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Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny

GUEST,Jerry Hicks 03 Nov 17 - 10:05 PM
Joe Offer 03 Nov 17 - 11:08 PM
Joe Offer 03 Nov 17 - 11:13 PM
Joe Offer 03 Nov 17 - 11:18 PM
GUEST,Jerry Hicks 04 Nov 17 - 08:45 AM
GUEST 06 Oct 19 - 07:05 AM
GUEST,Starship 06 Oct 19 - 09:28 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 07 Oct 19 - 10:25 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Stella Kenney
From: GUEST,Jerry Hicks
Date: 03 Nov 17 - 10:05 PM

Does anyone know the lyrics to the murder ballad Stella Kenney. It's about a murder that happened in the town where I grew up in 1915. I've talked to a few old folks who remember parts of the song but can't find the complete song.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Stella Kenney
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Nov 17 - 11:08 PM

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song.

Stella Kenney [Laws F37]

DESCRIPTION: Stella Kenney is murdered on her way home after spending ten months with her uncle Rob Frazier. Frazier, married and with three children, is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1939 (Thomas)
KEYWORDS: homicide incest prison trial family
1917 (?) - Murder of Stella Kenney. She was pregnant; presumably her uncle was the father
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Laws F37, "Stella Kenney"
Thomas-Makin', pp. 151-153, (no title; Thomas's informant called the girl "Stell" or "Stellie," not "Stella") (1 text)

ST LF37 (Partial)
Roud #2273
File: LF37

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 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

From Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky, by Jean Thomas. Oak Publications, 1964, pages 156-159. Originally published in 1939 by Henry Holt.

This time my journey led me to Carter County, where I found Granny Blevins knitting contentedly just inside the doorway of her ramshackle plank house. "There's a heap a body could tell of the killin' of poor Stell Kenny," said Granny eyeing suspiciously my portable, "I reckon that's what you've come to make pick-sures of around here. That's what all the rest has been after for the last month."
Forthwith I opened the case of my portable to assure the old woman it was not a picture-making machine. I told her my purpose was to find ballad singers.
"It might be if you went down in the settlement of Olive Hill you could find a right ditty singer," she drawled indifferently. "I've had a risin' in my side and a misery on my chist so long I've come to be a mighty sorry singer."
The bony fingers resumed their knitting and Granny watched me cautiously from the half-closed lids of her little gray eyes. "I couldn't begin to tell you how many's been out here since the killin' of poor Stell." It was plain to be seen the recent tragedy was uppermost in Granny Blevins' thoughts, but not until I had assured her that I had no "connection with any of the persons concerned," that I only wanted the story and the ballad from an old residenter - who likewise was no kin to any of the folks mixed up in the affair - did she consent to go on with the tale.
"It taken place on Garvin Hill nigh the settlement off yonder," Granny pointed with her knitting needle toward the village of Olive Hill. "Poor Stellie she'd been stayin' with her Uncle Rob Frazier. Been there the best of ten month." She flung a meaning look in my direction, "About ten month," she repeated slowly, with the accent on the numeral, "when Rob hitched up his nag to the buggy and started with Stellie back to her own home." The knitting needles clicked noisily for a moment then were silent. "In Frazier's buggy," Granny's voice was hushed, "they found a bloody hatchet. Stell Kenny had all of seven gashes in her head." The old woman paused again to look toward the winding road. "It was Governor Fields," she added slowly, "that pardoned Rob Frazier." Again she resumed her knitting. "I ain't sayin' who made up this song-ballet about it, though I could if I were a-mind to." While she plied her shiny needles in and out of the bright red yarn which she was fashioning into a mitten, Granny Blevins sang in a thin, quivering voice:
(continued in next post)

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Subject: ADD: Murder of Stell Kenny
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Nov 17 - 11:13 PM


It was on one dark and stormy night,
On the second day of May;
Stell Kenny she was murdered,
For home she was on her way.

With her Uncle Rob Frazier,
Where she had been to stay;
She'd spent ten long month with him
Before her fatal day.

The night it was so dreary,
For hours the rain did pour.
A horse and empty buggy was found
Upon a lonely road.

The officers were summoned,
Each one his place did fill;
And there they found Stell murdered
Upon the Garvin Hill.

She was carried to the city hall;
She gave some piteous sighs.
The sight of her bloody clothes
Brought tears to many eyes.

Her father kneeling at her side,
Begged her to open her eyes;
But with seven gashes in her head
No wonder Stellie died.

The dear old mother knelt there too,
And pitifully did moan;
"Poor girl, to think she's took from me,
Her smile I'll see no more."

Rob had three little children,
And a kind and loving wife;
Who stayed faithful to his side
While being tried for life.

The judge pronounced him guilty
And then they wrote it down;
The clerk repeated the sentence,
"A life in Frankfort town."

Stell was the oldest daughter,
Her age was seventeen.
Some say it's the cruelest murder
This County's ever seen.

She had been ten month from home,
From under her mother's care;
"Go bring her safely back to me,"
We know 'twas the parent's prayer.

Rob did not bring her safely home;
Her lips were too numb to speak,
When the mother clasped her in her arms
And kissed the dying cheek.

Now Stelly's gone to heaven,
In that bright land so fair;
The Bible tells us plainly
There'll be no murder there.

While Rob, he pleads not guilty;
"It's robbery," he does say,
"They took my checks and money,
My watch, and rode away."

From Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky, by Jean Thomas. Oak Publications, 1964, pages 156-159. Originally published in 1939 by Henry Holt.

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Subject: ADD: Judge Yancey (title uncertain)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Nov 17 - 11:18 PM

Granny reflected a moment then said philosophically, "There's a heap of meanness goes on in t'other counties, same as in this." Briskly she plied her knitting needles. "And there's a certain party that has - - "
"Granny!" a brusque voice interrupted from the door- yard, "you ain't no call to be mouthin' such talk!" The stalwart mountain man in a few long strides reached the doorway.
"Bart!" exclaimed Granny, gathering up her knitting in her apron and rising quickly, "talk of the angels and you'll hear the rustlin' of their wings." Vaccilating, indeed, was the voice of Granny Blevins. "Come in and set!" she offered her chair which Bart, having bowed a greeting to me, accepted. "This is my grandson," she touched his shoulder.
"I 'lowed Granny would be singin' the Stell Kenny piece for you, Woman," Bart smiled jovially in my direction, "when I ketched sight of you comin' to the house. I were off grubbin' on the pint yonder," he jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward a clearing on the hillside. "Wimmin folks has curious ways. They're just downright boastful sometimes." He turned a condemning eye on the old woman.
"Bart!" defended Granny Blevins, "I weren't braggin' a-tall." She tossed her knitting on the bed and turning slowly to her giant grandson added meekly, "I vow I never named to this Woman who it was made the ballet."
"A guilty conscience is its own accuser," Bart retorted playfully.
"Well," countered the old woman lamely, "it is a good ballet and the truth every word of it and you don't need to disown the makin' of it."
Bart shifted awkwardly in the chair and looked at the floor.
"I wish I could do half as well at verse," I ventured a word of praise.
"Two against one!" Bart dropped his hands between his knees, "I reckon I might as well give up."
Granny beamed upon him. "Come along," she wheedled, "and sing your piece about Judge Yancey. You see," Granny settled herself in a chair at my side, "this happened over in Breathitt and Bart put it together from talk he heard."
"Granny, if you'll stop gabbin' long enough," Bart interposed with mock severity, "I might have a chance to show out a little." Taking a mouth harp from his pocket he tapped it on his knee, then tilting back in his chair he played an intriguing melody.
"That's the tune of it and now here's how it reads." Bart sang in a roaring voice:

Come all you people if you want to hear
A story about a cruel mountaineer.
Sydney Allen was a villain in vain
Until at the courthouse he won ill fame.

Sydney Allen, the prisoner took the stand;
Unbeknown to guards around him,
With a pistol in his hand,
He sent Blake Yancey to the Promised Land.

A few minutes more, the place was in a roar
The dead and dying were lying on the floor;
With a Thirty-eight Special and a thirty-eight ball
Sydney backed the sheriff up against the wall.

The judge thought he was in a mighty bad place;
The mountaineer was staring him right in the face.
He turned to the window and then he said,
"A few minutes more and we'll all be dead."

Sydney mounted to his pony and away he did ride,
With his friends and his kinsmen riding by his side;
They all shook hands and swore they would hang
Before they would give up to the prominent gang.

They arrived at the station about eleven forty-one,
His wife and his daughter and his two little sons;
They all shook hands, and they knelt down to pray;
Crying, "Oh Lord; don't take Pappy away."

The people all gathered from far and near,
To see poor Sydney sent to the electric chair.
But to their great surprise, the judge he said;
"Syd's going to the penitentiary instead."

Bart pocketed his harp and bringing out a knife began to whittle unconcernedly. "Human nater," he drawled, "is pretty much the same anywhere. If devilmint is in a man's heart, he'll be doin' the Devil's work no difference where he is....

From Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky, by Jean Thomas. Oak Publications, 1964, pages 156-159. Originally published in 1939 by Henry Holt.

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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
From: GUEST,Jerry Hicks
Date: 04 Nov 17 - 08:45 AM

I sure do appreciate you sharing this. I've hunted for the words of Stella Kenney for a long long time. Now you've opened another mystery. I'll have to find out who the "Granny Blevins" was. I was raised by my grandparents, whose last name was Blevins. Their parents lived on Clark Hill, in Olive Hill very near where the murder of Stella Kinney took place. My family has an old newspaper article about the murder which states that my great grandmother Hicks helped prepare the body before burial. There was a tradition in our area that the rock on which Stella was killed would bleed after a rain. Our sixth grade class took a field trip to see the rock and study the trial. The rock has since been buried and fewer all the time know the story of Stella Kinney.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
Date: 06 Oct 19 - 07:05 AM

I researched this ballad, along with 23 other ballads (Lula Viers included) in my book CrimeSong: True Crime Stories from Southern Murder Ballads (2016).

The book won several awards, but nobody buys it. Oh, well.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 06 Oct 19 - 09:28 AM

Richard, where is the book available? How does one get it? Are there details you'd care to share here? Thank you.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req/Add: Stella Kenney / Murder of Stell Kenny
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 07 Oct 19 - 10:25 AM

1 new and 1 used available on Amazon UK Crime Song, prices ca £35. abebooks has copies available too, but ranging from ca £40 to £100 including shipping. I can see why noone's buying it!


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