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Origins: Little Bessie

DigiTrad:
DRUNKARD'S CHILD
DRUNKARDS SON
THE DRUNKARD'S BOY
THE DRUNKARD'S LONE CHILD (2)


Related threads:
Lyr/Chords Req: Little Bessie (8)
Lyr Req: The Drunkard's Son (Hank Snow) (12)
Lyr Req/Add: Drunkard's Lone Child (15)
Lyr/Chords Add: Drunkard's Child (Parkhurst) (5)
Lyr Req: Mother take me in your arms/Little Bessie (8)
Lyr Add: 'Another' Drunkard's Child (10)
Lyr Add: The Drunkard's Son (from Utah Phillips) (9)


Anne 12 Mar 99 - 12:27 PM
Stewie 25 Oct 99 - 09:42 PM
Stewie 17 Sep 00 - 08:47 PM
Stewie 02 Feb 01 - 06:37 PM
Richie 01 Dec 02 - 09:47 PM
masato sakurai 01 Dec 02 - 10:31 PM
Stewie 02 Dec 02 - 12:13 AM
toadfrog 08 Jun 03 - 02:40 PM
Joe Offer 28 Aug 11 - 02:10 AM
GUEST,Kathryn 02 Sep 11 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,Shelley Heath 27 Sep 11 - 03:45 AM
GUEST 25 Mar 12 - 02:39 AM
GUEST,Penswin. England. 24 Oct 13 - 04:17 PM
GUEST 29 Aug 17 - 10:31 AM
GUEST 10 Mar 18 - 01:16 AM
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Subject: Little Bessie
From: Anne
Date: 12 Mar 99 - 12:27 PM

Seeking words to an old song which may be titled "Little Bessie." My Mother who is 82 says she remembers hearing it when she was very, very small. Part of the wording is:

Come up here my little Bessie, Come up here and live with me, Where little children never suffer, Suffer through eternity.

And I wonder if he saw me, would he speak to such as me.

Thanks,


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Subject: Lyr Add: LITTLE BESSIE^^
From: Stewie
Date: 25 Oct 99 - 09:42 PM

LITTLE BESSIE

Hold me closer, mother, closer
Put your arms around me tight
For I'm cold and tired, dear mother
And I feel so strange tonight

Something hurts me here, dear mother
Like a stone upon my breast
And I wonder, mother, wonder
Why it is I cannot rest

All the days while you were working
As I lay upon the bed
I was trying to be patient
And to think of what you said

Just before the lamps were lighted
Just before the children came
While the room was very quiet
I head someone call my name

'Come up here, my little Bessie
'Come up here and live with me
'Where little children never suffer
'Through the long eternity'

In the silent hour of midnight
In the silence calm and deep
Lying on her mother's bosom
Little Bessie fell asleep

Now up yonder at the portals
That are shining very fair
Little Bessie now is tended
By the Saviour's loving care

Source: Blue Sky Boys. Recorded on 25 January 1938. Reissued on Various Artists 'Early Blue Grass' RCA Victor Vintage Series LPV-569.

Note: A good example of the dichotomy of the 19th century mind. One of the hundreds of sentimental songs about children – the very children who were ruthlessly exploited in the mines and the factories. This is a shortened version of the text in the 'Old Baptist Songbook'. The song was very popular throughout the southern mountains. A 9-minute version can be found on the superb recording of Roscoe Holcomb from Kentucky issued by Smithsonian/Folkways: 'The High Lonesome Sound'. The emotional impact that the song could have is exemplified by Holcomb's recording , made at his home in 1962 during the filming of the 'High Lonesome Sound'. The song was sung with incredible intensity. We are told that Roscoe became so involved in the song that his mood changed and he refused to record for several days afterward. I note that a lady called Anne was looking for this in a thread in March this year, but she probably wanted the longer version.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Little Bessie
From: Stewie
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 08:47 PM

I resurrect this simply to give a pointer to a moving recording of this song. It is the final track on 'Ancient Tones' - Ricky Skaggs' follow-up album to his 'Bluegrass Rules' move back to his roots. Excellent album: Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder 'Ancient Tones' Skaggs Family Records SKFR 1001. The text of 'Little Bessie' is much longer than that given above - it is sung mostly unaccompanied with a small section having guitar and mandolin. Ricky's note to the song reads:

Here is another song that I first heard from the Stanley Brothers. I loved their version very much. Then, one day, I found an old songbook that had many more verses to it than what they had recorded. I asked my dad if he knew anyone who could sing the old mountain style version of 'Little Bessie'. He said he thought he did. So we went down the road to a neighbour's house. Their names wer Alvie and Vernie Fyffe. Vernie knew the old way of singing that song. So I learned it from her. One of the blessings of having my own record label is that I can have the freedom to make the music that I want to make, even if it is ten minutes long.

--Stewie.


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Subject: Lyr Add: LITTLE BESSIE^^
From: Stewie
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 06:37 PM

The text for Skaggs recording was asked for in another thread. Here it is:

LITTLE BESSIE
(Traditional)

Hug me closer, mother, closer
Put your arms around me tight
For I am cold and tired, dear mother
And I feel so strong tonight

Something hurts me here, dear mother
Like a stone upon my breast
Oh, I wonder, mother, wonder
Why it is I cannot rest

All the day while you were working
As I lay upon my bed
I was trying to be patient
And to think of what you said

How the king, dear blessed Jesus
Loves his lambs to watch and keep
Oh, I wish he would come and take me
In his arms that I might sleep

Just before the lamps were lighted
Just before the children came
While the room was very quiet
I heard someone call my name

All at once a window opened
On a field of lambs and sheep
Some far out in a brook were drinking
Some were lying fast asleep

In a moment I was looking
On a world so bright and fair
Which was filled with little children
And they seemed so happy there

They were singing oh so sweetly
Sweetest songs I ever heard
They were singing sweet, mother,
Than our darling little birds

But I could not see the Saviour
Though I strained my eyes to see
And I wondered if He saw me
Would He speak to such as me

All at once a window opened
One so bright upon me smiled
And I knew it must be Jesus
When he said, Come here my child

Come here, my little Bessie,
Come up here and live with me
Where little children never suffer
Suffer through eternity

Then I thought of all you told me
Of that bright and happy land
I was going when you called me
When you came and kissed my hand

And at first I felt so sorry
You had called and I would go
Oh, to sleep and never suffer
Mother, don't be crying so

Hug me closer, mother, closer
Put your arms around me tight
Oh, how much I love you mother
And how strong I feel tonight

And the mother pressed her closer
To her own dear burdened breast
On the heart so near its breaking
Lay the heart so near its rest

At the solemn hour of midnight
In the darkness calm and deep
Lying on her mother's bosom
Little Bessie fell asleep

Source: Ricky Skaggs 'Ancient Tones' Skaggs Family Records SKFR-CD 1001
PS.

'Sentimentality is simply having feelings and not troubling to invent a new way of expressing them' - G.K. Chesterton.

Cheers, Stewie.


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Subject: Lyr Add: LITTLE BESSIE (J. M. Barringer)
From: Richie
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 09:47 PM

I found this version of 'Little Bessie' in American Memory and it seems to be the original of the Drunkard's Lone Child II in the DT
which collected from Mrs. L.A. Thomas, MO, 1928, from Ozark Folksongs, Randolph.

Are there other Little Bessie/Drunkard's Lone Child version's from this time period? Is this a folk song that Barringer coprighted or is he the original author (which seems unlikely)?   

Lyr. Add: LITTLE BESSIE by J. M. Barringer, 1876.
American 19th-century sheet music. Copyright deposits, 1870-1885

1. Out in the gloomy night sadly I roam,
No one mother dear, no pleasant home;
No one now cares for me, no one would cry,
Even if poor little Bessie should die.

Weary and tired I've been wandering all day,
Asking for work but I'm too small they say.
All day long I've been begging for bread,
Father's a drunkard and mother is dead.

2. We was so happy till father drank rum,
Then all our sorrows and troubles begun;
Mother grew pale and wept every day,
Baby and I was too hungry to play.

Slowly they faded 'til one summer night
Found their dead faces all silent and white,
Then with big tears dropping I said,
Father's a drunkard and mother is dead.

3. Oh, if the temperance men only could find
Poor wretched father and talk to him kind,
Oh if they could stop him from drinking, then,
I should be very soon happy again.

Is it too late temp'rance men, please to try,
Or poor little Bessie must soon starve and die,
On the damp ground I must now lay my head,
Father's a drunkard and mother is dead.

-Richie


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE DRUNKARD'S LONE CHILD
From: masato sakurai
Date: 01 Dec 02 - 10:31 PM

From American Memory:

THE DRUNKARD'S LONE CHILD.
H. De Marsan, Publisher, ... 60 Chatham Street, N. Y. [n. d.]

Out in the gloomy night sadly I roam,
I've no mother now, no friends, no home;
Nobody cares for me, no one would cry,
Even if poor little Bessie should die!
Barefoot and tired, I've wandered all day.
Asking for work--but I'm too small, they say;
On the damp ground I must now lay my head--
Father's a drunkard, and Mother is dead!

Chorus: Mother, oh! why did you leave me alone,
With no one to love me, no friends, and no home!
Dark is the night and the storm rages wild;
God! pity Bessie, the drunkard's lone child.

We were so happy--till father drank rum:
Then all our sorrows and troubles begun;
Mother grew paler, and wept every day;
Baby and I were too hungry to play--
Slowly they faded, and one summer's night
Found their sweet faces all silent and white--
And, with big tears slowly dropping, I said:
Father's a drunkard, and Mother is dead!

Chorus.

Oh! if some temperance men only could find
Poor wretched Father, and speak very kind:
If they could stop him from drinking: why, then
I would feel very happy again!
Is it too late? Men of temperance, please try:
For, little Bessie will soon starve and die:
All the day long I've been begging for bread--
Father's drunkard, and Mother is dead!

Chorus.

W.K. McNeil (Southern Folk Ballads, vol. 2, p. 173) says about "Little Bessie":

Despite its popularity and its several recordings, little of its history is known; the lyricist-composer is anonymous, and even original date of publication is unknown. It is generally thought to date from the 1860s, primarily because it is found in several songsters of that decade. Unfortunately, no author is given for these texts. A song titled "Little Bessie," published by S. Brainard & Sons, Cleveland, and attibuted to someone named Keutchman, was availabe in 1870. Possibly this is the same song but, unfortunately, this sheet music apparently no longer exists.

According to Meade et al.'s Country Music Sources (p. 263), "Little Bessie" is from:

R.S. Crandall, wds, arr. by W.T. Porter, ca. 1875.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Little Bessie
From: Stewie
Date: 02 Dec 02 - 12:13 AM

Walter Smith's 1931 recording of 'Little Bessie' has been reissued recently on one of the 3 lovely CDs compiled by Tony Russell relating to Walter Smith and his circle: 'Walter Smith & Friends Vols I-III' Document DOCD 8062, 8063, 8064. Kid Smith and His Family 'Little Bessie' [Victor 23576] recorded in Charlotte NC on 19 May 1931 is on Walter Smith & Friends Vol III: I'll Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms' DOCD 8064.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Little Bessie
From: toadfrog
Date: 08 Jun 03 - 02:40 PM

Other notable recordings of this include:

Roscoe Holcomb/the High Lonesome Sound (Folkways FA 2368) as recorded in 1962 while making the film of the same name. John Cohen's liner notes remark: "The actual performance here takes over 9 minutes and is sung at full intensity. During the singing Roscoe became very involved with the song, so much so that his mood changed, and he didn't feel like singing at all for several days afterward." I'll vouch for that. It is an extremely powerful performance. I have the record and I have seen the film. It is unforgettable.

Also excellent is William May's performance, with violin on Augusta Heritage Recordings, Folksongs & Ballads, vol. 4. (Recorded in 1990). May is an actual folk singer (i.e. a non-stage performer who sings and plays the music from family tradition). Not many of those still alive.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Little Bessie
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Aug 11 - 02:10 AM

I received an e-mail asking about this song:
    Hi Joe, I am interested in "Little Bessie". The one version in which it is the little girl going to heaven. Ann in that thread says, she remembers her grandma singing it. I too remember my grandfather singing it and he was quite a bit older than her. I was wondering if she was from the same area as her. Would be cool to know. He was quite the accomplished musician (Kentucky Bluegrass, of course). He would be 94 yrs. this month. I was thinking a lot of him lately. His wife is still living. Anyhow, I was just wondering. I am hoping I can get the earliest possible date on the version I mentioned as well as get some information from Ann in this thread. Anything you know on it would be appreciated.
    Kind Regards,
The Traditional Ballad Index has a little bit on "Little Bessie, but not much. Can anybody help with more information?

    Little Bessie

    DESCRIPTION: The little girl tells her mother that she is ill (with what sounds like heart disease). She reports that a voice called her, saying, "Come, be my child." The girl bids her mother not to grieve, then dies
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: 1928 (Recording, Buell Kazee)
    KEYWORDS: death children mother religious
    FOUND IN: US(Ap,SE)
    REFERENCES (3 citations):
    McNeil-SFB2, pp. 172-173, "Little Bessie" (1 text, the same as that in Abrahams/Foss; 1 tune)
    MHenry-Appalachians, pp. 132-134, "Little Bessie" (1 text)
    Abrahams/Foss, pp. 122-123, "Little Bessie" (1 text, the same as that in McNeil-SFB2; 1 tune)

    ST MN2172 (Partial)
    Roud #4778
    RECORDINGS:
    Leroy Anderson, "Little Bessie" (Champion 45059, 1935)
    Blue Sky Boys, "Little Bessie" (Bluebird B-8017, 1939)
    Dixon Brothers, "Little Bessie" (Montgomery Ward M-7171, 1937)
    Kelly Harrell, "I Heard Somebody Call My Name" (Victor 23747, 1929; on KHarrell02)
    Roscoe Holcomb, "Little Bessie" (on Holcomb1, HolcombCD1)
    Buell Kazee, "Little Bessie" (Brunswick 215, 1928)
    Holland Puckett, "Little Bessie" (Gennett 6720, 1928/Supertone 9324, 1929)
    Kid Smith [Walter Smith] & Family, "Little Bessie" (Victor 23576, 1931)

    NOTES: McNeil reports that a song called "Little Bessie," credited to "someone named Keutchman," was published in 1870. No copies of this piece are known, however, so it cannot be determined if the two are the same.
    Given how often this was recorded by old-time bands, and how rare it is in tradition, I have to suspect that Viola Cole (Foss's informant) learned it, at least indirectly, from a recording. - RBW
    File: MN2172

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

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2011 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Bessie
From: GUEST,Kathryn
Date: 02 Sep 11 - 06:53 PM

Joe,
For historical purposes, the lyrics for the Ricky Scaggs version of "Little Bessie" were written by America Spurlock Bowling Couch Wilson Bowlin. America wrote the song lyrics, after the death of her four year old daughter Bessie Couch, sometime during 1923-1224. America's daughter had been tragically and fatally burned from the homes wood burning stove. My grandfather French Bowling (born in 1917), recalled being about 6 yrs. old. at the time, remembers putting his baby sister Bessie on the train in Typo, Kentucky, to go to the nearest hospital on the lines from Typo (probably Harlan, Ky.). He never saw his baby sister again.
French Bowling's mother was said to have had a beautiful high soprano voice. One of French's fondest memories of his mother is of her singing this song she had written. Our family knows nothing of who, when or where the music arrangement came from, just the lyrics.
More history on America and her family was that she was musically gifted of voice and the ability to play the pump organ and did so for the little church on the side of the mountain in Typo, Kentucky. French Bowling, her fourth child from her first husband "Willie" William Bowling, was as equally talented as his Mother and Father. Willie was an accomplished banjo player well known in Typo. French could and would play anything he could get his hands on. It was said, he would even play music with a comb and tissue paper. He would play instruments that some didn't even know what they were. Unlike his older brother who chose to work in the Kentucky coal mines, French left to join the army at fifteen years of age, of which his mother signed for. He joined the United States Army and became a bugle and trumpet player in the band. His early music roots were playing banjo, guitar, and anything else to play Kentucky Bluegrass music to soothe his soul. A portion of his personally recorded music collection he donated to the University of Florida.
America Spurlock Bowling Couch Wilson Bowlin, being God fearing survived a very tough life, the depression with a strong heart and mind, and all with the loss of a child, inspired her to write a song so very dear to her heart about the loss of her little girl, deserves to have her name remembered. Many depression era surviving Americans, living in the Appalachians, hugely impacted the music in our American history, binding us all together like a quilt, also deserve to be remembered. Thankfully some have written it down or recorded it before there's no one to remember how it was told, sung or played. Thank you.
Regards,
Kathryn-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Bessie
From: GUEST,Shelley Heath
Date: 27 Sep 11 - 03:45 AM

I have found a copy of the lyrics written at the back of a diary my 3rd great grandfather wrote in 1860 about his overland trek from Kiandra, New South Wales to Adelaide, South Australia. It is not in his writing but he died in 1918.

Initially I thought they must have had a child Bessie but they didn't which led me on the internet quest for their origins which led me here.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Bessie
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Mar 12 - 02:39 AM

G. Leddy
My pal Harlan Cornett said his great grandfather composed Little Bessie back in the 1800's His mailing address is 983 Bee Hive Road Slemp Ky.41763. He swears this is true. You can contact me at 7726 Patterson Drive Grande Prairie Ab. t8v 3z6

Hope i have been of some help

Gerry


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Bessie
From: GUEST,Penswin. England.
Date: 24 Oct 13 - 04:17 PM

I have the original copy of the poem beautifully written by the great grandmother of my late husband at her school in Pilsley Derbyshire England in 1879. Maybe it originated in England. Cannot find any clues of the author or poet.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Bessie
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 10:31 AM

It was wrote by Joe Cornett my great 4 x grandfather from around Crown, Letcher Ky.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Little Bessie
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Mar 18 - 01:16 AM

I heard this (Kid Smith and Family) on a compilation album, "Cotton Mills & Fiddles." (Flyin' Cloud Records-FC-014, 1990).
It haunted me. The saddest song I've ever heard and made sadder by the vocals of Smith's "Family." This is my favorite version. The others are good, but this one touches me most.


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