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Origin: Tell Old Bill (Van Ronk?)

DigiTrad:
TELL OLD BILL
YOU'VE BEEN A GOOD OLD WAGON


Related threads:
(origins) Origin: Tell Old Bill (21)
Origin: This Morn, This Eve, Right Now (28)


Peter T. 01 Mar 02 - 06:18 PM
Suffet 01 Mar 02 - 06:37 PM
Gareth 01 Mar 02 - 06:37 PM
Nancy King 01 Mar 02 - 07:01 PM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Mar 02 - 07:07 PM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Mar 02 - 07:08 PM
masato sakurai 01 Mar 02 - 07:16 PM
Jerry Dingleman: The Boy Wonder(inactve) 01 Mar 02 - 07:23 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 01 Mar 02 - 07:26 PM
Art Thieme 01 Mar 02 - 07:32 PM
Art Thieme 01 Mar 02 - 07:41 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 01 Mar 02 - 08:20 PM
GUEST,MCP 01 Mar 02 - 08:34 PM
raredance 01 Mar 02 - 08:43 PM
dick greenhaus 01 Mar 02 - 11:14 PM
JudyR 02 Mar 02 - 12:58 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 02 Mar 02 - 07:50 AM
Peter T. 02 Mar 02 - 09:24 AM
Art Thieme 04 Mar 02 - 11:28 PM
JudyR 05 Mar 02 - 12:28 AM
GUEST,MCP 05 Mar 02 - 08:14 PM
Art Thieme 05 Mar 02 - 08:42 PM
BK 05 Mar 02 - 11:31 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 03 Oct 06 - 11:37 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 03 Oct 06 - 11:57 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 07 Oct 06 - 07:28 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 07 Oct 06 - 07:32 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 07 Oct 06 - 10:12 AM
Deckman 07 Oct 06 - 10:20 AM
GUEST,DonMeixner 07 Oct 06 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,ednaelk 08 Aug 08 - 10:38 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 08 Aug 08 - 11:07 AM
Amos 08 Aug 08 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,Mick Pearce (MCP) 28 May 18 - 01:52 PM
leeneia 29 May 18 - 07:26 PM
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Subject: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Peter T.
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 06:18 PM

Does anyone know if this strange song, sung by Dave Van Ronk, has any other origin besides Dave Van Ronk? yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Suffet
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 06:37 PM

Carl Sandburg used to sing it. I believe he included it in his collection The American Song Bag, but I no longer have a copy so I cannaot say for certain. I believe Dave Van Ronk took the song from Sandburg and gave it that memorable arrangement.

Woody Guthrie also sang a song to a similar tune with the refrain "This morning, this evening, so soon," but it didn't tell a coherent story. It was more of a skeleton song on which Woody hung verses and phrases from other songs.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Gareth
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 06:37 PM

Not familiar with the song BUT

Bruce Bairnsfeather WW1 Cartoonist invented Old Bill the "surviving " Soldier.

Quote " If you know a better Hole, go to it !"

Is there a connection ?

Gareth


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Nancy King
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:01 PM

Wow -- haven't thought of this song in YEARS. We used to sing it a lot back in the early 60s, but I couldn't remember where we learned it, so just did a quick look through my LPs, and discovered that "This mornin', this evenin', so soon" is on "String Along with the Kingston Trio." Jeez. I thought I remembered it from some other source, but maybe that's wishful thinking. Of course, there's no clue on the KT album about where they got it. Maybe from Van Ronk?

Cheers, Nancy


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:07 PM

It's in Sandburg's American Songbag all right. I remember many years ago borrowing it from a great little lending library that the American Embassy in London used to have, which had with lots of Americana books and records .

I seem to remember there was a recoird of Carl Sandburg singing a bunch of songs from the book, inckuding this one.

Then they decided that kind of thing wasn't dignified for an Embassy or cost too much money or something, and closed it down. Lost a hell of a lot of goodwill that day.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:08 PM

Acrually thinking it over, it was "I had a Horse, His name was Bill", which is a diffeent song.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: masato sakurai
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:16 PM

Previous thread: Tell Old Bill

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Jerry Dingleman: The Boy Wonder(inactve)
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:23 PM

I remember hearing Eric Bibb sing "Tell Od Bill" during an interview with Mike Regenstreif on Folk Roots/Folk Branches. He said it was a traditional song that he learned from Dave Van Ronk.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:26 PM

I first learned it on a Bob Gibson album... probably the one titled I Come For To Sing. He did it with the same melody and words as Dave did... they both may have taken it directly from Carl Sandburg's Songbag.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:32 PM

Hey, Jerry, that's completely correct. Definitely BOB GIBSON whose arrangement was used by so many.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:41 PM

Masato,

Thanks for that link. I thanked you at the other thread already by mistake. Sorry.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 08:20 PM

Original thread 6761 entered on song origins Part 2 list today.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 08:34 PM

I've added a note to the other thread (meant to put it here but confused myself) on the Sandburg source and one later.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: raredance
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 08:43 PM

Sandburg in "The American Songbag" describes the song as "from the ballad as sung by Nancy Barnhart, painter and etcher, of St Louis. It is a monotone of life in songtones of dusk colors and rhythms that emerge from shadows. The final verse is a scneario for a pantomime." Sandburg calls the song "Dis Mornin', Dis Evenin', So Soon". The "Singout Reprints" adds that Sandburg collected it in the 1920's and that about 10 years later Sam Hinton got a different version from a black farmer in Walker County Texas. Singout printed the Gibson arrangement of the song. Hinton's version was on his Decca album "Singing Across the Land"

rich r


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 11:14 PM

If anyone wants to hear what Sandburg sounded like, there's a CD rerelease of his one recording. Doesn't have "Tell Old Bill", but it does have:
Boll Weevil Song Careless Love In De Vinter Time Moanish Lady! Foggy, Foggy Dew I Wish I Was A Little Bird I'm Sad and I'm Lonely Cigarettes Will Spoil Yer Life The Horse Named Bill Jay Gould's Daughter He's Gone Away Casey Jones I Ride an Old Paint Man Goin' Roun' Gallows Song We'll Roll Back the Prices The Good Boy

Available at CAMSCO, of course. (800/548-FOLK)


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: JudyR
Date: 02 Mar 02 - 12:58 AM

I don't recall Gibson's arrangement, but I certainly do recall Van Ronk's. And it's surely the one that everyone was going around singing in the early 60's (although I too, had forgotten about the song until Van Ronk died, and I began refreshing my memory in a lot of ways). This is just an opinion, so correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that Van Ronk rarely got an arrangement from anybody! Let me correct that and say that he rarely got an arrangement that he didn't CHANGE from anybody! It sounds right that both would have gotten the song from Carl Sandburg's songbook.

Not to turn this into a Van Ronk discussion (although he is certainly on my mind), but he is/was such an influence on me at the time, that I find that with many of those songs like "Motherless Children," "Sister Kate," or "See That My Grave is Kept Clean," and even "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," his version was so indelible, that I cannot remember if I had heard it before him.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 02 Mar 02 - 07:50 AM

There are songs that someone makes so much their own that they seem to own them, even if they are a hundred years old. Dave did that with several songs, for me. Duncan and Brady was another one I never even tried to do. I don't think that Dave took Bob Gibson's "arrangment" of Tell Old Bill because their styles are so different. You can take the words and melody and not change a thing and still have a completely different arrangement of the song. Who knows now? Dave may have heard Bob Gibson's album as it had been out a few years before Dave released his first album and was on a major label.
Jerry


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Peter T.
Date: 02 Mar 02 - 09:24 AM

Thank you to all. Amazing song, in that strange style and structure. This was in part prompted by Rick Fielding playing it last week, and he and I discussing it, but he is on the road to his gig in Boston, and cannot immediately benefit from these diggings!

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 04 Mar 02 - 11:28 PM

"OLD BILL" as done by Bob Gibson is on a CD. Joy Joy!The Young And Wonderful Bob Gibson

This is Volume one of the Riverside Folklore Series.

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

(Folks, when I use the word "arrangement" I am just talking about the basic chord structure of a song. No other personal traits are in what I'm referring to. In OLD BILL the switch back and forth between, say, a "C" chord and an "a" minor chord. I don't think Mr. VanRonk took others arrangements----but that pattern of switching those two chords throughout the verse surely wasn't in Sandburg's droll rendering of the song. It was in Bob Gibson's version----and also in Dave's version a few years later. Gibson's was "picked" and Van Ronk's was heavily strummed if I'm remembering it correctly.)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: JudyR
Date: 05 Mar 02 - 12:28 AM

Thanks for the instructive clarification, Art. As one who really hasn't played much in recent years, I needed that brush-up. BTW, I did find that album of Gibson's online, but (sigh), no audio sample as I'd hoped.


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 05 Mar 02 - 08:14 PM

Tower Records has audio samples of all tracks (Windows Media Format IIRC) at Joy, Joy! The Young And Wonderful Bob Gibson

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 05 Mar 02 - 08:42 PM

JudyR----just a longshot--but did you make albums in the late 60s?

Art


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: BK
Date: 05 Mar 02 - 11:31 PM

Sang it for years; I have that albumn, but I'm not sure I learned the song from that source. I seem to hear in my mind one, or more, apparently black, female voices in whatever source I learned it from g'zillion yrs ago. Anybody remember a female or mixed group doing it?

OTOH, I DEFINITELY learned "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" from Van Ronk; it was one of our courtin' songs - also abt a g'zillion yrs ago, along w/"Scotch & Soda." We sometimes remember those songs 'n crack up; it ("Baby Let Me Follow You Down") was SO VERY SUGGESTIVE & NAUGHTY back then! We were being WILD! Seems rather innocent compared to a lot of what's going about now..

Cheers, BK


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 03 Oct 06 - 11:37 AM

Can anyone contribute the Sam Hinton version of "Tell Old Bill?"

It ought to be pretty interesting, because as far as I know there is no other version apart from the Sandburg, and this reported one of Hinton's.

Did Hinton ever record it? And did he ever tinker with songs? Could he have composed the variant?

The question is important because, if this turns out to be a distinct version and genuine, it could finally give some perspective on this otherwise unheard-of (at the time) song that has since become such a standard. Nobody seems to have any idea of "Tell Old Bill" previous to Sandburg's 1927 version. It has no prior history.

Obviously it grew out of the Mister Rabbit / This Mornin', This Evenin' tradition, but the story of Bill and his death are unique. Finding a precursor, or even a parallel version, would be a real hot item, if someone can turn it up!

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 03 Oct 06 - 11:57 AM

To answer my own question I did some research on the Sam Hinton website.

Hinton was born c. 1917, so it is barely possible he could have learned, in childhood, a version of "Tell Ol' Bill" prior to Sandburg's 1927 (but collected earlier: 1922?) song.

Hinton recorded "Tell Old Bill" on "Singing Across the Land," Decca, 1956, and later on "From An East Texas Childhood," a privately released cassette.

The only current release that has it is the 2-CD Bear Family reissue of his 1947 Library of Congress Recordings. However, CD copies seem to be available from his website.

It would be interesting to see Hinton's lyrics, hear his tune, and see what his notes, if any, say about the song's origins, if he says anything more apart from his getting it from a black farmer in Walker County, Texas.

BTW note new thread concerning "Bill" and "How Many Biscuits" and the rest of the "This Mornin' This Evenin'" family:

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=95164&messages=4

To repeat: can anyone contribute his lyrics?

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 07 Oct 06 - 07:28 AM

Listening to a sample of Hinton's 1947 Library of Congress performance of "Tell Old Bill," the words of two verses are identical, tune varies only slightly. It may be a dead end, but would be nice to hear...

...especially if Hinton has ***ADDITIONAL VERSES***!!!

So far Sandburg's "Dis Mornin'" is the only known distinct version of what appears to be a rare, possibly unique song stemming from artist and children's book illustrator Nancy Barnhart, living in St. Louis in the 1920s, her birthplace unknown. (She is best known for a particularly beautiful illustrated collector's edition of Kenneth Grahame's Wind In the Willows, but I have not been able to turn up any other biographical details.)

Where could Barnhart have gotten the song?

And in general,

Does anybody know ANY different version of "Tell Old Bill" previous to 1950?

Any leads at all would be most appreciated.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 07 Oct 06 - 07:32 AM

I had a Dave Van Ronk Folkways album, 40 odd years ago, which contained "Tell Old Bill"; it, also, had Dave singing a great version of "Dink's Song".


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 07 Oct 06 - 10:12 AM

Looking for versions earlier than Dave's (recorded in the mid-1950s or later), who learned his from Carl Sandburg's American Songbag.

To repeat, anyone know any versions earlier than 1950 that are NOT Sandburg's version?

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Oct 06 - 10:20 AM

I'm pleased when I feel I can add some valid information to a thread. I can trace the history of this song back a short ways:

I learned it from Patti McGloughlin (sp?) in Seattle about 1957. She had learned it from her friend, the late Kathy Dagle, of Witchita, Kansas. I'm QUITE sure that Gibson learned it from Patti.

I hope this helps a little. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 07 Oct 06 - 11:20 AM

I have it by the Chad Mitchell Trio. A very solid arrangement. The harmony those guys would generate was very strong in this song. Listen to it if you can find it. I hear a style very similar to Lora Nyro or The Fifth Dimension's harmony in some parts.

Don


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,ednaelk
Date: 08 Aug 08 - 10:38 AM

Chords anyone? Thanks


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 08 Aug 08 - 11:07 AM

The Kingston Trio did this version on an early album and credit Carl Sandburg as the source:

Tell old Bill when he leaves home this mornin',
tell old Bill when he leaves home this evenin',
Tell old Bill when he leaves home to let those
downtown girls alone, this mornin', this evenin',
so soon.

Old Sal was bakin' bread this mornin'. Old Sal was
bakin' bread this evenin'. Old Sal was bakin'
bread when she got word that Bill was dead, this
[ Find more Lyrics at www.mp3lyrics.org/2uAo ]
mornin', this evenin', so soon.

Oh, no! It can't be so this mornin'. Oh, no! It
can't be so this evenin'. Oh, no! It can't be so.
My Bill left home about an hour ago, this mornin',
this evenin', so soon.

They brought Bill home in a hurry-up wagon this
mornin'. They brought Bill home in a hurry-up
wagon this evenin'. Brought Bill home in a
hurry-up wagon. Brought Bill home with his toes
a-draggin' this mornin', this evenin', so soon.
This mornin', this evenin', so soon. (Repeat first
verse)


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Subject: RE: Origins of 'Tell Old Bill' (Van Ronk)?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Aug 08 - 11:33 AM

One way to play it is alternating G and Em, thus:


G...........Em.......G.......Em........>G
Tell Old Bill, when he gets home, this morning

G...........Em.......G.......Em........>D7
Tell Old Bill, when he gets home this evening

G...........Em.......G.......Em
Tell Old Bill, when he gets home,
G..............Em.....C.......D
To leave them downtown women alone,
G...............D7.............G
This mornign, this evening, so soon


I don't have a guitar here in the office so you will have to tinker with them.


A


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill (Van Ronk?)
From: GUEST,Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 28 May 18 - 01:52 PM

Belated answer to your request Bob, here's the Sam Hinton version. Sadly I don't think you'll find anything new in it, though he does vary the tune nicely.

Times have moved on and the Roud index (No.7876) lists several early sources (Roud 7876, some audio (1927 earliest? Earl Johnson and his Clodhoppers ), some in books and journals (JAFL for 1911 and 1915 I think the earliest, though neither version mentions Bill). I haven't time to look at them all just now (I'm off out to sing some songs!) but I'll try and have a look tomorrow and probably post anything useful to the other origins thead.

(My first encounter in the 60s in the UK was from the singing of Paul McNeill, then singing with Linda Peters, who would go on to become Linda Thompson. That was a short version: Tell Old Bill/Baking bread/That can't be so/Hurry-up wagon/repeat v1!).

Mick


TELL OLD BILL

Tell Old Bill when he leave home this mornin',
Tell Old Bill when he leave home this evenin',
Tell Old Bill when he leave home
To let them downtown folks alone,
This mornin', this evenin', so soon.

Old Bill left by the alley gate this morning,
Old Bill left by the alley gate this evening,
Bill left by the alley gate,
Old Sal she say, "Now don't be late",
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Bill's wife was a-bakin' bread this mornin',
Bill's wife was a-bakin' bread this evenin',
Bill's wife was a-bakin' bread
When they told her Bill was dead,
This mornin', this evenin', so soon.

Oh, Lord! That can't be so this mornin',
Oh, Lord! That can't be so this evenin',
Lord! That can't be so,
Bill left home not an hour ago,
This mornin', this evenin', so soon.

They brought him home in the hurry-up wagon this mornin',
They brought him home in the hurry-up wagon this evenin',
They brought him home in the hurry-up wagon,
They brought him home with his toes a-draggin',
This mornin', this evenin', so soon.


Source: Sam Hinton, CD Folk Songs


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill (Van Ronk?)
From: leeneia
Date: 29 May 18 - 07:26 PM

I know this song from the Kingston Trio album mentioned above. It's a sad, quiet song to sing when you feel tired or discouraged.


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