In today’s episode, we explore the twisting, gruesome world of Appalachian murder ballads. Jack, J.J., and special guest Marie, explain what identifies a murder ballad from other kinds of regional folk songs, then go into detail about the crimes behind the lyrics.
In Part 1 of 2, we cover the “sweetheart” murder ballads Pearl Bryan, Tom Dooley, and Delia’s Gone. Each song is based on a gory murder, and we’ll share all the facts that led to the creation of these famous tunes.
“‘This Murder Done’: Misogyny, Femicide, and Modernity in 19th-Century Appalachian Murder Ballads” by Christina Ruth Hastie. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Trace: Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange. August 2011.
“The Rose & the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad” by Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus. W. W. Norton & Company. 2005.
“Why Is The ‘Murdered Girl’ So Popular” by Arthur Field. Midwest Folklore. Indiana University Press. Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer, 1951), pp. 113-119.
“‘Whackety Whack, Don’t Talk Back’: The Glorification of Violence Against Females and the Subjugation of Women in Nineteenth-Century Southern Folk Music” by C. Kirk Hutson. Journal of Women’s History. Vol. 8, No. 3 (Fall, 1996), pp. 114-142.
“99 Years is Almost for Life: Punishment for Violent Crime in Bluegrass Music” by Kenneth D. Tunnel. The Journal of Popular Culture. Vol. 26, Issue 3. 5 March 2004.
“Classic American Ballads: from Smithsonian Folkways” compiled and annotated by Jeff Place, Katie Ortiz, and Max Smith. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. 2015.
“Searching for silenced voices in Appalachian music” by Deborah J. Thompson. GeoJournal. Vol. 65, No. 1/2, Geography & Music (2006), pp. 67-78
“Cecil Sharp (1859-1924)” via Vaughn Williams Memorial Library. Includes links to his diaries and more primary sources.
- Pearl Bryan lyrics via traditionalmusic.co.uk. From A Penguin Book of Folk Ballads by A. Friedman. 1996.
- “The Pearl Bryan Murder: Woman Beheaded Alive by Seducer, 1896” by Dora Whitaker. The Sound of Shaking Paper. 11 June 2014. (Note: This resource was not cited directly, but contains records of the primary documents we used in an elegant, organized, and easy to read format.)
- “Pearl Bryan: Chapter one” by Paul Slade. http://www.planetslade.com. 2013.
- Tom Dooley lyrics by The Kingston Trio via Google Play Music. Written by Stefan Wachtberg • Copyright Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group.
- “The True Story of Tom Dooley” by John E. Fletcher, Ph.D. Arcadia Publishing. 2013.
- “Under the Shadow of the Awful Gallows-Tree: The Murder Trials of Thomas Dula and Ann Melton as a Case Study in Gender and Power in Reconstruction Era Western North Carolina” by Heather L. Miller. East Tennessee State University. (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 2518.
- Tom Dula Case, 1866 to 1868. Supreme Court Case Number 8922 via North Carolina Digital Collections.
- “American Folk Songs: A Regional Encyclopedia” by Norm Cohen. Greenwood. September 2008.
- Delia’s Gone lyrics via http://www.azlyrics.com. 2000-2016.
- “Delia’s Gone” music video as performed by Johnny Cash. American Recording. 1994.
- “WYCLEF JEAN – delia’s gone” live performance by Wyclef Jean. 1999. http://www.youtube.com. Uploaded on 27 February 2012 by MultiJokerchannel.
- Delia Green via Wikipedia
Note: the trial transcripts which we reference are reproduced and available in the book The Rose & The Briar by Wilentz and Marcus, linked above. A suitable excerpt is available online here.
Music used in this podcast:
Egg Drum by Germanager