woensdag 13 november 2013

Jesse James (1920) / Jesus Christ (1940)

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In April of 1882, Jesse James was murdered.... With Jesse's death (shot in the back of the head, unarmed, by a man he trusted as a friend), the legend was complete.... All that was needed in order to enshrine the legend permanently was a ballad. Within a short time after Jesse's death, an otherwise unknown minstrel by the name of Billy Gashade (mentioned in the last verse of the song) created the ballad which has come to be Jesse James' lasting epitaph....



The earliest known printing of "Jesse James" till now is an 1887 pocket songster in the Library of Congress: "Comic and Sentimental Songs".
In this book "Jesse James" was sung by Robert Jones, born blind in East Tennessee. In the text of "Jesse James", in the last stanza it says the song was made by Billy LaShade.
Here's the text from that book:

Click on the page below and you can scroll through the pages of the book

Around 1890 "Jessie James" was printed as a broadside by New York publisher Henry J. Wehman.

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In 1910 "Jesse James" was collected by John A. Lomax in "Cowboy Songs and other Frontier Ballads". In the last stanza of Lomax's text of "Jesse James", it says the song was made by Billy Gashade.

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The first recorded version of this traditional I could find : Bentley (or Bently) Ball in 1920.
His source for the "Jesse James" ballad was John A. Lomax's 1910 lyrics as printed above.
He made a few minor textual changes: "dirty little coward" in Lomax's lyrics became "mean little coward" in Ball's version.

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       Bentley Ball

The only info on Bentl(e)y Ball I could find is this: Bently Ball was an itinerant typewriter salesman and song collector who forayed into recording. He also was the first artist to record "Gallows Trees" (which became a classic, recorded by Leadbelly as "Gallis Pole" and Led Zeppelin as "Gallows Pole").
The recorded history of "Jesse James" begins rather early compared to most of the other songs in this book. It was first recorded by Bentley Ball for Columbia in May, 1919, as part of a group of folksongs rendered in concert-hall style for "cultured" listeners.
Bentley Ball also wrote a book in which he made some comments on cowboy songs like "The Dying Cowboy" and "Jesse James"




(o) Bentley Ball (1920)
Recorded April 1919 in New York
Matrix # 90039
Released in 1920 on Columbia A3085.

Listen here:

(c) Bascom Lamar Lunsford 1924 (as "Jesse James")

Bascom Lamar Lunsford, v; acc. own bj.
Recorded in Atlanta, GA Saturday, March 15, 1924
8578-A Jesse James OK 40155

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On the next link you can download a version Lunsford recorded in Swannanoa in 1946


Ernest Thompson, h/bj. (as "Jessie James")
New York, NY Saturday, April 26, 1924
Released on Columbia 145-D, Harmony 5121-H

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(c) Riley Puckett 1924 (as "Jesse James")
Acc. by Gid Tanner on guitar
Recorded September 11, 1924
Released on Columbia 15033-D

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Listen here:

(c) George Reneau 1924 (as "Jesse James") ----> different song
Recorded September 12, 1924
Released on Vocalion 14897

As you can hear this is a different song about Jesse James

(c) Vernon Dalhart 1925 (as "Jesse James")
Recorded September 1925 in New York
Released on Gennett 3143 and Silvertone 4012

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Listen here:

(c) Vernon Dalhart 1925 (as "Jesse James")
Recorded September 22, 1925
Released on Edison 51621

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And on Edison Blue Amberol cylinder 5057

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Listen here:

(c) Fiddlin’ John Carson and his Virginia Reelers 1927 (as "Jesse James")

Fiddlin’ John Carson, f; unknown, f; unknown, bj; Moonshine Kate (Rosa Lee Carson), g.
Recorded Atlanta, GA Thursday, March 17, 1927
Released on Okeh 45139

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Listen here:

(c) Vernon Dalhart 1927 (as "Jesse James")

Vernon Dalhart, v; acc. Murray Kellner, f; own h; Carson Robison, g. New York, NY
Recorded April 12, 1927
Released on Victor 20966


(c) Frank Luther 1927 (as "Jesse James")
Recorded Febr/March 1927
Released on Grey Gull 4133

(c) Harry "Mac" McClintock 1928 (as "Jesse James")

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Listen here:

(c) Marc Williams 1928 (as "Jesse James")
Recorded March 23, 1928 in Chicago, IL
Released on Brunswick 269


(c) Uncle Dave Macon & Sid Harkreader 1929 (as "Life and Death of Jesse James")
Uncle Dave Macon, bj/v; Sid Harkreader, g
Recorded in Chicago, IL Thursday, June 20, 1929
Released on Vocalion 5356

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Listen to a sample here:


(c) Woody Guthrie 1940 (as "Jesse James")

Listen here:


(c) Woody Guthrie 1940 (as "Jesus Christ")

In 1940 Woody Guthrie turned Gashade's original song around. Observing the disparity between how the rich and the poor people lived in New York City, he wondered what might happen if Jesus "was to walk into New York City and preach like he use to." Using Gashade's melody as well as the lyrical structure from "Jesse James," Guthrie provided his answer, putting Jesus in the lead role and having him nailed in the air by the bankers, preachers, cops and soldiers.

And here's Woody's "Jesus Christ"

In 1939 Woody Guthrie had recorded a song with the same title "Jesse James", which is a different song in both melody and lyrics. That version was copied from Leadbelly's "Western Cowboy" (1933) or "Cow Cow Yicky Yea / Out on the Western Plains" (1943) or "Western Plain (When I Was a Cowboy)" (1944)

SEE NEXT LINK: http://jopiepopie.blogspot.nl/2013/11/sporting-cowboy-1927-old-chisholm-trail.html

On his turn Leadbelly's version was adapted from Watts & Wilson's "The Sporting Cowboy" -
Watts & Wilson (Wilmer Watts and Frank Wilson), c. April, 1927, Chicago, IL.
But more so from the traditional "The Old Chisholm Trail" recorded on March 22, 1928 by Harry "Mac" McClintock

Listen to Woody and Leadbelly here:

Watts & Wilson's "The Sporting Cowboy" is here:


Harry "Mac" McClintock's "The Old Chisholm Trail" is here:

(c) Carl Sandburg 1945 (as "Jesse James")


Listen to a sample here:


(c) Pete Seeger 1957 ( as "Jesse James")


Listen here:

(c) Kingston Trio 1961 ( as "Jesse James")


Listen here:

(c) Bob Dylan 1961 (as "Jesse James")

In February 1961 Dylan sang a portion of "Jesse James", recorded in the East Orange, New Jersey home of Bob & Sid Gleason



Listen to a sample here:


Bob Dylan, in his song "Outlaw Blues" from his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, defends his decision to "go electric" with the line "Ain't gonna hang no picture, ain't gonna hang no picture frame/Well, I might look like Robert Ford, but I feel just like a Jesse James."

(c) Bob Seger  (1972) (as "Jesse James")


Listen here:

(c) Ry Cooder 1980 (as "Jesse James")

 Ry Cooder's arrangement of the song plays over the end credits of Walter Hill's 1980 movie The Long Riders

Listen here:

(c) Pogues 1985 (as "Jesse James")


Listen here:

(c) U2 1988 (as "Jesus Christ")
Due to U2's spirited 1988 cover, Guthrie's revision as "Jesus Chist" may be as well known -- if not more so -- than the original "Jesse James"

Listen to U2's version of Woody Guthrie's "Jesus Christ"

(c) Jackson C Frank 1997 (as "Jesse James")
(home-recording) on CD "Blues Run the Game"


Listen here:

(c) Van Morrison, Lonnie Donegan & Chis Barber 2000 (as "Ballad of Jesse James")
on album "Skiffle Sessions" (Live in Belfast 1998)


Listen here:


(c) Bruce Springsteen 2006 (as "Jesse James")



Listen here:

(c) Nick Cave 2007 (as "Ballad of Jesse James")

A portion of the song is performed on-screen by Nick Cave, playing a strolling balladeer in a bar patronised by Robert Ford, in the 2007 movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

View here:

More versions:

The Originals © by Arnold Rypens - JESSE JAMES


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