Little Maggie

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LITTLE MAGGIE. AKA - "Little Maggie with a Dram Glass in Her Hand." Old-Time, Bluegrass; Breakdown and Song. USA; western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia. A Mixolydian. A popular Appalachian song and breakdown that has been absorbed into core bluegrass repertory from its old-time roots, whose lyrics belong to the "Darling Corey/Country Blues/Hustling Gambler" family of songs, although the melody differs. It was recorded by the Stanley Brothers in 1946, when their music was more old-time than bluegrass in style. The modal song (Mixoldyian) has been played and recorded at various tempos, from a relaxed, and rather deliberate pace (Grayson & Whitter) to a bluegrass overdrive (). The song was also part of the core repertoire of 1960's era folk singers, like Bob Dylan and The Kingston Trio.

Mt. Airy, North Carolina, fiddler Tommy Jarrell remembered the tune "going around" the Round Peak area (where he grew up) around 1915 or 1916, and became quite popular with the younger folk. A tragedy occurred about the same time when his 14 year old cousin, Jullie Jarrell, was tending a fire in the kitchen stove and, thinking it was out, poured kerosine over the wood to renew it which suddenly caused flames to flare and severely burn her. Tommy related:

I was coming from the mill on horseback carrying a sack of cornmeal and all at once I saw the smoke and heard the younguns come running towards me crying, 'Jullie's burnt up and the house is a-fire.' I jumped off the horse and ran as fast as I could to the house--later I though about how much faster I could have gotten there by throwing the meal off and riding the horse, but you don't think clear at times like that. When I reached the door I saw Aunt Susan kneeling on the floor above Julie, weeping, her hands all blistered from beating out the fire with a quilt. Jullie was laying there crying, but there wasn't much we could do for her so we ran to the spring for water to put out the fire in the house. They put Jullie to bed right away--her whole body was burned up to her chin, and at first she cried in pain but after a while she didn't feel anything at all. That evening as she was laying there she asked me to get my banjo and sing "Little Maggie" for her. That was the only thing she wanted to hear--it had just recently come around and everyone seemed to take to it. I expect I played it the best I ever had in my life, with the most feeling, anyway. It seemed to comfort her and pick up her spirits a little, but by the following morning she was dead. (Richard Nevins)

The song appears to have been played in neighboring Grayson County, Virginia, a generation earlier, according to Richard Nevins, which, juxtaposed with what Jarrell remembered about the timing of the introduction of the song to his area, points out how isolated the mountainous regions were around the turn of the 20th century. The Stanley Brothers sang:

Yonder stands little Maggie,
A dram-glass in her hand;
She’s drinkin’ away her troubles,
She's a-courtin' another man.

Grayson and Whitter's lyric ("Little Maggie with a Dram Glass in Her Hand") begins:

Oh yonder stands little Maggie,
With her dram glass in her hand;
She's passing by her troubles,
An’ a courtin' some other man.

How can I ever stand it?
For to see those two blue eyes;
They're shinin' like a diamond,
Like a diamond in the skies.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources: Bluebird B-7201 (78 RPM), Wade Mainer, Zeke Morris & Steve Ledford (1937). County 748, Tommy Jarrell - "Come and Go With Me" (1974). Flying Fish 102, New Lost City Ramblers - "20 Years/Concert Performances" (1978). Folkways FW31072, Tom Morgan - "Bluegrass with Family and Friends" (1983. Originally recorded ). Heritage XXXIII, Ernest East, Lawrence Lowe, Fred Cockerham - "Visits" (1981. Recorded at Tommy Jarrell's New Year's Eve party, 1972). Melodeon 7322, The Stanley Brothers. Rich-R-Tone 423, The Stanley Brothers. Victor V-40135 (78 RPM), Grayson & Whitter (1928).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]




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