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Origins: Portland County Jail

DigiTrad:
PORTLAND COUNTY JAIL


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Portland County Jail (from Carl Sandburg) (15)
Art Thieme - Portland County Jail (9)
Tune Req: Portland County Jail (5)


GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Jul 13 - 09:33 AM
Lighter 19 Jul 13 - 10:10 AM
Mark Ross 19 Jul 13 - 10:13 AM
Lighter 19 Jul 13 - 10:16 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Jul 13 - 12:43 PM
GUEST 19 Jul 13 - 01:14 PM
Joe Offer 19 Jul 13 - 03:32 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Jul 13 - 06:40 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Jul 13 - 07:32 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Jul 13 - 07:43 PM
Lighter 20 Jul 13 - 07:58 AM
Richard from Liverpool 20 Jul 13 - 08:19 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 20 Jul 13 - 11:41 PM
Lighter 21 Jul 13 - 08:34 AM
Lighter 21 Jul 13 - 08:34 AM
Lighter 21 Jul 13 - 08:50 AM
Lighter 21 Jul 13 - 09:36 AM
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Subject: Origins: pre-1927 Portland County Jail
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 09:33 AM

Does anyone know any information about "Portland County Jail" *earlier* than 1927?

That's when Carl Sandburg published the basic four verses in The American Songbag.

This song seems distinct from the other "(place name) Jail" songs such as "K.C. County Jail," Dallas County Jail," etc. discussed in earlier threads on this subject.

None of the Sandburg verses have much in common with the other jail songs I have been able to find.

So if you know anything pre-1927 about "Portland County Jail" (earlier versions, history of the song) it would be much appreciated.

Thanks! Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 10:10 AM

Bob, I've often thought about this (recently in fact) but I haven't learned much.

A similar though not identical version appeared earlier in sociologist Nels Anderson's "The Hobo" (University of Chicago Press, 1923), pp. 210-211. That appears to be the only published version that doesn't come from Sandburg.

"Trun" for "threw" (it's a pronunciation of "thrown") shows up in Irish-American speech of the 1890s and later. "Can" for "jail" antedates 1914.

"Portland County" does not exist. Presumably the jail was the county jail in Portland, Oregon (in Multnomah Co.), or Maine (Cumberland Co.).

The tune resembles that of "MacNamara's Band," by John J. Stamford and    Shaumus O'Connor (London: J. H. Larway, 1914).

My guess is that "Portland County Jail" is a Wobbly production of around 1916, but it's only a guess. It could equally be from vaudeville or maybe some medicine show. The Wobblies, however, were especially active in the Pacific Northwest.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Mark Ross
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 10:13 AM

PORTLAND COUNTY JAIL would pre-date Sandburg's publication by at least 10 years as it was used as the tune for FIFTY THOUSAND LUMBERJACKS which
was an IWW song about the 1917 Lumberjack's strike. I got the information from Archie Green's BIG RED SONGBOOK.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 10:16 AM

Bingo!

Heh.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 12:43 PM

Thanks, Mark Ross.
Here is the full comment on "Fifty Thousand Lumberjacks," from the Big Red Songbook.

"Joyce Kornbluh (p. 267) reports that "Fifty Thousand Lumberjacks" commented on the 1917 strike of Northwest loggers. It marked an "advance" in Wobbly songlore by its close description of actual working conditions as well as its lack of visionary rhetoric. These factors contributed to its retention by forest workers. It also holds interest as it was set to the tune of "Portland County Jail," first noted in 1927 as a folksong by Carl Sandburg in the American Songbag.

This implies that "Portland County Jail" is earlier.

Further comment is given with "The Portland Revolution."

"Dublin Dan
"Dublin Dan Liston had appeared previously in a Wobbly songbook with "Dan McGann (157). "Portland County Jail," the tune for "The Portland Revolution," had been used for "Fifty Thousand Lumberjacks" (130). Although Liston did not achieve the fame of fellow contributors, his mastery of traditional ballad style coupled with his command of Celtic humor gave his offerings continued value......."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 01:14 PM

books.google.ca/books?isbn=1563089459

Google the above and read p.92


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 03:32 PM

Not much help in the Traditional Ballad Index, but there's a little bit. Not, my friends, that the seminal recording of this song was by Art Thieme.

    Portland County Jail

    DESCRIPTION: "I'm a stranger to your city, My name is Paddy Flynn. I got drunk the other night; The coppers pulled me in. Had no one to... go my bail. They locked me up for ninety days In the Portland County Jail." The song describes the hard cases in prison
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Sandburg)
    KEYWORDS: prison hardtimes
    FOUND IN: US(MW)
    REFERENCES (4 citations):
    Sandburg, pp. 214-215, "Portland County Jail" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Cohen-AFS2, p. 641, "Portland County Jail" (1 text)
    Silber-FSWB, p. 69, "Portland County Jail" (1 text)
    DT, PORTJAIL*

    Roud #9858
    RECORDINGS:
    Art Thieme, "Portland County Jail" (on Thieme04)
    File: San214

    Go to the Ballad Search form
    Go to the Ballad Index Song List

    Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
    Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2013 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Here are the lyrics from the Digital Tradition:
    PORTLAND COUNTY JAIL (from Digital Tradition)

    I'm a stranger to your city,
    My name is Paddy Flynn
    I got drunk the other night
    The coppers pulled me in.
    Had no one to pay my fine
    No one to go my bail
    They locked me up for ninety days
    In the Portland County Jail.

    Such a bunch of devils
    You never seen before;
    Robbers, thieves and highwaymen
    Even breakers of the law.
    They san a song the whole night long,
    Curses fell like hail
    Bless the day that takes me away
    From the Portland County jail.

    The only friend that I had there
    Was Handsome Sailor Jack,
    He told me of the trains he'd robbed
    And all the safes he'd cracked.
    He'd robbed them in Seattle,
    He'd robbed them in Japan,
    It was enough to freeze the blood
    Of an honest working man.

    The only friend that I have now
    Is Officer McGurk.
    He says I am a low-down bum
    A drunkard and a shirk.
    Each Saturday night when I get drunk
    He throws me in the can
    And you can see he's made of me
    An honest working man.

    (Repeat first verse)
    Recorded by Art Thieme
    @jail @outlaw
    filename[ PORTJAIL
    TUNE FILE: PORTJAIL
    CLICK TO PLAY
    RG


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 06:40 PM

Dublin Dan Liston was born in Dublin but lived in Butte, Montana, where he owned a bar. Died in 1942.

I could not find the composer of "Portland County Jail." Listed as unknown in the articles I found. Sam Hinton was another who recorded the song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 07:32 PM

Lighter, any chance you can reprint the text from Anderson's The Hobo? I've tried on a couple of Google and other book pages but succeeded only in getting the first verse. It's slightly different, but closely similar:

I'm a stranger in your city, my name is Paddy Flynn,
I got drunk the other evening, and the coppers run me in,
I had no money to pay my fine, no friends to go my bail,
So I got soaked for ninety days in the Portland County jail.

It then notes: "Chorus" ... but I can't seem to get that part of the page. (Very restrictive, or else I'm just not getting it right.)

Interesting implication that the song existed around 1917 and was popular enough to serve as the tune for a Wobbly song. Wobblies commonly picked well-known tunes, to get maximum impact for their lyrics.

So how well-known was "Portland County Jail?" And why do we find no trace of it in collections back then?

I don't think we can be sure that the earlier song's tune was necessarily the same as the one in Sandburg. Likely, maybe, but not a certainty. One of the things I've wondered about is whether "PCJ" has different tunes in different places.

And I'd sure like to know what that chorus is! No chorus appears in the Sandburg version, unless the 2nd verse might sometimes be used as a chorus (possible).

I'm rarin' to find that earlier version somewhere in print. I don't suppose the Journal of American Folklore (Perrow, or other) had anything on it? I've been through the Perrow material fairly closely, but I might have missed it ...

Then the whole question: are there any other "(place name) Jail" songs that are clearly related to PCJ, or is it unique? It had an author ... who? Was it a broadside? Newspaper poem (but what paper would print it?)? How did it circulate so widely as implied?

And where did it circulate? Maine? Oregon? Someplace else? Here's the germane part of Sandburg's headnote:

"A Chicago newspaperman who happened to do in real life what Paddy Flynn does in this song, got ten days, as Paddy Flynn did, in the Portland County Jail. While recovering from his bootleg headache, he learned the first three verses of a song there. For the fourth, we are indebted to philosophers at the extreme left in the labor movement and in modernist art in Chicago. .... "

He makes it sound as if "McGurk's" verse was made up by union intellectuals with the help of the Chicago arts crowd—believable? As for the Chicago newspaperman, who he? Sandburg himself? A friend? This purports to be testimony of someone who allegedly was IN that jail. Maine? Oregon? Someplace else? When? Further the deponent sayeth not. And all honors to the great Carl, whom I revere, but (in the style of the period) the whole is flimsy and fact-free as a politician's farewell speech.

My National Geographic Atlas finds no Portland Counties, but there are Portlands in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Ontario (anyone else think it has a slightly Canadian sound?), Oregon, Tennesee, Texas.

That suggests the scope of the game, once we admit that "Portland County" is a myth and it was just some County Jail located in a Portland of some description, somewhere.

Mysteries ... all answers much appreciated.

Thanks all!

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 07:43 PM

The other possibility should not be discounted: that the song is

1. a concoction pulled out of the air, using "Portland" strictly for euphony, and

2. is really a generic jail song not attached to any place name.

I've wondered for a while now if Portland County Jail is a little too clever to be a folk song, and that (pace Sandburg) it never originated or was sung in any jail by any convicts. That it was, in short, a piece of attempted pop material.

Which doesn't make it any less fascinating.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Jul 13 - 07:58 AM

Bob, I may be able to dig out the Anderson text for you today.

> a little too clever to be a folk song

Depends what you mean by "folk song," but by the usual standards yes.

Sandburg's hoboing days had been in the late '90s - much too early for "MacNamara's Band." (Don't know if he was ever in jail.) I don't see any reason to doubt the truth of his note in "Songbag."

"Fifty Thousand Lumberjacks" was in print in "Songs of the Workers," 15th ed. (Chicago: IWW, October, 1919). Neither song is mentioned in what appears to be the first ed., pub. in Spokane about 1910:

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31822009494774;view=1up;seq=1

Anderson has another song called "The Old Cook County Jail," set to the "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (which scans like "Portland County Jail" for three of its four lines). It's mostly about lice. Chicago is in Cook County.

As for other Portlands, wouldn't the "county jail" have been in the county seat? AFAICT, the only other Portland besides those in Maine and Orgeon that is a county seat is Portland, Indiana.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 20 Jul 13 - 08:19 AM

Just reading through the words, scans very nicely to the tune of "Hot Asphalt"/"Mick McGuire". Might try it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 20 Jul 13 - 11:41 PM

Indiana, on the face of it, sounds awfully compelling. Maybe what I hastily thought was a Canadian tinge is a midwestern tinge?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Jul 13 - 08:34 AM

I'm a stranger in your city,
   My name is Paddy Flynn;
I got drunk the other evening,
   And the coppers run me in.
I had no money to pay my fine,
   No friends to go my bail,
So I got soaked for ninety days
   In the Portland County Jail.

       Chorus
Oh, such a lot of devils
You never seen before;
Robbers, thieves and highwaymen
Even breakers of the law.
They san a song the whole night long,
Curses fell like hail
Bless the day that takes me away
From the Portland County jail.

The only friend that I had there
Was Handsome Sailor Jack,
He told me of the trains he'd robbed
And all the safes he'd cracked.
He'd robbed them in Seattle,
He'd robbed them in Japan,
It was enough to freeze the blood
Of an honest working man.

The only friend that I have now
Is Officer McGurk.
He says I am a low-down bum
A drunkard and a shirk.
Each Saturday night when I get drunk
He throws me in the can
And you can see he's made of me
An honest working man.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Jul 13 - 08:34 AM

I'm a stranger in your city,
   My name is Paddy Flynn;
I got drunk the other evening,
   And the coppers run me in.
I had no money to pay my fine,
   No friends to go my bail,
So I got soaked for ninety days
   In the Portland County Jail.

       Chorus
Oh, such a lot of devils
You never seen before;
Robbers, thieves and highwaymen
Even breakers of the law.
They san a song the whole night long,
Curses fell like hail
Bless the day that takes me away
From the Portland County jail.

The only friend that I had there
Was Handsome Sailor Jack,
He told me of the trains he'd robbed
And all the safes he'd cracked.
He'd robbed them in Seattle,
He'd robbed them in Japan,
It was enough to freeze the blood
Of an honest working man.

The only friend that I have now
Is Officer McGurk.
He says I am a low-down bum
A drunkard and a shirk.
Each Saturday night when I get drunk
He throws me in the can
And you can see he's made of me
An honest working man.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Jul 13 - 08:50 AM

Ignore those *completely.* In fact, remove.

Anderson's words are as follows. They are close to Sandburg's.

                THE PORTLAND COUNTY JAIL

I'm a stranger in your city,
   My name is Paddy Flynn;
I got drunk the other evening,
   And the coppers run me in.
I had no money to pay my fine,
   No friends to go my bail,
So I got soaked for ninety days
   In the Portland County Jail.

       Chorus
Oh,such a lot of devils,
   The like I never saw;
Robbers, thieves, and highwaymen,
   And breakers of the law.
They sang a song the whole night long,
   And the curses fell like hail,
I'll bless the day they take me away
   From the Portland County jail.

The only friend that I had left
   Was Happy Sailor Jack;
He told me all the lies he knew,
   And all the safes he'd cracked.
He'd cracked them in Seattle,
   He'd robbed the Western Mail;,
It would freeze the blood of an honest man,
   In the Portland County Jail.

Anderson (1889-1986) describes "Portland County Jail" as "one of the few songs of the road that does not wear out."

He says elsewhere that he'd been a hobo between 1906 and the First World War (1917 for the USA), before earning a doctorate in sociology at NYU.

The "McGurk" stanza is absent. The reference to Seattle, which I'd forgotten, suggests that Portland, Ore., is intended.

According to Sandburg's biography, his own hobo career was several months in 1897.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Portland County Jail
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Jul 13 - 09:36 AM

The original might have appeared in the periodical "Hobo News," published for many years. Unfortunately, very few issues seem to exist, and none have been digitized:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobo_News


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