Madison County Project, Transcription

Transcribed by Daniel W. Patterson
 

SHEILA KAY ADAMS (singing “Young Hunting”):

Come in, come in, my old true love,
And spend this night with me,
For I have a bed. Hit's a very fine bed.
I'll give it up for thee, thee,
I'll give it up for thee.

It's I can't come in, no I can't . . . .

SHEILA:
I was 17 years old and had taken Granny and Berzil and Cas and Vergie Wallin and Inez Chandler to a round robin. There were, like, 50 chairs, you know, in this big circle, and a ballad singer in every chair. So I mean I was real self-conscious because I for one was the youngest person in the circle. But I started singing it, and I got about three verses into it, and lost my place, and forgot the next verse, and was so embarrassed. And it was really funny, because when I faltered, there were, like, five voices that picked it up right there and started talking it out all in unison. And so that's kind of how I got started.

DONNA RAY NORTON (singing “Little Matthey Groves”):

"What's this? What's this?" cried Little Matthey Groves,
As he sat up in bed. "
I fear it is your husband's men,
And I will soon be dead, dead,
And I will soon be dead."

"Oh, lay back down, little Matthie Groves,
And keep my back from cold.
It's nothing but my father's men,
Calling their sheep to the fold, fold,
Calling their sheep to the fold.

DONNA:
You know some people's family, they're ballerinas or some people play football and you know that like, or some people are cops. That's what their family thing is. This is our thing. This is what we do.

DENISE NORTON O’SULLIVAN:
We used to go up to Granny Dell's and they'd have parties and sing, and everybody 'd pick and dance and everything like Sheila and John Dedrick and Peter Gott and David Holt and all them. I used to live in Granny Dell's house in '91 and '92, and we had no running water in it. No hot water heater. We had electricity, no bathroom. You know, we used outhouse, and wringer washing machine. I mean it was just like stepping in a time capsule. People didn't have all the TV and video games and stuff to babysit their kids. They had to entertain them other ways.

SHEILA:
She's really. my great aunt by marriage, Dellie Chandler Norton. It was so much a part of their everyday life. You know, they, they sung when they were working,. They sung when they were playing. And I don't really remember somebody saying to me, "Now this is real important that you learn this because it's going to die out if you. . . . You know, I don't remember that at all. But I do remember, um, and I've said before that the voices from my childhood were just as liable to be singing as they were talking.

DELLIE CHANDLER NORTON (singing “Love has Brought Me to Despair”):

It’s some folks says, there's a flower you can find
Will cure false love and [ease] your mind.
And outen these flowers, I made my bed
And outen these leaves a pillow for my head.

Yes, I gathered red and I gathered blue,
Until I got my apron. . . .

JOHN COHEN:
There you were. That song. After "pillow for my head" she goes right into gathered, gathered, gathered. I gathered a number . . .On the film, I gathered. “Out these flowers I made my bed, and out these leaves a pillow for my head.” Well when I started looking for the old footage of The End of an Old Song, all my outs and trims, well, I'd put them away in 1969 or so and I've searched all over this house and over the barn, and I finally found them way up here with a bunch of stuff, rusted, but it says EOS. Good, good luck. Well Peter Gott is the one who got me into Madison County, and it was Peter's searching for a place to learn how to play the banjo, and where people played banjos and made banjos, and where the music was--what he was looking for. Well he searched all around, and he ended up in Madison County.

PETER GOTT:
I think it was my next to last year at college. I was in a record store hunting for some kind of good banjo records, and I heard exactly what I wanted in the booth next to me. And (they let you play the records then) and one of them had Obray Ramsay singing "Pretty Polly" and "Little Maggie," you know, and picking. And I thought that was the best thing I ever heard in my life. I cut all the rest of my classes. I didn't study for finals or anything. I just listened to those records. When we moved to Madison County, I didn't even know Obray lived here. He's just down the road. But that proved to me that this was the place. We saw two men standing by their mailbox, and the old man, the father, saw my banjo in the back of our Volkswagen and asked if I'd play a tune. So I got it out, and I played "Bile Them Cabbage Down," and he jumped out in the middle of the road. He whooped and hollered and he danced, and he gave me 50 cents. That was Lee Wallin and his son Doug. Well, about a year went by, Doug started to sing, and he sang the most beautiful ballads. I think it was "Young Emily" and [youthful morning]. After about maybe another year, Brazil sang a song, I hadn't thought about her singing, but of course, you know, it makes sense. She was Doug's mother. So she started singing and we'd go and, and I didn't-- had a tape recorder, but I didn't bring it. But I didn't need to record them, because if I wanted to hear 'em, I could just go and hear 'em.

COHEN:
Well, Peter had done one recording of some of the folks around him, so I heard those recordings. And then I heard some of the other people on it. I said, "Oh, these are incredible ballads. Are you going to do more with this?" "No, I just want it for myself." I said, "Well, you should do it really well." "Oh, this is okay, this is okay." So then I said, "Well, do you mind maybe, maybe I can make some better quality or good, not better, but good quality recordings because I think people should hear this." In 1963, sitting on Lee Wallins porch, and all the folks were there, you know--Doug Wallin and Dillard Chandler--and I liked Dillard's singing. So for me to ask him to record-- was this big wall of silence, and not resistance, but "What is it? What is this for?" And I remember I got down on the floor in front of him with the tape recorder and it was just an old plug in the wall Tann. But it wasn't a Nagra yet. They didn't have Nagras yet. And I, it felt like I was there an awfully long time trying to explain to him why he should sing from my microphone. It was just something about the music that I said, let's try this. It would be so good if other people could hear it.

DILLARD CHANDLER (singing “The Soldier Being Tired”).:

         . . . like a maid ought to do.
Well, he said, "My little honey, won't you come to bed too?

SHEILA:
Granny's generation, they called all of them love songs, and I think that was to distinguish between what they called meeting-house songs, which was the religious songs. And then these that had kind of a--the plot always had to do with some sort of unrequited love or ruined love or love that didn't work out, you know.

BOBBY McMILLON:
They were ballads, but it didn't matter what the subject was about--trains wrecking, ships sinking in the deep blue sea, or girlfriends cutting their boyfriends; guts out. If they weren't religious, they were known as love songs.

DENISE:
The song that I'm going to sing is one that I learned from Doug Wallin, and it is called "Down in the Willow Garden." It's a murder ballad, which a lot of people seem to have a fascination with

LENA JEAN RAY:
Love song!

DENISE:
It's a love song.

DENISE (singing “Down in the Willow Garden”):

Down in the willow garden where me and my love did meet,
While we sat a-courting, my love dropped off to sleep.
I had a bottle of burgundy wine, which my true love did not know.
And there I poisoned that dear little girl, down on the bank below.

I stabbed her with a dagger, which was a bloody knife.
I threw her in the river, which was an awful sight.

COHEN:
Well, I worked with a woman named Helen Levitt on the editing, but I'd find shots for her. We'd hang them up, and just string them back together, and throw 'em in the cans. And then there's just some kind of indication--this is "Out Out." This says "Down Road." So it must be the soundtrack for 'Down the Road.' And that's--where's the picture? "Down the road"? So possibly--this doesn't look like it's long enough, but let's see if there's another "Down the Road." "Down the Road"! The wheel is turning. Let's see. This is the critical one. Now. Where's the light? I don't know. I don't know. That was the sound. Hey, a spider crap on that. Oh well. On the screen there. But that's, that's it.

LEE WALLIN 
I still think about them pretty girls I used to have back then. I could get just any of them I wanted back then.. They'd all come to see me every once in a while. They all . . . .

COHEN:
All the years before, ballad singing was always done by classically trained people or a few Library of Congress singers of ballads. But the songs are rightfully in front, but here to see these people in their setting and they were such interesting people that I thought that should be communicated on film. In other words, it wasn't just the song, it wasn't just the text. Mostly ballads had been studied for their texts and this variant and that variant. And I was always trying to put a human face to the music.

DILLARD (singing “Short Time Here, Long Time Gone”):  

Got up this morning, put my shoes on wrong.
Short time here, honey, but a long time gone.

Got up . . . .

COHEN:
Lomax. He was all over the place. I know why. He had done all the important work. Everything that he was doing was important. Everything I was doing was--had nothing. It could never approach to what Lomax was doing. So I just--it kind of cleared the air. I'm doing this for myself on my own scale. I was making films and recordings of people who weren't interested in making recordings. They hadn't desired to go out. They hadn't desired to be on film. And maybe that's what made it interesting.

LEE WALLIN:  (singing and playing “Down the Road”):  

Down the road, down the road,
Can't get a letter from down the road.

You'll take Kate and I'll take Sal,
I'm going to have me a Johnson gal.
Down the road, down the road,
Can't get a letter from down the road.

Little white goose a-setting on the fence,
My little woman ain't got no sense.
Down the road, down the road,
I can't get a letter from down the road.

SHEILA:
Over in Sodom what you had was this entire community so--that was singing and making music. Now they were all related in one shape, you know--either by marriage, or like I said, by blood or both. And as a result of that, instead of the tradition being sort of passed down through just one family, it was passed down and, and traded back and forth, swap songs and that sort of thing, within the whole community.

LENA JEAN RAY:
Here we have Dee Dee Norton Buckner. Dee Dee is also my stepdaughter.

DENISE:
and my sister.

LENA:
And Denise's sister.

MALE VOICE:
And my niece.

LENA:
And Joe's. . . Okay. As we said 5 minutes ago, right, you've got to connect all the family trees out before you're allowed to leave today. Makes me feel good to know that, you know, the young people are really blossoming now in the field and it's not going to die out as those of us who are getting a little bit older start kind of fading on the vine, you know? Anyway, it's good to have Dee Dee here today, and she's a wonderful singer too. And I'm really proud of her.

DEE DEE NORTON BUCKNER (singing “Dying Boy”):
My great-grandmother used to sing this song--Dellie Norton--and she used to say it's a true song. It's about a boy dying and his mother taking care of him.
(singing:)
I'm dying, Mother, dying now.
Please raise my aching head,
And fan my heated, burning brow.
Your boy will soon be dead.

Turn up my pillow once again,
And kiss my fevered cheek. . . .

DONNA:
You guys are getting a, like a real down-home experience about how ballads are sat around and sung and stuff with the kids. But this is how it really happens. This is how we all learned it anyway.

DENISE:
Dee Dee and I used to go, with Mammy and them up to Aunt Berzil's and Doug Wallin and all them. I couldn't even read, and I'm singing "Little Mohea" and Dee Dee's in the background reading the words to me, and I'm singing the song. So I mean, we've been singing like this for a long time. It's been just like I said-- it's in our blood. Granny Dell and Sheila and them went to Washington. Well, I had to stay with Aunt Jane. And at first it made me mad, 'cause I didn't want to go stay with nobody, you know. But then the world's fair in '82--now, that was cool! I was like "My Great-Grandma's singing, and my Aunt Evelyn." You know, like. . . . Yeah.

ROB AMBERG:
After Dellie reached a certain age and she had been recorded by John Cohen and Alan Lomax and sung in some folk festivals. She and the other people I think in the community all began to see that there was also a very quantifiable monetary value that their music especially had, but to a different degree their lifestyle also. And I think that that was a real radical change from certainly the way things had been.

SHEILA: )
Wherever they would go, somebody would inevitably come up to them and say, "I heard you on this record that John Cohen put out." Well, to them it started to sound like there were millions of these records out there because everywhere they went somebody would say, "Oh look here, I've got this record with your picture on it."

COHEN:
Doug Wallin was the one who gave me the clue that something was very amiss. He started off by saying, "That record you made of my parents," he says, "that's all over the place. Everybody I know has copies, and I saw one in Marshall. It's probably all over the country on jukeboxes everywhere. And you're keeping our money." Well that was a big shock to me to hear that perception of it.

GOTT:
Doug said, "Boys, you're welcome to come here anytime, and we'll feed you, and treat you good, and talk to you good. But I don't want any more recording." Well, John wouldn't take no for an answer. And he kept begging until finally Doug lost his temper and took a swing at him and, and he said, "Get out of here, and don't ever come back. And that goes for both of you. Well it was, for me it was the end of a beautiful friendship, not just with Doug, but his whole family. I never went back.

BOBBY:
The people over there were, were mad because John Cohen had come. And I don't know if they, some of them, thought that he had promised them some royalty money for singing for him, and some of these things had validity and some of them didn't. And most of it was a big misunderstanding. They just didn't understand how it worked.

CAS WALLIN (singing “Pretty Sarro”):  

When I first come to this country in 18 and 49. . . .

COHEN:
Well, I feel very good that the record did something in Madison County. It got the word out that these were good, a good bunch of singers, and that other people heard them, and came in and did more with it. And they did more and more and that made local people more interested in what they already had. It also made them proud and then they started getting invitations to go to festivals and sing here and do something with the state and do something with the National Endowment and get these rewards and awards and get a reputation. Now that's, I don't think that would happened if Peter and myself hadn't done what we did.

BOBBY:
I think John Cohen's contribution is and—and Peter Gott shares part of the spotlight on that too—is if it hadn't have been for them, these people's lives would have been played out, and nobody would ever have known.

DILLARD (singing “The Soldier Traveling from the North”):

The soldier traveling from the north,
As the moon shone bright and clearly.
The lady knew the gentleman's horse . . . .

SHEILA:
The tradition of singing the love songs is, is completely out of context to the culture now, because the culture that, that it came out of and that fostered, sort of nurtured it, that culture is now gone. But if you can take it and actually make it a part of you and a part of your everyday life, you know--whether Denise sings to her little boy, you know, going to, driving back and forth to soccer practice like I used to do with mine, or whether, you know, she's sitting on the porch over at Granny's. I mean, what difference does it make as long as, you know, as long as this next generation grabs hold of it.

MELANIE RICE:
(reading the list of singers on the Old Love Songs album): Cas Wallin, Lee Wallin, Lee Wallin, Dillard Chandler, Dillard Chandler, Dillard Chandler, whoever Lisha Shelton is, Lisha and Lisha.

DONNA:
Not Licia but Lisha. Lisha and Lisha

MELANIE:
That's Berzil!

DONNA:
Is it?

MELANIE:
And that's . . .

DONNA:
Some guy.

AMANDA SOUTHERLAND:
Wasn't she my aunt, or something?

MELANIE:
Well, yes, because she was Dellie's sister. So she would have been

DONNA:
your great-aunt.

MELANIE:
Great-great-aunt. Okay. Donna is your what cousin?

DONNA:
I'm her aunt, and her cousin!

MELANIE:
Oh yeah.

AMANDA:
You're my cousin on my Nana's side. And you're my aunt on my Grandpa's side

DONNA:
Classic Madison County!

DONNA (singing “Pretty Peggy-O”):  

Our captain fell in love, pretty Peggy-O.
Our captain fell in love, pretty Peggy-0.
Our captain fell in love with a maiden like a dove,
And they call her name Pretty Peggy-O.

What would your mother think, Pretty Peggy-O?
What would your mother think, Pretty Peggy-O?
What would your mother think, to hear the guineas clink?
What would your mother think, Pretty Peggy-O?

DONNA:
I did not like to to hear my mom sing. It was so embarrassing for me. And I would, I'd like go out of the room, you know, and cover my ears or something. So--but Sheila, I loved to hear Sheila sing. She was just so funny, and she was always my favorite.

SHEILA:
Well, I wish I was a poet and could write some fine hand. I would write my love a letter that she might understand. And I'd send it by the waters where the islands overflow, And I'll think of my darling wherever I go.

DENISE:
Sheila's been hot after me since I was 13 years old to sing. And so, you know, I just told her when I hit 30, you know, I'm like, that would be a nice memory to have somebody say after I'm gone, "Well you know, I heard this girl sing this song, and she learned it from--she's a eighth generation ballad singer. You know, that's just cool. 'Cause you know, Granny Dell was--what? Six? Six?. So we would be eight. Dee Dee and I would be eight. Amanda would be nine.

AMANDA:
And me, I'd be eight too, wouldn't I?

DENISE:
No, you're on a different branch of the tree.

SHEILA (singing “Single Girl,” over the credits):  

When I was single to marry was my crave.
Now I am married, I'm troubled to my grave.
I wish I was single girl again.
Lord, Lord, don't I wish I was a single girl again!

When I was single, I was so afraid
That no one'd ever wed me, and I'd die a sour old maid.
I wish I was a single girl again.
Lord, Lord, don't I wish I was a single girl again!

When I was single, he used to come to court.
He always brought me candy, and I thought he was a sport.
I wish I was a single girl again.
Lord, Lord, don't I wish I was a single girl again!

When I was single, went dressed all so fine.
Now I am married, go ragged all the time.
I wish I was a single girl again.
Lord, Lord, don't I wish I was a single girl again!

CREDITS:

Featuring:
     Sheila Kay Adams
     Rob Amberg
     Dee Dee Norton Buckner
     John Cohen
     Peter Gott
     Bobby McMillon
     Donna Ray Norton
     Denise Norton O’Sullivan
     Lena Jean Ray
     Melanie Rice
     Amanda Southerland

Video Footage
     “End of an Old Song”
     Copyright 1970 John Cohen
     used with permission

     additional video copyright John Cohen
     used with permission

Photographs
     Rob Amberg
     John Cohen
     Harvey Wang
     All photos used with permission

Produced, Directed, and Edited by
     Martha King
     Rob Roberts

Production Crew
     Hannah Blevins
     Grace Camblos
     Martha King
     Emolyn Liden
     Aaron Smithers
     Brian Talus
     Judd Williamson

Additional Editing
     Grace Camblos
      Emolyn Liden

Project Advisors:
      Rich Beckman
      Dr. William Ferris
      Dr. Glenn Hinson
      Laura Ruel

Thanks to:
     Todd Burkhalter
     Dr. Cece Conway
     The Cullers Family
     Chad Danforth
     Tom Davenport
     Josh Goforth
     Bradley King
     Rosemary King
     Sidney King
     Kelly Kress
     Anna Fain Liden
     Daniel Patterson
     John Anloe Phillips
     Bob & Susan Roberts
     Seth Roberts
     Tiki Roberts
     Cassie Robinson
     Steve Weiss

Additional Thanks
     The Daily Grind
     ibiblio.org
     Institute for Science Language
     Mars Hill College
     Southern Folklife Collection
     UNC Curriculum in Folklore
     UNC School of Journalism

Song Credits:
     “Young Hunting”
     sung by
     Sheila Kay Adams

     “Little Matthey Groves
     sung by
     Donna Ray Norton

     “Love Has Brought
     Me to Despair”
     sung by
     Dellie Norton

     “The Soldier Being Tired”
     sung by
     Dillard Chandler

     “Down in the Willow Garden”
     sung by
     Denise Norton O’Sullivan

     “Short Time Here,
     Long Time Gone”
     sung by
     Dillard Chandler

     “Down the Road”
     sung by
     Lee Wallin

     “Dying Boy”
     sung by
     Dee Dee Norton Buckner

     “Pretty Sarro”
     sung by
     Cas Wallin

     “The Soldier Traveling from
     the North”
     sung by
     Dillard Chandler

     “Pretty Peggy-O”
     sung by
     Donna Ray Norton

     “Single Girl”
     sung by
     Sheila Kay Adams

copyright 2005
Martha King & Rob Roberts
madisoncountyproject.org