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I've been sick with the flu, then I had pneumonia on both sides... that was two weeks before Christmas, but now, all the blues I've been playin', think I'll give y'all a couple of church numbers. I ain't never through with the blues yet, but you know, I gotta get well first before I play too many blues. Church songs now, cause, you know, I might die... - Furry Lewis, 1969, from Fourth & Beale, Lucky Seven CD9202

Author Topic: "Hear My Sad Story" by Richard Polenberg  (Read 1455 times)

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Offline ScottN

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Re: "Hear My Sad Story" by Richard Polenberg
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2016, 07:19:22 AM »
I'm about 8 chapters in at this point and am enjoying it - definitely recommended. It gives the real stories behind many well known ballads (as well as some not as well known - to me at least).  Well researched and well written.  Definitely gives additional perspective to the songs and makes me want to find and listen to the ones I'm not familiar with.


Offline jphauser

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Re: "Hear My Sad Story" by Richard Polenberg
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2016, 06:40:14 PM »
Another recent book that might be of interest is Paul Slade's Unprepared To Die: America's Greatest Murder Ballads And The True Crime Stories That Inspired Them.   I haven't read it, but I have spent a good deal of time reading Slade's writing on his very entertaining and informative website.  The website contains material on murder ballads and other musical (and nonmusical) subjects.

There is also a recent book on Railroad Bill by Larry Massey titled The Life and Crimes of Railroad Bill: Legendary African American Desperado.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2016, 06:41:30 PM by jphauser »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: "Hear My Sad Story" by Richard Polenberg
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2016, 11:18:51 PM »
This discussion reminds me of Olive Woolley Burt's groundbreaking book American Murders Ballads and their stories (OUP 1958, $5.50,  272pps).

This I managed to acquire at a "jumble sale" in 1969 for the princely sum of ?1 and in pristine condition.

Attached is a scan of the dust jacket blurb. Click images to zoom in.

Offline Stuart

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Re: "Hear My Sad Story" by Richard Polenberg
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2016, 11:28:13 PM »
Thanks for the tip, Alan. A couple of the local libraries have it, so I'll have to give it a look.

Offline Johnm

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Re: "Hear My Sad Story" by Richard Polenberg
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2016, 07:02:17 AM »
Hi all,
Professor Richard Polenberg, who wrote "Hear My Sad Story" was my college advisor when I attended Cornell, and he is a great scholar and an excellent writer (and a really nice man).  I had a chance to read "Hear My Sad Story" before it was published and it is fascinating.  Among the people whose stories are discussed in it in detail are Stack Lee, Railroad Bill, Frankie Silvers, Pearl Bryan, Tom Dula, Betty and Dupree, Delia and Cooley, John Henry, Ellen Smith, Omie Wise and others.  Included in the text are photographs of several of these people, newspaper accounts, etc.  It is really an interesting book.  I would sure recommend it.
All best,


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