Burl Ives was the first to record this classic 19th century American folk song.
My wife Angelee grew up on folk music -- her father sang them to her when she was a baby -- and she had (I still have, of course) volumes and volumes of folksong books and sheet music (she played piano). And she knew ALL of Burl Ives stuff. I can, even now, hear in my head her singing songs to our then-young son, like Widdicomb Fair, along with High Barbary (she sang it a bit differently than Burl Ives, but same words and general melody), and so many others.
We've lost a lot of stuff. Who, these days, even knows that those old folksongs ever existed in the first place? And it's not as though people "back then" knew and loved those old folk songs because they were current songs written by and for them in their time. The folk songs they knew were even way more "back then" back then. They had "history" in their current lives, whether of musical or literary or whatever type. We have, what?, Madonna? (or is even she passé by now?). Long live Word and Song -- we need it desperately these fleeting days.
Burl Ives dropped in for a visit at the children's home I lived in in the later 40s. He had another man with him and Mr Ives intrduced himself told us who he was and asked. Us if we wanted to hear some songs and we all said yes. He had a banjo with him and of course Blue Tail Fly was one of those songs. I remember when he left they had to hail a taxi and we asked te go out and get his autograph. What a nice memory!
Silver Burdett Ginn had series of textbooks for state of California elementary music classes, late 50s through 60s. It was thrilling to have music class at least every week, boys and girls all singing together. To this day I know at least two verses of each US military song. I knew what it was like to be a slave (“Jump down spin around pick a bale of cotton”) or to work on the railroad or be a cowboy, and have unrequited love in Appalachia. And that ironic humor! One can find these vintage books on eBay to verify the full breadth of history we were given. It seems like social ills would be solved if we all just sang together, frequently.
Long ago time , for sure. We all sang that song when I was a child and all of us caught its drift! Thanks for reminding us of it. Haven't heard it in years! Burl Ives was a rather special man! I appreciate hearing him again!
A different universe indeed! Remember “Sing Along with Mitch”? I am blessed that I got to live in it for a while.
Many great singers like Frank Sinatra and Doris Day became great actors. And Burl Ives is no exception. He always gave justice to his craft.