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CD18 -

Arnold Keith Storm - Take the News to Mother

The Boy Who Could Never Come Home
Patched Up Old Devil
Ninety and Nine
Blind Child, The
Boy Who Could Never Come Home, The
Dream of the Miner's Child, The
Great Explosion, The
Jim Blake, Your Wife Is Dying
Little Joe, the Wrangler
Little Rosewood Casket
Ninety and Nine
Patched Up Old Devil
Poor Little Joe
Prison Warden's Secret, The
Sparrow's Question, The
Take the News to Mother
There's a Mother Always Waiting
Two Drummers (My Mother Was a La
Utah Carl

"Take the News to Mother" and other songs of a more sentimental age. We are indebted to Pat Dunford for discovering Keith Storm and for introducing us to him and to the many songs preserved in his family's tradition. Keith worked for the Post Office, played a big Gibson with a flat pick, and sang sentimental songs of the Victorian era with heartfelt conviction. Some of these date to the Civil War, some to the turn of the century, and there are two splendid examples of western ballads brought back to the family music sessions by an uncle who worked out west for awhile. Keith is an excellent singer and plays a solid guitar. You'll like him.


One morning in July of 1963, I received a telephone call from a man who had read a recent article in The Indianapolis Times about my experiences collecting folk music in the field. He told me that he, too, was interested in traditional folk music and thought, perhaps, that we could get together.
He went on to say that he played the guitar, harmonica and fiddle and had recently learned to play the five-string banjo from Pete Seeger's instruction manual. I figured that the man had, like myself, merely picked up songs from records and books and had become interested in folk music through the urban folksong revival. This was my first contact with Arnold Keith Storm.

About a week later, Keith, as I learned was the name he preferred to use, came over to my house. After talking for quite awhile about folk music in general, I asked Keith to sing a song. The first song he sang was "The Last Fierce Charge", an old Civil War ballad which he told me he had learned from his father. I was amazed, to say the least. Keith's soft, mellow voice, smooth, flat-pick guitar style, and the beautiful Civil War song fused together to make a perfect combination. After talking with him further, I found that there was definitely a great collection of traditional songs in the Storm family and that Keith had remembered a large number of them.

Arnold Keith Storm, one of three children, was born in 1936 at Decatur, Illinois. His father, Arthur Leon Storm, was a combination grocery store keeper and farmer who raised most of the food which the Storm family ate. When Keith was three, the family moved to Brownstown, Illinois, where he attended both elementary and high schools. Keith can never remember a time when there wasn't "some sort of musical instrument lying around the house". His father played the fiddle, guitar and harmonica and sang many old songs. He played for square dances and for other social gatherings in the area around Brownstown and sang quite a lot around home for friends, neighbors, etc. Keith was about eight years old when he first began playing the harmonica and later picked up the guitar and fiddle, learning to play all the instruments from watching his father. When he became good enough, Keith began playing with his father and the other members of the family who were musicians. During his high school years, Keith sang in a Gospel quartet which toured the Brownstown area and performed at church meetings, revivals, etc.

After graduating from high school, Keith enlisted in the Air Force and, although he was stationed in Germany, he saw nearly all of Europe. He was married in London, England, in 1957, and lived for two years in Germany before returning to the United States in 1959. Keith and his wife, Joyce, and their two children now live in Mooresville, Indiana, about twenty miles from Indianapolis. He is presently employed as a mail-sorter at the Post Office in Indianapolis.

Keith learned most of his songs from his father, who, in turn, learned a number of them from his father, Keith's grandfather, Samuel Burton Storm, who was originally from Kansas. This may account for the western songs in his repertoire, such as "Little Joe, the Wrangler" and "Utah Carl" (Side I; Bands 7 and 8). Keith's father learned the rest of his songs from various people in the Illinois area where he has always lived, merely picking up a song here and there.

Keith is a prime example of the traditional singer who has moved from the country to the city but still sings the songs that were so much a part of his daily life in younger years. The urban folksong influence has, by no means, left Keith untouched. He buys folksong books and magazines and has purchased a number of commercial recordings of folk music, not only strictly traditional, but bluegrass and more commercial types as well. Keith and I play together quite a bit, now, and have performed for a number of folksings in Indianapolis. Although we do a lot of material which Keith has learned from commercial records, the old songs he learned as a boy still seem to be "closer to heart", so to speak, than any others.

As a person, Keith remains of a country sort, being very quiet and soft-spoken with a slight country accent. He and his family live in a new housing development, but Keith still loves the country, the outdoors, and all the things that go with country living. Knowing Keith has been a rewarding experience for me, not only because of his music, but simply because Keith is the fine, gentle person that he is.

Arnold Keith Storm is an artist of amazing virtuosity and ability. His talent as a song writer is well demonstrated in the two songs of his own c6mposition which are included on this album ("The Great Explosion" and "The Sparrow's Question"; .Side II, Bands 6 and 7). The "Songs of a More Sentimental Age" on the record are sung by Keith with a definite deep feeling. They are representative of the sincere emotions, not only of the Storm family, but of many families across America some thirty to fifty years ago.

Pat Dunford Indianapolis, Indiana April, 1964


I'm always loathe to saddle anyone with the appellation "precocious", but I spoke with Pat Dunford on the telephone the other day and found he was rejoicing. It seems that, at last, after nearly three years of serious field collecting, he was finally going to be able to go to where the singers are without having to wait until he could hitch a ride with someone. Pat Dunford had just celebrated his sixteenth birthday and had obtained a driver's license. That's right; Pat began collecting folksongs when he was thirteen years old. Armed with a tape recorder and a copy of Brewster's Ballads and Songs of Indiana, Pat had begun a systematic search for the singers and/or their relatives who had contributed to that collection. Along the way, of course, Pat located new informants and new material. A nephew of W. Amos Abrams, folklore scholar and contributor to the Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Pat has also collected in North Carolina during several summers spent in that state. He plans to continue his folklore studies when he enters college. Would that we had more young men like him.


Since the majority of the songs on this record are not traditional folksongs, but, rather, songs which have been adopted by the folk and altered, to a greater or lesser degree, in the process of being assimilated into the repertoires of traditional singers, the standard reference works and collections are of little value to the researcher. Vance Randolph has accepted the fondness of the folk for these products of "Tin Pan Alley" and has included more of them than most collectors in his splendid Ozark Folksongs. The editors of the immense Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore have also permitted a few of these songs to slip into print in North Carolina Folklore. Sigmund Spaeth's Read 'Em and Weep and Weep Some More/ My Lady are, of course, entirely devoted to surveying the genre. Aside from these works, there are few books in the Folk-Legacy library which can offer us information regarding the origins of the present songs. If it were possible to search through the popular music collection at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, it is likely that we could produce the originals of the present songs, but we are too far from Providence and, besides, it really doesn’t make that much difference. Collectors of early recordings could probably supply us with much missing data for this booklet, but we have decided that it would be silly to hold up the release of this record in order to catalog a lot of unavailable records for the discophiles. We will, therefore, simply supply you with what information we have at hand and let the discographers do their own digging. The fact that Keith Storm learned all of the songs on the present record* from his family should suffice to establish that the songs have already passed at least the first test in the purist's definition of folksong — that of oral transmission. To ignore the existence of these songs in the folk repertoire is to falsify the record and distort the concept of the folk aesthetic through the application of a somewhat snobbish selectivity based upon an alien value judgment. That the folk know and love these songs is a simple and incontrovertible fact. Let's face it — and enjoy it.
(*With the exception of the two original songs, of course.)


Keith learned this story of the prodigal son from the singing of his father. We have been unable to locate it in any of the standard reference works, although it is typical of the turn-of-the-century sentimental songs. Philip Wylie must have had in mind the social attitudes that produced the many songs of this type when he coined his now-famous term, "Momism".

As I'm riding along on this freight train,
My dear mother's voice I can hear;
She's crying, "Oh, Son, do not leave me,
It's more than my poor heart can bear."

Oh, boys, here's a wanderer's warning:
Don't break your poor mother's heart;
Stay by her side when she needs you
And let nothing tear you apart.

I know she'll be waiting by the window
Day after day as I roam,
Watching and a-waiting and a-praying
For her boy who can never come home.

I'm riding along on this freight train,
Bound for God only knows where;
I hear Mother's voice, she is crying,
And my heart it is heavy with care.

I quarreled with my own father
Because of the things I had done;
He called me a drunkard and a gambler
And not fit to be his son.

I cursed and I swore at my father
And I told him his words were all lies;
I packed up my things in a bundle
And I went to tell Mother goodbye.

My poor mother broke down a-crying.
"My son, oh, my son, do not leave;
Your poor mother's heart will be broken
And all my life long I will grieve."

Oh, boys, here's a wanderer's warning:
Don't break your poor mother's heart;
Stay by her side when she needs you
And let nothing tear you apart.


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