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Origins: origin of Moonshiner

DigiTrad:
GOODBYE MY CHIQUITA
I'M A RAMBLER, I'M A GAMBLER
I'M A RAMBLER, I'M A GAMBLER (5)
I'M A RAMBLER, I'M A GAMBLER (Scoutmaster)
I'M A RAMBLER, I'M A GAMBLER c
MOONSHINER


Related threads:
Lyr Req: The Moonshiner (Daw Henson) (13)
Lyr Req: I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler (46)
Lyr Add: Rambler-Gambler (10)
Lyr Req: Moonshiner (from Clancy Bros.) (4)
Lyr Req: I'm a Rambler I'm a Gambler (3) (closed)
Lyr Req: Rambler Gambler (from Joan Baez) (7)


GUEST,Hugh Walter Jennings 13 Oct 06 - 09:19 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Oct 06 - 10:20 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 14 Oct 06 - 10:19 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 14 Oct 06 - 12:20 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 14 Oct 06 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 14 Oct 06 - 01:34 PM
12-stringer 14 Oct 06 - 02:10 PM
Joe Offer 14 Oct 06 - 02:34 PM
GUEST,Hugh Walter Jennings 14 Oct 06 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,Richie 14 Oct 06 - 10:09 PM
12-stringer 15 Oct 06 - 01:24 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 15 Oct 06 - 08:40 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 15 Oct 06 - 09:08 AM
paddymac 15 Oct 06 - 12:45 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 15 Oct 06 - 12:46 PM
Lighter 15 Oct 06 - 01:40 PM
dick greenhaus 15 Oct 06 - 06:35 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 15 Oct 06 - 08:37 PM
dick greenhaus 15 Oct 06 - 09:12 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 15 Oct 06 - 09:16 PM
GUEST,Richie 16 Oct 06 - 09:46 AM
Lighter 16 Oct 06 - 11:27 AM
Kaleea 16 Oct 06 - 02:12 PM
Deckman 16 Oct 06 - 06:34 PM
Lighter 16 Oct 06 - 06:48 PM
Lighter 16 Oct 06 - 07:56 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 17 Oct 06 - 07:22 AM
Lighter 17 Oct 06 - 10:07 AM
ard mhacha 17 Oct 06 - 11:27 AM
Don Firth 17 Oct 06 - 02:05 PM
Lighter 17 Oct 06 - 05:30 PM
Lighter 17 Oct 06 - 06:20 PM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Oct 06 - 07:47 PM
DannyC 17 Oct 06 - 11:37 PM
Malcolm Douglas 18 Oct 06 - 12:02 AM
DannyC 18 Oct 06 - 10:20 AM
Lighter 18 Oct 06 - 10:32 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 18 Oct 06 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,Trev 18 Oct 06 - 04:40 PM
Lighter 18 Oct 06 - 06:29 PM
Malcolm Douglas 18 Oct 06 - 09:42 PM
DannyC 18 Jan 07 - 09:58 AM
dick greenhaus 18 Jan 07 - 11:03 AM
Mrrzy 18 Jan 07 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,meself 18 Jan 07 - 01:42 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Jan 07 - 03:08 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 18 Jan 07 - 08:33 PM
GUEST,meself 18 Jan 07 - 08:40 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Jan 07 - 08:49 PM
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Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Jan 07 - 05:49 PM
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Subject: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Hugh Walter Jennings
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 09:19 PM

I searched " origin of moonshiner " no results, so I'm asking in hopes someone will know the true origin of the song. From google, I gather it may be of Irish origin ?

Thanks in advance.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Oct 06 - 10:20 PM

Not a very sophisticated search technique! Try instead typing moonshiner into the search engine here (link at the top of every page).

It appears to be an American song, like so many which are assumed nowadays to be Irish because they were once recorded by the Clancy Brothers. The opening lines of some versions seem to be borrowed from 'The Wild Rover' (which itself only became "Irish" via the Clancys or the Dubliners; I forget which. See numerous discussions here for details).


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 10:19 AM

The earliest version of it I know was recorded by Buell Kazee in the 1920s. Its tune was minor. Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 12:20 PM

Specifics:

Buell Kazee, "Old Whisker Bill, The Moonshiner, Brunswick E 22500, April 19, 1927. Not recorded by anyone else during the 20s except an unissued 1929 Gennett take by Leonard Rutherford and John Foster as "Kentucky Moonshiner." I first heard it when Kazee sang it to me in summer 1955 at his home in Lexington, KY.

Not a common song. It's another of the rare ones collected by Carl Sandburg in his "American Songbag," 1927 as "Kentucky Moonshiner," with the same minor tune (a beauty); he got it from Gilbert R. Combs. (related to folk collector Josiah Combs??)

Slightly later versions: it's in Walter Peterson (The Kentucky Wonder Bean)'s 1931 folio "Mountain Ballads and Old Time Songs," but Walter, a radio singer with harmonica and guitar, never recorded it. Gus Meade thought it related to "Rye Whiskey" as given in the Lomaxes' "American Ballads and Folk Songs," 1934 p 170, but I disagree, it seems clearly a distinct song.

You might think Kentucky-born radio singer Bradley Kincaid would have sung it. But he apparently didn't -- no recording of it, and no variant found in those of his music folios I've been able to trace, nor in Loyal Jones' Kincaid biography. There are other marginally related Moonshiner songs like the one Leonard Roberts printed in "Sang Branch Settlers," but only marginally.

So the very few sources point to Kentucky origin. Can anyone trace it back earlier than Buell Kazee and Sandburg/Combs'/ separate but similar version?

About the Irish version sung by the Clancys, with its peppy major-key tune, its "I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler" chorus related to the song of the same name and to "Wagoner's Lad," and its possible relationship to "The Wild Rover," I'm not qualified to say. It strikes me as a concoction, maybe recent. Maybe Liam Clancy could tell you if it's a real Irish original or not.   

Was the word "moonshiner" in use in Ireland at all for illegal whiskey makers? I wouldn't have thought so, but my Webster's gives "moonshine" as originating 1500, originally for moonlight, then for nonsense, finally for illegally distilled corn whiskey. "Moonshiner" is traced to 1860 with no indication of origin.

That's as much as I've been able to find out. I'm tentatively leaning toward American origin, not Irish, for the song. But I could easily be wrong.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 01:08 PM

One correction: Buell Kazee's is not the minor key tune, Sandburg's is. Buell's tune was major, and went:

D--D / E C D C .A .G       .G .A . / C E C-.A .G

repeated over for remaining line of verse. He told me "Very tiresome tune. I was having trouble with my trained voice" [trying to keep it out of the record]. "I could feel the struggle all the way through." He did not say where he got the song or if he added any verses.

WHISKER BILL, THE OLD MOONSHINER
Buell Kazee, Brunswick E 22500, April 19, 1927.

I've been a moonshiner for seven long years,
I've spent all my money on whiskey and beers,

I'll go up some dark holler, I'll set up my still,
I'll still you one gallon for a two dollar bill,

Purty women, purty women, don't trouble my mind,
If the whiskey don't kill me I'll live a long time.

I'd rather be single with no trouble on my mind
Than to marry and worry with trouble all the time.

I'll stroll up the holler to get you some booze,
If the Revenues don't get me, no money I'll lose.

It was Carl Sandburg's tune that was the interesting minor key. Based in A minor, it goes

E / D A   D B .G    .G B D   B A   repeated over for second line.

He groups his verses in four lines instead of two.

KENTUCKY MOONSHINER
Sandburg, American Songbag, 1927, 142-3

I've been a moonshiner for seventeen long years,
I've spent all my money for whiskey and beers.
I'll go to some holler, I'll put up my still,
I'll make you one gallon for a two dollar bill.

I'll go to some grocery and drink with my friends,
No women to follow and see what I spends,
God bless those pretty women, I wish they were mine,
Their breath smells as sweet as the dew on the vine.

I'll eat when I'm hungry, and drink when I'm dry,
If moonshine don't kill me, I'll live till I die.
God bless those moonshiners, I wish they were mine,
Their breath smells as sweet as the good old moonshine.

Those are the two earliest versions I know. Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 01:34 PM

Not to hog the thread, but here's information on Daw Henson, who sings "Moonshiner" on the 7-CD box set, "Kentucky Mountain Music."   Henson was recorded for the Library of Congress by Lomax. I don't know the date, but he would appear to be fairly modern & thus not among the song's originators. Info drawn from this thread:

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=59656

The thread contains this quote from the CD booklet:

"Daw Henson came from the crossroads of Billy's Branch in Clay County in the middle of what is now the Daniel Boone National Forest. Lomax apparently left no field notes about him, but seemed to appreciate his "mountain blues" style of singing with the guitar. His MOONSHINER, WALLINS CREEK GIRLS, and SWOFFORD BRANCH STILLS resemble the hard-living anti-sentimental songs of Cliff Carlisle or Billy Cox more than the older traditional pieces. His version of a genuine old ballad, LADY MARGARET AND SWEET WILLIAM, begins with an odd, modern guitar introduction that blends old with new."

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: 12-stringer
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 02:10 PM

Inventory of the Combs Collection at UCLA shows a "Moonshiner" as #187, 5 stanzas, collected from Monroe Combs of Knott Co -- no date, but it was published in Combs' French dissertation, 1925, so evidently this predates the one in Sandburg by a few years. Wilgus further annotates to Lomax, Folk Songs of North America, p 257, and to Southern Folklore Quarterly II:160f.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 02:34 PM

Gee, I like it when you get involved in studying a song, Bob. Anybody know if there is a CD recording of Buell Kazee singing "Whisker Bill, the Old Moonshiner"?
I didn't know how to group these songs. I have a group for Wild Rover, and another for Moonshiner / I'm a Rambler, I'm a Gambler, but they all seem to me to be more-or-less the same song.
Stewie's transcription of Daw Henson's "Moonshiner" is in this thread, and Stewie always does a good job of transcription. This particular recording, though, is very difficult to understand.
-Joe-
Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

Moonshiner

DESCRIPTION: "I've been a moonshiner for sev'nteen long years, I've spent all my money for whiskey and beer, I'll go to some holler, I'll put up my still...." "I'll eat when I'm hungry and drink when I'm dry; If moonshine don't kill me I'll live till I die...."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Sandburg)
KEYWORDS: drink nonballad floatingverses
FOUND IN: US(Ap) Ireland
REFERENCES (7 citations):
BrownIII 291, "Cornbread When I'm Hungry" (2 fragments; the "A" text combines "Moonshiner" with "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor"; "B" mixes "Moonshiner" with what appears to be a minstel song)
Sandburg, pp. 142-143, "Kentucky Moonshiner" (1 text, 1 tune)
Combs/Wilgus 187, p. 189, "Moonshiner" (1 text)
Ritchie-Southern, p. 38, "God Bless the Moonshiners" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 134, "Moonshiner" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 229, "Moonshiner" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: _Sing Out_ magazine, Volume 29, #3 (1983), p, 1, "God Bless that Moonshiner" (1 text, 1 tune, from Currence Hammons)

ST San142 (Full)
Roud #4301
RECORDINGS:
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, "The Moonshiner" (on IRClancyMakem01)
Daw Henson, "Moonshiner" (AFS, 1937; on KMM)
Roscoe Holcomb, "Moonshiner" (on Holcomb-Ward1, HolcombCD1)
New Lost City Ramblers, "Moonshiner" (on NLCR08)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Country Blues" (words)
cf. "The Wagoner's Lad" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Wild Rover No More" (floating lyrics)
NOTES: An early 1960s recording of this song by Bob Dylan, long circulated as a bootleg but released in the 1990s, became justly famous in the folk revival as one of his finest performances, and inspired multiple covers of his version. Listening to the Daw Henson field recording, it seems very likely that this was Dylan's source. - PJS
Last updated in version 2.4
File: San142

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2015 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Hugh Walter Jennings
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 07:35 PM

Wow Bob, I appreciate you taking time to assemble all the info on it.
Thanks to everyone as well. The only version I've heard performed is by a group of young guys in a band called Uncle Tupelo. It was listed as trad of course, and their arrangement of it was nice.

They obviously redid the lyrics (or used Dylans' version, which I have not read)
Here's a link ...
moonshiner

Anyhow, as much as I love the UT version, I'm sure I'd really enjoy older versions as well.

Thanks again everyone,
Hugh


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 14 Oct 06 - 10:09 PM

Does anyone have the lyrics to "Moonshiner" by Holcomb and Ward?

Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40079, Roscoe Holcomb, The High Lonesome Sound, "Compiled from Folkways ablbums: The Music of Roscoe Holcomb and Wade Ward FA 2363, The High Lonesome Sound FA 2368, Close to Home FA 2374."

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: 12-stringer
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 01:24 AM

Roscoe Holcomb (a capella):

I've been a moonshiner, ever since that I've been born
I've drunk up all of my money and stilled up all of my corn.
I'll go up some dark hollow and put up a moonshine still
And I'll make you one gallon for a five dollo [sic] bill.

I'll go up some dark hollow and get you some booze
If the revenues [sic] don't get me, no money will I lose.
Come on, all you moonshiners, and stand all in a row
You look so sad and lonesome, lonesome, yes, I know.

God bless them pretty women, I wish they all were mine
Their breath smells so sweetly, like good old moonshine.


From Josiah Combs' 1925 dissertation at the University of Paris, which seems to be the earliest recorded version (from Monroe Combs, Hindman, Knott Co, KY):

I've been a moonshiner, for eighteen long year';
I've spent all my money for whiskey and beer.
I buy my own whiskey, I make my own stew,
If I get drunk, madam, it's nothing to you.

I'll get up on some mountain, I'll put up my still;
I'll sell you one quart, boys, for a one dollo bill;
I'll get up on some mountain, the mountain so high;
As the wild geese fly over, I'll bid them goodbye.

Pretty Betsy, pretty Betsy, would you think it unkind
For me to sit down by you and tell you my mind?
My mind is to marry and never to part,
For the first time I saw you, you wounded my heart.

Oftimes I have wondered how women love men;
Then again I have wondered how men could love them.
They'll cause your heart trouble, and a many downfall;
They'll cause you to labor in many a stone wall.

The bluebirds are flying from branch to each tree,
A-chirping and singing their sorrows away.
Their breath smells so sweet-ly, like the dew on the vine --
God bless those moonshiners, I wish they were mine!


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 08:40 AM

Terrific to find Combs' copy, 12-stringer. Couple of thoughts:

Could "Moonshiner" might have split off from another song? Could it originally have been a floating verse in some other song family like "Rye Whiskey?" I didn't give much credit to the "Rye Whiskey" tie-in before, but now I'm wondering.

Either that, or Combs' informant (or Combs himself?) might have put together a version that combined "Moonshiner" with one of the floating-verse songs that shares verses with "Rye Whiskey" such as "Way Up on Clinch Mountain"? Offhand I can't recall where that "My mind is to marry...you wounded my heart" verse comes from, but that is yet another southern Appalachian love lament. "Ofttimes I have wondered how women love men" is another. And there's a hint of "Behind the Stone Walls" in the next-to last verse, too.

Given the odd verses in Combs' version, how much influence on this did Combs exert, or did his informant sing it exactly this way? Any way to find out?

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 09:08 AM

Meant to note, too, that Josiah Combs got the song from Monroe Combs and Sandburg got it from Gilbert R. Combs.

Kind of makes you suspect "Moonshiner" was a family song with the Combses, though I don't know how each was related to the other.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: paddymac
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 12:45 PM

When speaking of whiskey from both sides of the pond, the word "corn' has different meanings. On the west side, "corn" refers specifically to Zea maize, and its gazillion variants. On the east side, and especially in Ireland as relates to this discussion, the word corn is a generic term used much the same as west siders would use the word "grain." However, I don't think it includes maize, but an east-sider could better answer that. Traditionally, Zea maize was not used to make whiskey (or whisky) by the east-side producers, legal or not. This seems to buttress the idea of "The Moonshiner" having an American origin.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 12:46 PM

Patrick Galvin on Irish Drinking Songs, Riverside RLP-604, is evidently the Clancys' source. He does a rousing uptempo "Moonshiner" pretty much identical to, and earlier than, theirs.

In his notes he says only that the song is well known through the English-speaking world, and that the American "Rye Whiskey" is well known in Ireland and England.

I take this as presumptive evidence that "Moonshiner" is an American original, and not Irish save by adoption. (Still it's worth covering all bets by continuing to search for any Anglo-Irish song that might be an ancestor, however unlikely that now seems.)

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 01:40 PM

Great info here ! I've always been interested in this song and its melody.

Allison Moorer gives it the folk-pop treatment on the "Songcatcher" album: http://music.barnesandnoble.com/search/mediaplayer.asp?ean=015707958622&disc=1&track=6

The Clancy-Galvin tune sounds awfully familiar. Does it go with any other song ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 06:35 PM

Joe-
"Whiskery Bill The Moonshiner" is on the BACM CD "Buel Kazee, Legendary Kentucky Ballad Singer" (Bacm 027). $10.98 from CAMSCO Music.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 08:37 PM

CDrecording must be a dub from his Folkways LP made in the 50s or early 60s.

Lighter, about that familiar sounding melody, I agree. Here's what I hear:

Lines 1 and 3 are almost -- not quite, but the feeling is closely similar to -- the first line of "Foggy, Foggy Dew."

Apart from that, the whole four-line melody sounds like either a barrel-organ tune, or something from the music hall era. Very much c. 1890-1910 in sound. Maybe a mock-sentimental song? Or a late broadside ballad? It's on the tip of me ear...but can't seem to get it.

Can anyone?

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 09:12 PM

Bob-
The BACM CD was remastered from Brunswick 78s. I'll hav to check on the Folkways recording--it's available as a custom CD.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 15 Oct 06 - 09:16 PM

Remember hearing this as a very small child, on Saturday nights very late, from our neighbor "Old Jimmy" drunkenly singing as he passed up the holler by our house. Mom would shake Dad awake and make him light a lantern and "take Old Jimmy on home," so he wouldn't fall in the branch and drown. This must have been 1927 or '28. His singing always included, "God bless them moonshiners..." I leaned a few words and pestered Dad until he taught me the others, with a caution to "never let your Ma hear you sing this'n."

And I didn't, for many years, but in 1956 I recorded it on Riverside, on a 12" album titled, "Saturday Night and Sunday Too." I guess I sang it at the early Newport Folk Festivals, too,(the first was in l959) for I met Peter Bellemy there and he loved the song and learnt it from me, recorded it a bit later in England.    Jean


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 09:46 AM

Hi Jean,

I was wondering if you could post your lyrics for comparison if they are different than the ones posted here.

Thanks,

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 11:27 AM

And is the tune major or modal ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Kaleea
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 02:12 PM

here's an interesting site about North Carolina Moonshine:


http://www.ibiblio.org/moonshine/index.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Deckman
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 06:34 PM

WELL WELL WELL! This song has captivated me for years. Primarily because of the haunting melody, and the unusual chords, that the late Walt Robertson used when he sang this wonderful song. I must next appologize as I haven't the time, right now, to check out the various melodies and chords that have been posted on this thread so far. But, Jean, I'm wondering: did you perhaps teach this song to Walt Robertson, and if so, when? Thanks, Bob Nelson, in the Seattle area of the United States.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 06:48 PM

Just discovered that Jean's text and tune are readily available on Google Books.

Just search for "moonshiner" and "seventeen long years."


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Oct 06 - 07:56 PM

Bob, yes, dagnabit, those two lines do sound like "The Foggy, Foggy Dew" sped up. It also reminds me a little of the verse of "Solomon Levi." (Midi at this great site: http://www.cs.nott.ac.uk/~ef/music/tunes/jigs.htm)

"Tiger" transcribed the Clancy version as follows on an earlier thread:

I've been a moonshiner for many a year.
I spent all my money on whiskey and beer.
I'll go to some hollow and I set up my still,
And I'll make you a gallon for a ten-shillin' bill.

CHORUS (each stanza)
I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler,
I'm a long ways from home,
And if you don't like me,
Well, leave me alone.
I'll eat when I'm hungry,
And I drink when I'm dry,
And if moonshine don't kill me,
I'll live 'til I die.

I'll go to some hollow in this country,
Ten gallons of wash, I can go on a spree.
No women to follow, the world is all mine,
And I love none so well as I love the moonshine.

Oh, moonshine, dear moonshine, Oh, how I love thee.
You killed my old father, but you are good by me.
Oh, bless all moonshiners and bless all moonshine,
Oh, their breath smells as sweet as the dew on the vine.

That's how I remember it too, except I'm certain I heard them sing, for "but you are good to me,"

Now daur [i.e., dare] ye try me !

Is this precisely the Galvin version too ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 07:22 AM

Lighter, the lyrical differences are minor, except Galvin includes the less common last verse, "moonshine for Liza" etc. The tune is identical. Bob

MOONSHINER, Patrick Galvin. Riverside 12-604, ~ 1955?

I've been a moonshiner for many a year,
Spent all me money on whiskey and beer,
I'll go to some hollow and set up my still,
I'll make you a gallon for a two dollar bill

CHO   I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler, I'm a long way from home,
          If you don't like me you can leave me alone,
          I'll eat when I'm hungry, I'll drink when I'm dry,
          And if moonshine don't kill me I'll live till I die.

I'll go to some hollow in this counteree,
Ten gallons of wash, I can go on a spree,
No woman to follow, the world is all mine,
I love none so well as I love the moonshine.

Oh, moonshine, dear moonshine, oh how I love thee,
You killed me old father, but dare ye try me?
Oh bless all moonshiners and bless all moonshine,
Its breath smells as sweet as the dew on the vine.

I've moonshine for Liza and moonshine for May,
Moonshine for Lu, and she'll sing all the day,
Moonshine for me breakfast, moonshine for me tay,
Oh, moonshine, me hearties, it's moonshine for me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 10:07 AM

Thanks, Bob. I haven't seen Galvin's final stanza anywhere else. So it looks like the Clancys altered the very American "two-dollar bill" to the Anglo-Hibernian "ten-shillin' bill" - which for many people is "proof" of the song's "Irish" orgin.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: ard mhacha
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 11:27 AM

Surprised no one referred to Delia Murphy singing this song in the late 1940s long before The Clancys,


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 02:05 PM

I first heard this sung by Walt Roberson wa-a-a-ay back (early Fifties), then he recorded it on his Folkways record, "American Northwest Ballads." Later, I actually learned the song from Rolf Cahn, who had a very close, but slightly different set of words and a slightly different tune. Interesting chords! Gave it a sort of melancholy, almost modal feel. These are the words I use, which are pretty much an amalgam of Walt's and Rolf's versions, plus, perhaps a little inadvertent "folk processing:"
I been a moonshiner for seventeen long years,
I spent all my money on whiskeys and beers.
I'll go to some holler and set up my still,
And I'll sell you a gallon for a two dollar bill.

I'll go to some grocery and drink with my friends;
No woman to foller and see what I spends.
God bless those pretty women, I wish they were mine,
Their breath smells as sweet as the dew on the vine.

Now it's meat when I'm hungry, moonshine when I'm dry,
It's greenbacks when I'm hard-up, and religion when I die.
Now the whole world's a bottle, and life's but a dram.
When a bottle gets empty, it ain't worth a damn.
Then a guitar break, playing the tune of the first two lines, and ending by singing the final two lines, but dropping the last phrase, so:
Now the whole world's a bottle, and life's but a dram.
When a bottle gets empty. . . .
and trail off with the melody on the guitar.

Great song! I often pair it with "Copper Kettle," singing "Copper Kettle" first, then going right into "Moonshiner." Makes a nice combination.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 05:30 PM

This site:

http://www.iol.ie/~ronolan/delia.html   

says that Delia Murphy's "Moonshiner" was "heard regularly on the BBC" by 1952.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 06:20 PM

And you can buy it for $0.99 here :

http://aol.musicnow.com/az/album.jhtml?id=5608248&bid=3261#

The tune is the same as the Clancys'.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 07:47 PM

Mention of Delia Murphy reminds me that Donagh MacDonagh included 'The Moonshiner' in his little collection Ballads with Music (Dublin: Parkside Press, nd, but presumed early 1940s). Whether he got it from her or she from him I don't know, but the lyric is the same (bar some spelling variations) as the set recorded by Galvin; I would think that he got it from MacDonagh's book or perhaps from Delia Murphy's recording. She had lived in the USA, and it isn't impossible that she got the song, or part of it, there.

Dollars, anyway, not shillings (which appears to be a Clancy innovation). Unfortunately, MacDonagh gave no indication at all of what his source might have been; he picked stuff up all over the place, and according to his son was not averse to presenting his own work as if it were traditional. The songs in this book were provided with tunes by Arthur Darley, who apparently set melodies from his father's collection to the texts MacDonagh got, most of which came without music. Again, no details are given.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: DannyC
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 11:37 PM

Thank you for the dialogue here. I have a few observations and fact snippets to add - but no conclusion(s) to offer:

(1) Combs is a common name in the Kentucky mountains, in fact, the main eastward route from Lexington into the high country is the "Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway".   I am told by a Morgan County native that the mountain name Combs evolved from the Scots-Irish name Cummins/Cummings.

(2)   Reading the commentary, my mind briefly rested on the notion that (unlike many of the Kentucky ballads with Anglo & Scots-Irish roots) perhaps the unknown origin could be attributed to an incomer from the famine-era Irish. The song has features that once sound "Kentucky" and another time "Irish" - perhaps it's of hybrid origin.

The famine Irish are not featured much in discussions about the region, but the stone fences that lace the landscape serve as a visual reminder that Paddy had his day here. There's a little boreen connecting the Greenwich and Paris Pikes called Harp-Innis Road. Even today that lane is lined with horsefarm workers' shacks -a modern day bothy culture .

Surely at least one of the native-Irish of that era was inclined to sing a song of his own. (There's narry a one out of the thousand that live here today that don't relish a song when the night gets right for it.)

(3) Just this past year, I have stopped dreading requests for the song when I am out banging away on the guitar and crooning. I have an in-law from the high country whom I know to be - in fact - a moonshiner (more a vocation than a career - he professes to prefer squirrel huntin'). When I first sang it for him, his face lit up into the broadest grin I'd coaxed in years.   I'd love to have him hear Jean's version.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 12:02 AM

At the moment it looks most likely that the song arrived in Ireland from America shortly before World War II via Delia Murphy or just perhaps Donagh MacDonagh.

Dry stone walls are not in themselves evidence of Irish influence; anywhere that has loose stones will have such things. I live in Yorkshire, which is full of them. The style in which they are constructed might tell you something about their origins if you look into it, though. Regional construction techniques vary quite a bit, partly depending on the materials available.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: DannyC
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 10:20 AM

Regarding the Kentucky dry-set stone fences - experts in such matters have taken to placing historic plaques near some of the better-kept and (broadly-scoped) examples of the walls.   The plaques often list a construction decade and then attribute a "style" based on the construction technique. I have noted that "Irish" is the most frequent attribution on the historical plaques.

The stone is said to have been quarried from shallow trenches. Some say the quarrying and wall building were joint efforts of famine-era Irish and African-American slaves who learned the technique from the Irish.

There's a fabulous and tragic living monument to the mixing of the Irish (in this case, an O'Grady) and the African-Kentuckians by the name of Mohammed Ali.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 10:32 AM

Malcolm, am I right in observing that the feminine name "L(o)u" is almost unheard of in British Isles folksong ? I can't think of any American "folk-type verse" occurrences aside from Robert Service's once fabulously well known "Shooting of Dan McGrew" (~1902).

In America, "Liza" occurs rarely, mostly in minstrel songs. ("Lulu" is at least equally rare.) My suggestion is that MacDonagh wrote that stanza.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 04:01 PM

Yes, that stanza has the offhand feel of something extemporized on a stage, and seems not to fit easily in the tradition otherwise.

As for "Lu," that was my best guess at what I heard Galvin singing. It would stand for Louise I suppose.

Actually, "Liza" though uncommon in Britain is not all that rare in the US (perhaps due to the longtime popularity of Liza Minelli), might be more common these days as a nickname for Elizabeth than "Betty." And I know a Mary Louise who prefers to be called "Lou." Not to mention the "Lady whose name was Lou" in song & story, exact reference not recalled.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,Trev
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 04:40 PM

etymology of moonshine
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=moonshine&searchmode=none

I seem to recall the name 'Liza" being used in 'Follow me up to carlow"


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 06:29 PM

Bob, I meant "Liza," "L(o)u," and "Lulu" only as appearing in folksong and verse, not generally. (Though in decades of teaching I've never had a student with any of those names !)

"The lady that's known as Lou" is the femme fatale in Service's "Shooting of Dan McGrew," as mentioned. Also in the bawdy parody in circulation since at least the early '40s.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 09:42 PM

'Follow Me up to Carlow' is a fairly modern song in any case, though set to an older (Scottish) tune. See thread  Origins: Follow me up to Carlow for details.

'Liza' and 'Eliza' were very common abbreviations of 'Elizabeth' during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and are becoming quite popular again nowadays. MacDonagh prints

I'll have Moonshine for Liza, and Moonshine for May,
Moonshine for Lu and she'll sing all the day;
Moonshine for my breakfast, moonshine for my tea,
Moonshine my hearties, it's Moonshine for me.

I can't think of any example of 'Lou' or 'Lu' in traditional song outside the USA / Canada, for what that's worth.

Galvin's "me" is just the way he pronounced "my", of course. "Tay" is the old pronounciation of "tea"; though that is still widely used in Ireland, it spoils the rhyme here and obviously wasn't intended by whoever wrote the lines. MacDonagh has a couple of rather mannered spellings: "mannie" for "many", and "counterie" for "country"; these may derive from his own fancy.

So far I see no reason to think that this isn't an American song; albeit containing some lines from earlier British and/or Anglo-Irish material. When I have time, I ought to post the tune as published by MacDonagh (and presumably provided, though no details are given, by Darley) to see if it is the same as the American examples of the 1920s.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: DannyC
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 09:58 AM

I heard a top-notch bluegrass-style rendering of "The Moonshiner" this Saturday past.   It made total sense to hear it performed in this manner. We had taken the road up to Meadowgreen Park in Clay City to hear IIIrd Tyme Out.   They are superb - as good as it gets.

It was great watching them perform to a roomfull of Kentucky foothills folk. There wuz lots o' down-home humor, catcalling and fusses. As they introed the song, a bunch of folks were calling out that they'd fetch 'em some if they 'onted some.

The group sold out two shows. I was concerned that the dance floor, being jammed with the necessary extra seating, would leave out a critical element of the community's response to the music. Fortunately, when the musicians broke from Bluegrass into the style that people here call "old-time", a few old fellas elbowed their way to a little patch of concrete next to the concession stand and commenced to cloggin' with ease and skill and subtley. To me they looked like corn stalks or mature 'baccer leaf wavering on a breezy late-summer's day - the common man's majesty...

Yeeee- haaa!!


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 11:03 AM

Lighter-
There's "Skip To My Lou" and "Tell Poor Lou I'm Gone" and "Granny's Feather Bed" (off the top of my head.)


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Mrrzy
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 12:21 PM

I have a song-fragment memory of Ed McCurdy singing Bless them pretty women, how I wish they were mine - did he do a version of this? The Clancies and all the Irish versions that I have don't have that stanza.
Moonshine as a term, I would think, makes this song American.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 01:42 PM

Ed McCurdy recorded a beautiful, slow, and - strange as it may sound - soulful version of this song. I only heard it once, on a CBC radio folk music program ("Touch the Earth"?) one night in the - late '60's? early '70's? - but I've never forgotten it. I had never before heard of Ed McCurdy, and didn't hear of him again for many years, till I shared the stage with him - or, rather, he shared the stage with me - shortly after he moved to Halifax, a few years before his death. We had a chat; he seemed a fine fellow - but I didn't ask about The Moonshiner ...


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 03:08 PM

Many songs seem to fit the scan of "The Moonshiner;" as Bob Coltman suggests, floaters could easily be incorporated, from the various "One Morning in May" verses to later songs.
"Oh! I Should Like to Marry" is one, distributed by both J. Andrews and H. De Marsan (American Memory). First verse:

OH, I SHOULD LIKE TO MARRY, if that I could find
Any handsome fellow, suited to my mind.
Oh, I should like him dashing, I should like him gay,
The leader of the fashion, and dandy of the day.

A parody on that song, first verse:

DANIEL TUCKER'S WEDDING
Oh, I should to marry, some colored gemman fine;
Yes, one dat plays de fiddle, would 'zackly suit my mind.
He must not be to common, or knotty in his hair,
But like de mudder ob Wenus, in beauty must compare.

The Comb family may have put "The Moonshiner" together, but the possible "floaters" seem to be 19th c. and the basic song may have come down to them.
A common meter links many of these songs, including the Civil War songs "The Rebel Prisoner" and "The Rebel Soldier," but determining succession is difficult without dated material. I think some form of "Rye Whiskey" preceeded both, whether as an immigrant or as a North American descendant of one of the "One Morning in May" songs I hesitate to guess.

The names Lou (Lu) and Lulu have intrigued me for some time. In my family, Irish immigrant Patrick L. had two daughters, Mary and Lulu. Pat's wife was Lucy, and I have wondered if that was the base. Lulu was buried under the name Lulu, which is on her gravestone. Mary was a grandmother, but Lulu died a tragic death in a camp tent fire, and sister Mary destroyed her letters and all pictures but one. I have not found a birth certificate.
Liza seems to have been a common nickname in the West, I have it on several 19th c. letters.

Finally, fake Irish songs, both English and American, are common in the American Memory (and prob. Bodleian) collection; searching for matches to lines in Comb's song turned up a number of them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 08:33 PM

Well, y'all may learn more than you want to. About two months ago a duo of filmmakers called and wanted to interview me about ballsds. It turned out ater we hqd talked awhile that their interest had begun because they had started out by looking for and interviewing folks who knew, "Moonshiner." We had a long and (to me) interesting time-talking and visiting,they shooting footage and all the time. I sang just a demo verse for them but couldn't really sing it well as I was beginning a bad case of bronchitis which is still affecting my voice today, but even so the camerman cried! Maybe he was just sorry for me... No names as yet- I'm waiting to see what will come of this.

Yes, Don- our tune is slow and has a modal sound, sung unaccompanied and has vocal decorations as our Old Regular Bapatist hymns have. It FEELS minor- though it may not be.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 08:40 PM

Would that be the same version that Ed McCurdy recorded, I wonder? It had a minorish feel to it ...


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 08:49 PM

I have not heard Jean Ritchie's version. I am sure it would be a contribution. Not in "Celebration of Life" or "Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians." I need to get the Folk-Legacy cd.


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 03:05 PM

Q, by all means buy the CD ! But till then, see p. 38 of the latest edition of JR's "Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians."


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Subject: RE: Origins: origin of Moonshiner
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 05:49 PM

How did I miss that? Brain getting mushy.


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