Essays – Tracing The Origins of Dying Crapshooters’ Blues

Tracing The Origins Of Dying Crapshooters’ Blues Back To English And Irish Folksong In The Eighteenth Century

(Revised edition, 2012 – first appeared in 1989 as a dissertation for Lancaster University)

by Max Haymes


This essay is a major piece of work originally produced by Max Haymes in 1989 as a dissertation for Lancaster University. The original document (and only surviving copy) was recently re-discovered; whilst (thankfully) it was typed it was reminiscent of an ancient parchment! To get it published on the website some sections had to be re-typed in a more clearly distinct form, whilst other sections had to be scanned and converted to text, or in the case of the 26 Appendices, published ‘as is’. Hopefully this is a web based document that is as near as possible to the original essay, including bibliography, notes and illustrations, but brought into the modern day with hyperlinks, etc. to add value for the reader/researcher. It should be borne in mind that the essay was written over 24 years ago and with more information and recordings coming to light since then a revised edition was produced in 2012.

We hope you all enjoy it.

Alan White and Max Haymes, March 2013 




Chapter One


Chapter Two


Chapter Three


Appendix I

“Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” by Blind Willie McTell, 5/11/40, Atlanta, Ga. (L. of C.)

Appendix II

“Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” by Blind Willie McTell, 1956, Atlanta, Ga. (Bluesville)

Appendix III

“Those Gambler’s Blues” (“The American Songbag”, Carl Sandburg)

Appendix IV

“Those Gambler’s Blues” (“The American Songbag”. ibid.)

Appendix V

“Dying Gambler” by Blind Willie & Kate McTell, 23/4/35. Chicago, Ill.

Appendix VI

“Lay Some Flowers On My Grave” by Blind Willie McTell, 25/4/35, Chicago, Ill.

Appendix VII

“Dying Pickpocket Blues” by Barrel House Welch, -/1/29. Chicago, Ill.

Appendix VIII

“The Flash Lad”

Appendix IX

“In Newry Town” (“Folk-Song Society Vol. 1.” Ed. A. Kalisch. c. 1905.)

Appendix X

“The Wild And Wicked Youth” Vsn 2 (“The Constant Lovers” Ed. Frank Purslow. 1972.)

Appendix XI


Appendix XII

“The Tarpaulin Jacket” written by George Whyte-Melville. c. 1855.

Appendix XIII

“The Dying Cowboy” (“The Penguin Book of American Folk Songs” Alan Lomax. 1964.)

Appendix XIV

“The Young Sailor Cut Down In His Prime” (“The Everlasting Circle” J. Lee.)

Appendix XV

“The Unfortunate Lass” sung by Norma Waterson, c. 1977.

Appendix XVI

“The Unfortunate Lad” (Everyman’s Book of British Ballads” Ed. Roy Palmer. 1980.)

Appendix XVII

“The Wild Cowboy” (The Dying Cowboy) (“Folk Songs of The South” John Harrington Cox. 1963.)

Appendix XVIII

“The Cowboy’s Lament” (“Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads. John A. Lomax. 1966.)

Appendix XIX

“The Dying Hobo” written by Bob Hughes c. early 20th century.

Appendix XX

“The Dying Hogger” (Anonymous) “A Treasure of American Ballads”.

Appendix XXI

“The Newry Highwayman” (“More Irish Street Ballads” C.O. Lochlainn. 1965)

Appendix XXII

“Rake and Rambling Boy” by Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers.

Appendix XXIII

“The Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime” sung by Frankie Armstrong. 1972.

Appendix XXIV

“The Bad Girl’s Lament” (“Folk Songs of Canada” Eds. Edith Fulton Fowke & Richard Johnstone. 1955.)

Appendix XXV

“St. James’ Hospital” sung by Laura V. Donald (“English Folk Songs From The Southern Appalachians Vol. II. Cecil Sharp. 1952.)

Appendix XXVI

“St. James’ Hospital – “Iron Head’s Version” by James (Iron Head) Baker. -/5/34. Sugerland, Texas. 1966.

Appendix XXVII

“Dying Crapshooter’s Blues” by Blind Willie McTell, 1949, Atlanta, Ga. (Atlantic).