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The preacher must get some sometime, just like any other man. - Bob Robinson, The Preacher Must Get Some Sometime

Author Topic: Delia  (Read 5503 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Delia
« on: December 08, 2007, 03:41:23 AM »
I found the following on my computer but for some reason shamefully didn't note the source nor age of piece. As recorded versions of Delia have been the subject many topics I thought the history, as researched by murder ballad authority John Garst, might find interest here. I have little doubt that Garst has gone into it further than this:

"Delia" gained national prominence as "Delia's Gone" after the Bahaman Blind Blake (Blake Alphonso Higgs) recorded it in the 1950s. Almost every pop group of the "great folk scare" recorded it. Further, it crossed over into country and rock. Johnny Cash recorded it twice, once in about 1960 and once in 1993. Bob Dylan recorded it in 1992. In field recordings, it goes well back into the '20s and '30s, and it was recorded by jazz band leader Jimmy Gordon at that time. In published collections, you find versions in the collections of Odum and Johnson (1925 and earlier) and White (1928). It is no doubt older, dating to about 1900. White's informant said he learned it between 1900 and 1904.
As far as I know right now, the tag "Delia's" (or "Delia") "gone, one more round, Delia's gone" was strictly Caribbean before its introduction to the U.S. in the 1950s. Earlier in the U.S., the tag lines were "One more rounder gone," "All I done had done gone," "Poor gal, she gone," "She's dead, she's dead and gone," "All the friends I ever had are gone," etc.

John Cowley pointed out to me that Robert Winslow Gordon had reported to the Library of Congress in 1928 that he had tracked the "Cooney Killed Delia" song to its source in Yamacraw, a black neighborhood of Savannah, GA (see Good Friends and Bad Enemies, by Debora Kodish). Gordon never published anything on this, and I have no idea where his papers on this subject might be. It appears that the Library of Congress doesn't have them (from what they tell me), but I haven't yet been there or to the University of Oregon, where there are more Gordon papers, to check things out personally. Gordon said that he had interviewed and photographed Delia's mother and the detective that had investigated the case and that he had collected 28 different versions of the song and copied 50 pages of court records. I've not seen any of this, unless some of the court records I've found (fewer pages) overlap with Gordon's.

John Cowley suggested that, living in Georgia, I might be in a position to track Delia down again, so I started casually looking at versions in accessible sources. When I found the lines, "Nineteen hundred, Nineteen hundred and one, Death of po' Delia, Has jes' now begun," I went immediately to the library to scan the year 1901 in Savannah newspapers on microfilm. Two hours later, in mid-March, 1901, I was looking at an article stating that Moses Houston would go on trial tomorrow for the murder of Delia Green last Christmas Eve. I found other articles, one of them calling Moses "'Coony' Houston," and later the clemency file of Moses Houston in the Georgia State Archives. That file contains a summary, nearly a verbatim transcript, of testimony at Moses' trail. By the way, "Houston" is pronounced "howss'tun" in south Georgia, not "hews'tun."

Delia, age 14, was working as a scrub girl in the home of Willie West, on Harrison Street, across the street from Delia's home with her mother at 113 Ann Street. About four months earlier, Delia and Moses, also 14 but nearly 15, had started seeing one another. At the party late Christmas Eve night, around 10:30-11:00 or so, they were quarreling. Cooney appears to have been teasing Delia, claiming that she was his "wife," and talking about their sexual relationship. Delia replied that he was a lying son-of-a-bitch and that she was a lady. Willie West threatened to kick Cooney out of the house if he didn't behave. After that, there was no more fussing, but as the party was breaking up, and as Cooney was leaving, he took a 0.39-cal pistol and shot Delia in the left groin area. Willie West chased him out into the street and held him while police were called. Cooney said that he shot Delia because she called him a son of a bitch, and that he would do it again under the same conditions, but he offered to pay for Delia's doctor. Delia was taken across the street to her mother's house, where she was attended by a doctor, perhaps the same one that signed her death certificate, J. W. Ward. The doctor told newspaper reporters that she would not live, and at around 3 a.m. Christmas morning, 1900, Delia died. According to her death certificate, she was buring in Laurel Grove Cemetery, Savannah, but a recent inventory of tombstones in that cemetery does not contain a record of a marker for Delia Green.

Mose, as he came to be called in later life, was convicted of murder with a recommendation for mercy, due to his youth. He was sentenced to life at hard labor in the state penitentiary. He was probably eligible for parole after 7 years, but he served 13. He was paroled in 1913 by Governor John Marshall Slaton, the same governor whose commutation of Leo Frank's death sentence in the Mary Phagan case was followed by Frank's lynching by a mob and an end to Slaton's political career.

I know nothing of Mose's later life. I would like to find living relatives of Mose Houston and Delia Green, but so far I have not tracked any down.

[later edit: from Blues & Rhythm 189 May 2004]
« Last Edit: December 08, 2007, 06:49:15 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Delia
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2007, 07:56:02 AM »
Very interesting.  I was just yesterday listening to Willie McTell's LoC recording, with the tag line "She's all I got is gone."  And the wonderful verse "Rubber-tired buggy, double-seated hack, taken Delia to the cemetery but failed to bring her back."  McTell refers to the murder weapon as a .44.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Delia
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2007, 09:35:21 AM »
For interest/comparison here's a scan of one of Garst's citations. Page 215, Newman Ivey White "American Negro Folk Songs" (Harvard UP, 1928)

SOCIAL SONGS
DELIE *

Reported from Durham, N. C., I924, MS. of M. L. Hamlin, "from memory of a song taught Frank Goodell of Spartanburg, S. C., Amherst, '08, by an old Negro to whom he paid $I.00 to teach him to play the guitar. Learned probably between I900 and I904.",

The third stanza with slight variations occurs in "Frankie," Perrow, I9I5, p. I78; "Maggie Was a Lady," Cox, I925, p. 220; "Lilly," Odum, I925, p. 230; "Frankie and Albert," Scarborough, I925 (as from Texas), pp. 8I-82. The first two stanzas are somewhat related to two stanzas in Scarborough, p. 82.

Note that in the "Delie" songs, which are obviously closely connected with "Frankie and Albert," if not originally the same song, the situation is reversed and the woman is shot by the man, instead of vice versa.

Delie, Delie, was a-goin' her last round,
When ole coon came by
An' shot her to the groun'.
All I done had done gone.

Delie, Delie, why did n't yo' run,
When yo' seen dat coon a-comin'
Wid his forty-fo' caliber gun?
All I done had done gone.

Rubber-tired cayage, rubber-tired hack
Done took poor Delie to de bone yard,
Ain't never brought her back.
All I done had done gone.

Men in Atalanta tryin' to pass fo' white,
Delie's in de bone yard
Six foot out o' sight.
All I done had done gone.

Men in Atalanta drinkin' out a silver cup,
Delie's in de bone yard,
Ain't never goin' to get up.
All I done had done gone.

*Local title.


« Last Edit: December 08, 2007, 09:39:30 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Delia
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2007, 10:37:06 AM »
Very interesting.  I was just yesterday listening to Willie McTell's LoC recording, with the tag line "She's all I got is gone."  And the wonderful verse "Rubber-tired buggy, double-seated hack, taken Delia to the cemetery but failed to bring her back."  McTell refers to the murder weapon as a .44.
Although not having listened to it since issued in mid-70s by Flyright, I'm almost certain these lines are identical to the that Lomax recorded by Booker T Sapps in Florida 1935.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Delia
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2008, 08:44:41 AM »
Responding late, but thanks for posting this BH.

The McTell versions of Delia are favourites of mine, but in fact I have heard no other versions of Delia that aren't postwar. And while there are a couple revivalist versions (like Roy Book Binder's version of Rev. Gary Davis's version), most are really in the country/folk/pop stream. I haven't heard Booker T. Sapps' recording.

So who recorded blues versions of Delia? While it seems to have been a known ballad and collected, it's not a song like Frankie or Stackolee, where there are many prewar commercial examples and variations I can pull out of my music collection. The only prewar blues versions I've heard are by McTell. I'm one volume short from having the Jimmie Gordon version as it is on Document Vol. 3.

BTW, I could probably ask the same question of Ella Speed (Leadbelly, Mance Lipscomb, and a couple field recordings - who else?).

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Delia
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2008, 10:00:34 AM »
Responding late, but thanks for posting this BH.
I haven't heard Booker T. Sapps' recording.
it's only about two or so minutes long. Here's what Bruce Bastin says in his liner notes to Boot That Thing LP:

Frankie And Albert, unlike the John French version on SDM 257, really is the black ballad, Delia, as the sub-title given by the field-notes suggest [Cooney And Delia]. Once again, they list it as a 'fragment of ballad'. Blind Willie McTell recorded this same song both for the Library of Congress in 1940 and Atlantic in 1949 but it had been collected in the field as early as 1904-6, when Howard W. Odum was collecting in Newton County, Georgia. He published the lyrics of One Mo' Rounder Gone in 1911?almost identical to those later sung by McTell:

Rubber-tired buggy, double-seated hack,
Well, it carried po' Delia to graveyard,
failed to bring her back,
Lawdy, one mo' rounder gone.

The song had been collected also in North Carolina between 1900 and 1904 with a verse which suggested an Atlanta source for this variant at least:

Men in Atlanta trying' to pass fo' white
Delie's in de bone yard
Six foot out p' sight.

By 1923 it had been collected from Clinton, South Carolina singers, Lil and Babe McClintock, the former surely the same person who recorded for Columbia in Atlanta in 1930.

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: Delia
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2008, 01:00:38 PM »
Found this:

http://www.princeton.edu/~paw/web_exclusives/plus/plus_012605wilentz.html

Indeed John Garst did research this one.  Roy Bookbinder also has an interesting story about this on his live a fur peace ranch cd.

Mike


Offline dj

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Re: Delia
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2008, 01:06:07 PM »
Jimmie Gordon recorded "Delhia" in New York City on April 28, 1939.  It's substantially rewritten from the traditional ballad that would seem to have been McTell's source.  It shares neither McTell's melody nor chorus, though it does carry over some lyric ideas (like the rubber-tired buggy) in an altered and rearranged form.

 

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Delia
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2008, 01:20:03 PM »
And what are our favorite revivalist versions?
Mine is Spider John Koerners & Gary Davis' (Not that RGD was a revivalist, just that it appeared during that period).
« Last Edit: January 31, 2008, 07:42:48 PM by Mr.OMuck »
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Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: Delia
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2008, 01:24:51 PM »
Well, I like Roy's.  I would mention Bromberg's but I'm not wearing my hard hat.

Mike


Offline uncle bud

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Re: Delia
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2008, 04:08:06 PM »
Roy Book Binder's intro to Delia on the Fur Peace Ranch record about the various people who've won Grammys covering the song has me cracking up each time I hear it. It's longer than his version of the song, which is also real nice. Someone give Roy a damn Grammy...

I'll admit to being a fan of the Dylan version. There, I said it.  :P 

Gary Davis never released it on record, though at least one recording exists that I know of, and I'm sure there are others. The one I've heard is played on 12-string. Dylan's is based largely on RGD's as I recall.

I seem to recall Ernie Hawkins playing a nice version at Port Townsend one year, again the RGD version for the most part.

My favourite is still McTell's. But I'm still surprised there aren't more early recorded versions of it.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2008, 04:09:17 PM by andrew »

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Delia
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2008, 04:45:34 PM »
A couple of renditions of 'Delia' by the Reverend are included on Ernie Hawkins 'Blues Guitar of Rev. Gary Davis' DVD.  Recorded in 1962 and 1967, both are the Reverend playing 12 string guitar.  Vocals are more extensive on one of the recordings than the other.

It's interesting that the ballad 'Frankie and Albert' is related to the song 'Delia'.  I suspected that was so but was unaware of a documented connection until Bunker Hill pointed it out.

Pic 
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Delia
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2008, 06:42:57 PM »
Thanks for that info, Pic. That's great to know. Good on Ernie and Stefan for making those recordings available. I was always amazed that such an influential arrangement was actually unavailable by the musician responsible for it. Yet another reason to pick up that set (I have the first set Ernie did, and while I haven't actually learned the material (!) I've watched it several times and think it's great).

Are the versions of Delia, audio or video?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Delia
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2008, 09:50:04 AM »
I'll admit to being a fan of the Dylan version. There, I said it.  :P 

Gary Davis never released it on record, though at least one recording exists that I know of, and I'm sure there are others. The one I've heard is played on 12-string. Dylan's is based largely on RGD's as I recall.
Michael Gray in his Song & Dance Man 3 devotes SEVEN pages (748-754) to the lineage of the ballad, those who have recorded it as well as Dylan's handling of same. A worthwhile read Andrew next time you are in a bookshop or library.  ;)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Delia
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2008, 09:58:45 AM »
Found this:

http://www.princeton.edu/~paw/web_exclusives/plus/plus_012605wilentz.html

Indeed John Garst did research this one. 
Super stuff, thanks for going to the trouble of hunting it down. I'm just plain lazy when it comes to searching the internet......

 


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