Author Topic: Willie Brook

Michael Morris

Posted - 13 Jan 06 - 06:07 am


Hearken my young friends, 'tis a melancholy song
As the hours of life flow swiftly all around
There's one of a number in youth's sudden bloom
Been called away by death, now's lying in his tomb

Although he is dead, he's inviting us to come
Go read his inscription, go read it on his tomb
Way down in yonders graveyard, go read it if you care
And remember it won't be long till we're all lying there

"And when I am dead, going down to my grave
Six gallant young men I would wish for to have
By the side of my coffin I'd have them to walk
And of my sinful days I'd have them to talk"

"They'll take me to my grave, and there they'll set me down
While all of my young friends, they'll go weeping along
They'll open my coffin and gaze awhile at me
While I am calmly sleeping in a long eternity"

"Four young men will take hold of me then
They'll lower me down in that cold and icy grave
They'll throw the gravel over me and make an awful sound
While all my young friends go weeping around"

His parents they thought they had taught him quite well
They thought they had taught him to shun the gates of Hell
But he hastened their council, his own way he took
Remember this young man, his name was Willie Brook

Come hearken my young friends, take a warning now from me
Never place your young affections on sin and vanity
Perhaps a loving savior will call on you too soon
And then your morning sun will be cast down at noon.

Recorded 11-8-89, on Folksongs and Ballads (AHR 009), released by Augusta Heritage Recordings. Mr. Hundley was 84 years old at the time of the recording. Sung by Holley Hundley (Fayette County, West Virginia).

"This is a song that I learned from my dad . . . N.S. Hundley, a song about a boy (pause) that died young on account of his way of life, I'll put it that way."
From interview with Holley Hundley.

"This song is infrequent in collections, but reportedly has been sung at back-country religious meetings under the title, Willie Cook."
Liner notes.

Edited By Michael Morris - 13 Jan 06 - 06:11 am

Edited By Michael Morris - 13 Jan 06 - 03:20 pm

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 14 Jan 06 - 01:37 am

Uncommon under that name, certainly; and listed in the Roud Folk Song Index at 6454 (two occurences of one example only, from Mrs Emma Glasscock of Colfax, West Virginia; noted by Ruth Ann Musick in -apparently- the mid 1950s).

However, the central part is clearly a form of The Unfortunate Rake, one of the songs most commonly found in 20th century oral tradition. Roud 2, Laws B1 and Q26. It would be interesting to know where the other verses came from; they seem to have been added to lend a religious aspect to the original homilectic (but secular) intent.

Michael Morris

Posted - 14 Jan 06 - 04:33 am


Hark, hark, my young friends, it's a melancholy call,
The hour of death flyin' swiftly along,
There is one of our number, a youth in early bloom,
Who was called away by death, an' was laid in the tomb.

Go ye down to the graveyard an' sit ye down an' mourn,
Go ye down to the graveyard an' read it on the tomb,
Go ye down to the graveyard an' read it with care,
An' remember it won't be long till we all must lay there.

It grieves me most sadly to think that I must die,
To think that I got to go to a long eternity,
To leave my dear father an' mother behind,
An' sisters an' brothers that to me have been so kind.

An' when I am dead an' carried to my grave,
It's four young men I will voluntarily have,
By the side of my coffin Ill have them to walk,
An' of my sinful days I'll have them to talk.

An' when they get there they will set my body down,
While all my mournin' friends stands a-weepin' around,
They'll open my coffin an' all look down on me,
My face'll be a lookin'-glass for all my friends to see.

Then four young men they will take a hold of me,
An' lay my body down to the cold clods of clay,
They'll shovel down the gravel which makes a solemn sound,
While all my mournin' friends stands a-weepin' around.

My parents they thought they had brought me up well,
An' oft-times they had told me for to shun the gates of hell,
Their counsel I have slighted, my own way I have took,
So remember the young man whose name was William Cook.

Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Vol. 4 (Columbia, Missouri: State Hisorical Society of Missouri, 1950)40-41. Sung by Mrs. W. A. Patton, Jane, MO, Dec. 1, 1929.

"Many elderly Ozarkers tell me that this number used to be sung in backwoods churches, and Mr. J. V. Hamlin (1935) says that he heard it in a Holy Roller meeting near Rogers, Arkansas, so recently as 1931. The fifth verse has several lines in common with the twelfth stanza of the "Wild Bill Jones" song reported by Richardson (American Mountain Songs, 1927, p. 37)from the southern Appalachians. The 'Death Is a Melancholy Call' printed by Belden (Ballads and Songs, 1940, pp. 464-465) has several similar lines , but it is not the same song."

Michael Morris

Posted - 25 Jan 06 - 12:49 am


Come, all my good friends, with your melancholy song,
While the hour of the day is lating* along,
I'm going away to leave you; I cannot stay here long,
I am hasting away to my eternal home.

Down, down in yonders village, I have danced with you all,
Down, down in yonders village I learned my youthful bloom,
But little did I think I'd be called for so soon,
When the end of morning sun will going down at noon.

Therefore, young men, do take ahold of me,
And bend o'er my body in a grave six-by-three,
And heap the clods upon me and sing a solemn song,
While all my younger friends they are mourning around.

It's now I am dead and I'll be forgot,
My friends and relations remember me not,
Their cries will all be hushed and their tears all wiped away
While my poor body is mouldering and turning into clay.

My parents they thought they had brought me up well,
They thought they had taught me to shun the gates of hell,
Their prayers I have slighted, my only way I've took,
Remember this young man whose name is William Cook.


Sung by Harrison Burnett, Fayetteville, Arkansas, July 13, 1954. Collected by Mary Celestia Parler.

Mary Celestia Parler, An Arkansas Ballet Book (Fayetteville: University of Arksansas, 1963), p.55.

Edited By Michael Morris - 25 Jan 06 - 12:51 am

Jon Freeman

Posted - 26 Jan 06 - 11:47 am

I have added the song to the database using the following abc:

%%scale 1
T:Willie Brook
B:Ruth Ann Musick, "Ballads and Songs from West Virginia," The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 70, No. 278 (Oct.-Dec., 1957), 336-357.
G2 DE |G DE | G3/A/ GE| D3
w:Hark, my young friends, 'tis a mel-an-chol-y sound,
B | d2 ED | B2 DD | (G3/A/) BG | HA2
w: The ar-rows of death fly-ing swift*-ly a-round;
Bc | D2 ED | B2 DD | (G3/A/) BG | A3
w:There is one of your num-ber, a youth_ in this bloom,
A | A3/A/ AA |(Ac) BA | G2 EE | D3 z |]
w:Was called a-way by death,* Now lies cold in the tomb.

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