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Lyr Req: Ballad of Billy Potts

Les B. 25 Mar 99 - 09:35 PM
Les B. 25 Mar 99 - 09:36 PM
Jerry Friedman 25 Mar 99 - 10:28 PM
Les B. 26 Mar 99 - 12:27 AM
Dale Rose 26 Mar 99 - 01:34 AM
Jim Dixon 01 Oct 09 - 07:24 PM
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Subject: Anyone know of: Ballad of Billy Potts
From: Les B.
Date: 25 Mar 99 - 09:35 PM

I just saw an interesting TV program on the History Channel about the river pirates on America's frontier, in the early 1800's. It seems there was a family who operated an inn, called, Potts (or maybe Pots ?) on the Ohio River border of Illinois & Kentucky, near the infamous Cave in the Rock, and Ford's Crossing. Apparently the whole family were murders & robbers of travelers. Their legendary come uppance was when son Billy, who had been away for a few years, was mistakenly murdered by his own parents. The narrator claimed this was part of a "popular ballad" of the time (circa 1815) Have any of you seen or heard this ballad ?? Thanks for the help.


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Subject: RE: Anyone know of: Ballad of Billy Potts
From: Les B.
Date: 25 Mar 99 - 09:36 PM

Yes, mom. I looked in the Data Base and the back threads.


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Subject: RE: Anyone know of: Ballad of Billy Potts
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 25 Mar 99 - 10:28 PM

Billie Potts was the subject of a long poem in free verse by the late great Robert Penn Warren, but I don't know anything about a popular ballad. For more information that you don't want, this subject was also used in a play by Albert Camus called Le Malentendu (=the misunderstanding), and I have a vague memory that the story is much older than 1815.


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Subject: RE: Anyone know of: Ballad of Billy Potts
From: Les B.
Date: 26 Mar 99 - 12:27 AM

Well, knowing how TV likes to spin a good yarn, they may just have "folked" up Robert Penn Warren's long poem. I usually have a fair memory for old ballads I've read, and I certainly don't remember this one.


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Subject: RE: Anyone know of: Ballad of Billy Potts
From: Dale Rose
Date: 26 Mar 99 - 01:34 AM

I just finished watching the show, too. (It repeats at 3AM Central) I have not found anything about the ballad, but do check out these two sites for some interesting facts about the Potts and the Harpes.

http://www.rootsweb.com/~ilgalla2/jsblue.html

http://users.midamer.net/jonm/harpes.html


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Ballad of Billy Potts
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 01 Oct 09 - 07:24 PM

You can see Robert Penn Warren's long poem THE BALLAD OF BILLIE [sic] POTTS in The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren edited by John Burt (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998), page 81ff.

Many other sources spell the name "Billy"

The poem was written in 1943. It would be hard to turn it into a singable ballad, since it's written in free verse.

There is an account of the Potts story in The Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock: Historical Accounts of the Famous Highwaymen and River Pirates Who Operated in the Pioneer Days upon the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and over the Natchez Trace by Otto A Rothert (Originally published Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1924; reprinted: Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996), page 294ff.

However, a Google search of that book doesn't even find the word "ballad".


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