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coal mining songs

08 Feb 01 - 03:46 PM (#393452)
Subject: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,nyletak13103

I'm writing a curriculum for one of my classes that revolves around the historical coal mining culture of West Virginia. I'm mainly focasing on life in the mines up to and during the union wars. I want to find songs that are about and were written during this era. I don't know much about the history myself so any anecdotes, stories, comments and reflections would also be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


08 Feb 01 - 03:54 PM (#393458)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: MMario

I would suggest starting with a search in the digitrad lyrics search box (above, right) on "@mining"

(don't use the qoutes when you go to search.)

you then might want to search the forum for "coal" "mining" - or the titles of songs you find in the first search above.


08 Feb 01 - 04:00 PM (#393465)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Sandy Paton

Get Archie Green's Only a Miner, John Greenway's American Folksongs of Protest (for stories about Aunt Molly Jackson), Shelly Romalis' Pistol Packing Mama (a biography of Aunt Molly). Florence Reese, who wrote "Which Side Are You On," also wrote a brief autobiography which she was selling at the Newport Festival where we met her, but I can't put my hands on our copy right now, so I'm unsure of the title.

I produced a recording of Sarah Ogan Gunning in 1968, titled Girl of Constant Sorrow. She was the half-sister of Aunt Molly, raised in the midst of the Kentucky coal field wars, and the actual writer of the title song of her album, although it was often attributed to Aunt Molly. That recording is available now only as one of our "Custom Cassettes," but you would find Archie Green's notes that come with it of particular interest. CLICK HERE. I've lost my instructions on how to make a blue clickie, so that may not work. Maybe a JoeClone can fix it for me?

Sandy


08 Feb 01 - 04:04 PM (#393468)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Sandy Paton

I should add: check with Dick Greenhaus at Camsco Music for the recordings Hazel Dickens has made of songs from and of those times. They are on Rounder, and Dick can get 'em for you, pronto.

Sandy (after-thinking, as usual)


08 Feb 01 - 04:43 PM (#393499)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: catspaw49

Good info Sandy.

I'd also watch the movie "Matewan"...a favorite around here....as its one of a very few where there is a bit of accuracy at least in the telling of history through film. There is a CD through Rounder you might try to get also and I located it at the the Matewan site.....CLICK HERE. Florence Reese that Sandy mentions is also on that one with "Which Side Are You On"....worth the time in listening!

Related to living with the mines and around them is the great song by Jean Ritchie, "Black Waters" which speaks of the uncaring coal and steel companies who raped and pillaged like Attilla because they owned the mineral rights.

I'll check back in later.

Spaw


08 Feb 01 - 04:54 PM (#393509)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,Jennifer Burdoo

There are several songs extant (and a film or two) about the Molly Maguires, the Irish-American miners' union that may or may not have terrorized the mine owners in SW Pennsylvania. Is that close enough to West VA for you? :) If you're looking for anecdotes, Conan Doyle wrote one of his Sherlock Holmes mysteries about a Molly Maguire-style organisation. I think it was "The Sign of Four."

Jennifer


08 Feb 01 - 04:57 PM (#393511)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Lonesome EJ

Merle Travis' Dark as a Dungeon is hard to beat.


08 Feb 01 - 05:04 PM (#393515)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: catspaw49

Well Sandy, is there room for me with you on the Group W bench? I seem to have gotten my > gizmo backwards.......

Spaw


08 Feb 01 - 05:24 PM (#393529)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: catspaw49

Not music....but as an important piece of background reading, I don't think you can write your curriculum without reading a few books as Sandy mentioned. I'd also add an important piece of work, published in the early 60's titled, "Night Comes to the Cumberlands." Understanding the area helps to understand the music.

Spaw


08 Feb 01 - 05:28 PM (#393533)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: catspaw49

Sorry.....Harry Caudill is the author. Its a must read in your situation I think.

Damn if I ain't gettin' as back as Sandy!!!! EVERYTHING is taking TWO posts!!!!

Spaw


08 Feb 01 - 05:33 PM (#393536)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Uncle_DaveO

Another good song: Down, Down, Down a/k/a (That Hole In Oak Hill). You'll find it in the DT.

DAve Oesterreich


08 Feb 01 - 06:04 PM (#393567)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Greg F.

Right after you watch Matewan pick up a copy of Lon Savage's Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War 1920-21 1990, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press. Foreword for the new edition by John Sayles.

And I'll second the recommendation of Night Comes to the Cumberlands...

Good Luck!

Best, Greg


08 Feb 01 - 06:06 PM (#393570)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)

If you'd like to hear, "Black Waters," go to www.jeanritchie.com and click on the opening picture.


08 Feb 01 - 06:10 PM (#393572)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: rangeroger

I'll also second LEJ's recommendation of "Dark as A Dungeon" done by John Cowan on his album from last year titled, (surprisingly) "John Cowan".

rr


08 Feb 01 - 06:16 PM (#393576)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: catspaw49

Well that's timely isn't it?

If you go to the site that "kytrad" mentioned (CLICK HERE), you'll find that Ritchie woman and her friends have quite a few songs you might think about using as well and she'll probably give you a recommendation or two too!

Do you think I'm right there kytrad?

Spaw


08 Feb 01 - 07:30 PM (#393629)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: mkebenn

Ya' need B.E.Wheeler's "coal Tattoo" and Ms. Ritchie's "The L&N don't stop here anymore" EXCELLENT sons, both. Mike


08 Feb 01 - 07:56 PM (#393648)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Lonesome EJ

Yep, that "kytrad" person seems to have the lowdown on Jean Ritchie! Hey Kytrad, do you know Rockcastle County? That's where my family hailed from.


08 Feb 01 - 08:15 PM (#393663)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,nyletak13013

Thank y'all soooooo much. keep it coming if you can. The books too are really helpful. I don't know much about all this so everything you can offer is great. I was thinking of starting the unit with a look at Mother Jones, who she was and how she influenced the WV mine wars. That is just a small part of the project though. Even if you can think of nifty ideas of things to do within the curriculum, activities and such that would be cool.


08 Feb 01 - 08:55 PM (#393696)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Greg F.

Well, lets see.... a visit to West Va. in 1963 or so by Phil Ochs & Eric Anderson (and I've always wondered if possibly reading Night Comes...copyright 1962/63)produced
Hills of West Virginia and Anderson's reworking of the 'trad'
Blind Fiddler

Then there's Billy Ed Wheeler's great Red-Winged Blackbird; not in the DT- thought it was in a thread a while back but can't seem to find it.

Best, Greg


08 Feb 01 - 10:05 PM (#393739)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,bflat

Guest,nyletak,

If you are going to begin with Mother Jones, you may want to look at Ronnie Gilbert's book Mother Jones. It tells the story of Mother Jones through Ronnie's music. I'm not sure where you can get a copy. I do know that it has been available at Folk Festivals in which she performed. Start with you local library.

Ellen


08 Feb 01 - 10:29 PM (#393752)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: raredance

Try your reginal libraries (or interlibrary loans) for any of 4 books by George Korson:

Coal Dust On the Fiddle - Songs and Stories of the Bituminous Industry (1943)

Minstrels of the Mine Patch - Songs and Stories of the Anthracite Industry (1938)

Pennsylvania Songs and Legends (1949)

Black Rock - Mining Folklore of the Pennsylvania Dutch (1960)

rich r


08 Feb 01 - 10:30 PM (#393754)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,Wendy

It's Pennsylvania rather than West Virginia, but I like this cd: Songs and Ballads of the Anthracite Miners .


08 Feb 01 - 10:43 PM (#393763)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Susan A-R

And then there's Nimrod Workman who recorded a bunch of good stuff. And what's the one on the new Pete Seeger collection Spaw, about the guy who is working to organize the NMU and is killed by gun thugs. Harry Simms?

Also, there may be folks who'd come to your class. Are you up for "live music" story telling? Depending on where you are located, there may be some ideas here.

Susan A-R


08 Feb 01 - 11:27 PM (#393798)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Sandy Paton

I'll certainly second the Matewan suggestion. It's a great Sayles film, and remarkably radical for a film that had backing from such corporations as Pepsico! Pretty bloody toward the end, but powerfully done. I also agree with the suggestion that you read Caudill's Night Comes to the Cumberlands. I once gave a copy of that book to Phil Hoff, when he was Governor of Vermont, since it describes some problems that are shared by the Cumberlands and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

I hadn't mentioned the Korson material, since the request was for mining songs from West Virginia, but, if we're going a bit farther afield, listen to Helen Schneyer's singing of Joan Boyd's powerful rewrite of "The Fountain Filled with Blood" which is on her Folk-Legacy cassette titled On the Hallelujah Line. It speaks of a mine disaster and observes that the victims were "men who dug each other's graves!" Helen also recorded "The Avondale Mine Disaster" and "The Miner's Prayer" on her other Folk-Legacy cassette: Ballads, Broadsides and Hymns. Look under "custom cassettes" at the Folk-Legacy web site. CLICK HERE .

Even farther afield is Utah Phillips' "Funeral Train" (properly titled, I think, "The Scofield Mine Disaster", although I don't remember how to spell it). It tells of a mine explosion in 1900 in Utah and reminds us that "in one family there were nine, trapped inside that burning mine!" Very moving song.

Jean Ritchie's splendid "Black Waters" encapsulates the entire history of the mountain people being robbed of their lands through the trickery of the mineral rights leases they gave to outside corporations. They gave away the coal under their farms for pennies per acre, which was bad enough, but they also gave the developers the right to take their timber for the mines and to slash roads through to the sites, etc. KYtrad can tell you all about it. You've got a lot of heavy history to offer your students! Good luck with it.

Sandy


08 Feb 01 - 11:34 PM (#393801)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: catspaw49

Here's some decent background reading on the web about mining. I know your project is West Virginia, but the coal region that entails covers parts of Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania as well. These are mainly period pieces and some you will have to interpret a bit. The account of the Mollys is from an different angle entirely so read with an eye to real history.

A group from Ohio State

Great Info from the WVA Gen Society....an awful lot of family information, accounts of life, etc.

And Susan has an excellent idea on "live" resources that is well worth investigating. The Harry Simms song Susan (and maybe Sandy too?) mentioned is in the DT or the mirror site with notes here.

Spaw

Spaw


08 Feb 01 - 11:52 PM (#393807)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Lonesome EJ

The film Matewan was based on an excellent novel called Storming Heaven, by the way


09 Feb 01 - 12:46 AM (#393827)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Amos

Keep your eye upon the dollar...
And your hand upon the scale.

(Or was it the other way around? ) From "A Miner's Life is Like a Sailor's", from the same period of struggle and organizing. There's also. of course, "Big Bad John", which is still aging in the barrel and not ripe to be called a folk song, perhaps, and "The Springhill Mining Disaster", which is of like age but qualifies as grassroots folk anyway.

A


09 Feb 01 - 03:52 PM (#394418)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,katcandu@newwave.net

Thanks for sending so much good info concerning coalmining songs and coal culture to nyletak13013. Lonesome EJ, I believe "Storming Heaven" was published after John Sayles' movie Matewan came out. Sayles developed Matewan from his own research into the 1922 massacre. Denise Giardina may have used some of the same facts in developing her novel, but Sayles did not base his movie on her work. Just for the record.


10 Feb 01 - 01:52 AM (#394792)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,BigDaddy

Don't miss a book called "Voices From The Mountains," edited by Guy Carawan. Not only great text but lots of coal mining songs complete with chords. Should be in any good area library. Is still in print.


14 Feb 01 - 04:28 AM (#397707)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,jamesthegirl21

HI lady! glad to see you are doing well on your quest for info. You have to let me know how things are coming along as a whole. I think I might have to read some of this stuff as well, it all sounds so interesting... -Jamie


14 Feb 01 - 11:36 AM (#397890)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Shall

Solas new CD The Hour Before Dawn recorded A Miner's Life. Cut #5. They mention that the song is similar to the Welsh version Come All Ye Bold Miners. It has the same tune as "Life's Railway to Heaven. They mention that the song was made popular by the United Mine Workers in the 1920's and 30's. The tune is from the Welsh hymn Colon Lan. The museum at the State Park near the New River Bridge presents a very interesting exhibit on mining and ghost towns. I also saw an insightful video about mining and its effects on the land, filmed by the husband of Jean Ritchie. It brought me to tears, the images combined with Jean's voice have haunted me since. My husband's family were all miners in Southwest Virginia, where many of his cousins still going in to work in the deep mines. His grandfather told me this story. Every night he would come in as black as the night covered in coal dust. He would carry in his dinner bucket and place it on the kitchen table. He was greated by his 10 children. They would be excited to see what Poppy had left for them to snack on. Poppy said the children thought he was being generous thinking of them. Little did they know that no one on his shift ever ate all their food. They saved part of the meal just in case of emergency. The fear of a cave in was in their minds every moment they were down in the mine. Poppy lived to an old age, sitting up in the rocker every night. He could not breathe lying down. Black Lung finally won the battle.


14 Feb 01 - 04:48 PM (#398104)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Lonesome EJ

Thanks for the correction katcandu. Because I read the book, and then saw the movie, I assumed the book came first.


14 Feb 01 - 07:06 PM (#398186)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,Bekki Shining Bearheart

There's a bunch of folks based in Charleston (WV) who can give you lots of resources-- most of them real people, and some old-timers. I'd contact FOOTMAD (Friends of Old Time Music and Dance). They sponsor a series of concerts every year, of the ilk of Odetta, Tom Paxton , Cherish the Ladies, Tannahill Weavers, and everything from Cajun to blues to "foreign" folk music (south American, etc). They also do a monthly square/contra dance, a newsletter about events in the region, house concerts, and a fall festival/campout. They feature a lot of old-timers at their events, musicians who are considered to be WV's musical heritage. If you have trouble finding them (they have a website) PM me and I'll put you in contact with one one of their main organizers.


15 Feb 01 - 12:08 AM (#398314)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,tsongs

Have you heard of Rita MacNeil? Her new album is called "Mining The Soul" and her band is called Men Of The Deep and made up of real coal miners. See http://www.ritamacniel.com


15 Feb 01 - 01:13 AM (#398346)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,nyletak13013

Bekki. My dad is the pres. of FOOTMAD so I am very familiar with them. Thanks for the thought though. I think their influence is a big part of why I am incorperating music into this curriculum. Growing up in that scene instilled a love of old time music in me. Thanks for the FOOTMAD promo!! I would still like your thoughts on people to talk to though. If you are willing.


15 Feb 01 - 01:15 AM (#398347)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,nyletak13013

Bekki are you familiar with The Missing Persons Soup Kitchen Gosple quartet?


15 Feb 01 - 11:58 PM (#399146)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,jcdevildog

There was a wonderful recording around 1970 called "They Can't Put It Back" by Rich Kirby & Michael Kline with a lot of songs focused on WV and mining (both underground & strip mining). Don't know if it was ever done as a CD (though I doubt it; if anyone knows how to find it either on CD or LP, please let me know). The "Mountain Voices" section of has lyrics & chords to some great songs like "Ballad of Springhill", "The Coming of the Roads", "Jenny's Gone Away", "Paradise" and "16 Tons" in addition to others already mentioned here.


16 Feb 01 - 02:31 AM (#399201)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Amergin

The thing about Matewan, it is rather hard to find....been searching for it for months and the only place I have found it is at Amazon.com....but I don't like credit cards....so I can't get it from there...anyone have any ideas how I can get ahold of a copy?


16 Feb 01 - 03:12 PM (#399593)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: nyletak13013

I haven't really tried to look for it lately but I would assume that you could fing it in a video store. Are you looking to rent or to buy? You might also want to check your local library. I have ordered from amazon before and it worked well. You might want to see if they take money orders. I don't know if that helps or not but I hope it does.


16 Feb 01 - 05:56 PM (#399718)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)

Since it's West Virginia you're working on, there's one of my songs no one has mentioned. It's a quiet one, usually sung unaccompanied (by me anyway)entitled just, "West Virginia Mine Disaster," as I couldnt think of a better name for it. It was inspired by the flooding of the mine at Hominey Falls, but I used made-up names not wishing to embarrass real people. It speaks mainly for women, whose lot in those days was to stay at home and worry.

You've a good tough project in hand; work hard and don't let it get you down. All the best, Jean


18 Feb 01 - 02:38 AM (#400656)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Charlie Baum

A link to Joan Boyd's aforementioned "Fountain Filled With Blood" in the DT archives.

If you find Harry Caudill's Night Comes to the Cumberlands relevant, you might also consider Kai Ericson's Everything in Its Path, a sociological study of the Buffalo Creek Flood (caused when a mining dam gave way) and why the community was unable to put itself back together following the disaster--the traumas of the mining wars era impacting a much later time period. It's a book with scholarly footnotes, but it reads like a great novel.

--Charlie Baum


18 Feb 01 - 11:56 AM (#400846)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Peter K (Fionn)

Not "The Sign of Four," Jennifer, it was "The Valley of Fear." (Sherlock Holmes case set against a background of the Molly Maguires in Pennsylvania.)


18 Feb 01 - 03:08 PM (#400960)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Giac

This site has links to some interesting stuff:

click


29 Apr 04 - 11:43 AM (#1174104)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: katlaughing

Heard a field recording of the Avondale Mining Disaster and went looking for more info. Found it in the DT, then did a google and found this: Pittston Gazette Newspaper, 16 Sept 1869, Luzerne Co, PA (Extracted by Marge Gray).

The Avondale Catastrophe (copied from the New York Tribune, Sept 9, 1869) Avondale, PA
"Two Hundred Miners Suffocated in the Avondale Colliery Fire" (Here is a list of those who died"


It's heartwrenching info on who they left behind and where they were from at THIS SITE


29 Apr 04 - 02:01 PM (#1174230)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Mary Humphreys

May I make a very small correction to Shall's very informative post? The Welsh hymn that was the tune basis for the Mountain Railway/Miner's Lifeguard song was 'Calon Lan', which means 'Pure Heart'.
I'd like to know whether there was a community of Welsh miners in the area when that song was written.


29 Apr 04 - 09:22 PM (#1174548)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST

University Avignon, France, current curriculum, The Underground
Aristocrats, written by Pat Cooksey in 1974, this song is part of
our English history course.
The author seems to be a strong supporter of the miners, we have the
text, but my question is, what is the meaning of the lyrics, is it
just meant to be sarcastic, or is there another meaning to this song.


30 Apr 04 - 08:12 AM (#1174879)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: GUEST,Bex McK

Just while we're on the subject, does anyone know about the origins of 'The Dream of the Miner's Child'?
B


30 Apr 04 - 08:54 AM (#1174899)
Subject: RE: coal mining songs
From: Stewie

Guest BMcK, seek out a copy of Archie Green's 'Only A Miner'. Chapter 4 is devoted to 'Dream ...'.

--Stewie.