Appalachia Music

Poor Man

papaw wade
A few weeks ago at our weekly pickin’ & grinnin’ session, I told Pap and Paul I needed a song about making do. I described what we’d been talking about here on the Blind Pig-from the pinto beans to Granny’s oven potato chips. It only took Paul a minute to come up with a song-Poor Man.

Frank Proffitt who is most famous for penning Tom Dooley, also wrote Poor Man. Paul reminded me of a video we watched one time. According to the video, Proffitt was inspired to write the song due to some bitter times he endured. Hard to remember the exact time frame, but I believe it was in the 1930s-tough times for most folks-especially if you were a farmer in NC. According to the video there had been a prolonged drought. Folks had cajoled and begged their cabbage, corn, and taters through the dry growing season-praying all the while for rain. As the crops neared harvest, along came a great big flood and washed everything away.

My favorite line of the song is in the last verse “you know that I love you ever which way around“-he’s telling his baby it’ll all be alright-thats the make do part to me. Give it a listen and see what you think.

Hope you enjoyed the song. Ever have luck like that? Playing the old song reminded me of a story about Pap’s father, my Papaw Wade. That’s him at the beginning of the post-I’ll tell you about it in a few days.



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Shirley Owens
    February 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Since I lived with my grandparents most of my life, I know now that their ways and attitudes were almost solely influenced by the depression. I still save string, hang my canning rings on an old tie, save bits of fabric “just in case”, I still have a pantry that is loaded “just in case”, and of course I won’t have to wash what I’m wearing today if I wear an apron. My husband says I save everything that might be useful “just in case”. I never knew a time that grandparents were not working even up until they died (each well over 80). The survivor in them would not let them trust the new things or ways. They could make do on nearly nothing. The yearly calf would sell about the same time the tobacco was ready for market. That would buy lots of things we had waited to buy all year. I could go on and on about making do, but mostly it means being practical “just in case”. The music is always great. Thanks!

  • Reply
    February 5, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Oh yeah, for the last two summers I have begged and prayed for my garden to grow despite all the drought conditions.

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    February 3, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    It’s heart breaking. I loved hearing your family sing this song.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    February 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    tipper i love hearing the music and seeing the love. my brother said he so enjoys watching them play and how intune with each other they are.. im sure we all have had our share of good and bad days… 🙂
    no sense dwelling on the bad when there is so much more good in life..
    sending big big ladybug hugs..

  • Reply
    February 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Goodness sakes, I am posting Late, according to the rest, but am surely enjoying the beautiful music just as much!
    First, I must comment that your home must resonate with the joy of music. How blessed ya’ll are to have folks that can create an appropriate tune and lyrics in a flash.
    Considering the theme of the boyz song, don’t you believe that, if everyone of us would have, could go through a bit of drought OR flood in our lives, we would all be more thankful for our lives today?
    Thanks for sharing what I think is Real music. Old time country, blues, bluegrass, gospel all used to tell a story..I’m not sure what this modern music is supposed to tell.
    May you and yours continue to be blessed.

  • Reply
    Judith Alef
    February 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Hey Tipper! Great post and love the song. “ever which way” is ingrained in my language, usually followed by ‘but loose’. I have no idea where I picked it up. Anybody know the origin?
    Ever have that kind of luck? Oh Yeah. Know that one well. It’s when you say Well, Cain’t dance and it’s too wet to plow, so ……

  • Reply
    February 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Another fine song by the boys. I
    bet the Louvin Brothers are still
    smiling from above. Nice touch on
    the base back there too. Its a
    song sure fitting for these tough

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 3, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Tipper–You’re “up and at it,” as Grandpa Joe used to say, mighty early in the morning. Another song about poverty I have always liked is “Poor Folks.” One part of the lyrics I particularly like runs “We were poor folks living in a rich folks world, sure were a hungry bunch; If the wolf had ever come to our front door, he’d have had to bring a picinc lunch.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    February 3, 2011 at 11:54 am

    until about 10 years ago, i lived my life with make do. my dad born in 1913 was the king of make do and my growing up years were all about make do, it did not hurt me at all and made me who i am today. i think if americans had a little more make do, we would be better people.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 3, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Hi Tipper, yes, I’ve had what I thought were runs of hard times with some difficult experiences but they always worked out okay. Just like the song says. Some of them even worked out great. You make do and trust that things are not always as they appear and they will work.
    That’s an interesting picture at the beginning. Most old pictures look old but this one looks like it could have been taken yesterday! He looks like a young man of our time.

  • Reply
    February 3, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Good morning Tipper! Along with being a smart-alek about “worshrags”, I must confess I just don’t like what passes for country music today. Poor Man though, is a great song, much more akin to bluegrass or the blues. The line that got me was, “So I got down on my knees, for rain I thought I’d pray; along came a great big flood and washed everything away.” As Appalachians I think we’ve all had that kind of luck, but we’re the only people with the wit to make such experiences into songs that actually make us stronger and the hard times easier to bear, and the only people I know with the strength to keep on praying, even if we don’t get the answer we want. Thanks for sharing this gem with all of us! Can’t wait to hear Papaw Wade’s story…

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph. D.
    February 3, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Hey Tipper: Don’t know why, but I had never heard ‘Poor Man’ until now! However, it surely applies to folks in the Cove! I think I will send it to my brother over in Afghanistan! I’ll bet they are starving for something to think about besides an ATTACK!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    February 3, 2011 at 8:55 am

    This tune sounds familiar to me, Tipper. But that just be my brain playing tricks on me again. 🙂
    Very nice.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 3, 2011 at 8:32 am

    It wasn’t just the cabbage and potatoes either…The yearly dependence on the Tobacco crop meant hard times in NC, if the ‘leaf’ was bad due to weather!…I remember my Dad and Aunt talking about those times..and the dreaded floods of Madison county…of course the Depression didn’t help matters..LOL
    Loved the music, I just love to hear them all play and sing…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    February 3, 2011 at 7:51 am

    As usual the singing and picking’s great.Good harmony.Always enjoy listening to them.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    February 3, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Well now, that’s a nice waker-upper this morning.

  • Leave a Reply