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Fleming Brown

Reek and Rambling Blade
John Henry
As I Go Rambling 'Round
As I Go Rambling 'Round
Coo-Coo, The
Cruel War Is Raging, The
Fare Thee Well, Old Ely Branch
Flag of Blue, White and Red
Ford Machine
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Market Square
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Poor Ellen Smith
Railroad Bill
Reek and Rambling Blade
Rocky Hill
Sugar Hill
Teddy, Let Your Hair Hang Down


Fleming Brown was born in Marshall, Missouri, in 1926. In 1930 his family moved to Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where he now lives with his wife, Jean, and their little girl, Sarah. By profession, Fleming is a commercial artist, but for nearly-sixteen years, collecting and singing the traditional songs of the Southern Appalachians has been his passion and his avocation. Like many young Interpreters of folksongs, his interest in this music was first aroused upon hearing a recording of Burl Ives.

Soon after that, he discovered the recordings of such old-time banjo players as Uncle Dave Macon and Doc Boggs. Fleming located a five-string banjo in the attic of a local junk-shop and began picking on it without much success until he managed to find himself a teacher. Twice a week, Fleming would arise at 4:30 in the morning, pack up his banjo, and trek down to the studios of WLS where Doc Hopkins (an old-time singer and banjo player out of Harlan, Kentucky) had a wake-up show from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. After the program, Fleming and Doc would sit over their coffee and Fleming would get a half-hour banjo lesson. It is no doubt due to this initial training that Fleming's banjo playing has what Jean Ritchie, of Viper, Kentucky, has described as a "down home" sound.

After several years of concentrated practice, Fleming made his first appearance in 1950 at the National Folk Festival, held that year in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1953 he joined the "I GOME FOR TO SING" group with Studs Terkel, Larry Lane, Chet Roble and the late Big Bill Broonzy. Also in that year, he and Mike Nichols inaugurated a folk music radio show on Chicago's WFMT which Fleming entitled "THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL" since it began at midnight on Saturdays.

Fleming has performed at the Ashville, North Carolina, Festival, the Newport Folk Festival, and the University of Chicago Folk Festival. He teaches banjo classes at Chicago's OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC. This is his first solo recording.

George D. Armstrong
Side I; Band 1.

This fine American version of what may have been originally an Irish Broadside ballad was recorded for the Archive of American Folksong in 1937 by Justus Begley, of Hazard, Kentucky. In putting the song together for himself, however, Fleming has borrowed freely from the version sung by the late Aunt Molly Jackson.

Well, I am a reek and a rambling one;
Eastern shore I've lately come,
Earn my money and to learn my trade
And they call me the reek and the rambling blade.

Well, I come here spending money free,
Went to balls, I went to plays;
At last my money grew very low
And then to the highway I did go.

Well, a pretty little miss, sixteen years old,
Her hair as fine as new spun gold,
Neatest feet, the neatest hands,
I love the ground whereon she stands.

Well, I robbed old Nelson, I do declare,
Robbed him at St. James Square,
Robbed him of five thousand pounds,
Dividing with my comrades 'round.

Well, now I am condemned to die;
Many a lady for me will cry.
Pretty Molly weeps, tears down her hair,
A lady alone left in despair.

My father weeps, he maketh moan;
Mama cries, "My darling son;"
All their weeping, it won't help me
Or save me from that gallows tree.

Papa, give me a ticket to Greenville Town
And it's get on board and I'll sit down;
Wheels will turn and the engine it'll moan,
It'll take me six months to get back home.

Papa, give me some paper and it's I'll sit down,
Drop a few lines to my Governor Brown;
Every word will be the truth
And I'll pray for the Governor to turn me loose.

Well, now I'm dead and laying in my grave;
Final Justice sweeps over my head.
All around my grave play tunes of joy
And away go the reek and rambling boy.


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