My Darling Nellie Gray is another tune that I first heard at the Gambler’s Draw contest at the American Heritage Music Festival in Grove, OK. As I recall, somebody else got out on the tune, and after the contest, I had Junior Marriott teach me the tune.
He said that the first part is basically Faded Love, and that the second part was similar. He was right about the similarities between Faded Love and Nellie Gray, but what I really wonder is which tune came first.
Let’s find out… According to Fiddler’s Companion Nelly Gray came first, and I would wager that Faded Love was copied from it – whether intentionally or not.
I just got a great email comment on this topic from FTAD Subscriber (and Fiddler) Roger Harmon
I don’t know if you’ll remember me, but we’ve jammed a few times together at Jana Jae’s in Grove Oklahoma. I just wanted to respond to your story about Darling Nellie Gray, and give you a little tid bit you might find interesting. Years ago I used to have a friend named Al Strickland who played keyboard for Bob Wells. After the last reunion performance of the Texas Playboys at the Tulsa Civic Center, I was invited to an after party at the bands Hotel. Some of us got to talking about Al getting the credit for having written Faded Love. His answer was that it was a take off on on an old Civil War Ballad called Darlin Nellie Gray, that everyone used to know when he was a boy. He said he and Bob Wells changed the tune around a little bit to fit the new lyrics that he and Bob put to the tune, and Faded Love was born. I don’t know if changing the tune and writing new lyrics make it their song or not, but it eventually became the States official song. And I sort of feel like Faded Love can stand on its own.
All the best, Roger Harmon
ps. Keep up the good work, I love the Fiddle Tune of the day.
Nelly Gray according to Fiddler’s Companion
NELLY GRAY. American, “Sand Jig” (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning. AABB. Composed in 1856 by Ohio minister and schoolteacher Benjamin Russell Hanby as “Darling Nellie Gray,” about a slave who is sold away from her beloved to work on a plantation in Geogia. The popular song fuelled abolitionist sympathies. It was variously arranged in traidition as an air, stage vehicle (for a sand jig, a solo dance on a sanded stage), and a play party game. 78RPM-era recordings were numerous, by early country music stars that included the Stanley Trio (1924), Riley Puckett (1924), Vernon Dalhart (1925), Al Hopkins (1927) an d Carson Robison (1930). Source for notated version: Absie Morrison (1875-1964, Sercy County, Atkansas) [Beisswenger & McCann]. Beisswenger & McCann (Ozark Fiddle Music), 2008; pg. 104. Kerr (Merry Melodies), vol. 2; No. 403, pg. 45.