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Lyrics to songs bring memories of mom singing

Points East


I am looking for someone with either an incredible memory or lots of time on their hands to help me track down the lyrics of a couple of songs that I can’t find on the Internet.

I have found reasonable facsimiles of a couple but I can’t find anything that comes close to the versions that my Mom used to sing to my brothers, cousins and me.

The first one is called ‘Pretty Polly”. I know a verse or two but the entire song contains many. I’m guessing that Mom knew about 15. “Knoxville Girl” was also one of her favorites and it must have contained at least 25 verses. Another old favorite was called “Preacher and the Bear” and Mom’s version went on for a spell.

It’s easy enough to find some of the lyrics because all three songs were recorded by one or more musicians for radio and phonograph play, but they were all three so long that it was impossible to get all the words on one record. The artists sort of selected their favorite highlights and sang until they ran out of space.

When Mom did her renditions it was more like story time at the library than what one might call a “singing.”

There are two reasons I am so interested in finding the entire songs. The first one has to do with my grandsons, two of whom will actually sit and listen to me play guitar, and the third one, who will be two in September, already has the potential to be guitar player. I’d simply like to pass along some heritage to the kids if I can sneak around and sing to them.

Neither of their moms will take kindly to them being exposed to the stories of violence documented in ‘Pretty Polly” and “Knoxville Girl” but so far nobody in my family has killed anybody and the old songs don’t seem to have had any negative effects on the adults we grew up to be.

The second reason I want these lyrics is to exercise my brain. I want to see if I can memorize all three songs and be able to sing them without looking at the words on paper.

When Mom used to sing we were at least as impressed with her ability to remember all the words as we were with her musical ability.

She had also committed many poems to memory and to this day she is the only person I have ever known who could recite Longfellow’s epic “Song of Hiawatha” in its entirety. Her pronunciation of some of the Native American language may not have been accurate but I don’t recall anyone ever challenging her on it.

I will, however, be content to get through the three songs I’ve mentioned here if someone knows where I can find all the original lyrics, and I’m not talking about Teddy and Doyle Wilburn’s version of “Knoxville Girl”, which is scarcely more than a preview of the real thing.

And I just thought of another one. There’s also a much longer version of “Tennessee Stud” than anybody has ever taken the time to record on any audio device with which I am familiar. I’ve heard Doc Watson’s rendition but I know he left out several verses that Mom knew.

Anyway, I have been advised that working on memorization is a good way to stave off Alzheimer’s, which I can’t pronounce and refer to as “old timers’ disease.” I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to do this than relearning some of the old songs that my Mom used to sing.

Snail mail me the lyrics, or email them, or send me a link if you know about one on the Internet and I will try real hard to remember who sent them to me. My mailing address is: Ike Adams, 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461. My e-mail address is ikeadams@aol.com.


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