Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)

DigiTrad:
I WISH I HAD SOMEONE TO LOVE ME
IF I HAD THE WINGS
PILOT'S LAMENT
THE PRISONER'S SONG


Related threads:
If I had the wings of an angel - parodies (31)
What the heck is this word (Beautiful Light o'er.. (29)
(origins) Origins/ADD: Meet Me Tonight in the Moonlight (23)
Lyr Add: Here's Adieu to All Judges and Juries (14)
Lyr Req: New Prisoner's Song (Boggs, et al.) (14)
Review: Over these prison walls I will fly (2) (closed)
Lyr Req: If I had the wings of an angel... (7) (closed)
wings of an angel/sitting alone in an (3) (closed)


ddw 13 Apr 00 - 01:07 AM
The Beanster 13 Apr 00 - 01:18 AM
Metchosin 13 Apr 00 - 01:27 AM
kendall 13 Apr 00 - 08:39 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 13 Apr 00 - 02:07 PM
GUEST 13 Apr 00 - 08:04 PM
ddw 13 Apr 00 - 08:07 PM
kendall 13 Apr 00 - 10:38 PM
Stewie 14 Apr 00 - 04:47 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 14 Apr 00 - 11:47 AM
GUEST,DPerson 05 Feb 04 - 07:05 AM
Joe Offer 03 Aug 04 - 05:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Aug 04 - 08:10 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Aug 04 - 08:17 PM
Joe Offer 04 Aug 04 - 02:50 AM
Joe Offer 04 Aug 04 - 02:58 AM
Joe Offer 04 Aug 04 - 03:03 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Aug 04 - 01:54 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 19 Oct 04 - 06:46 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Oct 04 - 07:50 PM
Geoff the Duck 20 Oct 04 - 05:16 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Jan 05 - 08:21 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Jan 05 - 09:18 PM
Big Al Whittle 17 Dec 06 - 11:23 AM
Azizi 29 Mar 09 - 04:44 AM
Azizi 29 Mar 09 - 05:27 AM
Azizi 29 Mar 09 - 06:19 AM
GUEST 14 Apr 10 - 09:43 AM
Joe_F 14 Apr 10 - 06:44 PM
GUEST 15 Oct 13 - 06:11 PM
GUEST,kendall 15 Oct 13 - 08:27 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Oct 13 - 12:50 PM
GUEST 12 Jun 17 - 11:03 AM
Stewart 12 Jun 17 - 03:26 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:



Subject: The Prisoner's Song
From: ddw
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 01:07 AM

I'm looking for the lyrics to an old tune by this name that we used to have on an old 78-rpm record that was about a quarter of an inch thick and only pressed on one side. I clicked on what's listed under that title in the DT and got Wings of a Gull, which isn't the same, tho' the note at the bottom refers to the tune.

The one I'm looking for, in part, goes:

If I had the wings of an angel
Over these prison walls I would fly
And I'd fly to the arms of my poor darlin'
And there I'd be willing to die.

Please meet me tonight in the moonlight
Please meet me tonight all alone
For I have a sad story to tell you
It's a story that's never been told

Any help much appreciated...

david


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE PRISONER'S SONG
From: The Beanster
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 01:18 AM

David,

Found a few different versions of this but I think this is it, from 1926. Click here


The Prisoner's Song

The Prisoner's Song

There is no regional association in the content of this song, but it was wondrously popular on the plains. Older (older than what?) folks recognize the melody instantly, and as I sing it, I notice people mouthing the words along with me. It came into popularity via radio; Vernon Dalhart's great recording set it off, I'm sure, but the song became a standard for other radio singers across the country, and also found its way into ballad books on the plains. (I'll link here to my Ballad Book site, under construction.) My mother in western Kansas, when we kids were growing up, only knew two songs to sing as lullabyes, and they were "The Strawberry Roan" and "The Prisoner's Song."

The Prisoner's Song

Oh, I wish I had someone to love me,
Someone to call me her own.
Oh, I wish I had someone to live with,
Cause I'm tired of living alone.

Oh please, meet me tonight in the moonlight,
Meet me tonight all alone,
For I have a sad story to tell you--
It's a story that's never been told.

I'll be carried to a new jail tomorrow,
Leaving my poor darling alone,
With the cold prison bars all around me
And my head on a pillow of stone.

Now I have a grand ship on the ocean,
All mounted with silver and gold,
And before my poor darling would suffer,
That ship would be anchored and sold.

Now if I had the wings of an angel,
Over these prison walls I would fly,
I'd fly to the arms of my poor darling,
And there I'd be willing to die.

Plainsfolk.com


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song
From: Metchosin
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 01:27 AM

ddw, if you put prisoner's song in brackets in the Digitrad Lyrics Search Box, you will come up with four different songs one of which I believe is the one you are seeking. For some reason or other, the Digitrad works better that way than just searching under the letter "P".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song
From: kendall
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 08:39 AM

The Irish version that Joe Haney brought here is also nice. One verse goes..Tonight is our last night together, the nearest and dearest must part, the love that has bound us together, has truely been torn apart..


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 02:07 PM

This was the biggest selling record (other than Christmas songs) from 1890 to 1954--7 million copies!! It was, as far as I understand, not so much written as pasted together from fragments of other songs--more than that, I do not know--can anybody fill me in?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 08:04 PM

Beanster ? Thanks. That's definitely the one I was looking for. An' I ain't messin' wit cha 'bout dat, neither....

Metoshin; thanks for the search tips.

david


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song
From: ddw
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 08:07 PM

Opps. The above post was mine ? forgot to reset the cookie.

Also apologies, Metchosin, for the dropped letters in your name....

david


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song
From: kendall
Date: 13 Apr 00 - 10:38 PM

I was told that the recording by Vernon Dalhart (Marion T. Slaughter) was the first one to ever sell one million copies.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song
From: Stewie
Date: 14 Apr 00 - 04:47 AM

M.Ted

'The Prisoner's Song' was recorded in 1924 by Vernon Dalhart whose birth name was Marion Try Slaughter. He had begun a recording career in 1916 as a popular singer and light opera tenor. Most of his early recordings were popular pieces and 'plantation' songs. By 1924, his popularity was on the wane and he decided to dip his toes into the hillbilly market. Although he was from a light opera background, he was able to perform rural songs in a plaintive style that struck a chord in the south. In early 1924, he covered Henry Whitter's recording of 'The Wreck of the Old '97', accompanied by his own harmonica and an Hawaiian guitarist. It was released on Edison and sold well enough to enable him to convince Victor executives to allow him to record it for them. He coupled the Victor recording with a song that supposedly was written by his cousin, Guy Massey ? 'The Prisoner's Song'. It was released in Victor's Olde Time folder in October 1924. It went on to sell more than 7 million copies and spark complex court cases. With this record, Victor, a late entrant into the old time or hillbilly market after Okeh, Columbia and Vocalion, was the first to nationalise old time music. The records by Tanner, Macon, Carson etc had had mainly local or regional appeal.

Massey claimed to have written the song and the tune. Bill Malone suggests that Nathaniel Shilkret, Victor's accompanist, added a few words and composed the melody and that the song was actually made up of fragments or floaters that had been in circulation for many years. 'Old Time Music' No 32 of Spring 1979 reprinted a wonderful article on 'The Prisoner's Song' written by Riley Barnes for 'Liberty' magazine in 1926. Barnes was exploring 'the vogue of the doleful ditty'. In part, he wrote:

Magnificent gulping! True it lacks something of the harmonizing syrup of Sweet Adeline and the tenors swung freer, looser, and farther for Bonnie, but for luscious weep and pure pain, it makes sprightly baggages of Nellie Gray, Sweet Alice, Poor Lily Daly, and Maggie, and gives sob for sob to I'm Saddest When I Sing, Bad News from Home, The Baggage Coach Ahead, Kathleen Mavoureen, and Silver Threads Among the Gold ? [Massey] died hotly contending that the tune was his, and the words too, although nobody really begrudged him the words. From every section of the country came protestation. The song was old, they said, before Guy Massey was born. Cowboys had keened it to the stars above lonely ranch acres and convicts had blubbered its brief reaches 40 years in the adobe bullpens of Mexico and the stony penitentiaries of New England.

Barnes' article is an entertaining read.

--Stewie.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 14 Apr 00 - 11:47 AM

Stewie,

Thanks for the info--

Kendall.

I had heard that the Prisoner Song was the first "Hillbilly" record to sell a million, but there had been many million sellers before--Arthur Collins' "The Preacher and the Bear" from 1905 sold 2 million copies, as did Billy Murray's "Casey Jones" in 1910-- Paul Whiteman sold 2 million with "Whispering" ushering in the Jazz age,in 1920, and 3 million with :Three O'Clock in the Morning" in 1922.

I would have loved to have written in those days--unless I a much mistaken, the songwriter royalties were about a nickel a record, although the artists were only played a flat recording fee--and no income taz!!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE PRISONER'S SONG (Vernon Dalhart)
From: GUEST,DPerson
Date: 05 Feb 04 - 07:05 AM

PRISONER'S SONG
As recorded by Vernon Dalhart. 1924.

Oh, I wish I had someone to love me,
Someone to call me their own.
Oh, I wish I had someone to live with,
'Cause I'm tired of livin' alone.

Oh, please meet me tonight in the moonlight.
Please meet me tonight all alone,
For I have a sad story to tell you.
It's a story that's never been told.

I'll be carried to the new jail tomorrow,
Leavin' my poor darlin' alone,
With the cold prison bars all around me
And my head on a pillow of stone.

Now, I have a grand ship on the ocean,
All mounted with silver and gold,
And before my poor darling would suffer,
Oh, that ship would be anchored and sold.

Now, if I had wings like an angel,
Over these prison walls I would fly,
And I'd fly to the arms of my poor darlin',
And there I'd be willin' to die.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Aug 04 - 05:44 PM

There's quite an entry on this song in the Traditional Ballad Index:

Prisoner's Song (I), The

DESCRIPTION: The singer laments his time in prison, and thinks of all that he would do if free. He recalls his crime. He misses his family and his sweetheart. He describes his hopes for freedom in complex metaphors: a ship on the sea, an eagle's wings, etc.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1924 (recording, Vernon Dalhart)
KEYWORDS: prison lament love family
FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,So) Ireland Canada
REFERENCES (9 citations):
FSCatskills 100, "The Prisoner's Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph 746, "Meet Me Tonight" (4 texts, 1 tune, with the "C" text being probably this piece although the other three appear to go with "Meet Me Tonight in the Moonlight")
BrownIII 350, "The Prisoner's Song" (7 texts plus 1 fragment, 2 excerpts, and mention of 1 more; "A"-"C," plus probably the "D" excerpt, are "The Prisoner's Song (I)"; "E" and "G," plus perhaps the "H" fragment, are "Meet Me Tonight in the Moonlight"; "J" and "K" are "Sweet Lulur"); also probably 351, "Seven Long Years" (1 text, certainly mixed but containing elements characteristic of this song)
JHCoxIIB, #27, pp. 193-194, "The Prisoner's Song" (1 text, 1 tune, collected in 1925 and almost certainly Dalhart-influenced)
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 346-351, "New Jail/Prisoner's Song/Here's Adieu to all Judges and Juries" (1, not collected by Scarborough, of "Judges and Juries," plus 6 texts from her collections: "New Jail," "I'm Going To My New Jail Tomorrow," "New Jail," "Meet Me in the Moonlight," "The Great Ship," "Prisoner's Song"; 3 tunes on pp.449-450; the "A" fragment is probably "Meet Me Tonight in the Moonlight"; "B" and "D" are "New Jail" types; "C" is too short to classify; "E" is a mix of floating verse, "If I had a great ship on the ocean," "Let her go, let her go and God bless her," "Sometimes I'll live in the white house, sometimes I live in town..."; "F" may well have some Dalhart influence)
Fuson, p. 143, "Meet Me in the Moonlight" (1 text)
Sandburg, pp. 218-219, "Seven Long Years in State Prison" (1 text, 1 tune)
Stout 35, p. 49, "The Prisoner's Song" (1 text, which appears to be directly due to Dalhart)
SHenry H746, p. 62, "Gaol Song" (1 text, 1 tune)

ST FSC100 (Partial)
Roud #11730
RECORDINGS:
Clarence Ashley & Tex Isley, "Prisoner's Song" (on Ashley01)
Wilf Carter, "The Prisoner's Song" (Bluebird [Canadian] 55-3202, 1943)
Vernon Dalhart, "The Prisoner's Song" (Victor 19427-B, 1924) (Columbia 257-D, 1924) (Perfect 12164, 1924) (Edison 51459 [as Vernon Dalhart & Co.], 1925; rec. 1924) (Brunswick 2900, 1925) (OKeh 40328 [as Tobe Little], 1925) (Bell 340, 1925) (Regal 9795, 1925) (Cameo 703 [708?], 1925; Perfect 12644/Supertone S-2000, 1930) (Apex [Can.] 8428, 1926) (CYL: Edison [BA] 4954, n.d. [as Vernon Dalhart & Co.]) (Ajax [Can.] 17115, 1925 - probably a reissue of another recording, but it's not clear which)
Kaplan's Melodists w. Vernon Dalhart, voc. "The Prisoner's Song" (Edison 51666, 1925)
Buell Kazee [untitled fragment, under "On Top of Old Smokey"] (on Kazee01)
Bill Monroe & his Bluegrass Boys, "The Prisoner's Song" (Decca 46314, 1951)
Ezra Paulette & his Beverly Hillbillies, "The Prisoner's Song" (Vocalion 03263, 1936)
George Reneau "The Prisoner's Song" (Vocalion 5056/Vocalion 14991/Silvertone 3045 [as George Hobson], 1925)
Arthur Smith, "Kilby Jail" (on McGeeSmith1)
The Texas Drifter, "The Prisoner's Song" (Panachord [U.K.] 25250, 1932)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" (tune)
cf. "Botany Bay"
cf. "Meet Me Tonight in the Moonlight"
cf. "New Prisoner's Song"
cf. "The Prisoner's Song (II)"
cf. "Sweet Lulur" (floating verses)
NOTES: Disentangling the sources and versions of this song is almost impossible. Cazden et al believe that it was formed by the collation of two songs, one belonging to the "Botany Bay/Here's Adieu to All Judges and Juries" family and another being a variant of "Meet Me Tonight in the Moonlight/I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me." Various floating verses added to the mix, and a portion of "The Red River Valley" supplied the tune. (Others say the tune is "The Ship That Never Returned." Another part of the family, the "Seven Long Years in State Prison/I'm Going to the New Jail Tomorrow" group, uses a slightly regularized form of "My Bonnie.")
Such an elaborate reconstruction can hardly be proved, but there is no doubt that this song has complex roots. The relationships between the texts can hardly be proved; I just hope we locate all of them!
Plus, of course, almost any version collected after 1924 may have been influenced by the Vernon Dalhart recording, which was certainly the first million-selling country side (exact numbers are uncertain, but sheet music sales exceeded one million, and at least two million discs were sold; some estimates put the total at 25 million or more!). The Carter Family also had "Meet Me Tonight in the Moonlight" version, which adds to the complications.
The Dalhart version was copyrighted in 1924 by Dalhart in the name of Guy Massey, a cousin of the singer. At one point, Dalhart claimed Massey wrote the words and he himself the tune. On other occasions, Dalhart claimed the whole song. He also said at one point that it was public domain. Dalhart managed to collect author's royalties, though -- and gave very little to Massey.
It is fascinating to observe that the 1925 sheet music makes no mention of Dalhart at all. The cover page reads "The Prisoner's Song -- Ballad -- -- WIth Violin Obigato. Words and Music by Guy Massey." It was published by Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. It contains two arrangements of the song, a version for male quartette arranged by Jack Glogau and an uncredited piano arrangement. Contrary to the front cover, there is no part marked for the violin (although "a violin solo is suggested between the third and fourth stanzas"). There is a piano lead-in, which looks to me as if it may have been suggested by Adelyne Hood's and Carson Robison's fiddle-and-guitar performance -- at least, the bass line looks a lot like a guy strumming chords. The lyrics are identical to Dalhart's, The back cover features a sample of "The Convict and the Rose" by Betty Chapin (which *does* have a violin obligato). It looks as if it was rushed out once Dalhart had his hit, even though his name is not to be found on it.
The above (except for the description of the sheet music) is mostly from Walter Darrell Haden, in his biography of Dalhart in Malone & McCulloh, Stars of Country Music. But he also offers a more complicated tale:
When Dalhart planned to record "The Wreck of Old 97" for Victor (he had already recorded it for Edison, and it was his biggest success to that time), they needed a flip side. To that point, Dalhart had been doing mostly operatic pieces, and didn't have much of a country repertoire. He showed the studio's music director a few lines written out (but not necessarily composed) by Massey. The Victor official, Nathaniel Shilkret, padded out the text and added a tune.
Whatever the details of authorship (and I agree with Haden that this is a slightly-patched-up folksong), it launched Dalhart on a career in which he sold an estimated 50 million discs, cut some 3000 sides totalling about 1000 different songs, and recorded under dozens if not hundreds of names
In an interesting folkloric touch, it is reported that the band at Belle Guinan's speakeasy the El Fay Club in New York would play "The Prisoner's Song" when someone turned up to try to enforce Prohibition (Deborah Blum, The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, Penguin, 2010, p. 52). - RBW
Mike Seeger classes "Kilby Jail" as being a variant of this song. The words don't look like it to me, but certainly the gestalt is the same, so I'll go along with him. - PJS
Last updated in version 3.2
File: FSC100

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 2015 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: PRISONER SONG (from Max Hunter)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Aug 04 - 08:10 PM

Lyr. Add: PRISONER SONG
(Sung by Max Hunter, 1969)

O, meet me tonight, lover meet me
O, meet me tonight all alone
For I have a sad story to tell you
Must be told in the moonlight alone.

I am going to a new jail, tomorrow
An' leave my poor darlin' alone
With the cold prison bars all around me
And my head on a pillow of stone.

Your father an' mother don't like me
Or they never would have drove me from their door
If I had my life to live over
I would never go there any more.

O, I wish I had never been born
Or had died when I was young
I would never have saw your sweet face
Or heard your lie'n tongue.

If I had a-minded my Mother
I would have been with her today
But I was young an' foolish
And you stole my heart away.

If I had three ships on the ocean
All laden with silver an' gold
And before my darlin' should suffer
I'd have them all anchored and sold.

If I had the wings of an angel
Across the wide sea I would fly
I would fly to the arms of my darlin'
And there I'd be willin' to die.

(MFH #521) As sung by Max Hunter, Springfield, MO, 11969.
Prisoner Song


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Aug 04 - 08:17 PM

The Vernon Dalhart recording of "The Prisoner's Song" may be heard and downloaded at the Record Lady, Archives page 9.
Record Lady


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: ADD: Meet Me in the Moonlight (Brown 350A)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Aug 04 - 02:50 AM

I think I'd like to post most of the versions from the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore. Some are very similar to what has been posted already, but Brown gives a wide view of all the versions of all the songs. Here's an excerpt from the notes in Brown:

    THE PRISONER'S SONG (#350)
    Miss Scarborough (SCSM 346) thinks this is a descendant of the English 'Here's Adieu to All Judges and Juries,' which is reported from Sussex in JFSS 1 135. In this country, especially in the Southern mountains, it has got mixed with a sentimental song by J. A. Wade, 'Meet Me in the Moonlight,' which has nothing to do with prisoners. In its characteristic Appalachian form it has three motives: the jail, the moonlight, and a ship. Nova Scotia texts (BSSNS 303, SBNS 309) know nothing of the ship or the moonlight. But texts from Virginia (SCSM 347-9), Kentucky (ASh 216-7), North Carolina (SCSM 349-51), and?as it happens?Iowa (MAFLS XXIX 49) have all three.


Here's number 350A:

    Meet Me in the Moonlight
    Reported by Miss Amy Henderson of Worry, Burke County, NC, in 1914.

    Off to the jail house tomorrow
    Not far to leave my little darling alone,
    With them cold iron bars around me
    And my pillow is made of stone.

    Chorus:
    Meet me tonight, darling, meet me
    Out in the moonlight alone,
    For I have a secret to tell you
    Must be told in the moonlight alone.

    Oh, I heard that your parents don't like me,
    They have driven me away from their door;
    If I had those days to go over
    I would never come back any more.

    If I had a ship on the ocean
    All lined with bright silver and gold,
    Before my darling should suffer
    My ship should he anchored and sold.

    I am dying for some one to love me
    And some one to call me their own,
    For some one to be with me always
    I am tired of living alone.

Dr. Brown notes on the manuscript that he heard the chorus as

    Won't you meet me, won't you meet me by the moonlight,
    Won't you meet me by the moonhight tonight?
    I have a sweet story to tell you.
    Won't you meet me by the moonlight tonight?

and one stanza as

    I have three ships out on the ocean
    All lined with silver and gold
    ....
    I would have them ... and sold.

#350 D (sung by A.E. Elliott of farmer, Randolph County, NC) is the same as #350A, with one additional verse as a fourth stanza:
    If I had the wings of an angel
    I would fly far, far away,
    I would fly to the arms of my darling
    And there I?d be willing to stay.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: ADD: Meet Me in the Moonlight (Brown 350B)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Aug 04 - 02:58 AM

Here's Brown's #350B

Meet Me by the Moonlight
Reported by W. Amos Abrams from Boone, Wataoga County, NC.

I am going to a new jail tomorrow,
Leaving the one that I love,
Leaving my friends and relations
And oh! how lonely my home.

Chorus:
Meet me by the moonlight, love, meet me,
Meet me by the moonlight alone,
For I have a sad story to tell you
To be told by the moonlight alone.

My parents how cruel they treat me,
They drove me away from their door.
If I live to be a hundred years older,
I'll never go back any more.

Oh! if I had the wings of an angel
I'd fly o'er land and o'er sea,
I'd fly in the arms of my darling,
And oh! how happy I'd be.

Oh I wish I had some one to love me,
Some one to call me her own,
Some one to always be with me;
I am tired of living alone.

Oh! now I have some one to love me,
Some one to call me her own,
Some one to always be with me;
Oh! don't it beat living alone?

I have a little ship on the ocean
All lined with silver and gold.
I know that my darling does own it
I know it, for I have been told.

...it sounds so profoundly poetic, and then you get to a line like, "Don't it beat living alone?"


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: ADD: The Prisoner's Song (Brown #350C)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 04 Aug 04 - 03:03 AM

One more, and then I'll be satisfied.

The Prisoner's Song
From the John Burch Blaylock Collection. This has all three of the characteristic elements?the jail, the moonlight, and the ship.

Oh, I wish I had someone to love me,
Someone to call me their own
Oh, I wish I had someone to live with,
For I'm tired of living alone.

Oh, meet me tonight in the moonlight,
Meet me out in the moonlight alone
For I have a sad story to tell you.
It's a story that's never been told.

I'll be carried to the new jail tomorrow,
Leaving my poor darling alone,
With those cold prison bars all around me
And my head on a pillow of stone.

I wish I had wings like an angel;
From these dark prison walls I would fly,
I would fly to the arms of my darling
And there I'd be willing to die.

I have a fine ship on the ocean,
All lined with silver and gold
And before my poor darling should suffer
My fine ship would be anchored and sold.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Aug 04 - 01:54 PM

Could the 'Wings of an angel (eagle)' verse have descended from this?

Psalm 55.6 - And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then I would fly away, and be at rest.
Other songs are based on this.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 19 Oct 04 - 06:46 PM

There is a reference made above to a version of Joe Heaney. COuld the correspondent quote it?

Thank you.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Oct 04 - 07:50 PM

It appears in Sam Henry's "Songs of the People," with the title "Gaol Song." He notes that it also appeared as "Swansea Gaol" and "Sweet Swansea." Thus we have it in Ireland and Wales. Five verses are given, none new. First lines are:

Oh, I wish I had someone to love me, etc.
Please meet me tonight by the moonlight, etc.
I go to my new cell tomorrow, etc.
I have got a fine ship on the ocean, etc.
If I had the wings of an angel, etc.

"Sam Henry's Songs of the People," H746, p 62, with music, Univ. Georgia Press.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 20 Oct 04 - 05:16 AM

I first happened across a version of the song on an LP by Sally Rogers (In the Circle of the Sun). She mentions that a short snippet the Prisoner's Song is played at the end of a Humphrey Bogart movie "Deadend".
I was once watching a Buster Keaton silent film on television. In the story he at one point is put in gaol, and I was surprised to see the words of the Prisoner's Song on a piece of paper posted on the cell wall. The shot was of Keaton reading the sheet, and it was definitely the same song, although I only saw it briefly. Unfortunately, I cannot work out which film the scene appeared in to be able to set a date for the words being in print.
I just thought I would add the information just for the sake of completeness.
Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Jan 05 - 08:21 PM

Lyr. Add: The Prisoner's Song (Graham)

Fly 'way to my native land, sweet dove,
Fly 'way to my native land,
And bear these lines to my lady love
Which I've traced with a feeble hand.
She murmurs much at my long delay,
Some rumor of death she has heard,
Or she thinks perhaps I have falsely strayed.
Then fly to my bower, sweet bird.
I shall miss thy visit at eve,
But bring me a line from the one I love,
And then I shall cease to grieve.
No friend to my lattice a solace brings,
Except when thy voice is heard,
When you beat the bars with your snow white wings.
Then fly to my bower, sweet bird.

Answer:
Fly back o'er the billowy main, sweet dove,
With thy bower so constant and true,
And tell him with tears, I wet each line
Of the message he sent by you.
A feather I'll pluck from thy snow white wing,
Some down from thy panting breast,
And he'll wonder who robbed his friend I know.
Then fly to my door and rest.

Singer, George Vinton Graham, San Jose, CA, 1938. California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties. Seems to be a variant of a composed song. Not related to the well-known "Prisoner's Song" posted here; more allied to, but not, "Sweet Birds."

American Memory, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html.
Index


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Jan 05 - 09:18 PM

"The Prisoner's Song" I have posted above is derived from "Carrier Dove," which appears in American broadsides, Nineteenth century, and as sheet music published in 1836.
There are several copies at Levy Sheet Music. "Carrier Dove," Words by a lady, composed by James G. Maeder, 1836, Atwill's Music Saloon, NY:
Carrier Dove
Also 1836, composed for the piano forte by Danl. Johnson, Atwill's Music Saloon, NY.

"Answer to the Carrier Dove," Words by a lady, composed by James G. Maeder, 1841, Henry Prentiss, Boston:
Answer


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Dec 06 - 11:23 AM

How come this is on the page when the last contribution was 2005?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Azizi
Date: 29 Mar 09 - 04:44 AM

I stumbled upon this thread while looking up old posts that I had written for a project I'm doing.

For what it's worth, I want to share that the "I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me" verse in "Meet Me by the Moonlight" and in
"The Prisoner's Song" is very much like this song that is included in Thomas W. Talley's important 1922 collection of Negro Folk Rhymes, Wise And Other Wise:

Mamma's Darling

Wid flowers on my shoulders,
An' wid slippers on my feet;
I's my mammy's darlin.'
Don't you think I'se sweet?

I wish I had a fourpence.
Den I wish I had a dime,
I wish I had a Sweetheart,
To kiss me all de time.

I has apples on de table,
An' I has peaches on de shelf;
But I wish I had a husband-
I's tired stayin' to myself.

[Kennikat Press edition, p, 188]

**

In this book, Talley (an African American professor at Fisk University) wrote that the songs in this book were either from his memory or were gathered from his (African American students). Writing in 1921, Dr. Talley indicated that "A few of the Rhymes bear the mark of somewhat recent date in composition. The majority of them, however, were sung by Negro fathers and mothers in the dark dats of slavery..." [p. 229]

Talley also indicated that "Many Negro Folk Rhymes were used as baho and fiddle (violin) songs. It ought to be borne in minds, however, that eventhese were quite often reapeated without singing or playing. It was common in the early days of the public schools in the South to hear Negro children use these as declamations." [p. 235]

-snip-

A "declamation" is "loud speaking in public; especially, the public recitation of speeches as an exercise in schools and colleges; as, the practice declamation by students."

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/declamation


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Azizi
Date: 29 Mar 09 - 05:27 AM

Although it is off-topic, I want to mention that a line from versions of the children's hand clap rhyme "Down Down Baby" (also known as "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa" or similar sounding titles) are very similar to these lines from The Prisoner Song".

See these lines from "Mamma's Darling"

I has apples on de table,
An' I has peaches on de shelf;
But I wish I had a husband-
I's tired stayin' to myself.

-snip-

That line is retained in these contemporary playground rhymes (I added the italic font to make that line easier to find):

Down Down Baby (also known as Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pa, Example #11)
down down baby down by the roller coaster sweet sweet baby sweet sweet don't let me go shimmy shimmy coco puff shimmy shimy rah shimmy shimmy coco puff shimmy shimmy rah i got a boyfriend ah biscut he so fine ah biscut like a cherry pie ah biscut apples on the table peaches on the floor step back baby i don't love you anymore to the front to the back to the side side side to the front to the back to the side side side
-emily ; 3/11/2007; http://www.cocojams.com/games_children_play.htm


-snip-

Down Down Baby (also known as Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pa, Example #12)
I grew up in MO. and KS. in the 80's, We spent hours doing hand clap rhymes on the playground and while riding the school bus. This is a little different version of "Down Down Baby" that we did with a complicated clapping pattern. "Down Down Baby" Down , down baby down by the rollar coaster Sweet , sweet baby sweet won't you let me go? Sugar, sugar cocoa pops sugar, sugar rocks I like a little boy and he likes me Step back Jack your pants are too black Looking like a monkey on a railroad track To the front , to the back to the side, side, side To the front, to the back to the side, side, side Apples on the table peaches on the floor Step back Jack , you don't love me no more
-Chan ; 7/3/2007; http://www.cocojams.com/games_children_play.htm

-snip-

Also, notice how similar that "apples on table/peaches on the shelf/I'm so tired of living by myself" lines are to the ending verse that is sometimes used for songs like A Frog Went A Courtin and Pompey Is Dead


Saddle and bridle on the shelf
If you want any more
you can sing it yourself

-snip-

Mudcat's Digital Tradition gives the ending verse to Frog Went A'Courtin as:

A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf, Uh-huh,
A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf, Uh-huh,
A little piece of cornbread layin' on a shelf.
If you want anymore, you can sing it yourself, Uh-huh.

@displaysong.cfm?SongID=9636

**

Black people (in the Caribbean and in the United States South) used these rhyming verses as endings for their songs and their tall tales.

It's good to see that these lines still live on.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Azizi
Date: 29 Mar 09 - 06:19 AM

My apologies for going off-topic, but I thought that information was worth noting.

Returning once again to "The Prisoner's song", I'm wondering if anyone else associates the "wings of an angel" verse with a story in a Buster Brown shoes comic book.

I'm not sure who was in prison or who sang that song (though somehow Buster Brown's dog Tige is in the mix). However, I have vague recollections of reading that comic book in the early 1950s. I believe that those comic books were free with the purchase of the Buster Brown brand of shoes. And though I really don't remember the story beyond some images of a high brick prison wall and someone (Tige the dog?) flying over that wall as though he were an angel, I definitely remember whoever it was that was escaping prison singing the "wings of an angel" song. I also remember hearing someone sing this song, and I still remember the tune (though my lack of music skills means that I can't tell anyone how it sounds. But if you want, I can sing it for you.

:o)

I think that the last verse was the only verse of that song that was used in those Buster Brown comic books.

**

The last verse of The Prisoner Song that was posted in this thread on 13 Apr 00 - 01:18 AM by The Beanster reads:

Now if I had the wings of an angel,
Over these prison walls I would fly,
I'd fly to the arms of my poor darling,
And there I'd be willing to die.

-snip-

However, the way I recall that verse is:

If I had the wings of an angel,
Over these prison walls I would fly,
And if I had the wings of an angel
I'd never never die.

-snip-

I guess that's an example of folk etymology or wishful thinking or both.

**

Here's a link to the Wikipedia for Buster Brown shoes

Here's an excerpt from that page:

"Since 1904, its mascots have been cartoon characters Buster Brown and his dog Tige. They both appear on the company's television commercials. In the 1940s and 50s the company made a brief foray into the comic book publishing industry, producing comics Buster Brown Comics, which featured the character on the cover, but contained different adventure features, such as Robin Hood."

[Italics added by me for emphasis]

-snip-

I recall my mother receiving free vouchers from the shoe store (distributed by our church) to receive pairs of those sturdy brown & white Buster Brown shoes for my sisters and me. But what we much preferred were the black shiny patin leather Mary Jane shoes.

I looked up information about those Mary Jane shoes, and was surprised to learn that there is a connection between Mary Jane and Buster Brown:

"Mary Jane was a character created by Richard Outcault for his comic strip, Buster Brown, which was first published in 1902. She was the sister of the title character, Buster Brown...

In 1904, Outcault travelled to the St. Louis World's Fair and sold licenses to up to 200 companies to use the Buster Brown characters to advertise their products. Among them was the Brown Shoe Company, who later hired actors to tour the country, performing as the Buster Brown characters in theaters and stores. This strategy helped the Brown Shoe Company become the most prominently associated brand with the Buster Brown characters. The style of shoe Buster Brown's sister wore came to be known by her name, Mary Jane.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Jane_(shoe)

-snip-

Some may think that Buster Brown shoes and Mary Jane shoes have nothing at all to do with "The Prisoner's Song". But the connection between that song, the shoes, and some otherwise forgotten comic book story is very real for me.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Apr 10 - 09:43 AM

MY FATHER USED TO SING THE "PRISONER'S sONG".. HE SAID IT WAS WRITTEN BY A PRISONER, IVAN DEVINCKI DEBARR, BUT IT'S SUCH AN OLD SONG, WRITTEN AND RE-WRITTEN, SUNG AND RE-SUNG.
MY FATHER WAS BORN IN 1908, SO YOU CAN SEE HOW FAR BACK IT GOES.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Joe_F
Date: 14 Apr 10 - 06:44 PM

Naughty young people sang "If I had the wings of an angel" & then said "Wouldn't I look silly?".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Oct 13 - 06:11 PM

I am sure that there is a Russian folk song that uses this melody. I will have to listen to the Pyatnitsky Chorus's version a few more times before I can decipher the words. Anybody have a suggestion?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 15 Oct 13 - 08:27 PM

Did I mention that I have an old 78 of the Prisoner's song, by Vernon Dalhart?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Oct 13 - 12:50 PM

Vernon Dalhart, is heard in the 1925 recording on youtube.
His "The Prisoner's Song" is a good example of the "Wings of an Angel-Meet Me Tonight in the Moonlight" version.
There are two; watch?v=VOtg5u8y2Ps has a brief biog. of Dalhart.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jun 17 - 11:03 AM

Has anyone ever had piano notes to Prisoner song?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prisoner's Song (Dalhart , et al.)
From: Stewart
Date: 12 Jun 17 - 03:26 PM

Here

Cheers, S. in Seattle


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 24 February 5:41 PM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.