“Zeb Tourney's Girl”

Author: Carson J. Robison?
Earliest date: 1926 (recording, Vernon Dalhart)
Keywords: feud love homicide
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So,SW)

Description

Dan Kelly thinks often of Zeb Tourney's daughter, even though his family is feuding with hers. Kelly keeps a promise made to his father by killing all the male Tourneys, but then brings home Zeb's daughter, whom he loves

Supplemental text

Zeb Tourney's Girl [Laws E18]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

As recorded by Vernon Dalhart, 1926. Transcribed by Robert
B. Waltz.

Down in the Tennessee mountains,
Away from the sins of the world,
Old Dan Kelly's son there he leaned on his gun,
A-thinking of Zeb Turney's girl.
Dan was a hot-blooded youngster,
His pap raised him sturdy and right.
And he had him sworn from the day he was born
To shoot every Turney on sight.

"Powder and shot for the Turneys,
Don't save a hair on their heads!"
Old Dan Kelly cried as he laid down and died
With young Danny there by his bed.
Dan took the vow to his pappy
And swore he would kill every one.
His heart in a whirl with his love for the girl,
He loaded his double-barreled gun.

The moon shining down on the mountains,
The moon shining down on the still,
Young Dan took a sip, swung his gun to his hip,
And set out to slaughter and kill.
Over the mountains he wandered,
This son of a Tennessee man,
With fire in his eye and his gun on his thigh,
A-looking for Zeb Turney's clan.

Shots ringing out through the mountains,
Shots ringing out through the breeze.
Old Dan Kelly's son with the smoke in his gun,
The Turneys all down on their knees.
The story of Dan Kelly's moonshine
Has spread far and wide o'er the world,
How Dan killed the clan, shot them down to a man
And brought back old Zeb Turney's girl.

Notes

Warner notes that a song of this name was copyrighted in 1925 by Marjorie Lamkin and Maggie Andrews, of which the latter at least is a pseudonym of Carson J. Robison (it was his mother's maiden name). And Laws points out that it sounds "suspiciously unlike a mountaineer's conception of a feud." We note also that no one seems able to list the event upon which it is based.

But wait, there's more. Vernon Dalhart recorded this in 1926, and at that time, the name "Dalhart" was worth hundreds of thousands of sales. And at least one of the traditional versions -- Hudson's -- is functionally identical to the Dalhart recording, with the only differences minor verbal variants easily explained as errors of hearing or memory. The other versions are also very similar to each other, implying a recent common source.

The almost inevitable conclusion is that this is a song "gone folk": Written by Robison, recorded by Dalhart -- and then picked up by folklorists who didn't bother checking its pedigree. - RBW

Recordings

References

  1. Laws E18, "Zeb Tourney's Girl"
  2. Hudson 108, pp. 247-248, "Zeb Tunney's Girl" (1 text)
  3. Warner 112, "Don Kelly's Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Burt, pp. 251-252, "(Zeb Turney's Girl)" (1 text)
  5. Botkin-SoFolklr, p. 735, "Zeb Turney's [Turner's] Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. DT 681, ZEBTURNY
  7. ST LE18 (Full)
  8. Roud #2249
  9. BI, LE18