Listen to the Mockingbird

DESCRIPTION: The singer recalls his beloved Hallie, who is "Sleeping in the valley, And the mockingbird is singing where she lies." Now the song of the mockingbird makes him "Feel like one forsaken... Since my Hallie is no longer with me now."
AUTHOR: "Alice Hawthorne" (Septimus Winner) and Richard Milburn
EARLIEST DATE: 1854
KEYWORDS: death burial separation bird
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Dean, pp. 78-79,"Listen to the Mocking Bird" (1 text)
MHenry-Appalachians, p. 159, "Sweet Hally" (1 text)
RJackson-19CPop, pp. 110-114, "Listen to the Mocking Bird" (1 text, 1 tune)
Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 61-61, "Listen to the Mocking Bird" (1 text, 1 tune)
WolfAmericanSongSheets, #1277, p. 87, "Listen to the Mocking Bird!" (1 reference)
Silber-FSWB, p. 249, "Listen To The Mockingbird" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, p. 333, "Listen to the Mocking Bird"
DT, MCKNBIRD

ST RJ19110 (Full)
Roud #8079
RECORDINGS:
Theron Hale & Daughters, "Listen To The Mocking Bird" (Victor V-40019, 1929)
Fiddlin' Red Herron, "Listen To The Mockingbird" (King 629, 1947)
Bela Lam and His Green County Singers, "Listen tothe Mocking Bird" (OKeh, unissued, 1927)
W. MacBeth & Tom Collins, "Listen to the Mockingbird" (Vocalion 5282, c. 1929)
Morgan & Stanley, "Listen to the Mockingbird" (Columbia 1833, 1904) (Victor Monarch 4080, 1904)
Gordon Tanner, Smokey Joe Miller & the Jr. Skillet Lickers, "Listen to the Mocking Bird" (on DownYonder)

SAME TUNE:
I'm Dreaming Now of Hadley (by F. W. Adams, [class of 18]62) (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 44)
NOTES: Although now often used as an opportunity for fiddle players or other performers to produce strange sounds from their instruments, this piece was originally done "straight." After a few years of obscurity, the composer sold the copyright for a mere $5, only to see the song sell over a million copies.
Alice Hawthorne was a leading pseudonym of Septimus Winner; he also listed her as the author of "Whispering Hope." (The name was a tribute to his mother.) For some reason, Winner published such trivia as "Oh Where Oh Where Is My Little Dog Gone" under his own name.
The first edition of this piece gave a melodic credit to Richard Milbourne; this was dropped on later printings. It seems likely, however, that Milbourne did supply the tune; he was a young Negro errand-boy and beggar known as "Whistling Dick." Early in his career, Winner was willing to give credit to others; as he became more successful, he apparently wanted the praise for himself.
The song is reported to have been dedicated to Harriet Lane, the niece of president James Buchanan who was the White House hostess during that bachelor's presidency. (Buchanan was not yet President when the song was written, but Lane had already done duty as his social helper, so this is possible.) It is ironic to observe that Lane was almost an old maid, not getting married until 1866, when she was well into her thirties.
Septimus Winner was quite a character. According to Robert J. Morgan, Then Sings My Soul, Book 2: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories, Nelson, 2004, p, 113, he was born in 1827, the seventh child of his parents (hence his name). One of his compositions, "Give Us Back Our Old Commander," referring to the dismissal of General McClellan from the Union armies in 1862, earned him a spell in prison until he agreed to destroy remaining copies of the piece.
Other songs in the Index by Winner include "O Where O Where Has My Little Dog Gone" (reportedly written 1864), "Whispering Hope" (1868; said by Morgan to be his last successful composition), and possibly "Ellie Rhee (Ella Rhee, Ella Ree)"; he also had something to do with "Ten Little Injuns" and may have arranged "Heaven's a Long Way Off." He died in 1902. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.8
File: RJ19110

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.