About 15 years ago I put all this material together in the first draft of Cecil Sharp in America, an article which eventually disappeared, unpublished, into the depths of my filing cabinet. At one time it had seemed that the article would form the foreword to a book of Cecil Sharp's Appalachian photographs, but this was not to be. Instead, some eighteen months ago, I decided to submit the article to the Folk Music Journal for possible publication. It was accepted, but only on the understanding that it would be some years before space could be found in this annual publication. For various reasons I was not willing to wait and so the article was submitted to Musical Traditions. In the meantime, the Editorial Board of the Folk Music Journal had made a number of suggestions designed to improve - and update - the article. Most of these ideas were accepted with gratitude and incorporated into the article - usually in the form of extended notes. The article that appears below is, in effect, a second draft.
I have also made one important alteration that would not have appeared in the Folk Music Journal. Although mention is made of Sharp's encounters with American Negroes, I had omitted an instance which shows Sharp in a rather poor light (certainly by today's standards) and I have decided that, in order to present as full a picture of Sharp as possible, I should now include this reference. I hope that my intention in doing so will not be misunderstood. When I had completed my first draft of the article I found that I had totally revised my ideas about Sharp, and I hope that readers will also come to share in these ideas and opinions. Cecil Sharp is, I believe, the most important English folksong collector of the century. His achievements are truly monumental. Bertrand Bronson once said that Sharp's Appalachian collection was the best regional song collection ever made in America. I hope that by reading this article, people will at long last come to realise just how much Sharp gave of himself in the assembly of his collection.
Michael Yates. Berwick-upon-Tweed. 23.12.99
Great things are done when men and mountains meet,According to Sharp:
This is not done by jostling in the street. 1
Chance brought me to America in the early days of the war ... and while here Mrs John C Campbell of Asheville, NC told me that the inhabitants of the Southern Appalachians were still singing the traditional songs and ballads which their English and Scottish ancestors had brought out with them at the time of their emigration. 2When Cecil Sharp met Mrs Campbell in 1915 he was almost certainly the most experienced folksong collector then working in England. But that was not all. As well as collecting folksongs, Sharp had spent much of his time researching the history of the songs and dances that he was discovering, so that by 1915 he was also one of the foremost experts on the subject.
Sharp, prior to meeting Mrs Campbell, had been touring America as dance advisor for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Cecil Sharp, who has been in New York some weeks in the interest of the dances in Granville Barker's Midsummer Night's Dream, is at last able to spend a day or two in Boston. On Wednesday afternoon he will address a limited invited audience on 'The Value of the Folk-song and the Folk-dance to the Community.' On these subjects he is the greatest authority in the world. Among his hearers there will doubtless be some who have studied at his famous (English) summer school at Stratford-on-Avon. In its four years of existence its graduates have gone out to all parts of the world, and the teaching of folk-dancing has become a science under his original methods. 3The following month he was in Pittsburgh.
A public lecture on 'English Folk-song' was given in Carnegie Music Hall last night, under the auspices of the Art Society, by Cecil J Sharp, one of the most eminent authorities on the subject. His talk was desultory, but delightful, filled with sincere enthusiasm and expressed with such simplicity and directness that he made doubly enjoyable a topic which is in itself of very great interest. Folk Music - the communal product of an entire people, rather than of an individual possesses a peculiar vitality and charm which Mr Sharp succeeded admirably in communicating to his audience ... He laid especial stress last night upon their careful diction and upon the impersonal simplicity of their performance, pointing out that (as we have ample opportunity to observe for ourselves) if the performer attempts to intrude his own personality or to add the graces of execution appropriate to more cultivated songs, the wild flavour evaporates. Miss Mattie Kay gave an excellent demonstration of the proper style of singing. Her voice is not very well trained, but it is of attractive quality, and her simple delivery of the six or eight songs used as illustrations to the lecture was most enjoyable. The photographs which Mr Sharp threw on the screen also increased the interest of the occasion. 4By the time he reached Chicago it was apparent that Sharp had already concluded that there was no such thing as American folk music
Mr Sharp told of rescuing English folk music; how he and his associates, seeking out persons untouched by the on-rush of education, had entered the workhouses and jotted down the songs of old peasants now living on the parish. No one under 70, he said, had yielded a song worth the taking. Another twenty years and English music would assuredly have dissolved in sophistication ... By Mr Sharp's definition a new folk music is impossible without a complete reversion to a feudal state. This is true, because folk music is the product of an unselfconscious peasantry; a peasantry which refuses to transmit the eccentricities of any individual; which simply omits and forgets what does not belong to the spirit of the people ... But this is a doleful theory to propound to Americans who feel the urge of nationality. How can we have any folk music? We are in the clutches of compulsory education. The farest backwoods farmer has a phonograph with records of Rubinstein's melody of F and Mischa Elman's richly sentimental reading of Dvorak's humoresque ... Thus Mr Sharp leaves us to a barren fate, not possessing a folk music and not able to get one. 5Olive Dame Campbell of Asheville, North Carolina, was the wife of John Campbell, an employee of the Russell Sage Foundation who was engaged in a social project upgrading the Appalachian school system. It was a job which necessitated long trips into the mountains and Mrs Campbell had often accompanied her husband on his journeys. It was during such trips that she first began to hear mountain ballads and songs. In December, 1907, the Campbells visited Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky and it was there that Olive Dame Campbell heard a student, Ada Smith, sing a version of the ballad Barbara Allen.
Shall I ever forget it. The blazing fire, the young girl on her low stool before it, the soft strange strumming of the banjo - different from anything I had heard before - and then the song. I had been used to singing Barbara Allen as a child, but how far from that gentle tune was this - so strange, so remote, so thrilling. I was lost almost from the first note, and the pleasant room faded from sight; the singer only a voice. I saw again the long road over which we had come, the dark hills, the rocky streams bordered by tall hemlocks and hollies, the lonely cabins distinguishable at night only by the firelight flaring from their chimneys. Then these, too, faded, and I seemed to be borne along into a still more dim and distant past, of which I myself was a part. 6In 1897 a lady called Frances Louisa Goodrich came to Allenstand in the Laurel section of Madison County, NC to establish a chain of schools, Sunday schools, craft programmes and a company called 'Allenstand Cottages Industries'. Olive Dame Campbell first visited this company in 1907 to help in her husband's survey of mountain life.
In October 1913 the Campbells attended the Country Life Conference in Big Laurel, one of Frances Goodrich's missions in Madison County ... There Olive Dame Campbell heard some ballad singing and had an opportunity to explain the significance of the ballads. By 1914 she had visited singers in the Laurel Country, Rosin Hensley and Mrs Sotherland [sic], and in 1915 she took down a song from Mandy Shelton. 7By the time she met Sharp, Mrs Campbell had collected over two hundred songs and ballads and when, in 1915, she presented him with her songs she was probably showing her collection to the person best suited to appreciate the value of her material. She was also showing her songs to a man possessed with an almost missionary zeal when it came to the collection of English folkmusic.
Mrs John C Campbell of Asheville, NC, called upon me the other day in order that she might show me and ask my opinion about a large collection of ballads words and tunes - which she had herself taken down from the lips of singers in the mountains near her home - the Southern Highlands. I had no time to give to her mss more than a cursory examination, but I saw more than enough to convince me that she has tapped a mine which if properly and scientifically explored would yield results - musical, historical, literary, etc - of the first importance. The ballads in question were apparently of Irish, Scottish or English origin which had presumably been carried to that district by the original settlers and passed down by oral tradition to their descendants and so generation by generation to the present inhabitants. 8True, most of Mrs Campbell's songs were known to Sharp, in one form or another, but:
the collection contained many interesting and illuminating variants of ballads which have been recently noted in England by members of the Folk Song Society including myself; and also variants of many ballads known to us in the older compilations of Motherwell, Kinloch, Walter Scott etc., but which so far as we know are not now being sung in England or Scotland. 9Maud Karpeles, writing in the Fox Strangways biography of Sharp, gives the following account of the meeting, as told by Mrs Campbell:
He was sitting very straight in an imposing high-backed chair ... a table in front of him. He could not get up, but he greeted me with an easy apology to the effect that he was indulging in a rich man's malady - gout, but that he owed it to his ancestors rather than to any luxuries permitted by his own income. I got a quick impression of his fresh colour, high, clearly cut features and the nervous force of his personality. His eye was obviously on my bundle of papers, and I wasted no time in laying it before him.Sharp, true to his nature, took little time to make up his mind about what had to be done. On 24 June, 1915, he wrote to Mrs Campbell.
"How did you take this down?" he asked.
I explained meekly that I was not a trained musician. I had to learn the melodies from the lips of the singer, noting down rough helps. I worked out the whole afterwards, using a piano if I could and going back again to the singer to check myself. A long time after he paid a compliment to my exactness of memory, which I am proud to remember, but at the time: "Of course, you know that that is a very unscientific way of recording", was his uncompromising observation. The moments fled by. I consulted my watch from time to time, but did not like to interrupt him. Moreover, I certainly could not detect any signs of boredom or exhaustion. When he finally laid the pile of manuscripts on the table and turned to me, it was with a keen but relaxed and almost lenient look. All the charm of his most winning mood was shed upon me as he explained how many people had brought 'ballads' to him before, but that this was the first time that he had come on any really original and valuable material. I am told he improved from that day. 10
I have been thinking a great deal about your ballads and of the necessity of completing the work which you have so ably initiated.. Something ought to be done to ensure the preservation of all these ballads before it is too late and also to discover whether there are not other folk survivals in the district besides ballads of equal value such as singing games, dances, carols etc. 11Mrs Campbell had clearly suggested the possibility of Sharp paying a visit to the Appalachians, because he concludes his letter thus:
Please understand that I do not wish for the world to queer your pitch so that I shall not move in the matter any further except with your complete concurrence. Indeed it would be quite impossible for me or anyone else to do the work without your good help. 12 Sharp, who could at times be short tempered, was also possessed of tact, a necessary asset for such a successful collector. Two days later in a letter to Richard Aldrich, music critic to the New York Times, he was to confide that:Sharp had, however, realised the urgency of the task.
Mrs Campbell is avowedly not a technical musician and she is fully alive to this deficiency and to the fact that her notation of the tunes lacks scientific accuracy. 13
Mrs Campbell furthermore told me that, as is the case in my own country, the custom of traditional ballad singing in the Southern Highlands is rapidly falling into disuetude [sic] so that time is urgent and consequently if the work is to be done at all it must be begun at once without delay. 14The purpose of Sharp's letter to Aldrich was primarily to solicit aid for the job in hand and within a month Aldrich was telling Sharp that Dr Henry S Pritchett, head of the Carnegie Foundation, was considering the idea that the Foundation should fund Sharp's proposed collecting activity in the Appalachians. 15
By the time that Aldrich's letter reached him, Sharp had returned to London only to find his wife, Constance, had suffered a serious heart-attack. Because of this Sharp was unable to return to America later that year as he had originally intended, Mrs Campbell having suggested that the autumn would be the best time to collect because the mountaineers would be involved in:
frolics, log rollings. corn huskings, 'lasses bilings, watermelon cuts and so on. 16Mrs Campbell added, though, that such events:
may be accompanied by excessive drinking and even less desirable features. 17Sharp used his time in London to continue his search for financial backing and for research into the history and social background of the area that he proposed to visit. It was clear to him that Mrs Campbell was the key to his intended success.
I am very anxious not to do anything discourteous to her ... After all she is the pioneer in this matter and it is solely through her that we have heard of the matter. 18It is interesting that Sharp appeared to be unaware of such material, especially as there were already other collectors apart from Mrs Campbell working in the Appalachians. State Folklore Societies had been founded in North Carolina and Kentucky in 1912, in Virginia in 1913 and in West Virginia in 1915. New York collector Josephine McGill spent the summer of 1914 searching for songs in Knott and Letcher Counties, Kentucky; although she did not publish the results of her work until 1917. In 1916 Sharp was probably aware that Loraine Wyman and Howard Brockway were also collecting in several Kentucky Counties.
Sharp proposed that he entered into some form of partnership with Mrs Campbell and that the result of their collecting should be published under their joint names.
It would be very nice if you could spare the time to accompany me when I am collecting, but if not you could direct me whither to go and I could bring the results of my work back to you for examination by both of us. 19Mrs Campbell was quick to reply and on 4 September, 1915, she wrote:
As I have written before, I shall be only too happy to co-operate ... Now in the first place, I want to make it clear to you that I in no way have a special right in collecting material from this region ... I want you to understand that I could not for a moment think of your plan as interfering with anything that I may have done in the past, even supposing that sometime in the future I might want to do more collecting; indeed it would be a distinct advantage to work with you. 20Mrs Campbell stressed how rugged the mountains could be and she was clearly aware at that early stage that Sharp was not in the best of health:
the only real objection that I could see would be in the matter of your health, for the country is very rough, distances are great and living conditions often hard. I think, however, that Mr Campbell and I could be of real help to you in alleviating the last situation. 21It has been suggested by some authorities that Cecil Sharp approached the Appalachian inhabitants with preconceived ideas based upon the work of so-called 'local colour writers', people who had previously portrayed the mountaineers as either 'hill-billies' or else as 'Elizabethans'. It is now too late to say precisely what Sharp had read prior to visiting the mountains. 22 But we do have this interesting exchange preserved in the Campbell-Sharp correspondence. It was Mrs Campbell who wrote:
There is one other point to consider - the very democratic spirit of the people, which is, I imagine, rather more independent than that of English people of the same class - although, frankly, I know little of the English people. The mountain people are sensitive, proud and shy but will do things for you if they like you and feel that you like them. 23A comment which brought this reply from Sharp:
I should probably find the singers a little different from the peasants in this country but I do not think that I should find much difficulty in getting on with them and persuading them to sing. Our peasants are by no means all of one type in this country; for instance, in those parts where they are not wage earners, but are their own masters, they display a much more independent spirit. I expect that the people in your part are more like these than the normal agricultural labourer who has worked all his life for hire. 24Finance was once again mentioned when Sharp wrote:
Like you, my enthusiasm is wholly for the subject itself. I am not out to make money, although, like you, I cannot afford to neglect that side of the question altogether. I have a wife and a family of four children dependent upon me and I am a poor man ... I must have something to live upon, so that it will be impossible for me to come out and work with you unless I can get substantial help from the Carnegie Trust or some other public authority ... Pioneers rarely become rich men, but then they have many compensations, for it is no small pleasure to have taken a hand in preserving such a fine peasant art as folk-singing and folk-dancing. 25Eventually, Aldrich wrote to Sharp on 10 December, 1915, to say that the Carnegie Corporation had turned down Sharp's application for financial assistance. Aldrich, who had worked hard on Sharp's behalf, was understandably upset and despondent by this turn of events. He did not, however, know of Sharp's tenacity and single-mindedness, for Sharp, who had prepared himself for the bad news, had been following other lines of enquiry. These included an approach to Mrs J J Storrow of Boston, a philanthropic American supporter of Sharp's work. Mrs Storrow had invited Sharp to return to America in 1916 to continue his teaching work. Sharp agreed to return, adding that he would like to visit the Appalachians for a month or two in the hope of collecting songs there. In the final weeks of 1915 Mrs Storrow wrote to Sharp offering him the sum of $1000 to use as he saw fit in the mountains. Sharp accepted at once and began preparation for his first collecting trip into the Appalachian Mountains.
Forty girls ranging from 16 to 24 years of age learned the meaning of real dancing yesterday afternoon at the Central Public Library in preparation for the production of As You Like It at Forest Park Highlands in June, under the auspices of the St Louis Pageant Drama Association. The girls were told to get out of the 'ho-hum club' and to learn the meaning of the word 'pep'. Of course that isn't the language Cecil Sharp of London, authority on English folk dancing, used. He's very English, but figuratively speaking, he told the girls to 'get a move on themselves', 'put some punch into their work', 'a little more speed' and to 'get some action'. And he got his meaning over all right. Before afternoon was over the energetic, nimble-footed Englishman had the girls as light on their feet as bits of thistledown before a stiff spring breeze. They bounded, flew, they floated until their cheeks grew red and their hair almost tumbled about their shoulders. "Dancing has been corrupted by the social dances of today", said Mr Sharp. "It has taught people to slouch through dancing instead of putting rhythm, grace and life into it." 26Katherine Richardson, a staff writer on the St Louis Star, concluded a lengthy interview with the following observations:
Sharp is a man of middle age, of slight stature, exceedingly active, and a rapid talker. Several talks given in St Louis, he had illustrated with folk songs which he played on the piano. His method of handling dancers amounts almost to genius. 27However, there was another side to Sharp' s personality and to some people he could appear brusque, if not downright rude. Sharp was a perfectionist in all that he did, a fact which may explain why he drove himself so hard. Those who failed to reach his standards could expect short shrift, as a fellow teacher, a Mrs C C Hardcastle of St Louis, was to discover.
Cecil J Sharp, English dancing master, who has charge of the As You Like It folk dancing, arrived in St Louis Monday night and read the 'riot act' to dozens of dancing groups when he toured the studios of well-known St Louis dancing teacher ... Mrs Hardcastle says Sharp entered, hurried through an introduction to her, strode up to the perspiring pianist, clutched his arm, shook his shoulder, and in loud voice shouted, "play those notes right." Then Sharp, according to Mrs Hardcastle, mounted the stage. The dancers went through their numbers. Sharp pointed a forefinger at first one dancer and then others. He exclaimed, "He has to get out", or, "she has to get out", or, "What's the matter with that booby?" 28Cecil Sharp reached the Appalachians in July, 1916, arriving at the Asheville, NC home of Mr and Mrs John Campbell in company with his secretary and assistant, Miss Maud Karpeles, who was also a member of his English folkdance demonstration team.
The couple spent a few days acclimatising themselves to the mountains and Sharp noted some tunes from Mrs Campbell's singing. In this way Sharp felt that he was accurately preserving the tunes which she had previously collected, but which he felt she had been inaccurately transmitted to paper.
Finally, early on Thursday morning the 27th July, Sharp and Karpeles were driven north into Madison County, towards the Tennessee State line, by Mr Campbell who drove them to the community of White Rock. Miss Fish, a resident Presbyterian Missionary, took them the next day to Allanstand and introduced then to a number of singers.
Without her, and Mrs Campbell's help, it would have been very difficult to get started. 29It is only recently that the area around Allanstand has become relatively easy to negotiate. In Sharp's day it would have been an extremely isolated region, although the name Allanstand does suggest that it was sited on a pack-horse route where the animals could 'stand' overnight, presumably at a lodging originally owned or run by a person called Allan.
When I first visited the area in 1980 I was told by Berzilla Wallin (nee Chandler) that the inhabitants at first suspected that Sharp was in the region to survey a site for a dam which would store water for Asheville. Berzilla's neighbours feared that if the project went ahead they would lose some of their land and so they were apprehensive when Sharp first appeared in their midst.
One singer encountered on Sharp's first day was Aunt Polly Shelton who sang them a fine version of the old ballad Earl Brand. The next day Mr Campbell took a buggy to drive Sharp and Karpeles to meet Norah Shelton, 'Who sang me 2 or 3 beautiful songs', 30 and other members of the Shelton family. Within four days Sharp had collected over fifty songs, and had doubled this figure within seventeen days.
Sharp, as was his manner, had let it be widely known in England that he was planning to visit the Appalachians and there was great interest at home in his activities. So much so, that when he returned to Boston in August he found himself unable to answer many of the letters which were awaiting him. As most of these letters were asking for information about his collecting work Sharp cobbled together four of his previous letters, and using the title Ballad Hunting in the Appalachians, had a small booklet printed to send out as a reply.
Much can be made of this document. Firstly, there is Sharp's excitement and enthusiasm which permeates the whole writing. Secondly, there is confirmation that Sharp was seeing the mountaineers in terms of an 18th century British peasantry; and, thirdly, there is the emphasis placed on song material of English origin. There is no mention of native American ballads. Perhaps they seemed too poor when compared with, say, Mrs Rosie Hensley's version of The Cruel Mother. After all, Sharp was originally motivated by the fact that these singers did sing songs and ballads that had originated in the Old World. Writing in December, 1916, Sharp described John Lomax's book Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads as 'a volume which contains nothing but the dregs of literature and the garbage of musical phrase.' 31 To be fair to Sharp, though, he had by that time already noted several similar native ballads, including versions of on Top of Old Smokey, The Murder of Colonel Sharp, I'm Going to Georgia, Brother Green, Frankie (and Johnny), Hick's Farewell and Pretty Little Pink which still remain unpublished in his manuscript collection.
Maud and I left New York in tropical heat on Sunday afternoon, got to Knoxville on Monday at 1.30, left for Copper Hill an hour or so later, arriving at this very primitive little mining village at 10 P.M. Our train left at 6.30 A.M. yesterday (Tuesday), got on to Murphy at 11, where we changed onto the Southern Railway, and eventually arrived here at 11.30 P.M. - or, rather, what was left of us. Maud's suit case was lost - I am almost afraid, stolen - between Knoxville and Copper Hill, which made the journey very uncomfortable for her. But, despite the heat, the dust, the lack of food, the swarms of flies, hay fever, asthma, etc., it was a wonderful trip. The road from Knoxville here would be difficult to beat in any part of the world, I imagine. The usual line from New York via Salisbury and that from Knoxville here direct are washed away, and may not be open for quite a long time yet. The streets of Asheville were still unlighted when we drove through last night. The 125 miles from Murphy took us eight and one-half hours. We had never less than two and sometimes three engines to haul us along. If you have not been along that route, you ought to do it. It was useful to me, as it gave me a glimpse of the country and the people which I am to investigate. I notice the type of people I saw was very decidedly English and different from anything I have seen in other parts. What I am going to get out of them I don't know, but as I begin work tomorrow I shall soon discover. I will keep you posted up in my adventures.
July 26, 1916
I am still in the mountains. The journey on the day after I last wrote to you was indescribably terrible. I should not have believed wheels and horses could get over such tracks unless I had seen the thing done. I was frightened out of my life. Now Maud and I walk about everywhere, except occasionally we have to take a jolt-wagon (well named!).
Sunday, August 13, 1916
The country is, I think, the most magnificent I have ever seen. The mountains are everywhere, and we live in the valleys and walk through the passes. The mountains go from six thousand feet, and the valleys two or a little over. The weather has been very hot indeed, and I go about in a shirt and pair of flannel trousers, and keep as cool as I can. My experiences have been very wonderful so far as the people and their music is concerned. The people are just English of the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. They speak English, look English, and their manners are old-fashioned English. Heaps of words and expressions they use habitually in ordinary conversation are obsolete, and have been in England a long time. I find them very easy to get on with, and have no difficulty in making them sing and show their enthusiasm for their songs. I have taken down very nearly one hundred already, and many of these are quite unknown to me and aesthetically of the very highest value. Indeed, it is the greatest discovery I have made since the original one I made in England sixteen years ago. This last week I spent three whole days, from 10 A.M. to 5.30 P.M., with a family in the mountains consisting of parents and daughter, by name Hensley. All three sang and the father played the fiddle. Maud and I dined with them each day, and the rest of the time sat on the veranda while the three sang and played and talked, mainly about the songs. I must have taken down thirty tunes from them and have not yet exhausted them. one ballad, The Cruel Mother, is by far the finest variant, both words and tune, which, in my opinion, has yet been found. Of course, I am only at the beginning of things yet. I have been here seventeen days, but it looks as though I shall bring away with me a large amount of extremely valuable stuff, which when published will create a very great deal of interest in certain circles. Although the people are so English, they have their American quality that they are freer than the English peasant. They own their own land, and have done so for three or four generations, so that there is none of the servility which, unhappily, is one of the characteristics of the English peasant. With that praise, I should say that they are just exactly what the English peasant was one hundred or more years ago. They have been so isolated and protected from outside influence that their own music and song have not only been uncorrupted, but also uninfluenced by art music in any way. This is clear enough in the character of the tunes I have collected, nearly all of which are in gapped scales (i.e., scales lacking two or more notes; e.g., the fourth and seventh), which is a more archaic form than that in which they are now being sung in England. I have no doubt, when I have increased my score and have had time to assimilate and analyze it, that all sorts of interesting and illuminating deductions will easily be made from them. I am very excited about it all, and feel I cannot talk very coherently about it yet. I stay at missionary settlements, usually in a log cabin, where I fend for myself - make my own bed and do all sorts of things I am quite unaccustomed to do - and have my meals in the settlement house. It is the Presbyterians who run these places, and some of the women I have met are very nice and broad-minded. But I don't think any of them realize that the people they are here to improve are in many respects far more cultivated than their would-be instructors, even if they cannot read or write. Take music, for example. Their own is pure and lovely. The hymns that these Presbyterian missionaries teach them are musical and literary garbage. In manners they are far superior to the school-mistresses I have met here, all of whom are of the genteel type, and feel very superior. The problem, I know, is a very difficult one. For my part, I would leave them as they are, and not meddle. They are happy, contented, and live simply and healthily, and I am not at all sure that any of us can introduce them to anything better than this. Something might be done in teaching them better methods of farming, so as to lighten the burden of earning a living from their holdings; and they should certainly be taught to read and write - at any rate, those who want to, ought to be able to. Beyond that I shouldn't go.
I have been very interested in the wild flowers and ferns, comparing them with our English ones. It is quite exciting to find every now and again exactly the same flower growing under precisely the same conditions as in England. The butterflys [sic] and birds are all very different, but interest me none the less on this account.
I move on tomorrow at 7.30 with a pack mule and a boy to guide me to a place called Big Laurel, and hope to spend the next week-end at Asheville. I feel I must have a bath and a few creature comforts. Luckily, I am a vegetarian, as meat is almost unknown here. This is called the Laurel Country because of the enormous number of rhododendrons with which the hills are covered. Why they call these laurel and the real laurel ( which also grows here) ivy, I don't know.
Last week I went to Hot Springs, where I got thirty beautiful songs from a single woman. The collecting goes on apace, and I have now noted 160 songs and ballads. Indeed, this field is a far more fertile one upon which to collect English folk songs than England itself. The cult of singing traditional songs is far more alive than it is in England or has been for fifty years or more. I do not know how I shall tear myself away from the mountains and leave so much work undone when, at the end of next month, I have to make tracks for Chicago If I could only have stayed here and collected until Christmas, I could have done a tremendous lot collected probably over a thousand tunes. I must try and get up here by hook or crook next year again. It is work that for the sake of posterity must be done, and that without delay. This last week I took down three ballads given in Child which I have never before heard sung and to which there are no published tunes Edward, Johnny Scott, and Fair Annie. The first of these is one of the oldest ballads known, and is the prototype of Lord Rendal, a very rare and valuable find. I am simply amazed at what I have done in a month compared with what I have ever been able to do in England in that time. I am at present at White Rock again, my old center [sic], whither I came last night after a most adventurous journey. The train ran off the track and smashed the Pullman car behind the one I was in, while the motor ride from Marshall here in the care of a most incompetent driver, who took some of the hairpin curves most recklessly, frightened the breath out of me. I am now trying to run to earth a famous singer in this section, William Riley Shelton, usually known as Frizzy Bill or Singing Will. So far he has evaded me, but Mr Campbell is with us to help me track him down. Directly I have caught him and emptied him, I am going across the border into Tennessee to Devil's Fork (renamed Sweet Water by the Presbyterian missionaries!). That will, I expect, occupy me for a fortnight. Then I am going to make a dash into Georgia for a week, and afterwards finish up with a fortnight in Kentucky en route for Chicago, where I am due on October 2. In this way I shall get a bird's-eye view of the whole of the field, and by testing it at various points estimate the relative value of the different sections. Mr Campbell and I have now between us about 220 tunes, and before I leave these parts we shall probably have pretty nearly four hundred.
August 27, 1916
We are back in Asheville for two or three days' rest, really necessary after the hard living and rough traveling [sic] in the mountains. But we go off again tomorrow morning, and shall continue if our strength holds out right up to the time when we go to Chicago on the 30th of this month.
September 10, 1916
I have now taken down 250 tunes, and am realising that the field here is even richer than that which I have been investigating for fifteen years or more in England - a most unexpected fact! Next week, for my last fortnight, I may go down to Charlotteville and tap Virginia.
We came here on Tuesday after two very successful days in Black Mountain, NC. I came here partly to test Virginia as a hunting ground, but mainly to get in touch with Prof Alphonso Smith, who has been identified with the ballad-collecting question in USA. I find him a very charming and courteous scholar, who has done everything to help me and has shown me great kindness. I leave here on Thursday for Washington, where I want to see a Dr Spellman about a song, and on Friday I go to Chicago for a fortnight, when I return to New York. The collecting goes on apace, and I now have very nearly four hundred tunes, which is an amazing number, remembering their high quality. I am trying to scheme some time between now and Christmas so that I may write my book. I think if I can get a quiet three weeks at the Algonquin, which is close to the Library, where I believe I can get all the books I want, I could pull it off. It is my sober opinion that this book will contain the richest musical material of folk songs that has yet been published, certainly in England and I honestly believe in Europe. Perhaps I am too near the trees to see the wood for the moment, but anyhow it will be a valuable contribution to the subject which will not only interest but surprise those who know something about the subject. It is wonderful that such old-world stuff should have emanated from America. I am very sad at leaving this work and beginning lecturing and teaching again. I should like to spend twelve or eighteen months at this work.
(Signed) Cecil J. Sharp
Sharp spent about four weeks in Madison County, often being driven in Mitchel Wallin's car. Today Mr Wallin is remembered as a good local fiddle player. Sharp, however, found him, 'a bad singer and a very difficult fiddler to note from.' 32 After noting the tune High March, Sharp wrote that:
Wallin began by playing several times occasionally making the 4th crotchet E or D below, then broke into the tune when the fancy took him. He rested the fiddle on his knee, while he sat down. He played well but was perpetually improvising in detail. He said 'All my tunes are changeable'. His mother was a Franklin. He must have Irish blood in him. 33Although Sharp was looking for songs, he was not averse to instrumental music. The 10th of August was spent with the Hensleys, where, 'There was singing and fiddling all the time and I got some very interesting stuff.' 34 Reuben Hensley, father of thirteen year old Emma Hensley who gave Sharp a good version of the ballad Barbara Allen, played Sharp such tunes as Cumberland Gap 35, Johnson Boys and Sourwood Mountain, the latter being a Kentucky tune, according to Mr Hensley, who told Sharp, 'They always tune their fiddles in this faked way when they played Kentucky tunes.' 36
Occasionally Sharp would return to Asheville for a day or two. On 23rd August, he took a train north to Hot Springs, a small community which stands on the banks of the French Broad River and which is famous for its medicinal springs. There he was met by Lucy Shafer, principal of the Dortland Institute, who had previously written to Sharp about a Mrs Gentry. Although Hot Springs is only a few miles from Allanstand, Jane Gentry's repertoire was unlike that of the other nearby singers that Sharp had been visiting. Almost all of the Laurel area singers were descendants of Roderick Shelton. Indeed, of the thirty nine Madison County singers that sang to Sharp, no less than twenty eight were related to this person. 37 Jane Gentry, however, was the granddaughter of Council Harmon (c. 1807 to c. 1896) from Watauga County, NC Her maiden name was Hicks and her repertoire was similar to that of the Beech Mountain Harmon/Hicks singers who were visited by numerous collectors from the 1930's onwards. 38 Many of today's Laurel area singers claim relationship to the singer Jane Gentry. But this may be another person of the same name who lived in the Laurel area and was married to a Colonel Sharp ('Colonel' being a given name and not an army rank) . In all, Jane Gentry gave seventy songs to Sharp - the most that he collected from any one singer - including fine versions of ballads such as Lamkin, The Cherry Tree Carol, The False Knight on the Road and The Grey Cock. Sharp visited her home on at least eight separate occasions and was clearly welcome there.
On Sunday, 16th June, a terrible storm had rocked Madison County. At least six people died, two in the town of Marshall, county seat of Madison County, and it became known as the 'Great Flood of 1916'. The French Broad River burst its banks at a number of places, including Hot Springs, and many bridges were washed away. On Thursday, 24th August, Sharp crossed the French Broad on a punt to see Mrs Gentry. We know that the ferryman told Sharp about his wife's singing and that whilst at Hot Springs he also, 'took down a good song from the postman ... who told me to look up a blind girl Linnie Landers (and) got five good songs from her.' 39
Sharp, who was used to collecting songs from elderly people in England, was sometimes taken aback by the age of his singers. 'Floyd Chandler sang Mathy Groves very beautifully and he is but 15'. 40 Another singer, David Norton, was seventeen years old. Addie Crane was twenty-one, and Linnie Landers only twenty years old. Even the redoubtable Mrs Gentry was only in her fifties when she sang to Sharp.
On 30th August Sharp moved a few miles into Unicoi County, Tennessee, where he stayed for a few days collecting a total of fifty eight songs in the community of Flag Pond, before returning to North Carolina and Madison County. Sharp's chief singer in Flag Pond was fifty-five year old Jeff Stockton whose seventeen songs were all of British origin. No doubt Mr Stockton knew others, but Sharp failed to note these. 41
After four weeks of hot, humid weather, Sharp began to suffer from frequent asthmatic attacks. On 2nd September he received word of the death of the composer George Butterworth who was killed at the Battle of the Somme. Five days later there was more bad news from the front.
I read the awful news of poor Tiddy's death. Now that he, Butterworth, Lucas and Wilkinson have gone I seem to have lost all my pillars except one - Vaughan Williams and any day something may befall him. 42By 10th September Sharp was 'still feeling very ... depressed, being unable to shake off (the) bad news from England.' 43
Sharp had planned to take Mrs Campbell's advice and visit Georgia to follow up some more of her singers. But, on 11th September, he was 'feeling so feeble and unwell (that I) decided to give up the Georgia idea.' 44 Instead Sharp remained in Madison and neighbouring Buncombe Counties, continuing to collect as best he could. He was not always successful, 'did not get much in the way of songs largely because an old 'Holiness roller', Silas Shelton, was there and groused against 'love songs' as the folk-ballads and songs are called in this country.' 45 But there were also compensations. 'Mrs Gentry once more. We got a splendid lot including The Two Brothers and The Cruel Brother, two new Child's. Quite a wonderful day.' 46 or, 'Spent all the morning and afternoon at Mrs Buckner's and Mrs Swan Sawyer's. Got 26 songs altogether and some very good ones, including The Farmer's Curst Wife and Little Sir Hugh. Two more 'Children'.' 47 Mrs Buckner, who lived in Black Mountain, was the daughter of Mrs Ellie Johnson, a singer whom Sharp had met in Hot Springs, and it seems clear that many of Sharp's trips to 'new' collecting areas were the result of previous information supplied to him by other singers.
On 16th September, Sharp set 'off to Mrs (Hester) House, Mrs (Ellie) Johnson and Mrs (Jane) Gentry' and 'took several photographs.' 48 Cecil Sharp, a keen and enthusiastic amateur photographer, had made a practice of photographing folksingers and dancers ever since he discovered his first singer in 1903. Many of his Appalachian photographs have survived as lantern slides, which Sharp used during his subsequent lecture tours, much in the way that he used slides of English singers in his American lectures. It would also seem that Sharp used photographs as a token to repay some of the kindness that he had received from his singers. One diary entry records the following:
Wrote letters to Mrs Godfrey, Mrs Harris, Mrs Cannady, Mr Eb Richards, Mr Luke Sowder and Mrs Goldie Becket. Then I went through my photographs and sent a lot off to the above addresses. 49Nor should it be forgotten that Sharp probably treasured the photographs to remind himself of the times that he had spent with his generous singers. It was, after all, Sharp who would write:
It is no exaggeration to say that some of the hours I passed sitting on the porch of a log-cabin, talking and listening to songs were amongst the pleasantest I have ever spent. 50For his final week in the mountains Sharp set off from Black Mountain to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he met Professor Alphonso Smith, one of America's leading ballad scholars. Sharp intended his excursion into Virginia to be something of a probe - a brief trip to establish whether or not it would be worthwhile to return there later. Professor Smith passed Sharp onto a Mr Mannaway, a schools' inspector in Albermarle County, who suggested that Sharp should meet Mr N D Chisholm, 'a first rate folksinger', 51 and a Mrs Campbell, both of Brown's Cove, a small settlement in the Shenandoah Valley. Two days later Sharp found Mr Westley Batten of Mount Fair, 'from whom we got 2 rare songs, one a fine version of The Two Sisters.' 52 Sharp also discovered Mrs Rosie Smith, one of Mr Chisholm's relatives, who was then living in Charlottesville, and on 27th September, 'took Alphonso Smith with us in our motor ... and collected a lot of songs from the Chisholm and Smith clan.' 53
In that final week in Virginia, Sharp added a further forty five songs to his collection. In a nine week period spent in the mountains he had collected a total of 400 songs from sixty-seven singers.
Before returning to England in December, Sharp returned to the American lecture circuit, visiting such diverse locations as Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Boston, St Louis and Toronto (Canada), feeling that he could best support himself and his family by remaining in America, where, unlike England, there was adequate and suitable work to be found. Mrs Storrow again suggested that she might be of assistance and offered to pay for the relocation of Sharp's family to America. Sharp felt this to be impractical. 'My wife and I are too old to engineer such a drastic change.' 54 Then came the news that Sharp's son Charlie had been seriously wounded in the War. 'The anxiety is great and I don't know how I got through last week.' 55 Later he was to write that, 'If my boy had died I don't think I could have gone on', adding that, 'I think the mountain ballads keep me sane.' 56
Before he finally returned to England, Sharp told Mrs Storrow that he had used up 650 dollars, 'and have now 350 in hand, which I am leaving in the bank here as a nest-egg for my next campaign. I used it very freely chiefly in order to save time e.g. by hiring a motor when I could possibly have done without one, or by giving a generous gratuity to a singer to stimulate the memory. Maud, of course, as she always does, insisted in paying her-own expenses.' 57
Sharp worked hard on this project and he was able to deliver the first draft to Putnam's London office on 24th January. He was, though, in two minds about his written introduction:
I have been so immersed in it for the last ten days that I am quite incapable of criticising it, but it seems to me at the moment to be very poor stuff. However, I feel that it may not be really so bad after all; at any rate, it contains, however badly expressed, all the things that I want to say and I dare say if I can leave it alone for a week or so and go through it carefully again on board ship I may be able to improve it ... I have, of course, always realized that it would not be right for me to generalise about the mountain life, seeing that my experience of it has so far been very limited. I have accordingly guarded against any misconceptions on this point and your remarks on this subject have kept me up to the scratch. I am old enough to know that it is far better to refrain from irritating people with whom I disagree wherever that is possible without unnecessarily diluting my views. 59English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians appeared in late 1917, Sharp and Karpeles urgently working on galley and page corrections throughout their 1917 visit to the mountains. It was essential, so Sharp felt, that the book should appear as soon as possible so that he would have something to show prospective financial backers for further collecting trips in the Appalachians. The 1917 trip, though, was already paid for, Mrs Storrow having sent Sharp a further $500, a sum which was later matched by another American benefactor, a Miss Scoville who Mrs Storrow had approached on Sharp's behalf. Sharp therefore had some $1,300 in his American bank account, a sum which would allow him to spend nineteen weeks in the mountains. It was not, however, sufficient to allow him to devote all his time to collecting and, in order to support his family in England, he embarked on another extensive lecture tour of America during the weeks when he was not collecting in the mountains.
By early April, as soon as Sharp and Maud Karpeles reached New York, Sharp approached a Mr Glenn of the Russell Sage Foundation.
I saw Mr Glenn on Thursday about my financial position with regard to the mountain collecting and he is very anxious that I should succeed in getting a grant, either privately or from some public authority, to enable me to give up the whole of my time to the work. I calculate that 5000 dollars a year would just enable me to send home enough to keep my family going and to pay my own expenses out here - at any rate with the help of an occasional lecture fee or so. It scarcely comes within the province of the Russell Sage Foundation or it might have been managed that way. Yesterday he took me to tea with Mrs Rice who has been to my lectures, is interested in the subject and knows rich people. She was very sympathetic and promised to do all she could and said she would approach Mrs Robert de Forest, Mrs Crane and some others. I also broached the matter to Aldrich who has promised to see Dr Pritchett again, the Chairman of the Carnegie Trust. Perhaps between these many feelers we may turn up trumps and incidentally free you from further responsibility. 60To Miss Scoville he wrote:
I feel very strongly that I ought to peg away and complete the collection of these wonderful mountain songs while I have the opportunity and which, when the war is over, will probably cease. How long it is going to take I don't know but I think I may get to the end of it in about 12 months time, if I can work at all continuously. And this depends upon financial considerations as at present I can only give what spare time is over after I have earned enough in other ways to keep my family in England going. 61Yet again Sharp's determination came to the fore and his plans were soon formulated. By the beginning of April, Sharp and Karpeles had crossed the 'Great Divide' and were in Knox and Sevier Counties, Tennessee. They were met by John Campbell in Knoxville and after a lengthy conversation they decided to go to Sevierville on a 'Fishing trip'. The next day, however, the three spent an afternoon attending an old-time fiddler's contest in Knoxville, an event which Maud Karpeles found 'most entertaining'. 62 To Sharp it was, 'A most interesting and amusing affair' 63 and in the evening they called on one of the competition winners, a septuagenarian called Mr Julian. 'He said he was an Irishman and he undoubtedly was', wrote Sharp in his diary that evening. 'I questioned him about his name, which he said used to be Julan. No doubt it was originally Doolan.' 64 Sharp noted two tunes, 'Nice tunes' he called them, The Cuckoo's Nest originally from Ireland and a version of Turkey in the Straw, which Sharp titled Matches Under the Hill, although other fiddlers have titled it Natchez Under the Hill.
Once in Sevierville, they met the quaintly named Trotter Gan, who gave them versions of The Derby Ram and Edward, 'the latter a very good version, much better than Mrs Gentry's. This heartened us considerably.' 65 A week later, though, things had taken a turn for the worse. Both Sharp and Karpeles went down with some unknown ailment.
Had a bad night indeed. Maud sleeping on the floor by my bedside and doing what she could to alleviate me.' 66 The following night was just as bad. 'A bad night again with much coughing and discomfort. Maud did not sit up with me but came in once or twice and gave me water etc.' 67 Two days later Sharp could just write, 'Had a terrible night coughing continuously from 10p.m. - 2a.m. Head and neuralgia still rather bad. The side of my face so sore. I cannot touch it and the scalp of my head so tender that I cannot brush my silver locks. In the afternoon take down several songs from Mrs May Ray and one more from Alice Parsons. Altogether this week I have noted 24 tunes, some very nice ones, making 60 for (my) first two weeks; which considering conditions is not too bad. 68Later Sharp was to tell Mrs Storrow:
I was not in good condition to stand the hardships in the mountains; nor the sudden leap into tropical heat, and so I fell victim to the Grippe and other germs which just then were very prevalent in all the places I stayed at ... I don't know what I should have done without Maud. She has simply devoted herself to me and done everything that a human being could do for me, and all in the quietest least obtrusive way. 69Maud Karpeles also wrote to Mrs Storrow the same day saying that a local doctor who had examined Sharp felt that there was, 'a slight tubercle in the lungs (which) in all probability has been there for many years.' 70
Sharp and Karpeles then moved north to Bell and Harlan Counties in Kentucky where Karpeles was to write that they, 'were greatly disappointed in Harlan. It is a dirty, noisy, vulgar mining town. Hotel impossible. Very depressed.' 71 After two unsuccessful days, the couple moved to Pineville in Bell County. They remained in Kentucky for the rest of May adding one hundred and ninety-six songs to their collection. It was to be one of the most productive periods in Sharp's collecting experience, although his elation was still dampened by ill health. 'Feel very ill on waking. Temperature still up. Feel very depressed.' 72 or, 'Feeling very ill and hopeless.' 73 On 11th May Karpeles wrote, 'C(ecil) not at all well ... got a mattress (and) slept on floor in his room.' 74
Over the next few days Sharp was confined to bed and the collecting took on a new dimension, in that his assistant would venture forth looking for singers, whom she would then take back to Sharp's hotel so that Sharp could note the tune to the words which she had already collected. 'Maud gets Mrs Knuckles to come round to sing to me. I take down five rather nice ones including a curious version of Lady Maisry which adds to my 'Child' finds.' 75 And again, 'Maud went out to follow up two clues of singers. She found one woman died last week and the other had gone away for a holiday.' 76 Such were, and indeed still are, the disappointments of folksong collecting.
On 20th May, by a rather strange coincidence, Miss Child, the daughter of Professor Child, came to stay at the same hotel that Sharp was staying at. Even though he was ill, Sharp could not afford to miss the opportunity of seeking support for his work. 'Talking to Miss Child and Mrs Emery whose husband is Secretary of Rockefeller Trust in New York. Two rather influential women if I could only get on the right side of them.' 77
By 5th June Sharp's health forced the cancellation of a proposed trip to Barbourville in Knox County, where they had already noted sixty five songs, and the couple returned to Asheville. Sharp had also begun to suffer from violent toothache and on 7th June all of his teeth were extracted.
Sharp spent most of July in New York City where he continued to teach and work on the proofs of his forthcoming Appalachian book. He also kept up a stream of correspondence with the Rockefeller Foundation, but, as always, with nothing to show at the end of the day.
By 27th July Sharp and Karpeles had returned to Asheville and from there they took the train to Hot Springs to revisit Mrs Gentry, who had written to them a few weeks before:
As I have been looking for you several days and you haven't come thought I would write you. I have a few more songs I can give you if you don't already have them. I can give you the crow song for one if you haven't gotten it already. Now Mr Sharp if you are in the mountains anywhere when you get this letter and it doesn't cost you too much to get here I sure want you to come and see me. For you don't know how much pleasure it would be for me to get to see you and the lady that is with you once again. May God bless and keep you both. 78From Hot Springs they moved on to Jackson County and the area of Balsam:
Balsam is on the highest point on the Asheville - Murphy line, and is 3550 feet up. The weather however is as hot as it can be and we have found our long tramps over the mountains rather fatiguing - all the more so because so far we have hit on no singers to speak of. The fact is we are too close to Waynesville - a large industrial centre, and the inhabitants have been partially spoiled, that is from my point of view. The log-cabins are primitive enough but their owners are clean, neat and tidy, looking rather like maid-servants in respectable suburban families. It is sad that cleanliness and good music, or good taste in music rarely go together. Dirt and good music are the usual bed-fellows. 79Sharp expanded on this theme in his diary:
It is becoming increasingly clear that we have struck a very sophisticated place. They all say (that young people) haven't sung old love songs for 25 years or more. The whole neighbourhood has been dominated by religious and secular teachers. 80The following day, while visiting a Mrs Crawford, Sharp notes that her two nephews 'play banjo and fiddle rather characteristically.' 81 An additional note, this time made in his musical note book, tells us that:
These (tunes) were played by two youths, the one playing the air on the fiddle (con-sordini i.e. by hanging his clasp knife with partially opened blade on the bridge) accompanied by the other with arpeggios on the banjo. The thing was very skilfully played, plumb in tune, and its constant repetition had a very hypnotic effect on me and apparently on the players ... the tunes look little enough when committed to paper, but the way they were played produced a very curious and not un-beautiful effect. 82It has long been said that Cecil Sharp had a disliking for instrumental music in the Appalachians. Yet this is not the case. He noted fiddle tunes, was amused by a fiddler's convention and heard a number of banjo players. Why, I wonder, did he say that Mrs Crawford's nephews played their instruments 'characteristically', unless he was aware of the elements which characterised Appalachian instrumental music? Sharp had also previously noted 'fife tunes' from a Mr N B Chisholm of Wardbridge, VA, in 1916. Mr Chisholm had sung the tunes to Sharp using mnemonic verses such as the following, which he used to remember the tune Napoleon's Retreat:
It's grog time of day, my loveOn 1st August Sharp felt that the time had come for another move, this time back to Kentucky.
Grog time of day
When Boney crossed the Alps
It's grog time of day. 83
It now seems clear that this piece of country had 'advanced' too far on the down grade towards sophistication and that we are wasting our time and money in staying here. 84There may, however, have been other factors which influenced Sharp in his decision:
We tramped - mainly uphill. When we reached the cove we found it peopled by niggers ... All our troubles and spent energy for nought. 85Maud Karpeles described the same encounter in slightly greater detail:
We arrived at a cove and got sight of log cabins that seemed just what we wanted. Called at one. A musical 'Good Morning', turned round and behold he was a negro. We had struck a negro settlement. Nothing for it but to toil back again. 86The next day Karpeles was, 'glad to leave Sylva. Do not like town. Too many negroes.' 87
The couple returned to Asheville for another short break. There they rested, caught up with their mail and took in a movie or two, much to Sharp's enjoyment. Within a week they were back collecting in Kentucky.
We are having a very hard time of it. We have been outside the bounds of civilisation now for upwards of three weeks, and the bad food, smells, dirt and general discomfort is beginning to tell on both of us. So we are going on Saturday to Pineville for work and where we can get comparatively decent accommodation and there we shall recuperate for a couple of days. But I grudge every day spent in a place where I can't collect. We are getting plenty of songs, but, of course, get many duplicates now which make the sport rather less exciting. But I just love the people and the talks I have with them in their cabins, and it is a relief to get to them and to enjoy their society after the kind of people we meet in bad hotels, such as the one I am writing in now at Manchester. This is supposed to be a thriving place where they have found coal and are looking for oil, and everyone is on the make, and the speculative positions attract the second-rate business and financial men from all parts of the country, who settle here like flies on carrion gloat and buzz over it too. There is, of course, no manner of reason why those who do useful work, develop resources, and supply the wants and needs of people, should become vulgar in the doing of it, but somehow or other it happens so only too often. The contrast between the mountaineers and these bounders is the difference between night and day. I wish you could see me with Mrs Polly Patrick, aged 45, who smokes a pipe and, of course, sings. She has been married three times but was born Patrick and still is Patrick. The first husband, Hobbs, was a good sort in his way, she said, but killed a man and had to go to the Penitentiary, so she took up with one Baines, who was a rotter, and whom she sent about his business in three months. The third one, Burns, was better but a slacker and wouldn't work so she kicked him out and for the third time paid 2 dollars to get her old name, Patrick. As it costs 2 dollars apiece to alter the names of the children, they remain with their father's names. You had better not tell this story to your mother. She is a very nice and capable person with a fund of racy expressions which delight me. Talking of England, she said she would like to go there 'if it weren't for that big river I'd done bin' ... The heat has been awful and we get home pretty tired after a long day's tramping. On Sunday we trudged 13 miles, Monday 7, Tuesday 9, Wednesday 16 and Thursday (today) 8, all over the worst and most uneven of roads. But we are both fairly fit, though sooner or later we shall have to go back to the Grove Park Hotel and wash and feed up for a while. At the present moment I can scarcely look at food, as I suspect anything contains hog's grease or something diabolical. 88One wonders just how Mrs Storrow must have reacted when she read the following letter from Sharp who, incidentally, was a vegetarian.
The hotel we stayed at in Manchester, Clay Co. Ky, for 10 days was one of the worst I have yet struck. Manchester, though the County Seat, has no made-roads nor water (except very doubtful wells - shallow at that) and no system of sanitation. The hotel faces a vacant square with a dry creek running across it, covered with large boulders. Residents just throw the contents of their dust bins out upon the street where the hogs, which are numerous, eat of it what they can. As for the hotel it was just indescribable - the smells and the flies and the greasy, ill-cooked, ill-served food. The last day or so I practically gave up eating for I suspected anything put before me. Even the stewed apples had hog's grease mixed up in them, and the bread was made with lard. People in these parts will eat anything so long as it is greasy enough. 89It was not all bad though.
We have made friends with some really nice people ... there was a Mrs Jones whose clothes never met in the middle by some inches and who apparently wore no underclothing. She and her two daughters and grandaughters all sang to me and gave me some splendid songs. She always insisted on embracing Maud round the neck and kissing her on the lips every time we paid her a visit. She was a Holy Roller i.e. member of the Holiness Sect - and was 'saved' and by rights oughtn't to have sung love-songs at all, but she did so out of sheer kindness and good nature because she said she saw we wanted the songs and was quite sure we should make no bad use of them ... On one occasion when we were walking from Oneida to Manchester - 14 miles - and had just come out of a cabin with some songs, a group of children seated under a tree called out, 'We can sing you some.' So we sat down and they sang till the school bell rang when they all scampered off. 90And again.
Despite the indifferent accommodation and intense heat we had a most successful hunt for songs, getting to the first-rate singers. A Mrs Carter of Beattyville, and an old lady in bed with a bad leg, known as Haint ('Aunt') Mai Corch, two miles from St Helens, about six miles tramp from Beattyville. She was a jolly old party who sat up in bed smoking her clay pipe and singing like a nightingale. I have taken thirty songs off her already, and have not emptied her yet. 91Elsewhere, Sharp described his meeting with Mrs Carter in more detail:
We called on a Mrs (Francis) Carter in the morning, she was out but found her in the afternoon. Her husband sat cobbling in the corner while we sang and she sang ... she is a first rate singer ... we get no new Child from her, but a magnificent and lively version of Young Hunting. 92It was at Hyden that Sharp encountered Mrs Eliza Pace.
Call on Mrs Eliza Pace an old lady of 67 who we hear has been a great offender in retailing moonshine and has been sentenced several times. But she has good songs. 93Sharp was also at Hyden when he met Mrs Sinda Walker, from whom he collected a version of Sweet William and Lady Margaret.
Mrs Walker is a coloured 'lady', the first coloured person who has sung to me. She sang exactly the same way as the typical mountain woman with perhaps more 'dwelling' on her notes. She is really more white than black, but is accounted black and, if proof were needed, she takes in laundry which no white woman in these parts would do. 94It is rather hard at this late stage to establish precisely what Cecil Sharp thought of the negroes that he encountered in the Appalachians. Mrs Walker, who was probably of mixed race, becomes something of a character to Sharp once he has realised that she knew an 'English' folksong. The negroes that he and Karpeles previously met in the log-cabins are dismissed not so much for their colour, but rather for not being singers. We shall see later how Sharp was happy to collect from Aunt Maria Tomes, a black singer whom he met the following year. Sharp's language, especially his use of the now degrading term 'nigger', would not have been considered out-of-place by his contemporaries, especially by Southern white people who used it, rightly or wrongly, as a standard factual word, with no emotional content. We shall see later, however, that Sharp could, and indeed did, use the term 'nigger' in a derogatory manner and not merely as a means to describe black people. Interestingly, Sharp does not mention seeing Native Americans whilst in the mountains, although there are some references in his note books to certain singers claiming to have a degree of Indian ancestry. 95 This does not appear to have worried Sharp, nor dented his ideas about the mountaineers being a transplanted Elizabethan peasantry.
At times Sharp found that:
The songs are not so plentiful as in N.Carolina or Virginia but there are many to be found, and as they are disappearing very fast owing to the opening up of the coal and oil fields, it is more or less a case of now or never. 96Or:
The people we have visited are the sternest, most inarticulate, dourest people I have ever struck. They live in direst poverty and grimies [sic] of dirt but are full of dignity - almost majestic in their bearing. But they are sternly religious of the unrelenting, unyielding type, and sing little else than sacred tunes - some of which are fine enough in their way ... as I want love-songs not hymns, we move on tomorrow to Hazard, Perry County, Kentucky. 97Hazard, however, was not to Sharp's liking. It was, 'a noisome little place, new, crude, dirty, unkempt, unsanitary, a mess of people diligently dollar-hunting with no other ideas in their heads', 98 and so Sharp and Karpeles moved into the mountains to visit two schools, Pine Mountain and Hindman.
Evelyn Wells, who was herself later to become known as a collector and scholar of note, was working at Pine Mountain when Sharp visited there. She sent the following reminiscence to Maud Karpeles following Sharp's death:
I remember what a hot day it was when Mr Sharp and Miss Karpeles came walking in across Pine Mountain. Most visitors from the outside world were heralded by the guide, who came ahead to open gates for their mule passengers; not so these two, who were quietly at our doorstep before we knew it. We stopped them long enough to give them directions about the different houses where they were to be put up on the school grounds, and Mr Sharp said quickly, 'I hope they are not far apart, because Maud has to give me my tea.' Tea as it happened was something we had ready for them, but when we invited them into the office, they hesitated, and then Mr Sharp with his inimitable courteousness said, 'Is it permissible to bring one's own tea?' (I think at this point I should add that some years later when I went to tea with Mr Sharp in London, he felt I should have an ice cube with it, in what he felt to be the American fashion.)It was to be the Running Set which excited Sharp the most at Pine Mountain.
There are many lights on that visit of five days. There was the warm, rainy night when in front of the fireplace at the Far House we listened to his talk of Appalachian discoveries, and watched with a bit of amusement how he lost the thread of his talk as he became conscious of a rhythmic patting and stamping on the porch and suddenly stopped, and with a look at Miss Karpeles stepped outside, followed by her. His own description of that first Running Set is in his book, but I remember watching those two closely, for we had tried hard to interest him by our accounts, and he had shown little response. Out came a notebook, in which he jotted without taking his eyes from the dancers; there were whispered remarks between him and Miss Karpeles, and in the first pause in the dancing, questions asked of the caller, or top man. From then on, of course, he was hot on the trail and we gave him every scent we could. I think he changed his plans so he could go to Hyden and see some well-known set-runners. Of course he got all he could from Pine Mountain, but the set-running there was not good, although he talked with some good leaders.
There was the hour after supper in our big dining room, where after the day of farm work and canning and other vacation occupations, we settled back in our chairs while those two sang to us - The Knight and the Child in the Road, All Alone in the Ludeney, Edward, The Gypsy Laddie, many nursery songs. I can remember the twilight creeping in on us, the youngest children falling to sleep dropping on their crossed arms at the table, as if they were being sung to by their own firesides, the voices of the singers getting more and more impersonal in the dusk as song after song was finished.
There were the two noon hours when eight workers from the staff learned Rufty Tufty, The Black Nag, Gathering Peascods, on the porch of Laurel House, to Mr Sharp's teaching and Miss Karpeles' singing of the tune. I always think of that when I watch a Pine Mountain May Day now, with its four or five sword teams, its varied country dances, its early morning morris. In those two lessons he made unforgettable for me, at least, the essential points of the country dance, and filled it with a charm and fascination that I have never found it lacking in since. All the work of the day stopped during those lessons - children stopped weeding the vegetable garden, girls stopped washing the clothes, even the workmen stopped building the school-house. And this was in the days when we worked incessantly to put roofs over our heads and to can food against the winter, and every minute counted.
I remember the first morning, when Mr Sharp came to our six o'clock breakfast late, having lost his way to the dining room in the thick mountain mist that filled the valley - suffering terribly from an attack of asthma, which to my inexperienced eyes seemed highly alarming - and then going off down the valley within the next hour, walking miles to get songs from Singing Willie Nolan. I remember tea under the apple-trees, where again we let the Pine Mountain world stop while he talked about his mountain experiences, and of collecting in England, and the dancing there. I remember trying to interest him in the growth of Harlan town, our county seat, which was passing through a terribly crude stage, and his scathing 'Sodom and Gomorrah' which finished my efforts. 99
I came across a most wonderful dance the other day called The Running Set. It is a form of circular country dance of a type about which I know nothing. There is certainly nothing of the kind in England at the present day and there is nothing that I know of in any of the old dance books. It is a very strenuous dance for six couples and extremely complicated. In many ways the general affect was not unlike that of the Sword-Dance ... When I have mastered it and analysed it, it will probably throw a flood of light on the evolution of the English Country Dance.' 100Sharp then moved to Hindman School.
We had a splendid time at Hindman. I liked the people there and think the school is almost, if not quite as efficient in every way as Pine Mountain ... We got a lot of songs in the neighbourhood of Hindman - one day I took down no less that 38, a record for me, I think. I saw a Running Set again there but it was not nearly so well done as at Pine Mountain so I am going back there to note it carefully. How are we going to get from here to Hyden and then on to Pine Mountain - 50 or 60 miles across country and no railroad - I really don't know. Travelling here is an arduous affair. It took us nearly 11 hours to get from Hindman here in the Mail-Hack - just 20 miles. There aren't any real roads at all, merely dirt tracks strewn with boulders and plentifully besprinkled with large cavities. 101It was to be two weeks before Sharp was happy that he had accurately noted the Running Set.
This is a great relief to me to know that the dance is at last on paper. This dance is as valuable a piece of work as anything I have done in the mountains. 102Sharp later described the dance thus:
It is a wonderful dance. Formation, a circle. Six couples is the best number. There is a formula - circle movements, swinging partner and contrary partner etc. - all done at a great pace and full of style. This formula begins the dance (it takes 16 bars) and ends each figure, while a shortened form of it comes after each progression. After the formula, the leading couple does a figure - sometimes a very complicated one - with the 2d couple, then the 3d & so on with all the couples. Some of these figures although done mainly by the leading and one other couple engage the activities of all the others. That is different from anything we have. The rapidity of the dance is remarkable and the constant repetition of circular movements in the formula and many of the figures produces an emotional effect similar to that of the Sword rather than the Country dance. The moment a dancer is idle he begins clapping his hands, or his thigh - if he's a man - and stamping his foot making an exciting syncopated rhythm. 103On 15th September Sharp had written in his diary that he had, 'taken down my 4,000th tune - and my 200th this trip. I want about 150 more here to complete my 1000 tunes in the mountains.' 104 By 13th October, he had reached that figure.
Dear me. It is all very wonderful and I am glad Fate has ordained that I should take a hand in preserving such marvellous things. When I have one of those very fine ones safely written in my hands, I feel really happy. In another week or so I shall have completed by 1000 tunes in these mountains, and I calculate that this will be about half what I must eventually get if I am to finish off the work at all properly. 105By the end of September Sharp was feeling the effects of his ill health, coupled with the strain of travelling and staying in such remote parts.
However, it is the only thing I seem able to do now and even that I shan't be able to do much longer as my health won't stand it. I have found it a great strain this year and doubt very much whether I can do it next year. 106On 14th October, his last day in the mountains in 1917, Sharp wrote:
I cannot shake off the feeling of intense fatigue. Here ends my last collecting trip for the year in the mountains. I have taken down 600 tunes and the Running Set, perhaps the most prolific year collecting in quantity as well as quality that I have ever done. May it not prove to be my swan-song. 107Sharp and Karpeles returned to the cool of the northern American cities. In New York they discovered that the Carnegie Institute had again refused them a grant. During a rest from lecturing and teaching, Maud Karpeles found time to write to Mrs Storrow:
Both times we have been into the mountains it had been after a spell of hard work when Mr Sharp has been feeling tired to start with. Then we never ought to have attempted to work in August when the heat in the south was intense. Of course, I realised this all the time and also the fact that Mr Sharp was on the verge of a break-down the whole time and that it was only his 'stubborn vitality' that kept him going ... Really, the whole thing amounts to this - that he cannot do the collecting work and have the worry of earning a living at the same time. And, of course, there is no question but that he must go on with the collecting. That is the most important work for him to do, even though it meant that in doing it he would shorten his life by a few years. 108
On Tuesday we left for Woodstock, Va., a small place in the Shenandoah Valley. We thought the valley might yield some songs but a day's prospecting proved that the population is mainly German, many of them very luke warm about the war, and of course quite useless in the way of songs. 109Shortly afterwards, in the community of Nash, the pair were taken for German spies.
We were taken by the neighbourhood generally for German spies - quite seriously - and the whole question was discussed at a Prayer Meeting on the Wednesday night - would that I could have heard it. In the first place we eat no meat and that in itself to a hog-eating community was highly suspicious. Then our enthusiasm for old songs could be no more that a blind to hide nefarious designs. We had, too, casually asked one of the women we visited where her spring was - evidently with the intention of secretly poisoning it. Finally they reported there were 4 of us. I haven't heard what the number has since risen to. The Coffey's were very nice and never mentioned the subject until we did and they were being pestered night and day by their neighbours for harbouring us. Their suspicions did not prevent the people from receiving us in the usual friendly way, nor from singing to us, so it really didn't matter and in order that our kind host and hostess should not suffer on our account I showed the Postmaster my passport before I left. He told me he had not shared the general suspicions because he had once, many years ago, seen a German and he could tell we were not Germans whatever else we might be. 110At first songs were slow in coming. Soon though, they began to appear as before. 'I got a lot of very good stuff at Buena Vista including quite a unique version of The Two Crows for which I have searched ever since I have been in the mountains - hitherto in vain.' 111
Despite Mrs Storrow's help, Sharp was still uneasy.
I have been troubled with ways and means for as long as I can remember and yet somehow or other things have always come out fairly well and I have managed to keep myself at the work which I am best fitted to do ... My anxiety is of course for Con and the children rather than for myself ... I feel very sore over the Carnegie people the more so as I see from their report that they are spending thousands upon a Concordance of Keats - a mere routine bit of work which students could do quite well almost unaided. 112Sharp found himself being attracted to the Virginian singers. Mrs Lizzie Gibson of Crozet was, 'a fine woman (and) regular type of mountaineer who sang very well. (I) got several good songs from her including fine versions of Pretty Saro and Earl Brand.' 113 The next day Sharp and Karpeles were entertained at a dance in Afton. 'Mr F(itzgerald) fiddling, Maud and I and Mrs Corbett dancing while Mr Truslow led and 'called'. I noted the dance which was a rather tame and somewhat sophisticated version of the Kentucky Running Set. Quite interesting with some nice technical points.' 114 Sharp's diary records the following entries, which are typical of the period:
I trudged off by myself - Maud was seedy - in the rain to Jim Chisholm. Found him at home as he promised and he and his wife sang me some rather nice songs including The Lark in the Morn, which I had not hitherto got here before. Two very interesting tunes to Cruel Mother and Sweet William and a fine tune to The Soldier Boy - not a bad lot considering the fact that he is an instrumentalist rather than a singer. He plays the organ, fiddle and guitar, whilst his daughter plays the last. 115And:
We go out on the hunt and call at the Small's ... where we get a splendid bunch including one or two well above average. 116At White Rock they met the Coffey family.
I walked in steaming hot weather to Mrs Fannie Coffey. Found her, her father old Alex Coffey and her mother sitting out some distance away from her home. she and her father sang me several nice songs. Then her father went to the mill while I waited behind for some time, calling at the mill on the way back and got him to sing several others. He is a fine singer. I got back hot at 1p.m. Had lunch and then took photographs of the family. 117Another singer, Philander Fitzgerald, was known to Alex Coffey:
Mr Philander is 75 years old and lives alone with his wife who is blind. The two are heads of a large family numbering 120 in all, including 10 great-grand children and 65 grand-children. Mr Philander Fitzgerald is an old confederate soldier ... When I related to Mr Alex Coffey ... what Mr Fitzgerald had told me about his 120 progeny, he answered, 'I dare say that is quite true - and not one of them is of any account.' 118Within a month Sharp had collected his 100th tune of the year.
Everyone knows of the songs about here although they sing a good many of the modern ones - more than they did in NC but no more than they do in Kentucky. 119After tea on 22nd May, they called to see Aunt Maria Tomes who sang them a verse of the ballad Barbara Allen.
Aunt Maria is an old coloured woman, aged 85, who was a slave belonging to Mrs Coleman who freed her after the war and gave her the log cabin in which she now lives, which used to be the overseer's home. I found her sitting in front of the cabin smoking a pipe. We sang (to) her ... which delighted her beyond anything and made her dub me 'A soldier of Christ'. She sang very beautifully in a wonderfully musical way and with clear and perfect intonation. 120When they returned to the Smalls the following day they found an equally warm reception.
After supper went with Dol Small, a most delightful family, Dol and his wife and twelve children, all smiling. They sang to us and then adjourned to the next house where there was a new and quite good piano upon which I operated greatly to the delight of the family who smiled more than ever. They are really a delightful and happy lot and it was a great pleasure to be able to return them something. 121I visited Nellysford, Dol Small's hometown, in 1980 in company with an elderly local fiddle player. When I mentioned Dol's name, my companion was perplexed as to how I should know of Mr Small, who was,'Just an ordinary sort of guy. '
Other singers, such as Mrs Laurel Wheeler of Buena Vista, also had large families.
While Mrs Wheeler sang The Green Bed her children - of whom there are 13 (6 of her own. 7 of her husband's) - sang the air in unison softly with serious grave little faces. It had a wonderful effect which I shall not readily forget. 122A few days later, Sharp decided to try his luck song-hunting over the state line in West Virginia.
On Monday we decided to make a shot at West Virginia so journeyed to Ronceverte where we stayed two nights in the dirtiest and most unwholesome hotel I have ever visited for a long while. It is a horrid little railroad town with just nothing to recommend it except that the country would be beautiful were it not for Ronceverte and the railroad. It was very hot and we found it hard to tramp around, all the more so because we found no songs and scarcely a trace of them. On Wednesday we went on to Pence Springs where we were first visitors at a brand new hotel, beautifully situated and quite comfortable. There was one drawback however, the mineral water in which we bathed and which alone we had to drink and that smelt and tasted like rotten eggs. It was heavily charged with sulphur and we were told that if we stayed long enough we should get to like it. But we didn't feel like giving it this test and as we found no songs whatever in the neighbourhood we left it on Friday. 123Sharp's diary is even more damning.
In the morning go a long tramp and get absolutely nothing - cannot even make people understand what we want ... we decide to move back to Virginia ... Mrs Paxton (the hotel landlady) says she is not supprised at our failure because the people about here are all new, taking the places vacated by the old originals who have gone west after the coal. 124Sharp returned to Virginia on 31st May, and remained to the north of Roanoke throughout most of June adding over 100 songs to his collection in Bedford County alone.
I like Virginia very much and there is no doubt there are a lot of songs to be got here. I wish I could follow the Blue Ridge right away down to N.Carolina as I am sure it would well repay me. 125Sharp's diary suggests that he and Maud Karpeles were well received by their musical hosts:
In the evening walked round to Bob Bradley's, got some more songs from him and sang several ourselves. His son played the banjo and a man did a very spirited hoe-down. 126Or:
Then find old Jacob and Mrs Sowder at home and stay there a long while. They are very delightful people and he (who is 70) evidently knows a lot of songs if we can only extract them. At 5p.m. we return ... and the old man eventually sings me quite a lot of interesting modal tunes which delight me greatly. I like him and his wife greatly. 127There was, however, the underlying feeling that time was running out.
Last week was one of the best weeks I have ever had. I took down 62 tunes including some very fine ones indeed. The Virginian tunes are the best I have yet got, though the words are poor and we do not get many ballads. The folk songs are dying out here slowly but surely just as in England. Everyone has known them, it is just a matter of recalling them. And we get most of them from oldish people. 128Sharp returned to New York on 19th June, and remained there teaching until 24th July when he again moved back to Roanoke.
August was spent to the south of Roanoke, chiefly in Franklin and Patrick Counties, Sharp and Karpeles taking a train to Ferrum before being driven to a fine crop of local singers and musicians. Prior to this they had spent a few days searching around Roanoke itself, although conditions were not ideal.
Last Wednesday we walked down the mountains to Roba where we got a farmer's wife to take us in, in order that we might get on to Taylor's Mountain where we had heard there were plenty of singers. And we found there were lots of old-time singers there but alas. A presbyterian mission had got in there about 8 years ago and has told the people that it is un-christian to sing secular songs. This seems to me a curious brand of Christianity but we could make no head-way against it but received nothing but stern refusals. So there was nothing for it but to move on which we did the next day to Montvale, leaving the Missionaries together with their sanctimonious converts to stew together in their own particular brand of Christian juice. 129Two weeks later we find Sharp still suffering from missionaries.
Their whole life seems set upon nosing out what is objectionable in anybody except themselves of course - and ignoring the good. 130Such feelings were, however, tempered with better memories.
After supper sit on the veranda while Charles Canady, a son about 18 years old, plays some dance tunes on the fiddle. He plays well and I note 3 or 4 of them. 131Writing to Mrs Storrow, Sharp expressed the ambivalence of feeling which was beginning to overtake him.
For the last month we have struck a rather unproductive patch but in this work it is necessary to explore all the ground and every now and again we must expect to meet with failure. It was rather disappointing in this case because we had expected the last two counties in Virginia, Franklin and Patrick, to be especially productive as the railways are very few and the mountain districts more than ordinarily isolated. One place in Franklin we had built many hopes upon Shooting Creek a place with a thoroughly bad reputation for illicit stills, shooting etc. but when we got there (it was 25 miles from a station) there was a Missionary Revival going on and in the evening the residents crowded to the 'preaching' dressed in fashionable garments, low-necked dresses, high heels, well powdered faces, some of them in their motor cars. The fact is the price of whiskey has so gone up that Moonshining has been exceedingly profitable and they are all rolling in money. Songs of course were out of the question and we retired next day somewhat crestfallen. But the creek itself was one of the very finest pieces of scenery we have hit in the mountains, so we had compensation. Then again we had set our expectation on the Meadows of Dan, partly because of its delightful name, but mainly because of its extreme isolation and altitude. And it was certainly one of the most arduous and dangerous journeys we have ever undertaken. We motored to the County Seat, Stuart, and then, after many refusals, prevailed on a driver to take us up to the Meadows in his motor, a matter of 17 miles. The road which is ordinarily a very steep, narrow and dangerous one was far worse than usual on account of some recent thunder storms which had washed it clean, right down to the native rock. Some places the inclination of the car was so great in turning a corner with a sheer fall of 5 or 6 hundred feet over the side, that the driver himself suggested we should get out while he negotiated it - which we did with alacrity. How a car could have been driven up at all I can't imagine. I am sure nothing but a Ford could have done it. And then when we got to the top of the Ridge we found a large plateau of rolling meadows and fertile land occupied by a thoroughly respectable, church-going, school-attending population, making money at a great rate owing to the advance in food prices and many of them housed in comfortable frame dwelling and sporting their own motor cars. 132Sharp and Karpeles stayed at Meadows of Dan with members of the Spangler family, one of whom, John Watts 'Babe' Spangler, was a fine and influential local fiddler, although Sharp did not note any tunes from him. 133 Sharp noted a number of songs from Dad Blackard, the local 'banjer-man', whose family later recorded two 78rpm records in 1927. 134 When I met Dad Blackard's daughter, Clarice Shelor, in 1980 she told me how Sharp and Maud Karpeles -'his daughter'- had arrived at her father's house during a rainstorm. They were both soaked through to the skin and so the family took the wet clothes off their guests and wrapped them in blankets while their clothes dried by the fire. Clarice remembered her amazement at Sharp's ability to harmonise her father's tunes on the family piano almost as soon as he had noted them in his tune book. she also remembers the fact that Sharp had a very prominent nose. 'I'll never forget. I was a little girl then. I had a big nose and I'd always thought that with my big nose I'd never be famous, or anything, when I grew up. And do you know ... Mr Sharp he had such a big nose. And him being famous. It just made me feel marvellous.' 135
On 30th August Sharp left Virginia for the last time, travelling south to the Piedmont town of Winston Salem in Forsyth County, NC, a place which he disliked intensely.
We smelt Winston Salem about 8 miles away - tobacco and molasses ... I had an attack of asthma on getting off the train ... It is clear we shall not have much of a rest here. Winston Salem is a dull, ugly sort of a place with a square in the middle of which stands the Town Hall, quite the ugliest building I have ever seen. The place is stuffed full with negroes - I presume they work in the factories whether they are attracted to the tobacco industry by their similarity in colour or not I do not know! ... this is a noisy place and the air impregnated with tobacco, molasses and nigger! 136Sharp's outburst is, I think, uncharacteristic, and must have been partly triggered by his increasing ill-health. Nevertheless, it is indefensible.
The purpose of the visit to Winston Salem was to note songs from a sister of a Mrs Weaver of Woolwine, Va., who had previously given them some good songs. Also present in their hotel was a Mr Hay who gave them some street cries that he had heard sung by a black woman in Charleston, SC, many years before.
Within three days Sharp and Karpeles had fled back to the mountains of McDowell County, but his strength was beginning to fail again and although it is unclear in this passage, I feel that Sharp is referring to the white population, rather than the black:
Can't imagine what has made me ill except that I have swallowed enough filth and grease in the last six weeks to have upset 500 stomachs. They are really little better than Barbarians in this part of the world. The fact is they are hopeless slackers - possibly a legacy from the old slave days. 137But, as on previous trips, his dogged determination kept him going. In Burnsville, a small settlement in Yancy County, they found a Mrs Bennett who:
Is one of the best singers I have struck this tour and she gave me several of the best. This is a great find and a good omen for our success in this part of the world. 138and Mr Jasper Robertson:
He is about 65 years of age, is a preacher, and makes his living by riding through the mountains on horseback and peddling a patent nerve-medicine 'compounded of 17 herbs'. He sings no love songs but incidentally has a large stock of these moralising, didactic religious songs, which must have been prevalent sometime in the 18th and 19th centuries I imagine. 139Sharp collected four songs from Jasper Robertson, When Adam was First Created, The Crucifixion, The Mouldering Vine and a song pertaining to the American civil war, Hick's Farewell. He also collected another version of When Adam was First Created from John Allen who lived in Bolden's Creek, near Burnsville.
Mr Allen is a tall Scotchman with a beautiful tenor voice for his age, and has considerable music talent. He has had 19 children, 9 by his first wife and 10 by his present one. He is a brother of Mrs Coates of Flag Pond (Tennessee) who gave me two years ago The Knight on the Road. He was very interested in the work that I was doing, saying many times, 'Good singing is a great power.' 140Later, they were on the trail of another noteworthy singer who led them a merry dance.
Determined to try and run Mrs Julie Boone to earth. So we walked to Plum Branch only to find she had gone to Micaville. We went there to find she had gone a mile or two up another creek. We found her. Followed her, brought her back to Micaville and got her to sing. she repaid us for the trouble we had spent by singing some really good songs. 141Mrs Boone was 49 years old. In all, she gave Sharp versions of twenty-nine songs, including eight Child ballads, as well as two negro spirituals, Pharoah's Army and Jacob's Ladder.
She is rarely at home, wandering around the country bare-footed and staying wherever she happens to be when it is dark. Her neighbours and kinfolk like her and she is always welcome in their homes ... [She] evidently had a great deal to do with negroes sometime in her life. she sings many of their spirituals. 142One of Julie Boone's 'kinfolk' was Mrs Sina Boone of Shoal Creek, Burnsville, another singer with a large repertoire.
Directly after breakfast we tramped off to try and find Mrs Sina Boone of Shoal Creek ... The creek branches offhand Mrs Sina lives at the head about 2 miles up the creek. We found her at home and ready to sing, much to her delight and that of her husband. 143Conditions in this part of the mountains were clearly hard and at times Sharp was troubled by the state of some singers:
We had only time to stay half an hour but found (Mrs Dellie Hughes) a good singer and great character. She and her husband live in a tiny cabin and were clothed in rags, presenting a sorry sight. 144There was, nevertheless, something wonderful about Sharp's ability to be accepted by all types of people. One Burnsville family, the Mitchell's, provided Sharp with a further twenty-five songs and ballads.
The Mitchells are a wonderful clan, living in a small narrow creek about a mile from the hotel. They are considered a very low-down lot by the richer people here who wonder why we like them and go there so often. 145By 24th September, Sharp was able to write:
I am getting some splendid songs here, many of them well above the average but of course I do not now hear anything absolutely new. The number of duplicates is increasing very much so that I feel that with this year's work I shall have completed the major part of the work and if, as seems probable, I shall be unable to attack it again next year I shall not break my heart over the disappointment. I shall have taken down by the time this trip is done about 1600 tunes and they I believe will represent pretty accurately the songs that are sung in the Appalachians. There are no doubt still some good variants to be discovered but the labour in getting them would scarcely be worthwhile. 146As well as finding that it was hard to collect new songs, Sharp was also finding that some of the singers were of a newer, more 'modern' breed. Take Mrs W L Godfrey of Marion, NC for example.
After lunch we went out again in search of Mrs Godfrey. Had a bad attack of asthma and had great difficulty in keeping going while we kept doubling on our tracks vainly searching for her ... She is a youngish woman ... plays the violin, guitar, auto-harp, piano etc. and is therefore a bit modem for us ... She has had her taste spoiled by modern music and admits that she couldn't 'carry a minor tune'. I played her piano much to her delight and to that of her children. 147Even so, Sharp was able to note six songs from Mrs Godfrey, Barbara Allen, The Carrion Crow, Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinor, The Lonesome Grove, The Wife of Usher's Well and The Lover's Lament.
Two weeks later the weather turned cold and rain became persistent.
I suppose I am more or less at the end of my tether just now. 148On 9th October, Sharp noted his last mountain songs from Mrs Dellie Hughes.
She sang me several jigs, all very interesting as types, but not of great value aesthetically. It was amusing to see her patting, dancing and singing all at once ... This is probably my last collecting expedition this year and I suspect my last in the mountains and probably, in America. In the three seasons 400, 600 and 625 i.e. 1625 tunes in all. A wonderful experience taking it all together. 149Sharp and Karpeles retired to Ashville where they again met up with Mr and Mrs Campbell.
What I want more than anything else is quiet, no children, no Victrolas, nor strumming of rag-time and the singing of sentimental songs - all of which we have suffered from incessantly during the last 12 weeks. I am sorry to have said goodbye to the mountain people but I suspect that I might have seen the last of them. There is enough work left, which might be well worth doing, that would take perhaps another year's work but I am satisfied with what I have done and the rest can be left to others. 150
I am often dreaming about America and the wonderful time I had there and the invaluable experience I gained there. 151Sadly, John Campbell, who had been ill throughout most of 1918, died in 1919. Olive Dame Campbell, however, continued to be active as an educator in the Appalachian Mountains until her death in 1954. 152
For Sharp, though, memories of the difficult journeys, the oppressive heat, the appalling food and of his ill-health seem to have been put aside. There were now new possibilities.
I often yearn to be back in America for a while but I am afraid my wishes will not (be) gratified just yet. Still there is Newfoundland calling out and some day I shall go there I hope and collect once more. 153But this was never to be.
In 1920 Percy Grainger, the Australian born composer who had collected songs in England during the years 1905 -1908 and who was then living in America, wrote to Sharp offering to pay for the publication of Sharp's Appalachian collection.
If you would humor [sic] me in my hope to be able to help in furthering the early publication of these English - American folksongs collected by you I assure you I would consider it a great privelege [sic], so deeply do I admire what you have done for all lovers of folksong, and so deeply are my affections engaged to both this country of North America and to the folkmusic of British origins wherever found. You can readily see that this combination of British folksongs alive in America and rescued by you appeals warmly to my heart, and I hope, therefore, that you will not consider my request impertinent and that you will not refuse to consider it. 154But it was not until 1932 that Maud Karpeles produced an enlarged edition of English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, containing two-hundred and seventy-four songs in nine-hundred and sixty-eight variants.
In September, 1950, Maud Karpeles, at the invitation of the Library of Congress in Washington, returned to the Appalachians for a period of three and a half weeks, in company with the American musicologist Mrs Sidney Robertson Cowell. They managed to find thirty-one former singers or near relatives and they recorded a total of sixty-nine songs from fifteen of these people. They also recorded twenty-two items from five other singers and instrumentalists. In a short article Karpeles commented that there were far fewer singers left and that mountain life had been completely revolutionised since Sharp had visited America. Electricity, good roads and education had entered the mountains and most homes contained a radio, 'the arch-enemy, except in certain favoured circumstances, of folk song'. 155
A number of items that Maud Karpeles recorded have been preserved on record by the BBC and copies of the following are available for study in the archives of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, 2, Regents Park Road, London NW1 7AY.
|BBC 17141||Sir Hugh||Dol Small. Nellysford, Va. (a)|
|The Shooting of His Dear||Mrs Puckett. Afton, Va. (b)|
|The Two Brothers||.. .. .. ..|
|The Cuckoo||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 17142||Jack He Went a-Sailing||Mrs Victoria Morris. Mt Fair, Va.|
|Earl Brand||.. .. .. ..|
|The Three Ravens||Mrs Oscar Allen. Lynchburg, Va. (c)|
|Lord Rendal||.. .. .. ..|
|Rock-a-bye Baby||.. .. .. ..|
|Down in the Meadows||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 17143||The House Carpenter||.. .. .. ..|
|Banjo Tuning||C B Wohlford. Marion, Va.|
|Mississippi Lawyers [sic]||.. .. .. ..|
|Cumberland Gap||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 17144||Hares on the Mountains||Horton Barker. Chilhowie, Va. (d)|
|The Brown Girl||.. .. .. ..|
|Spoken message by singer||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC17145||Locks and Bolts||Mrs Donald Shelton. Flagpond, Tn. (e)|
|The Bird Song||Mrs Maud Long. Hot Springs, NC. (f)|
|The Cruel Ship's Carpenter||Mrs Charles Noel. Hot Springs, NC.|
|In Old Virginny||.. .. .. ..|
|The Farmer's Curst Wife||Horton Barker. Chilhowie, Va.|
|Sally Goodin (lilt)||Mrs Donald Shelton. Flagpond, Tn.|
|Shortening Bread (lilt)||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 17146||The Gipsy Laddie||.. .. .. ..|
|Pretty Little Girl||.. .. .. ..|
|Cripple Creek||.. .. .. ..|
|Young Hunting||Miss Linnie Landers. Jonesboro, Tn.|
|Fair Margaret||.. .. .. ..|
|A Frog he Went a-Courting||Mrs Maud Long. Hot Springs, NC.|
|I Fed My Horse||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 17147||The Wife of Usher's Well||Miss Linnie Landers. Jonesboro, Tn.|
|The Tree in the Wood||Mrs Maud Long. Hot Springs, NC.|
|Fiddle Tune - Candy Girls||Andy J Edwards. Coffee Ridge, Tn.|
|Fiddle Tune - Brighton Camp||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 23793||The Cuckoo||Mrs J (Florence) Puckett. Afton, Va.|
|The Shooting of His Dear||.. .. .. ..|
|Pat Do This||.. .. .. ..|
|The Farmer's Curst Wife||Mrs J L Leila Yowell, Charlottesville, Va.|
|The Dear Companion||Mrs Ella Shelton. Alleghany, NC.|
|BBC 23794||Sweet William||Mrs Donald Shelton. Alleghany, NC.|
|Talk by Mrs Donald Shelton |
on Sharp' s visit to the
|.. .. .. ..|
|Family Reminscences of |
the American Civil War
|.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 23799||Turly-Urly||Mrs Mathy S Dameron. Stuarts Draft, Va|
|Paper of Pins||.. .. .. ..|
|I Had a Little Sweetheart||.. .. .. ..|
|Talk about learning songs||.. .. .. ..|
|Fair Margaret and Sweet William (pt 1)||Mrs Donald Shelton. Alleghany, NC.|
|BBC 23800||Fair Margaret and Sweet William (pt. 2)||.. .. .. ..|
|True Lover's Farewell||.. .. .. ..|
|Locks and Bolts||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 23801||Cumberland Gap - banjo||'The Sugerloaf Sheltons'. Alleghany, NC.|
|Little Maggie - banjo||.. .. .. ..|
|Pike County Breakdown |
|.. .. .. ..|
|Fire in the Mountains - band||.. .. .. ..|
|Lost Indian - band||.. .. .. ..|
|Boneyparte's Retreat - band||.. .. .. ..|
|BBC 23802||The Two Crows||Mrs Oscar Allen. Lynchburg, Va.|
|Pretty Fair Field |
(The Tree in the Wood)
|Mrs Martha Wiseman. Aldridge, |
Three Mile, Avery County, NC.
(b) Mrs Puckett was the daughter of Florence Fitzgerald.
(c) Mrs Oscar Allen was the former Ada Maddox of Buena Vista, Va.
(d) Horton Barker was recorded by the Library of Congress prior to the Karpeles/Robertson Cowell recordings were made. He was also the subject of a later solo Folkways album, FA2362.
(e) Mrs Donald Shelton was the former Emma Hensley.
(f) Maud Long, the daughter of Jane Gentry, may also be heard on four Library of Congress albums:
Mike Yates - 15.1.99
|Top of page||Articles||Home Page||Reviews||News||Editorial||Map|