Category: Western Music

With Love, from the Battlefield: Songs of the Civil War

Kathleen Rice Adams: classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love.

Americans didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day as we know it until the mid-1800s. By 1856, the practice of sending somewhat sappy cards had become so widespread that newspapers began to call the blossoming tradition a “social disease.” Conservative elements in society tried to stamp out the celebration because they considered such unvarnished expression of fondness evidence of “moral deterioration.” The February 1856 edition of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine included a cartoon depicting card-giving as crass and self-indulgent.

window valentine, ca. 1864

A “window” valentine, ca. 1864. Such cards were called window valentines because front flaps opened to reveal a hidden message or image.

A scant five years later, as the Civil War began, Valentine’s Day took on new significance. Cards often depicted sweethearts parting. Many incorporated flaps that opened to reveal soldiers standing in tents or couples at the altar. Some included a lock of the giver’s hair.

In addition to cards, songs of love and loss became popular with Civil War soldiers on the battlefields. At night, encamped on opposite sides of imaginary lines only hundreds of yards apart, men wearing blue and men wearing gray sang as one. Some of the songs were meant to keep sweet memories alive; many mourned happiness never to be.

The following are a few of the most popular love songs of the Civil War.

The Yellow Rose of Texas

A popular marching tune all over the Confederacy, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” dates to the state’s early colonial period. The first known transcribed version — handwritten on a piece of plain paper — appeared around the time of the Texian victory at San Jacinto in April 1836. In its original form, the song tells the story of a black man who has been separated from his sweetheart and longs to reunite with her. This YouTube video contains the modified version Texas troops actually sang during the Civil War, complete with references to “Bobby Lee” and Hood’s Texas Brigade…with one exception. By the time of the war, the phrase “sweetest rose of color” had been replaced with “little flower” in order not to imply white soldiers were pining for a mulatto woman.

 

“Aura Lea” (also spelled “Aura Lee”)

Most people today recognize the melody to “Aura Lea” as “Love Me Tender,” which became an instant hit when Elvis Presley sang the song during his first appearance on the big screen in the 1956 movie of the same name. The original, composed in 1861 by W. W. Fosdick (words) and George R. Poulton (music), is one of the happier songs of the era. Nevertheless, this song and “Lorena” (below) were banned in some camps because they tended to provoke desertion, especially among Confederates from 1863 forward.

 

Lorena

The Rev. Henry D. L. Webster wrote the words to one of the most popular love songs of the Civil War in 1856 after his intended broke off their engagement. His friend Joseph Philbrick Webster composed the music. Western Writers of America listed “Lorena” as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time; an instrumental version appears in the iconic film Gone with the Wind.

 

Somebody’s Darling

Credit for the lyrics has been given to Marie Ravenal de la Costa and the melody to John Hill Hewett, though the story behind the song may be apocryphal. The version most generally accepted is that, in 1862, Miss de la Costa penned the words in the Atlanta church where she had gone to pray after receiving word of her fiancé’s death on the battlefield. She left the handwritten lyrics behind. One of the saddest songs of the period, “Somebody’s Darling” was as popular in the North as it was in its native South.

 

When I Saw Sweet Nellie Home

Also known as “Seeing Nellie Home” and “Aunt Dinah’s Quilting Party,” the original was composed by John Fletcher (music) and Frances Kyle (words) in 1859. In 1861, Otto W. Ludwig changed the words to create the strident Union ballad “Courage, Mother, I Am Going,” about a young man who believes he won’t return from a war he is morally obligated to fight. Needless to say, Confederates sang the original. The Union version faded into obscurity after the war.

 

Oh! Susanna

Published by Stephen Foster in 1848, “Oh! Susanna” was popular with both bluebellies and graybacks, who viewed the words through entirely different cultural lenses. This version contains the original second verse, which is controversial (and potentially offensive) because of the language.

 

My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night

Published by Stephen Foster in 1853, “My Old Kentucky Home” speaks of love for home and family. The song became enormously popular with both armies during the Civil War—which was odd in the case of the Confederacy, because Foster’s notes on the original handwritten sheet music clearly indicate he intended the song to be an abolitionist anthem inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. (Foster was a staunch abolitionist.)

 

Just Before the Battle, Mother

One of the saddest Civil War favorites speaks of love not for a sweetheart, but for a young’s man’s mother. With words and music (1862) by George F. Root, “Just Before the Battle, Mother” was strictly a Union song. (The lead-in on this version, performed by the 97th Regimental String Band, is long. The words start just before the one-minute mark.)

 

The Picture on the Wall

A sad song more popular among the folks at home than soldiers on the battlefield (for obvious reasons), Henry Clay Work’s “The Picture on the Wall” (1864) is almost unknown today. During the Civil War, it expressed tremendous grief about the loss of both sweethearts and sons.

 

Annie Laurie (also spelled “Annie Lawry”)

Brought to America from Scotland around 1832, authorship of the song is unknown. By the time of the Civil War, the words had changed from the original Scottish. Because the song was so well known, it was one of the most often sung across the lines, despite — or perhaps because of — the haunting chorus: “For bonnie Annie Laurie, I’d lay me down and die.”

 

Sweet Evalina

Composed in 1863 by Mrs. Parkhurst, the tune to “Sweet Evelina” is spritely even though the words come from the point of view of a young man fated never to marry the beautiful girl he loves. The song was incredibly popular among soldiers on both sides during the war but had all but disappeared by 1900.

 

Listen to the Mockingbird

Septimus Winner, using the name Alice Hawthorne, wrote the words to “Listen to the Mockingbird” in 1855 and set them to music composed by a guitarist friend. Despite the upbeat melody, the song tells the story of a man’s love for a young woman who has died. The tune was popular with both Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs. As an aside: In 1862, Winner was arrested and charged with treason after he published “Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, the People’s Pride.” The song protested Lincoln’s firing of Gen. George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Federal authorities released Winner only after he promised to destroy all remaining copies of the sheet music…but calling back the 80,000 copies that sold in the first two days after the song’s publication proved impossible. (McClellan was an exceptionally popular man.)

 

An excellent album called Songs of the Civil War contains renditions of some of these songs by artists including The United States Military Academy Band, Waylon Jennings, Richie Havens, Hoyt Axton, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Kathy Mattea, and Jay Ungar and Molly Mason (of “Ashokan Farewell” fame). It’s available from Amazon on CD and audiocassette, as well as in MP3 format and via Amazon’s PrimeMusic.

 

Powerful emotion breeds enduring art of all kinds. As heart-stirring as some of the music, poetry, paintings, fiction, and other art forms of the mid-1800s, let’s hope we don’t see another such prolific period for a similar reason ever again.

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And speaking of Valentine’s Day…

Prairie Rose Publications Valentine's Day ExtravaganzaPrairie Rose Publications is offering a token of its love to readers all week: Fourteen free novels, anthologies, and boxed sets. Who doesn’t love free? Let me tell you something: There are a passel of hunky heroes in that herd I’d love to snuggle up to on Valentine’s Day or any other day. Fourteen more novels, boxed sets, and anthologies have been discounted to 99 cents.

Y’all can find a list of the books here. Go take look if you’re of a mind to spend some time lost in love with sigh-worthy heroes and feisty heroines.

 

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Stories Set to Music

Linda pubpixDon’t you just love when life surprises you? Last week I did a small book tour with my sister, Jan Sikes. Many of you know she’s also a writer. And a songwriter. And a musician. She comes by the music part honest so I try not to hold it against her. But it really irks me to death that she stood in the heavenly voice line when the good Lord was passing out gifts! I don’t exactly know where I was (maybe I was watching the cowboys) but I totally missed the voice line! Anyway…. she slid in a country music CD called SAM COLT AND JESUS by Robby White and my brain started whirling with story ideas.

I can only say that Robby White had to have been an outlaw in a past life. There’s no way around it. He has the old west (and Texas) embedded in his soul.

He’s the first to admit it. That’s why he wrote A Hundred Years Too Late.

The song, Sam Colt and Jesus, came about after a friend of Robby’s spoke of how scared he was and that he sat up nights worrying about the state of world. Robby says that if you have Jesus in your heart and a Colt in your boot, you have nothing to fear.

Robby WhiteMusic is in Robby’s DNA. His grandfather, W.L. Bill Hopper, was an old-time preacher and a prolific songwriter with countless hymns to his credit. If you pick up one of those old red hymnals, you’ll find plenty of songs in there by W.L. Bill Hopper—My Anchor, One Touch of His Hand, I Shall Be Changed to name a few.

Maybe the reason Robby’s songs resonate so deeply inside me is that I’m about to start a story about a preacher outlaw who sees no way around using his guns. He’s going to make people listen to his sermons–the easy way or the hard.

Or it could be that I just share his love of the old west.

Or it could be the line—God made men. Sam Colt made ‘em equal.

Or it could be Robby’s baritone that makes me think of smoky saloons.

Whatever it was, I immediately bought my own copy of the CD so I could listen to these over and over.

The cost is only $10! Places where you can buy it.

 AMAZON  FACEBOOK (Like his page while you’re there.)

Dave Pilot, Senior Editor, Outlaw Magazine says this: “Robby White’s got a voice so country it’ll hurt your damn feelings while it heals your soul. His brand of roughshod vocals brimming with nuanced power is a rarity and a treasure.”

Sam Colt and Jesus

The world lost great storytellers when it lost Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash. Do you love songs that tell a story? Who is or was your favorite singer? Or…has life surprised you lately?

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About Robby:

He has been married to his beautiful wife, Danielle, for 15 years and has two daughters. Robby has been playing venues all across Texas and Oklahoma to the delight of his ever growing fan base. His repertoire includes everything from Clapton to Muddy Waters and everything in between. He plays them all but with one huge difference, he plays them Robby White style. You haven’t heard Eleanor Rigby until you have heard Robby perform it. He finds the soul of the song and delivers it in a way that you will never forget.

Ring of Fire

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Today I’m traveling to St. Louis, MO for the American Christian Fiction Writer’s national conference. Since I’ll be in an airpACFW Logoort or a plane most of the day, I’m afraid I won’t be able to interact with you as frequently as I normally do. I will be checking in through my phone when I can, though, so please do leave comments.

I’ll be teaching a session with fellow author, Jody Hedlund, as well as giving feedback on several critiques I did for unpublished writers. One of my favorite conference activities, though, is singing with the conference choir. Conference Choir? Your conference has a choir? Well, yes. Since this is a Christian writer’s conference, we have short times of worship every day (not with the choir–that comes later). Since our choir members come from all over the country, we don’t practice until we arrive at the conference, so we don’t sing until the end of the event – at the big awards gala.

I’ve made some wonderful relationships with these singer authors, many of whom, like me, return year after year. I’ve sung in several choirs and a cappella groups through my college days and worship at a church that sings a cappella (without instruments) every time we come together. So it should come as no great shock to learn that I love tight harmonies and fun a cappella arrangements.

I thought I’d share one with you today. The group is Home Free and they have done a fabulous remake of the classic Johnny Cash son, Ring of Fire. I’ve got a soft spot for deep male voices, and there are several in this piece that set my heart to fluttering. Enjoy!

  • What type of songs make you want to join in and sing?
  • Do you have a favorite artist or group that is your go-to music for when you need a pick-me-up?

My Favorite Western Musicals

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Ever since my teenage days, I’ve been a sucker for a good musical. I love Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Howard Keel . . . this list goes on and on. There’s just something so delightfully cheesy and romantic about a man breaking into song to tell his woman how much he loves her. My husband sang in our university choir in college and has a base voice I love to listen to when we sit together in church. If I were dreaming up my ideal hero, he’d be rugged and handsome, principled and honorable, and he’d sing like Josh Groban. Sigh.

So, since I love musicals and adore western settings, I thought I’d share some of my all-time favorite western musicals.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

This one tops the list. Rugged fronteir setting. Men in desperate need of a good woman’s influence. And seasoned ranch hands that can sing and dance while they do their chores. Awesome! This musical sparked the idea for the Archer brothers in Short Straw Bride.

sevenbridesforsevenbros2

Harvey Girls

OK, ignore the giant bow on her head that looks like it came from the Minnie Mouse Collection. Judy Garland is her usual spunky self in this story about a mail-order bride who is left on her own after her husband-to-be chickens out. She joins the group of Harvey Girls she met on the train and works to open one of Fred Harvey’s hotels and restaurants much to the frustration of the local saloon owner, who, of course, is our romantic lead. Oh, and did you catch the star of Murder, She Wrote in the cast? Yep, that’s Angela Lansbury as the statuesque dance hall girl on the right.

Harvey Girls

Oklahoma!

How many of you are already singing the title song in your head? Me, too. Such a fabulous soundtrack to this down-home western musical. I own the soundtrack and sing along to it more often than I should probably admit. Some of my favorite tunes are Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, Kansas City, All Er Nuthin, and of course the rousing square dance number The Farmer and the Cowman.

Oklahoma

Annie Get Your Gun

I watched this musical about the legendary Annie Oakley for the first time last summer with my daughter. This one is about as corny as they come, but my daughter fell in love with the hysterical lyrics and overdone faces. She does a great Betty Hutton imitation now. How can you not laugh with songs likeAnnie Get Your Gun Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly?

Folks are dumb where I come from,
They ain’t had any learning.
Still they’re happy as can be
Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally).
Folks like us could never fuss
With schools and books and learning.
Still we’ve gone from A to Z,
Doin’ what comes naturally (doin’ what comes naturally)
You don’t have to know how to read or write
When you’re out with a feller in the pale moonlight.
You don’t have to look in a book to find out
What he thinks of the moon and what is on his mind.
That comes naturally (that comes naturally).

 

What are some of your favorites?

Do you roll your eyes at musicals or do you sing along?

 

Jan Sikes: Honky-Tonks and Flowers and Stone

 

When I was asked to be a guest blogger, I was thrilled. I have visited this sight often over the years since my sister, Linda Broday, is a founding Filly.

 

My next thought was,”What am I going to blog about that has to do with petticoats or pistols and in relation to my new book, Flowers and Stone?” It didn’t take long to come up with an answer.

 

My story is set in the rowdy honky-tonks of Texas in 1970; and back in that time, it was not uncommon for men to carry pistols (most often in their boot) and also very common to find ladies wearing a petticoat in the honky-tonk. After all, that was the best way to get a dancing partner for the night.

 

So, what I want to blog about is how that although time periods change, some practices do not. In the 1800’s music was the main source of entertainment. People worked hard and needed to have some way to relax and unwind (much like 1970). Alcohol was normally found to be a part of the event as well (much like 1970). There might be a fight or two break out (much like 1970) and two people might fall in love (much like 1970).

 

I’m sure you have heard stories about your parents or perhaps grandparents who met at a dance and wound up spending the rest of their lives together.

 

Then there were the saloons…now that’s where a big difference comes in. Women were shamed and ostracized in the 1800’s if they went inside a saloon, much less worked in one. In 1970, the honky-tonks thrived on the business women brought in because where there were women, men would follow and men drank, therefore spending money. All of the waitresses were women and in Texas, 1970, go-go dancing was a new rage.

 

In “Flowers and Stone” you will find young Darlina Flowers, a fledgling go-go dancer trying her wings out in the world, and a seasoned musician, Luke Stone, who finds himself inexplicably drawn to her. He has a strong urge to protect her from the rough honky-tonk world he’s lived in for a very long time.

 

As the story unfolds, they fall deeply in love and Darlina embraces the lifestyle, traveling with him and his band up and down the many roads of Texas playing their music. Luke decides to make her a part of his show bringing go-go girls to country music crowds. She is ecstatic to be included.  

 

I loved weaving some of Texas music’s history throughout the story and noted often how people came in great numbers to hear the band.

 

This is a true story based on my life with my husband, Rick Sikes. The band was Rick Sikes and The Rhythm Rebels, and they played in most of the honky-tonks, military bases, rodeos and even high school dances all over Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and on out to California. They must have traveled at least a million miles over the many years they played. Here are some pictures of Rick and the band and of him dressed in his confederate uniform that he loved.

 

Music brings people together and it doesn’t matter if you are making it or listening to it. The energy of music draws people into the emotion of the song. Sometimes it is the person making the music who draws people in, but it always captures our attention and sometimes even a little part of our soul. There is nothing better than true “soul” music and that is simply music that touches us.

 

I’ve really enjoyed reading some of the recent blogs on this site that shared what particular song the writer listens to while writing, or the history of a song that we’ve heard all our lives.

 

It truly is the universal language and remains as important today as it was 200 years ago. Some things won’t ever change….

 

Please click HERE to watch my book video. Rick is singing the song we used.


Tell me your favorite Honky-Tonk story for a chance to win an autographed copy of FLOWERS AND STONE.

 

FLOWERS AND STONE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, My Texas Books, and through www.JanSikes.com.

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Jan began writing poetry at a young age, which coupled with her passion for music led to songwriting. She’s an accomplished singer and guitar player and she’s written a screenplay in addition to her first novel. You can visit her at www.JanSikes.com.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Could there possibly be a more iconic Texas song than Deep in the Heart of Texas? I bet you’re already clapping it, aren’t you? But do you know the history behing the song?

The song was written in 1941. Lyrics were penned by June Hershey and the music was composed by Don Swander. The song was recoded by Perry Como along with Ted Weems and His Orchestra on December 9th of that year and it went on to spend 5 weeks at the top of the charts.

The song’s title was borrowed for a major motion picture in 1942. This western starring Johnny Mack Brown centered around corruption during the Reconstruction Era in Texas following the Civil War. Tex Ritter and the Jimmy Wakley Trio sang the title song.

Gene Autry also sang the song in the 1942 film, Heart of the Rio Grande. His version became one of the most well-known. However, many other superstars have also recorded the song.  Bing Crosby, Dale Evans and Roy Rogers, Ray Charles, and George Strait.

All University of Texas Longhorn fans will eagerly claim the song as their own since the Longhorn band plays it at every football game. Yet they aren’t the only ones. The University of Houston and Texas Christian University also include the song as part of their football traditions. In the realm of baseball, Rice University as well as the Houston Astros play the song during their seventh inning stretch time. It’s a song that always get the crowd on their feet with their hands clapping.

In fact, one source I read claimed that in 1942, the BBC banned the song from being played during work hours on the ground that the catchy rhythm and infectious melody might cause wartime factory workers to neglect their duties in order to clap along with the song.

Here are the first three verses that you know and love. Sing along with me…

Deep in the Heart of Texas

The stars at night are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas
The prairie sky is wide and high
Deep in the heart of Texas

The sage in bloom is like perfume
Deep in the heart of Texas
Reminds me of the one that I love
Deep in the heart of Texas

The coyotes wail along the trail
Deep in the heart of Texas
The rabbits rush around the brush
Deep in the heart of Texas

So are you clapping? What do you associate this song with? I’d love to hear your take and this Texas classic.

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015