An analysis of The Band's songs "Daniel And The Sacred Harp" and "The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show"

JoshuaClayton By JoshuaClayton, 17th Oct 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Folklore

The Band, a seminal 1960s music group that was the backing band for Bob Dylan and then in their own right, not only that, they are one of my favorite musical acts that came from that time. This is a small tribute to their idiosyncratic work. Also, a strange exposition of my viewpoint and roots that my Dad gave me.

The Klondike Klu Klux Steamboat Band

Daniel, Daniel and the sacred harp
Dancing through the clover
Daniel, Daniel would you mind
If I look it over

I heard of this famous harp years ago back in my home town
But I sure never thought old Daniel be the one to come and bring it around
Tell me Daniel how the harp came into your posession
Are you one of the chosen few who will march in the the procession?
And Daniel said

The sacred harp was handed down, from father unto son
And me not being related, I could never be the one
So I saved up all my silver, and took it to a man
Who said he could deliver the harp, straight into my hand

Three years I waited patiently
'Till he returned with the harp from the sea of Galilee
He said there is one more thing I must ask
But not of personal greed
But I wouldn't listen I just grabbed the harp
And said take what you may need

Now Daniel looked quite satisfied, and the harp it seemed to glow
But the price that Daniel had really paid, he did not even know
Back to his brother he took his troubled mind
And he said dear brother I'm in a bind
But the brother would not hear his tale
He said Old Daniel's gonna land in jail
So to his father Daniel did run
And he said oh father what have I done
His father said son you've given in, you know you won your harp
But you lost in sin.

Then Daniel took the harp and went high on the hill
And he blew across the meadow like a whippoorwhill
He played out his heart just the time to pass
But as he looked to the ground, he noticed no shadow did he cast

Strangely, this song comes first because it resonated in my consciousness the most. Especially the detail and emotional raw power of the lyrics and melody, and Garth Hudson's powerfully solemn accordion introduction to the song which was haunting in itself. My Dad liked The Band also, because they reminded him of a certain part of his childhood. He told me this story about it, I remember it word for word: "When I was a boy I used to go to medicine shows in the mid forties (He was born in 1938), my Dad Joe Senior would take me to the girly shows in guise of watching me on Saturday night. I would play cards and craps with the other boys to win peeks at the shows through the small tent holes and (he says an expletive I will not include), there was an organ player and barker in the tent presenting everything. Then on Sunday, Mama Clayton (My Grandmother Florence Milton Clayton) would take me to Church in the same tent with the same organ player and usually the same barker as the assistant pastor playing the faith healer. He could spin tales of fire and brimstone that would make most feel guilty, but not me, I know what he did the night before."

When your arms are empty, got nowhere to go
Come on out and catch the show
There'll be saints and sinners
You'll see losers and winners

All kinds of people you might want to know
Once you get it, you can't forget it
W.S. Walcott medicine show

You know he always holds it in a tent
And if you're looking for the real thing
He can show you where it went

There's a young faith healer, he's a woman stealer
He will cure by his command
When the music's hot then you might have to stand

To hear the Klondike Klu Klux Steamboat Band
Don't you sweat it, you can't forget it
W.S. Walcott medicine show

I'd rather die happy than not die at all
For a man is a fool who will not heed the call

Gonna see Miss Brer Foxhole
Bright diamonds at her teeth
She is pure gold down underneath

She's a rock and roll singer and a true dead ringer
For something like you ain't never seen
Once you get it, you can't forget it
W.S. Walcott medicine show
W.S. Walcott medicine show
W.S. Walcott medicine show

I decided to append to this page on my Dad's birthday, of all things:

Today is March 27th, 2015. My Dad died about twenty-five years ago. It's a funny, strange thing, but his memory is fresh on my mind. I still smell that "John Hannibal Smith" cheap cherry cigar smoke at the poker games at times in a hallucinatory manner, then I come back to myself realizing that without those memories I would not be the great, patient, detail oriented person I am today.

I'll admit, I was my Dad's ribbon clerk and accountant at those old poker games with Uncle Johnnie Gillmore, Mac "Junior" Jones, Uncle Marcellus Brooks, and the rest of them guys at my Uncle Johnnie Gillmore and Aunt Myrtis Gillmore's house on 81st Street in South Los Angeles, California. Boy, just like a "bad" album from The Band like "Cahoots", life was a carnival. But instead of being "bogged down" by the memories, I gain strength from them. That's all. They're good memories, but not as good as what is to come.


Allegory, Appalachia, Appalachian Music, Story, Story Telling, Storyline

Meet the author

author avatar JoshuaClayton
I am a freelance writer based in Inglewood, California, USA. I used to write under a few aliases, but now I have nothing to hide and write mostly under my own name. I write mostly on self-help topics.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
19th Oct 2014 (#)

Awesome and interesting post!

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
19th Oct 2014 (#)

Awesome and interesting post!

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