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Origins: Song Willis Mayberry

ard mhacha 16 Feb 02 - 03:42 PM
Art Thieme 17 Feb 02 - 08:09 PM
Art Thieme 17 Feb 02 - 08:16 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 17 Feb 02 - 08:38 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 17 Feb 02 - 08:43 PM
Art Thieme 17 Feb 02 - 09:08 PM
GUEST 18 Feb 02 - 01:37 PM
GUEST 18 Feb 02 - 01:44 PM
Art Thieme 18 Feb 02 - 10:48 PM
GUEST,Ard Mhacha 19 Feb 02 - 08:43 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Oct 05 - 11:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Oct 05 - 02:03 PM
Stewie 09 Oct 05 - 10:48 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Oct 05 - 11:00 PM
Cruiser 07 Aug 06 - 07:27 PM
Cruiser 07 Aug 06 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 07 Aug 06 - 09:26 PM
Joe Offer 07 Aug 06 - 09:52 PM
Joe Offer 07 Aug 06 - 09:54 PM
Joe Offer 07 Aug 06 - 10:22 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 08 Aug 06 - 08:15 PM
GUEST,Gene 09 Aug 06 - 01:24 PM
Cruiser 09 Aug 06 - 06:22 PM
Deckman 09 Aug 06 - 10:38 PM
Cruiser 09 Aug 06 - 11:14 PM
GUEST,Jim 10 Aug 06 - 10:31 AM
Artful Codger 28 Oct 09 - 05:25 PM
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Subject: Song Willis Mayberry
From: ard mhacha
Date: 16 Feb 02 - 03:42 PM

A few years ago I heard Grandpa Jones sing a fine ballad, Willis Mayberry. The subject of the song was sentenced for a murder, this according to the song took place in east Tennessee. Anyone know the story behind this song. Ard Mhacha.


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Subject: RE: BS: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 08:09 PM

I learned "WILLIS MAYBERRY" from the singing of Grandpa when he was in Chicago to do a concerthe Old Town School of Folk Music around 1965 or 1966. It was a version of the earlier ballad called "The Hills Of Roane County". As far as I know, "Roane County" was first sung by the truly wonderful harmony singing brother duo, Bill and Earl Bolick---better known as THE BLUE SKY BOYS. I guess I first heard it done by one of the very first folk revival old-timey bands called The Philo Glee And Mandolin Society---when they were around the University Of Illinois--Champaign in 1959 or '60 or '61. Folkilorist, ARCHIE GREEN, was a Labor Librarian a U. of I. then. One of my favorite verses in any song in all of folklore was the last verse of this song:

In the burning hot sands of the foundry I'm toiling,
Just working and slaving my life all away
Boys, when you write home home from this dirty old prison,
Place one of my songs in your letters for me.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: BS: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 08:16 PM

I think this song was on a Monument LP as done by Grandpa Jones. Also, the town of Spencer, TN is mentioned in the song.---down near the Ohio River and Lake Ripley as I recall it.

Art


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Subject: Lyr Add: HILLS OF ROANE COUNTY
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 08:38 PM

HILLS OF ROANE COUNTY
As recorded by The Stanley Brothers on "The Stanley Brothers Sing the Songs of Bill Monroe" (2005)

In the beautiful hills, way back in Roane County
There's where I roamed for many long years
There's where my heart's been tending most ever
There's where the first step of misfortune I made.

I was thirty years old when I courted and married
When Armanda Gilbreath was then called my wife
Her brother stabbed me for some unknown reason
Just three months later I'd taken Tom's life

For twenty-five years this whole world I rambled
I went to old England, to France and to Spain
Then I thought of my home 'way back in Roane County
I boarded a steamer and I come back again.

I was captured and tried in the village of Kingston
Not a man in that county would speak one kind word
When the jury came in with the verdict next morning
A lifetime in prison were the words that I heard.

When the train pulled out poor mother stood weepin'
And sister she set alone with a sigh
And the last words I heard was Willie God bless you
Was Willie God bless you, God bless you, Goodbye.

No matter what happens to me in Roane County,
No matter how long my sentence may be,
I love my old home way back in Roane County.
It's away back down in old East Tennessee.

Sweet Martha was grave but Corey was better
There's better and worse, although you can see
Boys, when you write home from the prison in Nashville
Place one of my songs in your letter for me.


This version from the Stanley Brothers, another old bluegrass group (One song in "O Brother, Where Art Thou"). It would be interesting to compare with The Blue Sky Boys lyrics.
See www.bluegrasslyrics.com

To get the story of the killing of Thomas Galbreath, see Killer Poet


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Subject: RE: BS: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 08:43 PM

The song above should be credited to Willis Maberry himself. He wrote it in prison (Roane County Prisoner") according to the website I gave in the posting above. He wrote it in the 19th century, so it is now definitely free of copyright restrictions!


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Subject: RE: BS: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Feb 02 - 09:08 PM

And all of you recent arrivals here at Mudcat who don't know what the hell I was talking about in my recent thread entitled "IS IT JUST ME?"-------This is the kind of content in older threads that I was talking about !!!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: BS: Song Willis Mayberry
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Feb 02 - 01:37 PM

Thanks Art and Dicho,a mine of information. Grandpa Jones recording of this song was very good,after hearing the song many years ago I am grateful to both of you for finally learning the origin of a fine ballad. Ard Mhacha.


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Subject: RE: BS: Song Willis Mayberry
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Feb 02 - 01:44 PM

Art, just a a wee footnote on the two brothers who also sang Willis Mayberry, Glad they called themselves the Blue sky boys, The two Bolicks, would have been unusual. Ard Mhacha.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Feb 02 - 10:48 PM

Here's one varient I picked up from Mike Seeger around 1965 or '66. It was written by Hershel Phillips in 1936(?) Collected by Mrs. Sidney Cowell from Henry Garrett.

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

THE ROANE COUNTY STRIKE AT HARRIMAN TENNESSEE

A beautiful town in the midst of Roane County,
A town where I've always been happy to be,
It's a town where they're gay on the banks of old Emory,
A town where my loved ones I always can see.

For many long years in the mill I've been toiling,
Our work and our labor it seems all in vain,
We organized for some well known reason,
A few months later we hauled out on strike.

The firm got in touch with the law of Roane County,
The sheriff and his men were all on the scene,
When the men came out by the oath they had taken,
To stay with the union and never betray.

Some went to the mill and there they betrayed us,
Some've gone to their graves I'm sorry to say,
But some stood out to await that decision,
They seemed determined to go all the way.

They went to the judge and got an injunction,
The sheriff and his men would not speak one good word,
He was counted and placed in the jail of Roane County,
And locked up in a cell for the crime we had done.

Our friends came to see us in the jail at Roane County,
Some seemed to think we would be there until June,
But to their surprise our bond was accepted,
And now we are out with our loved ones again.

If I go away to hunt re-employment,
I'll go to the east or I'll go to the west,
But I'll always remember my home in Roane County,
In the beautiful hills of old East Tennessee.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins: Song Willis Mayberry
From: GUEST,Ard Mhacha
Date: 19 Feb 02 - 08:43 AM

Surely Art Grandpa Jones used a couple of the verses of this song in Willis Mayberry. He finished the last verse with," Ilove my old home way back in Roane County, And it`s away up in East Tennessee". If you ever hear Grandpa Jones recording of Willis Mayberry you will find he also referred to Miners in the song, seems like a crossing over of the two songs. Ard Mhacha.


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Subject: Lyr. Add: Hills of Roane County (2)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Oct 05 - 11:44 PM

Lyr. Add: Hills of Roane County (2)
("First rendition"(?) from "The Killer Poet")

In the beautiful hills, in the midst of Roane County,
There's where I have roamed, for many long years;
There's where my poor heart's been tending most ever,
There's where my first steps of misfortune I made.

I was thirty years old when I courted and married,
Amanda Galbreath was then called my wife.
Her brother stabbed me for some unknown reason;
Just three months later, I'd taken Tom's life.

For twenty years this old world I rambled;
I went to old England, old France and old Spain,
I thought of my home way back in Roane County;
I boarded a steamer and came back again.

I was captured and tried in the village of Kingston.
Not a man in that county would speak a kind word.
When the jury came in with [missing words?]
a lifetime of prison were the words that I heard.

The train it pulled out; poor Mother stood weeping,
And sister, she sat all alone with a sigh.
The last words I heard were: "Willie, God bless you;
Willie, God bless you, God bless you; goodbye."

The train left the shed at about eleven thirty;
The chains they did rattle, the handcuffs were tight.
When Sonny Gibson took the throttle
The engine One-thirty was soon out of sight.

In the scorching hot sun I've been toiling;
Just working and worrying my poor life away.
You can measure my grave on the banks of old Cumberland
After I've finished the rest of my days.

No matter what happened to me in Roane County;
No matter how long my sentence may be,
I love my old home way back in Roane County,
Way back in the hills of East Tennessee.

http://www.roanetnheritage.com/research/m&m/05.htm
The Killer Poet
Name spelled Willis Maberry in the article, "The Killer Poet." Spelled Mayberry in several versions of the song, and also by Kirkeminde in the Folklore Journal article.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Oct 05 - 02:03 PM

The 1880 U. S. Census has a William F. Maberry, born in Roane County, TN in 1851. No Willis Maberry is listed.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Stewie
Date: 09 Oct 05 - 10:48 PM

According to Meade et alia 'Country Music Sources', the Blue Sky Boys' cut was the first issued recording - Bluebird Bb B8693 in July 1941, but recorded a year earlier. However, Andy Patterson & Warren Caplinger recorded it under the title 'Willis Mabry' for Gennett in May 1929 and again in June 1930, but neither recording was issued.

For information on the song, Meade references 'Tennessee Folklore Society Publications Vol XXX, 7-21'. Apart from Grandpa Jones' 1962 recording for Monument, Meade cites the following post-war recordings: Cope Brothers (ca 1946 for King), Jimmie Osborne (1953 for King) and Bill Monroe (1957 for Decca under the title 'Roane County Prison).

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Oct 05 - 11:00 PM

Just ran across a UK re-issue LP, "Blue Sky Boys," RCA Camden (Mono CDN-5116 (CAL-797), "Product of the Decca Record Company Limited, London, made from a master recording of RCA." No date.
"The Hills of Roane County" is track 1 on side 2.
I would guess that a U. S.-Canada pressing also was made.

I would very much like to know details of the Tennessee Folklore Society article. Pretty please, anyone?


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Subject: Lyr Add: HILLS OF ROANE COUNTY
From: Cruiser
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 07:27 PM

This song is one of my favorites because I learned it when I was very young. All my maternal kinfolks are from Roane County, Tennessee. My grandpa was a moonshiner in them deep dark hollers of the backcountry, but also a hard worker.

This "murder ballad" was based on accounts of a true story so I was told by my relatives, most of them dead now.

The Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Osborne, Wilma Lee Cooper, and a few others recorded this tune in the 1950-60s. The Blue Sky Boys likely had the earliest recording in the 1940s or earlier.

There is one more verse but I am not sure of the exact words but I will include them below. The song is also known as Roane County Prisoner:

HILLS OF ROANE COUNTY

In the beautiful hills way back in Roane County
There's where I've roamed for many long years
There's where my heart's been tender most ever
There's where the first step of misfortune I made

I was thirty years old when I courted and married
When Amanda Gilbraith was then called my wife
Her brother stabbed me for some unknown reason
Just three months later I'd taken Tom's life

For twenty-five years this whole world I rambled
I went to old England, to France and to Spain
I thought of my home way back in Roane County
I boarded a steamer and came home again

I was captured and tried in the village of Kingston
Not a man in that county would speak a kind word
When the jury came in with the verdict next morning
"A lifetime in prison" were the words that I heard

When the train pulled out, my mother stood weeping
And sister she sat alone with a sigh
And the last words I heard was "Willy God bless you"
Was "Willy God bless you, God bless you, good bye"

No matter what happens to me in Roane County
No matter how long my sentence may be
Boys when you write home from the prison in Nashville
Place one of my songs in your letter for me

Sweet Martha was grave but Corey was better
There's better and worse, although you can see
Boys when you write home from the prison in Nashville
Place one of my songs in your letter for me

Note: the phrase Sweet Martha was grave…perhaps meaning somber, gloomy, or brooding…I'm not sure.

Jimmy Osborne's lyrics are quite different.

Okay, with the help of Google and the great Internet I found this:

The Killer Poet by Jere Hall and Robert L. Bailey

The hands of justice sometimes moved slowly in the history of Roane County. One of the best examples is the killing of Thomas GALBREATH in September of 1884. It took 25 years before anyone was tried for the killing, in spite of the fact that the murder took place in broad daylight in front of several witnesses.

Willis MABERRY, was Tom GALBREATH's brother-in-law and, according to the records found in the Historic Roane County Courthouse archives, including a transcript of the trial in 1909, the shooting took place in Old Oakdale in Roane County (now renamed Elverton) located between Harriman and Oliver Springs. Testimony reveals that Thomas GALBREATH was in the front yard of his brother's home with two other men, when Willis shot him with a shotgun hitting him in the left side, on the arm, the back of the neck and through the leg.

Lucy GALBREATH was sitting inside the house peeling apples when the shot rang out. She rushed to the door, saw MABERRY with a gun in his hand pointed at Tom and called him not to shoot any more since he had already killed her pig. MABERRY offered to pay Lucy for the pig, and did not shoot again. The pig died instantly and Tom died about 24 hours later. Some of the shots also went through a fence and Lucy's feather beds which were drying on the fence.

Witnesses testified that MABERRY shot from an ambush under porch steps of the house across the street. The musket was found near the steps, and had recently been fired. Another witness, John STAPLES, testified that MABERRY had told him some months previous to the shooting that he was going to kill GALBREATH "if powder will burn for 'cutting' (stabbing) him. Other witnesses said the two men were close friends, but deputy sheriff, W.C. LYLES, testified that MABERRY told him he had been "cut" by GALBREATH and was angry about it.

MABERRY took the stand on his own behalf and denied everything. He did admit that he left Roane County soon after the killing "but, not until after the funeral" and traveled extensively for about 25 years, working in places as St. Louis, Mo., Baltimore, Md., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Nebraska. According to relatives, MABERRY came back to Roane County in 1909, after the death of his father to claim part of the family's property and was arrested for the GALBREATH killing.

He was convicted for the crime in the historic courthouse in Kingston, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court and upheld. He was sent to the state prison in Nashville . . . but the story doesn't end here.
While still being held in jail in Kingston, he began writing a poignant poem which was entitled "Roane County Prisoner." He later finished the poem, it was set to music and became quite popular after the turn of the century under the title, "The Hills of Roane County." May Roane County residents remember hearing it played on the radio in the 1930s and 40s. The words to the song vary slightly, but the following is believed to be the first rendition:

In the beautiful hills, in the midst of Roane County,
There's where I have roamed, for many long years;
There's where my poor heart's been tending most ever,
There's where my first steps of misfortune I made.

I was thirty years old when I courted and married,
Amanda GALBREATH was then called my wife.
Her brother stabbed me for some unknown reason;
Just three months later, I'd taken Tom's life.

For twenty years this old world I rambled;
I went to old England, old France, and old Spain.
I thought of my home way back in Roane County;
I boarded a steamer and came back again.

I was captured and tried in the village of Kingston.
Not a man in that county would speak a kind word.
When the jury came in with the verdict next morning,
A lifetime of prison were the words that I heard.

The train it pulled out; poor Mother stood weeping.
And sister, she sat all alone with a sigh.
The last words I heard were: "Willie, God bless you;
Willie, God bless you, God bless you; goodbye."

The train left the shed at about eleven thirty;
The chains they did rattle, the handcuffs were tight
When Sonny Gibson took the throttle
The engine one-thirty was soon out of sight.

In the scorching hot sun I've been toiling;
Just working and worrying my poof life away.
You can measure my grave on the banks of old Cumberland
After I've finished the rest of my days.

No matter what happened to me in Roane County;
No matter how long my sentence may be,
I love my old home way back in Roane County,
Way back in the hills of East Tennessee.

MABERRY became ill while in prison, was released and returned to his home in the hills of Roane County. Exactly when he was released is not known, but apparently he suffered from poor health the rest of his life. He lived alone and his GALBREATH kin folks made sure he had care and enough to eat.

The date of his death is also not known, but he is said to be buried at Byington, a community between Knoxville and Oak Ridge.

Sources for this article are: "The Rockwood Times" newspaper, September 9, 1909; The State vs. Willis MABERRY Loose papers, Historic Roane County Archives, Oral history taken by Mrs. Andy HARVEY from Richard Louis GALBREATH; Tom GALBREATH, Jr. (son of Tom GALBREATH, and Frankie GALBREATH ESKRIDGE. Loose papers, Historic Roane County Archives.

So my relatives were correct that the song was based on a true story. Finding this link was the first time I could verify that. My mom, in her 80s is the oldest one left that remembers this song so she will be pleased to be able to read the full account of this song that has been sung by her family for many years.

Cruiser


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Hills Of Roane County
From: Cruiser
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 07:35 PM

I searched for this earlier on Mudcat before I posted and could not find anything. After I posted the above message I found several threads on it.

It still has not been added to the DigiTrad yet.

Cruiser
    Two threads combined - I didn't see any others.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Hills Of Roane County
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 09:26 PM

I learned it from the 1950s stringband called the Philo Glee And Mandolin Society out of the University Of Illinois and the Campus Folksong Club. Labor librarian and folklorist Archie Green was the mentor for this gathering of early serious revival folkies.

And I did this song for 40 years--off and on--until it was finally included in my 2006 CD of tracks from live concerts I'd done over the years. Called Chicago Town And Points West, it's probably my last offering. Available from:

www.folklegacy.com

Art Thieme


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Subject: ADD: Rome County
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 09:52 PM

The Roud Index has a number of listing, but there's nothing in the Traditional Ballad Index. The Max Hunter Collection has a couple of listings under the title "Rome County." Here's one:

Hills Of Rome County
Cat. #0516 (MFH #537) - As sung by Harrison Burnett, Fayetteville, Arkansas on July 5, 1960

VERSE 1
In th beautiful hills, in midst of Rome County
That's where I'd roamed for many a long year
That's where my heart's been, yes tending most ever
That's wher th first step of misfortune I made

VERSE 2
At thirty years old, I courted an' married
Amanda Gilberth was then called my wife
Her brother he stabbed me, for some unknown reason
Just three months later I'd taken Tom's life

VERSE 3
For twenty long years through this old world I rambled
I went to old England, to France an' to Spain
I thought of my home, way back in Rome County
So, I boarded a steamer, came back home again

VERSE 4
I was captured an' tried in th village of Kingston
Not a man in that county would speak a kind word
Th jury came in with a verdict next morning
It's lifetime in prison, was all that I heard

VERSE 5
Th train it pulled out, poor Mother stood weeping
Sister, she set, all alone with a sigh
Th last words I heard was, Willie, God bless you
Was, Willie, God bless you, God bless you, goodbye

VERSE 6
In th scorching hot sand of th foundry, I'm working
Yes, working an' toiling my life away
They'll measure my grave, on th banks of ole Cumberland
As soon as I finish th rest of my days

VERSE 7
No matter what happened to me, in Rome County
No matter how long, my sentence may be
I love my ole home, 'way back in Rome County
Because it is 'way up in East Tennessee

VERSE 8
Napoleon was great an' Brier was much greater
There's better an' worse all over, you see
Boys, when you write home, from your prison in Nashville
Put one of my songs in your letters for me


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willis Mayberry/Hills of Roane County
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 09:54 PM

And the other one (from the same singer) from the Max Hunter Collection:

Rome County
Cat. #0189 (MFH #537) - As sung by Harrison Burnett, Fayetteville, Arkansas on July 11, 1958

VERSE 1
In th beautiful hills, in th midst of Rome County
That's where I roamed for a many a long years
That's where my hearts been, yes tending most ever
That's where th first step of misfortune I made

VERSE 2
At thirty years old, I courted and married
Amanda Gilberth was then called my wife
Her brother he stabbed me, for some unknown reason
Just three months later, I'd taken Tom's life

VERSE 3
For twenty long years through this old world I rambled
I went to old England, to France and to Spain
I thought of my home, 'way back in Rome County
So, I boarded a steamer, came back home again

VERSE 4
I was captured and tried, in th village of Kingston
Not a man in that county would speak a kind word
Th jury came in with a verdict next morning
It's lifetime in prison was all that I heard

VERSE 5
Th train, it pulled out, poor Mother stood weeping
Sister she said all alone with a sigh ***
Th last words I heard, was Willie God bless you
Was, Willie, God bless you, God bless you, goodbye

VERSE 6
In th scorching hot sand of th foundry, I'm working
Just working and toiling my life all away
They'll measure my grave on th banks of old Cumberland
As soon as I finish th rest of my days

VERSE 7
No matter what happened to me in Rome County
No matter how long, my sentence may be
I love my ole home, 'way back in Rome County
Because it is 'way up in East Tennessee

VERSE 8
Napoleon was great an' Brier was much greater
There's better an' worse all over, you see
Boys, when you write home from th prison, in Nashville
Put one of my songs in your letter for me

***Somehow this got rubbed off the tape


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willis Mayberry/Hills of Roane County
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 10:22 PM

Art, can you hear the MIDI at the Max Hunter Collection (click)? Is it the same tune you sing for "Willis Mayberry" and "Roane County Strike"?
Unfortunately, the AIFF and RealMedia files at Max Hunter aren't playing right now.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willis Mayberry/Hills of Roane County
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 08 Aug 06 - 08:15 PM

Joe, The tune I have for it is very close to the Harrison Burnett tune.--- I've heard John Prine sing "Precious Jewel" to the same tune but can't remember where or when.----

Art


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willis Mayberry/Hills of Roane County
From: GUEST,Gene
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 01:24 PM

This recording has omitted a couple of key versese and
has different phrasing in places.

HILLS OF ROANE COUNTY
Blue Sky Boys

In the beautiful hills, in the midst of Roane County
There's where I have roamed for many long years
There's where my heart's been tending most ever
There's where the first step of misfortune I made.

I was about thirty years when I courted and married
A[r]manda Gilbraith was there called my wife
But for some unknown reason her brother Tom stabbed me
Just three months later I'd taken Tom's life

*For twenty-five years this whole world I've rambled
*I went to old England, to France and to Spain
*But I thought of my home 'way back in Roan County
*I boarded a steamer and came back again.

I was captured and tried in the village of Kingston
Not a man in that county would speak one kind word
When the jury came in with the verdict next morning
A lifetime in prison were the words that I heard.

When the train pulled out poor mother stood weeping
And sister she set all alone with a sigh
And the last words I heard was Willie God bless you
Was Willie God bless you, God bless you, Goodbye.

*Sweet Martha was grave but Corey was better
*There's better and worse, although you can see
*Boys, when you write home from the prison in Nashville
*Place one of my songs in your letter for me.

In the scorching hot sand [of foundry?] I'm working
Yes, working and toiling my life all away
They'll measure my grave on the banks of old cumberland
Just soon as I finish the rest of my days

Now matter what happens to me in roane country
No matter how long my sentence may be
Boys when you write home from this dirty old prison
Put one of my songs in you letter for me.

Note. * = verses not on this particular recording.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willis Mayberry/Hills of Roane County
From: Cruiser
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 06:22 PM

In the beautiful hills, "IN THE MIDST OF" Roane County

I always thought it was "in the MIST" of Roane County when I learned it from my grandpappy in the mid-1950s. However, it was just a misheard lyric; song renditions are full of those, as we all know.

In fact, "in the midst of" means "in the middle of". Harriman, Tennessee, where the song takes place and where my kinfolk are from, is "in the middle of" Roane County…almost smack-dab in the middle.

Cruiser


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willis Mayberry/Hills of Roane County
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 10:38 PM

I learned this lovely ballad from Al Jones, in Santa Cruz, California, in 1962. Very interesting history. Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willis Mayberry/Hills of Roane County
From: Cruiser
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 11:14 PM

Just a side note; My kinfolk used the wife's name as:

Ar-manda Gilburton instead of:
A-manda Galbreath

Probably just a hillbilly's mispronunciation after a slug of gramps' white lightnin'.

However, the trisyllabic "Gil...bur...ton" is more euphonic and follows the 3/4 meter's beat, so I am going to continue using that name in the song.

Cruiser


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Subject: RE: Origins: Willis Mayberry/Hills of Roane County
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 10 Aug 06 - 10:31 AM

I believe Tony Rice recorded this on his first album.

Don't the Stanley Brothers use this or a similar tune for RANK STRANGERS?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Song Willis Mayberry
From: Artful Codger
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 05:25 PM

Charles K. Wolfe gives a somewhat differing account of the murder in an article appearing in Rural life and culture in the Upper Cumberland (ed. by Michael E. Birdwell and W. Calvin Dickinson), chapter 15, p. 274 and following. He also says that Mayberry (his spelling; he also gives the wife's name as Gilbraith) was arrested and tried at the time of the killing, but first the jury hung, then there was a mistrial and then Mayberry escaped and traveled the country for 25 years before his return. When he landed in jail on some minor charge, he was extradited and retried for the murder, receiving a life sentence.

Mayberry wrote the song during his incarceration (therefore, sometime after 1909, not in the 19th century, as someone asserted above). He taught the song to another inmate at the Tennessee State Penitentiary, an itinerant minstrel named Booger Gilbreath (no relation to Amanda and Tom), who sang the song on his travels. Since Mayberry was himself a good singer, it is doubtful that the song was first set to music by someone else, even Booger Gilbreath. It makes one wonder what other poems or songs he may have composed. Mayberry "died on the poor farm in Knoxville in 1925".

Wolfe also wrote that Warren Caplinger and Andy Patterson (mentioned in preceding posts for their unreleased recordings) were the first to publish the song, in 1934: they included it in their custom-printed songbook, which was sold from West Virginia radio stations.    Wolfe posited that Patterson learned the song during his stint as a prison guard at Brushy Mountain Prison during the early 20s; hence the reference in their version to "Big Brushy", where Mayberry never did time. If so, it narrows the date of the song's creation to about 12 years and probably less (allowing time for the song to travel to Big Brushy).

Wolfe included both a common text and the Caplinger/Patterson text in his article.


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Mudcat time: 22 July 9:17 AM EDT

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