Once upon a time in the 60s...

How Mel & Mel met: where they performed; when Julian joined the band; who they met along the way; their influences and the key people in their brief, but sweet career ... and what they're up to today. Enjoy!

Links in the M,M&J Chain...

Influences & Earworms...

Two young guys singing in an art school classroom at lunch hour to appreciative listeners, and the realization that they had something special.

Key people and places in their career:

The Troubadour Coffee/Steakhouse in Johannesburg, THE folk club where it was happening!

Gary Bryden, Brit folkie, who got Little Mel up on stage at the Troub in the first place.

Keith Blundell, who auditioned Mel & Mel and who without hesitation offered them a weekly gig at the Johannesburg Troubadour..

Des Lindberg who kept them on at the Troubadour as headliners, when they weren't playing full-time at their long hotel residencies.

Ben Segal, quiet folk fanatic and founder of SAFMA, the South African Folk Music Association, and 3rd Ear Music, who opened his vast collection of music and his hospitality to the guys. 

Johnny Kongos, friend and a hit-making rock & roller, who encouraged them & introduced them to...

John E. Sharpe, a wonderful bluesman, who was managed by...

Billy Forrest, South Africa's greatest C&W singer and mentor to many young musicians, who became their manager, friend and guiding light.

Brenda Newfield, a wonderful folksinger, who gave Mel  & Mel some of their first gigs, and who opened up her home & her record collection to them, thus helping them expand their repertoire. 

David Sapire, a photographer and a fan who also helped with their repertoire, and who most significantly... introduced Mel and Mel  to his brother Julian!

Mike Dorsey, entrepreneur & club owner on the Durban music scene, became a fan, a mentor and helped the band in many ways.

Their influences. They  listened to everything possible, at parties, record shops, friend's living rooms, records and reel-to-reel tapes... absorbing everything that appealed to their evolving musical tastes and their developing musical skills. 

See the BLOG PAGE which has a list of recording artists and songs which first caught their ear(s) and whose styles and genres were adapted to suit their style, carrying on the "the folk-process" down in South Africa.

 

Historic Reference

In 1994 Mel, Mel & Julian were acknowledged and included in the book, "History of Contemporary Music in South Africa"...taking their place as one of few notable folk groups to make an impression on the evolving contemporary music scene.

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A Reunion? (Also read the blog)


Mel, Mel & Julian from an interview in a Durban newspaper, drawn by Jock Leyden, who got it right!

Occasionally we hear from old fans, who invariably ask:  Wouldn't a re-union of Mel, Mel & Julian be wonderful?

The practical answer: Mel Miller has a career in stand-up comedy in South Africa, while Julian does his thing making his own great music, and music for movie sound-tracks, commercials and also performing live around South Africa.  Mel Green is a professional Graphic Designer by day, and sings solo and with various groups around Boston, USA... but if the right offer and opportunities should come up, well, who knows!

We ain't getting any younger, in fact the guys are all  70... yikes! So if you are seriously interested and have the financing? Please contact Mel Green at mel_green_1@hotmail.com 

Mel, Mel & Julian welcome you!
Chuck Berry

Story

This great song by Chuck Berry, is a favourite. The band first heard it on a recording by John Hammond Jr. and they loved it. Julian listened to it once and had it figured out immediately. Here Little Mel adds one of his first voyages into Blues Harp, backing up Big Mel's vigorous vocals! The audiences loved it and it was a must for inc;usion on their last LP "Miscellanea".

Lyrics

As I was motivatin'
Back in town
I saw a Cadillac sign
Sayin' "No Money Down"
So I eased on my brakes
And I pulled in the drive
Gunned my motor twice
Then I walked inside
Dealer came to me
Said "Trade in your Ford
And I'll put you in a car
That'll eat up the road
Just tell me what you want
And sign on that line
And I'll have it delivered to you
Yeah, in a hour's time"

I'm gonna get me a car
And I'll be headed on down the road
Then I won't have to worry
About that broken-down, wrecked Ford

"Mister, I want a yellow convertible
A four-door de Ville
With a Continental spare
And a wire chrome wheels
Power steering
And power brakes
I want a powerful engine man
With a jet off-take
Air conditioning
And automatic heat
And I want a full roll-away bed
In my back seat
I want shortwave radio
I want TV and a phone
You know I gotta talk to my baby
When I'm ridin' alone"

Yes, I'm gonna get that car
And I'm gonna head on down the road
Yeah, then I won't have to worry
About that broken-down, wrecked Ford

"I want four carburettors
And two straight exhausts
I'll put in' aviation fuel
No matter what the cost
I want railroad air horns
And a military spot
And I want a five-year guarantee
On everything I got
I want ten dollar deductible
On a  twenty dollar notes
Thirty thousand dollars
That's all she wrote”.

I got me a car
And I'm headed on down the road
No money down
I don't have to worry
About that broken-down, wrecked Ford

Mel, Mel & Julian
John Stewart

Story

John Stewart wrote this evocative song of life on a riverboat while he was a member of the Kingston Trio... it was brought to the this band's attention by Nick Taylor, who was a great interpreter of their music, after he sang this song one Saturday morning on his Springbok Radio show. 

Lyrics

If there's one more town, I'll be goin'. Fight for the winnin' and I'll be there
If there's one more song, I'll be singin'. I'm always goin' but I don't know where

I spent seventeen in West Virginia. Eight more years just for runnin' free
But the girls back home in their blue gingham dresses only heard one thing from me

If there's one more town, I'll be goin'. Fight for the winnin' and I'll be there
If there's one more song, I'll be singin'. I'm always goin' but I don't know where

Went down to New Orleans last summer on a flat boat workin' my way
There were well-mannered ladies and street that were shady, but for me, I never could stay

If there's one more town, I'll be goin'. Fight for the winnin' and I'll be there
If there's one more song, I'll be singin'. I'm always goin' but I don't know where

Sailed up to New York on a schooner, but I won't be stayin' there long
There were bright city lights and girls in pink tights but their faces were all painted on

If there's one more town, I'll be goin'. Fight for the winnin' and I'll be there
If there's one more song, I'll be singin'. I'm always goin' but I don't know where

 

Mel, Mel & Julian
Billy Ed Wheeler

Story

One of the finest hard-driving songs to come out of the coal mining state of Kentucky... a protest against automation which forced many men out of jobs in big mines and into employment in small unsafe  "tin pot"mines. We were first inspired to do this song after listening to the fine rendition by our friends, Leon & Mike at the Troubadour in Johannesburg... a city which is not exactly unaware of mine safety conditions, being in an area where there are active gold mines right under one's feet and also coal mines not too far away in the Orange Free State.

Lyrics

Travelin' down that coal town road. Listenin' to my rubber tires whine.
Goodbye to Buckeye and white Sycamore. I'm leavin' you behind.
I've been coal miner all of my life. Layin' down track in the hole.
Gotta back like an ironwood, bit by the wind. Blood veins blue as the coal. Blood veins blue as the coal.

Somebody said, "That's a strange tattoo you have on the side of your head."
I said, "That's the mark of the number nine coal. A little more and I'd been dead.
Well, I love the rumble and I love the dark. I love the cool of the slate,
And i'm going down the new road, lookin' for a job. This travelin' nook in my head.

I stood for the union and walked in the line and fought against the company.
I stood for the U. M. W. of A. Now, who's gonna stand for me?
I've got no house and I got no job, just got a worried soul
And a blue tattoo on the side of my head left by the number nine coal. Left by the number nine coal.

Some day when I'm dead and gone, to heaven, the land of my dreams.
I won't have to worry on losin' my job, on bad times and big machines.
I ain't gonna pay my money away on dues or hospital plans.
I'm gonna pick coal where the blue heavens roll and sing with the angel band.

Mel, Mel & Julian
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

Also from "Miscellanea", this version of a tune which had been covered many times before, was given the Mel, Mel & Julian treatment. An upbeat rhythm, with Julian his inimitable rhythms, Mel Miller whistling, and Little Mel singing harmony gives the tune an entirely original feel.  It was a favourite request by live audiences.

Lyrics

 1. The gypsy rover came over the hill
Down through the valley so shady,
He whistled and he sang 'til the greenwoods rang,
And he won the heart of a lady.
Chorus:
Ah-de-do, ah-de-do-da-day,
Ah-de-do, ah-de-da-ay
He whistled and he sang 'til the greenwoods rang,
And he won the heart of a lady.
2. She left her father's castle gates
She left her own fine lover
She left her servants and her state
To follow the gypsy rover.
3. Her father saddled up his fastest steed
And roamed the valleys all over
Sought his daughter at great speed
And the whistling gypsy rover.
4. He came at last to a mansion fine,
Down by the river Claydee
And there was music and there was wine,
For the gypsy and his lady.
5. "He is no gypsy, my father" she said
"But lord of these lands all over,
And I shall stay 'til my dying day
With my whistling gypsy rover."

Mel, Mel & Julian
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

Like many traditional Irish songs, this one is rollicking and full of nonsensical fun, as only Irish songs seem to be... It gave Big Mel an outlet in song for his wonderful comedic sense and acting skill. 

Lyrics

Well, I am a little beggarman, a begging I have been
For three score or more in the little isle of green
All over the Liffey and down to Segue
I'm known by the name of auld Johnny Dhu 

Of all the trades a going, begging is the best
When a man gets tired he can sit down and rest
Singin' for his supper when there's nothing else to do
When I come around the corner with me old rigadoo 

I went to a barn, went down to Currabawn
Got down on the floor and I slept till the dawn
Holes in the roof and the rain seeping thru
Me toes froze together in me little beggar shoes 

Buy a pair of leggings and a collar and a tie
A nice old lady you will find by and by
Buy a pair of leggings and I'll color them blue
For a foxy old lady I'll make her too 

I met a little flaxen haired girl one day
Good morning little flaxen haired girl, I did say
Good morning little beggarman how do you do
With your bags and your rags and your auld rigadoo 

Who should I waken but the woman of the house
With her white spotted apron and her calico blouse
She began to frighten so I said boo
Sure, don't be afraid, it's only Johnny Dhu 

Over the road with me pack on me back
Over all the fields with me big heavy sack
Over the hills with the moon peeking through
Singing, skin a ma rink a doodle on me auld rigadoo 

I must be going to bed, it's getting late at night
The fire is all out, so out goes the light
Now you've heard the story of the auld rigadoo
So good night and God be with you, this is auld Johnny Dhu

Mel, Mel & Julian
Ager, Yellen

Story

Mel, Mel & Julian found a Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band LP and brought it down to Durban with them mainly to listen to, what for them was a unique form of music... They wanted to include it in their repertoire, and a good friend of their's – Peter Clifford, who played in a Durban band called "The 004" came by one afternoon and showed them how it should be played in true ragtime style, using closed chords up the neck of their guitars. For Julian the solution was obvious, but to Mel Green it was a revelation and opened up a whole new way of playing. Audiences loved this song: Mel Miller would introduce it and pull his comb out of his back pocket, wrap a piece of foil from a cigarette package around it to make a kazoo-like instrument... and Mel Green would sing high falsetto harmony and play two harmonicas! 

Lyrics

 

Yellen/Alger (1926)

 

Washington at Valley Forge

Freezing cold but up spoke George

Said vo-do-de-o, vo-do-de-o, doe

 

Crazy words, crazy tune

All that George could croon and swoon

Was vo-do-de-o, vo-do-de-o, do

 

On his uku-lele, daily

He would strum, beedle-um-bum

Dancing, prancing

And then he'd holler, "Red hot mama!"

 

Crazy words, crazy tune

All that George could croon and swoon

Was vo-do-de-o, vo-do-de-o, do

Washington at Valley Forge

Freezing cold but up spoke George

Said vo-do-de-o,(vo-do-de-o, doe

 

Crazy words, crazy tune

All that George could croon and swoon

Was vo-do-de-o, vo-do-de-o, do

Crazy words, crazy tune

All that George could croon and swoon

Was vo-do-de-o, vo-do-de-o, do

 

Mel, Mel & Julian
Mel Miller & Mel Green

Story

Written for Mel Miller's girlfriend who had recently left the country with her family... a love song of loss and leaving, beautifully sung by Mel & Mel and backed by Julian on electric guitar. This song was one of two originals recorded at the new Gallo studios in Johannesburg on 8 track mono for their third LP "Miscellanea".  The strings were added afterwards to an original arrangement by Dan Hill played by a quartet hired from the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra... a most pleasant surprise to the trio, who first heard it only when they received their own copies of the album. This has the distinction of being the only song with lyrics ever written  by Mel Miller with contributions from Mel Green, and which was recorded for their last LP "Miscellanea".

Lyrics

 

 You know my heart begins to lag

As my mind begins to reel

There's a paining in my breast 

No human heart should feel

Just to know that you are leaving 

Nearly breaks me up inside

Oh, fare thee well Kirsten

Fare thee well

 

When I look back on our precious times

That were so many and few

The thoughts flood back like a soft spring wind

Or the smell of morning dew

Like a freshly fallen cloak of dew

You must melt away

Oh, fare thee well Kirsten

Fare thee well

 

You sat and talked for timeless hours

About the things you must see and do

And if you must go rambling

Then there's no one stopping you

But remember darling Kirsten

My heart still is with you 

Oh, fare thee well Kirsten

Fare thee well

 

 You know my heart begins to lag

As my mind begins to reel

There's a paining in my breast 

No human heart should feel

Just to know that you are leaving 

Nearly breaks me up inside

Oh, fare thee well Kirsten

Fare thee well

Fare thee well

Fare thee well

Mel, Mel & Julian
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

Back in '66 we went into Gallo Studios, Johannesburg to record the third and last Mel, Mel & Julian LP. The folk-rock movement was going strong, and Judy Collins had recorded "In My Life", her baroque-folk album. We were definitely interested in the way that "our" music was evolving, and so we recorded "Miscellanea" our third LP for Columbia, as a mixed bag of music, showcasing the various types of folk music that we played during our gigs. The umbrella that was folk music at the time, had in it's circumference, everything from Child Ballads, Bluegrass, Old-Timey and Blues... and now string quartets were popping up. Mel Green soloed on this version of "The Water Is Wide". Julian added chopped electric guitar to Mel's fingerpicked acoustic, and later, Dan Hill... Gallo's resident arranger added the string quartet backing. This is the result. Is it Baroque, Folk or Folk-Rock? M,M&J really didn't care, this was a ground-breaking song for them.

Lyrics

The water is wide, I cannot get oer 

Neither have I wings to fly 

Give me a boat that can carry two 

And both shall row, my love and I 

 

I leaned my back against an oak 

Thinking it was a trusty tree 

But first it bent and then it broke 

So did my love prove false to me 

 

Oh love is handsome and love is kind 

Gay as a jewel when first it is new 

But love grows old and waxes cold 

And fades away like the morning dew 

 

There is a ship and she sails the sea 

She's loaded deep as deep can be 

But not so deep as the love I'm in 

I know not if I sink or swim 

 

Mel, Mel & Julian
Gillette, Campbell

Story

When first heard on an Ian & Sylvia LP, the trio, like many folks, might have sworn this was an old traditional song... but it isn't. Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell wrote it... a beautiful sad song with a bad ending, it became very popular, and it has been recorded by many. This version was recorded for Mel,Mel & Julian's second LP "One More Town" which included songs by contemporary "folk" singer-songwriters. Note: the place names in the song are actual and can be found on a map of the Western USA, in California and Nevada.

In addition: 

The song was written in 1964, by Tom Campbell and Steve Gillette and is based on something that happened to Steve's little sister whose name is Darcy. At twelve years old she was running behind her horse, chasing the horse into the corral, when she was kicked. She broke her cheekbone, but had no other lasting effects. She did spend three days in the hospital and all were concerned that she might have a concussion. She's fine today and has two grown sons.

During that time, Tom Campbell took a melody that Steve had written and came up with a story about the two young lovers and the tragic fall. Steve was a little horrified at the idea since it was so dark, and involved his sister's name, but as they worked with it and steered it in the direction of the old cowboy songs, he was much more comfortable with it. So many of the old cowboy songs take their melodies from the Scottish, English and Irish musical traditions.

The place names are actual places around the region of the high valleys and the Walker River. The Truckee River runs through Reno. Tom lived in Yerrington for a time when he was eight or nine years old, his dad was an engineer and was involved in the mining industry there. People say that they have captured something of the feeling of the high desert, and some have even looked for graves or other evidence of the old story.

When they had finished the song in the summer of 1964, Tom and Steve had a chance to sing it for Ian & Sylvia who were the first to record it. Tom had taken a folklore class with D.K. Wilgus at UCLA and mentioned to Ian that he used to turn in songs he had written or added to and claimed he had collected them from his grandfather. Ian got a big kick out of that idea, and incorporated it into his introduction to the song. In their travels, Ian and Sylvia spread that story to lots of people around the country. Of course, they introduced the song to all those people at the same time.

And... we like many others, borrowed the song from the Ian & Sylvia recording... and in turn also recorded it.

Lyrics

Where the Walker runs down to the Carson Valley plain,

There lived a maiden, Darcy Farrow was her name

The daughter of old Dundee and fair was she

And the sweetest flower that bloomed o'er the range.

 

Her voice was sweet as the sugar candy
Her touch was as soft as a bed of goose down.
Her eyes shone bright like the pretty lights
That shine in the night out of Yarrington town.

She was courted by young Vandermeer
And quite handsome was he I am to hear
He brought her silver rings and lacy things
And she promised to wed before the snows fell that year.

But her pony did stumble and she did fall.
Her dyin' touched on the heart of us all.
Young Vandy in his pain put a bullet to his brain
And we buried them together as the snows began to fall.

They sing of Darcy Farrow where the Truckee runs through
They sing of her beauty in Virginia City too.
At dusty Sundown to her name they drink a round
And to young Vandy whose love was true.

 

 

 

Mel & Mel
Hedy West

Story

This was the first song recorded formally by Mel & Mel. Their CBS A&R manager set up a morning recording session at the famous Gallo Recording Studios in Johannesburg during the Southern winter of June 1964. The record company saw the duo as a South African version of Peter & Gordon, and so their friends and CBS recording artists, Johnny Sharpe & the Squires backed them up on this very recognizable tune by Hedy West, and also on a cover of "Sorrow & Pain" by the UK's Unit 4+2.

Lyrics

If you miss the train I'm on
You will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles!
A hundred miles
A hundred miles
A hundred miles
A hundred miles
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles!

Lord, I'm one, Lord, I'm two
Lord, I'm three, Lord, I'm four
Lord, I'm five hundred miles away from home!
Away from home
Away from home
Away from home
Away from home
Lord, I'm five hundred miles away from home!

Not a shirt on my back
Not a penny to my name 
Lord I can't go back home this a-way!
This-a way
This-a way
This-a way
This-a way
Lord I can't go back home this a-way!

If you miss the train I'm on
You will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles!
A hundred miles
A hundred miles
A hundred miles
A hundred miles
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles!

 
Mel, Mel & Julian
Buffy St. Marie

Story

A protest song that is truly "universal"... it does not point fingers at any one proponent of conflict, neither east nor west, but instead at you and I for our tacit acceptance of war. During the 60s, the anti-war movement was beginning to give itself voice, and for us in South Africa, that fact alone gave us the courage to protest against the injustices we saw happening all around us in our own country. 

Lyrics

He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of thirty-one and he's only seventeen
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jane
A Buddhist and a Baptist and Jew
And he knows he shouldn't kill and he knows he always will kill
You'll for me my friend and me for you

And he's fighting for Canada, he's fighting for France
He's fighting for the USA
And he's fighting for the Russians and he's fighting for Japan
And he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

And he's fighting for democracy he's fighting for the reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide who's to live and who's to die
And he never sees the writing on the wall

But without him how would Hitler have condemned him at Le Val
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body as the weapon of the war
And without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier and he really is to blame
But his orders come from far away no more
They come from him and you and me and brothers can't you see
This is not the way we put an end to war?

 

Mel, Mel & Louis
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

This tune is included for reasons of chronology... Mel & Mel were just two voices with one not-so-expertly played guitar for backup, who would go out to Sunday afternoon weekend talent shows in little towns on the Gold Reef near Johannesburg to gain experience in front of live audiences, they augmented their sound with their good friend Louis Meyer, a self-professed "nice young Afrikaaans man" who played guitar and (as far as they knew) the only 5-string banjo in Johannesburg! This is one of their first recordings, part of an LP collection made at the first Johannesburg Folk Festival in 1963.

Lyrics

There is a house in this old town
And that's where my true love lays around
And he takes other women right down on his knee
And he tells them a little tale he won't tell me

It's a-hard and it's hard, ain't it hard
To love one that never did love you?
It's a-hard and it's hard, ain't it hard, great God
To love one that never will be true?

First time I seen my true love
He was walkin' by my door
The next time I saw his false hearted smile
He was layin' dead and cold on floor

Well, who's goin' to kiss your ruby lips?
And who's goin' to hold you to his breast?
And who will talk your future over
While I'm out ramblin' in the West?

Don't go to drinkin' or to gamblin'
Don't go there, your sorrows to drown
That hard-liquor place is a low-down disgrace
It's the meanest old place in this town

 

Mel, Mel & Julian
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

This Old English folk song came to the group via Rod and Alex, an English folk duo who lived in Johannesburg. Little Mel was taking finger-picking lessons with Alex, who taught him this song, and which Mel naturally brought to the group. Coincidentally, the song is derived from the same source as Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" which this version precedes.

Lyrics

As I was a walking to Brimbledon Fair

I saw pretty Nancy a-combing her hair

I tipped her a wink, and she rolled a dark eye

I said to meself, I'll be there by and by

 

The very first step that I took in the dark

I took this girl, Nancy, to be my sweetheart

She smiled in my face and these words she did say

Are you that young fellow called Ramble-away?

 

I said, "Pretty Nancy, don't smile in my face

For I've not very long for to stay in this place

She packed up her clothes, farewell Lincolnshire

She swore she would ramble she didn't care where.

 

Come, all you young maidens, wherever you be

With those jolly young fellows don't make yourself free

And come all you ramblers, and mind you take care

Or else you'll get brimbled at Brimbledon Fair.

Mel, Mel & Julian
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

A country song which extolls the virtues of one of the original, great American transcontinental express trains... a session of folksongs would be incomplete without a song about trains!  At least, in this song no one dies.

Lyrics

From the great Atlantic ocean to the wide Pacific shore

From the green New Hampshire mountains to the southland's cajun lore

She's mighty tall and handsome

And loved by one and all

She's the mighty combination

Called the Wabash Cannonball

 

Chorus:

Oh listen to the jingle

The rumble and the roar

As she glides along the woodlands

Through the hills and by the shore

Hear the mighty rush of her engine

Hear that lonesome hobo's call

We're travelling through the jungles

On the Wabash Cannonball

 

Chorus

 

Here's to Daddy Klaxton

May his name forever stand

And always be remembered

Through the courts of Alabam'

His earthly race is over

The curtains 'round him fall

We'll carry him on to victory

On the Wabash Cannonball

 

Chorus

 

She pulled in to the station one cold December day

As she rolled up to the platform you could hear all the people say

There's a gal from Birmingham; she's long and she's tall 

She came down from Birmingham 

on the Wabash Cannonball

 

Chorus

Mel, Mel & Julian
Ewan McColl & Peggy Seeger

Story

Mel & Mel first heard this bone-chilling true story of a mine disaster in Nova Scotia, and they were compelled to perform and ultimately record it... the story about the miraculous survival of eight of the miners. Mel & Mel would often listen to Gregorian Chants and other liturgical music for the wonderful harmonies... they would perform this song in public and one couldn't hear a pin drop during the relatively long presentation... and this is how they chose to record the song. Quite unusual for the times, and also because there were very few accapella songs being performed by anyone. Profound thanks to their friends with wonderful record collections, who would freely recommend songs to them... Ben Segal, David Sapire, Brenda Newfield and Estelle Orlin.

BALLAD OF SPRING HILL (Spring Hill Disaster) by Ewan McColl & Peggy Seeger

Lyrics

Peggy Seeger/Ewan MacColl- Stormking Music-. BMI

In the town of Spring Hill, Nova Scotia,
Down in the heart of the Cumberland Mine,
There's blood on the coal and miners lie
In the roads that never saw sun or sky
Roads that never saw sun or sky.

Down at the coal face the miner's workin'
Rattle of the belt and the cutter's blade
Crumble of rock and the walls close round
Living and the dead men two miles down
Living and the dead men two miles down

Twelve men lay two miles from the pitshaft
Listen for the drillin' of a rescue team
Six hundred feet of coal and slag
Hope imprisoned in a three-foot seam
Hope imprisoned in a three-foot seam

Eight days passed and some were rescued
Leaving the dead to lie alone
All their lives they dug their graves
Two miles of earth for a markin' stone
Two miles of earth for a markin' stone

In the town of Spring Hill you don't sleep easy
Often the Earth will tremble and groan
When the Earth is restless, miners die
Bone and blood is the price of coal
Bone and blood is the price of coal

Mel, Mel & Julian
traditional/Public Domain

Story

A sweet love song from Canada whose origins are unknown... inspired by Ian and Sylvia, the duo whose harmonies and instrumentation inspired all three of the band. Mel Green was inspired by Sylvia Tyson's unusual harmonies, and Julian by their lead guitarists. 

Lyrics

Fare thee well, my own true love
Fare thee well, my dear
The ship is sailin' and the wind blows free
And I am bound away to the sea, Marianne

Ten thousand miles away from home
Ten thousand miles or more
The sea may freeze or the Earth may burn
If I never more return to you, Marianne

The lobster boiling in the pot
The bluefish on the hook
Their sufferings long but it's nothing like
The ache I bear for you, Marianne

And if I had a flask of gin
Sugar here for two
And a great big bowl to mix them in
I'd pour a drink for you, Marianne

So fare thee well, my own true love
Fare thee well, my dear
The ship is sailing and the wind blows free
And I am bound away to the sea, Marianne

Mel, Mel & Julian
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

Mel & Mel were fortunate to have friends who owned extensive record collections... and upon hearing Jean Ritchie's version of this old Appalachian love lament, they included it in their repertoire. Its origins are unknown although one can recognize pieces of several songs from the Civil War era. This was another accapella song in their repertoire... an opportunity for Julian to rest his fingers!

Lyrics

Down in some lone valley, in a lonesome place
Where the wild birds do whistle and their notes do increase
Farewell pretty Saro, I'll bid you adieu
And I'll dream of pretty Saro where ever I go

My love, she won't have me, so I understand
She wants a freeholder and I have no land
I can not maintain her with silver and gold
Nor buy her all the fine things that a big house can hold

If I were a merchant and could write a fine hand
I'd write my love a letter so she'd understand
I'll wander by the river where the waters o'erflow
And I'll dream of pretty Saro where ever I go

Mel, Mel & Julian
Dov & Hadar

Story

This beautiful love song from Israel is sung here entirely in Hebrew... it was one of the few "foreign" songs frequently requested and sung by Mel & Mel even before Julian joined the band. The title translates as "Night of Roses"... according to Wikipedia, its melody is often used as in Jewish weddings, as a replacement for Here Comes the Bride. It is well known not only within Israeli and Jewish music circles, but known throughout the Middle East. The song has also been translated into Armenian, in which language its title is "Yarus (O, Rose!)".

The music is by Yosef Hadar and the lyrics are by Moshe Dor. The song was first recorded in 1957 by singer Yafa Yarkoni, and a year later by the duo HaDuda'im (from whose version this version was adapted). Their version became a smash hit in Israel. The Dudaim toured the world extensively in the '60s, and "Erev shel Shoshanim" became one of their international signature songs. During the '60s and '70s the song was recorded by various international singers, including Harry BelafonteNana MouskouriDaliah Lavi and Miriam Makeba.

Lyrics

Erev shel shoshanim, neitsei nah el habustan 
Mor b'samim ul'vonah, 1'ragleich miftan.

Chorus:
Lailah yoreid l'at, v'ruach shoshan noshvah 
Havah elchash lach shir balat, zemer shel ahavah.

Shachar, homah yonah, rosheich malei t'lalim 
Pich el haboker shoshanah, ekt'fenu li.

(My translation below, poetic license invoked.)

The evening smells of roses

As we walk to the grove so sweet

Where myrrh, and spices and frankincense grow

To  make a carpet for your feet.

Nightfall falls oh so slow

A breeze of roses gently blowing

Let me whisper a song of love to you 

In this arbor your face is glowing.


A dove coos soft at dawn

Your hair sparkles with drops of dew

Your lips are like roses in the morn

I will pick the reddest one for you.

 

Mel, Mel & Julian
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

The sound of massed voices raised in song is thrilling... most South Africans, especially those of us who lived near the gold mines appreciate this. On any Sunday, if one is lucky enough, one could see and hear a procession of African men and women making their way to an open air church singing freely, their natural harmonies thrilling to our ears! American Spirituals are no different... this one was picked up aurally and the Mel's sang it with much gusto, here the addition of blues harmonica, played by their Rhodesian friend Squeege Lewis adds to the feeling! 

Lyrics

Way down yonder in the middle of the field
Angel workin' on a chariot wheel,
Not so partic'lar 'bout workin' at the wheel
I just want to see how the char-iot feels.

Now let me fly, let me fly
Let me fly to Mount Zion
Lord, Lord.

I got a mother in the Promise Land
All I want to do is to shake her hand
Not so partic'lar about shakin' her hand
I just want to get up to the Promised Land

You meet that hypocrite on the street
First thing he does is to sink his teeth.
Next thing he does is to tell a lie
Best thing to do is to pass him by.

Mel, Mel & Julian
Traditional/Public Domain

Story

Banks of the Ohio... first heard on one of the first Vanguard Joan Baez LPs. What thrilled us was that she was backed up by the Greenbriar Boys, a group of city boys, like us, who played bluegrass like true mountain folk, or so we thought. Perfect for a set of folk music, a song about love, deceit and murder.

Lyrics

I asked my love to take a walk,
Take a walk, just a little walk.
Down beside, where the waters flowed
Down by the banks of the Ohio

Then only say that you'll be mine
And in no other arms entwine.
Down beside, where the waters flow
Down by the banks of the Ohio.

I held a knife against her breast
As into my arms she pressed,
She cried"Willie, Oh Willie! Don't you murder me
I'm not prepared for eternity!"

cho:

I started home 'twixt twelve and one
Cryin' "Oh my God! What have I done?
Killed the only woman I love
Because she would not be my bride.

Mel, Mel & Julian
Barry McGuire & Henry Van Loon

Story

This was quite a popular folk song with a -mythological Norse theme... we copped it from Barry & Barry (Barry McGuire and Barry Kane), this was one of the tunes performed by Mel and Mel , and their friend Louis Meyer at the first Johannesburg Folk Festival in 1963.

Lyrics


In the land of Oden, 
there lies a mountain,
Ten thousand miles, in the air
From edge to edge
This mountain measures, 
Ten thousand miles square

A little bird comes a winging
Once every thousand years or so
Sharpens its beak on the mountain
And then he swiftly flies away

And when this mountain 
has worn away
that in eternity will be
But one single day.

One single day

Will be one single day