Last Possum Up Tthe Tree: Song Lyrics


It is sometimes difficult to understand the words of a song when listening to a recording. Therefore, I have listed here verses to each of the songs on the Possum CD. Preceding the lyrics is a brief biography and an overview of my sources for the music on the Possum CD.

Biographical Information

I was born May 14, 1938 on Burgey's Creek in Knott County, Kentucky, in a log cabin built ca. 1900 by James Edward "Uncle Ed" Thomas, the first known dulcimer maker in Kentucky. Burgey's Creek is officially known as Little Carr Creek and is a tributary of Carr Creek, which is a tributary of the Kentucky River. My parents were descendants of some of the earliest pioneers in east Kentucky. Settlers brought banjo songs and frolics into east Kentucky well prior to the Civil War. I have found two references to the banjo in Kentucky prior to 1700. Early settlers in the area were mostly from Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

My father, Mal Gibson (1900-1996), learned to play banjo around 1905-10 along with his older sister Flora (1896-1936) and Mel Amburgey (1893-1972), a neighbor from a very musical family. Mel Amburgey told me that he, my father and my father's sister could play over 100 songs in one tuning of the banjo. This was a remarkable feat, for they used many different tunings. My father's younger brother, Bob Gibson, also learned to play banjo, although I never heard him play.  My mother, Tishie Hammons Gibson, had several relatives that played banjo. 

My grandfather, George W. Gibson, and his first cousin, Dan Gibson, were playing banjo in Knott County by the 1890s. Dan was a noted banjo player and square dance caller. Dan Gibson is well known in Kentucky for his resistance to strip mining. The Ballad of Dan Gibson is a song that describes Dan's involvement with strip mining. It was written by Gurney Norman and is published in Guy and Candie Carawans' book, Voices from the Mountains.

Dr. Josiah Combs, from Hindman in Knott County, collected early versions of Ground Hog and Poor Ellen Smith from Dan Gibson and Tom Kelley ca.1915. Combs also collected several square dance calls from Dan Gibson.

The banjo tradition and its supporting culture in Knott County began collapsing by World War II. It was difficult to find people who still played the old music in 1950, when I began learning to play banjo. Most of the dances at local schools had ceased during the 1940s. I left Kentucky early in the 1960s with a Kay five-string banjo and a Vega Whyte Laydie guitar banjo. I continued to play some of the old songs, perhaps as a way of connecting with a past that I had glimpsed very briefly. I am the last person playing the traditional banjo music of Burgey's Creek. I am the last possum up the tree.

Notes on Tunings

My father used many different tunings while playing the banjo in a pitch lower than today's standard. I have always done the same. I very seldom had occasion to play with other people; consequently, I never used a capo on the banjo. In 1994, when I was asked to be guest of honor at the Florida Old Time Music Championships, I began to document the tunings I used, and purchased a tuner so I would know the pitch to which I tuned. This is most often two frets below standard. All the tunings below are listed as if I were tuned to standard pitch. To get the actual tunings used, however, strings should be pitched two frets lower. I used a 1924 Gibson guitar-banjo on two of the songs on this CD.  I usually tune the guitar-banjo to standard pitch and capo at the second fret.

Track 1; LAST GOLD DOLLAR, g-CGCD: I was playing this song before I heard Gran Hudson (1911-2004) sing it. I only knew one or two verses. Gran sang a version that ended with all of the verses that are commonly sung to Mole in the Ground. When I asked Gran if his version might be two songs, he became a little testy and said "That's the way my daddy sung that song, and that's the way it's supposed to be sung." I didn't sing all those verses here, and I apologized to Gran for not doing so. Gran was a fine banjo player and balladeer, as was his father, Steve Hudson. I believe I was picking a version of Last Gold Dollar without singing when I first met Gran. He said "Son, if you can't sing it don't pick it." I never heard Gran pick a tune without singing.

The verse that references going west has a historical context. People in the Knott County area were migrating west from the days of earliest settlement. There was an increase in this migration after 1900 when the logging industry began to decline. Many people in Knott County have relatives in western states. Cowboy songs were found in the Knott County area very early, most likely brought back by people visiting or returning from the west.

Oh, my last gold dollar's gone,
Oh, my last gold dollar's gone,
Well my board bill's due, my whisky bill too,
And my last gold dollar's gone.

She's a darling little girl I know,
She's a darling little girl I know,
She's a coming down the stair,
Combing back her curly hair,
She's a darling little girl I know.

Oh darling when I had you,I laced up the shoes you wear,But now I'm bound in the walls of jail,Your little feet must go bare.

She's dodging from the frost and snow,She's dodging from the frost and snow,Her little feet are bare 'cause she has no shoes to wear,She's dodging from the frost and snow.

Oh darling six months ain't long,No darling six months ain't long,Six months ain't long for me to be gone,No darling six months ain't long.

Well I'm going to the west this fall,Oh I'm going to the west this fall,I may do well and I may catch hell,But I'm going to the west this fall.

Track 2; KENTUCKY MOONSHINER, g-DGAD: This is a Kentucky song. I learned a verse or two from John Hall, who had quit playing banjo. I chose the above tuning for the song. I didn't hear my father play this song until he was ninety years old. He picked up the banjo one evening and played the song in the relative tuning g-DGBD, and sang one or two verses. His version sounded very close to the version I play.

I've been a moonshiner for twenty-one long years,I've spent all my money on liquor and beer,I'll go to some hollow and set up my still,And sell you one gallon for a two dollar bill.

I'll go to some grocery and drink with my friends,I have no woman to see what I spend,God bless them pretty women, how I wish they were mine,Their breath tastes as good as the good old moonshine.

Come all you pretty women and stand in a row,You look so sad and lonesome, so lonesome I know,God bless those pretty women, I love them one and all,But women and whisky have been my downfall.

Well it's cornbread when I'm hungry, corn whisky when I'm dry,It's pretty girls when I'm lonesome, and a casket when I die,The whole world's a bottle, and life's but a dram,When a bottle gets empty, it ain't worth one damn.


Track 4; LITTLE BIRDIE, e-CGAD:Little Birdie was a popular dance tune on Carr Creek in Knott County. One old gentleman said "I wore out a new pair of shoes one night while dancing to Little Birdie." My father said he learned to play the tune when he was about seventeen (in 1917) after hearing his uncle, Nord Gibson, whistle the tune. My father then remarked that he could play any tune that he could whistle. Once in a while he would tune for Little Birdie, play a stroke or two before laying the banjo down. I subsequently learned that the tune was the favorite of his only sister, Flora Gibson Morton, who learned to play banjo at the same time he did - Flora died in 1936. I heard Gar Maxie, a neighbor who was an excellent banjoist, play this tune. I cannot recall from whom I actually learned the verses. I do know that I was playing it not long after I traded for my first banjo. The verses below are those I sang on the Possum CD; however, I do know, and occasionally sing, other verses.

Little Birdie, Little Birdie, what makes you fly so high,
Don't you know Little Birdie that life will pass you by.

Little Birdie, Little Birdie, come sing to me your song,We've
a short time to be here and a long time to be gone.

Used to be a little boy, and I played down in the sand,Now
I am a great big boy, trying to make myself a man.

Married woman, married woman, just see what you have done,You've
cased me for to love you, and now your man has come.

Little Birdie, Little Birdie, come sing to me your song,We've
a short time to be here and a long time to be gone.

Track 5; EAST VIRGINIA, f-FGCD: Elmer Slone and McKinley Everage were the first people I heard play and sing this banjo song. East Virginia dates back to the migration from east Virginia to the North Carolina frontier, which began in the eighteenth century. This song most likely originated with African Americans. Early settlers in the Knott County area, including my Hammons, Gibson and Adams ancestors, had previously moved to the mountains of North Carolina from east Virginia. This migration included enslaved African Americans, whose ancestors brought the banjo from Africa.

I am from old east Virginia
To North Carolina I did go,
There I met a fair young maiden,
Lord, her name and age I did not know.

Oh her hair was a dark brown curly,
And her cheeks were a rosy red,
On her breast she wore white linen,
There I'd love to lay my head.

I'd rather be in some dark hollow,
Where the sun don't never shine,
Than to see you with some other,
And to know you'd never be mine.

I must leave old North Carolina,
I must leave you all alone,
I'm going across that rocky mountain,
East Kentucky will be my home.

Track 6; COLONIAL JONES EXPLAINS MOONSHINE (Spoken): A few months after the Possum CD was released I got a call from Indiana. The caller asked if the story I told about his father was true. After I told him it was, he told me where Colonial Jones had his moonshine still. He said, "Dad wouldn't let us drink moonshine, but he would sometimes let us drink still beer." Colonial Jones had his still in an old coal bank in a number four coal seam. The old coal openings were developed to provide coal for household use, and usually contained good water.

I am glad I did not use the correct location and name for the man who traded his wife for a mule. A call from one of his descendants might not have been pleasant.

Track 7; WILD BILL JONES; DADGAD:This tune is played on a 1923 trap door Gibson guitar banjo with a 14 inch head tuned to standard pitch with a capo at the second fret. The sixth string is a second D string, tuned in unison with the fourth, which gives the instrument a droning sound. I traded for my first guitar banjo when I was about fifteen. It was a Vega Whyte Laydie, a very unusual and expensive instrument for the area. Willard Collins told me he had a guitar when he was a boy. When I asked how he tuned it, he said "Aw, just ever which a way." I don't know exactly when I first learned this song. I do remember that one of Shade Amburgey's sons played it for me not long after I started learning banjo.

I went out on one day, just walking around,
When I met up with that Wild Bill Jones,
He was walking and talking with my own true love,
And I bid him for to leave her alone.

Oh he said my age is a twenty-two,
Much too old to be controlled,
I drew my revolver all from my side,
And destroyed that poor boy's soul

Oh he fell to the ground, and gave one dying moan,
Said oh darling I will leave you alone.

Well get out your long necked fifth
And we'll all get on a spree,
For today was the last of that Wild Bill Jones,
And tomorrow will be the last of me.

Track 8; PLAYING OVER THE TELEPHONE (Spoken): My father told me he played over the telephone with Simeon Ward at the head of Little Doubles Creek in 1916. I had this confirmed by William Aspinall Bradley in his book of poetry, Singin' Carr. Bradley stayed at the Hindman Settlement School in 1916. While there he walked to Carr Creek and described people listening to music over the telephone. Bradley elected the term "Singin' Carr" for his book of poetry because he was impressed by the number of people on Carr Creek who sang folksongs and ballads.

Track 9; CACKLING HEN, g-CGCE: I learned this tune from my father. He played this without singing, which was very rare. I immediately picked up the banjo after he left the room to find his tuning for the instrumental. I never asked my father how he played a tune or anything about his tunings. (See the article, Learning to Play Banjo: Emulation vs. Imitation, on this web site.)

When picking a banjo I hear words rather than notes. I am so attuned to listening for words that it is difficult for me to learn an instrumental. This is most likely the result of the way I learned to play.

Track 10; ONE MORNING IN MAY, g-CGCD: I learned this song from James Slone (1931-2007); he said he learned it from either Mel Amburgey or his brother Shade ( b. 1899). Gran Hudson's wife, Anne Hudson, said Shade often played for dances at the Buffalo Creek School. Don Amburgey said he played sitting in a chair with one leg crossed over the other and appeared to be "double-jointed." It was typical for a lone banjoist to play for a dance in that area of Kentucky – the tune most often played for dances was Hook and Line.  I never had the opportunity to hear Shade play. Shade's wife, Sara, also played the banjo. I was told she played in an up-picking style by brushing down then picking up with her first finger. Shade played in a stroke style.

One morning, one morning, one morning in May,
I spied a young couple upon the highway,
One was a maid, and a maid so fair,
The other a soldier and a brave volunteer.

Good morning, good morning, good morning to thee,
Oh where are you going my pretty laydie,
Oh I am going to the banks of the sea,
To hear the rivers a gliding, the nightingale sing.

They had not stood there but one hour or two,
When out from his knapsack a fiddle he drew,
And the music he played made the mountain to ring,
With the rivers a gliding, the nightingale sing.

Pretty soldier, pretty soldier, will you marry me,
Oh no kind maid that can never be,
Got a wife down in Texas and kids two or three,
And a wife in the army is one too many for me.

Pretty soldier, pretty soldier, oh please take my ring,
If you ever return let it be in the spring,
For I'd rather hear your fiddle or the touch of one string,
Than the river's gliding or the nightingale sing.

Track 11; WIFE AND MULE SWAP (Spoken): This is a true story. When I discussed this with Dad he remarked that Sid must have just got out of the pen (penitentiary), because he had been locked up for making moonshine. I told Dad that he was probably still making some, for he had his saddlebags full. I did not use Sid's full name, for obvious reasons. My father took Sid to town the day he had his trial, and as Sid phrased it, "proved in a court of law that he swapped his wife for a mule."

The writer, James Still, and my father were friends and often traveled to the local stock sale in Ison, Kentucky, on Saturdays. I once asked James if he knew Sid. James said he did and said that Sid often went to the stock sale. James said Sid referred to the coffee in the eatery at the stock sale as "penitentiary coffee" because it was very strong and black.

Track 12; OLD SMOKY, g - DGCD: My mother told me that her mother said that the word "have" was pronounced to rhyme with "grave" when she was a girl. Her mother, Cordelia Pugh Hammons, was born in 1861 in Floyd County, Virginia. My grandfather, Archelous Hammons, met her in Wise County, Virginia. He hauled goods by wagon across the big Pound Mountain between Kentucky and Virginia at a time when trees were sometimes cut and tied to the back of a wagon on the down side of the mountain.

My paternal grandfather, George W. Gibson, also hauled goods by wagon across the Pound Mountain. He sold farm produce in the Virginia coal camps. He was kidnapped ca. 1900 in the Pound Gap by a group of "bad men." A sister who had accompanied him walked back to Knott County to get help in retrieving his body. However, those going for his body met my grandfather before they had traveled very far - he had escaped from the kidnappers. I once asked my grandfather how he  escaped. He said, "Son they got me in a room and I bantered them for a fight. When one stood up I hit him and then his heels hit the ceiling; when his heels hit the ceiling I jumped out the window and outrun them all."

I got some of the verses for Old Smokey  from a neighbor, John Hall, and some from my mother, and then assembled them in the order shown below. I had never heard the song played on a banjo, so I chose a tuning that seemed to fit the melody. My mother told me that I played and sang it very much the way she remembered hearing it as a girl. I recently learned a different and haunting melody for this tune from Tom Bledsoe. Tom learned the tune from his father, who lives in southwest Virginia.

I gave these verses to a neighbor, Don Carlos Amburgey, in the early 1960s. He said he needed them for a project he had in a class at college. He had the verses published in the Kentucky Folklore Record in 1963. He also published a short version of Careless Love he collected from my father.

Way down on old Smoky,
Where it's covered in snow,
I lost my true lover
By courting too slow.

It's raining it's hailing,
The moon gives no light,
My horses can't travel
This dark stormy night.

Go put up your horses,
And feed them some hay,
Come sit down beside me
For as long as you stay.

My horses ain't hungry,
And won't eat your hay,
I'll ride down in Georgia
And feed on my way.

I'll ride down in Georgia
And write you my mind,
My mind is to marry
And leave you behind.

Now courting is a pleasure
And parting is a grief,
A false hearted true love
Is worse than a thief.

A thief will but rob you
And take what you have,
But a false hearted true love
Will lead you to the grave.

Track 13; HIGH TOP SHOES, g-CGCE: Railroads and mining camps came into the counties surrounding Knott ca. 1900. This is, I believe, a song from that era. I generally refer to this type of song as a mining camp tune. This was one of the favorite songs of my uncle, Cullen Morton, who died in the 1960s. He was married to my father's sister Flora. Both were reputed to have been fine banjoists and balladeers.

Oh where did you get those high top shoes,
And the dresses you wear so fine,
Well I got these shoes from a railroad man,
Dress from a driver in the mine,
Dress from a driver in the mine.

Oh you need not mind my high top shoes,
Nor the dresses that I wear,
There's coming in a man on that west bound train,
Gonna buy me a brand new pair,
Gonna buy me a brand new pair.

Oh I don't like a gambling man,
Lord he won't work in the mines,
And a gambling man will kill you if he can,
Drink up your blood like wine,
Drink up your blood like wine.

Oh where have you been my pretty little miss,
Oh where have you been all the day,
Lord I've been 'round the bend and come back again,
Rolling in my sweet babe's arms,
Rolling in my sweet Babe's arms.

Track 14; MORPHINE, g-DGBD: The only people I heard sing this song were James Slone and Mel Amburgey. James said he learned the song from Mel and his brother Shade. Mel and Shade were both balladeers and banjoists, as was James. Mel and Shade are both deceased. James moved to Indiana in the 1960s. After moving to Indiana he began to make and play fiddles.

I believe this is the first song I learned to play on the banjo. General D. Moore, a neighbor my age, showed me some of the notes to pick. General's father had made him a small fretless banjo and he was just beginning to play. His family later moved to Indiana, and General now lives in Texas. He recently told me he never continued with old time banjo, but instead became a bluegrass banjo player. People my age and older ca. 1950 who were interested in banjo began playing bluegrass.

Gran Hudson said his father, Steve Hudson, sang this song. Gran said his father always sang "I took it in a hell of a way," instead of "I took it in that morphine way," so I sometimes sing it this way. Also, James would intone in a speaking voice "Ain't that a scandal and a shame" after the line "And I didn't have one penny to my name." Banjo Bill Cornett from Hindman, Kentucky, sang a version of this song in which he used the line, "I didn't have a brownie to my name."

Many soldiers became addicted to morphine as a result of medication during the Civil War. For years thereafter it was a legal substance. I suspect this song originated, however, ca. 1900 when railroads were being built in the counties surrounding Knott.

I took morphine last Saturday night,
Lord I took it in that morphine way,
If the Doctor hadn't come just as he did,
Lord I'd a'been in my grave today.

Well it's peaches honey, Rye, Rock and Rye,
Oh baby let me tell you my dream,

I dreamed last night had a pocket full of money,
And a quarter in a big dice game.
But when I awoke, it was only a joke,
And I didn't have one penny to my name.

I took morphine last Saturday night,
Lord I took it a Hell of a way,
If the Doctor hadn't come just as he did,
Lord I'd a'been in my grave today.

Well it's peaches honey, Rye, Rock and Rye,
Oh baby I'll love you 'til the day I die.


Track 16; MORGAN'S MARCH, g-DGBD: I learned this tune from Horace Dixon, a Knott County banjo player. It is one of the few instrumental tunes I learned in Knott County. Horace said he learned the tune from his grandfather, Samp Combs. Horace said his Grandfather hid his horses and cattle when General John Hunt Morgan was raiding in Letcher County during the Civil War. He forgot his fiddle, which Morgan's raiders stole. Horace said when his Grandfather slipped up to the raider's campfire hoping to steal the fiddle back, Gen. Morgan was standing by the campfire fiddling this tune. Horace's Grandfather didn't get his fiddle back, but he did remember the tune, which he called Morgan's March. I added another part to the tune, but did not play it on this occasion.

Contrary to popular history, all mountain counties were not for the Union. It is my belief that support for one side or the other in eastern Kentucky was swayed mostly by the brigands who claimed to be Union or Confederate. Knott County was strongly for the Confederacy, and voting registration today is over 95% Democratic, a heritage of the Civil War. All my ancestors that I know about fought for the Confederacy, although I know some were Northern sympathizers. Many in Knott County did not favor going to war for either side, but were forced to do so to protect themselves and their families. The war in eastern Kentucky was particularly vicious; consequently, there has been less glorification of this conflict there than in areas where the fighting was less partisan.

Track 17; BIG JOHN HENRY, f# - DF#AD: I learned this song from Stu Jamieson. It was a favorite of Rufus Crisp, a banjo virtuoso recorded by Stuart Jameison and Margot Mayo in 1946. Big John Henry is a truly wonderful song, and is probably from the era when railroads were being built in Floyd County. Rufus played a fretless banjo and used numerous tunings. He lived in Floyd County, which adjoins Knott. I learned a similar song in Knott County from Foster Collins, a neighbor on Buffalo Creek, that I called Totin' All 'Round this World - I sing this song to the melody I learned for Totin' all 'Round this World. Foster Collins, as many in the area did, moved to Michigan and I never saw him again, for I also left Kentucky in the early 1960s.

Digging on that new railroad, mud up to my knees,
Digging on that new railroad, mud up to my knees,
Working for Big John Henry, and he's so hard to please,
I've been all 'round this world.

Used to have the big white hat, hoss and buggy fine,
Used to have the big white hat, hoss and buggy fine,
Used to court them pretty girls, I used to call them mine,
I've been all 'round this world.

Once I had a big gray hoss, and Darrow was his name,
Used to have a big gray hoss, and Darrow was his name,
They caught me making liquor and I had to leave their plain,
I've been all 'round this world.

Well single boy, single boy, I know you see a good time,
Single boy, single boy, I know you see a good time,
Wait 'til you get married, you'll work 'til the sun goes down,
I've been all 'round this world.

Single girl, single girl, the dress you wear so fine,
Single girl, single girl, the dress you wear so fine,
Wait 'til you get married, you'll work 'til the sun goes down,
I've been all 'round this world.

Digging on that new railroad, mud up to my knees,
Digging on that new railroad, mud up to my knees,
Digging for Big John Henry, and he's so hard to please,
I've been all 'round this world.

Track 18; CHIGGER BILL'S STILL (Spoken)

Track 19; BELL CONIE KNOB, g – DGCD: I was given the words to this song over thirty years ago by Mrs. Alfie Gibson, the wife of Bud Gibson, a first cousin of my father. I had the words but no melody until recently. I met Glenn Thomas, a fine musician living in Edgewater, Florida, and told him about the song. Glenn, a relative of the early dulcimer maker James Edward Thomas, is from a musical family. He is from Knott County, and once lived on Steerfork, a branch of Carr Creek. His neighbor was Mel Amburgey. Glenn said Mel made a fretless banjo that had a sassafras neck and a groundhog hide for a head. Bell Conie was one of the songs he sang and played while sitting on his front porch. I gave Glenn the words to Bell Conie and he sang it using a guitar for back up. I also recently heard Herman Gibson, a first cousin of my father, sing the song unaccompanied. I believe, therefore, that the melody I play here is very close to the original. The song was written by Malcolm Vance, a half-brother to my Aunt Dora, the widow of Bob Gibson. It recounts an actual event and pokes fun at some of the participants. My father, Mal Gibson, cut up a community still located on the Bell Conie Knob, a high peak between Buffalo and Big Doubles Creeks. He is referenced in the song.

The "dairy feed sack" referenced in the fifth verse refers to a sack in which one hundred pounds of cattle feed was sold. My father sold these in his country grocery store. Some had pretty patterns and were used by local women to sew various items. The "chalk eyes" referenced in the sixth verse was a local name for the errand boy around a still. Making moonshine was hard work, and required a lot of drudgery. The chalk eyes were often paid in liquor which was usually not the best of the run.

Jim Wess, Harrison, John and Rob,
Set up a still on the Bell Conie Knob.

For days and weeks they made their beer,
They didn't know the officers were near.

They heard the officers coming, and thought it was Clark Day,
Harrison gave the signal and they made their get-away.

Talk about their running as they left the still,
The bushes were all broken where they fled down the hill.

They left a gallon of liquor in a dairy feed sack,
It looked as if it were taken off some man's back.

Or they had it sacked up just ready for to start,
By the looks of the liquor it was the chalk eyes part.

It happened that Mal Gibson was passing back through,
When there by the path he saw Martha's old shoe,

And out a piece farther, about the fence I guess,
Hanging in the bush was a piece of Eva's old dress.

Track 20; Pretty Polly, DADGAD: I used a ca. 1924 Gibson Guitar banjo, capoed at the second fret, with a D string replacing the sixth, which gives the banjo a more droning sound. Pretty Polly was one of my father's favorite tunes. I sometimes play it on the banjo in a stroke style similar to the way he played it. More often, however, I use a two finger picking style on the banjo and a three finger style on the guitar banjo.

Over yonder stands Pretty Polly, over yonder she stands,
Over yonder stands Pretty Polly, over yonder she stands,
Gold rings on her fingers and lily white hands.

Oh Polly, Pretty Polly, come go along with me,
Oh Polly, Pretty Polly, come go along with me,
Before we get married, some pleasure to see.

Oh he led her over mountains and valleys so deep,
Oh he led her over mountains and valleys so deep,
Then Polly, Pretty Polly, she began to weep.

Saying Willie, Oh Willie, I'm afraid of your ways,
Saying Willie, Oh Willie, I'm afraid of your ways,
I'm afraid you will lead my poor body astray.

He led her a little farther and what did she spy,
He led her a little farther and what did she spy,
But a newly dug grave with a spade lying by.

Oh Polly, Pretty Polly, you guessed just about right,
Oh Polly, Pretty Polly, you guessed just about right,
I dug on your grave the most part of last night.

Oh she fell to her knees and pleaded for her life,
She fell to her knees and pleaded for her life,
Said let me be a single girl for the rest of my life.

He stabbed her to the heart and the heart's blood did flow,
He stabbed her to the heart and the heart's blood did flow'
Into the grave Pretty Polly did go.

He through a little dirt over her and started for home,
He through a little dirt over her and started for home,
Leaving nothing behind but the wild birds to mourn.

Now a debt to the devil old Willie must pay,
A debt to the devil old Willie must pay,
For killing Pretty Polly, then running away.

Track 21; Old German War Introduction (Spoken)

Track 22; OLD GERMAN WAR, f# - GDAD: I believe this is the tuning Mel Amburgey used for this song, which he sang about World War I. He was a veteran of that war, and by the time I heard him play the song, we had already suffered another German war. I do remember that Mel had tears in his eyes when he sang this for me. I also heard James Slone play this song, which he had learned from Mel. This song is derived from Texas Rangers, which was a popular tune on Carr Creek. A version of this song was also sung by Banjo Bill Cornett, from Hindman, Kentucky.

Come all you good people wherever you may be,
I hope you'll pay attention and listen to me,
My name is nothing extra, the truth to you I'll tell,
I am a brave volunteer, and I'm sure I wish you well.

At the age of sixteen I joined that army grand,
We left old Kentucky and sailed for a foreign land,
Our Captain he informed us, and I know he thought it right,
Before the morning comes boys, I'm sure we'll have to fight.

I saw them Germans coming, I heard them give their yell,
My feelings at that moment no human tongue can tell,
I saw their shining rifles, and their bullets 'round us flew,
Now all my strength it left me and all my courage too.

We fought the whole day through before the battle was done,
The dead and the dying lay under a bloody sun,
And when the battle was o'er, and the Germans had fled,
We lay down our rifles and counted up our dead.

Now all of us were wounded, our noble Captain slain,
The sun it was setting all across a bloody plain,
And then I thought of mother, who begged me for to stay,
And not to go with strangers and sail so far away.

I've been in the midst of battle, I know its hardships well,
I've been across that great ocean, and rode down streets of hell,
I've lived a life of misery, and been where death it roams,
I'll tell you from experience boys, you had better stay at home.

Track 23; OLD REUBIN, f# - DF#AD: This is the tuning used for Reuben by both Gran Hudson and my father. It seems to have been widespread throughout the Appalachian Mountains, which suggests an early origin. My father called this tune Eight Hundred Miles.  Gran called the tune Old Reuben, and I usually sing his version, as I did here. Betsy Layne was at one time a bustling coal town in east Kentucky. Stu Jameison said Rufus Crisp also used Betsy Layne in his version of Reuben.

Old Reuben had a train, ran from Hell to Betsy Layne,
And I'd like to been a driver on that line.

The longest train I ever saw ran down that Brown Cove line,
And the fastest train I ever saw carried away that woman of mine.

That freight train wrecked last Saturday night, and killed that woman of mine,
They found one lump of her coal black hair, and her body has never been found.

Pretty girls don't you weep, pretty girls don't you moan,
Pretty girls don't you leave your home.

Oh you caused me to weep and you caused me to moan,
And you caused me to leave my home.

And the day I left my mother's house was the day I left my home,
And the day you turned your back on me was the day you lost a friend.

Me and my woman had a little falling out,  she bundled up her clothes to leave,
When she stepped on that two o'clock train, then I stepped on the three.

If you say yes, we'll get married I guess, but if you say no,
I'll railroad no more, I'll sidetrack my train and go home.

Them long steel rails, them short cross ties,
I'm walking my way back home.

Track 24; CLUCK OLD HEN, g – DGCD: Cluck old hen was a banjo tune popular in Knott County and throughout the mountains. Like many banjo songs it is also a fine dance tune. Often a lone banjo player would play for a frolic in the home, or for a square dance in a more formal setting. Banjo players needed to play loud and lay down a beat for dancers to follow. I call this type of lick the square dance shuffle. Rufus Crisp called this lick his "double shuffle."

There is a version of Cluck Old Hen by Knott County banjo player Banjo Bill Cornett on the CD Mountain Music of Kentucky. He was one of the finest banjo players in the mountains. The CD also features Granville Bowling, another wonderful banjo player from Knott County. Locally, Granville was known as "Bad Eye." Glenn Thomas played with Bad Eye in the 1940s and said he played in the down stroke style as well as the driving two finger thumb lead style that is recorded on Mountain Music of Kentucky. I never heard Bad Eye play. He moved his family to Dayton, Ohio around 1950.

The Oven Fork Baptist Church, established in 1820 in Harlan County had ten written prohibitions for church members. The ninth was "Frolics not permitted in the home of members of the church." Most Baptist church members were in their middle ages or older, and did not approve of banjo playing and dancing. Young folks, however, managed to play the banjo and dance in spite of this prohibition.