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Lyr Req: Escape of Old John Webb/Billy Broke Locks

DigiTrad:
BOLD ARCHER
BOLD ARCHIE
BOLD DICKIE
JOCK O' THE SIDE
THE ESCAPE OF OLD JOHN WEBB


Related threads:
Lyr Add: Archie o Cawfield (Child 188) (2)
Lyr Req: Tony Rose - Bold Archer (4)
Lyr Add: Bold Archie Drowned (1)
Lyr Add: Bold Archy & Blind Wilie's Lament (1)


Storm (inactive) 08 Feb 99 - 03:11 PM
Rasta 08 Feb 99 - 05:42 PM
Roger in Baltimore 08 Feb 99 - 05:59 PM
Sandy Paton 08 Feb 99 - 08:06 PM
Storm (inactive) 08 Feb 99 - 09:27 PM
Susan of DT 09 Feb 99 - 07:35 PM
Bob Conroy 12 Feb 99 - 11:18 PM
Joe Offer 13 Feb 99 - 04:51 AM
Susan of DT 13 Feb 99 - 09:13 PM
Barry Finn 14 Feb 99 - 12:03 AM
Joe Offer 19 Aug 08 - 07:22 PM
Joe Offer 19 Aug 08 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,leeneia 20 Aug 08 - 05:40 PM
georgeward 21 Aug 08 - 01:25 AM
Anglo 21 Aug 08 - 03:29 AM
GUEST,Paul Townsend 23 Jul 09 - 03:53 PM
GUEST,Pete Hawkins 04 Mar 13 - 10:08 PM
Thomas Stern 26 Oct 15 - 02:10 PM
GUEST,Guest, KirstyF 07 Mar 17 - 04:34 PM
GUEST,Bob Schwarer 08 Mar 17 - 02:53 PM
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Subject: John Webb
From: Storm (inactive)
Date: 08 Feb 99 - 03:11 PM

I'm looking for lyrics to the ballad "the Escape of old John Webb" I've found one version here on Digital Tradition but it is not complete. If anyone has or knows where I can find additional verses or another version all together can you let me know please?

Thanks, Storm

Stormqueen@rocketmail.com


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Subject: RE: John Webb
From: Rasta
Date: 08 Feb 99 - 05:42 PM

Hey storm--If the data base dont have it take a peek into the Kingston Trio Place. You should be able to find a entire lyric section in there. Its there so be patient and you*ll find it--- Rastaaaa


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Subject: ADD Version: The Escape of Old John Webb (Drake)
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 08 Feb 99 - 05:59 PM

Storm,

Rasta is right, but I will help you along even further. If you enjoy Kingston Trio, then you can find lyrics is you click here. Don't forget to bookmark!

And here are the slightly different lyrics the Tom Drake takes credit for.

THE ESCAPE OF OLD JOHN WEBB
(Tom Drake)

Five men to guard the British rank and five to watch the town above
And two to stand at either hand and one to let Bill Tenner out.
He had eighty weight of Spanish iron between his neck bone and his knee,
But Billy took Johnny up under his arm and lugged him away right manfully.

Chorus:
And Billy broke locks and Billy broke bolts and Billy broke all that he came nigh,
Until he came to the dungeon door and that he broke right manfully.

So he stole him a horse and away he did ride and who but they rode gallantly,
Until they came to the river bank to the river runnin' wild and free!
The British were comin' close on their heels and who but they stood fearfully,
'Till Billy took Johnny up on his back and carried him over it easily. (Chorus)

So they called at the inn for a room to dance and who but they danced merrily
And the very best dancer among them all was old John Webb who was just set free!




Also, if you check the song in the database, it leads you to two Child ballads. Don't know if they are in the DT or not.

Roger in Baltimore


    Note from Joe Offer: These lyrics are exactly what is sung on the Kingston Trio String Along album, which attributes the song to Ervin Drake. The Harry Fox Agency identifies the songwriter as T. Drake, so I think Roger is correct.
    -Joe Offer, August, 2008-


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Subject: RE: John Webb
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 Feb 99 - 08:06 PM

The song is also in Burl Ives' paperback songbook. The pop quiz is: of which of the great Border Ballads does this seem to be a variant? Susan? Bruce? Roger? Joe?

Sandy


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Subject: RE: John Webb
From: Storm (inactive)
Date: 08 Feb 99 - 09:27 PM

The Tom Drake version is the one I was looing for. Thanks bunches... Storm


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Subject: RE: John Webb
From: Susan of DT
Date: 09 Feb 99 - 07:35 PM

Once you found the John Webb, notice the #187 at the bottom, the Child number. Search for #187 to find 3 versions of the song. Dick and I had fun with this song. He knew the American version, which claimed to be about a jailbreak in Vermont or around there, and I knew the Scottish border version and said That sounds just like one of the border ballads in Child.


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Subject: RE: John Webb
From: Bob Conroy
Date: 12 Feb 99 - 11:18 PM

I believe that the jailbeak took place in Salem Mass. The Kingston Trio version, arranged by Dave Guard, was included on the Capitol lp STRING ALONG. If you come across a copy of the album listen to Dave Guard's panjo part.


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Subject: RE: John Webb
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Feb 99 - 04:51 AM

Durn. I don't know about border ballads, Sandy. Care to explain? (click here for information, but I still can't figure out which ballad Sandy's talking about).
Here are the notes from the Burl Ives Songbook:
Only religious songs were approved in the New England colonies. However, ballads on current happenings could not be suppressed and broadsides describing events often took the place of newspapers. The broadsides were accounts in verse associated with or written to traditional tunes. About the year 1730, John Webb and Bill Tenor were imprisoned at Salem, Mass. Their imprisonment was unpopular. The jail raid which freed them was much applauded and a twenty-verse broadside was printed describing the incident. This song, madrigal in form, was composed from the broadside. Government officials advertised unsuccessfully for information regarding author and printer.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: John Webb
From: Susan of DT
Date: 13 Feb 99 - 09:13 PM

Look at Bold Archie and tell me it's not the same song. Child claims 1579.


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Subject: RE: John Webb
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Feb 99 - 12:03 AM

Hi Joe, I believe the short of border ballads might go, big (long usually) ballads from the Scottish-English borders areas from the Scottish side & view point. They usually deal with the border battles, raids & etc. I'm sure, Joe that there are others here that can & will do far better job explaining than I. I was just happy to be the first to brief you in return for all the info you dish out constantly. And Joe, I don't care what you sing, you'd be welcome to sing anytime you're in town. Search @Border for some examples. Barry


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Subject: RE: Escape of Old John Webb (Billy Broke Locks)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 07:22 PM

Here's the entry on this song from the Traditional Ballad Index:

    Billy Broke Locks (The Escape of Old John Webb)

    DESCRIPTION: John Webb was imprisoned and well guarded, but "Billy broke locks and Billy broke bolts, And Billy broke all that he came nigh." Billy and John Webb escape on horseback, then relax by organizing a dance
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (Barry, Eckstorm, Smyth)
    KEYWORDS: prison escape dancing freedom
    FOUND IN: US(NE)
    REFERENCES (3 citations):
    BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 393-400, "John Webber" (1 text plus four versions from newspapers and such, 1 tune)
    Lomax-FSNA 4, "Billy Broke Locks" (1 text, 1 tune)
    DT, JOHNWEBB*

    Roud #83
    CROSS-REFERENCES:
    cf. "Archie o Cawfield" [Child 188] (tune & meter, theme)
    Notes: An American rework of "Archie o' Cawfield," with which Roud lumps it; the revised version dates perhaps from the 1730s. It may have arisen out of an attempt at currency reform. In the early days of the English colonies, there was no universal system of coinage; Spanish money was common, but there was no fixed exchange rate.
    Parliament decided to settle the matter by issuing a paper money, the "tenor." However, after a time the "Old Tenor" (referred to in the song) was replaced by the "New Tenor" -- resulting in civil disturbance. One of the chief culprits was one John Webb (Webber), a mint-master, who ended in prison but was rescued by friends. - RBW
    File: LoF004

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

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2007 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: ADD Version: Billy Broke Locks
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Aug 08 - 07:35 PM

Billy Broke Locks

There were nine to hold the British ranks,
And five to guard the town about,
And two to stand at either hand,
And one to let the Old Tenor out.

CHORUS:
Billy broke locks and Billy broke bolts,
And Billy broke all that he came nigh,
Until he came to the dungeon door,
And that he broke right manfully.


There was eighty weight of good Spanish iron
Between his neck-bone and his knee,
But Billy took Johnny up under his arm
And lugged him away right manfully.
CHORUS

They mounted their horses and away did ride.
And who but they rode manfully,
Until they came to the river bank
And there they alighted right manfully.
CHORUS

And then they called for a room to dance,
And who but they danced merrily,
And the best dancer amongst them all
Was old John Webb who was just set free.
CHORUS


Source: The Folk Songs of North America (Alan Lomax, 1960), #4, page 14

taken from page 393 of British Ballads from Maine (Phillips Barry, 1929). As sung by Mrs. S.S. Thornton and Mrs. F.P. Barker of Maine


Note: the Digital Tradition version doesn't sing the chorus until after Billy has been introduced in the second verse. Don't know if the DT is right about that, but it makes sense to me.

Here are the notes from Lomax:
    PHILLIPS BARRY believes that, about the year 1700, a new wave of colonists from Britain brought a group of ballads into New England which did not reach the southern states. Among these he cites Captain Kidd, and the Scots Archie o’ Cawfield, upon which the present ballad is based, and whose story runs as follows...
    Archie Hall of Liddesdale, one of three reiving (cattle rustling) brothers, lies prisoner in Dumfries jail. Dickie and Jockie Hall ride to his rescue. Jockie, a man of Homeric stature and strength, bursts the iron bolts of the dungeon with a blow, and though the prisoner has ‘fifteen weight of good Spanish iron on his fair bodie,’ picks him up in his arms, observing, ‘I count him lighter than a flea.’ The three brothers make good their escape by swimming their horses across a river that daunts their English pursuers. In the Scots ballad they refer to each other affectionately as ‘billie.' In Scots dialect ‘billie' meant comrade or buddy; thus, in our ballad, ‘Billy' takes the place of 'Jockie.'
    Very likely Archie o’ Cawfield was one of the ballads Cotton Mather had in mind when in 1713 he lamented ‘the vogue of the foolish Songs and Ballads which hawkers and pedlars carry into all portions of the Country.' There is no doubt that it served as the model for Billy Broke Locks, composed around 1737, when the colonists of Massachusetts became involved in a currency dispute with the crown.
    At that time exchange in the colonies was based upon Spanish coinage, which brought a different price in the various colonial capitals. Parliament attempted to resolve this confusion by several issues of paper money called ‘tenors’; but when the ‘new tenor’ replaced the ‘old tenor,' disturbances broke out in Massachusetts, and two satirical broadsides entitled The Death of Old Tenor and The Dying Speech of Old Tenor were published -- and suppressed. John Webb (or Webber) then mint-master of Salem, Massachusetts, apparently stuck to ‘Old Tenor' and for this offence was sent to prison. When his friends broke into jail and rescued Webb, someone celebrated the event by re-making Archie o’ Cawfield to tell the story of the escape of the man who had stood up for ‘Old Tenor,' and so is identified with ‘Old Tenor’ in the chorus.
    Thus the rebellious fire of a sixteenth-century Scots border rant passed into a new song of social conflict, producing what is certainly the best of our early colonial ballads. Billy Broke Locks must have been extremely popular in New England for Barry found five good versions of it, two hundred years after the event.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Escape of Old John Webb (Billy Broke Locks)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 20 Aug 08 - 05:40 PM

Obviously an art form which was criticized by Cotton Mather stands a good chance of surviving the ages. Like being banned in Boston...

The Kingston Trio reocrded this, and I enjoyed it as a kid, tho I had very little idea of what it was about. It was such a pretty, gentle song.


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Subject: RE: Escape of Old John Webb (Billy Broke Locks)
From: georgeward
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 01:25 AM

Ah, well.... As one who sang this as a Park Service interpreter for many a year, I should opine that our good Mudcat friend Anglo has a fuller version and sings it better than anyone else I've ever heard.

Big surprise...not.


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Subject: RE: Escape of Old John Webb (Billy Broke Locks)
From: Anglo
Date: 21 Aug 08 - 03:29 AM

Hah! I am drawn out of my usual lurk. I learned this as a teenager from the Kingston Trio, and learned the history later (much of it from the previous poster GW). Also later I added a verse adapted from Archie O' Cawfield, which seemed to fit:

Oh Billy, oh Billy, the sheriff says he,
You're the damdest rascal I ever did see,
Come give me back the iron you stole
And I will set your prisoner free.
Oh no, oh no, bold Billy says he,
Oh no, oh no, that never can be,
The iron will do our horses to shoe:
The blacksmith rides in our company.

Researching through Phillips Barry, I was amazed to find that this was included in some of the versions he had collected.

When I sing the song, I end without the final chorus, going straight into Morpeth Rant, which also seemed to fit.

Billy Broke locks, and Billy broke bolts,
And Billy broke all that he came nigh,
Until he came to the dungeon door,
And that he broke right speedily.

I am somewhat astonished by leeneia's characterization of this as "such a pretty, gentle song."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Escape of Old John Webb/Billy Broke Locks
From: GUEST,Paul Townsend
Date: 23 Jul 09 - 03:53 PM

May I share a personal reminiscence regarding this song. My brother was a teenager in the late 1950's (when I was just a toddler) and he had this record in his collection. It soon became a favourite of mine too, and (as all kids do) I had tried to song it myself :)

Later that day my mother mentioned to my brother that I had been trying to sing "some stupid song about a billy-goat: billy-goat this and billy-goat that." My brother, recognising from that fragmentary description what song it was, rushed to my defence and surprised my mother by putting the record on to show her what it actually was that I had been trying to sing.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Escape of Old John Webb/Billy Broke Locks
From: GUEST,Pete Hawkins
Date: 04 Mar 13 - 10:08 PM

For much more about Border reivers, Border ballads and such, see George MacDonald Fraser, The Steel Bonnets.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Escape of Old John Webb/Billy Broke Locks
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 26 Oct 15 - 02:10 PM

in the 1940's, John and Lucy Allison recorded an album for KEYNOTE
"Early American Ballads" (K103, 3-78rpm records) which included:

PATRIOTIC DIGGERS      
THE GREENLAND FISHERY
NANTUCKET LULLABY
Sir Peter Parker
Ballad of Saratoga
Unfortunate Miss Bailey
Ballad Of The Tea Party & Escape Of Old John Webb

If anyone has the booklet which accompanied the album, I would be interested in any cited source.
Wonder if the Allisons introduced these songs to the folk revival ???
Best wishes, Thomas.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Escape of Old John Webb/Billy Broke Locks
From: GUEST,Guest, KirstyF
Date: 07 Mar 17 - 04:34 PM

Late to the game, here, and very grateful to have lyrics and notes for this half-remembered song.

In response to Anglo, "somewhat astonished by leeneia's characterization of this as "such a pretty, gentle song."" -- I was too, until I heard the Kingston Trio version on YouTube:

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

Having (I think) first learned it from Lomax' book, and possibly from a Burl Ives recording, I always considered the tune one of the best fighting songs I've ever heard. But the banjo and especially the soft voice in the Kingston Trio's recording does make it sound very gentle.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Escape of Old John Webb/Billy Broke Locks
From: GUEST,Bob Schwarer
Date: 08 Mar 17 - 02:53 PM

I always thought that John Webb was jailed for counterfeiting ten pound notes and this is where "tenner" came from.

Also, I ran across this song done by John and Lucy Allison. I don't remember where I found it, but I like it. Nothing fancy but they use a recorder (I guess) to good effect.


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