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lyrics by Joel Mabus

songs from
Pepper's Ghost
& other banjo visitations

(fossil 2313)

To learn more about the cd Pepper's Ghost, click HERE  
To order this or any album, click here  

Pepper's Ghost & other banjo visitations is an album of 5-string banjo tunes and songs, recorded and released in 2013.  All tracks are performed by Joel Mabus.  Many of the 13 tracks are instrumentals, and so have no lyrics.  The songs' lyrics are printed here below. 

Note, that these are mostly NOT traditional, or public domain lyrics.  Either the song was composed in its entirety by Joel Mabus, or additional original lyrics added. There are specific copyright notices attached to each song.  These songs are published in 2013 by Fingerboard Music, BMI Please don't copy the lyrics to another site without permission.  All Rights Reserved.

Panhandle Prairie  
Leather Wing Bat  
Two Little Sisters  
When They Ring the Golden Bells
Fire on the Mountain

 

Panhandle Prairie
words & music © 2013 Joel Mabus

I was drinking one night in a panhandle barroom
Stepping outside for a change in the air
I spied a tall figure all wrapped in white linen
With cold gray eyes and raven black hair

He shot me a glance and a shiver run through me
With a chill to the bone that hangs on me yet
He labored one breath and then drew another
And the words that he spoke I will never forget

He said I traded my home way back in the mountains
For the smell of cheap whiskey and a harlot’s perfume
And I gambled my life on the panhandle prairie
Got shot in the breast, now death is my doom

Go write me a letter, to my gray headed mother
She’ll tell the news to my sister so dear
But there is another, more dear than my mother
Don’t tell her I died a drunkard out here

Take a pearl handled pistol to nail up my coffin
Read God’s holy word, and sing a sad song
Then bury me deep in the panhandle prairie
Where the buffalo grass can feed on my bones

I asked for his name, but he gave me no answer
I pressed him once more and he made this reply
The wind tells my name when it blows on the prairie
It moans and it whispers, it screams and it cries

Just then a west wind blew hard on the prairie
And a devil of dust spun up in the air
I wiped out my eyes, but I never could find him
That pale dead man with the raven black hair

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Leather Wing Bat
traditional, public domain first verse.
Additional verses © 2013 Joel Mabus

I, said the little leather wing bat
I’ll tell you the reason that
The reason that I fly by night
Because my love has taken flight

CHORUS:
How come a fiddle and a diddle all day
How come a fiddle and a diddle my way
Fiddle come a diddle and a twiddle all night
Cock a doodle doodle in the mornin’ light

I, said the raccoon sittin’ in the tree
I see you but you don’t see me
When your corn is nice and ripe
I am the thief that comes by night CHO

I, said the ‘possum, gray and white
I sleep all day and I work all night
Work all night and sleep all day
That is how I earn my pay CHO

I, said the June bug headed for the flame
All desire is the same
If I live or if I die
To that candle flame I fly CHO

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Two Little Sisters
words & music © 2013 Joel Mabus

Two little sisters side by side
Oh the wind and rain
Two little sisters side by side
Holding hands by the riverside
Oh the wind and rain,
Oh the dreadful wind and rain

[as before]
One pushed the other into the tide
One pushed the other in the raging tide
One girl laughed & the other girl cried

She floated on down to the old mill pond
She floated on down to the miller’s pond
Gave up the ghost & sang this song

The miller hooked her out of the old mill race
The miller hooked her out of the old mill race
Said, never caught a fish that I ever did waste

That miller was a devil & the devil had a plan
That miller was a devil & the devil had a plan
To build him a fiddle with his own two hands

Took her little shin bone for his fingering board
Took her little shin bone for his fingering board
Boiled down ‘er hide for the glue, good Lord!

Made his fiddle screws from her finger bones
Made his little fiddle screws from her finger bones
And the catgut strings were the poor girls own

Then he combed her hair for his fiddle bow
Combed her hair for his fiddle bow
Tightened it up and he tapped his toe

But the only tune that fiddle would play was
The only tune that fiddle would play
Was the song she sang on her dying day

The day did come when her sister wed
The day did come when her sister wed
Happiest day that she ever did had

Held the wedding dance at the old town hall
Held the wedding dance at the old town hall
But the only dance that fiddler called – was...

The tune put a fever in her head
That fiddle put a fever in her head
And she danced and danced till she fell down dead

Two little sisters, mark them well
Two little sisters, mark them well
One sings in heaven, one dances in hell

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When They Ring The Golden Bells
by Dion De Marbelle, public domain, arranged with added spoken material © 2013 Joel Mabus

There’s a land beyond the river,
that we call the sweet forever
And we only reach that shore by faith’s decree
One by one we gain the portals,
to dwell with the immortals
When they ring those golden bells for you and me

[SPOKEN]
This old hymn doesn’t get sung much anymore. But I still like it.

Has an unusual story. Wasn’t written by a preacher or bible scholar, but a banjo player -- and old-time show-man -- with an exotic name: Dion De Marbelle. But everybody called him “Dan”

A man of mystery – we have no pictures of him. Born in 1818 in the south of Spain but said to be French. (He did speak several languages.) As a young man he went to sea on a whaling ship, but somehow, out on the ocean, he wound up in the American Navy.

Dan was a man of many talents: It was said he could pick up any musical instrument and play it by ear. And at the drop of a hat, he could speak with great eloquence on any and all topics.

He was a ventriloquist, magician, actor, band leader & clown. He was a drum major in two great wars -- first for the US Navy in their Mexican adventure, then again for the Michigan 6th infantry when Mr. Lincoln called for volunteers.

After that, he worked in both opera and minstrel shows – the latter is where you would hear him play the banjo.

He was the head clown in the famous Bailey circus (before PT Barnum weighed in), and later helped Buffalo Bill Cody start his Wild West show, where Dan organized the music.

He made and lost his fortune several times. Wrote and published dozens of songs, but this is the only one anybody remembers – and it’s his only hymn, written in his old age. He ended up in poverty, living in Illinois, just west of Chicago, in the little boomtown of Elgin there on the Fox River. Those Elgin folks just knew him as poor old Dan, the civil war vet, who sang in the Methodist choir and called square dances.

Till one day in 1896, Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West show to Elgin. They paraded into town like they always did, Old Bill Cody riding high and handsome in his buckskin coat. He spied old Dan standing on the sidelines, stopped the parade and went over to shake his hand. Gave him the seat of honor at the show that day in a special chair in front of the band stand, then afterwards invited Dan to dinner and drinks in his private railroad car, along with Annie Oakley and the other stars of the show.

The people of Elgin were rightly amazed. That this no-account old man numbered his friends among the high and mighty!

Dan died just a few years later in 1903. There was no money for a fancy funeral. The veteran’s organization paid for a plot on the edge of the graveyard and the army provided a small stone that reads:
“Drum Major D.A. De Marbelle, 6th Michigan Infantry.”

And there he lies today in the Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin Illinois.

And there he would be forgotten, like so many others, if it weren’t for this one song. So I like to sing it with a banjo. And I like to think somewhere in that far off sweet forever, an old minstrel man just might hear my banjo ringing.

[sung]
There’s a land beyond the river,
that we call the sweet forever
And we only reach that shore by faith’s decree
One by one we gain the portals,
to dwell with the immortals
When they ring those golden bells for you and me
Hear the bells a-ringin’
Can’t you hear the angels singin’
That glory hallelujah jubilee
In that far off sweet forever,
just beyond the shining river
When they ring those golden bells for you and me

Can’t you hear my banjo ringin’ ?
Can’t you hear the angels singin’
Their glory hallelujah jubilee
In that far off sweet forever,
just beyond the shining river
When they ring those golden bells for you and me

When they ring those golden bells for you and me

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Fire on the Mountain
traditional, arrangement © 2013 Joel Mabus

Fire in the ‘bacca patch, run, boy, run
Fire in the hay field, run, boy, run
Fire on the hillside run, boy, run
Fire on the mountain now, run, boy, run

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These songs are published in 2011 by Fingerboard Music, BMI Please don't copy the lyrics to another site without permission.

©2013 Joel Mabus