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CD53 -

Betty Smith - Songs Traditionally Sung in NC

Young Emily
Little Sparrow
'Tis Sad to Part
Young Emily
Young Charlotte
Where Will I Shelter My Sheep Tonight
We'll Camp A Little While in the Wilderness
'Tis Sad to Part
Red Rosey Bush
Omie Wise
Mary of the Wild Moor
Little Sparrow
Little Rosewood Casket
Foggy Dew
False Knight Upon the Road
Black Is the Color
Awake - Awake You Drowsy Sleeper


I wish I were a penman
and could write a fine hand...

If I were, I would write something very profound about where I fit into the traditional or folk music picture. I only know I am bound to sing and play it.

I was born and bred in North Carolina;
Do you think I've any reason or right to complain?

I was born in Salisbury and my growing up years were spent in High Point during the depression. Here I am supposed to say something about hardship, I guess, and I'm sure it was a hard time for my parents, Ray and Erma Nance. But what with Daddy's garden and Mother's sewing, I don't think my sisters, Doris and Evelyn, and I ever felt very deprived. We just learned to "make do" with what we had. We always lived where there were other kids and we jumped rope and played hop-scotch and lots of games, even after dark in the summer. Summer was also a time for going to Grandaddy Walker's in Rockingham County where we handed to¬bacco and rode the tobacco slide, and shelled peas and strung beans for the big noon-day meals Granny put on the table. Being the oldest grandchild, I often went with Granny Nance to visit her father, sisters and brothers. On occasion we went to Old Union Church where my dad returned every year for the reunion as long as he lived.

I took violin lessons from the 5th grade because it was a part of public school music and I liked playing in an orchestra. Somehow, it just didn't "take" because after high school I dropped it. What "took" was every camp song from every church, Girl Scout, and Y camp I ever went to. The hymns we sang at home and at our church, and songs my dad knew like "Pretty Little Susie." My mother played hymns on the piano, and my sisters and I sang as a trio at South Main Street Methodist Church. Dad had a good, strong tenor singing voice and knew lots of songs. He learned to sing by shape notes in singing schools and when he was a young man he was part of a group that met regularly to make music in Randolph County.

I went to college in Greensboro, sixteen miles from home, and worked at camps in the summers. I spent one summer school session in New York City, living at Union Seminary and getting credits from Columbia. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in sociology and married Bill two months later. We'd been going together since I was sixteen and he was seventeen. He'd been off in the Air Force, so he went to school and worked for a radio station for three years after we married and I did case work and counseling.

Then the children, Bill and then Jan, came along and I was a full time mother for a few years, except for lots of volunteer and church work. Of course I sang in the choir and to the children. One day I just mentioned that a guitar would be nice to sing to on camping trips. My Christmas present from Bill and the children that year was a $16 guitar and a "free how-to-use-it" book.

Somethin' bound to happen....

Bill has always said if you want to see something happen, "just stay around Betty." That guitar lit a fire under me. I went first to schools, then churches and clubs. There was just no end to the songs to be sung. I searched for books and records and began to learn more and more songs. It was inevitable that I began to get together with other people who liked the same kind of music, to go to festivals, to acquire other instruments — dulcimers, autoharp, psaltery.

I had known lots of sing-along songs, children's songs, hymns, some ballads, but I was fascinated with ballads. I think I could have learned more from Dad, if I had been listening bet¬ter years earlier.

I came to know people like Bascom Lamar Lunsford, who im¬pressed upon me the importance of oral tradition; Byard Ray, a real mountain fiddler who said I sang like his grandma (whose garden he used to weed to get her to sing for him) and who gave me some beautiful songs, Obray Ramsay, who is certainly one of the best ballad singers and banjo players I've ever heard; Mr. Tab Ward, who shared his songs freely; Dr. Gene Wiggins at North Georgia College, who makes fine instruments (a hammered dulcimer for me) and teaches folklore, Cousin Thelma Boltin, who really believes in traditional music — but the list could go on and on.

I'll tune up my fiddle and rosin my bow,
and I shall find welcome wherever I go...

Some of the best things that happen when you like tradition¬al music are impromptu gatherings, meeting annually at festivals, learning from each other, trading ballads and tunes.

For several years, Byard Ray, fiddler from Madison County, N. C., Lou Therrell, banjo player (drop thumb style) who teaches at Mars Hill College, and I got together at the Asheville Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, We have sort of melded into a group, along with Vivian Hartsoe, called the Appalachian Folks. We play old time string music, sing, and even dance a little for schools, colleges — well, actually for anybody who will listen to us.

Last summer we taught a course in traditional music at Mars Hill College and the Appalachian Folks played at mini-festivals all summer.

As I went up Atlanta Street,
A tar-heel girl I chanced to meet...

Over seven years ago, Bill got transferred to Marietta, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. Here I've found others who like ballads and old time string music. I went down to Georgia State University and got a Master's in Early Childhood Education and taught Title I kindergarten for five years, singing with children all week and keeping the road hot on weekends going to music do¬ings... like Westville Music Convention where I first met Sandy and Caroline Paton... and Harper Van Hoy's Fiddler's Grove... and Cousin Thelma's White Springs Festival in Florida.

Blouke Carus, a curriculum publisher, approached me and I wrote and recorded a program of music for kindergarten for Open Court Publishers. I like folk music for children because they will never outgrow it. Gerry Hall helped me make the records; he's a mountain boy who really knows how to sing the songs.

Willie is rare...

I would probably not be doing this record if it weren't for Bill's encouragement and help. Many's the time he's driven far into the night to get me to a festival or concert or workshop... and had to listen to me singing the same song over and over... practicing or learning words.

They say she is good natural,
And that's the best of all...

And how many nights have we gotten my mother up late at night as we stopped over on our way to New York or Virginia... and without complaint she's up next morning with her breakfasts of sausage, grits, eggs, and home-made whole wheat bread...

If you want any more, you can sing it yourself...

And Jan and young Bill who would listen to the music until they couldn't hold their eyes open, and then curl up in the car to sleep. It's hard to explain an absolute fascination for traditional music. It's like the ballads, songs, hymns, fiddle tunes are old friends. They've been sung and resung and played over and over for generations, and they never wear out. This music belongs to ordinary people. It is our heritage. We have a right to it. It makes more sense to me that we should be able to hear this kind of music than to learn to appreciate composed and classical music exclusively. There is a creative process which makes this the kind of music that everyone can make. It is always ready to re-enter this creative process with each singer. I feel strongly that those who love tradi¬tional music should share it, if they feel able.

I have a special feeling for music from the Appalachians, from Scotland, England and Ireland. I like mountain people and their traditions. I would like to see singing return to the mountain communities as an art form as it was when Cecil Sharp, was there in 1916.

I would like to see children everywhere growing up with a lot of songs to sing, singing with joy and confidence. The route to this feeling about music is, for me — folk music.

Betty Smith Marietta, Georgia January, 1975


Side 1, Band 1. YOUNG EMILY

This broadside ballad is sometimes called "The Driver Boy," "The Drover Boy," "Young Edwin in the Lowlands," among others.
It is pretty widely known and sung in Madison County, North Carolina, but this version which I learned from Obray Ramsay is my favorite. Obray is such a good ballad singer and the first time I heard him sing this one I sat down and learned
it. Sometimes Obray and I have sung it, alternating verses
and vying for the singing of the "best" last verse.

Young Emily was a pretty fair miss.
She loved a driver boy
Who drove the stage from the Golden Gate,
Way down in the lowlands low, my love,
Way down in the lowlands low.

My father owns a boarding house
Along yon river side.
Go there, go there and enter in,
This night with me abide, my love,
This night with me abide.

Be sure you tell tham nothing,
Nor even let them know
That your name is young Edmund
Who drove in the lowlands low, my love,
Who drove in the lowlands low.

Young Edmund took to drinking
Before he went to bed.
He did not know they'd sworn that night
That they would cut off his head, my love,
That they would cut off his head,

Young Emily in her chambers,
She had this awful dream.
She dreamed she saw young Edmund's blood
Go flowing like a stream* my love*
Go flowing like a stream.

Oh, father, my dear father,
You'll die a public show
For the murdering of the driver boy
Way down in the lowlands low, my love,
Way down in the lowlands low.

The fish that swim in the ocean
Swim o'er my true love's breast.
His body's in a gentle motion,
And I know his soul's at rest, my love,
I know his soul's at rest.


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