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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => SOTM - Song Of The Month => Topic started by: Norfolk Slim on May 24, 2016, 12:15:58 PM

Title: SOTM - May 2016 - Gallows Pole
Post by: Norfolk Slim on May 24, 2016, 12:15:58 PM

Here's Leadbelly's classic recording of “Gallis Pole” from 1939.

https://youtu.be/r5nSD26Kmpw

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this one goes back a long way and so far as I can tell is impossible to trace clear roots for.  Perhaps a little more surprisingly, it is not a folk song emanating from the American West in the 1800s, but seems to go back to Northern Europe and probably much earlier times.  Wiki suggests that 50 versions have been reported in Finland where it is known as “Lunastettava neito”- 'The Girl to Be Ransomed'.  It appears that there are versions of the song scattered across Northern Europe- including Sweden and Lithuania.  It is suggested that its arrival in England may have been later as the earliest recorded English versions of “The Maid freed from the Gallows” are absent much of the narrative explanation present in the Nordic versions.  The earliest noted English version appears to date to 1770.

The earliest recorded versions appears to be Bentley Ball in 1920 but I have not been able to locate an online recording.  Many other versions were recorded in the 20s and 30s but are not seemingly available on youtube currently.  A useful list / reference is here: https://www.fresnostate.edu/folklore/ballads/C095.html

In many versions, the condemned man / woman sees a series of visitors and asks whether they have brought anything to save him/her – but they have not, and the singer curses them and often has a “true love” arrive in the final verse with the requisite funds...

By the time Leadbelly recorded it, the protagonist had become male but the heart of that narrative was present (but without the curse sub-plot).  He sung:

“Father, did you bring me the silver
Father, did you bring me the gold?
What did you bring me, dear father
Keep me from the gallows pole?

Yeah, what did you?
Yeah, what did you?
What did you bring me, keep me from the gallows pole?

Spoken: In olden times years ago, when you put a man in prison behind the bars in a jailhouse
If you had fifteen or twenty-five or thirty dollars
You could save him from the gallows pole cause they gonna hang him if you don't bring up a little money
Everybody would come to the jailhouse and boy would ran upside the jail; he was married, too
As for who brang him something, lot of comfort, here comes his mother

Mother, did you bring me the silver
Mother, did you bring me the gold?
What did you bring me, dear mother
Keep me from the gallows pole?

Yeah, what did you?
Yeah, what did you?
What did you bring me, keep me from the gallows pole?

Son, I brought you some silver
Son, I brought you some gold
Son, I brought you a little of everything
Keep you from the gallows pole

Yeah, I brought it
Yeah, I brought it
I brought you, keep you from the gallows pole

Spoken: Here come his wife. His wife brought him all kind of clock parts and trace change
Everything in the world she could to get him out of the jailhouse

Wife, did you bring me the silver
Wife, did you bring me the gold?
What did you bring me, dear wifey
Save me from the gallows pole?

Yeah, what did you?
Yeah, what did you?
What did you bring me, keep me from the gallows pole?

Friends, did you bring me the silver
Friends, did you bring me the gold?
What did you bring me, my dear friends
Keep me from the gallows pole?

Yeah, what did you?
Yeah, what did you?
What did you bring me, keep me from the gallows pole? “


An interesting version from the same time period displays the song's European folk roots more clearly.  There are some bizarre vocals, but its a haunting performance imo:

https://youtu.be/6YIp0h7PIlo

I also came across Bob Dylan's “Seven Curses” which clearly has its roots in similar places, and reintroduces the curses element.

https://youtu.be/-Cbo8I-okHg

Fred Gerlach was a friend of Leadbelly and apparently a room-mate at some stage.  He recorded this version, which is clearly very much his own but owes a lot to Leadbelly:
https://youtu.be/-sUFihFieT8

A beautiful version by Odetta from 1960:
https://youtu.be/vqjXNtZxOX0

Here is Alvin Hart's fantastic and very Leadbellyesque version: 

https://youtu.be/n_T89f6IVxw?


And finally a stunning piece of playing and singing by the late Ben Andrews- probably my favourite version that isn't by someone named Leadbetter.  I wondered whether this might be one for the “What's this musician doing” puzzler thread, but I'm pretty sure its a fairly unusual example of blues played in DADGAD.  I'd love to be corrected if I'm wrong, because I have yet to get anywhere near replicating it, despite  bursts of intensive effort in the past.  Perhaps I'm due another try...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xep-Yd-YKo0


PS- As many will know, Led Zeppelin did the song too- but folk can google that if they want it!  Jimmy Page has said it was Gerlach's version that inspired theirs.
Title: Re: SOTM - May 2016 - Gallows Pole
Post by: Johnm on May 24, 2016, 03:57:17 PM
Thanks very much for your choice for Song of the Month and the research you did, Simon.  Fred Gerlach seems like he was one of those musicians who slipped through the cracks in terms of getting adequate recognition for what he was able to do.  The right hand stuff he did on his version of "Gallows Pole" is spectacular--and varied!  Wow!  He had some other really fine tracks on that album, too, versions of "DeKalb Blues" and "Ham And Eggs" among them.  He's gone now.

Here is a version, called "Hangman", that John Koerner did on the first Koerner, Ray and Glover album, "Blues, Rags, and Hollers".

https://youtu.be/awDxnbPYvLo


All best,
Johnm
Title: Re: SOTM - May 2016 - Gallows Pole
Post by: Lignite on May 24, 2016, 04:54:32 PM
North Carolina'a own Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers performing the Highwayman. Seems like a combination of the Poor Boy/Danville Girl folk music source and the Gallows Pole done up in a gorgeous melody in 3/4 time. https://youtu.be/p4dmdAT5gXY
Title: Re: SOTM - May 2016 - Gallows Pole
Post by: harriet on May 24, 2016, 05:21:02 PM
THanks for the post Norfolk Slim and also the reminder of John Koerner from John Miller.  Here's Mike Russo's Cd version:

http://youtu.be/TcDnESvh6Pg
Title: Re: SOTM - May 2016 - Gallows Pole
Post by: ScottN on June 24, 2016, 10:46:37 AM
There is also video of Mike Russo performing it for the Seattle Folk Society at about 8:05

https://youtu.be/rm64F1qItg4

It's worth watching the whole video as well as part 1.

Thanks,
           Scott
Title: Re: SOTM - May 2016 - Gallows Pole
Post by: DavidCrosbie on August 02, 2018, 10:51:34 AM
Here's where the song came from.

A version from England

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXrIYxGtpzw

And one from Ireland

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FWV5vveQs8

The singer, Sarah Makem, was the mother of the more widely known Tommy Makem.
Title: Re: SOTM - May 2016 - Gallows Pole
Post by: DavidCrosbie on January 08, 2019, 06:38:40 AM
Rivers has discovered this very interesting discussion by John Cowley of Leadbelly's repertoire.

https://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/3092/ (https://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/3092/)

Cowley reports

Quote from: John Cwley
A rumour persists that Huddie may have memorised the principal white European ballad in his repertoire ? Mama Did You Bring Me Any Silver (or The Maid Freed From The Gallows) ? from a book on the shelves of Mary Elizabeth Barnicle?s house in Wilton, Connecticut.

He has explained earlier how Leadbelly came to be living there in 1935.

Quote
Immediately, Huddie was beset with offers, all of which were accepted or rejected by the Lomaxes, who stage-managed his affairs. The problem of his accommodation remained, however, as did his loneliness.

In the end a solution was found by sending for Martha Promise, the singer?s woman friend in Shreveport, and obtaining the loan of a cottage in Wilton, Connecticut from Mary Elizabeth Barnicle (a folklorist, at New York University) and M. Conklin (of the publishers, Macmillan). Here the Lomaxes lived with Huddie and Martha (whom he married on 21 January), though there were engagements in upstate New York during the next two-and-a-half months before the newlyweds returned to Shreveport on 26 March.