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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)


Steve Gardham 19 Nov 17 - 02:29 PM
Lighter 19 Nov 17 - 02:00 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Nov 17 - 01:49 PM
Lighter 19 Nov 17 - 01:34 PM
Brian Peters 19 Nov 17 - 10:45 AM
Steve Gardham 19 Nov 17 - 10:42 AM
Lighter 19 Nov 17 - 10:23 AM
Brian Peters 19 Nov 17 - 09:38 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM
GUEST,Karen 19 Nov 17 - 09:09 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Nov 17 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,Karen 19 Nov 17 - 08:16 AM
Brian Peters 19 Nov 17 - 06:10 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Nov 17 - 03:13 AM
Big Al Whittle 18 Nov 17 - 05:17 PM
Steve Gardham 18 Nov 17 - 04:03 PM
Lighter 18 Nov 17 - 03:50 PM
meself 18 Nov 17 - 02:56 PM
Brian Peters 18 Nov 17 - 12:24 PM
Brian Peters 18 Nov 17 - 12:21 PM
Lighter 18 Nov 17 - 11:28 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 09:52 AM
Brian Peters 18 Nov 17 - 09:43 AM
Brian Peters 18 Nov 17 - 08:20 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 08:19 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 06:39 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 05:49 AM
GUEST,Karen 18 Nov 17 - 05:16 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 03:35 AM
Jim Carroll 18 Nov 17 - 03:17 AM
Brian Peters 17 Nov 17 - 02:17 PM
Brian Peters 17 Nov 17 - 02:07 PM
Lighter 17 Nov 17 - 11:22 AM
GUEST 17 Nov 17 - 10:20 AM
GUEST,Karen 17 Nov 17 - 10:12 AM
GUEST,Karen 17 Nov 17 - 10:09 AM
Big Al Whittle 16 Nov 17 - 05:55 PM
Brian Peters 16 Nov 17 - 05:20 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Nov 17 - 04:23 PM
Brian Peters 16 Nov 17 - 01:29 PM
Brian Peters 16 Nov 17 - 12:53 PM
Lighter 16 Nov 17 - 09:25 AM
GUEST,Karen 16 Nov 17 - 06:03 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Nov 17 - 03:47 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Nov 17 - 03:26 AM
Lighter 15 Nov 17 - 09:11 PM
GUEST,karen 15 Nov 17 - 08:27 PM
GUEST,karen 15 Nov 17 - 08:06 PM
GUEST,karen 15 Nov 17 - 07:49 PM
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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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


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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


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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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...


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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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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.


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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.


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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."


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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)."


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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


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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


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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.


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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.


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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?


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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.:)


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