zaterdag 11 mei 2013

Shorty George (1939) / He Was a Friend of Mine (1961) / Just a Hand to Hold (1965)

"He Was a Friend of Mine" is a traditional folk song in which the singer laments the death of a friend. In 1961 Rolf Cahn and Eric Von Schmidt cut the first version of "He Was A Friend Of Mine", (recorded by Bob Dylan the same year).
It was contained on the next album on the Folkways-label (FA 2417)

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Listen here:

But at the bottom of the liner-notes of the Folkways-album by Rolf Cahn and Eric Von Schmidt they mention this:

"He Was A Friend Of Mine", sung with the title "Shorty George" by Smith Casey, Clemens State Farm, Brazoria, Texas, 1939.

And indeed Cahn and Von Schmidt's "He Was A Friend Of Mine" is an almost exact cover-version of Smith Casey's mesmerizing "Shorty George". Casey cut the song and ten others for John Lomax in 1939. Traditionally the Shorty George was the train that took convicts (and visitors) to and from the prison.

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Originally released on a 78rpm set in 1942.

Smith Casey / Little Brother - Untitled (Vinyl, 12", 78 RPM) | Discogs

In the late 1950s or early 1960s it was re-issued by the Library of Congress on the next album:

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Afro-American Blues and Game Songs
Library of Congress AFS L4:
The LP album  was accompanied by liner note booklet, packed with information about the recordings and the traditions they represented.
Edited by Alan Lomax, 1942. PDF, 10 pp.,

Afro-American Blues And Game Songs (CD, Compilation, Reissue) | Discogs

Listen here:

Or here

But already in February 1934 James Baker (Iron Head) recorded a version of "Shorty George", at Central State Farm, Sugarland, Texas, with a bit different melody, and with floating lyrics.

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Listen here:

Leadbelly recorded the song on a number of occasions, also a bit different than the one Casey sang. He even sings: "Well-a Shorty George, he AIN'T no friend of mine"

Leadbelly King of the 12-String Guitar, Columbia Roots 'N' Blues 467893

Listen here to Leadbelly's version recorded on February 5, 1935 in New York City

Just to add some confusion, Sippie Wallace recorded a song by the same title which is UNRELATED to the versions above.

(-) Sippie Wallace (1923)
Recorded October 26, 1923
Matrix 08491=A 
Released on Okeh 8106A

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Listen here:

This one's also UNRELATED

(-) Tiny Franklin (1924)
Piano acc. by the composer George Thomas
Recorded December 10, 1923
Matrix G11696
Released on Gennett 5345

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Listen here:

More cover-versions of "Shorty George"/ "He Was A Friend Of Mine":

(c) Bob Dylan (1961)
Bob Dylan picked up the song from the Cahn/von Schmidt recording and made some changes to the song when he recorded it for his first album on November 20, 1961. However, Dylan's recording was not included in the album. That recording of the song eventually had its official issuance in 1991 on volume 1 of Columbia Records' Dylan Bootleg Series.

He Was A Friend Of Mine | The Official Bob Dylan Site

Listen here:

Or here:

(c) Dave Van Ronk (1963)

Dave Van Ronk - Folksinger (Vinyl, LP, Mono) | Discogs

Listen here:

(c) Dian And The Greenbriar Boys 1963 (as "He Was A Friend")
(with an arrangement and lyrics by Hoyt Axton)

Listen here:

(c) Bobby Bare (1964)
(dedicated to  Jim Reeves who died in a plane-crash in 1964)

Bobby Bare - He Was A Friend Of Mine (Vinyl, 7", Single) | Discogs

(c) Byrds (1965)
(dedicated to John F Kennedy who was killed in 1963)

The Byrds - Turn! Turn! Turn! (Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo) | Discogs

(c) The Byrds also performed the song during their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 17, 1967, where band member David Crosby made controversial remarks alleging that Kennedy had not been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald alone, but was actually the victim of a U.S. Government conspiracy.

(c) Mark Spoelstra 1965 (Just A Hand To Hold)
Mark says he wrote it after he left Cambridge, when he was in Fresno
doing alternative service, in 1964.  It's partly influenced on the van Ronk
song, but with an entirely different theme, based on a true story.
And that story was contained in Broadside Magazine # 49:

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(The Grateful Dead (SEE THIRD VIDEO BELOW) commonly performed "He Was a Friend of Mine" during live concerts between 1966 and 1970, but their version was in fact based on the Mark Spoelstra song, "Just a Hand to Hold".
Recorded in 1965 by Mark Spoelstra on his LP Five And Twenty Questions.

Mark Spoelstra - Five & Twenty Questions (Vinyl, LP, Stereo) | Discogs

Grateful Dead Lyric And Song Finder

Here's Mark's version:

(c) Leaves (1966) (as "He Was a Friend of Mine")

The Leaves - Hey Joe (Vinyl, LP, Album, Mono) | Discogs

Listen here: The Leaves - YouTube


Grateful Dead Lyric And Song Finder

(c) Ramblin' Jack Elliott (1998)
(in remembrance of "Sweet Pete")

Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Friends Of Mine (CD, HDCD, Album) | Discogs

(c) Cat Power (2005)
From a John Peel session in 2000

Bob Dylan | John Peel Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia

(c) Willie Nelson (2005)
(in movie: "Brokeback Mountain")

On the website Roots of the Grateful Dead the next song is mentioned as a possible precursor:
Ethel Ridley 1925
"He Was A Good Man (But He's Dead And Gone)"
Label: Ajax 17131
Recorded circa March 1925, New York City

And numerous more cover-versions>

Cover versions of Shorty George by Smith Casey | SecondHandSongs

1 opmerking:

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