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Origins: Little Birdie

DigiTrad:
LITTLE BIRDIE


In Mudcat MIDIs:
Little Birdie (from Jerry Silverman's Folk Song Encyclopedia)
Little Birdie (Randolph) (From Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, vol. 4, p. 122, A)


Mike 12 Aug 99 - 10:50 PM
Jeri 12 Aug 99 - 10:58 PM
Sourdough 13 Aug 99 - 03:22 AM
GeorgeH 13 Aug 99 - 06:01 AM
Mark Clark 13 Aug 99 - 05:58 PM
Sandy Paton 13 Aug 99 - 10:08 PM
Sandy Paton 13 Aug 99 - 10:12 PM
Mike 15 Aug 99 - 10:50 PM
Joe Offer 03 Jul 06 - 04:32 PM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 03 Jul 06 - 05:08 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Jul 06 - 05:53 PM
Joe Offer 03 Jul 06 - 06:13 PM
Charley Noble 03 Jul 06 - 06:15 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Jul 06 - 06:16 PM
Dave Hanson 04 Jul 06 - 01:15 AM
Joe Offer 04 Jul 06 - 12:30 PM
GUEST,jon w 12 Feb 07 - 04:33 PM
Richie 02 Nov 08 - 10:36 PM
john f weldon 02 Nov 08 - 10:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Nov 08 - 11:49 PM
Richie 03 Nov 08 - 12:26 AM
Richie 03 Nov 08 - 12:29 AM
BK Lick 03 Nov 08 - 01:08 AM
GUEST,Gerry 03 Nov 08 - 01:08 AM
Richie 03 Nov 08 - 10:07 AM
Richie 03 Nov 08 - 10:36 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Nov 08 - 02:09 PM
Brian Peters 03 Nov 08 - 02:43 PM
Richie 03 Nov 08 - 03:09 PM
dick greenhaus 03 Nov 08 - 03:18 PM
Richie 03 Nov 08 - 03:20 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Nov 08 - 03:40 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Nov 08 - 04:19 PM
Richie 03 Nov 08 - 04:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Nov 08 - 05:41 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Nov 08 - 06:05 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Nov 08 - 07:51 PM
Richie 03 Nov 08 - 08:04 PM
Brian Peters 04 Nov 08 - 05:05 AM
GUEST,Kristin 03 Feb 12 - 12:47 AM
GUEST,Erich 03 Feb 12 - 03:19 AM
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Subject: Little birdie lyrics-help!
From: Mike
Date: 12 Aug 99 - 10:50 PM

Hi! I am trying to find the lyrics to a song I heard sung by John McCutcheon called "Little Birdie." The first verse goes: Little Birdie, Little Birdie Won't you teach to me your song? I've a short time for to stay with you and a long time to be gone.

Any help would be appreciated!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Little birdie lyrics-help!
From: Jeri
Date: 12 Aug 99 - 10:58 PM

Mike, you can type 'birdie' in that blue box in the top right corner, or use this link:
Little Birdie


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Little birdie lyrics-help!
From: Sourdough
Date: 13 Aug 99 - 03:22 AM

There is another verse I learned -

Married Woman, married woman/ Don't you see what youhave done/ You caused me to go and love you/ Now your husband, he's come home.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Little birdie lyrics-help!
From: GeorgeH
Date: 13 Aug 99 - 06:01 AM

With "Little birdie" and "Wraggle-taggle gypsies" this is definitely a "songs sung by Martin Simpson" morning (well, it's morning here . . )

G.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Little birdie lyrics-help!
From: Mark Clark
Date: 13 Aug 99 - 05:58 PM

I think the Greenbriar Boys added the following two verses:
    I'd rather be a sailor,
    And live my life at sea,
    Than to be an old married man,
    With a baby on my knee.

    Cause a married man sees trouble,
    And a single boy sees none,
    I expect to live single,
    'Til my life is done.
Another verse I've heard used is:
    Little birdie, little birdie,
    What makes you act so queer,
    You have got no cause to worry,
    You don't need no clothes to wear.


Cheers,

- Mark


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Subject: ADD Version: Little Birdie(Frank Proffitt)
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 13 Aug 99 - 10:08 PM

I don't know about Martin Simpson, but here's what I wrote back in 1968 when I included the song, sung with fretless banjo, on Frank Proffitt's second Folk-Legacy solo recording (C-36):

This banjo song, now well-known through the performances of Ralph Stanley, Roscoe Holcomb, Pete Steele, etc., can be heard almost anywhere in the Appalachians, but generally without Frank's verses about the misleading married woman. Most listeners will probably tend to identify these particular lines with Leadbelly's version of "Easy Rider."

Here's what Frank sang for me:

     Little birdie, little birdie,
     Come and sing to me your song.
     I've got a short time now to stay here
     And a long time to be gone.

Married woman, married woman,
Just look what you've done.
You caused me for to love you,
Said your husband was dead and gone.

     Little birdie, little birdie,
     Come and sing to me your song.
     I've got a short time now to stay here
     And a long time to be gone.

Married woman, married woman,
Just look what you've done.
You caused me for to love you,
Now your husband's come home.

     Little birdie, little birdie,
     Come and sing to me your song.
     I've got a short time now to stay here
     And a long time to be gone.

I'd rather be in a lonesome holler,
Where the sun never shines.
Than for you to be some other's darling,
When you promised you'd be mine.
     Little birdie, little birdie,
     Come and sing to me your song.
     I've got a short time now to stay here
     And a long time to be gone.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Little birdie lyrics-help!
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 13 Aug 99 - 10:12 PM

Help, Joe (or anyone else with a correction cookie)! I forgot the "close italics" after "Easy Rider." Can you put it in for me when you get home?
      Thanks.       Sandy


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Little birdie lyrics-help!
From: Mike
Date: 15 Aug 99 - 10:50 PM

Thanks for the help!!!!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Little Birdie
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 04:32 PM

I suppose most people learned this song fromn the Pete Seeger recording, but I learned it from John McCutcheon. John has opened many a concert with this song, and then continued playing the song on the banjo while telling a story. I can't find a McCutcheon recording of it, though - and anybody find a McCutcheon recording of the song for me?
We haven't looked into the song very much, so maybe we should. Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry:

Little Birdie

DESCRIPTION: "Little birdie, little birdie, Come and sing me your song. I've a short time for to be here And a long time to be gone." Often consists of floating verses, but concerns adultery: "Pretty woman... you made me love you, Now your husband has come."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1909 (Brown)
KEYWORDS: adultery bird love courting husband floatingverses
FOUND IN: US(SE,So)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Randolph 676, "The Dark Hollow"" (1 text plus a fragment, 1 tune, with the "A" text perhaps somewhat mixed with "Dark Hollow")
Randolph/Cohen, pp. The Dark Hollow, "" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 676A)
BrownIII 255, "Kitty Kline" (2 text plus 4 fragments and 1 excerpt)
Silber-FSWB, p. 397, "Little Birdie" (1 text)
DT, LILBIRDY

Roud #5742
RECORDINGS:
Willie Chapman, "Little Birdie" [instrumental] (on MMOK, MMOKCD)
Coon Creek Girls, "Little Birdie" (Vocalion 04413, 1938)
Al Craver [pseud. for Vernon Dalhart], "Little Birdie" (Columbia 15044-D, 1925)
John Hammond, "Little Birdie" (Challenge 168 or 332 [one of these as "William Price"/Silvertone 5697, 1927; on BefBlues3)
Roscoe Holcomb, "Little Birdie" (on Holcomb-Ward1, HolcombCD1)
Robert Howell [pseud. for Holland Puckett], "Little Birdie" (Herwin 75563, 1927)
J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers, "Little Birdie" (Montgomery Ward M-7127)
Wade Mainer & Zeke Morris, "Little Birdie" (Bluebird B-6840)
Wade Mainer, "Little Birdie" (King 1093, 1952)
New Lost City Ramblers, "Little Birdie" (on NLCR16)
Land Norris, "Little Birdie" (OKeh 45006, 1925)
Frank Proffitt, "Little Birdie" (on FProffitt01)
Sauceman Brothers, "Little Birdie" (Rich-R-Tone 457, n.d.)
Stanley Brothers, "Little Birdie" (Rich-R-Tone 1056, rec. 1952) (on FOTM)
Pete Steele, "Little Birdie" (on PSteele01)
Pete Seeger, "Little Birdie" (on PeteSeeger47)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "East Virginia (Dark Hollow)" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Easy Rider" (theme)
cf. "Kitty Kline"
Notes: No, not the producer of "Spirituals to Swing," nor his blues-singing son! - PJS
(I think the above is a reference to the recording by John Hammond. But it's all Urdu to me. - RBW)
Yes, it is such a reference. - PJS
Lyle Lofgren informs me that Charles Wolfe did some research on Hammond, learning that he cut only six sides. Wolfe was unable to trace his origins but suspects he came from northern Kentucky.
Very many of the versions in Brown contain references to "Kitty Kline (Clyde, etc.)," and the editors on that basis filed it under that title. But the versions are clearly what we know as "Little Birdie," sometimes mixed with references to Kitty Kline, and so I file them here. - RBW
File: R676

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2007 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 05:08 PM

It's worth adding the following to the list from the Ballad Index:

Fontana        LP STL5432. Hedy West
Folkways LP FA 2363 Roscoe Holcomb
Rounder        CD 1011 The Bray Brothers with Red Cravens
Yazoo CD 2200 PETE STEELE
Smithsonian Folkways        SF CD 40077 Willie Chapman
Heritage LP 18 Roscoe Holcomb                
County LP 717 Gaither Carlton        
Rebel CD Reb-4000 Red Allen/Frank Wakefield                
County LP 757 Glen Smith                                                                                                        
The John Hammond track is available on The CD, Music of Kentucky: Early American Rural Classics 1927 - 37: Vol 2. Yazoo 2014.
The Coon Creek Girls' version was reissued on Trikont US-0310, Flowers in the Wildwood: Women in Early Country Music.

Finally, one of Stefan Grossman's videos of old time music at the Newport Folk Festival has some very impressive footage of the Coon Creek Girls performing Little Birdie.


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Subject: ADD Version: Dark Hollow (Little Birdie)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 05:53 PM

Randolph calls the song "Dark Hollow,"

Dark Hollow

Purty woman, purty woman,
Just see what you've done,
You caused me to love you,
Now your husband has come!

Little birdie, little birdie,
Come sing me a song,
I want to live in a dark holler
Where the sun can never shine!

I'd ruther be a sailor
Way out on the sea,
Than to be a married man
With a baby on my knee.

Little birdie, little birdie,
What makes you look so queer?
You've no cause to worry,
No sorrow for to bear.

Mr. Lewis Kelley, Missouri, 1931. From Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, vol. 4, p. 122, A, with music.


Click to play



The Traditional Ballad Index compares "Little Birdie" with "Kitty Kline," in Brown, North Carolina Folklore. From the few verses in vol. 5, The Music of the Folk Songs, pp. 175-179, I can't convince myself that "Kitty Kline" is the same song, although there are parallels. The main similarity seems to be in the initial verse:

Take me home, little birdie, take me home;
When the moon is shining bright and the stars are giving light,
Take me home to my momma, take me home.
I'm as free a little bird as I can be;
I'm as free a little bird as I can be;
I'll build my nest in the top of yon tree
Where the bad boys can never bother me.
or:
I'll build my nest on my sweet Kitty's breast
Where the bad boys will never take me down.


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Subject: ADD Version: Little Birdie
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 06:13 PM

I don't think I can buy the "Kitty Kline" connection, either. Here's another version of "Birdie":

LITTLE BIRDIE

Little birdie, little birdie,
What makes you fly so high?
It's because I am a true little bird
And I do not fear to die.

Little birdie, little birdie,
What makes your wing so blue?
It's because I've been a-grievin',
Grieving after you.

Little birdie, little birdie,
What makes your head so red?
Well, after all that I've been through,
It's a wonder I ain't dead.

Little birdie, little birdie,
Come sing to me a song.
I've a short while to be here
And a long time to be gone.


Source: Silber & Silber, Folksinger's Wordbook (1973), Oak Publications


C                     G
Little birdie, little birdie,
                      C
What makes you fly so high?
                     G
It's because I am a true little bird
                      C
And I do not fear to die.

The Silber & Silber book has no tune, but Jerry Silverman's Folk Song Encyclopedia has identical lyrics and a tune (which I don't like completely).

Click to play



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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 06:15 PM

As I recall it, Peggy Seeger also recorded this song on her SONGS FOR YOU AND ME. It was one of my favorites for years. She also credited the Coon Creek Girls.

Charley Noble


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Subject: LYR. ADD: KITTY KLINE
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 06:16 PM

Lyr. Add: KITTY KLINE
(Federal Music Project, WPA, ca. 1937)

Do you ever think of me, Kitty Kline?
Do you ever think of me, darling one?
Do you ever think of me
When I'm sailing on the sea,
Do you ever think of me, darling one?

Sometimes I wish I were dead
And buried on the banks of the sea
Where all of my friends could gather around
And see the last of me.

Oh how I love Kitty Kline, Kitty Kline,
Oh how I love that girl,
I love her so well no human tongue can tell,
Oh how I love that girl.

If I were a bird, a little bird,
I would never build on the ground.
I would build my nest in some high oak tree
Where the bad boys could not tear me down.

If I were a bee, a little bee,
I would never steal the honey from a rose;
I would steal one kiss from my true love's lips
And back to the hive I would go.

Oh how I love Kitty Kline, Kitty Kline,
Oh how I love that girl,
I love her so well no human tongue can tell,
Oh how I love that girl.

Duncan Emrich, 1974, "American Folk Poetry, An Anthology," pp. 109-110.
Singer not named; coll. in Boyd Co., KY, ca. 1937. Jean Thomas, Supervisor for Boyd County, Ms., with music, in the Archive of Folk Song, Library of Congress.
The music is not printed in the Emrich volume.

The next song in Emrich is "Free Little Bird," a related song, collected in the Kentucky Highlands by Harvey H. Fuson. It is followed by "In the Pines," ("where the sun never shines"), a line that is found in "Dark Hollow."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 04 Jul 06 - 01:15 AM

Good version by the Kossoy Sisters on the CD ' Bowling Green.'

eric


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Jul 06 - 12:30 PM

Another good version on Mike & Peggy Seeger's CD of Animal Folk Songs for Children, although it isn't in the songbook with the same title that was edited by their mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Little Birdie
From: GUEST,jon w
Date: 12 Feb 07 - 04:33 PM

A John Hammond recording appeared on "Before the Blues Vol 3" with these lyrics:

Little birdie, little birdie
Sing to me your song
I've a short time to stay here
And a long time when I'm gone

I'd ruther be in some dark hollow
Where the sun refused to shine
Dash(?) the thought of you being some other man's woman
When I want to call you mine

Turned 1600-and-42-miles
From my old Kentucky home
My papa and mama they're both dead
No place to call my home

Little birdie, little birdie
What makes you build so queer
I'm building for my little ones
Who have no clothes to wear

Married woman, married woman
Just look what you have done
You caused me for to love you
And now your husband's come

Little birdie, little birdie
What makes you fly so high
I'm the only one in this wide world
And I don't care if I die


    Threads combined. Messages below are from a new thread.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: Origin: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 10:36 PM

Hi,

I've been trying to find out more info on the old-time banjo song "Little Birdie." There's some info in the DT but nothing really uncovering the origin.

Does anyone have lyrics for John Hammond or Land Norris or Holland Puckett?

The Ballad index says 1909 (Brown) as the first source. Who is Brown? Anyone have info or lyrics from the 1909 source?

This seems to be a completely different song than "Free Little Bird." Any details about this would be appreciated.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: Little Birdie
From: john f weldon
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 10:44 PM

I doubt that it has an origin. I've always loved its mysteriousness, ancient quality. In a very odd way, it resembles the G&S song "Titwillow", but is probably much older, by about 5000 years.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Little Birdie
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 11:49 PM

Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, vol. 3, no. 255, "Kitty Kline."
First reported by Louise Rand Bascom, JAFL, vol. 22 (1909), pp. 240-241. These are reproduced in Brown.
Reference to 'little bird' in some versions only; occurs in Mrs. Bascom's second text:

KITTY KLINE

Take me home to my Mommer, Kitty Kline
Take me home to my Mommer, Kitty Kline,
When the stars shine bright, and the moon gives light,
Take me home to my Mommer, Kitty Kline.
2
Take me home to my Mommer, Kitty Kline,
Take Me home to my Mommer, Kitty Kline,
With my head upon your breast, like a birdie in its nest,
Take me home to my Mommer, Kitty Kline.
3
I'm as free a little bird as I can be,
I'm as free a little bird as I can be,
I've built my nest on sweet Kitty's breast,
Whar the bad boys can't tear it down.

Take me home to my Mommer, etc.

and so on, eight verses.

"Of this song, Louise Rand Bascom remarked that it is "the ballad which is most universally known" in western North Carolina, that it "might be called the national song of the highlanders." She also noted that there are as many versions as singers.
Henry M. Belden or one of the other editors of the Brown volume on "Folk Songs of North Carolina" notes that the song is "an outstanding example of that type of folk lyric which picks up motives, recombines them, drops them, takes up others, until it is hardly possible to say whether a given text is to be reckoned a form of a particular song or not."

Several tune versions are given in Brown, vol. 5, "The Music of the Folk Songs," ed. J. P. Schinhan.
Some of the tunes (scores given) are reminiscent of "Lass of Rock Royal," another of "Old Kentucky Home," and another of "If I Had the Wings of an Angel."

Obviously a large complex.

I haven't checked previous threads for lyrics, but the principal ones in Bascomb 1909 and Brown 1962 (early versions from other singers are given there) are worth posting.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 12:26 AM

Hi Q,

Thanks for your replies. I think the version you posted is basically Kitty Cline or Free Little Bird (both came from Kitty Clyde, an 1800s parlor song.

The Little Birdie songs are different IMHO. Usually "Little Birdie Little Birdie what makes you fly so high" etc.

I'd be interested in the Belden lyrics but perhaps they've lumped then all together like some kind of stew.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 12:29 AM

Hi,

I've posted this from here: http://richardmattesonsblog.blogspot.com/

One of the songs the Coon Creek Girls recorded in their first recording session on May 30, 1938 is the song, "Little Birdie."

You can listen to Coon Creek Girls version here:
http://honkingduck.com/78s/listen.php?s=20474B

LITTLE BIRDIE

.........D...............A
Little birdie, little birdie,
..............................D
What makes you fly so high?
.........D.................A
It's because I have a true little heart
........................D
And I don't care to die.

I'd rather be here, honey
Than any place I know.
But to help keep down trouble,
Down this old road I go.

Little birdie, little birdie
What makes your wings so blue?
It's nothing else but grieving,
Grieving over you.

I'd rather drink muddy water,
And sleep in a holler log.
Than to stay here on this muddy river,
And be treated like dirty dog.

Another verse Lily May sang on her CD GEMS:

Little birdie, little birdie,
Come sing to me your song.
I've a short time to be here
And a long time to be gone.

I'm basically looking for lyrics that relate to this.

Thanks,

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: Little Birdie
From: BK Lick
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 01:08 AM

Here's an mp3 of John Hammond singing "Little Birdie."
Here's an mp3 of Land Norris singing a song called "Little Birdie" but it seems to be "Free Little Bird."
—BK


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Subject: RE: Origin: Little Birdie
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 01:08 AM

I have an LP which is mostly the Kossoy Sisters but there are two tracks by someone named Robin Roberts (a woman, not the pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies), and one of those tracks is Little Birdie. As I recall, the liner notes are singularly unhelpful. I think Erik Darling plays banjo behind the singer.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 10:07 AM

Thanks for the links and replies.

Land Norris' version is a different song- Free Little Bird.

I'll see if I can transcribe the John Hammonds version.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 10:36 AM

Hi,

I've listened to the Hammonds recording and got most of it. I can't hear the beginning of the 3rd verse. Anyone?


LITTLE BIRDIE John Hammonds

Little birdie, little birdie,
Come sing to me your song.
I've a short time to stay here
And a long time when I'm gone.

I'd rather be in some dark Hollow
Where the shine refused to shine
Than the thought that you'd be some other man's woman
When I want to call you mine

........forty-two miles
From my old Kentucky Home
My Papa and Ma they're both dead
No place to call my own

Little birdie, little birdie,
What makes you act so queer
I'm building for my little ones
That have to clothes to wear

Married woman married woman
Look what you have done
You've caused me for to love you
Now your husband's come.

Little birdie, little birdie,
What makes you fly so high
I'm the only one in this wide world,
And I don't care if I die.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 02:09 PM

Vance Randolph called the song "The Dark Hollow," posted previously.
Compare with the version posted by Sandy Paton, above, also verses from the Hammond version posted by jon w.
Also related to "Free Little Bird," KY highlands, which shares some verses.

FREE LITTLE BIRD

I'm as free a little bird as I can be;
I'm as free a little bird as can be;
I'm as free a little bird as ever spoke a word;
I'm as free a little bird as can be.
2
Go bring me a chair and set me down;
Go bring me a pen and ink to write it down;
And at the end of every line that I write down
The tears will come falling to the ground.
3
If I were a little fish,
I would never bite the hook any more;
I would fly away down in the middle of the sea,
Where the bad boys cannot bother me.
4
If I were a little dove,
I wouyld fly from vine to vine,
And let you weep for your true-love,
Just as I weep for mine.
5
If I were a little bird,
I would never build my nest on the ground;
I would build my nest in sweet Kitty's breast
Where the bad boys cannot tear it down.
6
If I were a honey bee,
I would never steal the honey from the cup;
I would steal one kiss from my sweet Kitty's lips,
And I'd fly away to old Tennessee.
7
I cried all day like a child,
And I cried all day the day before;
And I ain't going to cry any more.

From Laura Lawson, coll. Harvey H. Fuson, in Fuson, "Ballads of the Kentucky Highlands," 1931, London, p. 130, without music.
In Duncan Emrich, 1974, "American Folk Poetry, An Anthology, pp. 110-111.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 02:43 PM

Can't help with origin or lyric, I'm afraid, but there's a really nice version here .


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:09 PM

Hi,

Corrections from last post. First the artist is John Hammond (no s) and the fourth verse is:

Little birdie, little birdie,
What makes you act so queer?
I'm building for my little ones
That have no clothes to wear.

Q,

The problem here is that "Little Birdie" is a different song than Free Little Bird or Kitty Kline (Cline). What we're trying to find out is if the reference to 1909 Brown is the right song (Little Birdie) and what exactly the reference and lyrics are.

Also Lily May's version (Coon Creek Girls)was learned around 1924 and probably was kicking around the mountains for years before that. There's not much info about the song.

Brian,

I checked the link but it wasn't easy to find a recording. Where is it?

Thanks for the help,

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:18 PM

Lily May Ledford's version is available on CD--June Appal 78. Available from CAMSCO, of course.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:20 PM

Q,

After rereading your post if what Louise Rand Bascom collected was Kitty Kline it definately is the wrong song and the 1909 Brown date refers to the wrong song, not Little Birdie.

Land Norris called his song Little Birdie, but it's a version of Free Little Bird- it's not the right song. Hammond's is definately "Little Birdie" as is the Coon Creek Girls.

Gus Meade also was confused by this and has not separated the songs correctly.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:40 PM

Lyr. Add: KITTY KLINE

1
Take me home, take me home, take me home,
Take me home, take me home, take me home,
When the moon shines bright, and the stars give light,
Tak me home, take me home, take me home.
2*
"Oh, who will shoe your little feet,
Oh, who will glove your little hand,
Oh, who will kiss your sweet rosy cheek,
When I'm gone to that far-distant land?"
3*
"Oh, Popper'll shoe my little feet,
And Mommer'll glove my little hand,
And you shall kiss my sweet rosy cheek,
When you shall come from that far-distant land.
4
"oh, I can't stay hyar by myself,
Oh, I can't stay hyah by myself,
I'll weep like a willer, an' I'll mourn like a dove,
Oh, I can't stay hyah by myself.
5
"If I was a little fish
I would swim to the bottom of the sea,
And thar I'd sing my sad little song,
Oh, I can't stay hyah by myself.
6
"If I was a sparrer bird,
I would fly to the top of a tree,
And thar I'd sing my sad little song,
Oh, I can't stay hyah by myself.

"Oh, I can't stay hyah by myself, etc.

7
"Yonder sets a turtle-dove,
A-hoppin' from vine to vine,
He's a mournin' fur his own true love,
An' why not me fur mine?"
8
"I'm a goin' ter the top of that nigh pine,
I'm a goin' to the top of that nigh pine,
An/ ef I fall 'thout breakin' my neck,
You'll know who I love the best."

*Cf. verses from "The Lass of Roch Royal," Child, no. 76.

Version A, pp. 240-241, Louise Rand Bascom, "Ballads and Songs of Western North Carolina," JAFL vol. 21, no. 84, 1908.
Bascom states that this "charming ballad is at least fifty years old and how much further it dates back is not easy to conjecture,..."
These versions (A, B) are the first published of the song, acc. to the Trad. Ballad Index. They were later included in Brown, "North Carolina Folklore."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 04:19 PM

"Kitty Clyde," sheet music published in 1853 by Crosby, was reproduced on several 19th c. songsheets.
Richie posted the lyrics in thread 53347 in a thread labeled "Katy Cline/Free...."
Katy Cline

"Little Birdie," to me, seems to be a simplified version of the song for fiddle, banjo and dancing, departing far from the songsheets of Kitty Clyde which was combined with verses and thoughts from a number of old ballads.

Interesting is a convergence of "Dark Hollow" versions with crime ballads-
Purty woman, purty woman,
Just see whut you've done,
You've caused me to murder
Another woman's son!
Coll. in MO, Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, vol. 4, no, 676.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 04:23 PM

Hi Q,

Thanks. Clearly the first verse is a version of "Free Little Bird" and doesn't fit "Little Birdie."

Most of other verses seem to have floated from "The Lass of Roch Royal," Child, no. 76.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 05:41 PM

Lyr. Add: I WISH I WAS A LITTLE BIRD

Wisht I was a little fish,
I'd swim to the bottom of the sea,
And there I'd sing my sad little song,
'There's nobody cares for me'.*
2
I wisht I was a little bird,
I'd fly to the top of a tree
And there I'd sing my sad little song,
'There's nobody cares for me.'
3
I wisht I was a little boy
And learn how to rope a cow;
I'd learn how to put on a great many airs,
And then I'd learn to plow.
4
But as I am a little girl
I learn how to weave and spin,
Learn how to put on a great many airs
And learn to fool the young men.
*In "Kitty Cline," the refrain line runs, 'I can't stay hyar by myself'.
1909, from 'a hired girl.' "Most closely allied to "Kitty Kline.""
p. 489, H. M. Belden, ed., 1940, "Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 06:05 PM

This one seems to be most closely allied to the "Dark Hollow" group

Lyr. Add: LITTLE BIRDIE

I'm a long way from old Dixie
Near my old Kentucky home
And my father and mother are both dead;
Got no place to call my home.
2
Oh, I'd rather be in some dark holler
Where the sun don't ever shine
Than to see you another man's woman
When you promised to be mine.
Refrain
Little birdie, little birdie,
Come and sing me your song;
Got a short time to stay here
And a long time to be gone.
3
Little birdie, little birdie
What makes you act so queer*
You've got no cause to worry
And don't need no clothes to wear.
4
Married woman, married woman,
Come and see what you have done;
You have caused me to love you,
Now your husband is dear and gone.
5
Oh, I'd rather be a sailor,
Way out there upon the sea,
Than to be a married man
With a baby on my knee.
6
For a married man sees trouble
While a single man sees none;
And I'd rather be a single man
And have all my fun.

* Pronounced 'quare' in portions of the highlands and west into Arkansas.
Source not stated.
Little Birdie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 07:51 PM

To the Coon Creek Girls version above, Seegar added a couple more-

Little birdie, little birdie
What makes your head so red?
After all that I been through,
It's a wonder I ain't dead.

Little birdie, little birdie
Come sing to me your song
I've a short while to be here,
And a long time to be gone.
--------------------------------

Kitty Clyde was published in Christy's Plantation Melodies, no, 5, c. 1851, according to Ray B. Browne, 1979, "The Alabama Folk Lyric: A Study in origins and Media of Dissemination," p. 94.
The song essentially in the version on the sheet music by L. V. H. Crosby, dated 1853. My guess is that the Christy printing is later. The song became popular, and, like a number of popular songs of the day, would have been requested from the minstrels.

A version from Green Co., AL., borrows the chorus
Take me, take me home,
To the fair sunny South take me home
Where the mockingbird sings me to sleep every night,
To the bright sunny South take me home.
The 'bee' and the 'bad boys' verses are included.

In Arnold, "An Alabama Songbook," a song titled "Winter's Night" is mostly verses from "The Lass of Roch Royal," some of which appear in versions of Kitty Cline.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Richie
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 08:04 PM

Q,

I agree that both Kitty Kline and Free Little Bird come from Kitty Clyde. This has been established in earlier threads on those songs. Somehow the songs became tied in with Little Birdie.

Mike Seeger knew Lily May Ledford well in the later years and organized some concerts for her. She has some kind words to say about him in her unpublished handwritten autobiography which I have been loaned by Cari Horris.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 05:05 AM

> Brian, I checked the link but it wasn't easy to find a recording. Where is it? <

The link should take you to Chance McCoy's Myspace page (works for me). Then seek out #4 in his list of recordings.

Chance played the song on mainstage at Augusta (Elkins WVa) in August and I thought he made a great job of it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: GUEST,Kristin
Date: 03 Feb 12 - 12:47 AM

It seems it has been three plus years since anyone has posted on this subject, but I am beyond thrilled to find this. My grandmother used to sing me the green co. AL version of free bird/kitty Kline. I have tried before to find the lyrics and failed. This AL version is closest to what I remember. My grandmother came from NM however her mother was a chuck wagon cook from oaklahoma and I bet that is where the song came to her from. Anyway, if anyone is still on this forum, and cares, here is what I can remember:

If I were a little bird, I would never build my nest on the ground
I would build my nest high up in the tree where the bad boys couldn't bother me

Take me home dear momma, take me home
Take me home, dear momma, take me home
Take me home dear momma take me home
To the old sunny south take me home

If I were a little fish, I would swim to the bottom of the sea
And there I'd sing this happy happy song
.....(sorry I can never remember what she would sing here, so I always just humm through it )

If anyone has a recording of this version, or anything close to it I would love to hear it.

Cheers,
Kristin


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Birdie
From: GUEST,Erich
Date: 03 Feb 12 - 03:19 AM

My favourite version is sung by Derroll Adams on his "Portland Town" LP.


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