Zeb Tourney's Girl [Laws E18]

DESCRIPTION: Dan Kelly thinks often of Zeb Tourney's daughter, even though his family is feuding with hers. Kelly keeps a promise made to his father by killing all the male Tourneys, but then brings home Zeb's daughter, whom he loves
AUTHOR: Carson J. Robison?
EARLIEST DATE: 1926 (recording, Vernon Dalhart)
KEYWORDS: feud love homicide
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,SE,So,SW)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Laws E18, "Zeb Tourney's Girl"
Hudson 108, pp. 247-248, "Zeb Tunney's Girl" (1 text)
Peters, pp. 197-198, "Shots Echoing 'Round the Mountain" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warner 112, "Don Kelly's Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
Burt, pp. 251-252, "(Zeb Turney's Girl)" (1 text)
Botkin-SoFolklr, p. 735, "Zeb Turney's [Turner's] Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT 681, ZEBTURNY
ADDITIONAL: Richard M. Dorson, _Buying the Wind: Regional Folklore in the United States_, University of Chicago Press, 1964, pp. 200-202, "Zeb Tourney's Gal" (1 text)

ST LE18 (Full)
Roud #2249
RECORDINGS:
Arkansas Woodchopper [pseud. for Luther Ossenbrink], "Zeb Turney's Gal" (Champion 16053 [as West Virginia Railsplitter]/Supertone 9570, 1929; Gennett 7095, 1930; Superior 2590 [as James Burke], 1931)
James Burke, "Zeb Turney's Gal" (Superior 2590, 1931)
Vernon Dalhart, "Zeb Turney's Gal" Domino 3643, 1925; Banner 1671, 1926; Conqueror 7074, 1928) (Broadway 8050, 1925) (Columbia 15049-D [as Al Craver], c. 1926; rec. 1925) (Edison 51656 [as Vernon Dalhart & Co.], 1925) (OKeh 40506, 1926; rec. 1925) (Victor 19867, 1925) (Vocalion 5087/Vocalion 15280, 1926) (Challenge 157/Challenge 316, 1927; rec. 1926)
Bradley Kincaid, "Zeb Turney's Gal" (Bluebird 8410, 1940)

NOTES: Warner notes that a song of this name was copyrighted in 1925 by Marjorie Lamkin and Maggie Andrews, of which the latter at least is a pseudonym of Carson J. Robison (it was his mother's maiden name). And Laws points out that it sounds "suspiciously unlike a mountaineer's conception of a feud." We note also that no one seems able to list the event upon which it is based.
But wait, there's more. Vernon Dalhart recorded this in 1926, and at that time, the name "Dalhart" was worth hundreds of thousands of sales. And at least one of the traditional versions -- Hudson's -- is functionally identical to the Dalhart recording, with the only differences minor verbal variants easily explained as errors of hearing or memory. The other versions are also very similar to each other, implying a recent common source.
The almost inevitable conclusion is that this is a song "gone folk": Written by Robison, recorded by Dalhart -- and then picked up by folklorists who didn't bother checking its pedigree.
The one small bit of counter-evidence for this theory is the report of the song in Peters. This was collected from 28-year-old Luther Rice in 1941, who said he had it from his grandmother's manuscript collection. Given that the Dalhart recording was still fairly new in 1941, there isn't much time for the origin of the song to have been forgotten. But the Peters text is almost word-for-word identical with the Dalhart recording, except that "Zeb Tourney" has become "Seth Terney." Despite the story told by Rice, I think it's derived from Dalhart's version. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.6
File: LE18

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