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Thread: Albertan songs before Wilf Carter

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    Default Albertan songs before Wilf Carter

    Hey guys, I'm doing a little research on music here and I'm trying to find songs by Albertans before the recording era (hence, before Wilf Carter.) I went to the Heritage Room (Downtown library) and found some information about early musicians in Edmonton but nothing on songs that may have passed between the fur traders and the early settlers. I do know that the fur traders did share the duck dance and the rabbit dance with the early settlers, of which I can find Gilbert's Duck Dance from Manitoba. But I thought I would find a patriotic song (there is one song I found sung to the tune of Muir's Maple Leaf Forever but the words are lost, as far as I can tell), hymn (didn't find any yet), or ballads of old stories (the story of Swiftrunner is told today and part of that is written and part is orally told, but perhaps I can use that.)

    So what do you know?
    Xelebes

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    Great to see someone doing this research.

    There's no book of Albertan songs, but there are some sources. On one of the Alberta anniversaries the government sponsored a contest or something for people to write songs, and they wrote their songs "to the tune of".

    The only song I ever found that made any (dubious) claim to being from Alberta was "Blood On The Saddle".

    "There was blood on the saddle, and blood all around
    And a great big puddle of blood on the ground
    The cowboy lay in it, all covered with gore
    And he won't go riding his pony no more"

    Or something like that.

    Good luck

    PS: Wilf Carter lived in Alberta for a long time, I think, but he's originally from Nova Scotia.
    aka Jim Good; "The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up." - Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    PS: Wilf Carter lived in Alberta for a long time, I think, but he's originally from Nova Scotia.
    If he wrote the songs while living in Alberta and he wrote songs about Alberta, I think we can take him as an Albertan. Just like we can accept Gordie Johnson.
    Xelebes

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    There are some other songs that would have been bandied around Alberta from the region:

    "When the Ice Worms Nest Again" - from British Columbia and Yukon during the Klondike, 1899-1901. Wilf Carter recorded a fanciful version of this tune.
    "The Kettle Valley Railroad" by Ean Hay, from something like 1911 or so. Ean Hay lived in British Columbia but as he references in the song, he passed between Lethbridge and Hope on the Kettle Valley Railroad.
    "Athabasca Dick" is a poem by Robert Service, who may have passed through Alberta to come up with this song or tells the story of a man and his canoeing team who told about his commute on the wild and cold Athabasca River. Can't get a date on this as the book I'm reading it from has no dates attached to the poems. I may assume it comes from Service's first chapbook.
    Xelebes

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    I just want to say that I can see why you are skeptical of the origins of Blood in the Saddle. The original recording is by Tex Ritter in 1932, recorded in Los Angeles. I looked up the murders in the 1900s, where some noteworthy murders occured. None matched the story told. The closest is the rancher who had his clothes stolen by his farmhand murderer (name escapes me.)
    Xelebes

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    Quote Originally Posted by psiebold1 View Post
    I just want to say that I can see why you are skeptical of the origins of Blood in the Saddle. The original recording is by Tex Ritter in 1932, recorded in Los Angeles. I looked up the murders in the 1900s, where some noteworthy murders occured. None matched the story told. The closest is the rancher who had his clothes stolen by his farmhand murderer (name escapes me.)
    Many or most non-aboriginal songs that came out of any area in North America were derivations of songs from "back home", and a clue to what kind of songs would have been sung can be gleaned from settlement records. Black communities like Amber Valley would have brought their music with them. Southern Alberta was largely settled from the South (US), so had more of that kind of music, where more North you find more French Canadian and especially Scottish influence.

    When I was doing my research into this subject many years ago I came across "poems" written by locals in various sources (Edmonton Bulletin, archives, etc.), many of which were accompanied by a note at the end saying "sung to the tune of" (often Scottish).

    Of course that's how the folk process works. Another clue as to the music popular with families at the time is from old sheet music left in the benches of old organs and pianos.

    Choral music and hymns have always been around, but I don't know how many people write new words.

    Around the turn of the century into the 20th, "art singing" (similar to opera, only more "rustic") was very popular.

    Maybe that'll help. Good luck!
    aka Jim Good; "The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up." - Steven Wright

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    Aha, so you've done your own research. Thank you for the tips.
    Xelebes

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    There is one untuned song called "The Song of Old K". It is stored in the Galt Archives in Lethbridge. Will have to spend some time there to inquire about it.
    Xelebes

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