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Black Velvet Band

DigiTrad:
BLACK VELVET BAND
BLACK VELVET BAND (2)
BLACK VELVET BAND (NEW ZEALAND VERSION)
BLUE VELVET BAND (2)
THE BLUE VELVET BAND
THE BLUE VELVET BAND (3)


Related threads:
Lyr Add: Black Velvet Band - 4 versions (3)
Lyr Req: Black velvet band PARODY (20)
(origins) Lyr Req: Old versions of Black Velvet Band (48)
Lyr Req: Black Velvet Band (variations) (29)
Lyr Add: Blue Velvet Band (22)
Chord Req: Black Velvet Band (20)
Lyr Req: Her eyes they shone like pint bottles... (4)
Lyr Req: black velvet band (16)
Help: Song sung to 'Black Velvet Band' Tune (17)
Lyr Req: Black Velvet Skirt (12)
(origins) Help: Velvet Band Age (7)
JD Crows Blue Velvet Band (5)
Lyr Add: The Black Bedford Van (4)


belfast 21 Sep 02 - 02:50 PM
Malcolm Douglas 21 Sep 02 - 03:21 PM
Jim McLean 21 Sep 02 - 03:29 PM
belfast 21 Sep 02 - 03:38 PM
belfast 21 Sep 02 - 03:42 PM
Malcolm Douglas 21 Sep 02 - 03:49 PM
Malcolm Douglas 21 Sep 02 - 03:54 PM
belfast 21 Sep 02 - 04:07 PM
dick greenhaus 21 Sep 02 - 09:44 PM
Leadfingers 21 Sep 02 - 10:01 PM
dorareever 21 Sep 02 - 10:14 PM
Malcolm Douglas 21 Sep 02 - 10:15 PM
death by whisky 21 Sep 02 - 10:43 PM
belfast 22 Sep 02 - 07:27 AM
Malcolm Douglas 22 Sep 02 - 08:27 AM
belfast 22 Sep 02 - 09:33 AM
Dave the Gnome 22 Sep 02 - 05:44 PM
Leadfingers 22 Sep 02 - 07:35 PM
M.Ted 23 Sep 02 - 02:06 PM
GUEST 23 Sep 02 - 02:19 PM
Malcolm Douglas 23 Sep 02 - 03:11 PM
M.Ted 23 Sep 02 - 04:11 PM
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Subject: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: belfast
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 02:50 PM

I know there are previous threads about this song but I can't find in them the answer to a little question that occasionally niggles in my mind. The version I know of this song comes from the book "The Singing Island" By Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, published, I think, in 1960. The version there differs slightly from any of the ones in the digitrad. It begins "In a neat little town they call Belfast …" and another verse begins "I took a stroll down Broadway …". There is indeed a street in Belfast called Broadway but it was hardly the place for a pickpocket to operate and it wasn't built until long after transportation to "Van Diemen's Land" was used a punishment. I don't recall (or believe) that the song was sung in Belfast until the "folk revival" of the 60's. And I'm fairly sure it isn't in the Sam Henry collection. Does anyone know the origin of that particular version?

Search for "Velvet" threads


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:21 PM

It was recorded by Ewan MacColl from Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk, in 1953. Nobody seems to be quite sure when Belfast crept into the song (it has also been found localised to Tralee); the earliest-known versions (mid-nineteenth century) were set in Barking, Essex, as is enlarged upon in previous discussions here. "Broadway" may just have been a handy rhyming substitute for the original Ratcliffe Highway.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Jim McLean
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:29 PM

There's a Herbert Hughes version, 1936, in IRISH COUNTRY SONGS. It's called the Black Ribbon-band and starts 'It was in the town o Tralee..'
Jim Mclean


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: belfast
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:38 PM

Let me sure that I've got this right. The Harry Cox situates the song in Belfast and this is the version that Ewan MacColl gives in "The Singing Island"? Thhis makes some sort of sense for I assume that people like the Clancy Brothers, Luke Kelly and so on got the song from Ewan and that's how it found its way to Belfast. I was nearly going to say "back to Belfast". But I suspect the song had never been here before that.

But now I'm curious as to where Harry Cox got the reference to Belfast. Probably most people in Norfolk in the early 50's had never heard of Belfast.

And thank you for the information.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: belfast
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:42 PM

And thank you Jim. I think I know where I can view a copy of the Herbert Hughes book.

A second thought has just occurred to me. Nobody who had actually been in Belfast would have described it as " a neat little town"


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:49 PM

Yes, that's right. Actually, there's a fair chance that it had already travelled from London to the north of Ireland, been localised to Belfast, and come back again. Norfolk fisherman were in regular contact with their Irish and Scottish colleagues.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 03:54 PM

My reply was to your previous, of course. The "Tralee" localisation is in vol.4 of Hughes. As for neat little town; well, the broadside sets described Barking as that pleasant little town, so there is some poetic licence involved, perhaps. Well, maybe it was pleasant 150 years ago...


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: belfast
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 04:07 PM

Right. I think I've got a clearer idea about this. And it's time I was in a pub where, I sincerely hope, absolutely nobody will be singing "The Black Velvet Band".

But before I go I have to say yet again what a brilliant site this is. The knowledge that is out there and the speed with which it comes in never fails to amaze.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 09:44 PM

Innaresting. The American "Blue Velvet Band" goes back at least to the 20s (Published in Shay's Pious Friends and Drunken Companions)/ I'va always assumed that Black Velvet Band came first, but...


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 10:01 PM

Belfast-There Aint Nothing Wrong with The B V B,in fact its a bloody good song to get a response from a pub audience with.Just because the Folkies have flogged it to death doesn't mean its a BAD song.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: dorareever
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 10:14 PM

I like this song...I like wild rover...I like songs people consider to be too famous,maybe...


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 10:15 PM

The thread dealing with the history of the song is  Old versions of Black Velvet Band,   which contains some interesting information, though as might be expected there are also posts from people who didn't bother to read anything anybody else had said; and as a consequence at least one of them posted yet again a garbled reminiscence of Harry Cox's version, learned in America from somebody in an "Irish" bar who had presumably half-remembered it from a Dubliners record; and someone else mentioned the Irish Rovers, who probably also had it from the same record. It turns out -more interestingly- that someone quoted the Tralee localisation, too, though she had it from a record by a harp player who didn't (apparently) name her source; which was most likely Hughes' book, mentioned earlier.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: death by whisky
Date: 21 Sep 02 - 10:43 PM

Now then.I sing this song twice a week.I sing it " Twas in the town of Tralee.etc."In the last verse it goes"beware of those pretty yong damsels that are knocing around in Tralee"HEREWEGO..Her eyes......etcetc.The boys in the band reckon its Belfast,but I sing it so my rules.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: belfast
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 07:27 AM

De gustibus non est disputandum, as my mother used to say when I refused to eat spinach. If my flippant little crack about this song irritated anyone I apologise. This is a crap medium for feeble little jokes

I really raised this matter to express my doubts about this being a Belfast song. I accept the possibility mentioned by Malcolm Douglas that the song might have made its way to Belfast before the 60's "folk revival", but I think if it had some collector or other, if not Sam Henry, then Sean O'Boyle and Peter Kennedy would have noticed it.

In other words, death by whiskey, I think you're right and that Tralee has a pretty good claim to it.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 08:27 AM

It's an interesting question. Actually, Kennedy did find it in Belfast; he and Sean O'Boyle recorded a set from Paddy Doran there in 1952. It began As I strayed out one morning, though, so perhaps it didn't mention a locality at all (I haven't heard it). Kennedy thought that it was probably a Belfast song, and remarked that it was popular among sailors there (Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, 1975, p.725) though the evidence we have now would appear to show an English broadside origin. The version Kennedy published was set in Belfast, but he got it from Bill Cameron of St. Mary's in the Channel Islands (in 1956). There was no chorus.

Otherwise, most English versions seem to be set in London/ Barking, except for a "Belfast" strand in Norfolk, which is often untypical of the rest of the country.

In his notes to the Suffolk singer Cyril Poacher's recording Plenty of Thyme (MTCD303) Rod Stradling mentions the song's popularity in Australia and New Zealand, and says that the "Tralee" version, Black Ribbon Band, was taken up with some commercial success by Irish showbands "as a sort of cover of the Dubliners/ Harry Cox one". Cyril's was a "London" set. Stradling suggests that the chorus was probably added in the music-halls.

On localisations, Elizabeth Cronin's set took place in Dunmanway!


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: belfast
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 09:33 AM

Well done, Malcolm Douglas. I feel like putting my hands in the air and saying, It's a fair cop, Guv. My belief that the song was first heard in Belfast in the 60's is demonstrably wrong. And yet again I'm struck by the strange and unfathomable nature of folksong

By the way, a couple of years ago Nicholas Carolan presented a wonderful programme on BBC Radio 3 about Kennedy and O'Boyle's collecting in the north of Ireland in the early 50's. It was only half an hour long but it was delightful to hear the likes of Sarah Makem, the McPeakes, Paddy Tunney and his mother, and more besides. Some of the stuff that they collected went to make up a series of programmes "As I Roved Out" and I suspect it was there that I first heard "folk songs".


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 05:44 PM

Is my memory failing or did The Dubliners do a lot to bring the song to popularity in the 60's or 70's? In fact, if the old grey cells do not fail me, did they not have some pop chart sucess with selfsame song? I always thougt it a bit incongruous that the Dubliners were singing about Belfast anyway!

My favourite related line is in the version of 'The Folker' our club residents sing.

"In Black Velvet Band I clean forgot the forty second verse, so I sang the twenty seventh twice as loud and in reverse and no-one noticed..."

Ah well, what is it they say about small things and small minds?

Cheers

Dave the Gnome


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Leadfingers
Date: 22 Sep 02 - 07:35 PM

And I always thought it was 'In Sir Patrick Spens'.This must be the Folk Process at work again.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 02:06 PM

The "Girl with the Blue Velvet Band", in More Pious Friends and Drunken Companions, is set in "Frisco" and concerns a man who resorts to burglary to pay for an opium habit that he shared with the G/wBVB--The narrator goes to prison, no mention of Van Dieman's land, and he foils her attempt at betrayal, only to get caught when his parter is killed in a shootout--

Though no date for it's collection is given, and the book was published in 1927, Shay says that the songs were those that were commonly sung in the 1890's--I haven't the text handy to post it--does anyone else have it? It is amazingly different from the version that is done these days--


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 02:19 PM

M. Ted, I revived the Blue V B thread with a version from the Library of Congress Dust Bowl collection. No mention of Australia, etc., but talk of going away.
No new data on versions older than 1927, but I put in a "speculation," probably worthless, but you might wish to comment. According to one collector, cowboys were singing the song some 25 years before 1935- but no verification yet.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 03:11 PM

The Roud Folk Song Index assigns no. 2146 to Black Velvet Band, and no. 3764 to Blue Velvet Band. Of the latter, Rod Stradling (see above) comments, "This is not so much a version [of Black Velvet Band] as a re-write." It has been tentatively ascribed both to Bill Monroe and to Cliff Carlisle, but I wouldn't know if either is at all likely. Perhaps best treated as a separate song.


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Subject: RE: Black Velvet Band - Again
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 04:11 PM

The "Pious Friends" version is close to the DT #313 version, but is considerably longer--Of all the versions, it is the one that seems the most like a continuous narrative--the others feature many lines that are borrowed from other songs and have gaps and missing details in the story, as you would expect when the folk process sets in--

"Kearny and Pine" is a real intersection in SF, and is close to the infamous "Maiden Lane"--and close to Chinatown, where, at least before the turn of the century, there would have been opium and opium dens. I tend to think that this version would have to have been written in SF or by someone who had been there, and probably around or a bit before the end of the 19th century since it has so much of the O.Henry/Robert W. Service quality to it--and there is too much of the wanton opulance that characterized the city in those days to have come from the serendipities of folklore--

This version lacks the fundamental story element though, which is that of having a stolen jewel or watch planted during a drunken flirtation, and being framed for its theft--that makes me think the PF version is a reworking, or maybe a complete rewrite of an older story/poem/song--


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