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Sandy Paton Origins: Vandy Vandy (28) RE: Origins: Vandy Vandy 08 Oct 05


I find "Vandy, Vandy" in two of my Manly Wade Wellman short story collections, Joe. The first is in the classic "Who Fears the Devil" collection. My older copy is a Ballantine Books paperback, 1964. The other is in a later collection, "Owls Hoot in the Daytime and Other Omens; Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman, Volume 5" -- Night Shade Books, San Francisco & Portland, 2003.
    Curiously, the opening sentence of the early printing is : "Nary name that valley had." In the Night Shade printing, that has been changed to read: "That valley hadn't any name." Modernized language for modern readers? I prefer the former.
    Wellman, by the way, was a friend of Obray Ramsey, Byard Ray, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, and other North Carolina traditional artists. His brother, Paul, writes fine western histories (and, occasionally, novels), also well worth investigating.
    I've long felt that Manly's "Silver John" stories would make a great television series. Superstitions, witchcraft, magic, adventure and folklore/folksong. I would have cast the late Paul Clayton as John.
    When I'm not so tired, I'll tell you about another song Manly Wade Wellman included in one of his longer stories. Oh, hell, I'll do it now - briefly.
    Back in 1959, I collected a dramatic western ballad from an ex-rodeo rider in Buffalo, Oklahoma. He had become a teacher, then a principal, and finally the Superintendant of Schools. I did a program in one of his schools, after which we got together in his office and swapped songs. He borrowed my guitar to accompany his songs. Seems his wife wouldn''t let him play any of that old stuff since they had achieved upper-middle class status., so his guitar languished in a closet, covered with dust.
    Anyway -- I recorded the western ballad, along with a bunch of other songs he played, on an old Webcor I packed with me on that school tour. The song was about a deadly fight over a bull at a round-up. both contenders were killed, and the witnesses decided to brand the word "MURDER" on the bull's side and turn him loose. That bull roamed the hills, occsionally appearing, a frightening image in the moonlight, with "MURDER" branded on his hide.
    In my later rambles, I managed to lose the tape of B. F. Rowley singing the song for me. Searched all of the western song collections I could find, but never found the song, or even one quite like it. UNTIL, reading recently all of Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John novels, I found one titled "After Dark." There was the ballad! Silver John sings it to a gathering, with this for an introduction: ""Let me try a song they call "Murder Bull." I learnt it from a Texas man who said the thing truly happened in his part of the world."
Wellman's novel was published as copyright 1980. I had heard the ballad in 1959.
    Of course, Wellman is no longer living, and I had no tune for the song. So, I did what any reasonably smart old folkie would do. I knew Bob Coltman had written a fine tune for "Vandy, Vandy," so I sent him the text from Wellman's book, with one additional verse fragment from my own memory of the song (which Bob brilliantly reconstructed), and in a few days, I received a tape of the ballad sung by Bob to an excellent tune of his own making. A most satisfying end to a long and frustrating search for a lost ballad.
    There you go. And now, goodnight. It's nearly 4 a.m.!
    Sandy


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