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Ralph Stanley - Pretty Polly

Deposit Logout. Select any odd to add a bet. Single Bets. We have no official cause of death for Billson, but Fowler thinks it was probably scurvy that did for him. This practice was not adopted by the British Navy until the s, and not fully understood even then.


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Whether it was scurvy or not is a different matter. The Bedford was over miles from Portsmouth when its carpenter died, about 15 miles from the nearest land, and with over a month of her voyage home remaining. Sharing a ship with a decomposing body is not pleasant, nor conducive to health and morale. His victim on the other hand, as the ballad tells it, was eventually buried in Gosport churchyard. In fact, it looks as if just over a month must have passed between the second and third lines of this extract.

The Bedford remained in Portsmouth harbour until February 28, , and then sailed back to the anchorage at Spithead, where she spent the next week. They remain that way for the rest of the year. If there ever was a real murder behind The Gosport Tragedy , then the ballad itself seems to be our only record of it. Cluer would have been keen to keep such a useful source of material happy, either because he needed more than one interview to get the Gosport story down in full or because he hoped other lucrative yarns might follow.

Whatever its source, the most significant change came when someone decided William was getting off rather too easily in the original song. What was needed here, they felt, was for someone to give him a far nastier death. This retitles the ballad Love and Murder , cuts it to just 44 lines, and sets its action in the English town of Worcester. As he was running from the captain with speed, He met with his Polly which made his heart bleed, She stripped him and tore him, she tore him in three, Because that he murdered her baby and she. Three was a number often encountered in beliefs about demonology at the time, which presumed the Devil and his agents used it as a means of mocking the Holy Trinity.


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For my money, though, it brings a welcome touch of added drama to the song, and all the more so once a tidy little internal rhyme had been added. Boden included the song in his A Folk Song A Day project and adds a note there applauding the fact that it gives Polly such a satisfying revenge. Pitts, London, circa Hodges, London, circa Harkness, Preston, circa As this process continued in Britain, copies of the original ballad were still being produced in America. Often, that wording would remain in place for well over a century.

This idea appears again in a recording of Pretty Polly by the Kentucky banjo player Pete Steele, which Sparks singles out in her essay on the song. Oh, what have I done? God help me, I fear my poor soul is undone. After a century in print, The Gosport Tragedy was so familiar it produced a music hall parody. Cowell had begun his stage career as a child, touring America in various Shakespeare plays with his actor father.

Returning to England in about , and still just 20 years old, he decided there was more money in this burlesque side of his act and ditched the Bard to make room for more comic songs. What emerges from all this is something very like the comic monologues Stanley Holloway made famous in the s. Singing doodle, doodle chop, chum, chow choral li la.

The first evidence we have of it taking the name we know today comes in another parody, which seems to have been current in the s. Both songs include a knife, both have Polly weeping at some point along the way, and both give her an unwanted pregnancy. The fact that Mrs MM knew her song as Pretty Polly , coupled with the very prominent use of that phrase in its opening lines, suggests the real ballad may already have adopted that name when the parody was produced. If so, no printed copy seems to have survived. More reliable evidence emerged in , when the English song collector Cecil Sharp heard an unusual version in North Carolina.

Sharp had already expressed some interest in The Gosport Tragedy , saying in that it was one of the few supernatural folk ballads still popular among the rural singers he interviewed. The fact that several unconnected folk songs sometimes called themselves Pretty Polly already did not prevent our own ballad being re-titled in her honour. Gennett stressed his roots as an East Kentucky banjo player by calling the song Purty Polly on its release.

He sets the story in London for a start, and allows himself a leisurely 11 verses to get it told. Two other banjo players released their own versions of Pretty Polly in , and both were as careful as Hammond to skirt around this sensitive issue. Her lips are too slack to kiss.

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She can only be entered with a knife. She does, however, know a grave when she sees one. Her only sin is recognising her grave, having knowledge of death. In America, this may be sin enough. Hammond shies clear of that stanza, but replaces it with a suggestion that Willie is somehow testing Polly as they walk through the woods: He led her over hills and valleys so deep, He led her over hills and valleys so deep, Polly, she mistrusted, and then began to weep. In the American song, Willie kills for no reason at all, and seems to consider it a trivial act. That makes him a far scarier figure than his English ancestor.

They were a string band led by Lily May and Rosie Ledford, a pair of Kentucky sisters recruited to provide music for an Ohio country music station. Pete Seeger, a New Yorker, broke that regional monopoly in , edging the song across a genre boundary too from country into folk. The first three of these average out at 11 verses each, the middle three at nine verses, and the final three at eight. To modern ears, he sounds far more like a blues performer than a country one. This is a very vengeful God indeed, and Ball takes some relish in acting as his prophet.

They went up a little further and what did they spy? A new-dug grave with a spade lying by. He stabbed her through the heart, her heart blood it did flow, He stabbed her through the heart, her heart blood it did flow, And into the grave Pretty Polly did go. He threw something over her and turned to go home, He threw something over her and turned to go home, Leaving nothing behind him but the girl there to moan. The Theodore Dreiser novel Lomax mentions, published in , fictionalises a notorious murder case of 19 years earlier. In the real case, Chester Gillette drowned Grace Brown, his pregnant girlfriend, in a New York State lake because she kept pressing him to marry her.

pretty Polly

He was executed in the electric chair for this crime, and Dreiser recycled the tale as fiction a few years later. That Lomax compilation introduced a whole new generation of musicians to Pretty Polly , including Jake Speed, who heads a Cincinnati band called The Freddies. Maybe the killer in the song is just so pathetic and desperate that I wanted to feel a little of that. Sounds like a meeting of the Durango Amateur Dramatic Society! Dylan did include Pretty Polly in his early New York sets, though, and also borrowed its melody for his own composition The Ballad of Hollis Brown. The Scottish guitarist Bert Jansch included it in his set at a Glasgow folk club gig which later surfaced on a live album, and Sandy Denny cut a studio version in Of all these artists, none outshine Denny and Collins.

Pretty Polly - The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection - Missouri State University

Both women start the story gently but build to full-throated anger and pain as Polly meets her death. Although both versions include snatches of direct narration from Willie and Polly themselves, the singers come across as quoting these characters rather than choosing to inhabit either one. Crispin Gray discovered Pretty Polly in the Collins recording, introducing it to singer Katie Jane Garside when they put their own band, Queenadreena, together in Myth is important. Not even any of the country rockers did one-chord, purely modal stuff to my knowledge.

Wiggy Smith and Denny, his uncle, both performed their own take on the song, and each featured some unique lines.

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Once in a while, the best of these amateur efforts made their way on to disc. Love and Murder scored a commercial release too, thanks to Jon Raven cutting it for his album with The Halliard. He sailed upon the ocean, for many days they went, He sailed upon the ocean, for many days they went, Till the ship struck an iceberg: to the bottom she went. My guess is that the iceberg reference was added to give a topical flavour when the Titanic sank in Rode her over hills and valleys so dry, He rode her over hills and valleys so dry, And Polly looked up and she begin to cry. He opened her bosom as white as the snow, He opened her bosom as white as the snow, Stabbed her through her heart and her blood it did flow.

Has he been shouting at her? Screaming in her face? By , the folk revival was just a distant memory, and Pretty Polly found few takers in the rock scene that replaced it. The song remained as popular as ever among bluegrass musicians and their fans, but dropped out of sight for almost everyone else.

If you ever did hear it on the radio at that time, it was likely to be on a programme devoted to music for toddlers. Posting to the folk music board Mudcat in September , Marymarymary recalled hearing a version called Little Molly during her own childhood. In this version, throwing a little dirt over the girl is not callous enough for Willie, so he chooses an even crueller blanket: He buried her deep, and he strew the grave with thorns, He buried her deep and he strew the grave with thorns, And left no-one behind but the wild birds to mourn.

For all the feeling she imparts to its lyrics, however, she might as well be singing about puppy dogs and rainbows. They then went on to sing along, bang on the piano, play the mayonnaise jar and anything else they could get their hands on. Kids grasp the value of story, I think. Obviously our growth story would not have been achieved if we did not put you, our client, first.

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