DESCRIPTION: After the singer's grandmother died, her will was found to grant large sums to several siblings, but to the singer, only granny's old armchair. He is far from content, but takes the chair home -- and eventually discovers a fortune hidden inside
AUTHOR: Probably Eliza Cook (words) and Henry Russell (tune) (see NOTES)
EARLIEST DATE: 1880 (broadside, LOCSheet, sm1880 02996)
KEYWORDS: money death hiding
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South),Scotland(Aber)) US(MW,SE,So) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (9 citations):
GreigDuncan3 705, "Grandmother's Chair" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 658, "Old Armchair" (1 text)
Randolph 467, "Granny's Old Arm Chair" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen, pp. 360-362, "Granny's Old Armchair" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 467A)
BrownSchinhanV 668, "The Old Armchair" (1 short text (an excerpt?), 1 tune)
Warner 100, "My Grandmother's Chair" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 373-374, "Grandmother's Old Armchair" (1 text; tune on p. 457)
Ives-DullCare, pp. 123-125,252, "The Old Arm Chair" (1 text, 1 tune)
Spaeth-WeepMore, pp. 204-206, "The Arm Chair" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST R467 (Partial)
[Clarence] Ashley & [Gwen] Foster, "The Old Arm Chair" (Vocalion 02647, 1934)
Daisy Chapman, "My Grannie's Old Armchair" (on SCDChapman01)
Crockett's Kentucky Mountaineers, "Granny's Old Arm Chair" (Crown 3188/Montgomery Ward M-3026 [as Harlan Miner's Fiddlers], 1931)
Frank Crumit, "Granny's Old Arm-Chair" (HMV [UK] B-4059, 1932)
Pete Daley's Arkansas Fiddlers, "Granny's Old Armchair" (Varsity 5078, n.d.)
Charlie Parker & Mack Woolbright, "The Old Arm Chair" (Columbia 15694-D, 1931; rec. 1927)
Williamson Bros. & Curry, "The Old Arm Chair" (OKeh 45146, 1927)
Bodleian, Firth b.28(4a/b) View 3 of 8, "Grandmother's Chair" ("My grandmother she at the age eighty-three"), R. March and Co. (London), 1877-1884; also Harding B 20(62), "Grandmother's Old Arm-chair"
LOCSheet, sm1880 02996, "Grandma's Old Arm-chair", White, Smith & Co (Boston), 1880 (tune)
The Old Arm Chair
NOTES: Warner notes that this piece was printed twice in 1880 -- once, under the title "Grandmother's Chair," credited to John Read, and the other, "Grandma's/Granny's Old Arm Chair," attributed to Frank B. Carr. No definitive information about the author has been forthcoming.
Cohen, however, notes sheet music from 1841, credited to Eliza Cook (words) and William Clifton (music), but cites Spaeth to the effect that it was composed by Henry Russell (credited with singing it in the Cook/Clifton printing) in 1840.
The attribution to Cook and Russell is also found in Jon W. Finson, The Voices That Are Gone: Themes in Nineteenth-Century American Popular Song, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 113. I should add that it makes sense, because Eliza Cook was a fairly well-known poet and Russell a popular compsier. Of COok, Finson says, "Cook (1818-1889) was a British poet of no small reputation. Daughter of a tradesman, she taught herself letters, and she wrote for the Weekly Dispatch and the New Monthly for years."
Scarborough claims that it is of "British origin," but cites no evidence -- but of course the description would fit Eliza Cook.
For background on Henry Russell, see "Cheer, Boys, Cheer (II)."
Since John H. Warland and T. Bissell published "A Reply to the Old Arm Chair" around 1841 (FInson, p. 115), I think the attribution to Cook and Russell fairly sound. - RBW
See one version of "Grandma's Old Arm-Chair" [Sheet Music: digital id sm1880 02996], published in Boston in 1880, attributed to Frank B Carr, at the Library of Congress American Memory site.
There are three versions of an entirely different song as "The Old Arm Chair" beginning "I love it, I love it, and who shall dare, To chide me for loving that old arm chair." This is probably the Cohen reference since the words are attributed to Eliza Cook in two cases and the music is attributed to William Clifton and sung by Henry Russell ([Sheet Music: digital id sm1841 380380], published in New York in 1841), music attributed to Henry Russell ([Sheet Music: digital id sm1840 370920], published in Boston in 1840) and with no music attribution ([Sheet Music: digital id sm1842 381990], published in Baltimore in 1842); all three are at the Library of Congress American Memory site. This is also the song in three "[The] Old Arm[-/ ]Chair" broadsides [America Singing: digital id as110050/sb30397a/as110060] at the Library of Congress American Memory site.
[I concur with Ben in this; "The Old Armchair" can also be found in Scott-EnglishSB, pp. 90-91, and is a different song.]
As to Frank B Carr, here is a note from John Hill in the DigiTrad discussion of "Fields of Athenry": "Finding the published song isn't always the end of the story. Someone recently asked if I could find the words to 'Granny's old arm chair'. I found them in the collection of the Library of Congress. Written by Frank B. Carr 'America's Motto vocalist' (whatever that was) published in 1880 in Boston. Then about 3 weeks later (by accident) I found the same song in the same collection written by John Reid. pub 1881 Boston. There were other songs by John Reid but no other by Frank B. Carr. So was the later Publication the real writer and maybe the earlier one only the performer (Although he claimed to be the writer) What was odd was they were both published in the same town... " - BS
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