Friday, April 1, 2011

Johnny Horton

April, 2011: I look forward to sing-sings with my cousin Brooke the same way I used to look forward to the Christmas holidays. Other members of our family are also essential to the sing-sing, but often, alas, their voices won't rise above a sotto voce murmur. We had a sing-sing a few weeks ago at my aunt and uncle's house. Brooke sang her newly-composed song 'Virgil', which I think of as the last words that go through a woman's head before she gets out her pistol and shoots dead her husband, Virgil, and perhaps also the girl in the red dress whom he's dancing with. The last lines are the sinister: "You're not much, you're not much, you're not much, Virgil, but you're mine.". Then I sang my newie, which is heavily indebted to 'Virgil': a murder ballad, my one and only, about a woman who sets fire to the hut where her ex-boyfriend and his new girl are lying in each other's arms. Brooke and I both disapprove of murder ballads. I tried to start a genre called 'rape ballads' (e.g. my 'Beneath The Bridge', and also Gillian Welch's 'Caleb Meyer'). Evening up the score with a few more murder ballads where the women do the murdering is hypocritical...but sometimes songs just come out, and that's that.
Once we were onto murder ballads, Brooke and my uncle sang Jimmie Rodgers's 'T. For Texas', which I hadn't heard before - first Jimmie sings "gonna shoot poor Thelma, just to see her jump and fall", then a couple of verses later, decides he'll also shoot "the rounder who stole away my ga-a-a-a-l". A double murder seemed a bit shocking, until Brooke and Peter sang us Johnny Horton's MISS MARCY. It's not a murder ballad - it's a massacre ballad! When I was back in Sydney once again, I checked out these two songs on the Google (Jimmy Little's graceful construction), and set about learning them. I don't really like singing T. For Texas, a typical swaggering cock (rooster) murder ballad, except that the yodels are so beautiful, and good to practise on. But for some reason, I don't mind the blood-bath MISS MARCY. I sang it while my nieces and their friend Thea was at my house, but first warned them about all the body-counts. My eldest niece is one of those innocent children who seek to protect their own innocence; I was watching a bit of the movie Disgrace when she and my sister came in the room, and I said, "It's a good story - but there's a lot of adult content." At this, my niece promptly skittered out of the room. But not even she minds all the blood spilling in Miss Marcy. I'm not going to give the story away. Check it out for yourself on the Google.

Here it is: