Peter Gray (3)

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PETER GRAY [3]. AKA and see "Johnny Grey." American, Song Air. A satirical minstrel-era song written by stage comedian Billy Morris, first published by Oliver Ditson & Co. in 1858 [1], as performed by Morris Brothers Pell & Huntley's Minstrels and other troupes. It became a staple of the college songbooks of the mid-19th century. An alternate melody to the ballad "Peter Gray" appears in Kerr's collection of fiddle tunes, and was, according to Cazden (et al, 1982), "inspired chiefly by the fierce competition among performers during the explosive invasion of the English music hall by American blackface minstrels in the Civil War period." This alternate version was first published in England about 1861. Morris's minstrel lyric goes:

Once upon a time there live a man, his name was Peter Gray.
He lived way down in that 'ere town called Penn-syl-van-i-a.

CHO:
Blow, ye winds of morning, Blow, ye winds high o;
Blow, ye winds of morning, Blow, blow, blow.

Now Peter fell in love all with a nice young girl,
The first three letters of her name were Lucy Annie Pearl.

Just as they were 'bot to wed, her father did say no,
And consequently she was sent beyond the Ohio.

When Peter heard his love was lost, he knew no what to say,
He'd half a mind to jump into the Susquehan-ni-a.

Now Peter went away out west for furs and other skins,
But he was caught and scalp-i-ed by bloody Indians.

When Lucy Annie heard the news, she straightway took to bed,
And never did get up again until she di-i-ed.

Tennessee banjo player and Grand Ol' Opry performer Uncle Dave Macon (1870-1952) recorded a version for Bluebird Records in 1938 under the title "Johnny Grey." Macon's lyric goes:

There was a little feller,
His name was Johnny Grey;
The state where Johnny Grey was born
Was Penn-syl-vain-eye-ay.

CHO:
Blow, you winds of morning,
Blow, you winds hi ho;
Blow, you winds of morning,
Blow, blow, blow.

Well, Johnny fell in love, all
With a nice young girl;
The name of her most positive
Was Lucy Izree Anna Curl.

When Johnny asked her father,
Her father, he said "no,"
And brutally sent her
Beyond the O-hi-o.

Johnny went out a-west a-trading
In furs and other things,
And soon he found himself in dutch
With the chief of the In-dye-ans.

When Lucy Izree heard of this,
She straightway went to bed,
And never did get up from there
Until she die-ah-eye-ed.

John and Alan Lomax placed the song in the "Cowboy Song" section of their Our Singing Country (1941), perhaps because of the reference to being scalped by Indians. The Lomax's collected their version in 1939 from an informant who had learned it from his father in Kansas some thirty years before that.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources:




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