Music

Story Song Series on the Blind Pig & The Acorn

Today’s post was written by Paul.

Pig with scroll

The train song series has been so fun for the past four or five years, that I decided to do another series. I kicked around the idea of doing a “Tear Jerker” series, because I know a ton of them, but then, that’s probably too depressing.

I decided instead to do a series of all narrative songs and call it the “Story Song Series.”

Some of the story songs could also be tearjerkers, so I figure this broader “umbrella” is better. There are gospel story songs, funny story songs, cowboy story songs, love story songs, you name it!

Story songs or narrative songs seem to be a lost art in country music, bluegrass, etc. Once upon a time, they were quite prevalent. Writers like Tom T Hall founded a career upon them. Many great artists like Johnny Horton and Marty Robbins had great success with story-themed albums. Horton seemed to specialize in historical ballads and songs about Alaska, while Robbins and many others sang us dramatic cowboy tales.

I always loved a good story, and especially set to a melody. That’s why in the chorus of my song “Daddy’s ‘Ole Guitar,” I wrote, “I loved so well the stories he’d tell.”

When I was a kid, Pap entertained me with lots of story songs, like “Cash on the Barrelhead” and “El Paso.” My musical heroes, the Louvin Brothers, had an entire album called, “Songs that Tell a Story.”

Ira and Pap both wrote some gospel story songs too.

All this and more is why I chose to do a story song series here on BPA. Even though there aren’t many new story songs being written, there’s still an endless supply of gems to sing.

A good story has to have a beginning, middle, end, a conflict, characters, dialogue, suspense, plot, and more. And when it comes to a story song, all this has to happen in 2-5 minutes, usually in rhyme! No easy feat.

For this year’s story song series, I stuck to the one-take rule, like in the Train Song series, but it might not always be that way. I didn’t hook up with any musicians outside of my family this time, but I may in future years, Lord willing.

I hope to have a lot of variety of subjects and styles in this series, and hopefully share some story songs that our listeners haven’t heard before.

Our first installment is about ill-fated or star-crossed lovers, a common topic in story songs. It also happens to be set in the early American West, like many story songs. This one was written by Norman Blake, a fellow North Carolinian.

Until I filmed our version of the song, the only version I had ever heard was from a married couple named Bob & Dana Kogut back in the early ’90’s. Wayde Powell II played it for me, along with the rest of their album. I’ve recently come to realize that other than my father and uncle, Wayde has been the biggest musical influence on my life in terms of people that I know personally.

Wayde introduced me to the music of David Marshall, David Grisman, Sam Bush, the Country Gentleman, Tony Rice, John Hartford, and many more.

Anyway, I digress. Until I shot this video, I assumed that the Kogut couple wrote the song, but now I know that it was Blake. People as famous as Michael Martin Murphy and James Earl Keen have also recorded the song.

I searched for the place names in the song and came up with nothing, but I’m wondering if the story/song might be set somewhere in Texas. My favorite line in the song is “In her young eyes, Billy bore not a flaw.” There’s a lot of truth in that line, for when we are young, we don’t understand things anywhere near as well as we think we do. The last line of the song is great too.

Anyway, we hope you like this story song.

The lyrics are below:

Billy Gray rode into Gantry back in ’83
There he did meet young Sarah McCray
The wild rose of morning that pale flower of dawning
Herald of springtime in his young life that day
Sarah, she could not see the daylight of reality
In her young eyes, Billy bore not a flaw
Knowing not her chosen one was a hired gun
Wanted in Kansas City by the law
Then one day a tall man came riding cross the badlands
That lie to the north of New Mexico
He was overheard to say he was lookin’ for Bill Gray
A ruthless man and a dangerous outlaw
Well, the deadly news came creepin’ to Billy, fast sleepin’
There in the Clarendon Bar and Hotel
He ran towards the old church, there on the outskirts
Thinking he’d climb that old steeple bell
But a rifle ball came flying face down he lay dying
There in the dust of the road where he fell
Sarah, she ran to him cursing the lawman
Accepting no reason knowing he was killed
Sarah lives in that same white frame house
Where she first met Billy some forty years ago
And the wild rose of morning has faded
With the dawning of each day of
Sorrow the long years have sown
There on a stone
Where the dusty winds have long blown
Eighteen words to a passing world say:
“True love holds no reason, no rhyme nor no season
Justice is cold as the Granger County clay”

I hope you enjoyed the first installment of the series! If you listen close to the beginning of the video you hear Granny say “Once upon a time” πŸ™‚

Paul

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    SusieQ & Donnie Ray
    March 9, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    I was heading out to church as I was finishing reading this Sunday morning ,so didn’t;t replay then… so enjoyed listening to this first installment of the Story Song series,,,, I know its gonna be so fun listening to more … can’t wait to see if already know any of them… I do enjoy story songs, some I’ve grown up hearing from my Mama playing them on the radio years back remain in me to this day ( like ” Running Bear ” by Johnny Preston ) anyone else old enough to remember that song ?….. Appreciate you sharing what constitutes a good story song.

    • Reply
      SusieQ
      March 9, 2021 at 10:38 pm

      Meant to type up there ”reply” and ”didn’t”

    • Reply
      SusieQ
      March 13, 2021 at 6:26 pm

      Clarification … Running Bear was written by Jiles Perry Richardson Wikipedia says, but the version I grew up listening to about 1959 and onward was sung by Johnny Preston

  • Reply
    John Hart
    March 8, 2021 at 2:59 am

    I have a Robert Earle Keen cd with this song on it. Never really listened to the words until Paul’s version. Please do “Who’s gonna feed them hogs” by Tom T Hall.
    Love BPA!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 7, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    A long time ago my brother Harold bought a used Sony reel to reel tape recorder. It came with one reel of tape. When we played it, it was full of Marty Robbins songs. We wore that thing out. The recorder and the tape!

  • Reply
    Jo
    March 7, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    Quick! Somebody chunk the fire. That young’un is freezing to death. Lol!
    Paul, I’m very excited about your Story Song Series. Can’t wait for more of it.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 7, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    I never heard of, or thought about before, story songs. Guess to my very simple music mind I thought they all were. Anyway, I think I probably like story songs best, especially the ‘slices of life’ I can relate to that tell a story about some aspect of mine or my family member’s’ lives; things like logging, mining, leaving home, homesickness, tragic accidents, making do and getting by and country living in Appalachia.

  • Reply
    Melinda
    March 7, 2021 at 11:41 am

    Story songs were my husband’s favorites. One I particularly recall was named, I think, ‘Singin’ in the Choir’. It was about an old man (without talent) who always wanted to sing in the choir. Kind of a bittersweet ending.

    Looking forward to more story songs!

    • Reply
      Robert Brown
      March 19, 2021 at 10:14 am

      i think you may be talking about a song called Brother Ire a recitation i remember from Porter Wagner

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 7, 2021 at 11:22 am

    I really enjoyed the internal rhymes within this song’s lyrics. That’s poetic skill at its best, and anyone who knows the work of the poet of the Yukon, Robert Service, knows he was a master in this regard.
    The story line in this sad song is to me, in many ways, reminiscent of Tanya Tucker’s classic, “Delta Dawn.” I look forward to more story songs in weeks to come.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    March 7, 2021 at 11:17 am

    I’ve never heard this song, but I liked it because even though it’s sad, the tune is peppy.

  • Reply
    dee
    March 7, 2021 at 10:26 am

    I sure enjoyed your singing and the playing. I certainly remember “El Paso” as my brother went out to Texas after he got out of the Marines and when he came back home he had brought that record. At that time, I hadn’t heard it and I thought it had beautiful music but a sad song. I love to hear Marty Robbins sing anything and I always liked that song by Tom T. Hall about “Watermelon Wine, Children and old dogs.” And who wouldn’t get a little smile on their face when they heard Ray Stevens singing about the Squirrel that got loose in the MS Baptist Church.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    March 7, 2021 at 10:09 am

    Good Morning Paul. Keep the good songs coming. I’m sure you still have a few that haven’t been sung. The best one is the one that’s been rolling around in your head, just waiting for you to commit it to paper. As one of my favorite singers/songwriters wrote, “Surely there’s still a song that ain’t been sung…a little rag that ain’t been wrung,” Love the music that you and your family sing.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    March 7, 2021 at 9:36 am

    I really enjoyed the song, Paul and Chitter! Did you really write that??? If so, it’s just excellent writing and performing! Marty Robbins was a brilliant singer and story teller- one of my favorites. A fine song to start a bright, sunny Sunday morning!

    • Reply
      Paul Wade Wilson
      March 7, 2021 at 12:16 pm

      Hi, Margie.
      Thanks so much. No, I didn’t write the song. Norman Blake wrote it. It’s a great song and tells a story in such a way that I can picture everything as it’s happening. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    March 7, 2021 at 9:22 am

    Well done!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 7, 2021 at 9:08 am

    Thank you Paul. I grew up with “story songs” your song made me realize just how much I miss listening to them.
    Great job !

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    March 7, 2021 at 8:40 am

    That is a great song. You are right, there are not many story songs being sung now. I don’t know if this is a story song but one of my favorite songs is Little Jimmy Dickens singing “Life Turned Her That Way”. That song changed the way I think of people. When you meet someone you never know what happened in their life to cause them to act a certain way so I am a little more tolerant of some flaw they may have.

    I really enjoy Blind Pig and Acorn. I look at it every day.

    Thank you for what you do.

    Dennis Morgan
    Flat Creek Rattler

  • Reply
    Becky
    March 7, 2021 at 8:27 am

    don’t ever remember hearing this song but wondering how chilly it was in there for Corie to have on a boggan and coat…i couldn’t begin to play a guitar that bundled up πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 7, 2021 at 7:30 am

    Good job Corie and Paul! Nothing like a good tear jerker to get thing going in the morning. Paul, reading your opening makes me realize just how many of the old songs our there are alive and well and I do look forward to hearing more of them. I didn’t grow up with music like you guys did and a great teacher like Pap, but as I’m learning more about the music I am also growing a greater appreciation of it especially with the history you are providing!
    Thank you!

  • Reply
    Buz Salmon
    March 7, 2021 at 7:28 am

    Thank you Tipper and all of you for your music.
    Interestingly my wife and I were talking of Marty Robbins singing El Paso just a couple of days ago. My wife’s favorite story teller song writer was Johnny Cash.

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