BAWDY BALLADS - Songs Cecil Sharp Refused to Collect in 1916 - Fri Sept 23rd 2016 at 8pm

An Evening   of 
The Most Hilariously Bawdy, Naughty, and Risque, 
Ballads and Songs   
 from the Hills of Western North Carolina 

National Heritage Award recipient 
North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipien

Prepare to Laugh, 
Prepare to Blush, 
Prepare to be Astonished,
As Two of North Carolina's Best Known Ballad Singers
 Share Songs and Ballads Learned Straight From 
Sources in Sodom NC and other parts of the Appalachians.

Expect to Hear Songs 
Filled With 
Four Letter Words, 
Suggestive Lyrics, 
....and titillating content 
which some might even call
Lewd, Dirty or Vulgar !!!

***   For Mature Audiences   ***

$12 in advance

$15 at the door

"Chance brought me to America in the early days of the war ... and while here Mrs John Campbell of Asheville, NC told me that the inhabitants of the Southern Appalachians were still singing the traditional songs and ballads which their English and Scottish ancestors had brought out with them at the time of their emigration"
--Cecil Sharp

This year, 2016, marks the 100 year anniversary of Cecil Sharp's ballad collecting trip to Western North Carolina.   Cecil Sharp was a renowned English scholar and collector of traditional ballads.

These ancient ballads migrated to America with the early immigrants who arrived in the 1700s and eventually found their way into the remote coves and hollows of the Western NC mountains.  

Sharp traveled to America in search of the most pristine, unaltered versions of the songs and ballads and when he reached Madison County NC he found a treasure trove of musical riches.
I found myself for the first time in my life in a community in which singing was as common and almost as universal a practice as speaking.
--Cecil Sharp

Although the people are so English, they have their American quality that they are freer than the English peasant. They own their own land, and have done so for three or four generations, so that there is none of the servility which, unhappily, is one of the characteristics of the English peasant. With that praise, I should say that they are just exactly what the English peasant was one hundred or more years ago. They have been so isolated and protected from outside influence that their own music and song have not only been uncorrupted, but also uninfluenced by art music in any way.
--Cecil Sharp

The people of Appalachia were a mixture of devout religious folk along with earthy free spoken, free thinking settlers who refused to conform to societal norms and expectations.

Most  possessed a keen sense of humor and love of laughter.  Music was their primary form of entertainment.   For many, their music reflected their rough and difficult lives.  They were not averse to earthy tales and stories and bawdiness.  Songs and ballads of death, murder, and violence were common.   So were songs that told of love and romance; sometimes in poetic language but sometimes in earthy language.  Even the most bawdy tales and songs were shared in good humor and a wink of the eye.

Olive Dame Campbell and her husband John Campbell served as the host and guide for Cecil Sharp while he was in NC.   As a refined woman from "up North" with deep religious sensibilities, she wished to present a somewhat filtered version of the music of the mountains and was selective in who she carried Sharp to hear  and what she types of songs were desirable.  ( In fact Sharpe was so “protected” from witnessing anything that his host felt might offend his proper British manners, he stated that he never once even saw alcohol in any of the homes he visited.).

Cecil Sharp was interested in the same purified and homogenized content Ms. Campbell wanted to present. He was primarily interested in collecting the  folksongs ballads from Great Britain in their "standard" forms.   He enjoyed finding obscure and unusual  versions of traditional ballads but not versions which couldn't be sung in mixed company or versions which were so far removed from the accepted versions  that they were in essence, newly composed adaptations with little connection to the orginal.

He was open about his biases and what he was and wasn't looking for.   He hoped the publication of his ballad collections would be used in public schools and treated with respect by academics who were still within the confines of Victorian sanctity and decorum.    While he avoided collecting and publishing songs and ballads with content which might be deemed offensive, he did make field notes about such material.

Tonight's program celebrates the unexpurgated , earthy, bawdy and often raunchy songs and ballads which Cecil Sharp refused to collect and publish but which are still enjoyed by many here in North Carolina (and around the world for that matter).

Our presenters are two of the foremost experts on the ballads of North Carolina.  Sheila Kay Adams and Bobby McMillon grew up around ballads singers.  At an early age they collected ballads from their family, their neighbors, their friends.   Both have performed these ancient appalachian ballads before audiences all over the country and around the world.    But they rarely get a chance to perform the more bawdy versions in public.

Tonight, we give them an opportunity to perform  versions usually sung "out behind the barn" or "late at night when the children are all in bed"  and we give you the audience a rare and special opportunity to hear these Bawdy Ballads That Cecil Sharp Refused to Collect.


Bobby McMillon developed an early appreciation for the traditional stories, ballads, and religious songs performed by his grandparents and other older relatives in the southern Appalachian region and started learning them as a child.

By the age of eighteen, Bobby McMillon had become an important collector and archivist of regional songs, stories, and interviews found in and near his hometown of Lenoir, North Carolina. By 1978, McMillon had forged a career as a professional ballad singer and storyteller with an authentic performance style.

Because these songs and tales have deep roots in his own family and experience, Bobby has a passion for them and for sharing them.

"Eventually, I began to realize," he says "that if I didn't perform the songs I was learning, most of the repertories of the people I learned from would be lost because they didn't have family members of their own to hand them down to."

His greatest gift is his rare ability to convey to listeners a feeling for the world from which the stories come

A seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and claw-hammer banjo player, Sheila Kay Adams was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County, North Carolina, an area renowned for its unbroken tradition of of unaccompanied singing of traditional southern Appalachian ballads that dates back to the early Scots/Irish and English Settlers in the mid-17th century. Adams learned to sing from her great-aunt Dellie Chandler Norton and other notable singers in the community such as, Dillard Chandler and the Wallin Family (including NEA National Heritage Fellow Doug Wallin).

In addition to ballad singing, Adams is an accomplished claw hammer-style banjo player and storyteller. She began performing in public in her teens and, throughout her career she has performed at festivals, events, music camps, and workshops around this country and the United Kingdom. Other performances include the acclaimed International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee as well as the 1976 and 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival as part of The Bicentennial Celebration and Appalachia: Heritage and Harmony.

Adams is the author of two books: Come Home With Me, a collection of stories published by the University of North Carolina Press and a 1997 winner of the North Carolina Historical Society's award for historical fiction. My Old True Love, a novel, was published by Alonquin Books in 2004.

Sheila Kay has also recorded several albums of ballads, songs and stories including; My Dearest Dear (2000), All The Other Fine Things (2004), and Live at the International Storytelling Festival (2007). Adams appeared in the movies Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Songcatcher(2000), a movie for which she also served as technical advisor and singing coach.

Adams' devotion to preserving and perpetuating her heritage earned her the North Carolina Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson Award in recognition of her valuable contributions to the study of North Carolina Folklore.

In a letter supporting her nomination as a NEA Heritage Fellow, George Holt, director of performing arts and film at the North Carolina Museum of Art wrote, "Sheila Kay Adams is the key figure in carrying forward to this day the tradition of unaccompanied ballad singing that has enriched her community for more than two centuries. promoting its beauty throughout our country and bey