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COWBOY BALLADS AT OUR OWN FIRESIDES
by Avis D. Carlson
Some of the ways in which the radio is influencing us could not possibly have been predicted by even the shrewd­est of projects. One of them is the revival of interest in the American folk song. In the days when static and inter­ference were nothing to fret about, only a few scholars and collectors were interested in the songs which have sprung up from the very soil of our country. But now interest is rapidly spreading to people in general.
The reason is the radio. Turn the dial this way or that, before long you are perfectly sure to hear some songs that are as wholly and originally American as cornbread. They are usually presented along with other songs, but it is safe to say that no program of oldtime tunes is without a sprin­kle of genuine folk music. Hence it is that the younger generation is becoming familiar with "Turkey in the Straw," "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie," "Go Get the Ax," and a hundred other songs which its grandparents and great-grandparents loved but which have not been sung for a generation or two.
When our radios bring in these old songs in such num­bers, most of us begin to be curious about them. Who wrote them? How old are they? Why do they sound so different from popular or classical music—and so on? The folk song is simple and easily enjoyed, but, like all other music, it is more fully appreciated when one knows something about it.
The space available here forbids any attempt to discuss American folk song as a whole. Some sort of limitation is necessary. My reason for concentrating upon the cowboy ballad rather than on some other type is purely selfish, I suppose. It is only natural that people should be most in­terested in the songs of their own region. One who has grown up hearing Southern Negroes sing at their work and play is more interested in that type of folk music than any
"Reprinted from Better Homes and Gardens, Vol. 10, No. 3, No­vember, Copyright 1931, Meredith Publishing Company, Des Moines, Iowa, all rights reserved."
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III