DESCRIPTION: "Come all of you good people And listen while I tell The story of Chief Aderholt, The man you all know well." Aderholt is shot in Union Ground. The police imprison and prepare to try labor leaders; the singer calls on hearers to join the union
AUTHOR: Ella May Wiggins
EARLIEST DATE: 1953 (Greenway), but Wiggins was shot to death in 1929
KEYWORDS: homicide police labor-movement
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Burt, pp. 186-187, (no title) (1 text, 1 tune)
Greenway-AFP, p. 248, "Chief Aderholt" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS1, pp. 241-242, "Chief Aderholt" (1 text)
NOTES: For a short biography of Ella May Wiggins, who was killed in 1929 at the age of 29 (very possibly at the instigation of Loray mine owner Manville Jenckes), see Greenway-AFP, pp. 244-247.
Doug deNatale and Glenn Hinson wrote an article, "The Southern Textile Song Tradition Reconsidered," published in Archie Green, editor, Songs about Work: Essays in Occupational Culture for Richard A. Reuss, Folklore Institute, Indiana University, 1993, p. 78, refer to Wiggins as "the tragic martyr and song maker of the 1929 Gastonia strike." On p. 79, they quote a verse of this song as an example of Wiggins' work.
More recently, Wiley Cash has published a novel, "The Last Ballad," about Wiggins's death and her family's take on the matter; I have not seen this book.
It is a sad and astonishing commentary on the way American politics works that Wiggins's children wound up being vigorously anti-union, and on the fiftieth anniversary of her death engaged in anti-union activism (deNatale and Hinson, p. 80).
It's interesting to ask whether there has been any folk processing between the Burt and Greenway versions. The tunes differ by only a single note, and the lyrics by only a single word; either might have been a printing error. But they are ever so slightly different. - RBW
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