Saturday, December 8, 2018

Headrick, Hughes, and Gentry Kin in an Appalachian Folk Song Project

I had some old notes from Mrs. Amanda Winkler (Headrick-Young researcher) among my genealogy scraps about a 1938-1939 folk-song project, in which some of the descendants of Mary "Polly" (Rice) Headrick took part. She had taken some notes from the research of the teacher who had been involved in the project. The teacher mentioned the Headrick-Young kin as part of an old folk-song project. The Headrick granddaughter and several great-granddaughters were mentioned as rich sources for old Appalachian songs and ballads they had learned from their parents and grandmother. Winkler quoted the teacher as saying,
"They learned the songs as small children sitting on their father's knee or seated on a stool at the feet of their grandmother or great-grandmother, watching them weave. I have never heard anything like the wealth of old songs stored in their memory, and the amazing thing is that they are all right at their tongue's end, ready to be sung. It is by them more than any other family, that I have been able to see how the songs are handed down through the years by oral transmission."
I'm sorry that I can't give more specifics about the source. This was just something another researcher sent me by email, and didn't share the name of the teacher or the circumstances--whether she had read this old material in an archives, or had attended a lecture, or what.

According to Winkler's email to me, the teacher had not specifically mentioned by name the great-grandmother (Polly), grandmother (Martha "Moffie" Jane), or mother (Georgia Ann), but did mention Georgia’s daughters and granddaughters by name--among them, daughters, Rosa Hughes, Ethel Welch, Exona Hughes, and Mollie Green; and granddaughters, Pearl Green Gentry and Ella Hughes.

Mrs. Winkler’s note to me said that the teacher had called the family (Headrick-Young-Green) a rich source of songs and ballads, and said that the women sang the songs. (So, I infer that the teacher listened to their versions of the ballads and wrote down the lyrics).

I decided to do a search on some of these family names in connection to Appalachian music, and was able to find a nice reference on a website. The site just gives a long list of cataloged song titles. Unfortunately, it doesn't cite any recordings, though the women did actually sing songs during the project. But the list does give the titles for which the women contributed text versions of the old songs. Possibly, their text versions might be found in some library archives--that would be nice!
The website cites a 1946 article which lists the titles and the names of contributors:
"A Check List of the Titles of Tennessee Folksongs," by Edwin C. Kirkland. The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 59, No. 234 (Oct. - Dec., 1946), pp. 423-476.
Edwin C. Kirkland was with the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. 
Bluegrass Messengers

To understand the list on that website:

The researcher apparently collected as many versions he could of all the Appalachian songs he could find, so there are sometimes several contributors of the same song--in other words, the same song was perhaps handed down orally in several different versions, with differences in text or music, and the researcher collected each different version. In some cases, he has only the text. In others, he has the text and/or a recording. For the Headrick descendants, he only cites text versions.

You may find other songs or family members mentioned in the list. It's a pretty long list. haven't had time to really give it a complete going-over.

I believe this probably would have been part of the 1937-1938 Federal Music Project (FMP), one of the "New Deal" projects of the Great Depression era. Sure wish they had recordings of our kinfolk!

Pearl Green Gentry, of Sale Creek, and Mrs. Rosa Hughes, of Flat Top, were listed as two contributors of text versions of "Gypsie Laddie" to the project.

Pearl Green Gentry also contributed a text version of "Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard," "Pretty Cold Rain," and "A Pretty Fair Maiden."

I was able to find a solo, a cappella, folk version of the ballad, Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard, as sung by Jean Ritchie. It is really long. (The audio file is about halfway down the following webpage): Matty Groves, Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard

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