Appalachia Heritage Music

Mary Of The Wild Moor

Poor Mary Of The Wild Moor

Today’s Pickin’ & Grinnin’ In The Kitchen Spot features a song of old Mary Of The Wild Moor. The song tells the sad lonesome story of a mother and child freezing to death because her father couldn’t hear her cries for help-doesn’t get much sadder than that.

It’s hard to imagine a world where information was at a minimum. A world with no Internet, no blackberrys, no cell phones, no tv, heck not even many newspapers. Granted being literate was relegated to a smaller amount of people in those days-but I imagine the need for information was still a human want. And as usual where there’s a human want-there’s someone figuring out how to fill it in exchange for money.

Enter Broadsides. Sheets of paper printed with announcements from the government, news information, speeches, or songs. I’m sure all of us have watched a movie or tv show set in the early 1800s where a man is shown walking through the square uttering “Hear Ye Hear Ye” before nailing up a notice for all the villagers to read.

As time went by selling broadsides became a lucrative business for folks. Most popular were sheets containing details of notorious murders or words to popular songs of the day-one of which was Mary Of The Wildmoor.

According to Jurgen Kloss  Mary Of The Wildmoor was probably written by a performer in England in the early 1800s-written to appear older than it actually was. The song’s traits being similar to older ballads popular at the time indicate this.

By 1845 the song had made it to America and soon became quite popular. By the early 1900’s the song seems to have been relegated to singing around the home-performed mostly in family settings. But by the early 1930s the song made a come back, largely due to  “ballad hunters” who made every attempt to preserve old songs from the Appalachian Mountains.

In 1940 the first commercial recording of the song was made by The Blue Sky Boys of North Carolina. The song was recorded again in 1956 by The Louvin Brothers of Alabama. These two brother duet recordings cemented the song’s popularity in traditional bluegrass music circles.

Hope you enjoyed the sad song. I like the irony of the song’s beginning-it was written to appear old and then lasted until it truly can be considered an old old song.


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  • Reply
    January 13, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    I am loving this song. Pap and Paul really did a great job. I love learning about the broadsides. Very interesting.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    What a sad song, but beautifully performed. You are right about old songs and they are so special. It makes me once again think about old church hymns and how they really told a story just like this one did. Sure is unlike anything we hear today! Sorry I haven’t commented in awhile! It’s been crazy around here! Thanks for always commenting on my blog though!! I love it!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2009 at 10:54 am

    So sad but so beautiful. It reminds me of a song that Allison Krauss sings – the stories a tad different but basically the same, about two children who get lost in the woods and freeze to death. Sad and haunting.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2009 at 10:54 am

    As usual you Pappy and Paul did another fine job. Today I had to go get their CD out of the jeep and play it in the kitchen. They are just so relaxing to listen to.
    Have a great week.
    And check out my blog you might want to get in on a quick project since you make beautiful things.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Oh what a heart rending song, the best kind. My sentimental daughter Seleste will just love it. I’m going to have to play it for her.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I have always loved this song. I first heard it on a disk I have of Dolly Parton. She sings a lot of folk-mountain songs. Your group has done such a lovely job singing and pickin it. Have a wonderful weekend, blessings, Kathleen

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 10, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Hey Tipper. Pap and Paul did a great job but, oh my goodness, what a sad song!

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    January 10, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    As always, Pap and Paul did another great job with this one. I hope it’s on the CD when they offer it. Even though the song is sad, I can imagine this melody being played at a barn dance. Can just see the dancers swirling about the floor when I close my eyes.
    Tipper, I always feel to home when I visit here. Thanks for making it so. xxoo

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    January 10, 2009 at 11:45 am

    A powerfully moving and beautiful post, Tipper!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 am

    loved it, Tipper, Pap and Paul!
    I could just sit on the couch and listen to them sing all day!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 am

    wow. unhappy.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I would love to have lived in the age of the broadside, when poetry and music were central forms of entertainment and the songs on offer created a community rather than created subcultures.

  • Reply
    Brenda S
    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Tipper, My Granny sang this to me 50+ years ago. Have you heard this one? It is said to be an Ozark folklore. Your story reminded me of this.
    Two little children, a girl and a boy,
    Set by an old church door.
    The little girl’s feet was as brown as the curl
    That fell on the dress that she wore.
    The boy’s shoes were faded, no hat on his head,
    A tear shone in each little eye.
    “Why don’t you go home to your Mommy?” I said,
    And this was the maiden’s reply:
    “Mommy’s in heaven; they took her away,
    Left me and Jimmy alone.
    We came here to sleep at the close of the day,
    For we have no Mommy or home.
    We can’t earn our bread, we’re too little,” she said,
    “Jim five, and I only seven.
    We have no one to love us, for Papa is dead,
    And our darling Mama’s in heaven.
    “Papa got lost on the sea long ago;
    We waited all night on the shore.
    He was a lifesaving captain, you know,
    But he never came any more.
    Then Mama got sick; they took her away.
    She said that her home was in . . .
    She said they would come for two darlings some day.
    “Perhaps they are coming tonight.
    Perhaps there’s not room in heaven,” she said,
    “For two little darlings to keep.”
    She put her hand upon Jim’s little head.
    She kissed him and both fell asleep.
    The sexton came early to ring the church bell.
    They found them beneath the snow white.
    The angels made room for two darlings to sleep
    In heaven with Mama that night.

  • Reply
    granny sue
    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I like this song, Tipper, and your guys did it beautifully. I’ve heard it with a slightly different melody, I think. The late storyteller JJ Reneaux of Louisiana told it as a story, but a bayou story, that was so haunting that my youngest son, who was 12 at the time, made me turn off the CD over and over because it spooked him. I can still hear her voice, “paPA, paPa, let me come IN” with that Cajun voice of hers. Brrr.

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 am

    That’s a new one for me – Thanks for sharing! You are so informative! 🙂

  • Reply
    January 10, 2009 at 8:10 am

    What an interesting history of this song and the broadsheets. We have a town crier who announces special events.
    I remember those days of now electricity, no TV, refrigerator or any of the modern conveniences. Grandma never had hydro until 1960. It was a different and slower-paced life.
    Enjoyed my visit.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks for visiting my blog, Tipper, and for the kind words. I’ve been enjoying your writing and the guys’ singing and pickin’.
    There was sure a lot of drama in the Appalachian Mountains with the hardships that the people faced every day. I guess music was their therapy….and still is.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    January 9, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Tipper: What a sad song of despair. Tell Pap and Paul that they did a great job on the song. It’s always fun to hear them pickin and grinnin in the kitchen.

  • Reply
    City Mouse
    January 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    What a wonderful song – I love the sad, old story ballads. Reminds me of “Molly Malone,” which I am sure I must have mentioned before. That’s some good pickin’ in the kitchen.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I remember this one, Tipper! A favorite of mine, right up there with “Little Rosewood Casket.” Yes, those kinds of songs were sad and pitiful, but I think maybe the catharsis helped the people of Appalachia – facing their own struggles – to cope just a little bit better.
    And, of course, there’s nothing like a good old bluegrass murder song, too!
    A beautiful job by the guys!

  • Reply
    Matthew Burns
    January 9, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Wow, wow and wow. This is an absolutely fabulous song done up right. Your Pap needs to make a whole CD of these old songs. Nothing sounds better than old mountain songs sung by the native sons of Appalachia. Listening to the mournful tone of his voice, I can just imagine him singing “Girl from the Greenbrier Shore”. They sound great!!!!

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