Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues

DigiTrad:
LOCKE HOSPITAL
ST. JAMES HOSPITAL
ST. JAMES INFIRMARY
THE UNFORTUNATE RAKE


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Der Treue Husar and the Unfortunate Rake (25)
Lyr/Chords Req: St. James Infirmary (23)
(origins) Tune Req: St. James Infirmary Blues (18)
Lyr Add: The Unfortunate Lad (#350 / Rake's Lamen (8)
Help: St. James Infirmary - by Rolling Stones? (41)
Lyr Req: St. James Infirmary (24)
Tune Req: St. James Infirmary (12)
Lyr Req: Bright Shiny Morning (9)
St. James Infirmary (from Josh White) (2)
Chords Req: St. James Infirmary (6)
Lyr Add: St. Jude's Infirmary (Parody for Spaw) (15)
Lyr Req: St James Infirmary (request only) (4) (closed)
Chords/Tab Req: St. James Infirmary (5)
Help: The Unfortunate Rake (3)
Tune Req: St. James Infirmary (7)


JedMarum 09 Apr 02 - 01:55 PM
BB 09 Apr 02 - 02:36 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 09 Apr 02 - 02:44 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 09 Apr 02 - 03:36 PM
Snuffy 09 Apr 02 - 07:17 PM
Susan of DT 09 Apr 02 - 07:52 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Apr 02 - 08:35 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 09 Apr 02 - 11:10 PM
masato sakurai 10 Apr 02 - 06:22 AM
DMcG 10 Apr 02 - 07:26 AM
GUEST,Nerd 10 Apr 02 - 01:09 PM
greg stephens 11 Apr 02 - 07:22 AM
JedMarum 11 Apr 02 - 08:56 AM
greg stephens 11 Apr 02 - 09:00 AM
greg stephens 11 Apr 02 - 09:07 AM
GUEST,MAG at work 11 Apr 02 - 04:38 PM
GUEST,anna 20 Mar 06 - 06:09 PM
GUEST,oz childs 27 Aug 06 - 09:05 PM
GUEST,Another source--the Bard of Armagh? 25 Jun 07 - 02:43 PM
Scoville 25 Jun 07 - 02:48 PM
erosconpollo 25 Jun 07 - 03:54 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 25 Jun 07 - 05:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 25 Jun 07 - 06:21 PM
Susan of DT 25 Jun 07 - 07:34 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 25 Jun 07 - 08:51 PM
Acme 25 Jun 07 - 10:01 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 25 Jun 07 - 10:30 PM
Acme 26 Jun 07 - 01:36 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Jun 07 - 07:46 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Jun 07 - 01:18 AM
mrdux 27 Jun 07 - 06:05 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Jun 07 - 06:20 PM
GUEST,Richie 27 Jun 07 - 06:36 PM
mrdux 28 Jun 07 - 01:24 AM
GUEST,Lighter 28 Jun 07 - 12:23 PM
Bee 29 Jun 07 - 10:31 PM
retrancer 29 Jun 07 - 10:49 PM
GUEST 20 Feb 08 - 12:32 PM
GUEST,Joseph de Culver City 20 Feb 08 - 03:09 PM
Stringsinger 20 Feb 08 - 03:15 PM
irishenglish 20 Feb 08 - 03:22 PM
Mark Clark 20 Feb 08 - 09:00 PM
GUEST,Guest 07 May 08 - 04:08 PM
PoppaGator 07 May 08 - 04:26 PM
PoppaGator 07 May 08 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,Dave MacKenzie 07 May 08 - 07:34 PM
Stewie 07 May 08 - 11:30 PM
Mr Happy 08 May 08 - 09:23 AM
Joe_F 08 May 08 - 09:28 PM
PoppaGator 09 May 08 - 01:10 PM
GUEST,Dave MacKenzie 09 May 08 - 07:47 PM
GUEST,Brian L 15 Sep 08 - 12:56 AM
GUEST,Adomnan McIntyre 17 Sep 08 - 01:19 PM
PoppaGator 17 Sep 08 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,Dave MacKenzie 17 Sep 08 - 07:31 PM
Marc Bernier 17 Sep 08 - 09:50 PM
GUEST,R Harwood 21 Jan 09 - 10:53 AM
Acme 21 Jan 09 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,R. Harwood 21 Jan 09 - 02:57 PM
GUEST,Tootler on Mrs T's Computer 27 Mar 09 - 11:11 AM
GUEST 08 Jul 09 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,Dorothy Wright 09 Aug 09 - 11:59 AM
Stringsinger 09 Aug 09 - 03:04 PM
Stewie 09 Aug 09 - 08:02 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 10 Aug 09 - 08:01 PM
Richie 21 Aug 09 - 04:20 PM
Joe_F 21 Aug 09 - 08:45 PM
quokka 11 Oct 09 - 04:04 AM
Jack Campin 11 Oct 09 - 08:22 AM
meself 11 Oct 09 - 01:22 PM
Tootler 11 Oct 09 - 04:28 PM
meself 11 Oct 09 - 05:22 PM
Tootler 11 Oct 09 - 06:06 PM
meself 11 Oct 09 - 07:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Oct 09 - 07:52 PM
Tootler 12 Oct 09 - 06:50 PM
meself 12 Oct 09 - 07:28 PM
Tootler 13 Oct 09 - 05:09 PM
meself 13 Oct 09 - 05:49 PM
Tootler 14 Oct 09 - 06:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Oct 09 - 10:18 PM
GUEST 21 Nov 09 - 09:15 PM
MGM·Lion 22 Nov 09 - 01:15 AM
GUEST 26 Nov 09 - 04:37 PM
GUEST,Robert Harwood 25 Dec 09 - 04:14 PM
GUEST,wildroses 31 Jan 10 - 07:49 PM
Gulliver 31 Jan 10 - 09:47 PM
mousethief 31 Jan 10 - 11:07 PM
quokka 01 Feb 10 - 12:13 AM
quokka 01 Feb 10 - 12:22 AM
olddude 01 Feb 10 - 11:28 AM
Joe_F 01 Feb 10 - 06:04 PM
mousethief 01 Feb 10 - 06:06 PM
meself 01 Feb 10 - 10:25 PM
Steve Gardham 02 Feb 10 - 05:45 PM
Joe_F 07 May 10 - 05:30 PM
meself 07 May 10 - 09:56 PM
Leadfingers 07 May 10 - 10:59 PM
Leadfingers 07 May 10 - 11:00 PM
Leadfingers 08 May 10 - 06:27 AM
GUEST,marc lelangue 28 Sep 10 - 11:09 AM
pavane 28 Sep 10 - 11:46 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 22 Apr 11 - 08:00 PM
GUEST,Frankieboy 23 Apr 11 - 06:04 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Apr 11 - 07:30 PM
olddude 23 Apr 11 - 07:38 PM
Tootler 07 May 11 - 08:31 PM
GUEST,curious 13 Mar 12 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,testpattern 29 Mar 12 - 03:15 AM
Joe_F 29 Mar 12 - 08:51 PM
GUEST,guest 13 Aug 12 - 04:02 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Aug 12 - 04:56 PM
Janie 05 Sep 16 - 11:07 PM
GUEST,Guest 17 Oct 17 - 09:12 AM
GUEST,Guest 17 Oct 17 - 09:31 AM
Lighter 17 Oct 17 - 09:52 AM
meself 17 Oct 17 - 11:22 AM
Lighter 17 Oct 17 - 02:43 PM
GUEST 08 Nov 17 - 10:14 AM
GUEST 08 Nov 17 - 10:21 AM
Brian Peters 08 Nov 17 - 12:52 PM
Lighter 08 Nov 17 - 02:15 PM
Richard Mellish 08 Nov 17 - 05:19 PM
Lighter 08 Nov 17 - 07:07 PM
Jim Carroll 09 Nov 17 - 05:39 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Nov 17 - 05:56 AM
Jim Carroll 09 Nov 17 - 06:01 AM
Brian Peters 09 Nov 17 - 09:48 AM
Brian Peters 09 Nov 17 - 10:11 AM
GUEST,Karen 13 Nov 17 - 08:31 AM
GUEST,Karen 13 Nov 17 - 08:33 AM
Jim Carroll 13 Nov 17 - 08:38 AM
GUEST,Karen 14 Nov 17 - 01:32 PM
Jim Carroll 14 Nov 17 - 02:00 PM
Lighter 14 Nov 17 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,Karen 15 Nov 17 - 07:24 AM
Brian Peters 15 Nov 17 - 07:35 AM
Brian Peters 15 Nov 17 - 07:45 AM
GUEST,Karen 15 Nov 17 - 08:35 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 09:01 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 09:11 AM
GUEST,Karen 15 Nov 17 - 09:24 AM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 09:31 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 09:37 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 09:39 AM
Brian Peters 15 Nov 17 - 10:15 AM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,Karen 15 Nov 17 - 10:26 AM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 10:28 AM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 10:39 AM
Brian Peters 15 Nov 17 - 10:42 AM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 10:44 AM
Brian Peters 15 Nov 17 - 10:55 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 11:06 AM
Jack Campin 15 Nov 17 - 11:27 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 12:20 PM
Jack Campin 15 Nov 17 - 12:48 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 01:01 PM
Bob the Postman 15 Nov 17 - 01:12 PM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 01:51 PM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 01:56 PM
Brian Peters 15 Nov 17 - 02:12 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Nov 17 - 02:42 PM
David Carter (UK) 15 Nov 17 - 03:04 PM
GUEST,Karen 15 Nov 17 - 03:37 PM
GUEST,Karen 15 Nov 17 - 03:52 PM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 04:07 PM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 04:09 PM
Brian Peters 15 Nov 17 - 06:04 PM
GUEST,Karen 15 Nov 17 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,karen 15 Nov 17 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,karen 15 Nov 17 - 08:06 PM
GUEST,karen 15 Nov 17 - 08:27 PM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 09:11 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Nov 17 - 03:26 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Nov 17 - 03:47 AM
GUEST,Karen 16 Nov 17 - 06:03 AM
Lighter 16 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM
Brian Peters 16 Nov 17 - 12:53 PM
Brian Peters 16 Nov 17 - 01:29 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Nov 17 - 04:23 PM
Brian Peters 16 Nov 17 - 05:20 PM
Big Al Whittle 16 Nov 17 - 05:55 PM
GUEST,Karen 17 Nov 17 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,Karen 17 Nov 17 - 10:12 AM
GUEST 17 Nov 17 - 10:20 AM
Lighter 17 Nov 17 - 11:22 AM
Brian Peters 17 Nov 17 - 02:07 PM
Brian Peters 17 Nov 17 - 02:17 PM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 03:17 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 03:35 AM
GUEST,Karen 18 Nov 17 - 05:16 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 05:49 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 06:39 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 08:19 AM
Brian Peters 18 Nov 17 - 08:20 AM
Brian Peters 18 Nov 17 - 09:43 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 09:52 AM
Lighter 18 Nov 17 - 11:28 AM
Brian Peters 18 Nov 17 - 12:21 PM
Brian Peters 18 Nov 17 - 12:24 PM
meself 18 Nov 17 - 02:56 PM
Lighter 18 Nov 17 - 03:50 PM
Steve Gardham 18 Nov 17 - 04:03 PM
Big Al Whittle 18 Nov 17 - 05:17 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Nov 17 - 03:13 AM
Brian Peters 19 Nov 17 - 06:10 AM
GUEST,Karen 19 Nov 17 - 08:16 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Nov 17 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,Karen 19 Nov 17 - 09:09 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM
Brian Peters 19 Nov 17 - 09:38 AM
Lighter 19 Nov 17 - 10:23 AM
Steve Gardham 19 Nov 17 - 10:42 AM
Brian Peters 19 Nov 17 - 10:45 AM
Lighter 19 Nov 17 - 01:34 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Nov 17 - 01:49 PM
Lighter 19 Nov 17 - 02:00 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Nov 17 - 02:29 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Nov 17 - 04:26 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Nov 17 - 04:48 AM
Brian Peters 20 Nov 17 - 05:08 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Nov 17 - 05:26 AM
Brian Peters 20 Nov 17 - 07:24 AM
GUEST,Brian 20 Nov 17 - 08:13 AM
GUEST,Karen 20 Nov 17 - 08:16 AM
Brian Peters 20 Nov 17 - 08:55 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Nov 17 - 09:06 AM
Steve Gardham 20 Nov 17 - 09:11 AM
Lighter 20 Nov 17 - 09:35 AM
Steve Gardham 20 Nov 17 - 09:54 AM
Brian Peters 20 Nov 17 - 10:58 AM
Big Al Whittle 20 Nov 17 - 11:34 AM
Lighter 20 Nov 17 - 03:38 PM
Brian Peters 21 Nov 17 - 05:30 AM
Lighter 21 Nov 17 - 08:23 AM
Lighter 21 Nov 17 - 08:24 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Nov 17 - 11:15 AM
Lighter 21 Nov 17 - 11:36 AM
Lighter 21 Nov 17 - 11:49 AM
Brian Peters 21 Nov 17 - 12:08 PM
Brian Peters 21 Nov 17 - 12:20 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Nov 17 - 01:25 PM
Lighter 21 Nov 17 - 01:43 PM
meself 21 Nov 17 - 02:31 PM
Lighter 21 Nov 17 - 02:53 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:






Subject: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: JedMarum
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 01:55 PM

I'm looking for the history behind this song. I've heard/seen discussion on it's origins, perhaps an English song that was adapted in New Orleans ... what do we know about this song?

Search for "infirmary" threads


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: BB
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 02:36 PM

I understand that this song has its origins in the British song 'The Unfortunate Rake', other versions of which include 'The Young Man (or Girl) Cut Down in his (her) Prime', 'The Royal Albion', 'The Streets of Laredo', 'The Dying Airman', etc., etc. I believe there are versions all over the English-speaking world, although I only know of three where the person in question is female - one from America, one from the Caribbean and one from England.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 02:44 PM

This has been discussed (much good material) in several threads. Check in the Forum under all of the possible names.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 03:36 PM

In the Forum, type St. James. This will bring up most of the material.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Snuffy
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 07:17 PM

There are about 20 versions already in the DT database. Type LAREDS* in the "DigiTrad Lyrics Search" box.

WassaiL! V


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Susan of DT
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 07:52 PM

They also have DT #350, so you can search for #350
when you find a song with a child or DT #, you can search on that # for related songs.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 08:35 PM

Folkways released a whole album of variants of the song. It's probably available through the Smithsonian.

Jerrry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 09 Apr 02 - 11:10 PM

The only threads that seems to cover the song are:

St. James Infirmary Blues
St. James Infirmary Blues
St. James Infirmary Blues


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: masato sakurai
Date: 10 Apr 02 - 06:22 AM

The record Jerry mentions is The Unfortunate Rake: A Study in the Evolution of a Ballad (Notes by Kenneth Goldstein) (Folkways FA 2305, 1960) [LP], which includes:

SIDE I
1. The Unfortunate Rake (Sung by A.L. Lloyd)
2. The Trooper Cut Down in His Prime (Sung by Ewan MscColl)
3. The Youg Sailor Cut Down in His Prime (Sung by Harry Cox)
4. Noo I'm a Young Man Cut Down in My Prime (Sung by Willie Mathieson)
5. The Bad Girl's Lament (Sung by Wade Hemsworth)
6. One Mornign in May (Sung by Hally Wood)
7. Bright Summer Morning (Sing by Mrs. Viola Penn)
8. The Girl in the Dilger Case (Sung by D.K. Wilgus)
9. The Cowboy's Lament (Sung by Bruce Buckley)
10. The Streets of Laredo (Sung by Harry Jackson)

SIDE II
1. St. James Hospital (Sung by Alan Lomax)
2. Gambler's Blues (Sung by Dave Van Ronk)
3. I Once Was a Carman in the Big Mountain Con (Sung by Guthrie Meade)
4. The Lineman's Hymn (Sung by Rosalie Sorrels)
5. The Wild Lumberjack (Sung by Kenneth S. Goldstein)
6. A Sun Valley Song (Sung by Jan Brunvand)
7. The Ballad of Bloody Thursday (Sung by John Greenway)
8. The Streets of Hamtramck (Sung by Bill Friedland)
9. The Ballad of Sherman Wu (Sung by Pete Seeger)
10. The Professor's Lament (Sung by Roger Abrahams)

To my regret, I don't have that record (having only a photocpy of the notes).

~Masato


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: DMcG
Date: 10 Apr 02 - 07:26 AM

Norma Waterson introduced this song at the Union Chapel recording (see separate thread) with something like the following line:

"Nothing spreads a folksong like a good case of syphilis"

Preplanned line, certainly, but still takes some beating!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Nerd
Date: 10 Apr 02 - 01:09 PM

The Folkways record mentioned above can be special-ordered as a CD. I have it, as I was a student of Kenny Goldstein's. I don't much recommend it as listening; alongside the good singers, Kenny pressed into service several folklorists, including himself and Jan Brunvand (!) But the notes are crucial!

The English Folk Song and Dance's publication Root & Branch did an article with a historical flow chart on the song. It's available from the EFDSS. (Sorry, no blicky! go to www.efdss.org)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Apr 02 - 07:22 AM

There are lots of other threads about this, not all of them accessible to me,so apologies if any comments I make are duplicated elsewhere. (1) The name: St James Hospital in Liverpool comes up a lot as the most likely candidate. (2) The words: British/Irish (no way of deciding which cme first and there never will be, so feelfree to follow your own prejudices). A huge variety of songs (typical title "Young Sailor cut down in his prime" in which a friend of the narrator of the song has died and is given a stylised funeral.The cause of death various from war to drowning to "social diseases" to generised results of unspecified loose living.English versions generally have 4 stresses in each line, like the American version"Streets of Laredo".St James Infirmary has 3 stresses per line. (3) the story: much of the power of St James Ifirmary seems to lie in the extreme vagueness of the story line, much more "stream of consciousness"" than the clearer English versions. It's often by no meams clear whether a singer is referring to the death of the girl on the slab or his/her own departure, in different parts of the song. I know, because I often sing the song, how easy it is to change the feel of the song by minor changes and omissions in the verses (surely a hallmark of a folksong!). (everything seems to be grinding to a halt, electronically speaking, I'll send this off and start again).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: JedMarum
Date: 11 Apr 02 - 08:56 AM

In my extra-Mudcat searches yesterday, I discovered a scholarly site claiming that St James indeed is rooted in the The Unfortunate Rake. Likewise, Streets of Laredo - and others.

St James Infirmary certainly has a New Orleans bluesy style, it seems to me - lyrically and musically. It makes sense that the basic story line of The Unfortunate Rake could have evolved into St James.

Where can I find a midi with the melody of The Unfortunate Rake? Thanks all, for the input.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Apr 02 - 09:00 AM

Continued: the tune. American song tune for Streets of Laredo is related to English versions of the songs, but St. James Infirmary's tune isn't really, it seems to come from "The Queen of the May", a quite unrelated English song.(As I walked through the meadows to take the fresh air/The flowers were blooming and gay). This tune has a 4/3 stress pattern (unlike St. James Infirmary, 3 stress, and Young soldier/Streets of Laredo 4 stress lines). Queen of the May also had a distinct major to minor third scale change at the end. This is very intriguing, because the Cajun French version of St. James Infirmary (Blues de Soulard) has a tune intermediate between the New Orleans tune and the English original (??). Which shows that the French version is not just a straight borrowing of a popular New Orleans jazz number, as you might otherwise assume. The French version has the 4/3 stress pattern, and the shift to a minor third, which has proved very resilient: you can hear fiddlers sawing away at the B flat against the accordions major B and the guitarists G chord. The French words don't have a death/funeral narrative: those I know are standard Cajun moody ramblings, though on the same theme of the perils of loose living of the British and American songs. "Quand le blues me prend mooi je suis gone/Moi je suis parti me souler/ Quand moi je suis soul bebe moi je suis gone a la maison Pour join ma chere tite fille" (If you can't see how to sing line 3 to a 4-stress bit of melody, check out Louis Cormier's recording!). Anyway, there's a few disjointed comments. Luckily this wonderful songs origins are lost in the mists of time, just so as we can have fun trying to peer through the mist. Next WEEK: how did "The Derby Ram," an ancient English song of ritual death, end up as the definitive New Orleans funeral march "Didn't he ramble"? And it isn't even Irish/Scottish. Or is it?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Apr 02 - 09:07 AM

Sorry, I was typing fast from memory and put "fille" for " femme" in the "Blues de Soulard" lyrics which radically changes the feel of the song.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,MAG at work
Date: 11 Apr 02 - 04:38 PM

"Young Sailor..." also links to "Pills of White Mercury" (a cure for syphilis) which has the funeral stuff -- I once commented that this explains the seeming randomness of SJI to me: ie, his girlfriend died of VD; she got it from someone else; now he's got it too and is going to die.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,anna
Date: 20 Mar 06 - 06:09 PM

hey i'd like to know who recorded the armstrong version of st james infirmary, at okeh records (1928) ? does anybody knows about it ? thanks :)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,oz childs
Date: 27 Aug 06 - 09:05 PM

A song about a dying woman or man at St. James's Hospital is pretty likely to be in its origin one of the oldest songs still current in English,though revised many times by the folk process (Not as old as "Sumer is a'coming in", but still).

Why? Because St. James's in London, where a palace now stands, was originally the site of a leper hospital, and it was pulled down in 1532 by Henry VIII, who made the park into a place to raise deer and eventually put up a palace. So the memory of St. James's as a place where people went who were sick with a loathsome disease is one of the oldest traditional geographical identifications. (While syphilis was too new a disease to be treated at the hospital, the connection between leprosy and syphilis is exemplified in the similar Paris institution, St-Lazare, which started as a leper hospital and ended up being for syphillitics and then for "fallen women").

St. James's Palace, rebuilt over the years, was where Queen Anne held court circa 1710, and ambassadors are still accredited to the "Court of St. James's).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Another source--the Bard of Armagh?
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 02:43 PM

Does anyone know how the Bard of Armagh fits into this history of Streets of Laredo/St. James Infirmary. It's the dying song of an old musician/poet, named Brady (from the 18th Century) not a cowboy, but the melody is Laredo. The earliest recording I have is from 1920 by the popular Irish tenor John McCormack, on ASV CD AJA 5119.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Scoville
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 02:48 PM

Bard of Armagh! I knew I was thinking of an Irish song that had the same tune and couldn't recall the title.

I don't know how it fits in, though, but thanks for reminding me.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: erosconpollo
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 03:54 PM

Bard of Armagh: "the words to this old melody are sometime ascribed to Thomas Campbell, who is said to have written it in 1801" This according to William Cole in a song book of his.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 05:44 PM

All of this has been gone over in the previous threads and posts.
Bard of Armagh-Streets of Laredo is somewhat similar to the tune, but see Greg Stephens post, 11 Apr 02 (above). It is not the same tune as that used by Louis Armstrong, Rosa Henderson, and that appears first in Black folksong and music. In Galveston, where it may have started out, the hospital is 'John Seley's' rather than the St. James in London, Liverpool, etc. I will post the words in Scarborough 1925 in the next post; I haven't found it in Mudcat.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: HOW SAD WAS THE DEATH OF MY SWEETHEART
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 06:21 PM

^^
Lyr. Add: HOW SAD WAS THE DEATH OF MY SWEETHEART
(Negro folk song; Scarborough, 1925)

I went to John Seley's hospital;
The nurse there she turned me around.
She turned me around, yes, so slowly,
An' said, "The poor girl is sleepin' in the ground."

I was walkin' down Walnut Street so lonely,
My head it was hanging so low.
It made me think of my sweetheart,
Who was gone to a world far unknown.

Refrain:
Let her go, let her go.
May God bless her, wherever she may be.
She is mine.
She may roam this wide world over
But she will never fin' a man like me.

While walkin' I met her dear mother,
With her head hangin' low as was mine.
"Here's the ring of your daughter, dear mother,
And the last words as she closed her eyes:

"Take this ring, take this ring,
Place it on your lovin' right hand.
And when I am dead and forgotten
Keep the grass from growing on my grave."

Obtained from a 'young Galveston Negro, a student at Straight College, New Orleans'. Worth Tuttle Hedden, the collector, said it was rather widely sung among the Negroes in Galveston. John Seley Hospital is (or was) in Galveston.
p. 94, Dorothy Scarborough, 1925, "On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs," Harvard University Press. Facsimile 1963, Folklore Associates, Inc.

A version of the same song was recorded by Louis Armstrong and others musicians in New Orleans as "Saint James Infirmary (Blues)." The song on the Armstrong recording was arranged by G. Primrose, Louis Armstrong and His Savoy Ballroom Five, 1928.
Hear the recording at http://www.redhotjazz.com/savoy5.html
St. James Infirmary
Other recordings were made aboout the same time. See Traditional Ballads Index.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Susan of DT
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 07:34 PM

There are 24 versions of DT #350. Since the online search is "blind" to the number sign, search for the whole [DT #350} without the [] to see all of them. There are quite a range of variants.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 08:51 PM

Of the "24 versions of DT #350" only one approaches the Louisiana-south Texas African-American song as popularized in the New Orleans region in the late 1920's by Louis Armstrong and others, and collected in that region by Scarborough.
St. JAMES INFIRMARY in the DT is close to a version published by Sandburg 1927, Some verses (Old Joe's barroom, rubber-tired hack) in a version coll. in Alabama show cross-fertilization with the Streets-Armagh song. A version 'B' in Sandburg, coll. in Texas, is more closely related to the "How Sad ..." and Armstrong lyrics ("The American Songbag" as "Those Gambler's Blues," coll. in Alabama and Texas). The song arr. by Primrose (Irving Mills) for Louis Armstrong is a shortened version for recording.

"St. James Hospital," in the DT, by Iron-Head Baker as sung for Alan Lomax, is one of the versions with the tune of the Streets of Laredo-Bard of Armagh group. It bears little if any relationship to the song of Armstrong and Scarborough.

"How Sad Was the Death of My Sweetheart" and "St. James Infirmary" of the song by Louis Armstrong perhaps should be considered as members of a group separate from the others.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Acme
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 10:01 PM

Q--loved that link to the Louis Armstrong material. Marvelous, every last one on that page.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Jun 07 - 10:30 PM

Stilly River Sage-
I get drunk on that Redhotjazz site, downloading collections I could not afford to buy on commercial discs.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Acme
Date: 26 Jun 07 - 01:36 AM

Do you use something like Audible and save them one at a time? They're mesmerizing.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Jun 07 - 07:46 PM

No method. Generally I go looking for a song or a band and end up browsing into others. I listen, and 'save as' into Real in a folder if I want to keep it. When I get enough for a disc, I transfer. My problem is that I want them all and Red Hot Jazz is voluminous.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: ST. JAMES INFIRMARY (from Louis Armstrong
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Jun 07 - 01:18 AM

Lyr. Add: ST. JAMES INFIRMARY
Louis Armstrong, 1928, Okeh 8657

I went down to St. James Infirmary
Saw my baby there
Laid down on a long white table
So sweet, so cold, so fair.

Let her go, let her go, God bless her
Wherever she may be
She can look this wide world over
She'll never find a sweet man like me

When I die I want you to dress me in laced shoes (?)
In my black coat and Stetson hat
With a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So God'll know I died standing pat. (So the guys will know...?)

Help needed on the questioned lines.

Arr. J. Primrose, according to the label.
Louis Armstrong and His Savoy Ballroom Five, recorded in Chicago, 12/12/28.

Personnel included former members of the Hot Seven:
Louis Armstrong, cornet and vocals; (Lil Hardin Armstrong, piano;) Baby Dodds, drums; Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Earl Hines, piano; Johnny St. Cyr, banjo; John Thomas, Trombone. The pianist probably was Earl Hines- it sounds like him.
In 1929, the personnel changed.

Several websites refer to the 1928 recording, including Wiikipedia, but they give an extended version with several verses from "Gamblers Blues" rather than the abbreviated lyrics of Louis Armstrong. These lyrics may have appeared in later Armstrong recordings.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: mrdux
Date: 27 Jun 07 - 06:05 PM

Q --

I hear the Armstrong lyrics as follows:

I went down to St. James Infirmary
Saw my baby there
Decked out on a long white table
So sweet, so cold, so fair.

* * *

When I die I want you to dress me in strait-laced shoes
[In my?] black coat and Stetson hat
With a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So the boys'll know I died standing pat.

I may have a recording of this at home and will listen more closely if I do.

michael
(also a long-time fan of the Red Hot Jazz site)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Jun 07 - 06:20 PM

I also heard 'boys, not 'God,' as the various written lyrics have it, but wasn't 100% sure. I will listen again with your suggestions in mind. I think you have a better ear!

One website suggested "Gamblers' Blues" goes back to 1899; I have been trying to find old versions.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 27 Jun 07 - 06:36 PM

Q,

I have a version titled "Gambler's Blues" printed in the 1920's in a Carson Robison Songbook. It's pretty much the standard minor blues version. It says written by E.V. Body (for everybody; meaning unknown author).

Meade doesn't have much on the origin. Sharp collected a version that is not closely related No. 131 St. James Hospital or A Sailor Cut Down in his Prime.

I suspect that someone reworked the folk song around 1900.

Richie


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: mrdux
Date: 28 Jun 07 - 01:24 AM

Q --

re: the Armstrong version, I did find a recording of it at home. Okeh 8657, recorded 12/12/28, on a 1989 Columbia CD. You were right: Hines was on piano with Armstrong. According to the notes, the rest of the personnel was Fred Robinson, trombone; Don Redman, clarinet/alto sax/arranger; Jimmy Strong, clarinet/tenor sax; Mancy Carr, banjo; Zutty Singleton, drums.

michael


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 28 Jun 07 - 12:23 PM

The Scarborough version does look like some sort of "missing link." Thanks for posting, Q.

As I hear it, sung for example by Tommy Makem, "The Bard of Armagh" melody is essentially identical to the most familiar tune used for "Streets of Laredo."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Bee
Date: 29 Jun 07 - 10:31 PM

I sang (and played) a version of Saint James Infirmary this evening, on stage, at an old friend's memorial party. An old fellow came up to me afterwards, thanked me, and said he hadn't heard it sung that way in fifty years.

First time I've ever sung with a mike and about seventy people in front of me. Yes I had severe stage fright.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: retrancer
Date: 29 Jun 07 - 10:49 PM

cool, i just started playin it again as a part of my cover tunes. excellenet song


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 12:32 PM

My band does a faster version with drums and a strong electric guitar that goes something like this:

It was at old Joe's bar room
In the corner by the square
They was servin' whiskey as usual
The usual crowd's down there

On my left stood big Joe McKennedy
Well his eyes they were blood shot red
He turned his face to those people
These are the very words he said

Now I went down to St. James Infirmary
And I saw my little baby there
An' she was stretched out on this big white table
So sweet, cold and so fair

Well let her go let her go dear God bless her
Wherever she may be
She can search this whole wide world over
Never find a sweet lovin' man like me

Now when I die just bury me
In my 300 dollar Stetson hat
Put a twenty five dollar gold piece on my watch chain
The boys will know I died standin' pat

Well let her go let her go dear God bless her
Wherever she may be
She could search this whole wide world over
Never find a sweeter man than me

I want the crap shooters to be my pallbearers
Now get me 8 pretty chorus ladies to sing me this song
Drive a jazz band behind my hearse wagon
We'll raise hell as we roll along

Now I went down to St James Infirmary
Don't you know I had to leave my little baby girl down there
Now I go open another bottle of booze
Well I guess I got the St James infirmary blues


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Joseph de Culver City
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 03:09 PM

Thanks for the Louis Armstrong link. I am in thrall to the version of this song in the 'Snow White' Betty Boop cartoon made by the Fleisher brothers sung (and danced) by Cab Calloway, which seems to use the Armstrong version as it's reference. 'Streched out" it is.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 03:15 PM

The tune for St. James Infirmary is reputed to have been a popular tune from the 20's called
"When It's Chitlin Cookin' Time in Cheatham County".

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: irishenglish
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 03:22 PM

Not to do with the history of it, but since no one else mentioned it, a version appears on the Tom Jones/Jools Holland album from about 2 years ago.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 20 Feb 08 - 09:00 PM

Frank, That's really interesting. I have a recording of Sam & Kirk McGee (from sunny Tennessee) singing Chitlin Cookin' Time and I'd always assumed that melody was borrowed from SJI. Interesting to learn that it was the other way around. Thanks.

      - Mark


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 07 May 08 - 04:08 PM

I don't know if anyone has been on this thread in a while...but I just heard this song for the first time the other day and I've become a bit obessesed with it.

It all started when my ex boyfriend posted an old picture of us on a website and he referenced the song in the caption of the picture. I knew that he was trying to see if I got the reference. So I googled it, downloaded it, listened to it. I first thought it was a little morbid for the situation between us and was a little confused on what he was trying to say...I think I get what he is sayin now. It's like an underlying meaning to him.

The situation is that we were working together in New Orleans when we met. We fell head over heals in CRAZY love. Haha! But I live on the east coast and he lives on the west coast...so we eventually got seperated and it was very sad. So I think he was trying to refer the sadness of the song to our situation rather than the morbidness of it. But maybe I'm crazy?!?! I don't know.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,
Bunny


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 07 May 08 - 04:26 PM

There's a neat article about this song in the current issue of Offbeat magazine:

http://offbeat.com/artman/publish/article_3061.shtml

Offbeat is a local New Orleans publication, and this month's issue is the annual extra-large Jazz Festival edition.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 07 May 08 - 04:29 PM

Oops, I just saw that the link is useless; the article is available only to "print subscribers."

Why post it on the web at all, then? Seems like nothing more than a semi-underhanded way to sell subscriptions.

Sorry, y'all. It's an interesting article ~ I read it in the printed magazine, which was handed out for free on the streets outside the Jazz Festival ~ but there's no way I'm going to type the whole thing out for you here!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Dave MacKenzie
Date: 07 May 08 - 07:34 PM

The tune turns up as Jimmy Roger's "Gamblin' Bar Room Blues" and was covered by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

This is roughly how I was singing SJI about 40 years ago:

It was down by old Bell's barroom
Round the corner from George Square,
All the drinks were served as usual
And the usual crowd was there.
On my left stood big Hamish Henderson
And his eyes were bloodshot red,
And he turned his face to the people;
These were the very words he said.

I went down to the Royal Infirmary.
My baby, there she lay,
Laid out on a cold marble table.
Well, I looked and I turned away.
"What is my baby's chances?"
I asked old Doctor Sharp.
"Boy, by six o' clock this evenin'
She'll be playin' her golden harp".

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,
Wherever she may be,
She can hunt this wide world over,
But she'll never find a man like me.

Sixteen Saint Cuthbert's horses,
Hitched to a rubber-tired hack,
Carried seven girls to the graveyard,
And brought only six of them back.
Now when I die, please bury me
In my taxi driver's cap,
With half-a-dollar hangin' on my watch-chain,
So they'll know I died standin' pat.

I want six fiddlers for my pall bearers,
Eilish Moore to sing my funeral song,
With a ceilidh band playin' reels an' jigs,
Raisin' hell as we roll along.
Now I may be drowned in the ocean,
May be killed by the cannonball,
But let me tell you, buddy,
A woman was the cause of it all.

Well, now that you've heard my story,
Let me have one more pint of booze,
And if anyone should ever ask you,
I got the Sandy Bell's Barroom Blues.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Stewie
Date: 07 May 08 - 11:30 PM

Frank (Stringsinger), I think you'll find it was the other way round: 'St James Infirmary' predated 'Chittlin' Cooking Time'. See previous threads that link SJI to 'The Unfortunate Rake'. The first recording of 'Chittlin'' was in February 1937 by Fiddlin' Arthur Smith with the Delmores. Bill Cox recorded it in October of the same year. In his notes to the County LP reissue of Fiddlin' Arthur Smith recordings, the late Charles Wolfe wrote:


'Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County' takes the melody of 'St James Infirmary', another jazz standard, with new words which, according to Kirk McGee, were written by him and 'a fellow named Busby' who hung around WSM.
.

--Stewie.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 08 May 08 - 09:23 AM

Same tune as Cab Calloway's 'Minnie the Moocher'

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=08wOPt-2PeE

He did it years later in 'The Blues Brothers'


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Joe_F
Date: 08 May 08 - 09:28 PM

It seems to me remarkable, and remarkably unremarked on, that the "Let her go" stanza must be an interloper. How can it possibly refer to a dead person?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 09 May 08 - 01:10 PM

Good point, Joe. I wonder why I never wondered about that before!

If you can find Danny Barker's recording of this song, it's very much worth a listen. I'm not sure which album it's on; I hear it on the radio two-three times every month because it gets a lot of airplay on WWOZ-FM (also available at www.wwoz.org -- just a quick plug; I'm not even bothering to clickify). Danny interjects spoken interludes after just about every line of the song, and even though the recording is eminently musical, it's almost as much comedy routine as it is performance of a song. Also, since it's a solo recording, it's easy to hear and appreciate his simple but very elegant self-accompaniment on acoustic archtop jazz guitar

Danny was a long-time trad-jazz banjo and guitar player, who put in many years with Louis Armstrong's bands. From the late fifties though the sixties and beyond, he lived at home in New Orleans and performed regularly with his pianist/vocalist wife, Blue Lu Barker, for whom he wrote the classic "Don't You Feel My Leg." (Folkies are most likely to know that song as recorded by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, vocal by Maria D'Amato Muldaur.)

Danny Barker is also responsible, almost singlehandedly, for the renaissance of New Orleans traditional Brass Band music. It was a dying art when he organized a group of teenagers and preteens as the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band, teaching them the then-nearly-forgotten repertoire of traditional dirges and uptempo jazz-funeral hymns. Those young fellows grew up to become the leaders of a new generation of brass bands, notably including the Dirty Dozen, the first such ensemble to break through to wider recognition.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Dave MacKenzie
Date: 09 May 08 - 07:47 PM

"It seems to me remarkable, and remarkably unremarked on, that the "Let her go" stanza must be an interloper. How can it possibly refer to a dead person?"

I always took it that the first two lines instruct the doctors to desist from reviving her, and for Big Whats-is-name to let go emotionally. The last two lines are purely self-congratulatory.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Brian L
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 12:56 AM

I always found the line about playing the "death march" interesting. I had thought it was some thing generic until I found a book of Fifi tunes that are from Colonial times. In it there is a song called the "Death March" I assume this is the song they are talking about in the song. Not sure how to play the fifi so I don't know what it sounds like I wonder if it is the same melody as St. James Infirmary etc.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Adomnan McIntyre
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 01:19 PM

The version Dave MacKenzie gives sounds like one of the adaptations of well-known folk-songs made in the East of Scotland by Edinburgh intellectuals in the 50s. George Square is in the university district, Hamish Henderson was a song-collector, the Royal Infirmary was where intellectuals had their stomachs pumped and St Cuthbert's Co-operative Society ran a funeral service.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 02:09 PM

"It seems to me remarkable, and remarkably unremarked on, that the "Let her go" stanza must be an interloper. How can it possibly refer to a dead person?"

I always took it that the first two lines instruct the doctors to desist from reviving her, and for Big Whats-is-name to let go emotionally. The last two lines are purely self-congratulatory.


Part of the customary New Orleans jazz funeral ritual is to "turn him/her loose" at the burial site, or (in modern times) at a point where the hearse leaves the larger group of mourners and speeds away to the cemetery with a small contingent of immediate family.

This represents a moment when the assembled friends give the departed over to the spirit world, cease mouring, and find the abiliity get on with life. This is the point at which the band stops playing dirges and immediately moves into uptempo street-parade mode (often making a U-turn at the same time, to lead the congregation back to the point of origin, or to someplace where a repast will be served).

So, to me, the words "let her go" in this song refer to movement from the final phase of the mourning process to recovery and getting on with one's own life. Almost like "forget about her," but not in any dismissive or unkind way, simply to "move on."

It's the next (certainly self-congratulatory) lines that, to me, couldn't possibly refer to a dead person: "She may search the wide world over / and she'll never find a man like me." Perhaps the lyricist lacked the requisite skills in semi-advanced English grammar to have put it something like this: "She could have searched...but she would never have found..."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Dave MacKenzie
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 07:31 PM

Nice to be described as an intellectual, though I'm not quite that old; this one was late 60s. Bell's is "Sandy Bell's", c50yards from the old Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and not much further from George Square where the School of Scottish Studies is, and Big Hamish had his office.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 09:50 PM

Brian L

Not Likely. Which book of Fife tunes are you referring to? 18th & 19th century Fife manuals all have job specific marches, drills, or tunes, not to mention tunes with weird names. It's not likely that the tune in your fife manual will bear much resemblance to what we recognize as SJI. However if you let me know which fife manual your looking at I'll try and check it and let you know.


PS. I have access to a bit of fife music.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,R Harwood
Date: 21 Jan 09 - 10:53 AM

A new book, to be found at, http://www.stjamesinfirmary.ca/, is a thorough exploration of the origins and early history of "St. James Infirmary."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: Acme
Date: 21 Jan 09 - 11:09 AM

Author, Author!

I hope this isn't your first or last visit to Mudcat.

Here is the publication link and

here is the author's blogspot blog to do with the book.

This looks like a self-published text. Nothing wrong with that, it allows you to keep more of the profits, but you end up paying for the design and printing and scramble to sell it. It's also a lot harder to get traction in the scholarly world when you publish yourself, because there is no vetting of the text. Have you published other books or articles on this or other music subjects, to give us a little context?

Do you play an instrument, play in a band, collect books and/or recordings, etc? Tell us more about yourself, please!

SRS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,R. Harwood
Date: 21 Jan 09 - 02:57 PM

Nope, neither my first nor my last visit to Mudcat. You're right about the book being self-published, although it has nothing to do with profit. More to do with the difficulty of finding a publisher interested in such a specific topic. My wife, Pam, designed the cover and the interior.

I work in health care, play guitar, have not published on music in the past. This is a thoroughly researched book - I completed that research over a period of about five years. Lots of new information here, new biographical material, as well as bits and pieces of related info - such as, who really wrote "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues," why did Irving Mills use the Primrose pseudonym, how did the link to "The Unfortunate Rake" gain credence, why did Armstrong record the song in '28, and who was Carl Moore (attributed with the song's composition on Fess Williams 1927 recording)?

Aside from the website and the blog, there's a 5-part interview at Rob Walker's SJI site: http://nonotes.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/qa-series-5-"i-went-down-to-st-james-infirmary"-by-robert-w-harwood/

Thanks for your interest!

RWH


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST,Tootler on Mrs T's Computer
Date: 27 Mar 09 - 11:11 AM

Just been going through this interesting thread as we've been singing it recently.

I found the album referred to back in '02 is available for purchase from Smithsonian Folkways here download, CD or Cassette.

I'll have to think about getting it when I get back on my own Computer.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: History of Saint James Infirmary Blues?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jul 09 - 06:47 PM

Melodically St James Infirmary Blues has nothing to do with
The Bard Of Armagh, said to have been composed in 1801 by
Thomas Campbell.It was recorded by John McCormack in 1920.
The Streets of Laredo, composed 1876 by Francis "Frank" Henry
Maynard borrows the Bard Of Armagh melody note for note......
                                     Happy trails
                                           James Molloy

If you wish have a listen to my, Whisky In The Jar etc
on Utube and do leave a comment


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Dorothy Wright
Date: 09 Aug 09 - 11:59 AM

My brother used to sing me a song. The lyrics seem similar to the ones I have read in your listings. I used to love him singing it, but his wife took it too personal and would not allow him to sing it in front of her.

It was down at Saint James Infirmary,
My baby there she lay,
Stretched out on a cold marble table,
I looked then turned away.

What are my baby's chances,
I asked old Dr Sharpe,
He said, by 6 o'clock this evening,
She'll be playing her golden harp.

CHORUS
Let her go, let her go, God bless her,
Wherever she may be,
She can search this wide world over,
Never find a better man than me.

Sixteen cold black horses,
Hitched to a rubber tired hack,
Took 7 pretty girls to the graveyard,
But brought only 6 of them back.

REPEAT CHORUS

When I die please bury me,
In my mild white stetson hat.
With a 5 dollar gold piece on my watch chain,
Just to show that I died standing fast.

REPEAT CHORUS

Six poker dealers or pall bearers,
Better all sing my funeral song,
With a red hot band, just a-beatin' it out,
Raising hell as we rode along.

REPEAT CHORUS

Well maybe I'll be drowned in the ocean,
Or get killed by a cannon ball.
Let me tell you buddy,
A woman was the cause of it all.

REPEAT CHORUS

Hope this helps you. I am still confused as to where my brother would have heard it. I miss him so much, he died of a brain haemorrage aged 42. This was 31 years ago. I still miss him so much, but my memory of his singing is so vivid I can still hear him.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Stringsinger
Date: 09 Aug 09 - 03:04 PM

The melody of Saint James Infirmary Blues is a pop song of the twenties called,
"When It's Chitlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Stewie
Date: 09 Aug 09 - 08:02 PM

This article is worth a read:

From the Gambit website: gambitweekly.com
POSTED ON JUNE 14, 2005:

Name That Tune

In an excerpt from Letters From New Orleans, writer Rob Walker charts the course of "St. James Infirmary" from Dublin, Ireland, to Rampart Street.

By Rob Walker

This entry requires a short preamble. The story begins in November 1998, before E and I had even moved to New Orleans. And it is not over yet. The easiest thing to say is it is a story about a song, "St. James Infirmary." Like most of the other stories in this book, it was sent out by email to people who had signed up for The Letter From New Orleans, and it was posted on my web site. (Editor's note: see sidebar, "Man of Letters.") Unlike the other stories, it included a plea for feedback and help; you could call it a mild attempt at "viral reporting." Of course I wasn't sure how productive it would be, since I was not researching a new trend or a nascent technology, but a rather old bit of music. In practice, my experiment did not travel the web as quickly as, say, a scatological Flash joke, but it did yield some interesting results. Even months after the fact, fellow "St. James" obsessives were stumbling upon the link and sending me their thoughts and suggestions, and even fresh facts, some of which have been worked in below (although 95% of what follows is the original June 2003 version of the story). Amusingly, one of the best tips I got turned out to be from someone who lived near my New Orleans neighborhood. There's the power of the Internet for you. In any case, when I say that the story is still not complete, I mean it: If you have something to add, I'm at walker@robwalker.net, and anxious to hear it.
So: November 1998. We were visiting the city with a bunch of friends, sharing a house in Gentilly for Thanksgiving. One night some of us went to Donna's, in the Quarter, where the Hot Eight was playing. They did a version of "St. James Infirmary." I had heard "St. James Infirmary" a number of times, and liked it quite a bit. But this was the first time I'd really thought about the curious lyrics.

The leader of the Hot Eight was a wild young trumpet player, alleged age 18, with glasses and big, baggy jeans. He seemed to blow with all his strength, with all his savvy, sometimes letting his left hand dangle and arching his body back and forcing out the notes. I got the impression that the Hot Eight might be an unruly bunch in general, one reason being that we saw them a couple of times and there were never eight of them -- only six or seven showed up at a time.

Anyway, he sang the opening stanza in a rather subdued and mournful tone, which the other players matched. Those lyrics went like this:

I went down to St. James Infirmary,

Saw my baby there.

She was stretched out on a long white table, so sweet,

So cold, so bare.

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,

Wherever she may be,

She can search this whole wide world over,

She ain't never gonna find another man like me.

So I'd heard the lyrics before, but now I was thinking about them. Sad song about a man going to see the corpse of his lover ... . And will she go to heaven or will she go to hell ... . And whatever the answer, she "ain't never gonna find another man like me." Wow. That's something. That's beautiful and wrong at the same time.

The music continued, and the way the Hot Eight did it, they eventually came back around and repeated this opening verse. But now the funeral march pace was gone and it was a wailing dance, a celebration, an affirmation -- body arched back, left hand dangling, forcing out those notes -- she ain't never gonna find another man like me.

SO THAT STUCK WITH ME. After I moved here, and was in a position to hear a lot of the local standards in a variety of settings -- outdoor festivals, small clubs, parades, jazz funerals -- "St. James Infirmary" became my favorite. I got mildly curious about it one day. I knew there was a very famous Louis Armstrong recording, which I happened to have on some best-of CD reissue. The notes there said it was recorded on December 12, 1928, in Chicago, and listed the writer as J. Primrose. Armstrong did the lyrics pretty much as the Hot Eight were doing them 70 years later. Now I paid more attention to the next verse, which (in Armstrong's rendition) goes:

When I die, I want you to dress me in straight-laced shoes

Box-back coat and a Stetson hat

Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain,

So the boys will know that I died standin' pat.

I liked that, too. It was odd that the singer would abruptly start addressing his own funeral arrangements while looking at his lover's body, but I found it charming somehow. I'm not saying I admire the narrator, who seems overly pleased with himself and dishonest besides. But I do admire something in his matter-of-fact, fearless taunting of the fates. That just seems very New Orleans to me.

I WAS PLEASED TO DISCOVER THAT SARAH VOWELL, whose work on This American Life I have enjoyed, had written about "St. James Infirmary," in an October 6, 1999, piece for Salon.com. I've since found that some of the specifics in that article are off, but she is certainly right in identifying the source of the song's curious pull in that jarring moment when the singer turns away from the horror of death and abruptly starts bragging about his own superiority to all men in this world or any other.

Vowell's take is that the shift "doesn't make any sense unless you take into account the selfish way the living regard the dead. ... [T]he narrator of this song is curiously so stuck up that he feels sorry for his loved one, not because she won't be doing any more breathing, but because she just lost the grace of his presence. It's so petty. And so human." Not only that, the song also "shoots down the idea of love as a true possibility. If you need love in part to know you'll be missed when you're gone, what does it mean if your sweetheart stands over your icy corpse and -- instead of wishing to rejoin you on some astral plane -- fantasizes about impressing his buddies with a big dumb coin?"

Well, okay, that's intriguing, but also a little harsh, and it's not how I see things. And I couldn't stop thinking about the song. What did it mean? Where did it come from? I began to concoct theories that would perhaps redeem the singer. My most clever interpretation, I think, was that perhaps the singer had killed his lover in a jealous rage. Perhaps she'd been cheating on him, and he caught her in the act. That would explain both his strange insistence on informing her corpse that he's the best man she'll ever have, and also his preoccupation with his own death, perhaps by execution.

Anyway, fast forward a few months and I own several dozen versions of "St. James Infirmary," which is a fair indication of the intensity that my interest in the song would eventually reach. I have renditions by Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, the Hall Johnson Negro Choir, Red Garland, Harry Connick, Jr., The Animals, Bobby "Blue" Bland, The Ventures, The White Stripes, and Marc Ribot. As Vowell notes, the song is sometimes listed as traditional, but is more often attributed to Joe Primrose or to Irving Mills, "an associate of Duke Ellington."

Actually Joe Primrose is Irving Mills. I eventually confirmed this with EMI Music, the song's publisher. According to EMI, Mills, using the pseudonym Joe Primrose, took the copyright on the song in 1929. This seemed odd, if it's right that the Armstrong recording was actually made in late 1928. A knowledgeable reader has suggested that Mills probably published the song in 1928 and deposited the copyright the following year; publishers, my correspondent added, often sent artists advance copies of their tunes.

A lot has been written about (and by) Louis Armstrong, and I certainly have not read it all, but I have looked through many books for clues to how he might have come to record this particular number. I've found nothing solid. I was reading through a book called Storyville, New Orleans by Al Rose, in particular a passage about the corner of Bienville and Marais streets. (This corner no longer exists; there's a housing project where Storyville used to be.) Jelly Roll Morton hung out at one of the bars on that corner, and across the street stood St. James Methodist Church. "According to a common legend," Rose writes, "the church offered first-aid services and modest hospital facilities and thus became the inspiration for the widely performed St. James Infirmary Blues."

Ah!

But no. The next line: "Unfortunately, this colorful and imaginative legend is not true; indeed, the song has no connection with New Orleans." After this crushing sentence, Rose moves on to his next topic, without a footnote or a backward glance. But I now have a pretty good idea what he meant, because this particular story really begins, at the very latest, in 1790.

"ST. JAMES INFIRMARY," IT TURNS OUT, is an offshoot of an extraordinary song cycle that is the subject of a 1960 Folkways Records release called The Unfortunate Rake: A Study in the Evolution of a Ballad, containing 20 songs and extensive notes by Kenneth S. Goldstein. I have, needless to say, purchased this item. Goldstein writes that the oldest published text from the "Rake" cycle was "collected" in 1848 in County Cork, Ireland, "from a singer who had learned it in Dublin in 1790." The song may have been "in tradition" for years prior to that, but it's obviously impossible to say. (He also notes that St. James Hospital was in London, and treated lepers.)

The disc includes one recording based on lyrics printed on a 19th century broadside. The singer recounts "a-walking down by St. James Hospital" one day and running into a friend, who was "wrapped up in flannel," despite the warm weather. The friend blames his troubled health on "a handsome young woman." It seems that he knew this woman rather well, but there was something she didn't tell him, and if only she had, "I might have got the pills and salts of white mercury." This refers to a treatment for venereal disease. "Now I'm cut down in the height of my prime," the unfortunate rake explains, proceeding to make requests relating to his funeral ("Get six of your soldiers to carry my coffin, six young girls to sing me a song ...").

The next several tunes on the disc are variations on this story, with the lyrics rearranged in various ways. One difference is that most are explicit that the young man is a soldier or sailor, and none are anywhere near so explicit about what exactly his problem is. In fact they're all extremely vague -- it's just a young man who is "cut down in his prime" for reasons that aren't clear. Sometimes, as in "Bad Girl's Lament," the ballad is about the woman, but basically follows the same pattern (an early mention of St. James' Hospital, a closing request for "Six pretty maidens with a bunch of red roses, six pretty maidens to sing me a song ..."). You won't find many of these exact same words in the most typically played version of "St. James Infirmary" today, but this at least is a back story that makes some of the latter's sentiments perfectly logical: The singer makes a jealousy-tinged boast and turns quickly to thoughts of his own death because his "baby" just died of VD. Dig?

THE BALLAD TRAVELED THE WORLD. There is a black West Indian version from the 19th century. And there's one from Kentucky (dated to 1915) that seems to have been adapted to refer to a specific local scandal involving a former policeman caught up in a brothel-based slaying that led to his own execution. Another version of the ballad traveled west with pioneers as "The Cowboy's Lament." It's basically the same story again, but the linen-wrapped fellow is a cowboy found on a Laredo street. ("Get sixteen cowboys to carry my coffin; get sixteen pretty ladies to bear up my pall ..."). Sometimes the request is for a bunch of gamblers to carry the coffin.

Alan Lomax appears on the Folkways disc -- singing. He contributes a "Negro version" of the ballad that he and his father collected in 1934 from a prisoner in Sugar Land, Texas. It's called "St. James Hospital." Here it's worth noting that up to this point on the disc, none of the versions has the melody of the modern "St. James Infirmary." (It's also worth noting that Lomax is not much of a singer.) Instead they use the melody closer to the one we know today as "Streets of Laredo," which has been recorded by Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Arlo Guthrie, and many others. The "Rake" cycle splits in two directions, one leading to Laredo, the other to the St. James Infirmary. In Goldstein's notes, Lomax is quoted saying this version "provides the link between the folk ballad and the pop tune" -- between "The Unfortunate Rake" and "St. James Infirmary."

The actual recording of the prisoner (James "Ironhead" Baker) singing "St. James Hospital" appears on a Rounder CD of material collected by Lomax and his father John A. Lomax called Black Texicans. This is an interesting set, exploring and documenting black variations on and contributions to the cowboy ballad form. (The Lomaxes seem to have been particularly interested in prisoners who'd had little contact with the outside world, and thus with popular recordings and recent musical trends and so forth, for decades.) Oddly, despite the title, the words "St. James hospital" appear in Lomax's rendition, but not in Baker's. The melody may not be quite the same as the "Rake" melody, but despite what Lomax implies, it's hardly identical to "St. James Infirmary," which of course had been recorded by Armstrong about five years before "Ironhead" Baker's performance in Sugar Land.

THIS RAISED MORE QUESTIONS, and trying to answer them has been an interesting, if ultimately frustrating, process. We live in a moment of very intense documentation. Every cultural event -- hell, every wedding -- is captured on video, in photographs, written up in web logs and emails. The historians of the future will have an embarrassment of riches to work with, no matter how trivial their inquiries may be. And I sometimes wonder if they'll have much left to inquire about, given how few secrets are left in our real-time culture. It's startling to look back less than 100 years in search of answers, only to confront the alien idea of the unknowable.

We know that Irving Mills was born in New York, the son of immigrants from Odessa, Russia. As young men, he and his brother Jack worked as "song pluggers" (promoters), and in about 1920 they set up their own music-publishing firm, Mills Music. At the time, such firms made money by selling sheet music. Live performances and even recordings were basically seen as a way of promoting such sales. Jazz was commercially popular; Mills Music also sold novelty rags and blues. They would buy songs from musician-writers for a flat fee, and own them outright. They once bought all rights to 21 Fats Waller songs for $500.

The forward-looking Irving did a pretty good job getting involved with new technologies like radio, and was apparently a pioneer in sending free recordings to publications to garner publicity. (Recording sales overtook sheet music in the mid 1930s.) He also started working as an agent, most famously for Duke Ellington, under an arrangement that allowed him to take partial writing credit on dozens of early Ellington tunes, many of which he probably did not contribute to at all. For this reason, Mills is generally recalled as a bit of a scoundrel; just about every time I've read some passing mention of him in liner notes or jazz books, it's dismissive at best. There's so much more to say about Mills, but seeing as how he had little to do with New Orleans, I'll get to the point.

The point is this. In 1927, the poet Carl Sandburg published a book called American Songbag, a collection of 280 songs (music and lyrics and very short explanatory introductions) from "all regions of America." About 100 of these he describes as "strictly folk songs," never before published. "Though meant to be sung, [the book] can be read as a glorious anthology of the songs that men have sung in the making of America." One of the songs is called "Those Gambler's Blues." Two sets of lyrics are given for the melody, one collected from someone at the University of Alabama, the other given by two sources, one in Los Angeles and one in Fort Worth. There's no mention of a composer, which rather strongly implies that this is one of the folk songs with no known author, which these days we would see credited to "Traditional." The lyrics contain much of what we hear as "St. James Infirmary" today; the melody (I confirmed with a friend who reads music) is basically the same.

Again it's worth noting how the world has changed. Can you imagine someone today getting away with taking credit for writing a song that had actually been published in a collection -- one compiled by a famous poet -- two years earlier? Anyway, I don't know where Irving Mills heard the tune. I don't know why he used the name Joe Primrose in claiming it, as he never seems to have used that pseudonym again. I can tell you that the Harlem Hot Chocolates recorded a version in New York in March 1930, with a singer identified as Sunny Smith. This was actually Duke Ellington's band, with Mills, under another pseudonym, on vocals. He's not a great singer, but he's better than Alan Lomax.

The only recording I've been able to find that pre-dates Armstrong's is a performance by Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra, made February 25, 1927, in New York City. On the CD version, the song is listed as "Gambler's Blues," and, maddeningly, the writer credit is "Moore-Baxter." Reader and fellow "St. James" obsessive Robert W. Harwood, in his cool self-published book A Rake's Progress, explains that drummer Carl "Squeakin' Deacon" Moore and bandleader Phil Baxter essentially gave a lightly comic spin to the traditional tune. Even more maddeningly, I also came across a single stray reference to Don Redman as the song's writer. Jorma Kaukonen (formerly of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna) covered the song not long ago and credited it to Jimmie Rodgers, who cut a version under the title "Those Gambler's Blues" in 1930. I don't know what to make of these outliers. Maybe they are just mistakes.

The jazz reference books I've seen that address the question of the song's authorship tend to offer no specific name, but say that it dates back to 1910, or maybe the late 1890s, etc. In other words, they don't help. Maybe the most definitive thing we can assert is that somebody who was at least partly inspired by "The Unfortunate Rake" laid down the blueprint for the song we now know as "St. James Infirmary" sometime prior to 1927, and that in 1929, "Joe Primrose" was granted the copyright.

NOW, I'M GENERALLY SKEPTICAL OF MUSIC writing that focuses on analyzing lyrics, and I deplore attempts to treat lyrics like poetry. However, I am obviously very interested in that one lyrical passage -- the one in which the singer suddenly shifts from lamenting his lover's death to bragging that: "She can search this whole wide world over; she ain't never gonna find another man like me."

There's a lot of tweaking and futzing and rearranging of lyrics in various recorded versions of "St. James Infirmary" that I've heard. In the "Rake" songs the singer was a third-party narrator, relating a tale he heard from the stricken man himself. The oldest "Rake" songs downplay the woman, who is merely an undifferentiated "flash girl," not the unfortunate protagonist's true love.

This is even true of "Gambler's Blues." In the most prevalent version, the narrator is in a bar and hears the tale of woe from Big Joe McKennedy (or something similar), who is just back from having visited his lover's corpse at the St. James Infirmary. (This is how Eric Burden did it, old school blues poseur that he is, in what I have to admit would be a great rendition if not for the backup singers going "oh-ooh-whoa" over and over.) But this scene of gazing at the woman's lifeless body is an addition to the storyline of the "Rake" songs, and suggests that the deceased was, in fact, the singer's true love, or at least main squeeze, not just an ill-advised fling.

Occasionally, the woman is immaterial or even eliminated. Dr. John reworked "St. James Infirmary" into "Touro Infirmary," a lament for the death of his hard-living "runnin' partner," who had requested "the finest whores on Bourbon Street" and Professor Longhair for his funeral, before he ended up dead on arrival at Touro (a real New Orleans hospital). One of the most extraordinary variations is Blind Willie McTell's "The Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues." McTell had done some recording -- and like Mills was fond of pseudonyms, from Pig 'n' Whistle Red to Barrelhouse Sammy -- but was reduced to singing in the street when an Atlanta recording shop owner came upon him in 1956 and made what turned out to be the last recordings of a gifted bluesman. At one point McTell sets up his next number by saying he started writing it in 1929 and finished it in 1932. It concerns a gambler friend named Jesse Williams, who was shot in the street, taken home by McTell, and as he died proceeded to give McTell a number of funeral-related requests -- 16 crapshooter pallbearers, 16 bootlegers to sing him a song, and so on (plus a pair of dice in his shoes, a deck of cards as his tombstone, and a wish for "everybody to do the Charleston while he's dyin'"). The fact that Williams' woman had left him is a mere aside; the song has him killed by police for unspecified reasons. Williams, McTell relates, asked him to sing about all this at the funeral itself. "That I did," McTell asserts. "See, I had to steal music from every which a-way to get it, get it to fit." (Bob Dylan later wrote a song called "Blind Willie McTell," and an extensive deconstruction of that tune by Michael Gray in Song & Dance Man III is how I came to McTell and then to "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues." Dylan's song, too, includes echoes from the "Rake," and ends, "I am gazing out the window of the St. James Hotel, and I know no one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.")

Most of the more modern jazz versions (Armstrong forward) omit this narrative device and make it a first-person story. That passage I'm so obsessed with does not appear in the old English "Rake" songs, nor is it in either version of the lyrics provided by Sandburg, or in McTell's version. In one of the sets of lyrics that Sandburg offers, the line is replaced with, "There'll never be another like her; there'll never be another for me." This is the way the Hall Johnson Negro Choir did it in December 1931, and it's also the reading that Bobby Bland went with decades later. It's certainly a more traditional and less jarring sentiment. And it's much less interesting.

The line is omitted from Fess Williams' 1927 take, which skips straight from the image of the dead woman to the narrator discussing his own funeral. The version that Mills (as Sunny Smith) sang in 1930 basically has it both ways: After seeing his baby on that long white table, he first "wish[es] it was me instead," and then throws in the "search this whole world over" verse right afterward. Another version that Mills was involved with, recorded by Mills Merry Makers in January 1930, has Charlie Teagarden (younger brother of Jack) on vocals, and delivers a take that works so hard to get the verb tense right that it sounds like a grammar teacher delivered it: "She could have looked this wide world all over, she'd never have found a sweet man like me." (Emphasis added.) It's actually a nicely done vocal, but that reading of the line is ridiculous, and completely misses the mysticism and the nastiness of the eternal vengeance implied by saying that even in the afterlife she'll never find such a man. It also waters down the sense that the singer is affirming his own life with a certain proud desperation. Which to me is the whole point.

IN NEW ORLEANS, THE LYRICS ARE pretty much always performed the way Armstrong did them. The most recent recorded version I know of is on 2002's The Marsalis Family, with patriarch Ellis and all four of his musician sons. Harry Connick sings -- and uses the lyrics that Armstrong did.

How did the song come to Mills' attention? Did he hear a recording? A live performance somewhere? Where did Armstrong pick it up? Was it being played in New Orleans when he was growing up, hanging around Storyville? Who added that key lyrical phrase, "She'll never find another man like me"?

I don't know, I don't know. Maybe I never will. That Bob Dylan book I mentioned earlier led me, through its footnotes, to a 1975 book called The Electric Muse: The Story of Folk Into Rock. One section, by a writer named Karl Dallas, deals with "St. James Infirmary" and "The Unfortunate Rake," and marvels at how "the soldier dying of syphilis in eighteenth century London crosses oceans, changes sex, becomes a cowboy dying of gunshot wounds on the streets of Laredo, coming to rest finally in New Orleans as the black hero of ...''St. James Infirmary.'" Putting aside Dallas' unflinching association of the song with New Orleans, which obviously pleases me, I was interested in his point that the common bond is the dying protagonist in one way or another calling the shots of his own funeral. The requests, by and large, are not modest, despite the fact that in pretty much every case that protagonist admits that his pending death is the result of his own bad behavior (whether a single aberration or a lifetime of sin). "Though the identity of the hero and the cause of death changes, one thing remains -- the triumphant laugh in the face of death." I actually think that overstates things for the earlier "Rake" versions, but it's right on target for "St. James Infirmary" as the Hot Eight performed it that night in 1998 -- both in the specific words chosen, the way those words were sung, and the force of the music that accompanied them.

Since that key line in the Armstrong version does not have a precedent that I am aware of, I can at least pretend that this is the way he had heard it performed in New Orleans, before he left for Chicago in 1922. I have no proof of this at all, of course, but I think it is still too soon to say that the song has "no connection with New Orleans whatever." Because every time I hear some local brass band playing the tune, I always say to myself: "No connection with New Orleans? That just can't be right."

URL for this story: http://bestofneworleans.comhttp://bestofneworleans.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A34686


--Stewie.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 10 Aug 09 - 08:01 PM

What a classic example of how the songs we think of as "uniquely American" have their roots in earlier Irish, Scottish or English traditional music. I remember learning "St. James Infirmary" as a 16-year-old kid and thinking it was just a classic New Orleans blues - period. The influence of black musicians, local language and a blues structure morphed it into the "American" song it became.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Richie
Date: 21 Aug 09 - 04:20 PM

Hi,

I was wondering if this sheet music would be one of the earliest versions of sheetmusic for "St. James Infirmary." Dated 1902. Key G major.


http://books.google.com/books?id=ORU6AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA72&dq=%22She%27s+Gone,+Let+Her+Go%22&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html

Richie


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Joe_F
Date: 21 Aug 09 - 08:45 PM

In that one, at any rate, she's not dead.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: quokka
Date: 11 Oct 09 - 04:04 AM

Here, Peace, re-reading this thread should give you time to clean up that keyboard and finish your coffee ;-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Oct 09 - 08:22 AM

Both "Bard of Armagh" and "Streets of Laredo" got their tune from the same source - "The Banks of the Devon", whose melody was collected by Burns near Inverness (the singer's words were a Gaelic Jacobite song on the '45 rebellion by Alasdair MacMaighstear Alasdair). Burns's song (with words that nothing to do with the Gaelic original) was an enormous hit all over the English-speaking world. As a result the tune was still being suggested for broadside songs decades later.

Since Campbell came from the west of Scotland, was educated there and in Edinburgh, and had never been to Ireland when he wrote "Bard of Armagh", it's fairly obvious where he got the tune from.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 11 Oct 09 - 01:22 PM

Some people struggle too hard to make logical narrative sense out of "lyrical" lyrics. And/or fixate in a futile way on a line or phrase that may just be a fluke - a misremembering or mispronunciation of the original, a whole verse pulled in unthinkingly from another song, an undigested blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese.

Having said that ... I first heard Earl Hines' heartfelt rendition of SJI as a teenager, and, ever since, I've been satisfied to understand the "Let her go" verse as a kind of passing, not clearly-defined, fantasy - the speaker imagining the soul of his dead lover wandering the world, but in the end, returning to her one true love (him!) - or, if not returning, at least somehow realizing that she could not be happy alive or dead with anyone else. If that's braggadoccio, it's of a very familiar kind: no one loves you as much as I do; we were meant for each other, etc. And it seems to be natural to fantasize about what the dear departed are up to: read any obituary column (or thread).

As for the "When I die" verse - it is common, if not universal, to contemplate one's own mortality upon the death of a loved one. Even to start thinking about one's own funeral arrangements. In this instance, it might not be too much of a stretch to suppose that the speaker feels he has nothing left to live for, now that his "baby" is gone, and that a showy funeral is all he has to look forward to. Again, nothing unusual in such sentiments.

So, the only narrative we get out of all this is: a guy has just seen the corpse of his lover; he tries to accept her death and "move on", but still acknowledges a strong connection with her; he contemplates his own mortality, perhaps feeling little desire to live, and tries to come to terms with his despair and eventual death by imagining an impressive funeral.

Not sure why anyone would want to bring murder, syphilis, or even brutally egocentric emotion into it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Tootler
Date: 11 Oct 09 - 04:28 PM

Not sure why anyone would want to bring murder, syphilis, or even brutally egocentric emotion into it.

Because the song from which this was derived, The Unfortunate Rake, was about a young man who died from venereal disease, most likely syphilis.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 11 Oct 09 - 05:22 PM

Well, yeah, but the song had come a long way from the original. You might as well decide that his baby was wrapped up in white linen, even though there's no suggestion of it in SJI, or that he wanted the fifes playing lowly, but had forgotten to mention it.

Or that the dying cowboy who had been "gunned down" had been dying of syphilis anyway, and someone in the bar had told a joke about a syphilitic, and that enraged him, and he had pulled his gun, and, and .....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Tootler
Date: 11 Oct 09 - 06:06 PM

Alright I take your point about the cowboy being gunned down rather than dying of the pox, but all the derivatives of the Unfortunate Rake refer to someone dying an untimely death.

If you look at the lyrics of St James Infirmary in the DT, there is reference to bars, gambling and chorus girls. So although it is not explicit, it is implicit from the context of the song that the dead girl has died an unnatural death so syphilis or violence are not unreasonable assumptions.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 11 Oct 09 - 07:25 PM

The "unnatural death" (are syphilis and violence "unnatural"?) is only implicit if the song is considered within the context of an academic study of its "song family". Looking at SJI on its own, there is no suggestion whatever of syphilis or violence within it. The gal could have died of TB or in a car accident - it is really immaterial. If they felt the cause important, the singers who passed down and/or altered SJI would have included at least some hint of it - I don't think they would have assumed their audiences were familiar enough with The Unfortunate Rake tradition as to take the song as a warning of the dangers of bad girls and the pox.

I don't think the references to bars, gambling, and chorus girls have to suggest violence and disease, either. They could just suggest good times.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Oct 09 - 07:52 PM

I agree, meself, but some people like to complicate "Streets of Laredo" or "St. James Infirmary" with stuff from earlier songs that used the same or similar tune. I have done it myself.

Whether Bhanarach dhonn a'chruidh (sp?) or Hill of Lochiel (can't fit that one to the words) is the original tune, or just similar, I dunno.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Tootler
Date: 12 Oct 09 - 06:50 PM

I don't think the references to bars, gambling, and chorus girls have to suggest violence and disease, either. They could just suggest good times.

Shall we just agree to differ?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 12 Oct 09 - 07:28 PM

No - pistols at dawn! (And I would suggest that you have some white linen ready).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Tootler
Date: 13 Oct 09 - 05:09 PM

OK and I'll make sure you have a nice cold, white slab to lie on. Specially specified for your comfort.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 13 Oct 09 - 05:49 PM

If things should indeed go that way, all I ask is six crap-shooters to bear my pall, a chorus girl to - well, you know the drill -


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Tootler
Date: 14 Oct 09 - 06:23 PM

Would you like them to play the [mouth] harp slowly?

Doesn't have quite the same ring does it!?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Oct 09 - 10:18 PM

Why not go all the way and play the tuba slowly?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Nov 09 - 09:15 PM

I had assumed Saint James Infirmary was a place in New Orleans and got interested in the song when I found out it wasn't.

But here is my question (which has nothing to do with the jazz versions of St James Infirmary): Some posts here note that there was once a Saint James Hospital was a leper hospital on the site of Saint James Palace in London and state that that is the hospital in the original Rake song. But that would mean the original Rake song goes back to the 14-1500s, before St James Palace was built on the hospital site. Is there any evidence any place that the song is that old?

If not, could it be that the scholars who associate the Rake song with that particular hospital are wrong, and that the song refers to another St James Hospital (someone mentioned there was one in Liverpool)?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 22 Nov 09 - 01:15 AM

I posted this not long since on another thread [it was indeed what made Peace cough his coffee all over his keyboard as ref'd above by Quokka 14 threads back] - but venture to repeat it here as at least equally relevant but doesn't seem to have been mentioned thruout this thread:-

Streets of Laredo, [& also its variant Lee Tharin's Barroom sung so inimitably by Hedy West]: all part of the huge Unfortunate Rake/Young Man·Girl Cut Down In Prime/St James Hospital·Infirmary family of songs; which have the charming, & almost universal, attribute of the demand for the Funeral With Full Military Honours* even where not the least appropriate, as with gamblers-girls-cowboys ? tho why, right from the start when it often was a Young Soldier/Sailor, he should have thought that dying of the pox warranted such a display of Military Glory has never been quite clear to me.

*or anyhow a variant thereof in form of high·crown·stetson·hats, gold·dollar·pieces·on·watchchains & so forth...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Nov 09 - 04:37 PM

This song always reminds me a bit of my favorite early Moon Mullican song "lay me down beside my darling".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Robert Harwood
Date: 25 Dec 09 - 04:14 PM

I think your brother got that song from sheet music published about 1930, from Denton and Haskins. I shall make an entry at http://iwentdowntostjamesinfirmary.blogspot.com/ in the next day or two, to give you more specific info about that. Hope it's okay if I mention your note on Mudcat.

All the best!
Bob


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,wildroses
Date: 31 Jan 10 - 07:49 PM

I have Gale Garnett singing St. James on her "Well Sing in the Sunshine" album and there is a stanza:

Give me a six gambles of tall pall bearers
Give me a corkscrew to sing me a song
Give me a jazz man on my haunts a wagon
Please pray as we go along

Anyone familiar?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Gulliver
Date: 31 Jan 10 - 09:47 PM

Should have stuck to "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" - at least that's in English.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: mousethief
Date: 31 Jan 10 - 11:07 PM

I always figured "let her go" was spoken to himself, meaning, don't try to hang on to her mentally / emotionally.

Some absolutely stellar scholarship here. Makes the song that much more intriguing and wonderful.

And ditto on the Danny Barker version.

O..O
=o=


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: quokka
Date: 01 Feb 10 - 12:13 AM

just spent FAR too long looking at various versions of this on Youtube... louis armstrong, cab calloway,lou rawls, eric clapton & dr john, arlo guthrie, the white stripes...some better than others. The award for best version I have heard today goes to Harry Connick Jr. Hands down. I was blown away. Lou Rawls is pretty good too.
Lou Rawls version


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: quokka
Date: 01 Feb 10 - 12:22 AM

Harry Connick Jr and Lucien Barbarin


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: olddude
Date: 01 Feb 10 - 11:28 AM

I have a version I did such as it is
kicked it up a notch

olddude


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Joe_F
Date: 01 Feb 10 - 06:04 PM

Mousethief: An introspective "Let her go" does not consort well with "She may search this whole wide world over". In the rest of the song, in any case, she is *dead*. I still guess that that stanza belongs properly to some other song.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: mousethief
Date: 01 Feb 10 - 06:06 PM

I think it goes quite well with "God bless her." If anything else it seems the "search the world over" part is an import -- it makes no sense at all of a dead person.

O..O
=o=


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 01 Feb 10 - 10:25 PM

I'm with mousethief on this one: "Let her go, and God bless her" is just the sort of thought someone might have in trying to deal with the death of a loved one. And as I've said above, I take the "search" as a kind of whimsical if melancholy fantasy - which is not to say that that business has not been 'imported' from another song, but that those who passed that import along understood it in something of the way I suggest.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 05:45 PM

Re GUEST 21.11.09
If Malcolm was here he would settle this one. He may have already done so on one of the other threads. The link with St James' anything appears to be a later addition if it occurs at all in any versions in Britain earlier than 1900. 'The Buck's Elegy', the earliest broadside cmid18thc is set in Covent Garden. The earliest mention of a hospital is on early 19thc broadsides and it's 'The Lock Hospital' est 1746 at Hyde Park Corner for the treatment of venereal diseases. After that the term 'Lock Hospital' became generic for these sorts of hospitals.

Later broadsides mention 'The Royal Albion' which is probably a corruption of 'Royal Albert' the Royal Albert Dock in London opening in 1880. But there are various 'Royal Albion' Hotels notably in Brighton.

In The Buck's Elegy the narrator is lamenting the death of his comrade and wishing he'd taken some form of remedy (pills of white mercury) as he has obviously been with the same girls and realises he's next for the chop.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Joe_F
Date: 07 May 10 - 05:30 PM

I can't argue with that! %^)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 07 May 10 - 09:56 PM

Come on, give it a try - you're not a true Mudcatter unless you argue about anything ....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Leadfingers
Date: 07 May 10 - 10:59 PM

Too Many accents to be a real language !!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Leadfingers
Date: 07 May 10 - 11:00 PM

So 100


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Leadfingers
Date: 08 May 10 - 06:27 AM

Ooops ! This IS 100 'cos of a deletion


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,marc lelangue
Date: 28 Sep 10 - 11:09 AM

This has nothing to do with the history of the song, but I'm surprised Josh White's beautiful version is not mentionned (though I've "scanned" some passages more than actually "reading" them).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: pavane
Date: 28 Sep 10 - 11:46 AM

There doesn't seem to be any reference here to yet another title, "The Unfortunate Lad", so I thought I would add it for completeness. There are several copies in the Bodley collection - these all refer to Lock Hospital, which was an early VD hospital in London.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 08:00 PM

Is it possible that this song is originally just a lament for a life spent having random one-night stands, not attached to a specific place, and became attached to various different locations in the British Isles before it came to America?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Frankieboy
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 06:04 PM

There used to be a guy on here quite a bit that had a great version of it. Jayto is what he went by and I haven't seen him on here in a while. He had a really good version. Does anybody know where I could find his version of it? I have looked but I am having a hard time locating it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 07:30 PM

With the possible exception of the tune, the UK and American songs are unrelated.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: olddude
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 07:38 PM

Frankie
I will see if I can find JT's version. Here is mine if you want it, free to download

http://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=8912856


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: St. James Infirmary (again)
From: Tootler
Date: 07 May 11 - 08:31 PM

On the 3 CD set "Anglo International" St James Infirmary sung to an accompaniment on anglo concertina features on one track.

It inspired me to have a go myself, so here is my effort.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMRoinEH3Lw


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,curious
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 10:03 AM

I first came across the song SJI in Germany - a German beardy jazz/blues band had it on their LP. That was in 1981, and the LP was a few years old at that time. If anyone knows who the band were/what the album was called - let me know: catsanddogsand8@hotmail.com - I'd love to hear it again. (I had recently worked in St James Hospital in Dublin and was broken-hearted at the time, which is why I loved it so much.) The words as I recall them:

I went down to St James Infirmary.
to see my baby there
lying on a cold white table.
So sweet, so cold, so fair.

"hey hey What's my baby's chances?"
I asked old Doctor Sharp.
"Boy, by six o' clock this evenin'
She'll be playin' her golden harp".

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,
Wherever she may be,
She can hunt this wide world over,
But she'll never find a man like me.

I may be drowned in the ocean,
May be killed by the cannonball,
But boy one thing I can tell you,
A woman was the cause of it all.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,testpattern
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 03:15 AM

I do believe that Louis and the rest of the New Orleans interpreters of this song asked to be buried in a "box-back coat," a cut that was popular among the sporting gentlemen of the District back in the day (see Danny Barker, Baby Dodds, Jelly Roll, etc.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Joe_F
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 08:51 PM

testpattern: I've always heard it that way. Box-back coat & Stetson hat.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 13 Aug 12 - 04:02 PM

As long as we're touting our favourite renditions, allow me to recommend Hugh Laurie's from "Let them Talk". I think the whole disc is really excellent.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Aug 12 - 04:56 PM

See thread "Hugh Laurie, Down by the River."

Lots of love-hate Laurie in that thread.
Hugh Laurie


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Janie
Date: 05 Sep 16 - 11:07 PM

The Smithsonian Folkways album, "The Unfortunate Rake", mentioned early in the thread as having recordings of many variants, is now available on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=The+Unfortunate+Rake+Smithsonian+Folkways+Recordings


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 17 Oct 17 - 09:12 AM

Somebody comments that the 'let her go' verse seems like an add-on.

Robert Harwood has traced it to a song in a Harvard University song book, which exists in various versions.

It has been interpreted as stating that the singer is an arrogant pimp, on the basis that 'sweet man' was slang for pimp, but this is cited as a Caribbean usage, so I don't know if it was also a USA usage.

Robert Harwood's book is wonderful


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 17 Oct 17 - 09:31 AM

Way back in this thread the Folkways LP 'The Unfortunate Rake' was cited as a source of information on this song.

My own thoughts on this are now as follows: why would people assume that the liner notes on an LP are accurate and helpful?

Specifically, having obsessively researched this, I am certain that the Unfortunate Rake Song Lloyd sings on this LP is a composite invented by Lloyd himself. He sang this song both as St James' Hospital and as The Unfortunate Rake. Regarding the lyrics: these are identical except that in one version he uses a last verse of a song called My Jewel My Joy, which as far as I can see has no proved connection whatsoever. The idea that it has such a connection was first put forward by somebody called Phillips Barry in the early 20th century, and then people like Goldstein and Lloyd repeated what Barry had said in a chain reaction without examining the claim critically.


The liner notes imply that Lloyd is singing the words from an old 19th century broadside, but he is not. He has taken the verse about mercury from a broadside almost verbatim. In fact this verse crops up in several broadsides.

What you will not find in any UK broadside is the words 'St James' Hospital'. If they had bothered to read the A L Lloyd article cited on the liner they would have found out that Lloyd got these words from the Appalachians via Cecil Sharp. Lloyd then jumped to the conclusion (or pretended to) that the lady in the Appalachians was singing 'the original' and slipped the words into his own version.

The words 'St James Hospital' were imported into England at the start of the 2Oth century by Cecil Sharp, though that particular song was not published until some years after his death when Maud Karpeles finally issued the two volume collection of English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. The St James Hospital song is in volume two, just to make life difficult.

Following this, an article in the English Folk Song Society magazine which included two English songs collected in the field used the title 'St James Hospital', and did so confusingly, leading people to suppose that the songs quoted had this title, though neither of them used it. From memory I think one was about Bath Hospital, which is in Somerset near where the singer lived.

I do now know whether Goldstein really thought Lloyd was singing lyrics taken straight from an old broadside/broadsheet, but Lloyd was doing no such thing.

Another intellectual sleight of hand/piece of sloppy thinking (not sure which description would be correct) on Lloyd's part is to claim that the tune he liked (and now we are back with My Jewel My Joy) had been found to be sung in the USA. The tune he quotes (in a Sing Magazine article quoted in the liner notes) is not the same as My Jewel My Joy.

So basically Lloyd has chosen a tune nobody has any credible reason to believe was ever used for St James Hospital, and he has created a hybrid song to suit himself, and because of the mistakes/lack of reference checking/peer review on the liner notes, thousands of people falsely believe he was singing an old English version, when the lyrics came from the Appalachians, from a song with different words, and there is no doubt that Lloyd himself knew this very well.

Just to cap it all off, he accuses the Appalachian lady of having a flawed memory (which is not based on Sharp's account which you can find online).

The same LP asserts that St James Infirmary was a medieval leprosy hospital basically shut down when Henry VIII helped himself to the wealth of the monasteries and invented the Church of England. Even if Lloyd had misled Goldstein, I think Goldstein deserves to take the blame for this tenuous claim.

I assume that Goldstein, who had a degree in business, and was, after all, in the business of selling 'authentic looking' folk tunes played on guitars by 20th century characters, was not overly careful about historical accuracy: it would perhaps be the look of the thing, and whether people wanting more of this 'authentic' music would buy more on his label was higher up his agenda.

Sorry to write at length: hope this gives enthusiasts some lines of research.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Oct 17 - 09:52 AM

> Sorry to write at length

Don't apologize. Interesting and important observations.

However, the lone stanza of "My Jewel, My Joy" collected in Ireland by P.W. Joyce in the mid 19th century does strongly resemble words in later versions of the "Rake," including "The Streets of Laredo."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 17 Oct 17 - 11:22 AM

Yes, guest, that is very worthwhile. Why not identify yourself, or join the site under a pseudonym? Seems like you might have a lot to contribute!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Oct 17 - 02:43 PM

> somebody called Phillips Barry in the early 20th century,

Barry (1880 - 1937) was a prominent American folksong collector and scholar.

What made Lloyd so partial to the name "St. James's Hospital"? Because it would make the song sound "medieval"?

One can't defend Lloyd's misleading frequent custom of failing to mention that he'd tinkered with words or tunes. On the other hand, his revised versions and his performance of them are very skillful and seem to retain the spirit of the originals. (Though in one case there seems not to have been an original.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 10:14 AM

Hello Lighter

I do quite like Lloyd's version.

What made Lloyd so partial to the name St James Hospital?

Well we can only guess. It has become part of the mythology about the song created by various mainly US folklorists (Lodewick, Barry, Wayland Hand (or some similar name). It was Lodewick who appears to have first asserted that the name came from St James Hospital, London, a claim for which he gives absolutely no reference/example. This is somewhat typical of those folkloric articles. Lodewick is the source of the Dublin/Cork mistake on Goldstein's liner notes as well.

My thought at the moment is that the jazz hit is crucial to this, the Armstrong St James Infirmary Blues. The specific mention of St James is a persuasive part of the argument that St James Infirmary derives from a British song. And Lloyd was one of those advancing this idea. Lloyd himself only ever pointed to the song Sharp collected in the Appalachians which had the words St James in. He never cited a British Isles version (not surprisingly, because after six months of following back references and searching indexes, I have been unable to find any such thing)

The other point here is that modern listeners would not know what a Lock Hospital was. There is a great deal of tosh online about this in connection with St James and the Rake. My Oxford dictionary gives a definition (venereal disease hospital) and earliest usage (about 1770). If he used the only 19 century version he appeared to have access to (the Such) he would have had to say Lock Hospital. I think the origin of Lock hospital may come from a Greek word meaning to do with childbirth (ie gycaecological) as my dictionary helpfully lists lochia close to lock hospital. This makes sense to me, though of course women could be locked up in these without trial/appeal in the late 19 century when there was a big panic about public health and venereal disease, resulting in contagious disease acts, which you can google if you like. This context for me explains why there were broadsheets: the old song has been described as 'homiletic'.

I am thinking that one thing Lloyd set out to do in his version was sort of sum up what he knew about the song. Then I think he alters the song to fit the assertions he has made about it in his articles.   

The 2nd Lloyd article on the song and the first (the Keynote one and the Sing one) both mention the Such broadside. Lloyd takes two verses out of this, ones that make the venereal disease hints fairly strong.

In his essay be comments on the bravado with which the funeral is ordered: so he alters the last verse to state 'don't muffle your drums' whereas the 19c versions state that the drums should be muffled. My thinking this is to fit his view of what the song was about, to make it more 'cohesive', if you like.

I believe the bit about muskets he made up, and the 'bright muskets' seems definitely to be a bit of Lloyd poetic touch. Muskets were replaced by rifles, and sound olde worlde, so might appeal. The old versions say 'guns'.

I do like Lloyd's version, but having ended up feeling a bit 'conned' when I honestly took it to be a faithful rendering of some 19 century original, which, as far as I can ascertain it isn't.

Thank you for reading.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 10:21 AM

Also, in the thread, somebody says the lock hospital was a hospital in London. There was a lock hospital in London, but the term is generic; lock hospitals were estabished in various places (in the British Isles and round the world) before and then mainly in the second half of the 19th century. Many hospitals would not take patients with infectious diseases, and funds had to be raised via charity for specific provision.

You will find lots of info if you google: here is a link to an article which looks reasonably well researched.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7740/7b24f96500b0be98b8c926324eb1d45ad9a7.pdf


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 12:52 PM

Several good points, Guest. I'm quite prepared to believe that Bert's 'St. James's Hospital' was partly his own invention.

I can't see any UK versions (oral or broadside) that mention, St. James's either, but there are two versions from Nova Scotia and one from Co. Clare (collected by our own Jim Carroll) which do specify it, so it wasn't unknown outside of the Appalachians and New Orleans.

"The specific mention of St James is a persuasive part of the argument that St James Infirmary derives from a British song."

So are the details of the funeral and pall-bearers.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 02:15 PM

John and Alan Lomax collected a remarkable version of "The Cowboy's Lament" from "Iron Head," a sixty-three-year-old African-American convict in the Central State Prison Farm at Sugarland, Texas, in December 1933.

The text in the Lomaxes' "Cowboy Songs" (1938) begins,


It was early one mornin' as I passed St. James Hospital,
It was early one mornin', mornin' month o' May.


In the available recording, however,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiFEd8UckVk

line one is missing. Whether the recording started late, or whether the Lomaxes added line one to regularize the stanza, is impossible to know.

"Iron Head's" version seems almost like a missing link between the broadsides and "The Streets of Laredo."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 05:19 PM

I've just ordered a copy of the Harwood book, possibly for myself but more likely to read and then pass on to a friend whose repertoire includes the SJI Blues. I look forward to reading a closely researched analysis of the mixing and matching of the various elements.

Meanwhile . . .

Whenever I have heard the song I have perceived the same incongruity as discussed by others above, between the girl being dead and the "search the wide world over" line. I find the notion of her spirit in the afterlife searching for another man hard to swallow. I would prefer to regard at least that line, if not the whole of that verse, as having crept in from another song.

As for the song's descent from The Unfortunate Rake; apart from the St James reference, which is now looking somewhat dubious, the only other common element seems to be the requests for the funeral, and the resemblance there is hardly a close one. (But it's no more tenuous that the alleged connection between The Derby Ram and Didn't He Ramble, mentioned way up thread by Greg Stephens and something I remember Tom Paley also quoting when he sang the latter song.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Nov 17 - 07:07 PM

> ended up feeling a bit 'conned'

My feeling as well, Guest.

The change from muffled to unmuffled drums, however, whatever its motivation, is much like the ordinary workings of "tradition."

Ever since I learned that Lloyd wasn't always singing authentic versions straight from the 19th century, listening to him leaves me with mixed feelings.

My loss, of course.

I've always assumed that a "lock hospital" was named simply because its contagious inmates were locked in.

Folk etymology?

I believe I'm unfamiliar with Lodewick.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Nov 17 - 05:39 AM

LOCK HOSPITAL

As in Dominic Behan's
Hand me down me fillin' knife,
Hand me down me stock
Hand me down me fillin knife
I've a big job in The Lock

She was a quare one
Fol the diddle laddy o
She was a quare one
I'll tell you

Old Joe Warren said to me
"This job don't pay a lot,
Go easy on the glasspapaer
And the putty's in the pot

etc
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Nov 17 - 05:56 AM

I once traced the 'St James Hospital' version of this song to St James Palace in London, which was built on the site of a Leper Charity hospital run by nuns by decree for the benefit of a specified number of London's poor
I was left with the conclusion that the link between this and 'The Unfortunate Rake' was pretty convincing
Will try to dig out my notes for it.
TOM LENIHAN'S VERSION with my notes can be accessed here

Dominic's song (above) is gradually coming back to me

Next verse
In the cold, hard wintertime,
We painters bear a cross,
Stuck up like Christ, between two thieves,
The foreman and the boss

You can't beat the old wans, can you?
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Nov 17 - 06:01 AM

Just noticed the typo in the text (not ours)
Should be "lamed" not lained
Jim Cattoll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Nov 17 - 09:48 AM

Richard Mellish wrorte:
"As for the song's descent from The Unfortunate Rake; apart from the St James reference, which is now looking somewhat dubious, the only other common element seems to be the requests for the funeral, and the resemblance there is hardly a close one. (But it's no more tenuous that the alleged connection between The Derby Ram and Didn't He Ramble, mentioned way up thread by Greg Stephens and something I remember Tom Paley also quoting when he sang the latter song.)"

I see a link in both cases (St. James is present in several widespread traditional versions long predating Lloyd, even though apparently not in the UK), but they represent radical rewrites, rather than simple evolution. The history of 'Didn't He Ramble' is pretty well documented (see Randolph's'Unprintable Ozark Folksongs' and previous Mudcat threads); 'Derby Ram' variants with that chorus were popular in the US South (especially with black singers, it seems), and a 1902 rewrite was claimed by James Weldon Johnson in collaboration with one Bob Cole.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Nov 17 - 10:11 AM

The relevant pages from Randolph are free on Google books:

https://books.google.co.uk/books?redir_esc=y&id=rXAE-KbkomsC&q=ramble#v=onepage&

Nice version on Library of Congress site: Didn't He Ramble


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 13 Nov 17 - 08:31 AM

Hello Everbody.

Brian Peters states that there is an Irish version from County Clare which mentions St James, as if this if proof that the words St James had origins this side (ie the European side) of the Atlantic. If this is the case, it would be nice to have a reference and date, as anything post the Armstrong may well have been influenced by it. It may be like the story of the folklorists who went to Africa and found a chap playing blues and said This proves the blues came from Africa but it turned out the chap was a big John Lee Hooker fan and had been learning his stuff.

re Ironhead, this post dates the Armstrong and is likely to have been influenced by a song that was so famous. It does perhaps show how linked the Cowboy's lament and St James were in people's minds even if they were not folklorist 'experts'! That is my view.

Richard Mellish guesses that the search the whole world over may have crept in from another song. I believe Harwood has tracked the song down and mentions it in his book: I think it was in a Harvard songbook early 20th century. Oh, this is discussed higher up in this thread.

Lighter asked about Lodewick. The Folkways liner notes are mentioned above. These have a mini bibliography and a 1955 article by Kenneth Lodewick is one of the references. You can obtain this free of charge online if you register for JSTOR. I have a couple of points about this article:

1) Lodewick has misread or misremembered one of his sources, and states that the fragment My Jewel My Joy was collected in Dublin. The source clearly says Cork. Goldstein reproduces this error in his liner notes, which as this thread demonstrates have been actively used as if a reliable source all over the place.

2) Lodewick states, with no reference, reasoning etc that the name St James refers to a hospital in London, England. This appears to be where Goldstein got the idea, and again, as we have seen, Goldstein's ideas are taken as gospel. I understand Goldstein became a teacher of folklore, and I have to say he appears to have had skill in *creating* it!

3) Because Lodewick uses 'The Unfortunate Rake' as a generic title for variants regardless of their original titles or words, he states that the Unfortunate Rake was known in Dublin (but he should have said Cork). However, the article is clear that he is referring to the fragment collected in Cork and named My Jewel My Joy. Like the Such Broadside, this has nothing about a hospital. My own view is that we cannot be certain that this is a variant; there is only the last verse to go on, and the whole tone of it is different.

4) Lodewick makes statements about British broadsheets, while making it clear that he has not seen any.

5) Lodewick is relatively bad at providing evidence for his assertions, so some of what he says is difficult to check. The point of references in an academic article is to allow readers to check your information, but I don't think this journal was one that followed this approach. Some of his sources are song collections which are not thought to be authoritative sources of information about originals. People often edited the songs they published in collections.

One of Lodewick's sources (Belden) is dated 1940, so it is a long time after the Armstrong version . One would need to check with the original to find what was collected when I guess, but I have not a copy and don't feel inclined to buy one just now. Interested to know if anybody else has seen one.

I have found an online bibliography which includes comment on the 'reliability' of such collections. Others may find this helpful.

http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/BalladSearch.html


Thank you for reading.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 13 Nov 17 - 08:33 AM

Sorry Last post seems a bit curt on re-reading. I am just throwing out my ideas, and trying to share information, not trying to be anti people's ideas on this topic.

Thanks you again


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Nov 17 - 08:38 AM

" it would be nice to have a reference and date,"
Clare version (can be heard above) 09 Nov 17 - 05:56 AM
St James? Hospital (Laws 026; Roud 2)
Tom Lenihan Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer?s home, July 1976 Carroll Mackenzie Collection
Will try to dig out my original notes to the link with St James' Palace if they are of any use
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 14 Nov 17 - 01:32 PM

Hello, Jim, and thanks.

I looked at the version from the Clare web site. Tom Lenihan, The site states that the version was collected in 1976, which is nearly half a century after Armstrong and also post dates the Goldstein Folkways LP. It is an interesting set of lyrics, but for me it isn't evidence that the song has an Irish origin. To give an analogy, I might have arranged and sung it in Wales at about that time, but that would not prove it to be Welsh.

The web site has some notes, not all of which, frustratingly, but not surprisingly, come with references one can check. I have read some of the pieces listed there: I guess the Newfoundland one will come down to Machenzie in Nova Scotia again. The Irish examples are all late ie well after 1930.

Frustratingly again, the web site here states that the original song was called 'The Unfortunate Rake' in its early 19th century Irish version. Was it? If so then why oh why have I been unable to find any evidence to support this assertion? There is certainly a tune with that name, printed several times in early 20th century collections of Irish tunes, and an early English folk song society article conjectures with no evidence that the lyrics The Unfortunate Lad may have been sung to that tune at some time, but this is pure conjecture. What I am looking for is evidence.

Regarding Lock hospitals, there were such hospitals in Dublin and Cork as I understand it. But if interested you could check that by googling, so I won't look up a reference on that now. But the Contagious disease Acts did apply.

Thanks again.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Nov 17 - 02:00 PM

"it isn't evidence that the song has an Irish origin."
I'm not sure it has
I'm more convinced of the St James' Palace, London link
"But if interested you could check that by googling,"
I already have done (09 Nov 17 - 05:39 AM )
The song 'Hand Me Down me Fillin' Knife was said to have been written by Brendan Behan when he was working ats a painter there as a young apprentice
He tells the story of being sent by the boss to the mortuary and finding a body suspended from the ceiling
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Nov 17 - 03:23 PM

If memory serves, the jig tune "The Unfortunate Rake" bears a strong resemblance to Joyce's melody for "My Jewel, My Joy,"

That single stanza could well be a poorly remembered version of part of the "Lad," no?

In any case, "The Unfortunate Rake" seems like an odd name for a tune unrelated to some song of that name.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 07:24 AM

Hello Jim and Lighter

Interesting discussion, thanks!

There is a small problem with the article Jim linked to. Odd how when you begin to research something you find out how unsatisfactory wikepedia is! And how supposition gets turned into facts.


The article claims that the origins of the term 'lock hospital' is in old institutions for the treatment of venereal disease. It purports to have references to support this claim. Neither of these references proves any such thing. One is broken, but led to a site in a different alphabet which turned out to be about gambling when translated! The other is an article about leprosy. I can find no reference to lock hospitals or the term 'lock hospital' in it.

This myth or idea that lock hospitals is one I have encountered frequently. I have encountered many articles and book sections guessing at the origins of the term 'lock hospital'. Some of these are written by experts in medicine. They offer a variety of suppositions. For me, the best way to find the history of a word is to use a good dictionary, one that gives the history of a word. The earliest use of the term 'lock hospital' is if I remember aright 1770, when it meant hospital for treatment of venereal disease. It never meant hospital for treatment of leprosy.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 07:35 AM

"Brian Peters states that there is an Irish version from County Clare which mentions St James, as if this if proof that the words St James had origins this side (ie the European side) of the Atlantic.

"I looked at the version from the Clare web site. Tom Lenihan, The site states that the version was collected in 1976, which is nearly half a century after Armstrong and also post dates the Goldstein Folkways LP. It is an interesting set of lyrics, but for me it isn't evidence that the song has an Irish origin. To give an analogy, I might have arranged and sung it in Wales at about that time, but that would not prove it to be Welsh."

You seem to have missed my point, Karen, and your analogy with some putative 'Welsh version' doesn't remotely resemble the Tom Lenihan situation. I wasn't claiming - and nor was anyone else as far as I can tell - that song has an Irish origin. I was pointing out that the existence of several independent versions of 'Unfortunate Rake' from oral tradition in various countries makes it unlikely that Bert Lloyd was solely responsible for introducing that location to the song, even though it's quite likely he added it to his own version. If you are suggesting that Tom Lenihan somehow got the location from a 1960s LP released in the USA, then you'd have to convince me both that a farmer in Co. Clare had access to the record (maybe Jim can tell us how likely that is), and then identify similarities between Tom Lenihan's text and any of the Goldstein versions.

"anything post the Armstrong may well have been influenced by it. It may be like the story of the folklorists who went to Africa and found a chap playing blues and said This proves the blues came from Africa but it turned out the chap was a big John Lee Hooker fan and had been learning his stuff."

If you believe that TL got it from Armstrong's recording (was he a fan, Jim?), you'd expect there to be more similarities than just the name of the hospital (oh, and the mention of a 'hack'). Since the texts are otherwise completely different, you'd have to assume that TL heard Armstrong via record or radio, then spliced the line about St James Hospital into the version he knew already.

Neither of those seems very likely on the face of it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 07:45 AM

Careless... should have read:

"several independent versions of 'Unfortunate Rake' mentioning St James' Hospital from oral tradition in various countries..."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 08:35 AM

Hello Lighter

Very good point to compare tune of My Jewel My Joy with the old tune called 'The Unfortunate Rake'. Wish I had thought of that. But not using the Lloyd version from the Folkways LP. Because Lloyd is quite explicit that he was using the My Jewel My Joy song, claiming that it had some similarities with some US version (but it hasn't to my eyes or ears). He isn't using an old tune called 'The Unfortunate Rake'.

As for odd tune names, I always thought The Rakes of Mallow was an odd name, especially since as a child mallow to me meant marshmallow so I thought it must be about sweeties or candy! Weirdly I used to play this tune without knowing its name. That's 'folk' transmission I guess. There appear to be a number of songs with 'rake' in the title; not sure how traditional these are : Rakes of Limerick? Rakes of Kildaire? Stuff about 'rakes' is all over the place: Hogarth's Rake's Progress was printed about 1735. There's a song called 'The Rakish Young Fellow' about a soldier whose fighting days are over, but no hints at all about venereal disease, with funeral request. 19c printed in Liverpool, England.

http://digital.nls.uk/english-ballads/archive/74893711

So for me, not a surprise that the idea of an unfortunate rake might crop up in several contexts: it was part of the culture of the day.

In case you are interested, the earliest reference I have found which suggests that the tune The Unfortunate Rake might originally have gone with the words of The Unfortunate Lad is 1904, is an EFFS article Vol 1 No 5 pages 228-257. The article is about a song called The Unfortunate Lad, the same title as used on the 19th century broadsheets. The author refers to those broadsheets, but has one with no printers name on. This must be the article Lloyd referred to in his early article, when he did not know the name of the printer, which had had found out by the second article. As you may know, broadsheets were printed without tunes in the 19th century. The author or editor comments that the broadside "might" have been sung to the tune The Unfortunate Rake as in Crosby's Repository, printed 1908 and in volume 2 of Holden's Irish airs. So all we have to do is locate those volumes.   

On My Jewel My Joy, might be, might be, yes. But this is tenuous guess work, and Forde's informant would have had to have remembered it very badly, since in his version the final verse is addressed to a loved one (my jewel, my joy). On any scenario I can think of this is unlikely if he is dying of venereal disease, whether or not she gave it to him. It seems more likely, I think, if you wear 'songs with funeral requests must be about venereal disease' blinkers mentally, but there were a number of different sorts of songs which ended with funeral requests. There are several about a pregnant deserted woman wishing for death. Others, sometimes called 'Goodnight' or 'neck' ballads about condemned highwaymen, a common topic for song, as public hangings were lively social events in London. I found an example of a sad song with funeral request in Shakespeare, again, nothing to do with venereal disease, just a depressed song by somebody very down in the dumps.

Take off the blinkers and think in terms of this wider context, I suggest, and who knows which of these various groups of songs My Jewel may have been in originally?

Interesting discussion. Thanks to all.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 09:01 AM

"maybe Jim can tell us how likely that is"
Not a chance
Tom got virtually all his songs from local singers or family members with the exception of those he learned from very early garlands or songbooks
He had not sung most of his songs for thirty odd years before Tom Munnelly began to record him, shortly before we did in 1973
The idea that he learned it from a blues singer is a bit of a joke really - can't wait to discuss it with the locals here
I think a comparison between Tom's beautiful interpretation and Satchmo's should be enough to scotch that one.
As far as 'Lock' is concerned - the term is a vernacular one popular in Dublin and my native Liverpool - obviously brought in by Irish immigrants
The Oxford Dictonary of Slang gives one definition of the term as 'the female pudend', (mid 18th-20 century) and 'lock of all locks' - ie 'the key' the male counterpart (1772)
I can't find my original note to the St James's Palace reference, but it points out that charity hospitals run by nuns were often somewhat coy when it came to describing diseases and 'leprosy' quite often covered a multitude of sins - literally!
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 09:11 AM

"The Rakes of Mallow "
The Rakes of Mallow were a notorious bunch of well-to-do thugs of the Creagh Family in the first half of the 18th century
They came from outside Mallow, in County Cork
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 09:24 AM

Hello Brian

I think we are talking at cross purposes. I am sorry about this.

It has certainly been claimed (albeit perhaps not be anybody on these threads) that the song has an Irish origin. The specific claim was first made as far as I am aware by Phillips Barry, in the US, in about 1911 on the basis that My Jewel My Joy, a fragment collected in Cork, was a version of The Unfortunate Lad. His supposition was later referred back to more or less as if facts in a whole thread of writing stretching through the 20th century.

I apologise if I gave the impression I felt you were arguing that the song had an Irish origin.

For all I know, it might indeed have been Irish or 'Anglo Irish' as AL Loyd once (controversially, perhaps) put it, in origin. I don't claim to know the origin.   

You wrote that there are "several independent versions of 'Unfortunate Rake' mentioning St James' Hospital from oral tradition in various countries.."

This is exactly the sort of statement that I am attempting to unpick. As it happens, the record industry folk-arm had international sales, so the fact that Goldstein was American is not so important as it might appear.


I am afraid that I do not really believe that County Clare was cut off from the rest of the world in some sort of rural isolation and independence whereby a pure oral tradition was maintained. The links of that part of the world with the USA via emigration as well as via the general cultural are plain. I believe that they had radios and record players and folk magazines in County Clare just as early as they had them in England.

I cannot find precisely where I gave the impression that I thought a farmer in Co Clare actually heard a Louis Armstrong version: of course there were hundreds of version, the song was a worldwide hit. This is my point, a general one.

But thank you for the reference.

I stand by my view that A L Lloyd's song was the first *actually titled* 'The Unfortunate Rake' which included the words 'St James', and though the link to Co Clare is interesting, it does not as far as I can see challenge that view.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 09:31 AM

Hi, Karen. From the OED:

Lock, n. ...15. Originally: a hospital at Southwark in London, used for the isolation and treatment first of persons with leprosy and later of those with sexually transmitted diseases, esp. syphilis. In later use also: any hospital used for the treatment of persons with sexually transmitted diseases. In later use frequently attrib., esp. in lock hospital. Also with capital initial. Now hist.

OED gives quotes for "lock" only from as early as 1359.

The more explanatory "lock hospital" is found from 1766, but is presumably somewhat older.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 09:37 AM

"I am afraid that I do not really believe that County Clare was cut off from the rest of the world"
As far as farmer singers like Tom were concerned, it might well have been
You appear to be dismissing Tom's approach to his singing to make a tenuous point
I suggest you listen to Tom at length on The County Clare website and see how likely it is that he would sing American versions of songs.
Plenty of them available
Tom died in 1990 aged 83 - with one exception all his songs were learned as a young man - he filled out a fragment of 'Constant Farmer's Son' from a neighbour's version some time in the 1940s
I can't think of one of the singers we recorded who would have learned songs from 'folk magazines' or the radio
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 09:39 AM

Can just add that over half our work over the thirty-odd years we were collecting songs involved interviewing the singers at length
We were gathering information, not head-hunting song
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 10:15 AM

"I stand by my view that A L Lloyd's song was the first *actually titled* 'The Unfortunate Rake' which included the words 'St James', and though the link to Co Clare is interesting, it does not as far as I can see challenge that view."

I'm not arguing with that, particularly - the title is of less interest to me than the links - if any - between British tradition and jazz standard.

"I cannot find precisely where I gave the impression that I thought a farmer in Co Clare actually heard a Louis Armstrong version: of course there were hundreds of version, the song was a worldwide hit. This is my point, a general one."

It was your direct comparison with the African singer who'd learnt his repertoire from John Lee Hooker that gave that impression. So is your theory now that the 'St James' reference had passed somehow from the "worldwide hit" into local tradition in Co. Clare, and that Tom Lenihan heard it down the pub? Even if this were true, you haven't answered why TL's version is nothing at all like the jazz hit, or why - alternatively - he might have inserted a different location into a song he already knew.

"I am afraid that I do not really believe that County Clare was cut off from the rest of the world in some sort of rural isolation and independence whereby a pure oral tradition was maintained."

I'll let Jim deal with that one. He knows the area (and the singer) much better than I do.

"As it happens, the record industry folk-arm had international sales, so the fact that Goldstein was American is not so important as it might appear."

I don't understand where this is going. Creighton and MacKenzie collected 'St James' versions in Nova Scotia in the late 1920s, decades before the Goldstein LP. And Sharp found one (which you referenced above) in Virginia in 1918, before either Goldstein or Armstrong. Where did the text of that version spring from? Just for interest, Sharp's Appalachian 'St James' is melodically and textually quite similar to variants collected in England in the 1900s.

If you'd only stuck to exposing another dodgy Bert song you'd have had no argument from me!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 10:23 AM

The jig "The Unfortunate Rake" appeared in 1883 in "William Bradbury Ryan's Mammoth Collection of more than 1050 Reels and Jigs, Hornpipes, Clogs [etc.]" Many know the 1940 reprint, titled "One Thousand Fiddle Tunes."

Ryan drew heavily on "[Elias] Howe's 1,000 Jigs and Reels [etc.], dated by WorldCat to "ca1860." I haven't seen this book, but it was reprinted in the 1990s. Can anyone check for the "Unfortunate Rake"?

Burns set his song, ?The Banks of the Devon,? to a slow modal version of this tune, identified as ?A? Bhanarach dhonn a? cruidh? (?The Bonnie Brown Dairy-Maid,? words by Alisdair Macdonald [ca1700-?]). The Battlefield Band and Bonnie Rideout recorded the version collected from Pertrhshire tradition by Patrick MacDonald ("Collection of Highland Vocal Airs," 1794, p. 16).

So the "Unfortunate Rake" tune, or an ancestor, may well be Scottish.

Over to you, Jack.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 10:26 AM

Thanks for comments. Not sure what to conclude. It occurs to me to ask (perhaps a *little* mischievously): Was there a hospital of that name in County Clare? Because if not, then whence did the name come which found its way into the head of this farmer/butcher, who plainly had good links with the broader "folk" movement as they appear to have been watching him for a long time!


Jim

My own OED is the two volume set: maybe you have a different edition? But what you have found confirms the view that the term 'lock hospital' meant venereal disease hospital, and is 18th century as a generic term/phrase. Southwark? Not St James Palace, then.

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/london/vol1/p542 (I think this is a reputable source, not a mention of 'lock' anything in it.)

This is supposed to have closed in 1760?


I have found Crosby's tune, or 'air' 'The Unfortunate Rake'

If anybody happens to be interested it is here on page 158.

https://archive.org/stream/crosbysirishmusi00lond#page/158/mode/1up

Its in 6/8 and a minor key, with root E. Not easy to sing the words of 'The Unfortunate Lad' to it.

To re-capitulate: Offering the link because in the 'literature' on the origins of St James Infirmary/The Unfortunate Lad, this appears to be where people first of all got the idea that there was a link between 'The Unfortunate Lad' and 'The Unfortunate Rake'. I am, as you may guess, not convinced. I am still waiting for evidence of a 19th century song actually called at that time 'The Unfortunate Rake' which could be argued to be an ancestor of St James Infirmary. As I have said, I can only find songs called 'The Buck's Elegy' and 'The Unfortunate Lad'.

Thanks again for the discussion. I am learning new stuff all the time. Very grateful to have people to bounce ideas off.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 10:28 AM

Those ??? were meant to be """.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 10:39 AM

Great work finding the 1808 "Unfortunate Rake."

The important thing is that it was apparently an established song air rather than a dance tune. So the song must have had to do with an unfortunate rake.

Of course, there may have been an unrelated (or vaguely ancestral) song by that name, but is there any evidence of it?

If not, the most likely explanation is that the song we're discussing was the one attached to it. It would be perfectly natural for the word "lad" to be replaced at some point by the more specific "rake."

Factoid: The American "Streets of Laredo" tune is clearly that of the Irish "Bard of Armagh" - another harper.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 10:42 AM

"whence did the name come which found its way into the head of this farmer/butcher, who plainly had good links with the broader "folk" movement as they appear to have been watching him for a long time!"

Are you now suggesting that Tom L. learned it from "the broader 'folk' movement"? Any comment, Jim?

There's no mystery: 'St James' was already part of the song when Tom Lenihan learned it. The other examples I've mentioned show pretty clearly that 'St James' was present in a strain of the song as sung in the field going back at least 100 years. The fact that it was found in Appalachia in 1918, and Nova Scotia in 1928, suggests an earlier common origin in the British Isles (unless you can demonstrate a plausible transmission route between the two places). Unfortunately I don't have access to Creighton so can't compare the NS versions with the others.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 10:44 AM

MacDonald's 18th century "Dairy-Maid" is "about half-way between" the "Rake" and Thomas Moore's "Avenging and Bright."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 10:55 AM

"I have found Crosby's tune, or 'air' 'The Unfortunate Rake'

Its in 6/8 and a minor key, with root E. Not easy to sing the words of 'The Unfortunate Lad' to it."


Interesting - thanks for the link.

There's no great problem fitting the words to it - at least one English collected version is barred in 6:8, though 3:4 is more general. However, although I can see superficial resemblances with the collected tunes, they don't seem very strong to me.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 11:06 AM

"Was there a hospital of that name in County Clare? "
No, but it may be of significance that the earliest use for St James's Hospital in Dublin, some time in the 1700s, was for 'foundlings' - abandoned children
These were, or course, well known used as dumping grounds by prostitutes to rid themselves of unwanted "accidents"
"Not St James Palace, then"
lock was a slang term not a name
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 11:27 AM

Lock hospitals had nothing to do with disease of any kind. They were institutions for sexually deviant women (categorized as "prostitutes" though the management wasn't in the business of examining how they came to be so labelled). Women were locked up in them for moral reasons, not medical ones. They survived until very recent times in Ireland as the "Magdalene" institutions, though the "lock hospital" label fell out of use in the middle of the 19th century. They don't have anything to do with this family of songs as far as I can see.

The American "Streets of Laredo" tune is clearly that of the Irish "Bard of Armagh"

No it isn't. Both of them are "The Banks of the Devon", which by the early 19th century was by far the best known name for the tune everywhere in the Anglophone world.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 12:20 PM

"Lock hospitals had nothing to do with disease of any kind. "
Hm?
They actually did both Jack - cure and imprison
WESTMORLAND LOCK HOSPITAL
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 12:48 PM

There is close to zero verifiable fact in that Wikipedia page. The most substantial-looking link gives a 404.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 01:01 PM

"There is close to zero verifiable fact in that Wikipedia page"
There was "The Lock Hospital" and The Lock Penitentiary" Jack
Jim Caaarroll
KEEPING DUBLIN.S DIRTY SECRETS
"The Westmoreland Lock Hospital for Incurables" or, to give it its official name, the Hospital of St Margaret of Cortona ? was situated on Townsend Street. The Lock was founded in 1792 and was one of the few establishments catering for venereal disease. Initially, the hospital treated three hundred patients of both sexes. Later, its capacity was reduced to a hundred and fifty beds, and only women were admitted. Catholics and Protestants were segregated, while married women who had been infected by their husbands were kept away from common prostitutes. In 1794, the Lock Penitentiary opened for business. The penitentiary catered for women who had been discharged from the hospital. The women were, as Samuel Lewis put it in his Topographical Dictionary in 1837, ?employed in needle- work and other female occupations?"


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 01:12 PM

The first verse of ?The Bad Girl?s Lament? collected from Edward Hartley and published by Helen Creighton in ?Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia? (1932):

As I walked out of St. James? Hospital,
St. James? Hospital one early morn,
I espied my only fairest daughter
Wrapped up in white linen as cold as the clay.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 01:51 PM

> lock was a slang term not a name

The OED (online revision) shows that "the lock" was not at all a slang term, though it may have seemed so by the time James Joyce used it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 01:56 PM

> No it isn't.

Perhaps we're talking about different tunes.

Lomax's 1910 "standard" "Streets of Laredo" and the usual tune (can't say how old it is) accompanying "The Bard of Armagh" are major and virtually identical.

"The Banks of the Devon" clearly is not.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 02:12 PM

Thanks for the lyric, Postman Bob. The Appalachian version starts similarly, except that it's the narrator's son, not daughter.

How about the rest? Does it look like the usual text?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 02:42 PM

"was not at all a slang term"
"The Westmoreland Lock Hospital for Incurables" or, to give it its official name, the Hospital of St Margaret of Cortona"
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: David Carter (UK)
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 03:04 PM

Jack, are you sure that the Banks of Devon is the same tune as Streets of Laredo? I just listened to a Youtube of Karine Polwart singing the Banks of the Devon, and it didn't sound the same at all.

Wikipedia says that Streets of Laredo shares a tune with Spanish Ladies, which I would have thought would be even better known in the early 19th century. But I listened to a few versions of that on Youtube, and that didn't sound the same either.

The Bard of Armagh does seem to be the same tune.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 03:37 PM

Hello Brian

Thank you for discussing. You say:

The other examples I've mentioned show pretty clearly that 'St James' was present in a strain of the song as sung in the field going back at least 100 years.

The earliest example I have of the use of St James found is 1918. We are not yet one hundred years from that date.

Hello Bob the Postman

Helen Crighton has found the same song found in Nova Scotia by Mackenzie, some time before 1928.

Here is a link to an online version of Mackenzie (you will see I have been collecting these old editions, as I have been fascinated to see how the story has built up over the years)

http://novastory.ca/cdm/ref/collection/picbooks/id/9222

Mackenzie says:

HE BAD GIRL'S LAMENT
The relationship between this song and "The Dying Cowboy" is obvious.
Both of them are derived from the English broadside song of "The Unfortunate Rake" or "The Unfortunate Lad." See Journal, xxiv, 341; Journal of the Folk-Song Society, iv, 325; v, 193; Cox, p. 242. A version of "The Bad Girl's Lament," from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, was contributed by Barry to Journal, xxv, 277. In the Sharp MS. of Songs from the Southern Appalachians (Harvard College Library), p. 807, there is a fragment entitled "St. James's Hospital,"
in which the bad girl is replaced by "my son":

As I have said, the song collected by Sharp was not published until after Sharp's death, but if you read his diary you find out he copied his field notes and left a set at Harvard, and it is these to which Mackenzie refers. The journal of the folk song society he refers to, well, I'll let you look that up for yourself.

I also looked up Cox, who sets up another wild goose chase relating to highwayman hanging songs, which also feature death requests.

Cox refers you back to Philips Barry (whom I have also a copy of). He is the one who started the idea that The Cowboy's lament was an Americanisation of My Jewel My Joy.

Philips Barry is quite interesting: he says the existence of the Irish cadence in Scotland tends to prove its Irish origin. Given the degree of intermixing of peoples, I have a feeling this is another one that could be discussed interminably.

Barry says basically that very few Irish songs get Americanised, but he gives The Coyboy's Lament as one example.

Barry confuses matters by quoting from the Such broadside, which is called 'The Unfortunate Lad' but asserting - and as usual - with *no reference or source* to back him up that the song is called 'The Unfortunate Rake'. I think this must just how Harvard people were taught to write articles at that time?????


Amusingly and oddly (to me) he appears to find 'the plainsman's ... weakness' for poker and whisky' less offensive than the 'coarse vices of the dissolute soldier', but you'll have to read it in context. You can find this on JSTOR and read it for nothing if you register, which is cost free..


For me, Mackenzie is collecting songs at a time when if we accept what emerges from Harwood, various versions close to the jazz one have been circulating the US. I have no problem in thinking that it got to Novia Scotia, which looks much closer on my map to the USA than the USA is to Ireland. I am happy to believe that this wording was doing the rounds in the USA, but not happy to 'infer' ie guess that it came from the British Isles.

Thank you for reading: this discussion is interesting.

One can find quite formal Victorian papers in which the phrase 'Lock hospital' was used: it was not necessarily slang.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 03:52 PM

The other thing I wanted to say about Philips Barry is that he claims in his article that Joyce traces the Unfortunate Rake back to Ireland. Joyce did not do this. I looked up Joyce and checked it all the way through. Barry has missed out a step in his argument.

I note that the link called 'the usual text' posted above leads to a site which unhelpfully calls Goldstein's liner notes about a Folkways LP essential reading. They are not accurate and not to be relied on. I have been through all this. And the text to which they lead you is one sung by A L Lloyd, falsely asserting that this is a 19th century broadside version.   It isn't. See my posts on this above. Goldstein provides no evidence that either the title The Unfortunate Rake or the words St James appeared in the British Isles prior to 1900. He references an article by A L Lloyd explicitly stating that they appear in the Appalachians in 1918. Circles, going round in .......

At least in the Lloyd quote, Lloyd gets Cork right, whereas Goldstein, copying a mistake from another of his references incorrectly states Dublin. This is a reference back to Philips Barry, who, as I have explained, falsely asserts that Joyce traced the Unfortunate Rake back to Ireland.

Enjoy.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 04:07 PM

A "slang term" would be something like "the clap shack."

Examples of usage in OED (which doesn't call it "slang" or even "informal") are entirely serious.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 04:09 PM

> Streets of Laredo shares a tune with Spanish Ladies

Never rely on Wackypedia.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 06:04 PM

"The earliest example I have of the use of St James found is 1918. We are not yet one hundred years from that date."

Sharp collected it from Victoria Donald on June 8, 1918, which makes it 99 years and 5 months. Mrs Donald was quite elderly, and it seems likely that she had not learned the song during the previous 7 months. Even if she had, whoever she had learned it from had had it in their own repertoire already.

"various versions close to the jazz one have been circulating the US. I have no problem in thinking that it got to Novia Scotia"

Except that the Nova Scotia version you kindly linked is nothing like the jazz version except in respect of the 'St James' line.

You've provided plenty of ideas and interesting information on this thread, but you seem to have developed a theory regarding 'St James' which you are now trying to bend the evidence around. Are you prepared to accept that the jazz song is a reworking of a pre-existing traditional song mentioning 'St James'?

If not, how did 'St James' get into an earlier Appalachian variant?

If so, why can you not accept that the Lenihan version might represent an independent example of the same strain of the song?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 07:35 PM

Hello Brian

I do have a theory, of sorts, but it is a theory about how a story about its origins has been built up to the extent that it is widely regarded as fact.

The story is that the song is a descendant of an English, or in some versions of the tale, Irish, or Anglo Irish, song called precisely 'The Unfortunate Rake.' Mostly, the story claims that this was a 19th century broadsheet. The main source of this story appears to be liner notes to a Folkways LP compiled by Kenneth Goldstein, which I find cited as an authority time and time again.

At the risk of repeating myself, shall we say, even more often, I have been looking for 'evidence' to support this story. But not finding any so far.

You would imagine, well I can't speak for others, but I imagined that by following back the references cited on those notes, one would arrive at the eviden?e. Perhaps you could try it and see if you get any more success. What I found was where some mistaken information on those liner notes came from.

In particular, it would be interesting to know if anybody has found an early, by which I mean actually dating from the nineteenth century version of the song - not a tune - a song which at that time had the actual title 'The Unfortunate Rake'.


Thank you for reading :)

PS I foresee a discussion about what constitutes 'evidence', having often wondered while reading 'folklore' magazines what they taught about this at Harvard, where Philips and Mackenzie learned it.
:)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 07:49 PM

I try to stay away from red herrings, but folkies must be aware of lock and key double entendres/metaphors in folksong?

If you google for a document about the Bath Lock Hospital and Penetentiary 1816, you'll find a document of the type that convinced me that the term was not slangy or vulgar at that date. Hope this is useful.:)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 08:06 PM

It says on the Lenihan web site he learned it from his sister and ...can you guess where? We are back with the John Lee Hooker fan scenario in a manner of speaking, maybe?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,karen
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 08:27 PM

So that I now have 2 good reasons for not treating the Leniham version as an independent line:)

1 Odd that after over nearly 70 years of folkloric writing claiming Irish origins a song representing a whole line should suddenly appear

2 The singer said his version came from America.

Taking a break from this for a while!

It has been interesting, lots ideas shared. Cheers.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 09:11 PM

But the fact is that an air called "The Unfortunate Rake" existed in Ireland as early as 1808.

It's hard to imagine that an air with that name, which rather resembles Joyce's tune ("My Jewel, My Joy") said to have been learned in Ireland in the 1790s, did *not* carry the words of the song later called "The Unfortunate Rake."

Whether any associated lyrics then contained the line about "St. James Hospital" is unknown.

It seems to be pretty well established that "St. James' Infirmary Blues" did not exist before the 1920s. That British (or even American) singers would (or could) have arbitrarily lifted the "St. James" name from an otherwise unrecorded ancestor of the "Blues" and retrofitted it independently to older songs defies (my) credulity.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 03:26 AM

"The singer said his version came from America."
The singer said he learned the song from his sister, who moved to America
She went there with an established local repertoire
This becomes a little tiresome Karen, it seems you are contradicting facts in order to ride a personal hobby horse - not rare in this area where we are regularly told what we don?t know about our local musical traditions
You've gone though the lot, from folk magazines to "learned from the radio"
Maybe it's time to send in the missionaries
We befriended Tom and for over twenty years got to know him and his songs quite well.
If there are two things I've learned about folk songs over the last half century of involvement it?s how little any of us know about the subject and how much we have missed.
We had exactly the same thing from academic desk-jockeys claiming the non-literate Traveller; John Reilly must have had access to literacy to know the ballads he knew - because his repertoire didn't fit the latest pet theory circulating around the academic ivory towers
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 03:47 AM

Incidentally
"The name Lock Hospital dates back to earlier leprosy hospitals, which were known as ?lock? hospitals derived from the French loques, the rags that were used to cover the leper?s lesions. ?Lock Hospitals? were developed specifically for the treatment of syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection."
http://rcpilibrary.blogspot.ie/2013/11/westmoreland-lock-hospital.html
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 06:03 AM

Hello Jim

"Tom says he learned this from his sister living in America."

As for contradicting facts to ride a hobby horse: descending into insults ...

Spare us the missionaries; not that I know anything about your local traditions of course... :)

I have encountered the Lock Hospitals comes from loques idea before.
I used to believe it but not one of the people who repeats this idea has cited any evidence in support of it. By evidence I mean an example of this usage from the times.

Thank you for reading.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM

The derivation of this "lock" is not 100% clear.

OED:

"The... Lock Hospital in Southwark ... was probably so called on account of being specially isolated or quarantined, and some early sources discuss the security of the hospital and the need for inmates to be kept out of the city. An alternative suggestion that the name is derived from Middle French 'loque' rag ( < Dutch locke lock n.1), with reference to the rags with which the sores of lepers were dressed, seems less likely and cannot be substantiated."

"Seems less likely" doesn't mean "wrong," but "cannot be substantiated" means there's no contemporaneous evidence for it and so no reason to prefer it.

Conceivably (which means no more than "just a suggestion"), the application of "lock" owes something to the similarity of the French (or even Dutch)and English words, but precisely which "came first" would currently be unknowable - and could not have been generally known at the time.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 12:53 PM

"So that I now have 2 good reasons for not treating the Leniham version as an independent line:)

1 Odd that after over nearly 70 years of folkloric writing claiming Irish origins a song representing a whole line should suddenly appear

2 The singer said his version came from America."


So, let's get this straight:

In Point 1, you're suggesting that Tom Lenihan's song is a fake, presumably engineered by the "folk movement" to validate the sleeve notes of a 1960s Folkways LP. Even in our age of conspiracy theories, this is fantasy on an epic scale.

Point 2 has already been addressed by Jim Carroll. Athough I don't share Jim's scorn for deskbound research (there's plenty of good info to be accessed from a computer, as this discussion demonstrates), I'd have expected a serious researcher to place more credence in the testimony of a field worker who was actually there, and knew the singer for 20 years.

I can accept that Lloyd collated his own version of the song, and that the sleeve notes in question are flawed. But in trying to extend your argument to claim that all the instances of 'St James' in versions of what I'd better call Roud 2 derive from the jazz standard, you are ignoring the facts. These are that:

(a) An oral version mentioning St James but clearly of the Unfortunate Lad / Rake / Sailor Cut Down family was collected 10 years before 'St James Infirmary Blues' was recorded.

(b) Several other independent oral versions mention St James but otherwise are completely dissimilar to the jazz version. If the latter had influenced the former you would expect more common text, but they don't even use the word 'infirmary'.

I don't know whether it's a good idea to go into The Dying Cowboy / Tom Sherman's Bar-room strain of the song here (there's already been a Mudcat discussion of that one), but that goes back to at least 1916, so it seems that the jazz standard took the bar-room location from there - if not much else.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 01:29 PM

"It has been interesting, lots ideas shared. Cheers."

This I can agree with, thank you Karen.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 04:23 PM

I don't know if any of this helps but I did a study of all of the versions fairly recently and I can't find the title 'The Unfortunate Rake' attached to any of them.
The Buck's Elegy c1790 (no imprint) has simply 'Covent Garden' as the setting. To me the suggestion that a more fitting setting would be a hospital seems fairly logical for the slightly later versions.

Pearson of Manchester had 'down by the ----------- Hospital' a device where the intention is that the singer fills in his own nearest hospital name. Ross of Newcastle, Williamson of Newcastle, Such of London, all had 'Lock'. These would all be c1850 but the later 'Sailor Cut Down in his Prime' printed by Forth of Hull has 'down by the Royal Albion'

Earlier oral versions from the 1900s of Unfortunate Lass just have 'As I was out walking one midsummer morning' or 'down in false garden'down by the seaside'.

This is only an opinion but the wording of the 1918 Sharp version is more akin to that of the blues song than English oral versions.

I WENT down by St James's Hospital.

It looks like Kidson was the source of the link to the Irish tune
'The Unfortunate rake' in JFSS 5 p254 (1909). Unfortunately the first line of Mrs Thompson's fragment from Knaresborough, Yorkshire runs 'As I was a walking in Rippleton Gardens' probably linking back to 'Covent Garden'. Other Gardens occur in other versions.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 05:20 PM

Lyrics for Sharp's Appalachian version, collected from Victoria Donald, June 8, 1916:

I went down by St James hospital one morning
So early one, morning, it was early one day
I found my son, my own son
Wrapped up in white linen, as cold as the clay

Dear father, dear father, come sit you down by me
Sit you down by me and pity my case
My head is aching, my heart is breaking
Without relief I surely must die

I'll send for a doctor to heal up your wounds
And three gay soldiers to bear up your body
And three gay young ladies with a bunch of red roses
In each hand to perfume you to march you on

O beat your drum loudly and play your fife merry
To march a dead body along to the grave yard
And plant the green sods over me
If I am a young man I knew I done wrong

Apart from the first line I don't see any similarity to the jazz / blues version. On the other hand, from English tradition we have:

Wrapped in a blanket far colder than clay (Cox)

Oh mother, oh mother, come sit you down by me
Come sit you down by me and pity my case (Adams)

His poor heart was breaking, his poor head was aching (Cox)

And into my coffin throw handfuls of roses
So as they may smell me as I go along (Sebbage)

Beat the drums.... , or similar is common to most of the English ones, though not the jazz song.

Mrs Donald's song is garbled, but almost all the elements are [resent in English tradition / broadside.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 05:55 PM

of course theres WH Auden's parody Miss Gee, about how a maiden lady due to sexual repression and frustrated creativity contracts cancer.
At the time Auden was fascinated by the doctrines of an American psychologist called Homer Lane who thought that repression turned inward and caused people to 'grow' cancer.

Auden did the same with Frankie and Johnny, he write a parody about a young man called Victor - about a young man, so messed up by his parents domination and unworldly moral code that he ends up murdering his randy young wife.

Actually there was another Auden St James's Infirmary parody - a sort of Freudian lament called As I went out one evening.

hope you don't mind me mentioning this.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 10:09 AM

Steve Gardham

Thanks for this contribution, which is the sort of information I am looking for, even though once again we have drawn a blank on direct evidence for an ancestor called the Unfortunate Rake. I too have seen the version with the gap in. Carrots also has Lock Hospital and is called The Unfortunate Lad, as I am sure you know. (National Library of Scotland web site, version, they think, printed in Durham).


That makes two of us unable to find any broadsheet versions with 'The Unfortunate Rake' in the title. This is one reason why I believe that A L Lloyd was singing a composite song on the famous Folkways LP; one of the things he 'composited' was the title, which his articles show he was aware of, but provide no reference to. On the contrary his second article cites the Such version, which was 'Lad' and 'lock'. But by this time he was convinced that St James Infirmary was a descendent, via the Dewey version collected by Sharp, as his articles show. He also believed that that there had been a version called 'the Unfortunate Rake'. Where did he get this idea?

I think you have hit the nail on the head, as I too followed references back. The article called Songs from the Kidson Collection I think you are referring to? Checking back I think the authors were Kidson and Lucy Broadwood, to be precise? This is the article where I found the reference to Crosby which I gave above.

I printed off the 'air' called The Unfortunate Rake, and have studied it briefly. I have compared it with the tune of My Jewel My Joy and with the tune of Streets of Loredo. Not like either at all in my view. Unlike most other candidates for an ancestor of St James, it is the A B form. For people not familiar with this usage, it means that the melody has two distinct parts. When playing such a tune for a dance, sometimes you have to play one A then 2 Bs, or some such formula. Even without part repeats, the tune is twice as long as My Jewel My Joy. Both parts of Rake are in 6/8 and in E minor. Crosby has printed words under the tune, as follows, in case people are interested. Alert, there may be the odd typo

OH! many a mountain I wearily measure, and
far have I wander'd on Erin's green shore, This
harp is my o-ly companion and treasure, When
welcomes at sweet hos-pi-ta--li-ty's door.
Then list, gentle youth, while I sing you a
dit-ty I learnt in dear Connaught, the
soil of my birth: Ye maidens attend, whilst the
tear drop of pi-ty shall fall like a crystalline
gem to the earth.

May I make a general point about the ballad form. Ballads usually followed a general 'genre' which had some variations in numbers of stressed syllables per line. This song has four stresses per line (they sing crystalline quickly, slightly irregular here perhaps) and four lines per part. In 6\8 like Rake, you get two bars per line: in 3\4 you might get four bars per line (making 16 bars overall, a classic ballad musical form) in Streets of Loredo; four stresses per line, four lines per verse. Yes, one can often sing one set of words to different tunes; this is because the ballads came in a set genre, and in my view, not necessarily evidence that the song probably was sing to any tune that had that musical form.

I guess he (the harpist) is fed up because he's got the clap? Or maybe not :) But these words do fit the tune as written closely. I hope this answers the person above who found it difficult to believe that the 1808 version of The Unfortunate Rake did not 'carry' the words of the Unfortunate Lad, though as I am not sure what 'carry' means I cannot be sure.

No title is given for the words, as opposed to the 'air', but the whole is entitled 'The Unfortunate Rake'. And this is the 1808 one mentioned in the literature.

I haven't looked up the other reference from the Kidson/Broadwood article yet. It is Holden's Irish airs.


On Riplington Gardens, I have seen this article. It maybe that the 'gardens' bit goes back to an earlier version from London, set in Covent Garden. There is a Riplingham in Yorkshire; and a place called Riplington somewhere else. So your guess on this is as good as any!

Broadside ballad sheets were printed in Ireland. Now one web site I looked at recently (cannot recall which one) claimed that the Unfortunate Rake was an Irish broadside, in which case somebody must have evidence somewhere to support this assertion (though no link or reference was provided on that web site. I can find a few examples on line but not yet an index searchable for one about the unfortunate rake. I cannot find an Unfortunate Rake here, for example: http://itmacatalogues.ie/Default/en-GB/Search/AdvancedSearch

Brian Peters

I have never knowingly argued that all version with the words St James in derive from the jazz standard. I cannot be bothered to try to work out where you go that idea from. What I have said is that versions of what became known as the jazz standard were widespread i
prior to the release and copyrighting by Irving Mills of that version, and in saying that I was relying on the research of Harwood. Thank you and goodbye.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 10:12 AM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjugQ8QBbYk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnrT2U_pA0k


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 10:20 AM

From a site whose reliability I cannot vouch for, but referring to the Holden version of The Unfortunate Rake, which appears to have also been known as Basket of Turf!

BASKET OF TURF (An Cliaban/Cliabh M?na). "Bundle and Go (1)," "Creel of Turf (The)," "Disconsolate Buck (The)," "Lass from Collegeland (The)," "Unfortunate Rake (1) (The)," "Wandering Harper (The)," "Wee Wee Man (The)," "Winter Garden Quadrille." Irish, Double Jig. E Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (most versions): AABB'CC'DD'EE' (Breathnach/CR? V). A turf basket was used to haul home peat for fuel. Some versions are set in the dorian mode, and it is sometimes played with the parts reversed from the order given in Breathnach's CR? II (1976). In CR? V, Breathnach prints a five-part version, while fiddlers P.J. and Martin Hayes have a three part version they have recorded as "Castle (2) (The)" (corresponding roughly to Breathnach's parts 1, 2 & 5). The song "The Wandering Harper" is set to this air. Holden (Collection of the most esteemed old Irish Melodies, Dublin, 1807) gives it as "Unfortunate Rake (The)."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 11:22 AM

Without access to Holden, it *looks like* his "Unfortunate Rake" tune is quite a bit different from Crosby's (which is the common jig tune of that name).

http://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Unfortunate_Rake_(2)_(The)

Click on the "Back to" link to see the tune, also known as "Apples in Winter."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 02:07 PM

"I have never knowingly argued that all version with the words St James in derive from the jazz standard. I cannot be bothered to try to work out where you go that idea from. What I have said is that versions of what became known as the jazz standard were widespread prior to the release and copyrighting by Irving Mills of that version
"


Sorry if I misunderstood, but you did say:

"anything post the Armstrong may well have been influenced by it. It may be like the story of the folklorists who went to Africa and found a chap playing blues and said This proves the blues came from Africa but it turned out the chap was a big John Lee Hooker fan and had been learning his stuff."

It still seems to me there is considerable evidence for a 'St James' strain predating Armstrong and continuing in oral tradition well into the 20th century, and that is what really interests me about this discussion. If you can accept that then we have no argument.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 02:17 PM

Another thing that struck me today is the parallel between 'St James Infirmary' and 'Didn't He Ramble' (mentioned more than once above).

Both are old songs, reworked to reflect a contemporary world of bar-rooms, gambling and bad living. I've no grand conclusion to draw, it's just an interesting co-incidence.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 03:17 AM

"Although I don't share Jim's scorn for deskbound research "
Neither do I Brian (presuming the "Jim" isn't me, of course!
I Use desk-bound research for everything I am unsure of
My "scorn" is reserved for the desk-jockeys who regard their own researches as unassailable and that of those who disagree "romantic rubbish" - especially those who speak in a form of folk 'Freemasonese' in 'a language that the stranger does not know' via books most of us can't afford.
I locked horns with one of those once who I recently read as having claimed that "most Irish folk songs started life on broadsides.
"Insulting"
Karen - at first I found the idea that Tom Lenihan learned his 'St James' Hospital' somewhat risible - when it was repeated after my denying it, I found it downright insulting - to me and to Tom's memory
We befriended and recorded Tom over a period of twenty years, much of that time interviewing him.
If we couldn't have spotted hims as being a covert blues fan we might as well have folded our microphones and taken up macrame.
My point remains as stated in the beginning
I traced the 'St James's reference back to a hospital in London run by charity nuns catering for leprosy patients and demolished to make room for St James' Palace
The article made the point that clap patients were included for 'the sake of the oud dacency' pertaining at the time
I have since believed that the 'St James' Hospital' reference predates the blues versions by several centuries.
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 03:35 AM

Can I just take up the cudgels of Lloyd while I'm in the mood?
I knew Bert slightly (I think everybody who knew him did so slightly)
While I often found him infuriating, I had the greatest respect for him as a researher
In response to n enquiry he once told be on a car journey that he was a messy keeper of notes and relied as much on his memory as he did those
As a short-lived editor of a club magazine, I shipped off a friend to interview Bert for our club - he spent a pleasurable few hours doing so and the following day received a phone call asking that several things he said be omitted as he wasn't sure of them.
In those days, Bert, like the rest of us, was operating without the benefit of computers and the net.
One of Bert's main problems seem to have been that he never really decided whether he was a singer or an academic.
"Ever since I learned that Lloyd wasn't always singing authentic versions straight from the 19th century, listening to him leaves me with mixed feelings."
There was nevar an obligation that any singer should sing "authentic versions" - if there had been there would be no such thing as "versions"
Bert was often obscure about his sources, but that's another matter.
JIm Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 05:16 AM

Interested to hear any credible evidence that St James Hospital Westminster is the hospital referred to in any song with 'St James' in the title. Interested to hear how and via what route such references were 'traced back' to this hospital, and the source of the idea that this hospital treated the clap. First known version of this idea comes from a Folkways LP, which cites an article by an American called Lodewick. Neither provides any evidence apart from the name.


Although Tom was a deep well of all sorts of folklore, he was primarily known as a singer. ?In addition to songs of Irish origin he performed old ballads derived from European tradition, along with local ditties and music hall songs; all were grist to his unbiased mill.? (Munnelly)

his repertoire came from many sources, including broadsheets and gramophone records, but was mainly acquired through oral channels.

The social occasions on which dancing and singing took place were weddings, American wakes, parties for returned emigrants in the summer or at Christmas.

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/people/tom_lenihan.htm


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 05:49 AM

There isn't a songs=that dated back centuries Karen - as Ihave said, but there is evidence of a number of hospitals bearing the name 'St Jameses' specialising in the treatment of venereal diseases, the earliest being the one that preceeded St James's Palace
I know what Tom's repertoire was (backwards) and I knew how he learned them
- none were adapted from pop songs or the blues
As far ias the latter was concerned, Tom was a devout, if unassuming Catholic who would be very influenced by this when he was learning his songs
BISHOPS STATEMENT
His sister sang songs she had learned before she left Irland and sent the words of the ones Tom hadn't back to him
You may take my word for it - Tom probably never heard a blues singer in his life, let alone took songs from them
Do you honestly think Tom's version can be realated in any way to a blues version?
For crying out loud Karen - are you really surprised that people are rude to you?
You are trying to fit a very squate peg into a very round hole
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 06:39 AM

Incidentally
This song would not have been one Tom ever sang publicly - he learned them because he like them, not because he wanted to entertain people
Singing songs sympathetic to 'fallen women' at a time when the Church and the State were colluding to lock such women as criminals so that society forgot them would definitely have been a no-no
You may have read about the riots at the Abbey theatre at the premier of 'The Plough and the Stars' because O'Casey suggested that there were such things as 'prostitutes' in Ireland
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 08:19 AM

Whoops
About fallen women, of course
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 08:20 AM

**Lengthy post alert** I've whiled away the entire morning on this...

"versions of what became known as the jazz standard were widespread prior to the release and copyrighting by Irving Mills of that version, and in saying that I was relying on the research of Harwood."

Karen's timely reminder of the Harwood research led me back to the Walker article posted by Stewie on August 9
That has led me down some interesting pathways, and shown me that I was quite wrong in suggesting that the Armstrong hit was a one-off rewrite. As luck would have it, someone gave me a copy of Snadburg at a pub music session a few weeks back, so I had two of the key versions sitting on my shelf all along.

There are two versions of 'Gambler's Blues' that predate the Armstrong / Irving Mills recording in Sandburg's 'American Songbag' (1927). Here they are:

A
Given by Henry McCarthy of the University of Alabama

It was down in old Joe?s bar-room
On a corner of the square
The drinks were served as usual
And a goodly crowd was there

On my left stood Joe McKenny
His eyes bloodshot and red
He gazed at the crowds around him
And these are the words he said

As I passed by the old infirmary
I saw my sweetheart there
All stretched out on a table
So pale, so cold, so fair

Sixteen coal-black horses
All hitched to a rubber-tired hack
Carried seven girls to the graveyard
And only six of 'em coming back

Oh when I die just bury me
In a box-black coat and hat
Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain
To let the Lord know I'm standing pat

Six crap shooters as pall bearers
Let a chorus girl sing me a song
With a jazz band on my hearse
To raise hell as we go along

And now you?ve heard my story
I?ll take another shot of booze
If anybody happens to ask you
Tell them I've got those gambler's blues


B
Given by Jake Zetlin and Jack Hagerty of Forth Worth and Los Angeles

Went down to St. Joe's infirmary
To see my woman there
She was layin' on the table
So white, so cold so fair

Went up to see the doctor
She?s very low, he said
Went back to see my woman
Good God, she's layin' there dead
[spoken] She's dead!

Let her go, let her go, God bless her
Wherever she may be
There?ll never be another like her
There?ll never be another for me

I may be killed on the ocean
I may be killed by a cannonball
But let me tell you buddy
That a woman was the cause of it all

Seventeen girls to the graveyard
Seventeen girls to sing her a song
Seventeen girls to the graveyard
Only sixteen of 'em comin' back

O sixteen coal-black horses
To carry me when I'm gone
O flowers on the coffin
While the burial's carried on

Sandburg prints one tune for both texts, which is substantially the same as Armstrong's.

NB: Jacob Israel Zeitlin (1902-1987) was a bookseller, poet and book reviewer in Ft. Worth, Texas before moving to Los Angeles (1925). Make of that what you will.

There?s another pre-Armstrong recording on Youtube, by
Fess Williams and His Royal Flush Orchestra (1927)

There's also a version recorded by Jimmie Rodgers in 1930, which is not a cover of Armstrong and may well predate it.

What do these alternative versions of 'Gambler's Blues' tell us?

First, that the text is quite variable between all the versions. Sandburg's A and B have a lot of differences between them, in terms of the substance of the stanzas, as well as details.

The 'let her go' stanza in the Armstrong hit, which contributors above have struggled to rationalise, makes a lot more sense in Sandburg B ('there'll never be another for me').
Sandburg B mentions 'flowers on the coffin', which harks back to the roses or lavender in English texts.
The name of the bar owner could be 'Old Joe', 'My old friend Joe', or 'Big Kid'. Fess Williams' subsidiary narrator is 'my old friend Sam Jackson', instead of 'Joe McKenny'.

Crucially, in not one of them is the hospital called 'St. James Infirmary'. It is, variously, 'the old infirmary', 'St Joe's Infirmary', 'the infirmary' and 'the big infirmary'.

The more I look at the history of this song, the more impossible it becomes to divorce it from 'Streets of Laredo' and 'Dying Cowboy'. There are five variants of this in Cox's 'Folksongs of the South', all from 1916/17. None of them mentions a hospital, but they are clearly related to 'Unfortunate Lad' by the verse describing beating of drums and playing of fifes. Otherwise, there are several added stanzas, describing letters to the cowboy's mother, and a glass of cold water. Then there is the following:

Once in my saddle I used to go dashing,
Once in my saddle I used to ride gay;
But I just took up drinking and then to card-playing,
Got shot by a gambler, and dying to-day

Compare that with Mary Doran's Irish version (1952), mentioned by Jim Carroll above:

When I was on horseback wasn't I pretty?
When I was on horseback wasn't I gay?
O wasn't I pretty when I entered Cork City
When I met with my downfall on the fourteenth of May?

Two out of the five cowboy versions in Cox set the action in a bar-room, either Tom Sherman's or McFinegan's.

I?ve only just realised that MacKenzie was collecting in Nova Scotia much earlier than I'd thought (pre-1910 as far as I can work out). His book contains a 'Bad Girl's Lament' very similar to the British texts and with a 'St James' reference, and a 'Dying Cowboy' very much like the ones in Cox.

I'm sure there are many more versions out there - what we really need is Richie Matteson on the case. However, it seems to me that we can conclude that a strain resembling 'Unfortunate Lad', with the location 'St James' hospital' was circulating in both the US South and Nova Scotia after 1900 and before 1920 (though the fact Sharp found it only once suggests it wasn't very common).

A related, but distinct strain, 'Dying Cowboy' or whatever, was already well established before 1920, retaining the funeral (and the 'saddle' verse) but often relocating the action to a bar-room. I have seen an online claim that this dates back to 1855 but can't find documentation. Anyone?

A third strain, 'Gambler's Blues' was established by the 1920s, incorporating alternative funeral details and, in some cases, setting the action in a bar-room as per 'Dying Cowboy'.

Just to confuse things further, Ironhead Baker's 'St James Hospital', recorded by the Lomaxes in 1933, looks more like 'Unfortunate Lad' than anything else, but includes bits of 'Dying Cowboy (e.g.the 'Once in my saddle I used to go dashing' stanza), and a list of mourners ('six young gamblers to carry my coffin, sixteen young whore-gals to sing me a song') that looks like an unexpurgated version of Armstrong.

As far as the location 'St James Hospital' goes, the above suggests that the links with 'Unfortunate Lad' are considerably stronger than with 'Gambler's Blues', though I accept that we have nothing concrete apart from Tom Lenihan (and nothing predating 1900) to show that 'St James' was part of the song in the British Isles.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 09:43 AM

Ah, checking back I see that Lighter posted the Ironhead Baker Youtube link ten days ago, and commented that this "version seems almost like a missing link between the broadsides and "The Streets of Laredo."

My feelings exactly. And it is a little odd that the first line (transcribed by Lomax as 'It was early one mornin' as I passed St. James Hospital') isn't on the recording. The tune, incidentally, sounds to me very like Texas Gladdens 'The Bad Girl's Lament'.

Thinking some more about the 'St James' business while cycling to the shops, I reckon that the two 'St James Hospital' texts that predate 1920 and were collected as far apart as Virginia and Nova Scotia constitute good evidence - albeit circumstantial - that this line originated in the British Isles. There were well established sea routes across the Atlantic to both North American locations, but it's hard to imagine there was much traffic between the Appalachians and the Canadian Maritimes (1300 miles apart) in the 1910s. If someone knows different, feel free to correct me.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 09:52 AM

Several singers, including Walter Pardon, said that singers were reluctant to sing it publicly because of its content
I wonder how general that was.
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 11:28 AM

Great work, Brian. That would have taken me a week.

>hard to imagine there was much traffic between the Appalachians and the Canadian Maritimes...in the 1910s

Speaking as one with some knowledge of the Southern Appalachians (pronounced "Appa-LATCH-uns, unlike those in the north), there must have been roughly none.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 12:21 PM

"Speaking as one with some knowledge of the Southern Appalachians (pronounced "Appa-LATCH-uns, unlike those in the north)"

Yes, I should have specified 'Southern', since the chain runs right up through New Brunswick!

Over we Brits tend to say "Appa-lay-shuns" with a soft 'ch'. I was quickly disabused of this the first time I visited West Virginia.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 12:24 PM

"Great work, Brian. That would have taken me a week."

Thanks. I did get up early, and I was on a bit of a mission...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 02:56 PM

Brian Peters: I agree with your general point - i.e., that 'St. James' likely had a British origin - but I'd quibble with your statement that "There were well established sea routes across the Atlantic to both North American locations, but it's hard to imagine there was much traffic between the Appalachians and the Canadian Maritimes (1300 miles apart) in the 1910s." There was all kinds of trade and sea-travel all along the east coast of North America (incidentally, a busy trade between Nova Scotia and the Caribbean); all it would take is one singer from the Maritimes meeting one singer from the Appalachians for a song to be passed along (I'll spare you the obligatory colourful description of the imagined meeting ...). Anomalous, but possible.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 03:50 PM

But multiply the anomaly by the equally long odds that a collector (and a published collector at that) would have encountered one of the very, very few NS singers whose version stemmed from the Appalachians.

The simpler explanation (thus the one to be provisionally preferred) is that the NS version came ultimately from Britain or Ireland.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 04:03 PM

Karen,
You might find it useful to look at the versions of Roud 2 on the Full English search on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library site at EFDSS, particularly the 4 or so entries that show the info on 'The Unfortunate Rake' and how it somehow got attached to 'The Unfortunate Lad' Kidson noted down the version from Kate Thompson in 1892. At one point 'Rake' tune from Kerr's Merry Melodies is displayed above Kate Thompson's tune. I can't read music so can't comment on any similarities. I can't find any other British versions pre 1900 that mention St James's. As others have stated just as there are lots of Lock Hospitals there are lots of St James's (One here in Yorkshire at Leeds) It's futile trying to pinpoint which one it might refer to.

Was St James by any chance the patron saint of STDs? Baring-Gould would have known.

BTW there is a particularly graphic/gory Sc. version in Greig-Duncan.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Nov 17 - 05:17 PM

Was St James by any chance the patron saint of STDs?

Subscriber Trunk Dialling?
Unlikely! he was a fisherman. They use the net to keep in touch.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 03:13 AM

James the Greater was the patron Saint of arthritis (gawd bless 'im) and other things such as rheumatism; apothecaries; blacksmiths; druggists; equestrians; furriers; horsemen; knights; laborers; pharmacists; pilgrims; rheumatoid sufferers; riders; soldiers; tanners; veterinarians.
Take your pick
Saints Fiacre, George, Saturninus of Toulouse and Symphorian of Autun were all patron Saints of sexually transmitted diseases (not bad for an atheist, if I say so myself!!)
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 06:10 AM

"There was all kinds of trade and sea-travel all along the east coast of North America (incidentally, a busy trade between Nova Scotia and the Caribbean); all it would take is one singer from the Maritimes meeting one singer from the Appalachians for a song to be passed along (I'll spare you the obligatory colourful description of the imagined meeting ...)."

Fair point, 'meself' (I suspected someone here would be more knowledgable than me), but like Lighter I feel the odds are long.

(a) Sharp collected the song over 400 miles from the coast, in pretty remote mountain backcountry.

(b) He collected it only once (compared with 30+ examples for many other British ballads that are older and would have been brought over in the early mass migration), so it seems to have been relatively rare.

(c) I should more precisely have said "well-established migratory routes across the Atlantic" to both Virginia and Nova Scotia, which would represent a more plausible avenue for song transmission than a chance meeting between singers at sea or in port.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 08:16 AM

Steve Gardham

Good question about who St James was. I had only got as far as finding out there was more than one. Not big on saints, myself.

Brian Peters

You might be interested to get hold of Robert Harwood's book: he covers the ground you went over, though well done on your own research; it is how I knew about the Fess Williams version and so on. It is also how I know that the tune and similar songs were around before Primrose put in his copyright of his version, and that there was a trial about the ownership to the words St James Infirmary Blues. It appears to have been played by a number of bands criss-crossing the continent. There are musical similarities with a song called 'Dying Crapshooter's Blues' attributed to Porter Grainger and recorded by several artists in the 20s and apparently covered by Blind Willie McTell eg using death marches/type music for comic effect. You can get versions of this in itunes and spotify.
I like the Fess Williams version and also the Martha Copeland, especially the musical jokes eg the Charleston bit.

Re Cecil Sharp

He collected the version with St James in the words in Dewey, within walking distance of a railway station, which is how he got there himself. On the same trip, he collected a version of Loredo/Cowboy's lament in the Appalachians, and this seems to me proof that this area was not cut off musically from the rest of the country, however far inland it may have been.

You can read his diaries for the year here:

https://www.vwml.org/browse/browse-collections-sharp-diaries/browse-sharpdiary1918#recordnumber=2

The original notes for the words are online, but I can't find the link just now. It was Maud Karpeles who took these down: Sharp was the one who took down the music.

On Lenihan

Although Tom was a deep well of all sorts of folklore, he was primarily known as a singer. ?In addition to songs of Irish origin he performed old ballads derived from European tradition, along with local ditties and music hall songs; all were grist to his unbiased mill.? (Munnelly)


Although Tom was a deep well of all sorts of folklore, he was primarily known as a singer. ?In addition to songs of Irish origin he performed old ballads derived from European tradition, along with local ditties and music hall songs; all were grist to his unbiased mill.? (Munnelly)

The social occasions on which dancing and singing took place were weddings, American wakes, parties for returned emigrants in the summer or at Christmas.

I believe I was criticised for suggesting that County Clare was not a musically isolated community, but I made this suggestion on the basis of publicly available information, some of it directly related to the person in question.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 08:55 AM

"Although Tom was a deep well of all sorts of folklore, he was primarily known as a singer. ?In addition to songs of Irish origin he performed old ballads derived from European tradition, along with local ditties and music hall songs; all were grist to his unbiased mill.? (Munnelly)"
Sigh......!!!
I defy you to find a single song he learned from an American singer in repertoire
This is arrogance in the extreme Karen
I knew Tom for over twenty years - I recorded him at length talking about his songs, where he got them and how he regarded them
You were not criticised for claiming Clare was not a musically isolated community - it was far from that
The repertoire here was full of songs from Britain which were absorbed into the local oral tradition
You won't find John Henry or Big Rock Candy Mountain or Grand Coulee Dam or Wreck of the Old 97.....
You are virtually calling me a liar to make an academic point
Tom did not learn or sing St James' Infirmary - he learned St James's Hospital which is one of the oral manifestations of 'The Unfortunate Rake'
I ask again - does Tom's rendition sound anything like an American song?   
This is a repeat performance of the John Reilly campaign that set out to claim that a non-literate Traveller must have learned The Maid and The Palmer from print.
It's little wonder that academics have such a bad press.
If you think I am being insulting, I suggest you work out how insulting contradicting 20 years research work is
Jay-sus!
"old ballads derived from European tradition"
I don't know how conversant you are with the oral tradition but many of our Child ballads can be traced back to Scandinavian and other Europesn sources - it doesn't mean their singers learned them from a visiting Canto-Hondo singer
Give us a break!
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 09:09 AM

Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal evidence, however aggressively it is presented.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM

"Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal evidence, however aggressively it is presented."
And researched evidence is far more reliable Karen - you really should know that
You are taking a single statement totally out of context, never having met any of the people involved
I ask again - does Tom sound as if he is singing an American song?
Perhaps you can find other songs he larned from 'folk magazines or "the radio"
This becomes tiresome - if not more than a little bizarre
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM

"Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal evidence, however aggressively it is presented."
And researched evidence is far more reliable Karen - you really should know that
You are taking a single statement totally out of context, never having met any of the people involved
I ask again - does Tom sound as if he is singing an American song?
Perhaps you can find other songs he larned from 'folk magazines or "the radio"
This becomes tiresome - if not more than a little bizarre
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 09:38 AM

"Re Cecil Sharp
He collected the version with St James in the words in Dewey, within walking distance of a railway station, which is how he got there himself.
You can read his diaries for the year here..."


Having spent the last four years researching Cecil Sharp's trips into the mountains, (the results are published in the current Folk Music Journal), I'm well acquainted with his diaries, the kind of communities he visited and the songs he collected. One of my principal arguments is that he and Maud Karpeles noted down a large number of songs that were not 200-year-old British ballads that had come over with the original migrants, so I do realise that the communities were not completely cut off from the outside.

"Walking distance of a railway station" actually turns out to be at least five miles away, if you read Sharp's diary entry for June 4, 1918, and do a few sums. He thought nothing of walking fifteen miles or more in pursuit of singers.

For your interest, there are several photos taken by Sharp of Laura Virginia Donald on the VWML Library website at #AC38.

However, the fact that Mrs Donald lived out in the woods five miles from a railway station isn't really relevant to the balance of probability regarding song transmission to or from Nova Scotia. The chances are tiny compared with the likelihood of the song having arrived independently from the British Isles.

Karen, although you have got a really interesting discussion going here, and although I have much sympathy for your argument about the rather reckless approach of sixties folk revivalists to evidence-based research, you seem to have got the cart before the horse. Barry's theory for Irish origins, or Lloyd's on the 'Unfortunate Rake' title or the significance of St. James Hospital, may well be based on incomplete or flimsy evidence, and deserve to be interrogated. However, you seem to be taking the position that everything they said must therefore be untrue, and that evidence that does support those theories must be dismissed - hence the repeated and rather quixotic attempts to airbrush away the pre-1920 'St James' variants of Roud 2, and to disqualify Tom Lenihan's version of the song.

On the subject of TL, you've posted the reference to American migration from his community more than once, as if this proves he got songs from there (in direct opposition to Jim Carroll's first-hand evidence), but that misses the point that his variant of Roud 2 is textually rather unique. If by some remote chance his sister had sent him the record of Armstrong singing 'St James Infirmary' it's highly unlikely he would even have recognized it as a version of the song he knew, never mind incorporating the place name. If that's not what you're suggesting I apologize for misunderstanding you, but if not, what are you trying to prove about the Lenihan version?

When I joined this discussion I was well aware of the longstanding theory that 'Unfortunate Lad' had evolved into 'St James Infirmary', 'Streets of Laredo', etc, etc, but also aware that modern scholars had questioned it. Having done a little digging myself, I've become more convinced that 'St James' is indeed part of the British Isles tradition of the song, even though no-one seems to have found anything pre-20th century as yet.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 10:23 AM

I believe that a mountaineer of 1910 would likely have considered the five miles to the railway station walking distance.

But since people had horses and wagons, the question is moot.

More importantly, I suggest that the presence of railway stations in Appalachia would be more conducive to importing songs (like "The Streets of Laredo" and "The Unfortunate Lad/Girl" *into* the mountains than exporting them to places like Nova Scotia.

Not to mention that there was a far greater cultural affinity between the Southern Appalachians and the cattle country of Texas and the Chisholm Trail, than between the Appalachians and Nova Scotia. Another side issue, to be sure, but of interest.

The most interesting questions raised in this thread (and others) can probably never be answered with absolute certainty. All we can do is look at the evidence and draw conclusions that seem the most probable.
In some cases probability itself may be a matter of opinion.

The alternative is to favor explanations that, while they may be very unlikely, appeal to our romantic or iconoclastic sensibilities.

To each his own.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 10:42 AM

Jon,
At one end of a spectrum you have incontrovertible facts and opposed to this are fictions and falsehoods with many types of opinions in the middle. Also somewhere in the middle are possibles and probables, and for me, where the first of these are not present possibles and probables can become extremely important but we need to be clear which is which.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 10:45 AM

I've just checked back on the MacKenzie (1909?) version from Nova Scotia. There are several differences from Sharp / Donald: the victim is female, not male; she asks her mother, not her father, to 'pity my case'; there's an additional verse beginning 'once on the street I used to look handsome'.

There are sufficient similarities to suggest the two variants arose from the same basic stock, but probably at more than one degree of separation. This again militates against transmission between Virginia and Nova Scotia. It also rather argues against another possibility (I'm surprised this one hasn't been advanced yet) that the song was included in some 19th Century songbook (like 'Forget-me-Not', though it doesn't seem to be in there), which was very probably a source for a few of the songs Sharp collected.

Lighter, you're probably right, but I'm still digging.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 01:34 PM

Steve, I agree completely.

By "To each his own" I'm suggesting ironically (gotta stop that!) that uncritical people will jump to conclusions, or cherry-pick evidence that supports their prior beliefs, and there's not much anyone can do except point it out.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 01:49 PM

what exactly are the consequences of this bloke ever having come across an American version of the Unfortunate Rake.

Not knowing a lot about music. I never really understood about how the Streets of Laredo related in any way to St James's Infirmary. They seem on the surface to be unrelated. I sing both songs. The melodies and the words seem different to me.

I think all singers are subject to their environment. Despite there being large numbers of people from the Indian sub continent and middle Eastern folk living in England. So far their ideas haven't filtered into my music. But I suppose it might in future. Singers can't really control the song. Even the most conservative of artforms undergoes changes. It is inevitable.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 02:00 PM

Brian, Karen, and Steve, are you familiar with the comprehensive collation of cowboy versions in Thorp, Fife, and Fife's "Songs of the Cowboys" (1966)?

Included is a categorization of all the locales the song mentions.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Nov 17 - 02:29 PM

I have Thorp and 2 editions of Fife. I have also done my own studies of all the versions at my disposal not particularly looking at the named locations as I know how fickle these can be in transmission. Looking back at my study apart from adding a few obscure versions I can't really add substantially to the discussions here.

My study is nowhere near as comprehensive as those carried out by Richie, being mainly concerned with similar versions and possible evolutions, but like Richie I do try to categorise different oecotypes using comparisons stanza by stanza and picking out obvious characteristics such as the gender of the main character.
He's about ready to start on a new song family and I could ask him to have a go at this one, but I doubt he'll be able to add any opinions other than those already expressed. He is, however very thorough and if there are any 'St James's' versions earlier than 1900 he's your man to find them.

The misleading title 'The Unfortunate Rake' introduced by Kidson/Broadwood and perpetrated by the likes of Bert Lloyd doesn't seem to be relevant here unless the two tunes can be seen to be related.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 04:26 AM

This entire discussion seems to be based on the idea that, if it hasn't been collected it has never existed.
A widespread and detailed knowledge of our song traditions does not predate the beginning of the twentieth century when field research began in earnest and the researchers insisted that they were dealing with a long term tradition that was on its last legs.
A folk song sung by 'shepherds' was reported as early as 1549, which indicates an oral tradition at least as early as that - that song was still in the oral tradition and being collected into the tatter half of the twentieth century
Hardly surprising that a single location can't be traced.
Our knowledge of the tradition represents a tiny blip of a long-standing and wide-ranging cultural activity
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 04:48 AM

I agree Jim - its the fragmentary nature of our knowledge and insights that, if anything give a mythic power to folksong.

It poses many questions in particular the role of the singer in creating the song. It is easy nowadays to see footage of singers. But even someone as recent and even recorded people like Robert Johnson - we know very little - we can only guess at his techniques and the roots from which he distilled his art.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 05:08 AM

"what exactly are the consequences of this bloke ever having come across an American version of the Unfortunate Rake"

Hi Al,
Perhaps this comment is a timely reminder that when a bunch of specialists get to discussing fine details, then the overall picture may be obscured. I still like to think of Mudcat as a resource for the curious, so, to briefly answer your question:

It's been accepted wisdom for many years in the folk revival that an English song called 'The Unfortunate Rake' was the precursor of 'St James Infirmary' partly because of the funeral arrangements with six pall bearers etc, but also because there were thought to be versions of the English song set in 'St James' Hospital'.

More recently, some researchers like Karen here have disputed this, on the grounds that no English versions of the song actually mention 'St James Hospital', a line that seems to been interpolated into the song by Bert Lloyd, from an Appalachian version.

There is a single Irish version (Tom Lenihan's) that does include the 'St James' line. But this was collected after the Louis Armstrong recording had become a hit, so the possibility arises that 'St James' went into the Irish version from America, not the other way round. There are plenty of examples of traditional singers being influenced by commercial recordings, but in this case there are strong reasons (as Jim and I have explained) to believe otherwise.

I don't know whether or not this will convince you that it's a matter of great import when the rest of the world is falling apart around our ears, but to those of us interested in this kind of stuff it certainly is.

"Not knowing a lot about music. I never really understood about how the Streets of Laredo related in any way to St James's Infirmary."

In many ways you'd regard them as different songs, but the basic plot is that someone has died and a funeral is being arranged. Then compare:

Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,
Get six pretty maidens to bear up my pall

with:

Get six gamblers to carry my coffin
Six chorus girls to sing me a song

Too close to be coincidental, I would think. Then you have less well-known versions of the cowboy song that include the line: 'As I passed by Tom Sherman's bar room', which chimes with 'old Joe's bar-room'.

Just because it's a great recording, here's Tom Sherman's bar-room.

And, again because it's a wonderful performance that deserves its own blue clicky, here's Iron Head Baker's version, which includes verses that look like they belong to English, cowboy and jazz versions.

It's not easy to determine the exact sequence of events, but the three songs are very clearly entangled.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 05:26 AM

"It poses many questions in particular the role of the singer in creating the song"
Plenty of evidence that they did create songs
Dig out the BBC recording of the Hebridean singers creating a song on the spot in praise of Alan Lomax's sexual attributes
We have a description of four men standing at the crossroads of the next village from here, tossing verses at each other until they's made a seven verse song
Another of a group of young, non-literate Travellers sitting on a grassy bank outside a church making a long song about how the wedding that was taking place would turn out

penultimate verse
"Oh the first year were were married was lovely
And the second we couldn't agree
An the third one she put on the trousers
And then made a wreck out of me"

That's why it is nonsense to suggest that singers had to rely on print for their songs
Jim Carroll


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 07:24 AM

"Brian, Karen, and Steve, are you familiar with the comprehensive collation of cowboy versions in Thorp, Fife, and Fife's "Songs of the Cowboys" (1966)?"

No. I did manage to download Thorp's earlier book free, but I can only see the one you're talking about available from US sellers where there would be a shipping issue. I should definitely like to see it, though. Thanks.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Brian
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 08:13 AM

Thank you for this excellent summary.

My own opinion is a) that nobody really knows, and that nobody will ever know 'the whole truth', b) all we can do is make inferences, some of which some people may find persuasive, some not and also, c) without wishing to call anybody a 'liar' (Harwood disagrees that Blind Willie McTell wrote "the dying crapshooter's blues" even though McTell claimed that he did, but does not call him a liar), there is reason to be a tad sceptical about what one reads in early journals, and even in the methods and findings about people collecting in the field.   

I would add that there is also some room for questioning whether there was ever a version of these lyrics specifically entitled by their singers 'The Unfortunate Rake'. The early references to this title are references to what I have learned on this very helpful thread thread may be more than one 'air', or melody, of this name, which also has a number of other names, which seems to have been a dance tune at some point, and whose origin is also obscure. The idea that the words/a version/variant (is there a technical difference in folkloric theory between a version and a variant) of this air at some point were joined up with the song whose 19th century title was mostly The Unfortunate Lad is, I humbly suggest, an inference, and most probably one entrenched in people's minds as a result of the work of A L Lloyd. But one reason for my coming on this thread was to see if anybody could provide me with, say, evidence from the 19th century of the actual use of those words with that title. I hope I have not muddled this up: this is how I understand it.

By the way, I have nothing against "Bert" Lloyd. I never met him, but it is said in literature I have found that he was likeable. He obviously managed to get on good enough terms with the English Folk Dance and Song Society. But some of his 'politics' strike one as almost wilfully naive with the wisdom of hindsight. I am thinking of a passage from his book on English Folk Song, a book which demonstrates to me a lack of ability to keep to the topic as opposed to going off at tangents, and does not feel to me look remotely 'academic'. Reading it after the horrors of the break up of the former Yugoslavia, not to mention the demise of British coal mining, I found this:

Things have changed a bit in the last few years. In some parts of Europe, and particularly in the folkloristically rich South-east the general democratic trend has set a different pattern in what Americans like to call the 'collector-informant context'. A Balkan collective farm peasant is no longer daunted by the man in collar and tie, any more than a Durham miner by the fellow from the BBC. The increase of working class self confidence offers new and more favourable conditions for discovering the full physiology of musical folklore, blood, flesh and wounds, and not merely its anatomy."

I hadn't seen Thorp Fife and Fife. Thanks for the reference. On cowboy versions, Harwood gives the name of a man who claimed to have copyrighted it in the 19th century: cannot just recall it now. That's another story from Harwood. Definitely a good read. Actually, I find him more readable than Lloyd.

Have a nice day, everybody.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 08:16 AM

Tarn it!

I got muddled up and put the wrong name in the 'From' box, when I was just thanking Brian for his summary of where we are at.

Very sorry for any misunderstandings that may follow.

The man who is said to have copyrighted cowboy's lament was Frank Maynard.

:0


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 08:55 AM

Thank you, Karen.

"I would add that there is also some room for questioning whether there was ever a version of these lyrics specifically entitled by their singers 'The Unfortunate Rake'. "

As far as I can see, most traditional singers titled their songs by first line or chorus. It was the collectors who allocated titles according to Child's nomenclature or their own invention, and tried to stick to them to identify variants as members of a family, rather as Steve Roud's numbering system has done for us more recently (and a lot more reliably).

For instance, Cecil Sharp insisted on calling Appalachian examples of Roud 15 'Cruel Ship's Carpenter' when I suspect the locals called it 'Pretty Polly'. But that did at least mean he placed it in the same bracket as the English song of that name.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 09:06 AM

Thankyou Brian. That's very good of you to explain that.

When I said - what are the consequences, I don't mean the consequences for mankind.

I meant what are the consequences for us as people who sing these songs...

there are a lot of songs about funerals, Brian. Finnegans Wake, Barbara Allen, Teenage Cremation..... If I add a verse about six pall bearers to these songs do they become related to The Streets of Laredo and St James's Infirmary?

Talking of Hamish Imlach - I wonder if you remember how he used to do Black is the Colour - like a blues song, really swinging that Aminor chord. always sounded odd to me.

if we had the all important DNA tests and St James's infirmary is proved to be Irish. What are the consequences - shall we add a verse about hurling, drop a few begorrahs into the lyrics....?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 09:11 AM

There are 2 ways of looking at umbrella titles from a researcher's point. They can get in the way of accuracy if misused as seems to be the case with 'The Unfortunate Rake'. However, in everyday discussion
it would be impractical if not impossible to keep referring to Child 295B or Laws P27a or Roud 27798 or ODNR 364, so to counter this I use my own Master Title index alongside these 4 systems. This is based upon the most frequently used published title. When I'm studying a particular ballad and comparing all of the versions, if a particular version comes without the singer's title and only gives an umbrella title I leave it blank to avoid inaccuracy.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 09:35 AM

Posted to an earlier thread, but may be of interest here:

The U.S. law journal Northeastern Reporter (1932, Vol. 181, p. 58) acknowledges a 1930 copyright suit concerning "St. James Infirmary."

The court decision notes: "In March, 1929, the plaintiffs revived the old song under the title 'St. James' Infirmary.' *The infirmary heretofore unidentified was given a name* [my emphasis - L]. They put forward an advertising and publicity campaign to sell the old composition under the new name."

The song in question was credited to "Joe Primrose" (actually Irving Mills) of Gotham Music Service. A year later a rival publisher put out a similar song with the same title. Hence the lawsuit.

And from further notes I've made:

Harwood asserts that cowboy Francis Henry Maynard "copyrighted" the cowboy version in 1876. While supporting Maynard's claim, his biography by Jim Hoy, Cowboy's Lament (2010), makes no mention of a copyright, which would seem highly improbable anyway.

Maynard published a booklet of his verse titled "Rhymes of the Range and Trail" (1911) which included the following:


THE DYING COWBOY

As I rode down by Tom Sherman's bar-room,
Tom Sherman's bar-room so early one day,
There I espied a handsome young ranger
All wrapped in white linen, as cold as the clay.
"I see by your outfit that you are a ranger,"
The words that he said as I went riding by,
"Come sit down beside me, and hear my sad story,
I'm shot through the breast and I know I must die.

Chorus:
Then muffle the drums and play the dead marches;
Play the dead marches as I'm carried along;
Take me to the church-yard and lay the sod o'er me,
I'm a young ranger and I know I've done wrong.

"Go bear a message to my grey-haired mother
Go break the news to gently to my sister so dear,
But never a word of this place do you mention,
As they gather around you my story to hear.
Then there is another as dear as a sister,
Who will bitterly weep when she knows I am gone,
But another more worthy may win her affection,
For I'm a young ranger ? I know I've done wrong."

Chorus

"Once in my saddle I used to be dashing;
Once in my saddle, I used to be brave;
But I first took to gambling, from that to drinking,
And now in my prime, I must go to my grave.
Go gather around you a crowd of gay rangers,
Go tell them the tale of their comrade's sad fate,
Tell each and all to take timely warning,
And leave their wild ways before it's too late."

Chorus

"Go, now, and bring me a cup of cold water,
To bathe my flushed temples," the poor fellow said.
But ere I returned, the spirit had left him,
Had gone to is Giver ? the ranger was dead.
So we muffled the drums and played the dead marches,
We bitterly wept as we bore him along,
For we all loved the ranger, so brave and so handsome,
We all loved our comrade, although he'd done wrong.


Maynard told a journalist in 1924:

"During the winter of 1876 I was working for a Grimes outfit which had started north with a trail herd [from Texas]...We were wintering on the Salt Fork of the Arkansas river on the border of Kansas....

"One of the favorite songs of the cowboys in those days was called 'The Dying Girl's Lament,' the story of a girl who had been betrayed by her lover...

"I had often amused myself by trying to write verses, and one dull winter day in camp to while away the time I began writing a poem which could be sung to the tune of 'The Dying Girl's Lament.' I made it a dying ranger or a cowboy....

"After I had finished the new words to the song I sang it to the boys in the outfit. They liked it and began singing it. It became popular with boys in other outfits ...and from that time on I heard it sung everywhere on the range and the trail."

Not long after this interview, Maynard told song collector Ina Sires that "he wrote the words to fit the tune of an old song that used to be sung by the cowboys called 'The Dying Girl's Lament,' which was the story of a girl dying in a hospital, and which began like this:

"'As I walked down by St. James Hospital, St. James Hospital so early one day, etc.' The song was accepted by the cowboys."


Maynard evidently told Sires specifically (and without knowledge of this thread) that he adapted his "Dying Cowboy" directly from a version of "The Dying Girl" which included the name "St. James Hospital."

While Maynard was apparently responsible for *one* adaptation of "The Dying Girl's Lament," there's no way to know if he was truly the first (or the only one) to adapt the song to the American West. No "cowboy" text before Thorp's very different (and oddly "literary") one (1908) seems to survive.

Lomax's extensive conflation (1910) suggests that by then the song was well known in various texts.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 09:54 AM

Unless those claims can be proved inaccurate or wrong, Jon, I would be very happy to accept that account. What he wrote is sufficiently different to 'The Dying Girl's Lament' to warrant being called a new song and therefore no issue with copyrighting it. At worst it could be called a parody. It also takes 'St James Infirmary' use in the States back to before 1876 which is more relevant to this thread.

I'll have another look at my versions of TDC in respect of variation and see if that throws up any points of interest.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 10:58 AM

"Maynard evidently told Sires specifically (and without knowledge of this thread) that he adapted his "Dying Cowboy" directly from a version of "The Dying Girl" which included the name "St. James Hospital."

Ker-pow! Another piece of the jigsaw pops into place. Thanks for that.

I've had a look at the Thorp (1921) book that I downloaded this morning. The 'Cowboy's Lament' in there begins 'As I walked out in the streets of Laredo' and was apparently "credited to Troy Hale, Battle Creek, Nebraska... I [Thorp] first heard it sung in a bar-room at Wisner, Nebraska, about 1886"

It's very similar to the Maynard text above, except for the first line, the substitution of 'cowboy' for 'ranger' throughout, and two additional verses, one beginning 'my friends and relations they live in the nation', and another 'swing your rope slowly and rattle your spurs lowly' (in addition to the usual drums and fifes stanza).

Is this likely to be authentic, and if so does it represent another 'new composition', this time based on Maynard's?

The court decision notes: "In March, 1929, the plaintiffs revived the old song under the title 'St. James' Infirmary.' *The infirmary heretofore unidentified was given a name* [my emphasis - L]. They put forward an advertising and publicity campaign to sell the old composition under the new name."

This passed me by the last time you posted it. Do you think it fair to assume that in introducing 'St James' to 'Gambler's Blues' in order to make it a 'new song', the authors were drawing on their knowledge of the old 'Dying Girl' song? Could it possibly be coincidence?

[Al]
"I meant what are the consequences for us as people who sing these songs..."

There need be none, Al. Enjoy the song for what it is, and be bothered about the history only if that sort of thing interests you. Though having said that' I fear it does affect my personal attitude to a song if I find it was cobbled together in the 1960s so, although I enjoy Bert singing his version of 'St James', I'd research a different one to sing myself.

"there are a lot of songs about funerals, Brian. Finnegans Wake, Barbara Allen, Teenage Cremation..... If I add a verse about six pall bearers to these songs do they become related to The Streets of Laredo and St James's Infirmary?"

No, and I'm not sure I'd want to hear 'Teenage Cremation' in the first place....

"Talking of Hamish Imlach - I wonder if you remember how he used to do Black is the Colour - like a blues song, really swinging that Aminor chord. always sounded odd to me."

Didn't sound half as odd as Lizzie Roberts (the original source of the song, from Hot Springs, NC) singing it to Maud Karpeles accompanying herself on a harmonium in a resolutely major key.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 11:34 AM

years ago i was in a folk club in Majorca and I heard a version of Street of Laredo sung by a young American ex-pat

AS I was a walking
One day in Majorca
As I was a walking through the Plaza Major
I spied a young tourist sad and crestfallen
drinking champagne sangria and a large fundador.

I see by your camera that you are a tourist
Oh I have a camera and sunglasses too
But I've got diarrhoea, and I caught it here
So now I'm afraid I must dash to the loo


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 03:38 PM

Thorp presents a peculiar problem. He explains in 1921 that he "first heard it sung" in Nebraska in 1886. That's presumably true, but the text he prints in 1921 comes from Lomax 1910.

Thorp's 1908 text - which may or may not be the one he heard in 1886 - is very different.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 05:30 AM

"Thorp presents a peculiar problem. He explains in 1921 that he "first heard it sung" in Nebraska in 1886. That's presumably true, but the text he prints in 1921 comes from Lomax 1910."

... which was itself a collation, hence the unusual number of verses?

Sorry, I've been a bit slow on the uptake here.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 08:23 AM

> which was itself a collation

Precisely.

With a few lines of extraneous poetry intruding in italics!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 08:24 AM

Will post Thorp 1908 later today.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 11:15 AM

I'm sorry if this has already been established, but looking through most of the earlier American more learned notes on the song there is constant reference to 'The Unfortunate Rake' tune being the same tune as early versions of The Dying Cowboy and related pieces. Is this just because of the confusion created by Kidson/Broadwood/Sharp or are there real connections between the dance tune TUR and any version of the family, or is this just a red herring created by the similarity of names. I'm not sufficiently musical to opine on this.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 11:36 AM

From Jack Thorp's 1908 booklet, "Songs of the Cowboys," including all misprints:

                         COW BOYS LAMENT

'Twas once in my saddle I used to be happy
'Twas once in my saddle I sued to be gay
But I first took to drinking, then to gambling
A shot from a six-shooter took my life away.

My curse let it rest, let it rest on the fair one
Who drove me from friends that I loved and from home
Who told me she loved me, just to deceive me
My curse rest upon her, wherever she roam.

Oh she was fair, Oh she was lovely
The belle of the Village the fairest of all
But her heart was as cold as the snow on the mountain
She gave me up for the glitter of gold.

I arrived in Galveston in old Texas
Drinking and gambling I went to give o'er
But, I met with a Greaser and my life he has finished
Home and relations I'll never see more.

Send for my father, Oh send for mother
Send for the surgeon to look at my wounds
But I fear it is useless I feel I am dying
I'm a young cow-boy cut down in my bloom.

Farewell my friends, farewell my relations
My earthly career has cost me sore
The cow-boy ceased talking, they knew he was dying
His trials on earth forever were o'er.

Chor. Beat your drums lightly, play your fifes merrily
Sing your dearth march as you bear me along
Take me to the grave yard, lay the sod o'er me
I'm a young cow-boy and I know I've done wrong.


My guess is that this is somebody's (Thorp's?) idiosyncratic rewrite of a more conventional text; it is based, perhaps, on a desire to approximate the original song from a faulty recollection.

Thorp commented elsewhere that collecting songs fro cowboys was difficult because few of the singers knew all the words!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 11:49 AM

Steve, the two best-known tunes to "The Cowboy's Lament" (one often associated with the "Streets of Laredo" words" and the other with "Tom Sherman's Barroom") bear no resemblance that I can hear to "Rake" tunes I'm familiar with.

The exception is MacColl's "Trooper Cut Down in his Prime," which is clearly the "same" as "The Streets of Laredo" (and "The Bard of Armagh").

However, there are some less familiar tunes to variants of the "Lament" that I can't comment on offhand except to say that one or two are modal in nature.

I'm I right in recalling that the "Streets of Laredo" tune used for one of the "Dying Girl" texts on the Folkways album?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 12:08 PM

Steve, I think I may have what you're looking for:

Exhibit A: Unfortunate Rake in the Traditional Tune Archive, version #1 from Ryan (1883).

Exhibit B: 'The Doctor' from Henry Adams, coll. George Gardiner 1906. This goes with a a recognizable Roud 2 text (with some interesting idiosyncracies).

The first bar is identical, and the shapes of the two tunes are sufficiently close that I would say they are clearly related, though obviously the song has half the number of bars.

Anyone agree with me?

Thanks for the Thorp text, Lighter.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Brian Peters
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 12:20 PM

The tune as printed for 'The Wandering Harper' in Crosby's Irish Musical Repository, linked previously by Karen, has the A and B parts of the tune reversed, as in TTA #2, which is why I didn't recognize it at first.

Looking at some of the other English tunes to Roud 2, none of them is as close a fit as the Adams one, but several are of that ilk. Others, like Harry Cox's, are straight major, rather than Dorian, and it's harder to see more than a vague resemblance there.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 01:25 PM

Brian, that's interesting as the Adams version is a 'Young girl cut down' variant. Somewhat bizarrely I used this tune myself as the B music of a tune I put together in jig time and had only heard it sung as a waltz before. I actually collected a full version of 'The Sailor Cut Down' to that tune.

I think I already hinted at this but all of the earlier British 'Young Girl cut down' variants have no mention of any hospital until we get to the Somerset version collected in 1936 which has 'Bath Hospital'. I think there would be a lot to learn from a detailed study regarding the likely transmission routes. It is interesting how the songs have passed almost freely between genders.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 01:43 PM

New Orleans "Daily Delta" (May 29, 1862), p.1:

"HEADQUARTERS MILITARY COMMANDANT'S OFFICE, New Orleans, May 27, 1862.

"General Orders No. 5.

"...II. The Medical Director at St. James Hospital will cause a consolidated report of the sick in his charge to made daily at these headquarters, to be sent in at 9 o'clock A.M."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: meself
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 02:31 PM

I believe that would have been in close proximity to the House of the Rising Sun. Discuss.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 02:53 PM

Joan O'Bryant sings "Tom Sherman's Barroom" to a modal tune slightly resembling Iron Head Baker's song on "America Ballads and Folksongs" (Folkways, 1958). She learned it from a singer in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Hear the tune:


https://www.amazon.com/American-Ballads-Folksongs-Joan-OBryant/dp/B000S96POS/ref=sr_1_2?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&qid=1511293773&sr=1-2-m


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 21 November 4:30 PM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.