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.
I was drinking one night in a panhandle barroom
He shot me a glance and a shiver run through me
He said I traded my home way back in the mountains
Go write me a letter, to my gray headed mother
Take a pearl handled pistol to nail up my coffin
I asked for his name, but he gave me no answer
Just then a west wind blew hard on the prairie
Leather Wing Bat
I, said the little leather wing bat
I, said the raccoon sittin’ in the tree
I, said the ‘possum, gray and white
I, said the June bug headed for the flame
Two Little Sisters
Two little sisters side by side
She floated on down to the old mill pond
The miller hooked her out of the old mill race
That miller was a devil & the devil had a plan
Took her little shin bone for his fingering board
Made his fiddle screws from her finger bones
Then he combed her hair for his fiddle bow
But the only tune that fiddle would play was
The day did come when her sister wed
Held the wedding dance at the old town hall
The tune put a fever in her head
Two little sisters, mark them well
When They Ring The Golden Bells
There’s a land beyond the river,
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:
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
Can’t you hear my banjo ringin’ ?
When they ring those golden bells for you and me
Fire on the Mountain
Fire in the ‘bacca patch, run, boy, run
These songs are published in 2011 by Fingerboard Music, BMI Please don't copy the lyrics to another site without permission.
©2013 Joel Mabus