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Lyr Add: Tennessee

Joe_F 05 Feb 02 - 09:31 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 05 Feb 02 - 10:25 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 06 Feb 02 - 03:48 PM
Joe_F 06 Feb 02 - 09:53 PM
Joe Offer 29 Mar 21 - 05:06 PM
cnd 29 Mar 21 - 08:46 PM
Joe Offer 29 Mar 21 - 09:22 PM
Joe_F 29 Mar 21 - 09:57 PM
cnd 29 Mar 21 - 10:34 PM
GUEST,# 29 Mar 21 - 11:15 PM
GUEST,# 30 Mar 21 - 11:27 AM
cnd 30 Mar 21 - 04:45 PM
GUEST,# 30 Mar 21 - 06:16 PM
Joe_F 30 Mar 21 - 06:36 PM
cnd 30 Mar 21 - 08:04 PM
GUEST,# 30 Mar 21 - 08:44 PM
GUEST,# 31 Mar 21 - 10:30 AM
cnd 31 Mar 21 - 03:03 PM
Joe_F 31 Mar 21 - 05:57 PM
GUEST,# 31 Mar 21 - 06:02 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: TENNESSEE
From: Joe_F
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 09:31 PM

TENNESSEE

I learned this song from a classmate in 1954. I think he said he got it from his grandmother. I have since met only a couple of other people who have heard it. I would be glad to know where it came from. Is it propaganda?

----------------------------------------------------------------------

In Tennessee where I was born,
Don't go talkin' 'bout a frosty morn,
Cause the month was June and the day was hot.
The whole dang cabin was a deal upsot.
The cornfield burned and the spring ran dry.
The sweat ran down in my grandpap's eye.
The sun was tarnal and the yard was dust,
And mammy hollered like her heart would bust.

Who's gonna rustle up the biscuit bread?
A man-child's lucky if he ain't born dead,
And if he's born he's a mouth to feed.
Who'll help us in our time of need?
When mammy's thinking of a grave new-dug
And pappy's suckin' on the whisky jug.
You miss book learnin' when you're in your teens
But you reckon on the value of the pickled beans.

Grew to the stature of a rifle-gun,
Learned to lie quiet in the turkey run.
Listened to the tappin' of the peckerwood,
Thought to have a woman would be powerful good.
I learned with reason that in Tennessee
When two gets together there soon is three.
For all my reasonin' I'm in a fix,
Six years married and my brats is six.

Tennessee, you're a river fair,
Brown in the spring as a cinnamon bear,
Born in the laurel at a crystal spring
Up Clinch Mountain where the redbirds sing.
You grew up and so did I
Pickin' up dirt as ya passed it by.
You and me have a wrestlin' match
To settle our score by the bottom patch.

Plowed my bottom for to seed my corn,
Sweated in the sun that was hot at dawn.
Worked my critter till his withers bled,
Ma and the younguns pulled the plow instead.
It's come on rain and the stream's in flood,
Furrows all filled with sand and mud.
The water's rising to the slaunchwise ground,
Bottom's flooded and the corn's all drowned.

River's down and again it's June,
Mudflats shining in the silver moon.
Seed corn's gone and my critter's dead,
Children all crying for their gritted bread.
A man-child's fixing to be born this night,
The moon on the river makes a lonesome sight.
I sits and listens to the katydid
While my woman hollers like my mammy did.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Tune in solfa (scale is DRMFSLTdrmfslt; dots mean continuation for half a beat):

S|S.m.m..m|m.r.r...
|S.r.rrrm|r.d.d.
dd|d.l.l.ll|l.s.s..
s|f.f.fmfs|f.m.m..

(repeat last two lines twice)


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Subject: RE: LYRICS ADD: TENNESSEE
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 10:25 PM

Checked Levy, American Memory and cufresno ballad index. The first two lines suggest Dixie, but the rest is different. I would suggest a date about 1920 by the general content. A good song!


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Subject: RE: LYRICS ADD: TENNESSEE
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 03:48 PM

Any more information yet? Looking at it again, it may be something by one of the singer-songwriters of the Depression era or later.


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Subject: RE: LYRICS ADD: TENNESSEE
From: Joe_F
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 09:53 PM

The second line is surely an *allusion* to "Dixie", and I would say a pretty bitter one.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Mar 21 - 05:06 PM

Anybody have information on this song?

Melody - similar to "Hush Little Baby"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: cnd
Date: 29 Mar 21 - 08:46 PM

I read it more to the tune of John Prine and Iris DeMent - In Spite of Ourselves (though obviously that song is much newer).

I haven't found anything at all about this song.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Mar 21 - 09:22 PM

On mystery songs like this, I may have to contact the singers and record them, and then post the recording on YouTube with a link to Mudcat. I've learned how to do that quite easily.
But this is one heck of a great song, and we need to research it further.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: Joe_F
Date: 29 Mar 21 - 09:57 PM

I have at times guessed that it was TVA propaganda.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: cnd
Date: 29 Mar 21 - 10:34 PM

I feel like it's too pessimistic to be propaganda, personally. And while someone up-thread suggested a date of 1920, it just feels very 50s to me. I have nothing to justify that, but I really strongly get that impression for some reason.

But, if you find and answer, I'd love to know. I really like this and think it could make a great song.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: GUEST,#
Date: 29 Mar 21 - 11:15 PM

The Clinch River flooded in January, 1918 and again (I think) in 1959. It affected the Tazewell area in Claiborne County.

The word 'tarnal' went out of vogue near 1790 after about 60 years of usage, so I wonder if it might not be [e]ternal sun ??

Just a few thoughts before I hit the hay.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: GUEST,#
Date: 30 Mar 21 - 11:27 AM

"I learned this song from a classmate in 1954. I think he said he got it from his grandmother." Assuming we can believe the informant, then the song comes from early in the 1900s before the TVA (1933) was created. Some of the lyrics (terms/words/phrases) that attract attention are peckerwood (woodpecker), slaunchwise (slantwise), gritted bread (made from corn that's "too hard for the table and too soft for the cow"), upsot (past participle of upset), brats and dang hearken us to older times. But many of the phrases are still used today in southern states--including Tennessee.

I can hear the words being sung to a cadence of about 80 beats per minute--and that would work with a banjo backing the singer. If it's much faster than that a person would start tripping over the lyrics.

"Tennessee, you're a river fair,
Brown in the spring as a cinnamon bear,
Born in the laurel at a crystal spring
Up Clinch Mountain where the redbirds sing."

That piece of the stanza is interesting because the Tennessee River is not near Clinch Mountain. Also, please note that there is a Tazewell in Virginia as well as in Tennessee. (I don't know that that means anything of significance to the song, but it's a matter of interest nevertheless.)

Various searches on Google have rendered no trace of the lyrics anywhere other than the post by Joe_F here in Mudcat, so I'm hoping some of the heavy hitters can turn up something.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: cnd
Date: 30 Mar 21 - 04:45 PM

Unfortunately, I ran into the same problem, even modernizing some of the words and substituting them.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: GUEST,#
Date: 30 Mar 21 - 06:16 PM

cnd, you're one of the heavy hitters I was talkin' about. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: Joe_F
Date: 30 Mar 21 - 06:36 PM

The year in which my classmate typed it out for me was 1954, so it is a good deal older than. Alas, I learned recently from the alumni magazine that he is dead, so we can't check it with him. His name was Ed Dreier.

The OED has a citation of "tarnal" from 1922 (James Joyce), so it is a good bet that it is still alive.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: cnd
Date: 30 Mar 21 - 08:04 PM

Aww, thanks #

Well, I guess that solidly debunks my 50s estimation


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: GUEST,#
Date: 30 Mar 21 - 08:44 PM

Joe_F, you'd mentioned that a few other people had heard the song. Any chance to find out more there? Even if not, you are in possession of a document that is worth preserving. And that's pretty cool. :-)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: GUEST,#
Date: 31 Mar 21 - 10:30 AM

cnd, here's a link you may not have. It's a gold mine. Once again, sorry to put it here, but . . .

http://oldtimeabq.com/Tractor-Master.pdf


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: cnd
Date: 31 Mar 21 - 03:03 PM

Thanks for that, I'll have to bookmark it, too


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: Joe_F
Date: 31 Mar 21 - 05:57 PM

GUEST,#: No, I do not remember any of the (maybe 2 or 3) people who recognized the song. Or even when it happened.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Tennessee
From: GUEST,#
Date: 31 Mar 21 - 06:02 PM

Thanks, Joe. It happens that way sometimes. I'm glad you posted it. It'd be a shame to lose it :-)


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