Edited by John Harrington Cox
West Virginia Classics: Volume 4
Folk-Songs of the South: Collected Under the Auspices of the West Virginia Folk-Lore Society is a collection of ballads and folk songs from West Virginia. First published in 1925, this resource includes narrative and lyric songs that were transmitted orally, as well as popular songs from print sources.
Through 186 ballads and songs and 26 folk tunes, this collection archives a range of styles and genres, from English and Scottish ballads to songs about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the opening of the American West, and boat and railroad transportation. It includes children’s play-party and dance music, songs from African American singers, and post-Civil War popular music. The original introduction by Cox contains vibrant portraits of the singers he researched, with descriptions of performance style and details about personalities and attitudes.
With a new introduction by Alan Jabbour, this reprint renews the importance of this text as a piece of scholarship, revealing Cox’s understanding of the workings of tradition across time and place and his influence upon folk-song research.
John Harrington Cox (1863-1945) was a pioneer in the field of American folk song scholarship. An academic educated at Brown and Harvard, he joined the Department of English at West Virginia University in 1903 as an expert in Old and Middle English and Medieval literature. In 1913, his interests in philology led him to begin collecting folk songs and within two years he presided over the founding of the West Virginia Folklore Society, serving as its first president, archivist, and editor. By 1925 he had published Folk-Songs of the South, the first major collection of American folk songs by an American editor, and he continued to collect folk songs for archiving, publishing Traditional Ballads Mainly From West Virginia and Folk-Songs Mainly From West Virginia in 1939. He died in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Alan Jabbour is a folklorist and folk music specialist who has undertaken extensive field and library research into the folk cultural traditions of West Virginia and the Appalachians. While at Duke University (M.A. 1966, Ph.D. 1968), he launched a project to document the older traditional fiddling of the Upland South. His work with Monroe County fiddler Henry Reed and other West Virginia fiddlers has helped make the older repertory of West Virginia fiddle tunes loom large in the contemporary instrumental folk music revival, and the Library of Congress has published a website featuring his entire Henry Reed Collection. His work with the Hammons Family in Pocahontas County has resulted in several important publications about this family’s extraordinary contributions to the reservoir of West Virginia folksong, folk music, and folklore.