Darling Nellie Gray

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DARLING NELLIE GRAY. AKA - "Nelly Grey," "Old Nelly Grey." American, Air and Dance Tune. B Flat Major (Jarman): G Major (Perlman, Sweet): D Major (Johnson). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Johnson, Sweet): AA'B (Perlman): AABB (Jarman). An abolitionist song composed by Benjamin Russell Hanby in 1856, while a student at Otterbein college, Ohio. Hanby was moved by the plight of a runaway slave named Joseph Selby, along with the efforts of Hanby's father to raise money to gain the freedom of Selby's beloved. The popular song became a rallying anthem for the abolitionist movement. It begins:

One night I went to see her, but she's gone the neighbors say,
And the white man had bound her with his chain.
They have taken her to Georgia for to wear her life away
As she toils in the cotton and the cane.

Oh my darling Nellie Gray, they have taken you away
I'll never see my darling anymore,
They have taken you to Georgia for to work your life away,
And you're gone from that old Kentucky shore.

New England dance caller Peter Yarensky remarks that this is often the last called (singing) dance of the evening at many New Hampshire dances, "especially (in the mid-20th century) the dances of Ralph Page and Duke Miller in the Monadnock region of the state." It is followed by a final waltz. See also the schottische version under "Nelly Grey."

Source for notated version: Johnny Morrissey (1913-1994, Newtown Cross, Queens County, Prince Edward Island; late of Vernon River) [Perlman]; Art Coss (Woodland Valley, Catskill Mtns., New York) [Cazden].

Printed sources: Cazden (Dances from Woodland), 1945; p. 7. Jarman (The Cornhuskers Book of Square Dance Tunes), 1944; pp. 22-23. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1875; p. 30. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician's No. 7: Michigan Tunes), vol. 7, 1986-87; p. 9. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 154. Sweet (Fifer's Delight), 1964/1981; p. 13.

Recorded sources:

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