Vandy, Vandy

Manly traveled with Vance Randolph either during his time at Wichita University (now Wichita State University) or shortly after he graduated. He said that Randolph wanted him to settle in Arkansas. “Manly, you’ve got a hundred dollars. Half of it will buy you a fifty acre farm, and the other half will make you the richest man in the county.”

After Manly moved to North Carolina immediately after WW II, he met Bascom Lamar Lunsford at a folk festival at UNC. They became close friends, and Lunsford introduced Manly to people in the NC mountains, particularly in Madison County where Lunsford was born.

Among the people Manly met were banjo picker Obray Ramsey who, with his neighbor guitarist Dave Shelton, performed as White Lightning. Manly and his wife Frances (a music graduate from the University of Wichita) became close friends with Obray and his wife Billie.

White Lightning

Manly singing with Dave Shelton and Obray Ramsey (White Lightning)

Manly and Obray built a cabin on the Ramseys’ property, a hundred yards along the slope from the Ramseys’ house. Manly and Frances–sometimes with a friend or two–stayed there when they were visiting Madison County. The water was piped through settling ponds from a spring 1100 vertical feet above the cabin. Manly called the mountain Yandro, but I don’t think that was meant for a real name. At other times he said he thought, “I’ll build me a cabin on Yandro’s high hill,” was really a corruption of “yonder high hill.”

Manly and Frances actively collected folk music on their own, just as Manly had done in the past with Randolph and Lunsford. Manly sang me a version of The Mountaineers Have Shaggy Ears with was both fuller than and different from the stanzas which Randolph gives in his volume of unprintable folksongs.

Hoyt Axton recorded a version of Vandy, Vandy. Karl Wagner played it one night when we (the Drakes) and the Wellmans were having dinner at Karl’s house. Manly became furious. He stated that the music was wrong–the original was actually in the modal scale (this means nothing to me; I’m an observer, not a music theorist) and he sang a bit of it. He further stated that he wrote Vandy, Vandy himself. (“I wrote it myself!”)

I reported this in my foreward to John the Balladeer after Manly’s death. Frances said that I was wrong: that Manly had taken down the words as sung by an old woman in Haywood County and that she, Frances, had taken down the music at the same time.

I strongly suspect that Frances was correct. That said, Karl, my wife, and myself are sure (well, were before Karl died) that Manly said he wrote the song, not that he collected it. Certainly Manly was quite angry at Hoyt Axton for ‘getting it wrong’.


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