Dom Flemons: MBMonday Interview, Part Two

This is Part Two of Murder Ballad Monday’s interview with Dom Flemons. Read Part One here. MBM: I’d be interested to find out about current projects. Prospect Hill came out last year, 2014. What’s coming up next for you. Will you be going into any of this territory [murder ballads] … → read more

Jon Langford interview, Part Two

Jon Langford (Photo by Barry Phipps, courtesy the artist and Bloodshot Records) Today we continue our conversation with transplanted Chicagoan and jack-of-all-trades (music, art, comic interludes, storytelling) Jon Langford. You can read Part One here; Part Three appears Friday. Today we find out why Langford wanted to record an album … → read more

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley

G.B. Grayson and Henry Whitter [This is the second post this week on “Tom Dooley.” The first post gives the basics of the underlying story.] Hardly a fiddler or a banjo picker in our county… “I’ll tell you all Verlee and I can remember about Tom Dula…. Laura Foster was a cousin … → read more

Frankie was a good woman

Glenna Bell For my final installment on “Frankie and Johnny,” I want to pick out two versions that, while not necessarily representing the kind of girl anthem (sardonic or otherwise) of Judy Henske’s “Love Henry,” still present a woman’s voice taking over the song in some new ways.  It’s in … → read more

This story has no end: Part Two

Cyd Charisse as “Frankie” in “Meet Me in Las Vegas”     Going to the Movies:  Hipsters and Hootenannies   To paraphrase Lord Buckley,”Friends, blog-readers, countrymen, knock me your lobes.”   Sammy Davis, Jr. here takes a turn at Frankie and Johnny—a version also included in the movie “Meet Me … → read more

This story has no end: Part One

Going to the Movies: Icons and Idols   The “Frankie and Johnny” story has gone through a few cinematic adaptations over the years.  It also appears in a few film musicals in productions that are otherwise unrelated to the “Frankie” story.     “She Done Him Wrong” (1933), stars Mae West … → read more

This story has no moral

  Despite the fact that I think there was some “hourglass moment” where this song slipped through a narrow channel to flow back out again, there is still so much diversity to the lyrics of this song that a “close reading” is impossible, at least in this venue.  Nevertheless, I … → read more

Ain’t gonna tell you no lies

    “As our American culture advances, it may be that classes will take up the Frankie songs as seriously as a play by Molière or a Restoration comedy or the Provençal ballads of France….While the Frankie story deals with crime, violence, murder, adultery, its percentage in these respects is … → read more

Ain’t gonna tell you no stories

We’ll start today’s posts with some news accounts, to begin thinking about whether and how the facts matter to the song, and how the facts leave their traces, often in indirect ways, in the songs.  For the moment at least, we’ll proceed on the assumption that “Frankie…” tells the story … → read more

Frankie and Albert

The Frankie and Johnny mural in the House Lounge at the Missouri State Capitol “Frankie and Johnny” or “Frankie and Albert” is the most popular and commercially successful murder ballad.  I can’t think of a song that really comes remotely close.  “Frankie,” “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie and Johnny,” and a … → read more