But soon was stopped short by Ed Giddings' young wife,
Who asked, "Who in the hell do you think that you are?"
In reply to her question, he showed her his star. REF:

She took it and bit it by way of a test,
And fully convinced it was tin, at the best,
She put him to shriek and to stamp on his hat,
Asking how many box-tops it cost him for that? REF:

By now, Bill Brannon was completely undone,
So he tried to convince her by showing his gun.
She laughed and declared it a toy and a fake,
So he aimed it and fired it three times in the lake. REF:

Now, the evening is over, 'tis part of the past.
Pat Sweeney prevailed from the first to the last.
'Twas the city police put and end to the fun:
They'd been called to get rid of the goof with the gun. REF:
Unburdening myself as possibly the sole custodian of this song, I respectfully submit it to the vicissitudes of posterity.

Don Firth

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Subject: RE: A Song Too Good to be Forgotten
From: michaelr
Date: 26 Oct 07 - 08:43 PM

Brilliant, Don -- LOL! Thanks for sharing. Yes it is too good to be forgotten.


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Subject: RE: A Song Too Good to be Forgotten
From: Peace
Date: 26 Oct 07 - 09:20 PM

Much too good to be forgotten. Thank you, Don.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Ballad of Giddings' Fall (Bob Clark)
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Apr 09 - 02:23 PM


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