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Pretty Crowin' Chicken

[ Roud 179 ; Child 248 ; Ballad Index C248 ; trad.]

Sara Grey sang Pretty Crowin' Chicken on her 2005 Fellside album A Long Way from Home. The album notes commented:

This comes from the singing of Frank Proffitt. Sandy Paton collected a version of the ballad, The Grey Cock, from Hattie Presnell of Beech Mountain, North Carolina. It's on The Traditional Music of Beech Mountain, NC, Volume 1 (Folk-Legacy C-22). Hattie called it Pretty Crowing Chicken and it's very clearly a revenant (one who has been absent for a long time or returns from the dead) ballad.

Martin Simpson sang Pretty Crowing Chicken on his 2007 Topic CD Prodigal Son and on his 2009 Topic DVD Prodigal Son: The Concert. He commented in his liner notes:

In the mid 1960's John Cohen, the folklorist, photographer and member of The New Lost City Ramblers, went to North Carolina to record banjo players and collate the tunings that they used. He found himself surrounded by such a wealth of material that he recorded much more than the initial concept. Pretty Crowing Chicken is based on the performance by Frank Proffitt, which Cohen recorded. The song is a version of The Lover's Ghost aka The Grey Cock, beautifully sung by Proffitt, accompanied by his fretless banjo. The denouĂ©ment of the song in this version contains the immortal line, referring to the cockerel crowing before day, “This chicken proved false-hearted…”. Proffitt's version can be heard on the CD, High Atmosphere on Rounder Records.

Lyrics

Frank Proffitt sings Pretty Crowin' Chicken

The moon it shines bright, and the stars they give light,
While this fair miss she worries alone.
There's something in the way that causes him to stay,
While this fair miss she worries alone, 'lone, 'lone,
While this fair miss she worries alone.

Her old true love come at last, and he come very fast,
Come tripplin' through the plain.
The fair miss she rose, and she threw on her clothes,
For to let her old true lover in, in, in,
For to let her old true lover in.

“My pretty little chicken, my pretty crowin' chicken,
Don't you crow before day.
I'll make you the wings of a beading yeller gold,
And your comb of the silver so gay, gay, gay,
And your comb of the silver so gay.”

This chicken proved false-hearted,
And crowed one hour too soon.
She sent her love away, before it had come day,
And he travelled by the light of the moon, moon, moon,
And he travelled by the light of the moon.

She saddled up her milk white steed,
On the tow her dapple grey.
She rode through the dark wilderness,
At the length of a long summer day, day, day,
At the length of a long summer day.

“My old true love, my sweet turtledove,
When shall I see you again?”
“When the moon and the stars enters in yonders green,
And the sky, it shall shed no more rain, rain, rain,
And the sky, it shall shed no more rain.”