Mudcat Café message #3513864 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #150417   Message #3513864
Posted By: Richie
11-May-13 - 11:04 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 5
Subject: RE: Origins: Child Ballads: US Versions Part 5

In the case of Gainer's version, it's appalling that he would have little regard publishing and attributing two informants-- to the same ballad. What's worse is it seems like he thinks this type of scholarship is OK. Maybe he's done it for so long. I don't like having to point it out because he has family, former colleagues and the University of West Virginia- all promoting his lifework.

I'll just say it- I don't believe his version of child 275 is authentic, I'll list some of the reasons below. It seems like he wrote it based on his friend Carey Woofter's version-- and Woofter's version is likely not authentic either.

Gainer's bio is here:

Clearly he was dedicated to preserving folk-songs and West Virginia tradition.

Gainer's version is in the DT.

Gainer surely knew the title of the "other" West Virginia version, "Old John Jones," that his collecting friend, Carey Woofter, supplied to Combs and Cox. Because there were two different informants given by Woofter for the same rare ballad and some of Woofter's contributions have come into question, there is a possibility that version is not authentic.

Gainer choose not to associate his version by title with that version even though John Jones, (coincidentally?) was present in the text as the name of the central figure and was a possible title. For whatever reason Gainer decided not to mention Woofter's version in his notes (see below)- even though he knew about it. (Gainer, Woofter, Combs and Cox were all associated with the University of West Virginia in the mid-1920s- Gainer and Woofter were students, Combs was a teacher working on his doctorate (his collection of folk songs) and Cox was a teacher. Another collector, Louis Chappell, was also there at that time and Gainer did some field work with him.)

The same identical text version with the same melody that Gainer published in 1975, he published in his 1963 "West Virginia Centennial Book of 100 Songs." The problem is-- Gainer said it was sung by "Charlie Montgomery, Elizabeth, Wirt County." Marie Botte reprinted it from that publication under Gainer's title, "Get Up and Bar the Door." How Gainer could publish the same ballad and same melody in 1975 by a different informant (W. A. Thomas) and make no comment about the two different informants- I don't know. I can only assume from the lack of information that there weren't two different informants and conclude that the source is questionable and was probably Gainer.

Gainer's collected version seems suspiciously similar to Woofter's although there are some differences. Similar to Woofter, incidences regarding the authenticity of the informants (i.e. having two different informants for the same song) have occurred among other of Gainer's collected songs. Although familiar with folk song scholarship- he doesn't include much information like the date.

Finding a rare ballad is cause for celebration- instead there's a shroud of obfuscation. There no mention of the other version found in 1963 in his 1975 book- how can that be?

So this information weighs heavy on me- and I don't like it.