Anthology of American Folk Music

« Take the Star Out of the Window | Main | Little Birdie »

March 15, 2006


Jerome Clark

Well, elements of "Pretty Polly" are certainly evident in "Hollis Brown," but "Poor Man," recorded on a 1961 Arhoolie album, Bayou Bluegrass, by the Louisiana Honeydrippers, is a much closer fit. In fact, "Hollis Brown" is in many ways a rewrite of that ballad, credited to Dave Rankin.

An expanded version of that record was issued in CD in 2002, as Jim Smoak and the Louisiana Honeydrippers.

Trevor Blank

hey -- just wondering what your sources were for the above information, i'd love to check it out!

The Celestial Monochord

Editor's Note: Thanks, Jerry, for the leads. Really interesting.

As for what my sources are ... I'd have to know which specific piece of information you're referring to (so write back). Many of the "big chunks" -- like the black stem rust, or the Pretty Polly stuff -- already have links showing where the information came from and/or can be found.

Probably, the best answer to your question is that The Celestial Monochord is itself the source for the above information. I'm not the kind of blogger that just raids other people's work. I try my best (usually, and for what its worth) to think deeply, research rigorously, and write well -- and I try to get as close to doing "primary research" as my time and station permit.

Thanks for reading!




From March 1963, here's a performance of 'Hollis Brown' with banjo accompaniment, on the tv show 'Folksongs and More Folksongs'. Just who is playing banjo on this is a point of discussion, as The Brothers Four also played on this show it's been assumed the player is Mike Kirkland. Fantastic performance from then 21 year-old Dylan of this chilling song.

I haven't heard the Louisiana Honeydrippers, but Dylan has acknowledged this song's debt to "Pretty Polly" I think. The banjo on some live versions of 'High Water' has a similar eerie quality, played by the much-missed Larry Campbell, of course.

The links from Boggs-Seeger-Dylan are interesting. Of course, Dylan's praise of Mike Seeger in 'Chronicles' has been much remarked. Here's what Seeger had to say about Dylan in the liner notes to the 1994 CD which contained that version of 'Hollis Brown':

So much has been written about Bob Dylan, I hesitate to write more. I admire his ability to write a narrative ballad like this; it shows his great respect for traditional music and his great gifts in creating images in a most unique style. His singing style compliments the intensity of both lyrics and melody.

In the sixties, we who were involved deeply in this kind of music visited one another a lot more than these days, it seems. It was a smaller world perhaps. In August 1962 Bob was in the audience at Gerde's Folk City (a folk-oriented night club) in New York City where I was playing for a couple of weeks. I asked him to join me at the end of my set. He sang this song while I backed him on banjo.
Thanks for all the interesting articles, just catching up with them, please keep them coming!


torrent download

Fantastic performance from then 21 year-old Dylan of this chilling song.

Richard Smith

I just had the fortune to hear this song for the first time a few days ago and it's stuck in my head ever since. I've never been a massive Dylan fan but this is a staggeringly great song. The unrelenting trance-like purity of the guitar line combined with the darkness of the lyric is hypnotic. Genius.

Tim T

Hanging with friends, playing along and singing with the songs on my Ipod, and this comes on. The 4 of us sat stone silent until the end. No playing, no singing. To say it was unsettling is an understatement. Wow.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)