Sally in our Alley

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X: 1 T:Sally in Our Alley. WCD3/2.165 M:3/4 L:1/8 C:Henry Carey 1687-1743 N: Z:vmp. Peter Dunk 2015 B:Walsh, Compleat Country Dancing Master, 3rd Series, 2nd Bk, 3rd Ed., 1749 Q:1/4=72 K:C zg/f/ ef|(e2 d)(e/d/) cd|c2- c(c/B/) AG|FEDC Cc-|"sic"c2:| |:ze/f/ ge|agfe fd|gfed ec|fedc BG-| G2 zg/f/ ef|(e2d)(e/d/) cd|(c2B)e/f/ gd|fedc Gc-|"sic"c2:| W: W:Each Strain Twice. (repeats added to notation accordingly)

SALLY IN OUR ALLEY. AKA - "Sally." AKA and see "Country Lass (The)," "Of all the girls that are so smart," "What tho' I am a country lass." English, Air (3/4 time). D Major (Aird): A Flat Major (Chappell): B Flat Major (Scott). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Aird, Scott): AAB (Chappell). There are two 18th century airs to the song "Sally/Salley in our Alley" that are similar to one another but the second is easier to sing (Carey's original melody spans one and a half octaves). The second air was "What tho' I am a country lass" (AKA - "Country Lass (The)"), which itself had great antiquity, and it began to supplant Carey's tune around the 1760's, although the two coexisted for some time (see note for "What tho' I am a country lass" for more).

The first "Sally in our Alley" (words and music) was written and composed by poet, dramatist and song-writer Henry Carey [1] (1687-1743). The song first appears in the the records of Drury Lane theater toward the end of the 1716-17 season, when Mrs. Willis (Drury Lane's leading actress and singer) was advertised as singing the "Ballad of Sally." It proved immediately popular with audiences. "Moreover, the low-life situation presented in the ballad was novel enough to merit Mrs. Willis performing it dressed 'like a Shoemaker's Prentic'[1].

The tune was first printed by London publishers Wright and Young in a volume entitled The Harpsichord Master Improved (1718) as "Sally in our Alley by Mr. Carey," and is one of several contributed by Carey as illustrations and exercises in thorough-bass[2]. The melody was printed with directions for a country dance by London music publisher John Walsh in his Second Book of the Compleat Country Dancing-Master (1719, and later editions of 1735 and 1749). Under the one-word title "Sally" it was the indicated tune for a song in John Watts' Musical Miscellany, vol. 3 (1730, pp. 94-96). Henry Carey's own song was not issued until the volume Musical Century (1737), a collection of single-sheet songs published earlier in his career. However, the tune was employed for songs in a great many balled operas of the first half of the 18th century, including John Gay's seminal Beggar's Opera (1728, where it appears as "Of all the girls that are so smart"), and also in Harlequin Restor'd, or Taste Alamode (1736), The Devil to Pay (1731, indicated tunes "What tho' I am a country lass"), The Fashionable Lady, The Merry Cobbler, Love in a Riddle, and The Rival Milliners (1737). Carey's words to "Sally in our Alley" begin:

She is the darling of my heart,
And lives in our alley.
Of all the girls that are so smart,
There’s none like pretty Sally.
There’s ne’er a lady in the land
That’s half so sweet as Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And lives in our alley.

The air also was the indicated tune for numerous broadside sheets. As with many popular airs, different songs were set to it (some bawdy), including "Sally's Lamentation; or, The Answer to Sally," "Sally in our Alley to Billy in Piccadilly," "Sally in her own cloaths," "Sally rivall'd by Country Molly," "Blowzabel," and "As Damon late with Chloe sat." Lord Byron wrote a scathing satirical poem (at the expense of H. Gally Knight, 1786-1846, who had been at Cambridge with Byron) to the tune. It begins:

Of all the twice ten thousand bards
That ever penned a canto,
Whom Pudding or whom Praise rewards
For lining a portmanteau;
Of all the poets ever known,
From Grub-street to Fop's Alley,
The Muse may boast--the World must own
There's none like pretty Gally!

"Sally in Our Alley" was revived as an act song in theaters in the latter 18th century, sung by notable performers of the day, including Carey's only surviving son, George Savile Carey[3]. The song was much anthologized during the 18th and 19th centuries, and has not been forgotten in modern times.

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Bremner (The Delightful Pocket Companin for the German Flute), London, 1763; p. 32. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. 2), 1859; p. 117. Riley (Riley's Flute Melodies vol. 1), New York, 1814; p. 17. Scott (English Song Book), 1926; p. 36. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 68 (as "Of all the girls that are so smart", facsimile of Beggar's Opera).

Recorded sources : - Vocalion 14392 (78 RPM), Tye Criterion Male Quartet (1922. African-American singing quartet).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Song Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]

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  1. Norman Gillespie, "The Origins and Early History of 'Sally in Our Alley'", 1984 [3]
  2. ibid
  3. ibid