bacca pipes see pipes.
back (v.) to play an accompaniment. "Back me up on this one, will you?"
backbeat to accent the second and fourth beats in 4/4 time (or the second beat in 2/2). The term (and the technique) is used much more in rock music than in folk, which prefers the stresses on the first and third beats. See also rhythm. Occasionally the term is used in a general sense to mean a distinctive rhythmic figure throughout a selection.
backup (n.) the accompaniment for another musician. "Play backup on this one, will you?"
Bacon, Lionel (~1910-1994) English morris dancer and author of "The Ring Book", a collection of music and dance notation for many of the Cotswold morris dances. Throughout his career, he was widely influential in stimulating the revival of the morris. In the 30s, he filmed some of the Cotswold teams, providing an important resource as the morris gained momentum in later years.
badman ballads folklore is full of examples of the romanticized outlaw, and folk music is no exception. After a few passes through the folk process, the badman emerges as a folk hero, even if his original part was as a small-time sleazy criminal. There seems to be something in all of us responding to these stories, if only a feeling that we'd like to get away with something, too. Lomax, Alan wrote "...we rejoice inwardly when the bandit or gunman strikes back in blind fury against the society and the conventions we secretly hold responsible for our sorrows."
Examples are "Jesse James", "John Wesley Hardin" (not Dylan's "John Wesley Harding"), "John Hardy", "Pretty Boy Floyd", "Dick Turpin", "Captain Kidd", "Sam Hall" and whole books full of others. The badmen were bank robbers, pirates, highwaymen, and burglars. There are limits, though. There are many songs about men who kill or attempt to kill women ("The Outlandish Knight", "Banks of the Ohio", "Maria Marten", "Pretty Polly", etc.), and these men are not glorified in the same sense as the badmen who can be turned into Robin Hoods (whether they actually gave away any money or not).
Baez, Joan (1941- ) "Joanie" began performing in the Boston/Cambridge folk hotbed in the late 50s; soon she was being billed regularly at the local clubs, and played the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959. Her first Vanguard album appeared in 1960, featuring her amazingly beautiful soprano voice and her guitar - her initial approach to folk music was that of the purist, concentrating on the American and British traditional vein.
Within a few years, her albums were hits, and the title "Queen of Folk Music" was heard. She met Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village and had him make guest appearances during her concerts. His songs gave her a vehicle for her emerging protest stance, and in turn, she gave the rising star public exposure.
As her successful career continued, protest took up more and more of her time. She founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence in Carmel, California, and spent time in jail for civil disobedience relating to Vietnam war protests. She is the author of an autobiographical book, "Daybreak".
She has over 30 albums, although the later ones are far from the voice-and-guitar approach of her early years. She continues to perform today (1996).
bag 1. The treasury of a morris team. While the team dances, the Fool or other barker collects donations from the crowd by passing a hat or an inventively-modified piggy bank. The bag might be saved for a team trip or feast, or it might pay for the real ale. 2. The person in charge of this treasury. Originally "bagman", then "bagperson" and finally just "bag".
bagpipes there are three main styles of bagpipes played in folk music. The large, familiar pipes known as the Scottish, Highland, or war pipes are very loud and so tend to be used for ceremonial occasions or in bands, with Scotland's Battlefield Band being one example. The air bag is kept full by blowing into a mouthpiece; the notes are fingered on a reeded chanter that looks something like a whistle. There are several drone pipes that sound all the time; one drone is tuned to an A note and the others an octave up. Due to the overtones from these pipes, there is a strong feeling of a parallel fifth.
The chanter must also sound all the time; it's difficult to play a genuine rest (although some pipers can manage it by tricky fingering of the chanter). Because of this inability to emit silence, players fill in rests with all sorts of grace notes, which is one of the reasons why a bagpipe arrangement of a familiar tune may sound a bit odd (as is the fact that the chanter has only nine notes and some substitutions are required for notes that aren't there). People tend to either love or hate the Highland pipes.
The Northumbrian Small Pipes and the Irish or Uillean pipes are compact and more convenient for accompanying traditional music. They're played the same way, but the air bags are filled by a bellows pumped by the player's arm. They have a lighter sound, are more agile than the Highland pipes, and can play true rests.
Incidentally, the bagpipes are not Scottish in origin, but have been found in many different cultures throughout history.
See also pipe tune, neume, pibroch.
bairn (Scot.) child.
Baker, Etta ([1915-2006]) a finger-style guitarist who recorded instrumental music of Appalachia for the Tradition label.
balalaika the Russian equivalent of a guitar, at least in terms of popularity, although it's said that its status as the state instrument of the former USSR was due to political control. It has a triangular body and three strings tuned EEA. It has never caught on in North American folk music like its cousin the bouzouki.
baldrick colored bands crossed over the morris dancer's chest and back in the form of an X. Worn over whites.
Baldry, Long John ([1941-2005]) English performer who specializes in American blues. He started in the early 60s, but isn't all that well known in North America except to blues fans, but has released a number of successful albums and singles.
(In an interview, he said that he once needed a harmonica player for one of his tours, and hired a young show-biz beginner named Rod Stewart.)
ballad in pop music, the word can mean almost anything, but in traditional music it refers to a story song, with heroes and villains and a big bang-up ending.
The ballad format is fairly tight. Musically, the ballad is strophic, with verses usually in a four-line form with or without a chorus. The scene is always set very economically: "As I roved out one morning / to take the sweet and pleasant air" may be all we get before the story begins. Traditional ballads shamelessly borrow images from each other all the time, so all hands are lily-white, all horses are milk-white steeds that are much faster than the brown ones, and all heroines are as fair as the morning dew (these are markers). While the narrative is usually spoken by an unknown person, occasionally the participants themselves tell the story (see dialogue).
Most ballads have a nicely-balanced dramatic line, but others seem to be concocted by someone who can't lay it on thick enough. People dropping dead by the dozen of shock or broken hearts turns up a lot. For a not-so-serious discussion of this, see fainting.
The story can be almost anything: a tragic romance, a recounting of a historical event (not always accurate - drama rules), a supernatural tale, nautical adventures, disasters, etc. A good ballad is cinematic - it projects a widescreen movie in your head. Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span called traditional songs "a magic lantern on the past". See also historical accuracy.
There are many subgroupings of the ballad types. See come-all-ye, badman ballads, goodnight ballad, and broadside as examples.
ballade 1. A late medieval chorus song from France, and of strict form - three stanzas with the same meter and rhyme, and a one-line chorus, or a four-line envoi. See also virelais. 2. A type of narrative piece for piano stylized by Chopin.
balladmonger someone who made a living writing and selling ballads, either as a songsheet ( broadsides) or as a booklet ( chapbook). The songs were often new words to old tunes, and the topics could be just about anything: current wars, someone's last words ( goodnight ballad), love songs, etc. They sold them in the street, door to door, and from stalls at fairs ("stall ballads").
ballet (rhymes with "mallet") an older word meaning ballad.
ballett see madrigal.
bandoneon a rather rare type of concertina originating in South America. It's large, and has the unusual feature of having the same treble note whether the bellows are pushed or pulled - but a different bass chord depending on the direction.
bandster (Scot.) a harvester, a bander of sheaves.
Band, The see The Band.
bandura (also "bandora", "bandurria", etc) a relative of the lute and guitar, with a flat back and top. The stringing varies widely, from six strings to as many as an autoharp.
bane 1. Death, destruction. 2. A poison. 3. (Scot.) bone.
banjo the folk banjo is almost always a 5-string, a longer version of the jazz or tenor banjo, which has four strings (and is favored by Irish traditional groups). The fifth or thumb string is mounted next to the bass string and is not fretted, but is usually tuned to the tonic or fifth of the key in use. See thumb string. The thumb string is generally plucked on the upbeat, giving the banjo its distinctive syncopation. It's always played with a fingerpicking or frailing style rather than with a pick (as you would the four-string banjo). See also plectrum banjo.
It's a chromatic instrument, although the number of actual keys available depends on the tuning range of the unfretted fifth string. Mechanisms (hooks, sliding capos) are available to extend this range by pulling the fifth string down onto the fingerboard, allowing any key. There are two basic banjo styles, the frailing style, generally used for old-time songs and dance music, and the clawhammer or Scruggs style, generally used for bluegrass as well as other tunes.
There are many tunings for the banjo, but the two most popular would be gCGBD and gDGBD, where the lower-case "g" is the thumb string. The "B" is one semitone below middle C.
There are also fretless models available; these allow very smooth gliding tones. The lack of frets produces a warmer, plunky sound, somewhat like pizzicato violin.
The banjo is said to be based on similar African instruments and is also said to be the only true American instrument, though native Americans would probably argue this point strongly.
See also How to Play the 5-string Banjo.
banjo-guitar there have been many variations and mix-'n-matches among the banjo-guitar-mandolin family (see banjolin). The banjo-guitar had a banjo body and a six-string guitar neck. Used by Sam McGee of the McGee Brothers.
banjolin (also "mando-banjo") a hybrid banjo strung with four short courses of strings like a mandolin, and with the same tuning. See also banjo-guitar.
bar (also bar line) vertical lines placed in music notation to delimit the right number of notes for the time signature. For instance, in 4/4 time, the time values of the notes between two bar lines will add up to four beats. The notation between two bar lines is called a measure. A bar and a measure are largely synonymous. The idea of setting the meter by bar lines is fairly recent in musical history.
bar band often, a local group will make a name for itself entertaining in bars by playing folk favorites in an up-tempo style ("Farewell to Nova Scotia", "Black Velvet Band", and "I'm a Rover Seldom Sober" would be Canadian song examples). When they're booked into folk festivals, they invariably begin by blasting away at high volume with clever but canned patter. After a few songs, they realize that people are listening intently and they begin to relax. During the first few songs, however, folkies will nod and say "bar band" and head for the beer tent to give the band a chance to wind down from the hyper mode.
Barbeau, Marius (1883-1969) the great Quebecois anthropologist collected and preserved 13,000 French and native folk songs and their variants. The Marius-Barbeau Medal is awarded for achievements in folklore.
Barbecue Bob (1902-1931) (Robert Hicks) a little-known 12-string guitarist and singer from Georgia. He recorded folk and blues songs in 1927-30.
bar chord see barre chord.
bard in the ancient tradition of Celtic areas like Wales, the bard was a storyteller and/or a musician. Much of the culture's oral tradition was entrusted to the bards. There was (and still is, in revival form) an annual bardic festival, the Eisteddfod.
Related terms: conteur, goliard, minstrel, scop, seanachie.
Today the word has come to mean a poet or an exceptional storyteller with poetic elements (Shakespeare, for instance).
Baring-Gould, Sabine (1834-1924) the Reverend Baring-Gould did some original field collecting, publishing a number of textbooks in the 1890s. He saw no problem in reconstructing and editing to suit his own tastes, something that must have driven folklorists mad. Like many collectors of his time, he was convinced that folksong must be rural, and like Child, F.J., ignored the large repertoire of city and town songs.
As Lloyd, A.L. pointed out in "Folk Song in England", Baring-Gould collected a version of "Strawberry Fair" and said that it contained a double-entendre that the old singers probably didn't even understand, so he completely rewrote it. The dreadful obscenity was this:
"Oh, I have a lock that doth lack a key...
And if you got the key then come this way."
Sexual metaphor is the very stuff of amatory folksong. There must be *thousands* of examples (see Foggy Foggy Dew). If Mr B-G wanted to keep this giggler from schoolchildren, that's one thing, but he should have left the song alone. See also bowdlerize, genteel, rewrites.
baritone one of the ranges of the voice. It falls below tenor; the usual specified range is from the G or A at the bottom of the bass staff to the F above middle C. See also vocal ranges.
barker 1. (from carnival slang) A morris dancer, often the Fool, who introduces the dances to the crowd, drums up donations, etc. 2. (UK) A tanner.
bar line a vertical line inserted into music notation to denote a bar, which is also called a measure. In medieval times, they were inserted for readability rather than to delimit notes for the time signature.
baroque (Fr. "bizarre") a term usually associated with European formal music from about 1600 to about 1750. It isn't really classical, although it's put under that heading when speaking generally. Bach and Handel were the great representatives of the time. The common use of the word, usually referring to art or architecture of the period, has the sense of something big, dark, and ornate, usually excessively so. See also rococo.
baroque pitch musicians who play period instruments and music often use a lower pitch standard than our current A440 - one semitone lower at 415.3 Hz.
Barrand, Tony ([1945- ]) began singing with John Roberts in 1969; both are English expatriates living in the northeast US. In 1973/74, they organized the noted morris and sword (see sword dances) teams of Marlboro, Vermont, where North America's largest morris Ale is held. They have made a number of albums; some are a general approach to British traditional music, while others specialize in ritual songs.
Tony is the author of "Six Fools and a Dancer", a book about the history and performance of the morris. He is widely considered to be an expert on both folksong and folk dance.
barre chord (also "bar chord") playing a fretted instrument chord by placing the index finger across the fret and using the other three to select notes of the chord. The advantage is that they can be played on any fret, giving a large repertoire of chords. The disadvantage is that they're somewhat difficult to play quickly.
barrelhouse a loose term that can be an adjective, usually referring to a blues piano style of the 20s-40s (and usually rather rough, or at least loud and spirited), or a verb that seems to have an open definition in the same way as boogie.
barrel organ usually a hand-cranked portable organ, though the term includes much larger, permanent types. The notes are selected by a rotating barrel-and-pin arrangement, eliminating the need for musical talent. Widely used by "organgrinders" in street music, or so cartoonists would have us believe (they do seem to be rather rare, especially the ones with monkeys). Sometimes confused with the hurdy gurdy.
bass 1. The lower part of an instrument's range ("Play it on the bass strings"). 2. The electric bass guitar, now almost a standard because of its portability. It's tuned E A D G, one octave below the E A D G of the guitar. You might occasionally see the six-string version, tuned E A D G B E, one octave below the guitar. 3. The acoustic or upright bass, also called the "double" bass, since it often plays the bass notes one octave below the melody. Also tuned E A D G. Oddly, the acoustic bass is sometimes called the "string bass", even though all basses have strings. 4. The lowest of male voices. The range is usually specified from the F at the bottom of the bass staff to the E above middle C. Good bass singers are rare. See also vocal ranges.
See also staff.
basscan a homemade bass using a large metal can as the resonator - a variation on the washtub bass ("gutbucket").
bass guitar 1. The electric four-string or six-string bass guitar. Almost always fretted, although models with fretless necks are available. 2. The acoustic four-string bass guitar. At a glance, it could be mistaken for a large six-string guitar. The sound is necessarily soft; this is one instrument that benefits from a pickup. Also known as a "guitarron". Occasionally seen with six strings.
bass run see run.
Battlefield Band Scottish group performing up-tempo arrangements of traditional and contemporary folk on synthesizer, bagpipes, fiddle and guitar. The musicianship is exemplary and they're quite successful - they had a pop hit with Creedence Clearwater's "Bad Moon Rising", one of the few hits featuring bagpipes.
bawbee (UK, also "bawbie", "baubie", etc.) a halfpenny.
bawdy a bawdy song has references to sex and is full of naughty words. Bawdy songs will be bowdlerized for the consumption of genteel people, with the result that all the life goes out of them.
beam not a word that's used often. In notation, it's the line or lines joining the stems of two or more notes together for clarity in interpreting the meter. Not to be confused with tie.
beat 1. To non-musicians, the beat of a tune is how it makes you tap your foot - fast, slow, etc. 2. To musicians, it means the number of beats per measure. 3. See beatnik. 4. When two notes that are slightly different in pitch are played together, a low-frequency pulsing may be heard - these are beats, and their frequency is usually the difference between the frequencies of the two notes. Beats can be heard from a well-tuned piano - if you sound a C and the G above it, the natural scale G harmonic of the C note will beat with the G note, whose frequency is set to the equal-tempered scale. Also called "combination", "difference", and "resultant" tones.
beatnik a media word for members of the counterculture, coined after the launch of Sputnik in 1957, taken from that and Jack Kerouac's popularizing of the phrase "beat generation". Similar to "hippie" in the 60s. They used to hang out in coffeehouses and listen to jazz and folk music, among other things. Now more of a joke word than anything. It was a joke in the early counterculture, too; people who called someone else a "beatnik" always got a big laugh. In moments of seriousness, they might say "beat", but even this was seen as a populist, restrictive label.
Bedlam it's possible that our word for utter confusion derives from a corruption of the name of St Mary's of Bethlehem Hospital in London, begun in the 16th century and one of the first state-supported mental asylums in England. It's mentioned often in London songs, and even had a cycle of poems written about it, with a number of inmates getting their own poems (Mad Tom, Mad Maudlin, etc.). Nic Jones set Mad Tom's poem to music in the early 70s, and the song is now popular with folk musicians as either "Mad Tom of Bedlam" or "Boys of Bedlam".
Beers Family Bob Beers (1920-1972), his wife Evelyne, their daughter Marty and son-in-law Eric Nagler performed widely, doing the traditional music of the eastern US. In 1966, they founded the Fox Hollow Fox Festival, and also started the Fox Hollow recording label.
Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827) the great composer occasionally worked with folk tunes. He arranged a number of Scottish tunes for orchestra, and the "Ode to Joy" from the Ninth Symphony has a nice folksong ring to it. Ludwig must have been a folkie at heart - he had no time for pedantry, stuffed shirts, pointless rules and suits in general. The "Ode", incidentally, has had a set of English lyrics written for it, and they can be found in Rise Up Singing as the song "Hymn for Nations". There is also another set of lyrics by Don West, recorded by Seeger, Pete on his "Pete" CD. (It was Pete Seeger who started off the folkie interest in the Ninth with his banjo recording on the "Goofing Off Suite" for Folkways - see also Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring.)
A bit of Beethoven trivia: if you listen to the Andante near the end of the ballet "Creatures of Prometheus", you'll hear the opening notes of "My Grandfather's Clock" (see Work, Henry Clay).
Belafonte, Harry (1927- ) born in Harlem, NY and seen largely as a middle-of-the-road singer, Harry Belafonte's roots are in folk music. His repertoire of American and West Indian folk songs got him a gig in NYC, establishing him as a singer. In the late 50s, a recording contract produced his hits: "Jamaica Farewell", "Matilda", "Day-O" (which became a hit for the Tarriers as "The Banana Boat Song" - Belafonte's version tends to be the one remembered), and many others. His albums, particularly the Carnegie Hall concert, show a thorough knowledge of the folk idiom, although folkies might consider some of the arrangements a tad dramatic.
belive (Scot., also "belyve") quickly. Rhymes with "beehive".
Bellamy, Peter (1944-1991) English singer, songwriter and concertina player. Originally a member of the Young Tradition, a group that popularized a great deal of British traditional music, he also wrote songs such as "Roll Down" that appeared to be absolutely traditional. His settings of poems by Kipling, Rudyard are becoming more popular with folkies all the time. He also wrote a folk opera called "The Transports", which is about people transported to Australia because of criminal charges.
He wrote scathing record reviews for Folk Review, the English folk music magazine, usually lamenting singers turning away from tradition, or handling traditional music badly.
His energetic voice had a rather lush vibrato that wasn't pleasing to everyone; one critic came up with an anagram for his name: "Elmer P. Bleaty".
Like Phil Ochs, he took his own life, ending years of enormous influence on folk music. He will be missed.
bellman (UK) 1. A bailiff. 2. A town crier.
ben (Scot.) in.
bend in general, to smoothly raise the pitch of a note by a certain amount and then return it to the original pitch. The amount of the bend depends on the musician's preference; fiddlers can lower the pitch as well, but players of fretted instruments can only raise it by stretching the string to the side (unless they're using a slide). A common ornament in all types of music. Synonymous with "slur" and blue note.
Benoit, Emile (1913-) Newfoundland fiddler and composer. He has appeared at many folk festivals in Canada and the US, playing his blend of Celtic and Quebecois fiddle styles. His tunes have been widely played by others; he has two albums of his music.
bent 1. (UK) a reedy grass. 2. A note that has been raised or lowered slightly from its normal pitch; a common ornament in all types of music. Occasionally called a blue note.
berk see birk.
besom (UK, also "beezom") a twig broom. Occasionally, the twigs used.
Bibb, Leon (1935-) guitarist and singer from Kentucky who began singing in clubs in Greenwich Village in the late 50s. He played major clubs and festivals across the US, and recorded for Vanguard and Columbia.
Bikel, Theodore (1924-) actor/singer, originally from Austria, who had some success in the folk revival of the 60s. He specialized in international songs, recorded a large number of albums, and played the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. He continues to perform.
Billings, William (1758-1795) a self-taught composer who wrote innovative hymns in Massachusetts in the late 18th century. The hymn music of Billings and his contemporaries contributed greatly to the repertoire of sacred harp singing. Billings is considered the first important American composer - his style lay somewhere between the folk approach and European classicism. His "Chester" became a marching song during the American Revolution, and his "Waters of Babylon" and "David's Lamentation" (aka "Absolom") are still sung today ("Babylon" was recorded by Don McLean on the "American Pie" album).
In terms of formal music, the style of Billings and his contemporaries was soon made obsolete by the enormous outpouring of the European composers, but it carried on through the sacred harp, which has been called "religious folk music".
It's interesting to note that "Chester" sounds vaguely like "Onward, Christian Soldiers". It isn't impossible that Sir Arthur Sullivan, who wrote "Soldiers" more than a century after Billings, might have heard the music and might have been influenced.
birk (UK, also "berk") a dunce, an idiot, etc.
birkie (Scot.) fellow, lad.
bis (Fr. "twice") seen in printed songs to indicate that a line of the lyrics is to be sung twice. More often, "2x" is used.
bitonal two keys going at once. Rarely encountered in folk, though folk does like parallel harmonies, and if you play a tune in C with a parallel fifth for harmony, you really have a song in C and G at the same time. Because parallel harmonies drag if carried on too long, the bitonal effect is a passing one.
blackleg (from coal mining) workers hired by management to substitute for striking workers; scabs. "Blackleg Miner" is one of many popular worker songs.
blacklist the anti-communist paranoia in the US in the late 40s and the 50s led to the creation of Senator Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee, with the proscribing of many writers, actors, musicians, etc., because they seemed a little too left of center for the Powers That Were. Almost any connection at all to a communist organization might get a performer subpoenaed to appear before the HUAC. Even if nothing came of it, the performer's name could be entered on the somewhat secret blacklist. Blacklisted performers were banned from TV and radio, and might have had trouble getting work in clubs.
Banned folk musicians included the Weavers, Robeson, Paul, Seeger, Pete, Guthrie, Woody, Dyer-Bennett, Richard and many more (see also People's Songs). Although the blacklist eased off in the 70s, to this day performers like Pete Seeger are rarely if ever seen on commercial television (but see Rainbow Quest).
Blackwell, Scrapper (-1962) a guitarist best known for accompanying other musicians, such as Carr, Leroy. He did make some solo recordings for Yazoo in 1928-32 ("The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell").
Blake, Norman ([1938- ]) a Georgia musician who plays guitar in both flatpick and finger-style, mandolin, fiddle, and Dobro. He has recorded for Flying Fish and Rounder, and is a successful songwriter.
Bland, James (James A. Bland) ([1854-1911]) a songwriter in the 19th century US minstrel tradition. Songs of his that are still around include "Golden Slippers", "In the Evening by the Moonlight", and "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny". The latter was the state song of Virginia from 1940 to 1997, when it was retired for "offensive terms" ("massa", "darkey").
bleed (also "spill") the sound from one festival stage interfering with the sound of another. Also, in a recording studio, one instrument being picked up on the track of another.
Blind Blake (?-~1940) (Arthur Blake) a blues singer and guitarist from the 20s and 30s. He is mentioned as being a companion of various other blues legends (such as Davis, Rev. Gary), and influenced them greatly with his ragtime finger-style guitar playing. He recorded for Biograph records from 1926 to 1931. Not to be confused with Blind Blake Higgs.
Blind Blake Higgs ([1915-1986]) a calypso singer and instrumentalist; he is said to be the author of the song "Run Come See, Jerusalem", recorded in the 1950s by the Weavers.
Blind Boy Fuller (1908-1941) (Fulton Allen) country blues guitarist and singer. He learned guitar in the 1920s, and played the streets of North Carolina after losing his sight in 1928. During the 30s and 40s, he had a number of hits in the race records market. He travelled with Davis, Rev. Gary, and also Terry, Sonny and McGhee, Brownie. His recordings became an influence on modern guitarists interested in the roots of the blues. Songs of his that are still being played include "Step It Up and Go", "Truckin' My Blues Away", and "Mama, Let Me Lay It On You".
Blind Boy Grunt a pseudonym, along with "Tedham Porterhouse" and "Bob Landy" (and others), used by Bob Dylan when he was making non-Columbia recordings in the 60s.
Blind Lemon Jefferson (~1895-1930) born in Texas, Blind Lemon played guitar and sang in the streets to earn a living. Little is known of his early history, and the few later facts are anecdotal from musicians he played with or taught ( White, Josh, Walker, T-Bone). He was born into a family named Jefferson, Banks or Bates (depending on your sources), and his first records were issued with the pseudonym "Reverend L. J. Bates". Blues author Paul Oliver implied in the index to his book "Screening the Blues" (Cassell, 1968) that Jefferson's name was "Deacon L. J. Bates", though this could have been merely a reference to the recording pseudonym.
He met Leadbelly and the two toured together, with Blind Lemon teaching Leadbelly the blues, and Leadbelly immortalizing the duo in his song "Silver City Bound". He made a number of Paramount recordings in Chicago in the 20s, including "Black Snake Moan", "Hangman's Blues", "Matchbox Blues", and the famous "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" (the tune of which is related to "Careless Love", also recorded by Lemon). The recordings were popular enough that his labels were a distinctive lemon color, and he even had his photo on some of them. He was no doubt the first nationally popular country blues artist, the first star. His vocal and guitar stylings influenced all the blues players of the folk revival.
Blind Sammie pseudonym used by Blind Willie McTell.
Blind Willie Johnson (~1902-1949) a Texas bluesman (vocals and slide guitar), who teamed with McTell, Blind Willie in Georgia. He's known only from a few records made for Columbia in 1927-30, but he seemed to favor sacred songs done in a blues style. His songs included "Jesus Make Up My Dyin' Bed" (recorded by Dylan, Bob as "In My Time of Dyin'"), "Motherless Children" (recorded by Van Ronk, Dave), "You'll Need Somebody on Your Bond" (recorded by Donovan), and "If I Had My Way, I Would Tear This Building Down" (probably the foundation of "Samson and Delilah", recorded by Davis, Rev. Gary, PP&M, and Dave Van Ronk). Others of his songs were recorded by Cooder, Ry.
Blind Willie McTell (1901-1959) an Atlanta 12-string guitar bluesman. He recorded for Victor, Columbia, Atlantic, Melodeon, Biograph, and Yazoo, occasionally using the names "Blind Sammie" or "Georgia Bill". One of his best-known and most-recorded songs is "Statesboro Blues". In the 30s he partnered with Johnson, Blind Willie as street singers in Georgia, and in 1940 he recorded a number of blues and sacred songs for Lomax, Alan. His last name was taken as a stage name by McTell, Ralph.
blint (Scot.) blinded.
Bloomfield, Mike (1944-1981) a guitarist who did both acoustic and electric accompaniments for Butterfield, Paul and Dylan, Bob. His work stands out on Dylan's "Highway 61" and "Blonde on Blonde" albums. He left the Butterfield Band in 1966 to form a group called Electric Flag.
blow 1. (from jazz argot) To play, usually in a fast and complex style, really strutting your stuff. "Let's blow, man!" This applies to any instrument, not just horns or woodwinds. 2. As in the popular sense: to blow it, make a complete mess, utter failure. "How could he play a simple three-chord song and still blow it?"
Blowin' in the Wind the famous song by Dylan, Bob. Its authorship was in doubt for a while - see Wyatt, Lorre.
Some "Wind" trivia: although Peter, Paul & Mary had an enormous hit with the song after its release in June of 1963, they were not the first to record it. The Chad Mitchell Trio recorded their version on an album in late 1962, and Traum, Happy recorded it at about the same time for Folkways with Vince Martin.
bluegrass based on the rural music of Appalachia and environs. Characterized by rather fast playing and high-pitched harmonies. Most bands worth their salt have virtuosos playing the mandolin, fiddle and banjo. The guitarist is expected to have at least a few show-stopping fiddle tunes.
People who brought the bluegrass sound to a wide audience in the late 40s include Monroe, Bill, the Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs, and the Country Gentlemen.
A common complaint from non-fans is the sameness of the arrangements. A little virtuosity is a buzz, but everything quickly begins to sound like everything else. To the fans, it could go on forever. See also newgrass.
blue note 1. In general, any or all of flated thirds, fifths, or sevenths, used to give a blues sound to a melody; any accidental used for the same purpose. 2. Any note that has been bent to change its pitch for a decorative effect. See also microtone.
(A blue note that has been modified right out of our scale and can be retrieved for experimenting is described under harmonic series.
blues when the English, Scottish and Irish folksong and pop song structure of the US south met with the African rhythms, modes, and work songs brought over by slaves, one result was the blues, now enormously popular everywhere. There are a number of different styles, from the acoustic country blues to the electrified city blues that started in places like Chicago and New York.
The blues format is a very tight one. In one of its basic forms, a 12- bar blues would consist of two repeated lines and a final line that nicely makes a statement about the first two (the brackets indicate the chords in the key of C that would be used to harmonize with the lines):
(C) Feel like a brokedown engine, mama, I ain't got no drivin' wheels,
(F) I feel like a brokedown engine, mama, ain't got no drivin' wheels,
(G) I want to hijack people, (F) you don't know how I feel. (C)
Blues today don't always contain themes as agonized as that one, but misery is so common in the early, or country blues, that the songs stand as a sad testimony to one race's treatment of another.
In the melody, which is usually simple but powerful, the seventh note of the scale is often flatted (that is, B becomes Bb in the key of C). Flatted thirds and fifths turn up as well. These, and notes that are bent, are called blue notes".
The blues were first popularized by Handy, W.C. who published "St Louis Blues" and "Mamie's Blues" at the turn of the century. Certain styles of blues are associated with specific areas, such as country blues from the Mississippi delta and environs, and the harder-edged city blues from Chicago and New York. It was the country blues of the southeastern states that really led to the music we think of as blues. It's difficult to pin down "the birth of the blues", since there are a number of different styles, but a reasonable dating for the folk-blues or country blues artist would be the beginning of the success of commercial recordings of the style (see race records), which was about the 20s. Patton, Charlie was said to be the first blues artist to sell widely. See also Blind Lemon Jefferson, perhaps the first country blues star.
For a few other blues greats, see Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell, Broonzy, Bill, Davis, Rev. Gary, Johnson, Robert, McGhee, Brownie, Terry, Sonny, Waters, Muddy. There are also musicians who aren't thought of as mainly bluesmen, but who contributed a great deal, such as Hurt, John and Leadbelly.
Arnold Shaw, author of "Black Popular Music in America" (1986), wrote that dating the birth of the blues is "an exercise in conjecture, since its origin is shrouded in the distant days before recording might have provided documentation. Moreover, as a folk art transmitted orally, the blues attracted musicologists later than the spirituals, which began to be notated during the Civil War."
The country blues are at the root of the electric big-city blues, which are at the root of all the different styles we label as "soul", "Motown", "rap" and so on.
Blue Sky Boys Bill Bolick (1917-) and Earl Bolick (1919-) were popular radio and recording artists in the 30s and 40s. Their old-timey sound, mixed with a high harmony, influenced the development of bluegrass. They recorded occasionally in the 60s and 70s, but never played music full time after the 50s.
Bluetail Fly a song from the US minstrel show tradition. There are early versions from the 1840s that lack the "Jimmy" chorus; it's said to be the work of Emmett, Dan, but might also be a song he learned from others of the tradition. It was arranged and popularized by Work, John and later collected by Lomax, John and Lomax, Alan. Alan taught it to Ives, Burl. The refrain is a snippet of a plantation song. Aka "Jimmy Cracked Corn", which is said to refer to the opening of a bottle of corn liquor.
board-end (Scot.) head of the table.
bob in British slang, a shilling.
bobbit (Scot.) bowed, curtsied.
bodhran an Irish Gaelic word, pronounced "borrun". It's a drum 18" to 24" in diameter, more or less, with a body just large enough to stretch the drumhead (maybe 2"-4" deep). It's held in one hand and played with a double-headed drumstick in the other. Although it would seem limited, a good bodhran player can get remarkable effects with the special drumstick, and can change the sound of the drumhead by pressing on it with the fingers of the hand doing the holding.
Bogtrotters a Virginia old-timey string band. They recorded for Biograph and the Library of Congress in the late 30s and early 40s. The original members included Ward, Wade and his nephew Fields Ward.
boogie (also "boogey", "boogy", etc.) an imprecise term generally referring to an up-tempo performance, usually of rock, blues, ragtime, and so on. It can also mean to party seriously, or to dance vigorously - in fact, it seems to mean whatever the speaker intends.
It started life as "boogie-woogie" some decades ago, that time with the meaning of an up-tempo, lively tune or song, almost always associated with blues piano. Many tunes said to be boogie contained a walking bass.
Bogle, Eric (1946- ) A Scottish singer-songwriter living in Australia, Eric is best known for "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda", "William McBride" (aka "No Man's Land"), "Now I'm Easy", and "Safe in the Harbour" (written for Rogers, Stan).
Boggs, Doc (1898-1971) (Moran Boggs) Kentucky banjoist specializing in old-timey music. He recorded in the late 20s, but was unknown in the folk revival until Seeger, Mike introduced his unique three finger picking banjo style to the public. He then played major festivals and recorded for Folkways, influencing many modern banjo players.
Bojangles (1878-1949) (Bill Robinson) "Mr Bojangles" was probably the most famous tap dancer of all time. He danced in vaudeville, theatre, clubs, and several films. The song by Walker, Jerry Jeff may have been inspired by him, but since Bojangles died when J.J. was about seven years old, it's obviously a well-crafted fantasy.
Bok, Gordon ([1939- ]) singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Maine. He has written many songs about the sea and sailing, and has composed story songs about seal legends. Popular at folk festivals in the US and Canada, he has a number of albums on Folk-Legacy.
Bolden, Buddy (1877-1931) (Charles Bolden) New Orleans jazz bandleader and cornet player. Since he never recorded, anything known about him survives only through his influence on traditional jazz, plus the stories his colleagues told about him. He never played again after 1907. At least one of the songs he arranged is often played in folk ("Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor", recorded by, among others, Rush, Tom), and a song written about him ("Buddy Bolden's Blues") was recorded by Von Schmidt, Eric.
bones Two bones held loosely in the hand produce a loud rhythmic clacking noise when the hand is shaken or the bones are passed along the fingers of the open hand. Suitable for rapid dance tunes and much favored by Irish bands. Compare with spoons.
bongos a pair of small drums fastened together, held in the lap or between the legs, and played directly with the hands.
Bonny Prince Charlie (1720-1780) Charles Edward Stuart, aka "The Young Pretender", grandson of James II of the House of Stuart. Perhaps no other member of royalty caused so many songs to be written. In 1745, he attempted to rally the Scottish clans with the aim of returning the House of Stuart to the throne (Britain was by this time ruled by the Georges of the House of Hanover).
He and his supporters ("Jacobites") fought a number of battles, but never had the numbers to overthrow the English. They were defeated at the Battle of Culloden (1746), the last Jacobite uprising. After Culloden, the English came down hard on the Scots, banning the kilt and outlawing the clan system. Charlie fled to France, where he remained in exile with some of his followers.
The remaining Jacobite sympathizers began making the songs, which usually had the theme of Charlie returning triumphantly from France: "Over the Sea to Skye", "Wha'll Be King But Charlie", "Will Ye No Come Back Again", "Wae's Me for Prince Charlie" and many more. See also Jacobite songs.
Bookbinder, Roy (1943- ) NYC singer-guitarist who specializes in blues and ragtime. He has toured widely and has recorded for Kicking Mule records.
books there is a vast quantity of books available on all aspects of folk music, and no two folkies would have identical must-read lists. However, the following will shed light on many of the subjects covered far too briefly in this lexicon. Please note that many of them may be either special-order or out of print.
"The English and Scottish Popular Ballads", Child, F.J., Dover Publications. Five softbound volumes. For the *serious* traddie. See Child's entry for more information. See also Bronson, Bertrand. See also "Oxford Book of Ballads", below.
"Folk Music - More Than a Song", Baggelaar/Milton, Thomas Crowell Co., 1976. Capsule bios of just about everyone who ever had anything to do with folk music up until the publication date. This was also issued as "The Folk Music Encyclopedia".
"Folk Song in England", Lloyd, A.L., Paladin Books. Superbly written discussion of folk music by one of England's foremost researchers into the subject.
"Folksongs of Britain and Ireland", Kennedy, Peter, editor; Oak Publications, 1975. A large, comprehensive collection, including Gaelic versions of songs and a huge amount of reference material.
"Henscratches and Flyspecks", Seeger, Pete, Berkley Publishing. For those who would like to teach themselves to read music without an overload of music theory. Lots of song examples.
"The Incompleat Folksinger", Seeger, Pete, Simon and Schuster. A collection of old and new writings (including much from Pete's excellent "Appleseeds" column in Sing Out!), detailing the rise in popularity of folk music in the 50s and 60s, and stories about many of the people involved. A general view of the folkie philosophy.
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone", Seeger, Pete, 1993. A Sing Out! publication. Closer to an autobiography than the above book, and with lots of songs, including tablature as well as notation. The cover art is by Von Schmidt, Eric.
Oak Publications, NYC, NY. An enormous catalog of books on every aspect of folk music and folk musicians.
"Oxford Book of Ballads", Oxford University Press. For those who don't want to pop for the full Child collections. A goodly selection of them are in this.
"Oxford Book of Carols", Oxford University Press. A comprehensive selection of ancient carols, with some modern ones. Good collectiion of notes, even if the editors tend to be moldy figs at times.
"Oxford Book of Traditional Verse", Oxford University Press. Though the title makes this sound like a book of poems, it's actually a collection of traditional song lyrics.
"Oxford Companion to Music", Scholes, Percy, ed., Oxford University Press. While this is primarily classical in content, it's a huge compendium of musical definitions, and has many excellent entries on traditional music.
"The Penguin Book of American Folk Songs", Penguin Books, Lomax, Alan, editor. All the favorites from the US, most collected by the editor and his father, Lomax, John.
"The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs", Penguin Books, Fowke, Edith, editor.
"The Canadian Book of Penguin Folk Songs". This is a joke. Traddie singers use it occasionally during intros.
"Viking Book of Ballads of the English-speaking World", Friedman, Albert editor; published by Viking in 1956 and currently available from Penguin Books. A great selection of popular ballads, with wonderfully complete and superbly researched notes.
"Woody Guthrie - A Life", Joe Klein, Ballantine Books, 1980. A superb biography, not just of Woody, but of the American folksong revival in general. Perhaps one of the best books ever written on folk music.
"Guinness Who's Who of Blues", Guinness Publishing, 1993. A well-researched set of biographies of blues performers from the beginning to the present.
"The Folk Music Sourcebook", Sandberg/Weissman, Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. Capsule bios, selected discographies, and book lists for just about every folk and blues performer from the 20s to the publication date.
"Faber Companion to 20th-Century Popular Music", Hardy/Laing, Faber & Faber, 1990. An amazingly comprehensive book of biographies, not just of pop performers, but of folk, jazz, and blues types back to the turn of the century.
"Introducing American Folk Music", Kip Lornell, Brown & Benchmark, 1993. Takes the musicologist's approach, so you get an in-depth treatment, unlike most introductory works. A musical dictionary would be handy but not essential.
"Musical Beliefs", Robert Walker, Teachers College Press, 1990. The physics of music from a music prof at Simon Fraser U. A basic knowledge of both subjects is advisable. A fascinating read, since it's anything but a list of dry facts.
"Measured Tones - The Interplay of Physics and Music", Ian Johnston, Adam Hilger publishers, 1989. One of the very best and most readable books on the physics of music.
"Tuning and Temperament", J. Murray Barbour, Michigan State College Press, 1951, reprinted Da Capo Press, 1972. The history and theory of the various temperaments.
See also Dylan, Bob for two Dylanology books.
Bookbinder, Roy (1943- ) a blues and ragtime singer and guitarist from NYC. His influences were Anderson, Pink, Davis, Rev. Gary, and Van Ronk, Dave. He played clubs and festivals in both the UK and US, and has recorded for Blue Goose and Kicking Mule records.
borrowing it goes on all the time. Musicians are never loathe to swipe a good tune from any source. Classical composers borrowed incessantly from folk tradition, although it was rarely the other way around, mainly because classical music wasn't readily available to the masses (even now, when it is, there isn't all that much borrowing - but see Purcell, Henry, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring).
Vaudeville and music hall performers found a gold mine in folk music. Sometimes their rewrites ended up back in the tradition. Most folkie borrowing is from the tradition itself. See folk process, copyright.
Bob Dylan is an unabashed borrower from the tradition, and rarely credits his sources. Just a few of his early songs using traditional tunes, and the usual titles of those tunes:
Bob Dylan's Dream - Lady Franklin's Lament
Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - Lord Randall
Girl From the North Country - Cambric Shirt
Masters of War - Nottamun Town
Fare Thee Well (Gulf of Mexico) - Leaving of Liverpool
Ballad of Hollis Brown - Poor Man
God on Our Side - Patriot Game (Dominic Behan)
Restless Farewell - Parting Glass
Farewell, Angelina - Farewell to Tarwathie*
I Pity the Poor Immigrant - Tramps and Hawkers
* For more on borrowings of "Tarwathie", see song family.
The tune of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" is said to be from a traditional song collected by Clayton, Paul, and called "Who'll Buy Your Chickens When I'm Gone".
If you're going to steal, steal good stuff - and Dylan did. Both Dylan and Woody Guthrie were past masters at revamping a borrowed tune into something unique; "Hard Rain" isn't *quite* "Lord Randall", just as Woody's "This Land is Your Land" isn't *quite* "You Are My Sunshine" and "Hobo's Lullaby" isn't *quite* "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".
bothy (Scot.) a small cottage or bunkhouse.
bothy band 1. An informal band put together for dancing or singing, originating in the farm bothies of Scotland. These bands, put together by farm workers, preserved much Scottish traditional music. 2. When capitalized, the name of a popular Scottish folk group specializing in traditional music.
bottleneck style used mainly with blues playing, the guitar is usually tuned using open tuning and the player wears a short length of hard tubing on the lefthand little or ring finger. Sliding the tube on single strings or all of them produces a sharp, metallic whine that can glide up and down in pitch. It may have originated as a low-cost imitation of the pedal steel, Dobro, or Hawaiian guitar, which are stopped with steel slides.
The hard tubing may be an actual bottleneck, a piece of pipe, a wrench socket, etc. Occasionally a tableknife handle can be used, the disadvantage being that the player can't fret the guitar. This latter is called "knife guitar" and is rather loud and raucous, but well-suited to songs in the same vein.
bottom strings the phrase refers to pitch, not physical location. The same applies to top strings.
bourree (with an acute accent on the first "e") a baroque dance in duple time, with four-measure phrases and syncopation.
bouzouki (pron. "boo-zookie") an instrument from the Greek tradition, similar to a mandolin but much larger than the bluegrass mandolin and with a longer neck. It's a close relative of the lute. The stringing varies, though four two-string courses is a common method. The bouzouki is becoming popular, since it combines the agility of the mandolin with the richer sound of the guitar.
A common tuning for the bouzouki in folk is in fifths, GDAE, one octave below the fiddle or mandolin.
bow (pron. "boe") 1. (n.) A length of wood perhaps 18"-24" long. Horsehair is stretched along it and rubbed with rosin to increase the friction. Used to play the violin family and a few other instruments. A good-quality bow is surprisingly expensive. 2. (v.) To apply the bow to a stringed instrument.
There is also a variant sometimes called the "Appalachian bow". The strings are soaked in water to lengthen them considerably, and the bow is forced into a tight arc, probably by steaming it. The floppy strings can then be used to simultaneously bow all four strings on a violin, or all the strings on a dulcimer, etc. Rarely seen.
bowdlerize (from Thomas Bowdler ([1754-1825]), who hacked up Shakespeare in the 18th century) to censor or edit in a heavy-handed manner. A bowdlerized folk song is all dressed up in its Sunday best, ready for presentation to the delicate sensibilities of the general public.
An example would be "Sweet Betsy From Pike", who originally crossed the mountains (or prairies) "with her lover Ike". In schoolbooks, this becomes "her husband Ike". Pete Seeger quotes another example. The sea shanty "Hangin' Johnny" goes like this:
"They call me Hangin' Johnny,
Away, boys, away,
They say I hangs for money,
So hang, boys, hang!
Oh, first, I hanged my granny (etc.)"
According to Pete, this appeared in a school anthology as "Smiling Johnny":
"They call me Smiling Johnny,
Away, boys, away,
Because my smile is bonny..."
Thanks to bowdlerizing, a lot of people have come to see folk songs as childish and naive. This sort of thing drives folkies crazy, but it's difficult to stop. See also Baring-Gould, Sabine, genteel, rewrites.
bower (UK) an arboreal shelter, a rustic cottage, or a lady's boudoir (especially in a castle).
bowl mandolin a mandolin with an elliptical back; also called a "watermelon" back.
box a melodeon or accordion.
Boys of the Lough a British group specializing in Irish and Scottish traditional songs and tunes. They have played every major venue and have many recordings. They're noted for their virtuoso fiddler, Aly Bain ([1946- ]), and singer/flutist Cathal McConnell ([1944- ]).
bracken (UK) ferns, bushes, etc.
brae (Scot.) a hill or uplands.
Bragg, Billy (1957- ) a UK singer and electric guitarist who seems to mix punk rock and folk; his performances (and his accent) are rough at best, but his songs are thoughtful and creative. Left-leaning, he recorded "World Turned Upside Down", which is by Rosselson, Leon, and composed "Between the Wars". He has played a number of folk festivals in the UK and North America.
Brand, Oscar (1920-) born in Winnipeg, Oscar became a US citizen in 1942, although he has performed extensively at Canadian venues and hosted folk music programs for the CBC in the 60s. He has more than 70 albums on a wide variety of song topics, and has published song collections. He worked with People's Songs in the late 40s.
He has hosted the New York radio program "Folksong Festival" for over thirty years. "When I First Came to This Land" and "Something to Sing About" are two of his best-known compositions.
branle (Fr. "branler", "to sway". Also "bransle") A dance, popular in France in the 16th century, and based on medieval round dances; also, the music for that dance. The OED says that it's "possibly" the origin of our word "brawl".
brass horns such as trumpets, trombones, bugles, etc. They're metal and the sound is produced by the vibration of the player's lips in a mouthpiece, as opposed to horns which have one or more reeds (properly woodwinds, such as the sax).
braw (Scot.) comely, fine, handsome.
braxie (from the argot of the UK travelling people, also "braxy") putrid. In the well-known "Tramps and Hawkers", a "braxie ham" was any type of meat taken from a long-dead animal and purified to some extent by packing it in salt.
break 1. A solo, whether other musicians are playing along or not. "You take the break after the second verse and I'll take the break after the fourth." 2. An intermission between sets, aka interval.
breakdown any rapid dance tune, as in "Foggy Mountain Breakdown".
bree (Scot.) brow.
breeks (UK) breeches, trousers, or hose.
breve see notation, British.
Brickman, Marshall ([1941- ]) one of the members of the Tarriers and one of the regulars in the 60s Greenwich Village folk scene. He later became a film writer and director; with Woody Allen, he won an Oscar for "Annie Hall". His banjo playing, along with that of performers like Weissberg, Eric, was influential in the development of the banjo style.
bridge 1. The piece of wood at the end of the strings on a stringed instrument, at the opposite end from the nut. It holds the bridge saddle, which terminates the vibrating section of the strings, and often, the pegs that anchor the strings. 2. A second melody in a tune or song that separates the main melody from its repetition. It adds interest. Sometimes it's said that the bridge is a stage wait until you get back to the good part. Also a short musical phrase linking two other parts. Compare with chorus, turnaround, rondo.
bridge pin see pin.
brig (UK) bridge (the river bridge, not the musical bridge).
bright a PA or instrument that has a tad too much treble is said to be bright. Sometimes it means just the right amount of brightness. Musicians, who hear instruments close up all the time, prefer treble a little brighter than others.
bring it home called out by a musician to indicate that a group is to play the last verse of a tune. Also "play it out", "play it on home", "take it home", etc.
broadside (also "broadsheet", "stall ballad"). Balladmongers used to write new lyrics to old tunes on contemporaneous topics and sell the printed sheets among the public at markets, hangings, etc. In the latter case, there would inevitably be a song claiming to be the condemned's last words - see goodnight ballads. Many of the better efforts passed into the tradition, and many were revived thanks to the efforts of collectors.
Broadside magazine first published in 1962, Broadside was brought out as a showcase for the new songwriters produced by the folk revival. The labor was provided by Agnes "Sis" Cunningham, Gordon Friesen, Pete Seeger, and Gil Turner. Authors published included Eric Andersen, Bob Dylan, Richard Farina, Tom Paxton, Malvina Reynolds, and many others. By 1972, they had published over 1,000 songs.
broken chord the notes of a chord played one at a time; synonymous with arpeggio.
broken token there must be dozens of examples of this type of song. A young man about to leave for sea or the military gives his true love one-half of a token (a coin, say) to remember him by. On his return years later, he is so changed as to be unrecognizable, so he engages his love in conversation in hopes of finding out if she's been true to him. When he discovers that she has, he produces his half of the token to prove his identity and they live happily ever after. Not the most realistic of stories, but some of the songs have great tunes.
Examples are "Johnny Riley", "Plains of Waterloo", "The Crookit Bawbee", "A Pretty Fair Maid", and "Sweet Jenny of the Moor". "Adieu, My Lovely Nancy" almost qualifies as a token song, since the lovers exchange rings, but it lacks the play-acting of the sailor's return; similar songs include "Pleasant and Delightful" and "British Man-of-War".
Bromberg, David (1945- ) after studying classical music, David dropped out of university to play guitar in Greenwich Village. His backing of a number of people led to several years as guitarist for Walker, Jerry Jeff and it's his playing that you hear on Jerry Jeff's famous "Mr Bojangles".
Since then, he has backed up just about everybody (including Bob Dylan, Doug Kershaw, Tom Paxton, Pat Sky and many others) and is one of the most influential instrumentalists in folk music. He has recorded a number of albums of his own solo work, as well as being on everybody else's.
Bronson, Bertrand (1902-) collected and published multiple versions of the tunes for the Child ballads in his 1976 "The Singing Tradition of Child's Popular Ballads" (Princeton University Press). Child seemed unconcerned with tunes, publishing only a small sample in his collection. Many of Bronson's tunes were collected in this century in the US, a lot of them in Appalachia, although some are from much older UK manuscripts. He is also the author of several books on English literature.
See electric folk near the end of the entry for a Bronsonian quotation on the subject of changing traditional folk songs. Much of the content of song family (and many other entries) was inspired by his book "The Ballad as Song", (University of California Press, 1969), and a quote from it appears at the end of collectors.
broom a flowering plant in the northern UK.
Broonzy, Bill (1898-1958) (William Lee Conley) "Big Bill" Broonzy was an influential country blues singer and guitarist. Many of the songs he did are still sung today, including "Key to the Highway", "Ananias", "Big Bill Blues", "Joe Turner Blues", "Mindin' My Own Business", "See See Ryder" (see Easy Rider), and others. He had a large following in Europe, and played with Seeger, Pete, Terry, Sonny, McGhee, Brownie Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Blind Blake. In 1939, he performed at Carnegie Hall when Hammond, John produced a concert of "Spirituals to Swing".
Despite his European success, he wasn't able to support himself by music in the US until the early 50s. He claimed to have recorded about 250 songs, of which he wrote 100. He was also a member of "I Come for to Sing" (see Stracke, Win).
Brothers Four another of the groups generated by the folk revival, they formed in 1959 and had great commercial success in the college circuit. They had a hit single with "Greenfields" in 1960. They weren't brothers, although they did belong to the same college fraternity.
Brown, Willie (1900-1952) a delta blues musician was recorded in 1933 by Henry Speir, who made trips to the south for that purpose; Speir sent the records to the American Record Company (ARC, a company dealing in race records).
bubblegum a disparaging term from the 60s and 70s, referring to pop music perceived as being so frivolous that it would only appeal to pre-teens, or someone of a similar mind.
bucht (Scot.) a pen in the corner of a field, used to hold animals during milking.
buckdancing see clogging.
buckwheat see sacred harp.
Bull, Sandy ([1941-2001]) a multi-instrumentalist who mixed folk, classical, jazz, and Eastern music on acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, oud, etc. He was probably the first folk-oriented performer to popularize multi-tracking. His "Fantasias" and "Inventions" albums on Vanguard (1963 and 1965) were well-accepted by most folkies, although he remained a musician's musician, with little general fame.
bully (UK) brother, fellow, mate, buddy. This turns up in a lot of old shanties and is quite different from the current meaning. It also has the meaning of "pickled", as in "bully beef".
burden (also "burthen") a recurring line after each verse of a song. It may be sense or nonsense syllables ("To me right fol diddle..."). It is more often called refrain or chorus.
Sometimes there is no distinct chorus, but the second and fourth lines are repeated in each verse and sung by the audience, as in "The Two Sisters" ( Child 10):
Singer: "There were two sisters lived in a hall,"
Everyone: "Hey, with the gay, and the grindin'"
Singer: "And along came a knight and he courted them all,"
Everyone: "By the bonny, bonny bowers of London."
burn (Scot., also "bourn") a brook.
Burns, Jethro see Homer and Jethro.
Burns, Robert (1759-1796) the great Scottish poet also collected folk songs and tunes. He set many of his own poems to these tunes. Songs that are part of the folk tradition include "Rattlin' Roarin' Willie", "My Love is Like a Red, Red, Rose", "For A' That" (aka "Is There For Honest Poverty"), "Ae Fond Kiss", "Ye Jacobites by Name", "Parcel of Rogues", " Ca the Yowes", "Dainty Davie" and, of course, "Auld Lang Syne". See also the last part of Lass of Roch Royal.
busk 1. See busking below. 2. (Scot.) to get up, arise.
busking performing in a public place for donations of money. Any busy area in a city will usually attract street performers (buskers) who sing, play, juggle, etc. See also hurdy gurdy, barrel organ.
but (Scot.) the front room or kitchen, esp. in a cottage.
but and ben (Scot.) room and board, kitchen or parlor, in and out.
Butterfield, Paul (1942-1987) harmonica player and singer who founded the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1964. They played a loud electric version of the old city and country blues, bringing them to a wider audience (despite some objections from purists). Best known for the song "Born in Chicago". They recorded for Elektra, and appeared at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 (see Grossman, Albert for comments on this). After they disbanded in 1972, Paul continued to play harmonica for a large number of other performers.
button accordion in general, a melodeon, although there are true accordions with buttons.
buzzwords every subculture, profession and hobby has its jargon, usually for the purpose of (a) defining oneself as a member, (b) making an implied humorous comment about something, and (c) inflating oneself to appear to be an old hand at it.
This file is full of buzzwords. However, the use of them in sense (c) is the funniest, especially since the buzzword-droppers often use them inappropriately.
Some examples might be -
A guitarist in the company of non-musicians who begins slinging terms related to guitar playing. "I like to emphasize the change to the subdominant."
Someone introducing a song by saying only "This is Child 37."
People who call loudly to a concertina player "Is that an Anglo or an Anglo-German?"
The owner of a handmade instrument who looks at a commercial product and sniffs "Oh, a Martin. Not bad for mass-produced."
To an acoustic guitarist: "I see you play unplugged."
Byrds one of the first electric folk groups (along with the Animals) to cause a fuss among traddies who favored the acoustic approach. They had a hit record with "Tambourine Man" by Dylan, Bob in 1965. This was followed by "Turn, Turn, Turn" (a setting of words from Ecclesiastes by Seeger, Pete) in 1966. The original members were Roger McGuinn, Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark, and David Crosby (later of Crosby, Stills, and Nash). They continued to record for some years, with successes like "Eight Miles High".
After the popularity of "Tambourine Man", it wasn't long before others followed suit and experimented with electric folk, including Bob Dylan himself.
byre (UK) cowshed.
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The Folk File: A Folkie's Dictionary Copyright © 1993-2009 Bill Markwick, All Rights Reserved.