Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Tribute To E.V. Body

Browsing through a box of very old music I came into possession of recently, I discovered a booklet of 'Hill Country Songs and Ballads' published in 1929 by Joe Davis. As I leafed through pages containing such traditional songs as "Red River Valley" and "She'll be Coming Along the Mountain", I noticed that these tunes were written by an E.V. Body.

Many songs written by E.V Body appeared in this booklet including, "Mister, Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight" and "Birmingham Jail." Yet I had never heard of this composer who wrote so lyrically and poignantly of everyday life in pioneer times. I decided to do a tribute here to E.V. Body, whose name surely should stand alongside Stephen Foster's in the annals of American folk music. Honestly, that's how this blog started.

But when I began my research, I hit a brick wall. I could not find a biography on E.V. Body searching Yahoo and Google. At the local library, I checked the World Book Enclopedia, Merriam Webster's Biographical Dictionary, Who Was Who in America and The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Nothing--zip, nada, zilch. On a hunch, I decided to pair "Joe Davis" and "E.V. Body" in a Google search. Bingo! Here's what I found at Answer.com.

"Song publishers of the '20s and '30s (like Joe Davis) were into accumulating as many titles under their control as possible. An entire collection of songs . . . would be published under the name of E.V. Body once the original copyright lapsed, or if there was any indication that the material was sourced from folk music."

Oh, oh. Had I been duped? Well, here's what else it said there:

"The doofus type that doesn't get the joke might consider E.V. Body some kind of songwriter's songwriter, responsible for such absolute classics as "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane," "Ain't Gonna Rain No More," "Frankie and Johnny," "Birmingham Jail," "Willie the Weeper," "Barbara Allen," "Lonesome Road," and "Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight?" The name is commonly taken as a simple joke on the supposition that anybody or everybody could have written these folk songs, but the royalty money certainly didn't go to everybody. It went straight to Joe Davis."

After the flattering comments I received from my blogging buddies last week, I felt chastened. Maybe my blog should really be Doofus Dave's Blog. Well, I'm going to put what I learned to good use. Going to copyright and publish a songbook of popular old tunes. It'll feature such favorites as "Happy Birthday" by Ann Naunamus and "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" by Arthur Unknown. Royalties to me, please. I'll see that Arthur and Ann are compensated.


Blogger Deb said...

Aww Dave, don't feel bad. I would have thought E.V. Body was the name of a composer too. LOL.

Interesting post. :)

12:54 PM  
Blogger Kacey said...

Sweet Dave --- Don't go trying to usurp "Happy Birthday" --- it is very well protected and royalties must be made to her heirs every time someone plays it in public. That is why most restaurants play strange birthday songs for people celebrating their big day --- otherwise, they would go broke paying for the original Happy Birthday song. I understand she penned it for her primary school students and never expected to make any money on it. Thanks for the research on E.V. Body. Very interesting!

1:13 PM  
Anonymous enforcer said...

Maybe you could copyright some book's too like "Under the Bleacher's" by Seymore Butts, or "Revenge of the Cat" by Claude Balls.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Great post, Dave...intriguing...I cottoned on shortly after reading the beginning of your research material. It's a bit like " Pat Pending" or "Con Pending"

Patent Pending and Contract Pending...years ago when one didn't have to sell one's soul to open extra banking accounts, my then husband and I opened up two extra accounts in those names...Mr Tax Man doesn't allow such despicable acts to happen nowadays!

3:38 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Hi Dave, E.V.Body was a bit of a letdown but Joe Davis was a pretty smart cookie it seems.

7:36 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

You simply cannot feel bad about this. This is a great history lesson, about which I knew naught.

If I play any of Naunumus's songs on my harmonica, I will be sure to royalty you.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Ms. Vickie said...

Wow a few songs I have not thought of in ages were mentioned here. Thanks for walking me down a memory lane when I needed to smile at memories.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Big Dave ~~ Hope I have got the right one - the one who doesn't like LONG posts. Glad you dropped in for a visit and left a comment. Sorry your second son fitted the Mother post, and hope he has learned. Yep, the steering wheel is darn hot. They are talking 40 C degrees tomorrow,
which is about 104. I think it is Summer. (or maybe Hell).Meanwhile
you are having the coldest week.
Take care my friend, Cheers, Merle.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

Englebert Humperdinck (1854-1921) might have preferred a nom de plume. The Austrian composer of the marvelous opera, Hansel and Gretel, would have been surprised to know that a mediocre 60's lounge singer would someday steal his name.

SPARTANS hold disdain for "Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight?"

6:29 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...


Oh goodness, it took me awhile to get the joke. Yikes. Don't feel so bad!

Take good care,

9:14 PM  
Anonymous schnoodlepooh said...

Pretty interesting story - good luck with that song publishing gig. I think I'll see if I can get a few songs under my name too, including royalties!

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

I thought I knew a lot about music particularly folk music, but your research was an eye-opener for me.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

On behalf of E.V. Body, I want to say that I enjoyed this post very much. And I think all royalties should go to Doofus Dave! ;)

Ciao big guy...you are my favorite Big Dave.

10:04 AM  
Blogger poopie said...

There's always an angle, huh ;)

1:27 PM  

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