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Origins: Jesse James I

DigiTrad:
JESSE JAMES
JESSE JAMES (3)
JESSE JAMES (I WONDER WHERE MY POOR OLD JESSE'S GONE)
JESUS CHRIST
JESUS CHRIST (2)
TRUE BALLAD OF JESSE JAMES


Related threads:
Who was Billy Gashade (5)
Lyr Req: Title= A song about Robert Ford (12)
Lyr Add: Jesse James II (4)
Lyr Add: Jesse James IV (3)
Lyr Add: Jesse James III (6)
Related tune: Jesse James (1)


Thompson 09 Aug 18 - 05:06 AM
Lighter 08 Aug 18 - 09:33 PM
Deckman 18 May 10 - 09:41 PM
Larry The Radio Guy 18 May 10 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,Lighter 14 May 10 - 04:55 PM
meself 14 May 10 - 12:08 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 14 May 10 - 11:49 AM
GUEST,Lighter 14 May 10 - 09:43 AM
Larry The Radio Guy 14 May 10 - 01:54 AM
Deckman 13 May 10 - 11:16 PM
meself 13 May 10 - 11:01 PM
GUEST,Larry Saidman 13 May 10 - 11:22 AM
meself 05 Apr 09 - 07:32 AM
GUEST,dazbo 05 Apr 09 - 05:58 AM
Goose Gander 24 Mar 09 - 02:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Mar 09 - 02:13 PM
Goose Gander 24 Mar 09 - 02:04 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 29 Dec 08 - 05:33 PM
kendall 29 Dec 08 - 05:03 PM
Goose Gander 28 Dec 08 - 11:59 PM
Richie 28 Dec 08 - 09:44 PM
Goose Gander 28 Dec 08 - 08:05 PM
banjoman 22 Nov 08 - 07:26 AM
Melissa 22 Nov 08 - 01:23 AM
Goose Gander 22 Nov 08 - 01:10 AM
Goose Gander 22 Nov 08 - 12:59 AM
Goose Gander 20 Mar 07 - 02:56 PM
GUEST,meself 11 Mar 07 - 11:52 AM
SouthernCelt 11 Mar 07 - 10:51 AM
12-stringer 11 Mar 07 - 03:41 AM
Jim Dixon 11 Mar 07 - 01:21 AM
Goose Gander 17 Oct 06 - 11:15 PM
GUEST,thurg 03 May 06 - 12:49 AM
Goose Gander 02 May 06 - 08:42 PM
Lighter 15 Aug 05 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,The Old Mole 15 Aug 05 - 04:29 AM
robomatic 15 Aug 05 - 03:40 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 07 Aug 05 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 07 Aug 05 - 11:38 AM
GUEST,BILL LYONS Lchantyman@aol.com 06 Aug 05 - 04:16 PM
Wolfgang 04 Aug 04 - 07:48 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Aug 04 - 11:37 AM
Joe Offer 03 Aug 04 - 02:18 AM
Joe Offer 03 Aug 04 - 01:55 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Aug 04 - 12:38 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Aug 04 - 11:20 PM
Joe Offer 02 Aug 04 - 09:37 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Aug 04 - 08:58 PM
SINSULL 02 Aug 04 - 07:19 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Aug 04 - 06:33 PM
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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Thompson
Date: 09 Aug 18 - 05:06 AM

The James Brothers are mentioned in True Grit by Charles Portis - 'Rooster' Cogburn's backstory is that he rode with Quantrill's Raiders. In a scene in the novel where Cogburn re-educates a couple of boys who were torturing a mule, he tells them to mention to their father that (if memory serves) "Mr James, a bank adjuster" has called, and so on. Great book, by the way.

The James Brothers might have particularly despised Benjamin Butler because of his noted anti-Semitism. I see an online query from one of the Briscoe family (an Irish Jewish family) who says that they are reputed to be related.

Given the persistent legends of the James brothers, and other bank robbers, helping out poor farmers that the banks were screwing, it would be an interesting project for some sociologist to collect family stories of this.

People - at least, many poor people - saw the outlaws as heroes for taking on the avid, all-powerful banks.

The nearest thing to the hatred of the banks in rural America at that time is the modern feeling about vulture funds, which buy up house loans en bloc and then evict the mortgage-payers and sell off their homes for tiny amounts.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Aug 18 - 09:33 PM

The earliest dated reference to the familiar version I've seen is in a description of a "convict camp" at Tracy City, Tenn., published in Salt Lake Herald of March 8, 1889:


“As might be expected in a ["Negro"] convict camp, there are favorite songs about noted bandits, including one about Jesse James, beginning,

        Jesse James was a man
        Who from danger never ran.
        He robbed the railway train:
        But a dirty little coward,
        He shot Mr. Howard,
        And laid Jesse James in his grave.

Chorus – Oh, Jesse had a wife;
        She’s a mourner all her life;
        The children all were brave;
        But the dirty little coward
        That shot Mr. Howard,
        He laid Jesse James in his grave.”


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Deckman
Date: 18 May 10 - 09:41 PM

To: Larry Saidman ... You are indeed posting on the correct thread. And you raise the perfect questions ... who taught it to who, how and when. I've wondered about this for many years. This is what the "folk process" is all about ... it's a perfect example. All I can add to this discussion is to mention again, that my great Uncle "Alan" sang me that version on his front porch in Skidmore, MO, in the summer of 1955.

I don't suppose we'll ever really know the perfect answers to the background to this song. But what I would have everyone to notice is the strong feelings that this version reflects:

"I WONDER WHERE MY POOR JESSIE'S GONE,
I WONDER WHERE MY POOR JESSIE'S GONE,
WILL I MEET HIM IN THAT LAND, WHERE I'VE NEVER BEEN BEFORE,
I WONDER WHERE MY POOR JESSIE'S GONE."

bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 18 May 10 - 08:14 PM

I hope I'm posting this on the right board. Earlier I had posted an interest in finding out more about the origin of the Chad Mitchell Trio (and apparently later recorded by The Golden Ring) version of Jesse James with the chorus "I wonder where my poor Jesse's gone". Paul Clayton has it on a 1957 lp. Deckman claims he heard it in 1955.

I just noticed a previous post (don't know how I missed it the first time) From: GUEST,BILL LYONS Lchantyman@aol.com - PM
Date: 06 Aug 05 - 04:16 PM

He writes:
Regarding the Jesse James version subtitled, "I Wonder Where My
Poor Old Jesse's Gone", Paul Clayton told me that he collected
this version from Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Paul taught Lunsford the
chorus that Clayton, himself, had written. I knew Paul Clayton
in the sixties and have sung many of his songs myself, including
his version of "Jesse James".

I'm confused. It seems really circular. Paul Clayton learned it from Bascom Lamar Lunsford and Lunsford learned it from Clayton.

Most of the verses aren't that different from other versions of Jesse James--just the chorus). So was the version that Deckman's great uncle sang him in Skidmore Missouri (the one they know around those parts)learned from Paul Clayton via Mr. Lunsford--or does it have an earlier origin?   Oral tradition is fascinating, isn't it?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 14 May 10 - 04:55 PM

There's really no telling. It's enigmatic.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: meself
Date: 14 May 10 - 12:08 PM

Lighter -

"Kind of anticlimactic"

I take your point - but to me, the line "He came from a solitary race" hints teasingly at some Faulkneresque 'back story' that might explain the genesis of a psychopath. You know, the weird, self-exiled Southern family that can't accept the defeat of the South, etc., ....

Thanks for the info.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 14 May 10 - 11:49 AM

We yanks love our mythology more than our reality; always have. Growing up in the forties, the "wild west" was still very much a part of our upbringing and game playing. Western heroes, wearing hats and attire designed by Hollywood tailors and never seen on the real range, were all the rage. I loved it all as much as any of my peers, living on a ranch and riding horses was all part of it. Men and women who had been there in the 1870's and 1880's were still around.

I have read accounts of any number of real "bad men" over the years. Most had only a passing resemblance to their characters as portrayed on screen. Jesse was an angry young man; a follower of Quantrill who took part in murder and mayhem disguised as warfare. The fact that he had adopted an alias, something common to many outlaws, didn't change who he was. His poor, grieving wife and children knew exactly what he was.

Johnny Ringo was a melancholy alcoholic whose reputation far exceeded his actual deeds. Romantics like to believe he was killed by Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday. He likely committed suicide.

Wyatt Earp was an opportunistic, self-promoting sort. He was fortunate to have lived long enough to help create his own myth with the help of "biographer" Stuart Lake. His buddy, Doc Holliday, was an angry, embittered alcoholic, a victim of tuberculosis estranged from his well-connected Georgia roots. He was authentically deadly, with nothing to lose, but hardly admirable.

I always sort of liked the "Ballad of Jesse James." I just see it as a song about a mythical character. The myth is still more fun than the reality. It's more comforting.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 14 May 10 - 09:43 AM

"Solitary race" sounds pretty literary. I've never seen it in any other song, folk or otherwise. The author may have picked it up from reading or remembered it from a sermon. (Biblical commentaries of the day described the Essenes as "a solitary race," for example.)

Clay Co., Missouri, was named for Henry Clay. Coincidentally or not, actually used the phrase (in a quite different sense)in a speech in 1829. So maybe the author of "Jesse James" was specially interested in Clay's career.

In the 19th C., "race" often included ideas like "family" from the viewpoint of presumed genetic inheritance. "He came from a solitary race" apparently means that his family had always been more or less loners.

Kind of anticlimactic, if you ask me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Larry The Radio Guy
Date: 14 May 10 - 01:54 AM

Thanks for the clarification, Deckman. I wonder if anybody has traced that version of Jesse James (I wonder where my poor jesse's gone) any earlier than 1955?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Deckman
Date: 13 May 10 - 11:16 PM

The man that sang me the "real version" of Jesse James was my great uncle "Alan." We were on his front porch in Skidmore, MO. I think it was the summer of 1955.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: meself
Date: 13 May 10 - 11:01 PM

I find that line "He came from a solitary race" quite striking. Any comments on its implications? Does the term "solitary race" appear in any other folk songs?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,Larry Saidman
Date: 13 May 10 - 11:22 AM

I made an interesting discovery about the Jesse James variant where the chorus goes "I Wonder Where My Poor (Old) Jesse's Gone". I first heard it by The Chad Mitchell Trio in the early 60's, and it was later recorded by The Golden Ring. THe Chad Mitchell Trio credited it to Paul Clayton. The only reference to it related to Paul Clayton is an LP by Clayton from 1957 entitled "Wanted For Murder". I can't find the record, but assume that it is that particular variant and that this is where the Chad Mitchell Trio got it. Hence, it wouldn't appear to be traditional.

However, on another Mudcat Post on "Most Embarrassing Moments", someone called Deckman refers to singing the better known version of Jesse James (Poor Jesse had a wife to mourn for his life) in a town in Missouri and getting a cool reception--then being told by an 81 year old resident that the version they sing there is ""I Wonder where my Poor Jesse's Gone", and singing it to Deckman to illustrate. This, interestingly enough, was in 1955--two years before the Paul Clayton recording.

Paul Clayton was a recorder of traditional music, so it's likely that he got his version from traditional sources. So, it's likely that this version has probably gone through some kind of oral tradition and nobody knows who wrote it. Making it a true folk song.

Deckman (Most Embarrassing Moments post)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: meself
Date: 05 Apr 09 - 07:32 AM

Yes, "Mr Howard" was the name Jesse was living under at the time of his murder.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,dazbo
Date: 05 Apr 09 - 05:58 AM

Just got Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions and it's got this song on. Who is Mr Howard? Was is James's alias or someone else? It's not clear (to me at any rate) from the lyrics in the booklet.

Great CD by the way - inspired to buy it by the BBC4 show of him and his gang doing it London.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 02:23 PM

More about the creation of the Jesse James myth here . . .

Jesse James and Late-Nineteenth Century Missouri Newspapers paper presented by Cathy Jackson at the Association for Education in Journalism and
Mass Communication in San Antonio, Texas August 2005.

And a strong critique from the left of the James myth here . . .

Jesse James: The Myth And The Man by Louis Proyect.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 02:13 PM

Interesting idea!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 24 Mar 09 - 02:04 PM

"The James brothers rode with Quantrill in the 'War to resist northern aggression'. That tells you something about their character."

The guerilla war in Missouri (as in Appalachia) was brutal with attrocities on both sides and deliberate targeting of civilians by pro-Union and pro-Confederate forces. See Michael Fellman, Inside War (Oxford University Press, 1989). Most guerillas went home in 1865, but Jessie chose to continue his career as an outlaw.

"A bit of trivia: Do any of you know the real reason Jesse decided to take the gang all the way to Northfield, MN on what proved to be their last robbery/raid?"

I believe that because General Benjamin Butler, hated by Southern partisans for his administration of occupied New Orleans, had a good deal of money invested in that bank.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 29 Dec 08 - 05:33 PM

"Bleeding Kansas" vs. Missouri was a long standing fact of life before and during the Civil War. Incursions, especially from the Missouri side and aimed at those opposed to the "peculiar institution" of slavery, were often swift, brutal and merciless. The worst example, for many, was the ransacking and burning of Lawrence, Kansas, led by William Clark Quantrill.

Quantrill's raiders were perhaps the most notorious of several "bushwhacking" guerilla bands operating outside the military authority of the Confederacy, but with its unofficial blessing. Frank James was an unabashed admirer of Quantrill, as was his younger brother, Jesse. This young "Robin Hood" was more likely filled with hatred and rage than with any altruistic motives.

I always liked the melody of the song and, when much younger and more easily impressed, also liked the lyrics.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: kendall
Date: 29 Dec 08 - 05:03 PM

The James brothers rode with Quantrill in the "War to resist northern aggression". That tells you something about their character.

Why did they go to MN to rob a bank? Probably to deprive the Yankees of the gold that would otherwise be used against the South. Plus, the law would never expect them to strike that far north.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 11:59 PM

The "bad like Jesse James" line certainly is established in the African-American folk tradition.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Richie
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 09:44 PM

Michael,

A "Jesse James" reference is found in Blind Lemon's "One Dime Blues":

You want your friend to be bad like Jesse James?
You want your friend to be bad like Jesse James ?
Just give'm a six shooter and highway some passenger train.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 28 Dec 08 - 08:05 PM

JESSIE JAMES

How the people held their breath
When they heard of Jesse's death
And wondered how he came to die
For the big reward little Robert Ford
Shot Jesse James on the sly

Chorus:
Jesse leaves a wife to mourn all her life
The children that he left will pray
For the thief and the coward
Who shot Mr. Howard
And laid Jesse James in his grave

Jesse was a man - a friend to the poor -
Never did he suffer a man's pain
And with his brother Frank
They robbed the Chicago Bank
And stopped the Glendale train

Jesse goes to his rest with his hand on his breast
And the devil will be upon his knees
He was born one day in the County of Clay
And came from a great race

Men, when you go out to the west
Don't be afraid to die -
With the law in their hand
But they didn't have the sand
For to take Jesse James alive

Source:
Charles Finger, Sailor Chanties and Cowboy Songs (Little Blue Book no. 301)(Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Company, n.d.).

Finger writes that he got his version from "a sea cook named Wilson" and that he secured an identical version from a wandering singer in West Texas who had a printed broadside of the lyrics.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: banjoman
Date: 22 Nov 08 - 07:26 AM

I had the opportunity to visit the Missouri Caves at Hanibal (birth place of Mark Twain alias Sam Clements) and was shown what was purported to be the signature of Jesse James on one of the cavern walls where he is said to have hidden from the law.
Just a bit of trivia to add to the thread
Pete


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Melissa
Date: 22 Nov 08 - 01:23 AM

I live in Jesse James country and the most interesting book I've read about him was written by a guy in Denmark--it was fascinating to read such a far-away telling of a local story.

In Jimmie Driftwood's version, JJ robs a 'Texas train'.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 22 Nov 08 - 01:10 AM

I'M BAD LIKE JESSE JAMES
(John Lee Hooker)
Recorded NYC August 30, 1966
Original release- Bluesway 'Live At The Cafe Au Go-Go' 1966

I'm bad
I'm bad
Like Jesse James, uh-huh

I had a friend one time
Least I thought I did
He come to me
Said, 'Johnny?'
Said, 'What man?'
'I'm outdoor'
I say, 'Yeah?'

I taken the cat in
Get him a place to stay
And I found out
He goin' 'round town
Tellin' ev'rybody that he
He got my wife

Then I gets mad
I goes to the cat
Like a good guy should
I said, 'Look man
'I'm gonna warn, you just one time'
Next time I warn you'
'I'm gonna use my gun'

'Cause I'm mad, I'm bad, like Jesse James

I'm so mad, I'm so mad.
I'm gonna ruin you this mornin'.
I've got three boys
Do my dirty work
Now, you don't see me
I'm the big boss
I do the payin' off
After they take care of you

In their on way
They may shoot you
They may cut you.
They may drown you
I just don't know
I don't care
Long as they take care of you
In their on way

I'm so mad, I'm bad this mornin', like Jesse James.

They gon' take you right down
By the riverside
Now four is goin' down
Ain't but three comin' back
You read between the line
We're gonna have a deal

'Cause I'm mad, I'm bad, like Jesse James.

They gonna tie yo' hands
They gonna tie yo' feet
They gonna gag your throat
Where you can't holler none

An cryin' won't help you none
Set you in the water
Yeah, the bubbles comin' up.
Whoa
Rrrrrrr
Rrrrrrr

Oh yeah, I'm so mad!

Listen and see here . . .

I'm Bad Like Jesse James (live)
I'm Bad Like Jesse James


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 22 Nov 08 - 12:59 AM

The lyrics to Harry McClintock's version seem to be taken directly from the version in 'Sailor Chanties and Cowboy Songs, compiled by Charles J. Finger' (Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Company, n.d.), p. 18. I'll listen to it tomorrow and see if there Harry's version differs in any way.

Re: African-Americans and Jesse James - how about "I'm Bad, Like Jesse James," by John Lee Hooker(?) . . .


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 20 Mar 07 - 02:56 PM

"A bit of trivia: Do any of you know the real reason Jesse decided to take the gang all the way to Northfield, MN on what proved to be their last robbery/raid?"

OK, lay it on us - why did Jesse and the gang go all the way up to Northfield, MN?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 11 Mar 07 - 11:52 AM

So, 12-stringer - we're to assume that you're a Greenberry descendant?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 11 Mar 07 - 10:51 AM

I think there have been as many "folk" songs about Jesse as there have movies that supposedly told the true story of his career. Of the movies, I think the best was "Long Riders" by far since it was a bit more factual than most of the others. (Had some dang good music in it too, gave it a folky flavor.)

Although Jesse and rest aren't mentioned in the song (no names are), listen to Jed Marum's "Bloody Friday" about the Lawrence raid sometime. Jed gives a bit of insight of why the Confederate guerillas so hated the Northern-sympathizing, Unionist Jayhawkers.

A bit of trivia: Do any of you know the real reason Jesse decided to take the gang all the way to Northfield, MN on what proved to be their last robbery/raid? I'll give other 'Catters a few days to speculate before I give the answer or confirm what anyone else posts.

SC


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: 12-stringer
Date: 11 Mar 07 - 03:41 AM

Somebody commented upthread that black music took little notice of JJ. One exception of course is Leadbelly's "When I was a Cowboy." Another in Blind Lemon's "One Dime Blues":

Do you want your friend to be bad like Jesse James? (x3)
Get two big pistols, highway some passenger train.


On their mother's side, Jesse and Frank were descendants of Colonel Nicholas Greenberry (c1627-1698) of Anne Arundel Co, MD. It was said of Greenberry by a political adversary that he had been "a highwayman in England" before emigrating to MD in the early 1670s. Possibly it's genetic, though relatively few of the Greenberry descendants have been known to get two big pistols and highway any passenger trains. At least, I never felt the urge, but the passenger trains stopped running here quite a few years ago.


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Subject: Lyr Add: JESSE JAMES (Harry McClintock)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 11 Mar 07 - 01:21 AM

I copied these lyrics form Norm Cohen's book, "Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong." There, this version is attributed to Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock.

JESSE JAMES

1. How the people held their breath when they heard of Jesse's death,
Wondered how he came to die.
For the big reward, little Robert Ford
Shot Jesse James on the sly.
It was Robert Ford, that dirty little coward,
I wonder how he does feel;
For he ate Jesse's bread and he slept in Jesse's bed
And he laid Jesse James in his grave.

CHORUS 1: Jesse leaves a wife that'll moan [or "mourn"?] all her life.
The children that the left will pray;
For Bob Ford, the coward, that shot Mr. Howard
That laid Jesse James in his grave.

2. Jesse was a man, a friend to the poor.
He'd never see a man suffer pain;
But with his brother Frank, he robbed the Springfield bank,
And stopped the Glendale train.
It was his brother Frank that robbed the Gallatin bank
And carried the money from the town.
It was in this very place they had a little chase
And they shot Captain Sheets to the ground. CHORUS 1.

3. They went to the crossin' not very far from there,
And there they did the same;
For the agent on his knees delivered up the keys
To the outlaws, Frank and Jesse James.
'Twas on a Saturday night, and Jesse was at home,
Talkin' with his family brave.
Bob Ford came along like a thief in the night
And laid Jesse James in his grave.

CHORUS 2: Oh, they laid poor Jesse in his grave, yes, Lord,
They laid Jesse James in his grave.
Oh, he took from the rich and he gave it to the poor,
But they laid Jesse James in his grave.

4. Jesse went to his rest with his hand on his breast.
The devil will be upon his knee.
He was born one day in the county of Clay,
And came from a solitary race.
Now men, when you go out into the West,
Never be afraid to die.
They had the law in their hands, but they didn't have the sand
To take Jesse James alive. CHORUS 1, CHORUS 2.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 11:15 PM

Here's another version, this time from Loye Pack . . . .

JESSE JAMES

Last Saturday night
The moon was shining bright
He robbed the Otterville train
He was a dirty little coward
Who shot Mr. Howard
And he laid Jesse James in his grave

Jesse had a wife
Who mourned for his life
His children they were brave
He was a dirty little coward
Who shot Mr. Howard
And he laid Jesse James in his grave

'Twas Saturday night
The moon was shining bright
He robbed the Denver train
He was a dirty little coward
Who shot Mr. Howard
And he laid Jesse James in his grave

They went to the depot
It wasn't very far
The agent for to see
He fell upon his knees
And delivered up the keys
To Frank and Jesse James

This very song was made
By Billy Mosha
No sooner than the news arrived
They say there was no man
With the law in his hand
Could take Jesse James alive

Little Robert Ford
He was one of the gang
How his heart did crave
He ate of Jesse's bread
And slept on Jesse's bed
And he laid Jesse James in his grave

Jesse drew his belt
You bet he never felt
That his enemy was so nigh
But little Robert Ford
He did spy
And Jesse came tumbling from the chair

The ladies held their breath
When they heard of Jesse's death
They wondered how he came to die
He was shot upon the sly
By little Robert Ford
And they laid Jesse James in his grave

Source: Old Time Songs, Compiled by Loye Pack (n.d., probably mid-1930s), p. 52-53).

From Mountaineer Jamboree by Ivan Tribe (Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1984):

"Born Loye Donald Pack in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 3, 1900, the Cowboy apparently wandered around somewhat in his early adulthood and spent several years working on a ranch in Nebraska. He entered radio in January 1929, played in Columbus, Ohio, for a time, and began his career at WWVA on November 11, 1933" (p. 45).

Cowboy Loye apparently never recorded, his career cut short by his early death in 1941 due to a kidney ailment (ibid., p. 46).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 03 May 06 - 12:49 AM

Happened to be talking to me big brudder about this song (Jesse James was a lad ... ) this evening, before I stumbled onto this thread. He said that Billy Gashade was a black convict in a Texas pen when he wrote the song - don't know where my brother got that, but it's not the sort of thing he'd be saying without some sort of "reliable source".

Anyone know the song with the refrain "Somebody robbed the Glendale train"? Recorded by the Red Clay Ramblers or some band of that ilk. Tells the story from the point of view of the local community.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Goose Gander
Date: 02 May 06 - 08:42 PM

This may be the earliest version, printed by Norm Cohen in Long Steel Rail which is a wonderful book well worth purchasing.


JESSE JAMES

Jesse James was a lad that killed many a man,
He robbed the Danville train;
But that dirty little coward that shot at Mr. Howard
Has laid Jesse James in his grave.
It was Robert Ford, that dirty little coward;
I wonder how he does feel;
For he ate Jesse's bread and slept in Jesse's bed,
Then laid Jesse James in his grave.

Poor Jesse had a wife, to mourn for his life
Children they were brave;
But that dirty little coward, that shot at Mr. Howard
Has laid Jesse James in his grave.

It was with his brother Frank, he robbed the Gallatin bank,
And carried the money from the town;
It was at this very place they had a little chase,
For they shot Capt. Sheets to the ground.
They went to the crossing not very far from there,
And there they did the same,
With the agent on his knees he delivered up the keys
To the outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

It was on a Wednesday night, the moon was shining bright,
They robbed the Danville train;
The people they did say for many miles away,
It was robbed by Frank and Jesse James.
It was on Saturday night, the moon was shining bright,
Talking with his family brave,
Robert Ford came along like a thief in the night,
And he laid Jesse James in his grave.

The people held their breath when they heard of Jesse's death,
And wondered how he came to die.
It was one of the gang called little Robert Ford,
He shot Jesse James on the sly.
This song was written by Billy LaShade, as soon as the news did arrive;
He said there's no man with the law in his hand
Can take Jesse James alive.

"Until recently, the earliest known printing of 'Jesse James' was a broadside printed by New York publisher Henry J. Wehman (no. 1044). Though undated, it can be placed between 1888 and 1897 on the basis of Wehman's address given on the sheet. It has been reproduced by Finger (1927) and by Thede and Preece. In 1977, Guthrie T. Meade came across an 1887 pocket songster in the Library of Congress, Comic and Sentimental Songs; one of the texts, as sung by Robert Jones, is 'Jesse James'. Jones, born blind in east Tennessee, made his living after the age of fifteen by singing and playing the fiddle . . . . While this version the authorship is attributed to LaShade, rather than Gashade, I am uneasy about building any hypotheses on this slender foundation."

Norm Cohen, Long Steel Rail (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 103-104.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Aug 05 - 07:35 PM

Charles J. Finger's "Frontier Ballads" (1927) reproduces an 1880s broadside of the "classic" (Sandburg) version of "Jesse James." It's easy to believe that this text, or one close to it, was the ultimate source of field-collected variants.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,The Old Mole
Date: 15 Aug 05 - 04:29 AM

Frank James was a socialist, who vowed to take up arms in the coming war between capital and labor.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: robomatic
Date: 15 Aug 05 - 03:40 AM

Very nice book by Ron Hanson: "The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" tells a lot from Ford's point of view. Very nice little scene where Ford first hears the Gashade song at a minstrel show. Includes the death of Ford in Creede CO at the instigation of Soapy Smith, who was a real character and moved on to Scagway Alaska not long thereafter.

Also recommend the Zevon Song from one of his earlier albums:

On a small Missouri Farm, back when the West was young,
Two boys learned to rope and ride, be handy with a gun,
The war broke out between the States and they joined up with Quantrill
It was over in Clay County that Frank and Jesse finally learned to kill.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 07 Aug 05 - 02:18 PM

I must add that I always introduced this song saying that it was a piece of histoy, and that every war has it's good reasons for people not wanting to back/fight it. Also, I'd intimate that there are wars that need to be fought, and if the listeners doubted that, I'd suggest they read "The Lord Of The Rings." *small joke-but truth too* (A modicum of ironic humor was always a good way to intro a serious topic I always thought.)

This was a part of a medley of anti-war songs and pro-war songs. And it all ended with instrumental fingerpicked versions of "Meadowlands" and "Stars And Stripes Forever"---culminating with the first verse of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 07 Aug 05 - 11:38 AM

And then there was.. (I sang this until the Viet Nam War ended.)

It was on a Saturday night,
The moon was shining bright,
That they passed the *conscription bill (* the draft)
And the people all did say from many miles away,
It was the president
And his boys on capital Hill.

CHORUS)
Yes, Franklin Roosevelt
Told the people how he felt,
We damned near believed what he said,
"I hate war and so does Elanore,
But we won't be safe 'til everybody's dead."

I was standin by his side
When my poor old father died,
And I swore to war I'd never go,
Now I'm eating army beans,
And I'm wearing army jeans,
And I'm told that J. P. Morgan loves me so.

Well, I've been all around this land,
An honest working man,
No clothes to wear and not much food to eat,
Now the government foots the bill,
Buys me clothes and feeds me swill,
Gets me shot and puts me underground six feet!

(from the Almanac Singers)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: GUEST,BILL LYONS Lchantyman@aol.com
Date: 06 Aug 05 - 04:16 PM

Regarding the Jesse James version subtitled, "I Wonder Where My
Poor Old Jesse's Gone", Paul Clayton told me that he collected
this version from Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Paul taught Lunsford the
chorus that Clayton, himself, had written. I knew Paul Clayton
in the sixties and have sung many of his songs myself, including
his version of "Jesse James".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Wolfgang
Date: 04 Aug 04 - 07:48 AM

most probably based upon JJI. I learned it 40 years ago.

Wolfgang

JESSE JAMES

Und der Glendale Express,
der stoppte im Wald,
der Chef gab kein Pardon,
Jesse James schoss ein Loch
allen Snobs in den Bauch
und im Westen kennt jeder den Song:

Ch: Wer fragt nach Jesse James,
sein Weib blieb allein,
drei Kinder wer's vergaß.
Es war Samstag als der Schuft kam
und Jesse auf's Korn nahme
und Jesse, der Chef, biss in das Gras.

Für die Armen im Dreck
brach Jesse die Bank,
Chicago, nachts um vier,
trug das Geld aus der Stadt,
denn er sah es nicht ein,
dieses Elend im Armenquartier.

Robbie Ford hieß der Schuft,
der feigste im Land (or: der Gang),
die Zeitung schrie es aus,
wie ein Dieb in der Nacht
tat er's schnöde für Geld,
denn er wusste den Jesse zu Haus.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Jesse James I
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Aug 04 - 11:37 AM

Jesse has not received much attention from black Americans. Odum found only one song which was "in any way complete."

FRANK AND JESSE JAMES

O mother, I'm dreaming; O mother I'm dreaming,
O mother I'm dreaming 'bout Frank an' Jesse James.

Jesse James had a wife, she mourned all her life,
Jesse James children cried for bread.

Went up on the wall, thought I heard a call,
Thought I heard a call 'bout Frank an' Jesse James.

H. W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson, 1925 (1968 reprint), "The Negro and His Songs," pp. 209-210, Negro Universities Press.


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Subject: ADD: Jesse James (Sandburg)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Aug 04 - 02:18 AM

This is the first version of Jesse I in Sandburg's American Songbag. I gather it's the primary source for I Wonder Where My Poor Old Jesse's Gone, since the two songs share so many verses.
-Joe Offer-

Jesse James

It was on a Wednesday night, the moon was shining bright,
They robbed the Glendale train.
And the people they did say, for many miles away,
'Twas the outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

CHORUS
Jesse had a wife to mourn all her life,
The children they are brave.
'Twas a dirty little coward shot Mister Howard,
And laid Jesse James in his grave.

It was Robert Ford, the dirty little coward,
I wonder how he does feel,
For he ate of Jesse's bread and he slept in Jesse's bed,
Then he laid Jesse James in his grave.

It was his brother Frank that robbed the Gallatin bank,
And carried the money from the town.
It was in this very place that they had a little race,
For they shot Captain Sheets to the ground.

They went to the crossing not very far from there,
And there they did the same;
And the agent on his knees he delivered up the keys
To the outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

It was on a Saturday night, Jesse was at home
Talking to his family brave,
When the thief and the coward, little Robert Ford,
Laid Jesse James in his grave.

How people held their breath when they heard of Jesse's death,
And wondered how he ever came to die.
'Twas one of the gang, dirty Robert Ford,
That shot Jesse James on the sly.—

Jesse went to his rest with his hand on his breast.
The devil will be upon his knee.
He was born one day in the county of Clay,
And came from a solitary race.


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Subject: ADD: I Went Down to the Depot (Jesse James I)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Aug 04 - 01:55 AM

I guess I would call Woody Guthrie's Jesus Christ a non-humorous parody of this song, depending on how one defines "parody." "Jesus Christ" is in Rise Up Singing, but not "Jesse."

As the Ballad Index entry says above, Carl Sandburg's American Songbag has two versions of Jesse I. This one is "heavily folk-processed." Sandburg says this is the "negro version of the Jesse James ballad, as heard by Charles Rockwood in work gangs of the south.

I Went down to the Depot

I went down to the depot, not many nights ago,
And there I done something I never done before.
I got down on my knees
And delivered up the keys
To Frank and his brother Jesse James.
Po' Jesse James, po' Jesse James,
I'll never see my Jesse any more;
'Twas a dirty little coward
He shot Mister Howard
An' laid Jesse James in his grave.

Jesse James was a man and he had a robber band:
And he flagged down the east bound train.
Robert Ford watched his eye,
And he shot him on the sly,
And they laid Jesse James in his grave.
Po' Jesse James, po' Jesse James
I'll never see my Jesse any more.
'Twas a dirty little coward
That shot Mister Howard
And laid Jesse James in his grave.

Jesse James' little wife was a moaner all her life
When they laid Jesse James in his grave.
She earned her daily bread
By her needle and her thread
When they laid Jesse James in his grave.
Po' Jesse James, po' Jesse James,
I'll never see my Jesse any more.
Robert Ford's pistol ball
Brought him tumbling from the wall
And laid Jesse James in his grave.


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Subject: RE: Jesse James I
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Aug 04 - 12:38 AM

Jessee James I was sung by these two better known western singers:
Jules Verne Allen, in "Cowboy Lore, 1935, pp. 76-79, with music.
Margaret Larkin, 1931, 1963, "Singing Cowboy, pp. 154-157, with music and rudimentary chords. According to her, Ford shot Jesse through an uncurtained window. Some verses differ from the standard.
The 555 Fake Song Book has the parody version by Shane, Reynolds and Stewart, in which
"When his best friend died, he was right there by her side,
And he lifted off her golden wedding ring."
(Posted somewhere in Mudcat by a scalawag)

Strangely, not in Sing Out's "Rise Up Singing."


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Subject: RE: Jesse James I
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Aug 04 - 11:20 PM

Apparently version I was first reported by Laws in 1906. The same version was published, with 4/4 music, in 1910 in John A.Lomax, 1910, 1919, "Cowboy Songs," p. 29-31, without comment. It was reprinted in Lomax and Lomax, 1938, "Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads," with only one remark: "The last stanza [mentioning Billy Gashade] was made by a Missouri Negro." Several websites try to explain 'Gashade,' one saying he was a newspaperman, another an itinerant singer, but nothing substantive.
In Alan Lomax, 1960, "The Folk Songs of North America," No. 183 Jesse James I appears as "sung by B. L. Lunsford [music and chords given], L. C. Record 97B1, collected by A. Moser." Lomax remarks that the "Song was composed immediately after James was shot, 1882." No support is given for this statement.
This is Text A in Fife and Fife, 1969, Cowboy and Western Songs, with music and chords, pp. 254-256; text A from Gordon, 433; melody A from King 847, Grandpa Jones (listened to a sound clip, doesn't sound like the right version. Date?).


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Subject: ADD: Jesse James VII (Belden)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Aug 04 - 09:37 PM

The Traditional Ballad Index has only one citation (Belden) for Jesse James VII. Here's the Ballad Index entry, and the Belden text.
-Joe Offer-

Jesse James (VII - "Jesse James Was a Bandit Bold")

DESCRIPTION: Jesse and Frank James come to town with ponies for sale. While there, they attend a ball, and have great success with the girls. The local men try to attack them, but Jesse and Frank out-fight them and escape to Mexico
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1909 (University Missourian)
KEYWORDS: outlaw dancing escape
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Belden, pp. 401-404, "Jesse James" (3 texts, of which only the second, called "A Missouri Ballad" in the original publication, is this song)
Roud #2242
Notes: This is item dE44 in Laws's Appendix II. - RBW
File: Beld419b

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

The Ballad Index Copyright 2004 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.



Jesse James was a bandit bold,
He and his brother Frank;
'Twas in a town in Mexico
They played this daring prank.

They drove some ponies they wanted to trade
Across the greaser line,
And finished selling them one day
In June of 59.

There was a dance at the hall that trip
And the boys were feeling gay;
We'll load our derringers,' said Frank,
In case there comes a fray.'

All uninvited they reached the door
And tied their bronchs outside;
'We'll walk right in,' they said, 'to brave
Those all-fired greasers' pride.'

Each chose a senorita fair,
And when the dance began
They footed the waltz so well they were
The envy of each man.

And when the wine got in their heads,
As sure as pipe-smoke curls,
They made no bones about their lips
But kissed a few of the girls.

At that the jealous men sneaked out
With treacherous looks at Jess;
'What they want with us,' Frank said,
'A Texas steer could guess.'

Back came they with revolvers drawn
To shoot the lights all out;
But Jess and Frank got out their guns
And made them face about.

Back through the swarthy crowd they strode,
Bold Jesse and his pard;
'Untie the bronchs,' his comrade said,
'While I stand here on guard.'

Upon their mounts the heroes leaped,
To horse the greasers sprung;
'And if they take us,' Jesse said,
'They're sure to have us hung.'

But when they reached the Rio Grande
The James boys swam across;
The greasers stood upon the bank
Astounded at their loss.


'A Missouri Ballad.' Printed by Carl Brim in the University Missourian for 16 February, 1909, with the statement: 'It was recited to me by an old settler in a southern county who vouched for its authenticity, and stated that it was well known in some parts of Missouri and Texas.

source: Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society (Belden)


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Subject: RE: Jesse James
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Aug 04 - 08:58 PM

Joe, I posted one to your II, but I'll stop until you get the system organized and a 'nucleus' ballad for each thread. I am only complicating things by posting now.
    Not to worry. If you don't mind, I'll move any misplaced songs.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Jesse James
From: SINSULL
Date: 02 Aug 04 - 07:19 PM

Jesse robbed from the poor
And gave to the rich
He never did a friendly thing
And when his best friend died
He was right there by her side
And he lifted off her golden wedding ring.

Wish I could remember the LP that came from.


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Subject: Lyr Add: JESSE JAMES
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Aug 04 - 06:33 PM

Here is another Missouri version, sung by May Kennedy McCord, 1939. Her guitar chords are given with the music.

Lyr. Add: JESSE JAMES (V)

Jesse James he was a man
Who was known throughout the land,
For Jesse he was bold and bad and brave;
But the dirty little coward that shot Mister Howard
Went and laid poor Jesse in his grave.

It was on a Friday night,
The moon was shining bright,
Robert Ford had been hiding in a cave;
He did eat of Jesse's bread
And he slept in Jesse's bed.
But he went and laid poor Jesse in his grave.

Refrain:
Jesse had a wife to mourn him all her life.
The children they were brave;
But the dirty little coward
That murdered Mister Howard
Went and laid poor Jesse in his grave.

It was Jesse's brother Frank
That robbed the Gallatin bank
And carried the money from the town;
It was in that very place
That they held a mighty race
And shot Captain Sheeks to the ground.

Then they went to the station
Not very far from there,
And there Frank and Jesse did the same,
And the agent on his knees
Delivered up the keys
To the outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

How the people held their breath
When they heard of Jesse's death
And wondered how he ever came to die;
But it was the sneaking coward,
The dirty Robert Ford
That shot Jesse on the sly.

Jesse went to rest
With his hands upon his breast,
The devil he will look him in the face;
He was born one stormy day
In the County of old Clay
And came from a solitary race.

Wm. Owens said he found several versions and 'half a dozen" tunes. he tells a story on himself: "I was so filled with hero-worship that when one of my teachers called Jesse james a highway robber and thief in class one day, I stood up to protest and finally marched out of the schoolroom in anger. I might add that most of the other children in school were also of my opinion." (The teacher must have been a new recruit from the north; no local teacher would have expressed such an opinion at that time (1915-1930)).
William A. and Jessie Ann Owens, 1976 (2nd. rev. ed.), Texas Folk Songs, pp. 78-80, with music. SMU Press, Dallas.


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