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Lyr Req/Add: Spanish Johnny (Willa Cather or...)

In Mudcat MIDIs:
Spanish Johnny [Text by Willa Cather, tune by C.E. Scroggins] (from American Ballads and Folk Songs, Lomax & Lomax, 1934)


ponytrax 08 Aug 01 - 03:04 AM
Pene Azul 08 Aug 01 - 03:09 AM
Pene Azul 08 Aug 01 - 03:11 AM
ponytrax 08 Aug 01 - 03:56 AM
Pene Azul 08 Aug 01 - 04:03 AM
Midchuck 08 Aug 01 - 07:11 AM
Stewie 08 Aug 01 - 07:39 PM
ponytrax 08 Aug 01 - 10:18 PM
GUEST,Frugz 09 Aug 01 - 07:26 PM
harpgirl 09 Aug 01 - 07:40 PM
Tedham Porterhouse 09 Aug 01 - 08:45 PM
Jim Dixon 02 Feb 02 - 01:07 AM
BlueFolk 02 Feb 02 - 01:58 PM
Xeric Clapton 23 Feb 10 - 09:20 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 23 Feb 10 - 09:36 PM
Jim Dixon 24 Feb 10 - 12:30 AM
Joe Offer 24 Feb 10 - 04:06 AM
Mark Ross 24 Feb 10 - 10:32 AM
DonMeixner 24 Feb 10 - 10:54 AM
Mark Ross 24 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM
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Subject: Spanish Johnny ( and/or variants)
From: ponytrax
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 03:04 AM

David Bromberg recorded this on My Own House, and it appears in some Web song indices. The lyrics tell a story of a man (Spanish Johnny) who is kind and gentle with children and ladies, plays a stringed instrument beautifully, but is a cold-blooded killer. The point of view in the song is from one ( or the only person) who has killed Spanish Johnny (as I recall, he was hanged). The singer is recounting the tale at a distance of years, there's a line or refrain about " this was long ago, before the roads went in."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: Pene Azul
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 03:09 AM

You can get the lyrics here (click).

Jeff


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Subject: ADD: Spanish Johnny (Paul Siebel)
From: Pene Azul
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 03:11 AM

SPANISH JOHNNY
(Paul Siebel)

Those other years, the dusty years
We drove the big hers through
I tried to forget the miles we rode
And Spanish Johnny too
He'd sit beside a water ditch when all this herd was in
And he'd never harm a child but sing to his mandolin

The old talk, the old ways, and the dealin' of our game
But Spanish Johnny never spoke, but sing a song of Spain
And his talk with men was vicious talk
When he was drunk on gin
Ah, but those were golden things he said to his mandolin

We had to stand, we tried to judge, we had to stop him then
For the hand so gentle to a child had killed so many men
He died a hard death long ago before the road come in
And the night before he swung he sung to his mandolin

Well, we carried him out in the mornin' sun
A man that done no good
And we lowered him down in the cold clay
Stuck in a cross of wood
And a letter we wrote to his kinfolk
To tell them where he'd been
And we shipped it out to Mexico, along with his mandolin


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: ponytrax
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 03:56 AM

Pene Azul, thanks for the lyrics. I see from the links (I see by your outfit that you are...NO NO stop THAT!!) that Emmy Lou Harris may have recorded this song--could you hint to me the album it is on?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: Pene Azul
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 04:03 AM

According to this page, it's on Evangeline.

Jeff


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: Midchuck
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 07:11 AM

Emmylou not only recorded it, she recorded it with Waylon! YEEHAW!!!!!!!

Peter.


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Subject: Lyr Add: SPANISH JOHNNY (Willa Cather)
From: Stewie
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 07:39 PM

Its provenance dates back before Siebel was born.

SPANISH JOHNNY
(Willa Cather)

The old West, the old time
The old wind singing through
The red, red grass a thousand miles
And Spanish Johnny, you!
He'd sit beside a water ditch
When all his herds were in,
And never mind a child, but sing
To his mandolin

The big stars, the blue night,
The moon-enchanted lane,
The olive man who never spoke,
But sang the songs of Spain.
His talk with men was wicked talk
To hear it was a sin,
But those were golden things he said
To his mandolin.

The old songs, the old stars,
The world so golden then!
The hand so tender to a child
Had killed so many men
He died a hard death long ago,
Before the road came in
The night before he swung, he sang
To his mandolin.

Source: John A. Lomax & Alan Lomax 'American Ballads & Folk Songs' Macmillan 1934, Twenty-Third Printing 1972, p 123.

Collected from C.E. Scoggins, Sea Horse Hill, Boulder, Colorado. Scoggins noted: 'The words are Willa Cather's; if you print them, of course you'll have to get her permission. The tune is a poor thing, but mine own. I liked the verse and this is the way it sang itself to me. A lot of people like it and I used to like it myself; but I have sung it so often now it doesn't seem to mean much any more.


Click to play


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: ponytrax
Date: 08 Aug 01 - 10:18 PM

My family's been ranching in California since the 1880s. In the old days there were cowboys drifting from ranch to ranch. Some would settle and stay for long periods. My grandfather came back from WWI with "Uncle Howard", who was 10 or 15 years older than my grandfather (ie born around 1875). He died in 1965 or so. I clearly remember good times with Uncle Howard, and I also remember my grandmother saying to my mother that Howard never had a drivers license or voted because he had been a bad man before he came West, and maybe the war had broken him of his evil ways. So when I first heard "Spanish Johnny" I thought of Uncle Howard and the other lonely men--and the people who lived with them. Anyway we are going to a family reunion and I wanted to have the lyrics so my cousin and my partner and I could sing this song.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: GUEST,Frugz
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 07:26 PM

Anyone got chords/music for this.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: harpgirl
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 07:40 PM

...very interesting. I've sung this a long time and wondered where it really came from. I think that's "herds" and not "hers". Imagine, it is originally a Willa Cather poem...wow.....thanks all ....hrpgrl


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: Tedham Porterhouse
Date: 09 Aug 01 - 08:45 PM

Paul Siebel always said that "Spanish Johnny" was based on the Willa Cather poem whenever I heard him perform it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 01:07 AM

Spanish Johnny is also a character in Willa Cather's novel, "The Song of the Lark." This quote is from an article by Dr. Betsy McCully Cooper:
    As Thea matures, Dr. Archie often takes her on his rounds, showing her a side of life that she would otherwise not see. In Mexican Town, for example, she meets Spanish Johnny, a wandering musician given to bouts of drinking and madness, and his long-suffering wife, Mrs. Tellamantez. It is when she sings a duet with Spanish Johnny at a dance in Mexican Town that she discovers the natural tones and sensual depths of her true voice.
Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson do a nice version of "Spanish Johnny" on their album "Out in Our Meadow," Red House Records, RHR15.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: BlueFolk
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 01:58 PM

Yeah, thanks for the lyrics of that fantastic song.
Paul Siebel never actually recorded the song. It was first done by David Bromberg, a close friend of Siebel.
The line "stuck in a cross of wood" reminds me of that picture at the inside of Paul Siebel's second album, Jack Knife Gypsy. A beautiful picture of Siebel in a red clay colored field with a few wooden crosses randomly scattered around him.
That was Paul Siebel last studio album. He never recorded new songs again.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Spanish Johnny
From: Xeric Clapton
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 09:20 PM

The Smithsonian is in the process of digitizing songs from their Folkways catalog. Included is a great version of Spanish Johnny, performed by Paul Seibel and Jack Hardy, and recorded live at The Bottom Line in Washington, DC. The year is 1993:

http://www.folkways.si.edu/TrackDetails.aspx?itemid=973

The first time I heard the song, it was on the Emmylou Harris album Evangline with Waylon Jennings "wailing" in the background, and Ricky Skaggs playing the most sublime mandolin imaginable. The song is perfect, really: gentle and tough at the same time, plaintive, beautiful, just a revelation. I was living in Las Vegas and one of our cowboy friends, a fellow who rode the local rodeo circuit, was sent the album by his ex-wife. She'd moved on and was partnered with one of the best (and best-known) musician's in Southern California. That stoved-up steer wrestler gave that album away, he just couldn't stand to listen to it. I was the lucky recipient. Here's to you Buck!

I knew when I first heard it, that the lyrics were from another time, and that there was more to it. Being a Paul Seibel fan (I love Jack-Knife Gypsy) I was intrigued that he was given writing credits. It was only later that I learned that he'd adapted it from a Willa Cather poem. That brought all the depth I'd heard in those lyrics into focus. The words, echoing down from another time, are exquisite. They really bring into sharp relief a world that's gone now.


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Subject: ADD Chords: Spanish Johnny
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 09:36 PM

Try google, Spanish Johnny chords.


Spanish Johnny
(Emmy Lou Harris version)


D
Those other years, the dusty years
                      E
We drove the big herds through
D
I tried to forget the miles we rode
                   E
And Spanish Johnny too
    D                                              E
He'd sit beside a water ditch when all this herd was in
    D                               A          E
And he'd never harm a child but sing to his mandolin
    D                                              E
The old talk, the old ways, and the dealin' of our game
D                                              E
Spanish Johnny never spoke, but sing a song of Spain
D
And his talk with men was vicious talk
                     E
When he was drunk on gin
    D                                    A         E
Ah, but those were golden things he said to his mandolin

SOLO

D
We had to stand, we tried to judge,
                   E
We had to stop him then
       D                                           E
For the hand so gentle to a child had killed so many men
D                                                    E
He died a hard death long ago before the roads come in
       D                         A            E
And the night before he swung he sung to his mandolin
D
Well, we carried him out in the mornin' sun
                   E
A man that done no good
D
And we lowered him down in the cold clay
                   E
Stuck in a cross of wood
      D
And a letter he wrote to his kinfolk
                        E
To tell them where he'd been
      D
And we shipped it out to Mexico,
A                     E      D
Along with his mandolin


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Subject: Lyr Add: SPANISH JOHNNY (Willa Cather)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:30 AM

From McClure's Magazine, Vol. 39, No. 2 (New York: The McClure Publications, Inc., June, 1912), page 204:

[I have boldfaced the words that are different from the version above.]


SPANISH JOHNNY
(Willa Sibert Cather)

The old West, the old time,
  The old wind singing through
The red, red grass a thousand miles,
  And, Spanish Johnny, you!
He'd sit beside the water ditch
  When all his herd was in,
And never mind a child, but sing
  To his mandolin.

The big stars, the blue night,
  The moon-enchanted plain;
The olive man who never spoke,
  But sang the songs of Spain.
His speech with men was wicked talk—
  To hear it was a sin;
But those were golden things he said
  To his mandolin.

The gold songs, the gold stars,
  The world so golden then;
And the hand so tender to a child
  Had killed so many men.
He died a hard death long ago
  Before the Road came in;
The night before he swung, he sang
  To his mandolin.


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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Spanish Johnny (Willa Cather)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 04:06 AM

OK, Jim, now my question is whether Willa Cather published the poem only in the magazine, or if it was from a larger work. I see that Willa Cather was an editor at McClure's, so maybe she did write it just for the magazine.

The Traditional Ballad Index doesn't have much:

    Spanish Johnny

    DESCRIPTION: "The old West, the old time, The old wind singing through..." are the habitat of Spanish Johnny, who herds cattle and kills men and "sing[s] to his mandolin." Spanish Johnny is finally hung; the night before he dies, he sings one last time to the mandolin
    AUTHOR: Words: Willa Cather / Music: C. E. Scoggins (?)
    EARLIEST DATE: 1934
    KEYWORDS: cowboy death execution music
    FOUND IN:
    REFERENCES (1 citation):
    Lomax-ABFS, pp. 123-124, "Spanish Johnny" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Roud #15551
    Notes: Written as a poem, the Lomaxes apparently collected this from the author of the tune. There is no evidence that it ever entered tradition. - RBW
    File: LxA123

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

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2009 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Roud lists only the version in Lomax.

The Bromberg and Emmylou Harris recordings are both wonderful - can't decide which one I like better.

Here's my transcription of the tune from Lomax (Stewie posted the lyrics above) - does it have any tie to the Emmylou tune?

Click to play


-Joe-


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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Spanish Johnny (Willa Cather or...)
From: Mark Ross
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 10:32 AM

I met Alan Lomax when I was in Washington D.C. on The Poor Peoples Campaign, camped out on the Mall with thousands of others at Resurrection City. Even though I had come down with the NYC contingent, I ended up living in a plywood tent with the folks from Appalachia. When Lomax showed up one night at the fire to listen to the music(The Georgia Sea Island Singers were there, Elizabeth Cotten came by, Ralph Rinzler, Pete Seeger with his family stayed a week in my shack). In the course of trading songs I sang SPANISH JOHNNY, which had learned from Siebel. Lomax hadn't heard that version. Later I asked him why he had included a poem by a known author in a collection of old American folksongs. His reply was that it was a good portrait of a folksinger!
By the way, Sean Gagnier, a Canadian singer, had a hand in re-writing the poem.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Spanish Johnny (Willa Cather or...)
From: DonMeixner
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 10:54 AM

Whe I perform I recite it as a poem to introduce either Along Side The Sante Fe Trail or When The Works All Done This Fall. To show two sides of cowboying. I have heard it so many ways now I am never sure whether I am reciting the song I heard Paul Seibel sing or singing the poem I learned in High School.

Either way it is great literature and a striking picture of the west.

Don


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Subject: RE: req/ADD: Spanish Johnny (Willa Cather or...)
From: Mark Ross
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 12:33 PM

Joe, the tune you posted bears very little resemblance to the one Siebel does.

Mark Ross


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