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Hello heaven, daddy wants to use your telephone... So you can call good daddy anytime when he's gone - Papa Harvey Hull & Long Cleve Reed, France Blues

Author Topic: "Frankie Silvers"--Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots  (Read 1055 times)

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Online Johnm

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"Frankie Silvers"--Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots
« on: April 20, 2012, 08:11:58 AM »
Hi all,
The recent discussion of Frankie in the song "Frankie and Albert", and what the judge meant when he said she was going to be "justified", made me think of another song about a woman named Frankie. Frankie Silvers was convicted of murdering her husband, Charlie Silvers, in Burke County, North Carolina in 1931 and hanged in 1833.  I believe hers was the first execution of a woman in the state of North Carolina.  According to Toni Brown's notes to the old Chris Strachwitz-released album, "Ballads and Songs", Old Timey LP-102, local lore has it that Frankie Silvers confessed to the murder in a recitation of the song lyrics below prior to her death.
The song was first recorded by Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots, which on this song featured Clarence Ashley and Byrd Moore on guitars and Clarence Greene (who recorded "Johnson City Blues") on fiddle.  They sing and play the song so strongly and so straight.  I think these lyrics are amazing and they have really stuck with me down through the years.  I'm attaching a YouTube video of the performance.



This awful dark and dismal day
Has swept my glory all away
My sun goes down, my days are past
And I must leave this world at last

Judge Daniels has my sentence passed
These prison walls I'll leave at last
Nothing to cheer my drooping head
Until I'm numbered with the dead

His feeble hands fell gently down
His chattering tongue soon lost its sound
It strikes with terror to my heart
To see his soul and body part

His awful ghost, I know I'll see
Gnawing his flesh in misery
With flaming eye, he'll say to me,
"Why did you take my life away?"

Awful, indeed, to think of death
In perfect health to lose my breath
But little time to pray to God
Now I must try that awful road

Edited 4/20 to pick up correction from uncle bud

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 11:18:27 AM by Johnm »

Offline banjochris

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Re: "Frankie Silvers"--Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2012, 09:25:51 AM »
Great song and performance -- Ashley was still singing this in the '60s, I believe. This one and "Claude Allen" I've always liked.

This may be of interest:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankie_Stewart_Silver

Offline uncle bud

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Re: "Frankie Silvers"--Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2012, 10:14:19 AM »
I have a recording of Ashley doing it with just guitar on Tom Ashley and Tex Isley on Smithsonian Folkways, recorded in 1966. He also recorded it in 1933 with Gwyn Foster on harmonica. The notes to the Folkways record include the following:

Frank C. Brown (Brown IT pg. 701) publishes a full account of the Frankie Silvers murder case, in which
Mrs. Silvers decapitated her sleeping husband in 1831 and became the only white woman ever capitally punished in the state of North Carolina. The first person form of the text has inevitably given rise to the speculation that Frankie composed the song as an eleventh hour confession and variously sold copies at her
hanging, sang the song from the gallows, and so forth. Brown's text is a windy fifteen stanzas, the most
graphic imagery of which is preserved in Ashley's succinct five verses. Tom recorded the song twice as
a young man, with Gwen Foster (FRANKIE SILVERS Vocalion 02647) and with Byrd Moore and His Hot Shots
(FRANKIE SILVERS Columbia 15536, 1930).

The notes have the lyrics (and I think they are correct) and give the second line of the "awful ghost" verse as follows:

Gnawing his flesh in misery



« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 10:21:52 AM by uncle bud »

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: "Frankie Silvers"--Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2012, 10:33:14 AM »
I hear "gnawing his flesh" also.

We learned the song from the Byrd Moore recording, and sang it for Ashley at a party in 1965 (photo at http://www.lizlyle.lofgrens.org/BrnSnift/Ashley.html ). He said, "you boys are bumping the time" (even though we were singing it at about the tempo of the original recording), sang a couple of verses at what he said was the correct speed, then gestured to keep us at the correct tempo, just like a symphony conductor.

I'm even older now than Ashley was then, and I have a lot more appreciation for playing and singing without bumping the time.

He was also one of the most socially astute people I've ever met, comfortable in all kinds of what (to him) must have been strange situations.

Lyle

Offline uncle bud

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Re: "Frankie Silvers"--Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2012, 10:47:16 AM »
And coincidentally, the notes to the above mentioned Folkways album were written by the fiddler to the right of Ashley in the "Frankie Silvers correct tempo" photo linked to in Lyle's post, Jon Pankake.

Offline Stuart

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Online Johnm

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Re: "Frankie Silvers"--Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2012, 11:17:10 AM »
Thanks everyone for the additional background on the song, and to uncle bud and Lyle for the fix on "gnawing his flesh".  I'll make the change.  The additional information on the murder is interesting, because I had always wondered if the murder was euthanasia, due to mostly to the verse that refers to "his feeble hands" and "his chattering tongue".  I thought that perhaps Charlie Silvers was an invalid, and Frankie had put him out of his misery.  Nobody commits euthanasia via decapitation, though.  It sounds like she sure enough murdered him.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: "Frankie Silvers"--Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2012, 11:58:41 AM »
There's an interesting book on the topic, "The Untold Story of Frankie Silver," by Perry Deane Young (Down Home Press, Asheboro NC, 1998) that has more facts than anyone except us crazed fans would want to know about the case. It gives both the myths and the facts. It was very likely a case of self-defense (she axed him while he was trying to load a gun to kill her), but she tried to hide the incident by burning him up in the fireplace, bit by bit. Not a good idea, as it turned out.

Lyle

 


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