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Origin: I Am A Pilgrim

DigiTrad:
I AM A PILGRIM


Related thread:
(origins) Origin: I Am a Pilgrim of Sorrow (14)


Richie 21 Feb 03 - 11:03 AM
masato sakurai 21 Feb 03 - 11:49 AM
wilco 21 Feb 03 - 01:20 PM
Charley Noble 21 Feb 03 - 01:37 PM
GUEST,Q 21 Feb 03 - 01:48 PM
Richie 21 Feb 03 - 10:02 PM
open mike 21 Feb 03 - 10:13 PM
Richie 21 Feb 03 - 11:41 PM
Stewie 22 Feb 03 - 09:40 AM
Stewie 22 Feb 03 - 09:49 AM
Mark Clark 20 Mar 04 - 05:08 PM
GUEST,Jeger 21 Mar 04 - 02:49 AM
Mark Clark 22 Mar 04 - 10:09 AM
Franz S. 22 Mar 04 - 01:30 PM
Mark Clark 22 Mar 04 - 06:04 PM
Franz S. 22 Mar 04 - 07:03 PM
Richie 15 Jan 10 - 01:16 AM
Joe Offer 15 Jan 10 - 04:30 AM
GUEST,Jayto 15 Jan 10 - 02:54 PM
GUEST,Jayto 15 Jan 10 - 02:58 PM
autoharper 15 Jan 10 - 03:30 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Jan 10 - 04:05 PM
autoharper 15 Jan 10 - 04:27 PM
Acme 15 Jan 10 - 06:30 PM
Richie 15 Jan 10 - 09:52 PM
Richie 15 Jan 10 - 10:00 PM
Richie 09 Feb 10 - 12:18 PM
Mark Clark 18 Feb 10 - 01:08 AM
GUEST,Marco 27 Dec 10 - 08:47 PM
GUEST,John Garst 31 May 11 - 02:39 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Apr 13 - 02:53 PM
GUEST,stringing up 11 Mar 14 - 03:04 PM
GUEST 25 Jul 14 - 02:43 PM
GUEST,Ray Hutchison 07 Feb 17 - 12:13 AM
Mark Clark 07 Feb 17 - 06:50 PM
GUEST,ray hutchison 07 Feb 17 - 08:33 PM
Richie 07 Feb 17 - 08:39 PM
GUEST,Ray Hutchison 07 Feb 17 - 10:17 PM
Mark Clark 08 Feb 17 - 12:29 AM
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Subject: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Richie
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 11:03 AM

I am trying to find out the origin of the words to "I Am A Pilgrim" the Merel Travis- Doc Watson version. It's in the DT.


Here's some background info from the DT. This song is entwined with "Poor Wayfaring Stanger" which appears in the Sacred Harp- 1844.

"I'm a Pilgrim" appears in The Southern Zion's Songster, No. 45 on p. 43, , Raleigh, NC. in 1864 and in "Hymns For the Camp," 1862 and begins: "I'm a pilgrim and I'm a stranger/I can tarry but a night/" This hymn seems to have been a favorite in the South during the War Between the States. Here's the frist verse:


I'M A PILGRIM- 1862 version

I'm a pilgrim and I'm a stranger,
I can tarry but a night.
Do not detain me, for I am going
To where the rivers are ever flowing.

Where did the Merle Travis versin come from? Is it copyrighted? Are there other versions with similar lyrics?

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: masato sakurai
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 11:49 AM

Merle Travis said: "I first heard a version of this song from Lyman Rager, who learned it while he was in the Elkton, Kentucky jail. I rewrote it, rearranged it, and added to it." (quoted in Dorothy Horstman, Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, newly revised & expanded ed. (Country Music Foundation Press, 1996, p. 48)

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: wilco
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 01:20 PM

This is one of my favorite songs. I do it in E, and it's my favorite harmonica tune. Do it very blues style.
E      B
I am a pilgrim
B7    E
and a stranger
      E7 A7
traveling through
               E
this wearisome land
                   E7 A
I got a home in yonder city, o yeah
       E7               B            E7
and it's not, o yes its not, made by man

I got a mother, sister, and a brother,
who have gone, gone on before
And, I'm determined to be there with them, O Lord,
When we meet on yonder shore.

1st verse again. (I do a harmonica break or fiddle break)

As I go down to the river of Jordon,
just to bathe ny troubled soul,
If I could but touch the hem of his garment, Sweet God,
I believe, Dear God, it would make me whole.

1st verse again


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 01:37 PM

I seem to remember that Jeromy Taylor also had a spendid version that was sung on his Wait-a-Minit revue.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 01:48 PM

Some of the old versions have been posted.
I Am A Pilgrim, 42490: Pilgrim
Thread #42490   Message #620679
Posted By: Dicho
03-Jan-02 - 09:02 PM
Thread Name: hymn stories?
Subject: Lyr Add: I'M A PILGRIM
Wayfaring Stranger - The song appears under the title I'm a Pilgrim, No. 45 on p. 43, in The Southern Zion's Songster, 1864, Raleigh, NC.

First verse and chorus:
I'm a pilgrim and I'm a stranger,
I can tarry but a night,
Do not detain me, for I am going,
To where the fountains are ever flowing.

There the glory is ever shining!
O, my longing heart, my longing heart is there,
Here in this country so dark and dreary,
I long have wandered forlorn and weary.

I'm a pilgrim, etc.

There's the city to which I journey;
My Redeemer, my redeemer is its light,
There is no sorrow nor any sighing,
Nor any tears there, nor any dying.

I'm a pilgrim, etc.

Farewell, dreary earth, by sin so blighted,
In immortal beauty soon you'll be arrayed!
He who has formed thee will soon restore thee!
And then thy dread curse shall never more be.

I'm a pilgrim, etc.

Note that there is no chorus about going over Jordan; I'm a pilgrim and a stranger is the 1st line of the chorus here. The references are indeed confusing. The Sacred Harp 1844 reference in the ballad Index, Univ. California-Fresno is probably an error.
The Southern Zion's Songster is reproduced in its entirety on the Univ. North Carolina website http//docsouth.unc.edu/imls/zion/zion.html


Thread #42490   Message #620715
Posted By: Dicho
03-Jan-02 - 10:48 PM
Thread Name: hymn stories?
Subject: Lyr Add: I'M A PILGRIM
In "Hymns For the Camp," 1862 2nd ed. rev. and enl., p. 124, a slightly different version of I'm A Pilgrim appears. This hymn seems to have been a favorite in the South during the War Between the States. Does it appear in Northern hymnals of that time, for use by soldiers, as well?

I'M A PILGRIM

I'm a pilgrim and I'm a stranger,
I can tarry but a night.
Do not detain me, for I am going
To where the rivers are ever flowing.

There the sunbeams are ever shining;
I am hoping for the sight,
Within a country unknown and dreary
I have been wandering, forlorn and weary.

Of the country to which I'm going,
My redeemer is the light;
There is no sorrow nor any sighing,
Nor any sinning nor any dying.
I'm a pilgrim and I'm a stranger,
I can tarry but a night.

Published by the General Tract Agency, Raleigh, NC, for the Confederate Soldiers.
This hymn book is reprinted in its entirety in the Univ. NC website, Documenting the South, docsouth.unc.edu/hymns/hymns.html#hymns123


Wayfaring Stranger, 23495: Stranger


Thread #23495   Message #620773
Posted By: Dicho
04-Jan-02 - 01:45 AM
Thread Name: Req/ADD: I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger
Subject: Lyr Add: THE PILGRIM SONG (WAYFARING STRANGER)

THE PILGRIM SONG (WAYFARING STRANGER)

I am a poor wayfaring stranger,
While journeying through this world of woe;
But there is no sickness, toil, no danger,
In that bright world to which I go.

I'm going there to see my classmates,
They said they'd meet me when I come;
I'm just a going over Jordan,
I'm just going over home.

I know dark clouds'll gather 'round me,
I know my road is rough and steep;
Yet there bright fields are lying just before me,
Where God's redeemed their vigils keep.

I'm going there to see my mother,
She said she'd meet me when I come;
I'm just going over Jordan,
I'm just a going over home.

I'll soon be free from every trial,
My body will sleep in the old churchyard.
I'll quit the cross of self-denial,
And enter in my great reward.

I'm going there to see my mother, etc.
(Repeat verse 4)

The Negro and His Songs, H. W. Odum and G. B. Johnson, 1925, Univ. North Carolina Press (reprint by Negro Universities Press, 1968 etc.), p. 137-138.
The Pilgrim's Song "may be called a standard hymn of the Negroes. There is a story that Bishop Allen, the founder of the African M. E. Church, composed the song on his dying bed." "While the sadly hopeful words of the song are of a higher type than the average spiritual, and while its metrical form is far above the usual, the song still combines many of the ideas and phrases of the favorite spirituals of the slaves."
Whether this story of the song's authorship is seemingly not verifiable, this version is probably as close to a "Negro" version of the song as we will get. In the hymn books of the white South (posted in another thread) are different versions, dates 1862 and 1864. I will try and check the date of Bishop Allen's death.
@religion @hymn @spiritual

Words attributed to Merle Travis are in the DT, no date or source. He released it on a Capitol recording in 1947, "Folk Songs of the Hills." Earlier one??


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Richie
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 10:02 PM

Thanks everyone for the posts and info- it's one of my favorites too. It's a great fingerpicking song.

Seems to me that Merle wrote it from other sources. It seems he should get credit for it or is it considered to be a PD (public domain) song?

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: open mike
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 10:13 PM

p.d.? police dept?
no i know you mean public domain


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Richie
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 11:41 PM

Open Mike,

Since it came from the Elkton, Kentucky jail, police department could be right!

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Stewie
Date: 22 Feb 03 - 09:40 AM

In his booklet for the Bear Family box set, Rich Kienzle writes: '"I Am A Pilgrim" came from Mose Rager, whose brother heard a black prisoner sing it and taught Mose the lyrics. During the session [13 August 1946], Travis suggested to Gillette [Lee Gillette, producer] they record the gospel standard "This World Is Not My Home". They recorded both "Pilgrim" and "This World Is Not My Home". The latter song didn't make the final cut'. Kienzle makes no suggestion that Travis reworked the piece. Indeed, he says they re-recorded 'That's All' and 'four more traditional folk numbers rounded out the session, including "John Henry" ...' Kienzle comments that the session was 'lighthearted as Merle clowned with Cliffie [Stone] and Gillette between takes'. He seems to suggest that the recording of 'Pilgrim' was spontaneous, rather than something that Travis had re-worked in preparation for the session. This is at odds with the quote from Horstman that Masato posted above.

There were numerous recordings under the titles 'I'm A Pilgrim And A Stranger' and 'I'm A Pilgrim' long before before Cliffie Stone said to Merle in August 1945: 'Wanna be a folk singer? We need you to make an album of folk songs'. Here are some:

Under the title 'I'm A Pilgrim'-

Norfolk Jazz and Jubilee Quartet 1924
Paramount Jubilee Singers Early 1920s
Good Will Male Chorus 1927
South Carolina Quartette 1928
Mound City Jubilee Quartette 1935
Golden Gate Quartet 1939
Southern Wonder Quartet 1940

Under the title 'I'm A Pilgrim And A Stranger' -

Heavenly Gospel Singers 1936
Elks Quartette - field recording in Virginia late 1930s

You can check the above by a search on the Document site.

--Stewie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Stewie
Date: 22 Feb 03 - 09:49 AM

My apologies, in respect of the quote from Cliffie Stone in my above posting, it should have read 'Cliffie Stone said to Merle in August 1946', not 1945.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Mark Clark
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 05:08 PM

In his notes accompanying the Vestapol video, Legends of Country Guitar, Cary Ginell—talking about Travis’ four-pocket, 78 RPM album Folk Songs from the Hills—says it “…included some of Merle Travis’ best-loved compositions: ‘Sixteen Tons,’ ‘Dark as A Dungeon,’ and ‘I Am A Pilgrim’ in addition to a few trditional tunes Travis had learned in Kentucky.”

The video begins with a film (ca. 19621) of Mose Rager playing I Am A Pilgrim as an instrumental for folklorist D.K. Wilgus. Ginell writes “One illuminating segment leads off our retrospective featuring Rager, in prime form, playing Merle Travis’ ‘I Am A Pilgrim.’”

However, in the video clip itself, Wilgus presses Rager on the origin of “that Pilgrim song” and Rager replies

That old song I Am A Pilgrim? We sang that old song around here years ago—seem like to me about thirty years ago. [laughs] It’s just an old brush arbor song. Everybody sang it; Merle Travis ’n’ my two brothers we’d all get together out here—out here on the—out t’ the edge of town an’ just set out there till about twelve o’clock an’ sing old hymns an’ we’d sing I Am A Pilgrim. So as far as I Am A Pilgrim, it’s just an old brush arbor song.
This would have been many years (16 years?) after Merle Travis had already recorded I Am A Pilgrim, so it’s not clear whether Rager’s comment has been influenced by Travis’ spoken intro to the recording in which Travis also claims I Am A Pilgrim is an old brush arbor song. It’s possible Rager’s memory has been corrupted by the legend already grown up around Travis.

      - Mark

_________________
1The clip is undated but a later note of Ginell’s says it was made thirteen years prior to another clip of Rager known to have been made in 1975.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,Jeger
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 02:49 AM

I heard this first in Swedish. Jag är främling, jag är en pilgrim, Blott en afton, blott en afton bor jäg här. Very beautiful. I have a 7 verse version in a Swedish hymnal published in 1890. It has only text. Translation literally: I am a stranger, I am a pilgrim, But an evening, but an evening am I here. Doubtlessly the same song. The rest is quite the same also.
I have seen it in both Swedish and Norwegian (they are quite similar). There were two different authors given in different books. Mary Shindler in the Norwegian one and Betty Ehrenborg in the Swedish one. Things were not that accurately recorded. The composer for the melody I have is Oskar Anhfelt who wrote melodies that were used for many Swedish gospel songs.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Mark Clark
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 10:09 AM

I found a rather nice MIDI file for the Rager/Travis/Atkins version of this song. The MIDI file was done by Mike Joyce using TablEdit Tablature Editor software so it's intended to be an accurate transcription of an actual guitar arrangement. The MIDI file is on the home page of Paul Doty, a guitarist and arranger in the Chet Atkins style. Paul's site is a good resource for any fingerstyle guitarist.

      - Mark


MIDI file for I Am A Pilgrim

(This is also a more accurate rendition of the melody I remember for the song than the one in the Digital Tradition database.)


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Franz S.
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 01:30 PM

Sorry, Charlie, it's not on the copy of Wait a Minim that I have...or is that a different Jeremy Taylor work?    I still have Tennessee Ernie Ford's version on a 78.   And I enjoyed the reference to my stepfather, D. K. Wilgus, whose personal record collection I raide (selected from) after his death.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Mark Clark
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 06:04 PM

Franz, I've enjoyed your earlier posts—especially in the Weavers-McCarthy thread—but didn't realize the father you talked about was D.K. Wilgus. In the notes I quoted above, Ginell calls him “…one of the century's preeminent folklorists and a champion of old-time music.” I suspect Ginell's remark is something of an understatement. What an amazing childhood you must have had. You've mentioned inherited records before but what a collection you must have had to choose from.

Do you have access to all the footage your stepfather made with Rager? Are there films or tapes of Rager and others in the Muhlenberg area?

For those interested, here is a link to a memorial piece on D.K. Wilgus.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Franz S.
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 07:03 PM

Mark, He wasn't my father, he was my stepfather, and I only knew him for about 8 years, but we turned out to have many common interests and even some common acquaintances. I surely did enjoy his company. Thank you for the memorial piece; i had never seen it.

Any of the material you asked about would probably be in the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC Chapel Hill. I just have some of the vinyl he kept at home, and the mapcases he used in his office for record storage. They're perfect for storing 33s and 78s.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Richie
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 01:16 AM

Hi,

I've compiled some of the info on my web-site:

http://bluegrassmessengers.com.temp.realssl.com/i-am-a-pilgrim--richard-matteson.aspx

I've also done a quick one-take learn to play video on youtube here:

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

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 04:30 AM

There's a fair amount of information at the Traditional Ballad Index:

I Am a Pilgrim

DESCRIPTION: "I am a pilgrim and a stranger Traveling through this wearisome land, I have a home in yonder city, And it's not made, not made by hand." The singer's family has gone before; the singer hopes to be made whole
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1917 (recording, Imperial Quartet)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad
FOUND IN:
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Silber-FSWB, p. 353, "I Am A Pilgrim" (1 text)
DT, IAMPLGRM*

RECORDINGS:
Imperial Quartet, "I'm a Pilgrim, I'm a Stranger" (Victor 18199, 1917)
Silver Leaf Quartet, "I Am A Pilgrim" (OKeh 8594/ARC 6-12-63/Vocalion 04395, 1928)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Tossed and Driven (The Poor Pilgrim)"
Notes: The Digital Tradition lists this as by Merle Travis. The Folksinger's Wordbook doesn't list an author. I haven't a clue -- but there are a lot of traditional lines in here. - RBW
I think the 1917 recording effectively washes out the claim of Merle Travis as sole author, although he certainly put the song into the form in which it's most commonly sung today. Sam Hinton learned a version in his childhood which is probably closer to the 1917 version than to Travis's. - PJS
File: FSWB353B

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Bibiography
Go to the Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2009 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,Jayto
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 02:54 PM

Mose Rager who was a mentor for Merle Travis had a daughter well 3 actually. One of them told me that Merle Learned that song from Mose Rager's brother Lyman. Lyman was in jail in Russellville Kentucky and learned it from an inmate. The name of the inmate has been lost but that is the story that has circulated around here in western Kentucky about the way Merle learned that song.
cya
JT


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,Jayto
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 02:58 PM

Sorry I didn't see where that story had already been posted. I have always heard it was Russelville though and not Elkton. Elkton is so small I don't even know of an old jail that was there. Back then all the small towns had jails though so maybe it was Elkton. Hard to imagine but if Mortons Gap Ky had a jail I guess anything is possible haha. I have heard that story alot and locals always say it was Russellville Ky. Alot of times I have noticed people will say the name of the closest bigger town to one of the smaller towns because more people are familiar with the bigger town. That may be what happened here as well with the whole Russellville Elkton thing.

Cya
JT


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: autoharper
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 03:30 PM

I believe that "I am a Pilgrim and a Stranger (I can tarry but a night)" is pre-Civil War, and can be found in _The Numeral Edition of The Christian Psalmist_, compiled by Silas Leonard and A. D. Fillmore, published in 1854.

-Adam Miller


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 04:05 PM

Thanks, autoharper. The lyrics in the Southern camp song booklets had to be copied from a prior source.

The Christian Psalmist (if it is the 1847 and later compilations) went through several editions; Newman, Ivison named as publishers of some. I had not heard of the Numeral Edition.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: autoharper
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 04:27 PM

I believe there is (or once was) a copy of _The Numeral Edition of The Christian Psalmist_, compiled by Silas Leonard and A. D. Fillmore (1854) in the collection of the University of California at Los Angeles library.
-Adam Miller


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Acme
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 06:30 PM

I have an album or a tape with Sam Hinton singing "I Am a Pilgrim." I think he repeats part of one line, something like

I'm a pilgrim and I'm a stranger,
And I can tarry,
I can tarry but a night.

I'll dig it out.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Richie
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 09:52 PM

Hi,

I have the date of the earliest publication of "I am a Pilgrim and a Stranger (I can tarry but a night)" as 1840. Published by Mrs. Mary Stanley Bunce Dana Shindler in 1840 Southern Harp.

The popular poem/song was republished in many different editions over the years.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Richie
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 10:00 PM

BTW,

I'll check with Sleepy Marlin who played fiddle with Merle in 1936 until around 1942 in the Drifting Pioneers. Merle played with Clayton McMichen for about 6 months from April- July 1937. Merle reportedly played the song then.

Sleepy is still in good shape and lives nearby me.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Richie
Date: 09 Feb 10 - 12:18 PM

Here's my version of I Am A Pilgrim on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w88m3Sg0o70

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Mark Clark
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 01:08 AM

Nice job, Richie. I enjoyed the related tutorial too. My way of playing that tune comes from Mose Rager more than anybody. I tend to use that heavy thumb "thump" for the bass and play more than one string for each bass beat.

If I'm ever around Louisville, I'll look you up.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,Marco
Date: 27 Dec 10 - 08:47 PM

Has anyone else realized the similarities between "I Am A Pilgrim" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,John Garst
Date: 31 May 11 - 02:39 PM

I see Dana's "I Am a Pilgrim" and "Wayfaring Stranger" as entirely different songs.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Apr 13 - 02:53 PM

"I Am a Pilgrim" has been reworked by several composers. Here is one by the gospel songwriter John T. Benson Jr.

Lyr. Add: I Am a Pilgrim

I am a pilgrim and a stranger
traveling thru (yes, yes) this wearisome land;
(weary land)
I got a home in that yonder city, good Lord,
And it's not, good Lawdy, well it's not, not made by hands
(not made by hands.

Chorus-
I am a pilgrim and a stranger traveling thru this wearisome land;
I've got a home in that yonder city, good Lord,
and it's not, good Lawdy,
well it's not made by hands.

I've got a mother a sister and a brother who have gone
(yes, yes) this way before; (gone before)
I am determined to go and see them, good Lord,
Over on, good Lawdy, over on the other shore (the other shore).

I'm going down to the river of Jordan just to bathe (oh, yes)
my wearisome soul; (weary soul)
If I can just touch the hem of His garment, good Lord,
Then I know, good lawdy,
then I know He'll take me home (He'll take me home).

"Copyright 1958, in "New Songs of Inspiration No. 3" by John T. Benson Jr. Arranged by Ben Speer.
P. 92, "Western Melodies," 1960, Gospel and Spiritual Songs.
Compiled and composed by V. P. (Vep) Ellis.
Assisted by John T Benson, Jr
With musical score.

J T Benson Publishing Co., Nashville, Tennessee.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,stringing up
Date: 11 Mar 14 - 03:04 PM

I am a pilgrim copyrighted in 1958. writer is John t Benson Jr. arranged by Ben Speer. Published in "good songs" by stamps & Baxter, 1960...one of my favorite songs, the Byrd's with gram parsons is 1 of the best... Thank you .. @ sciotree@gmail.com...


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jul 14 - 02:43 PM

This is a great thread. Seems to me the "Pilgrim song:Wayfaring Stranger" and "I am a Pilgrim" are two distinct songs, as John Garst suggested above.

One is a Spiritual, the other seems more contemporary, Bluegrass\Country Blues maybe.

Possibly the first was the inspiration for the second...? Kind of an updated version of the theme...we may never know :).


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,Ray Hutchison
Date: 07 Feb 17 - 12:13 AM

I'm not certain if this is still an active spread. I have been curious about the origins of this song for a long time, and was recently looking at an English hymnal published (3rd Edition) in the 1830s. There are at least a dozen songs in the collection that deal with pilgrims. The origin would appear to be 1 Peter 2:11. No one of the songs matches the Merle Travis / Byrds version, but you can find the basic lyrics spread across at least three of these early 1800 hymns (1: I am a pilgrim traveling, 2: cross the river where (mother, brother) have gone before, 3: house not built by hand). I'm curious to find some of these in American hymnals, but it was not uncommon for English (especially Methodists) to publish the American hymns during this period. Lorenzo Dow, for example, published a volume of hymns to take with him on early visit to the UK.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Mark Clark
Date: 07 Feb 17 - 06:50 PM

Ray, All the threads at Mudcat are, in a sense, active. Some may lie dormant for many years only to be added to by someone who came across it in a search. That is one of the things that makes Mudcat such a compelling resource.

I'm guessing the Byrds version had it's origins in Merle Travis' version perhaps filtered through bluegrass influences. I don't know that, just a guess.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,ray hutchison
Date: 07 Feb 17 - 08:33 PM

Thank you, Mark... yes, mudcat is a terrific resource!

Don't think that this was posted earlier. There is a (1947) recording of Merle Travis from album titled Folk Songs of the Hills where he says, "When I was big enough to run around by myself at night, the first place I wanted to go was to the camp meetings, to the brush arbor meetings and listen to them play them good ole songs. I learned a lot of them old songs, but there's one 'specially that I liked better than all the rest, and I remember it today just as well as the day I learned it. The name of it is I am a Pilgrim."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81UUWyQ8rtE

The gospel songwriter John T. Benson Jr. version (mentioned in earlier thread) has identical lyrics as the earlier Merle Travis. I think the Byrds / Sweetheart of the Rodeo version is pretty clearly from the earlier Merle Travis recording (original Columbia release with Roger McGuinn singing, Byrds box set has version with Gram, once you're dead previous recording contracts seem not to apply any longer). I am not aware of any bluegrass groups recording this in the intervening years (which is surprising, I think, given the close relationship between the camp meeting hymns and bluegrass gospel music).

I have always loved this song since hearing it on the Nitty Gritty / Circle album but for other reasons have looked for the 'original' 'earliest' version. My impression is that the Merle Travis version, which he says comes from brush arbor meetings of his childhood, must be a hybrid mixture of general themes common to a number of hymns that first appeared in early 1800s in Methodist camp meeting hymnals (unlike Wayfaring Stranger which is a direct derivative of a 19th Century hymn). I can copy some of the earlier versions that contribute to the specific themes in the Merles Travis version if someone wants them, Kind of cool if the gospel songs developed similar to the early blues songs!


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Richie
Date: 07 Feb 17 - 08:39 PM

Hi Ray, Mark,

As I said earlier in the thread "I am a Pilgrim and a Stranger (I can tarry but a night)" was published in 1840 Southern Harp. It should be available online, however, only the first line is the same but it's similar-- which means the African-American versions of the early 1900s originated from a similar gospel song.

No one has found a close approximation in print, but it's possible it could be found someday,

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: GUEST,Ray Hutchison
Date: 07 Feb 17 - 10:17 PM

Richie, You are correct, we can find the first line "I am a pilgrim and a stranger" in Southern Harp, but I also have found other lines/phrases that appear in "I am a Pilgrim" in other hymns that predate this. At some point, parts of these hymns were combined to form the the version that we have from Merle Travis. It would be wonderful to know who he learned this from, and where that unknown person got their version from!

You are going to have to go with me that while "there is no close approximation in print" there are parts of earlier hymns that, when combined, complete the version that we know now, more than 200 years after the original versions.

I will post the earlier hymns that contain the proto-lyrics for I am a Pilgrim. These predate the original (1844) Southern Harp publication. Southern Harp was essentially a compilation of hymns that had been published in other sources (going back to the first decade of the 1800s). I think the "authoritative" study of this is David W. Steel and Richard H. Hulan, The Makers of the Sacred Harp (University of Illinois Press, 2010)

http://jsr.fsu.edu/issues/vol14/hartsock.html


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Subject: RE: Origin: I Am A Pilgrim
From: Mark Clark
Date: 08 Feb 17 - 12:29 AM

Bill Monroe recorded I Am a Pilgrim on 20 March 1958. It was Bill's first gospel LP. He'd been working on the LP through March and it was finished in early April. Neil Rosenberg & Charles Wolfe quote Monroe. “I first heard a version of this song from Lyman Rager who had learned it when he was in the Elkton, Kentucky, jail. I rewrote it, arranged it, and added to it.” Of course Monroe was raised in Western Kentucky not that far from where Ragers and Travis were from.

Rosenberg & Wolfe go on to say that Travis was featuring the song as early as 1939, when he was on WLW's Boone County Jamboree with a band called the Drifting Pioneers.

Monroe also recorded it twice in July of 1963 and, since Monroe's music was widely imitated, I would guess quite a few bluegrass versions would have been recorded before 1965.

      - Mark


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