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.