Welcome to Day 10 of my musical countdown to Christmas. Remember to enter a comment for your chance to receive my gift of the day.
Who was John Jacob Niles?
- Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1892
- Learned music theory from his mother and began writing music as a teenager
- Served in the first world war
- Studied music in France after the war
- Sang opera and then toured the United States with Marion Kirby
- A historian, song-writer, and recording artist
- Traveled across the Appalachian Mountains to find folk music
- Felt it was his duty to collect, preserve, and revive American musical folklore
- Created dulcimers
- Wrote several books on music
- Called the “Dean of American Balladeers”
- A Contemporary of Joan Baez, Burl Ives, and Peter, Paul and Mary
- There is a John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky which displays a number of instruments he crafted
The Story behind I Wonder as I Wander
- On July 16, 1933 John Jacob Niles heard a little girl (Annie Morgan) singing a song he’d never heard before. She was dirty and wearing tattered clothes, but sang the song beautifully. The tune caught his attention because of the haunting melody.
- She told him it had been passed on to her by her mother who heard it from her mother, etc.
- Annie Morgan repeated the song seven times for Niles in exchange for a quarter
- John Jacob Niles took the fragment of song he collected and used it to compose I Wonder as I Wander, consisting of a melody of four lines with three different stanzas
- He completed the song on October 4, 1933 and first performed it on December 19, 1933
- Listen to the recording below of I Wonder as I Wander as recorded by John Jacob Niles
Historical Context – What happened in 1933?
- It was the worst year of the Great Depression
- One in four people was unemployed
- Adolf Hitler opened the first concentration camp at Dachau
- A loaf of bread cost 7 cents; The average labourer earned $20/week
- The Prohibition was repealed
- Strong winds formed dust bowls in the Midwest
- The vaccine for diphtheria was introduced in the United States
Looking for more details?
My Gift for today:
Enter a comment below for an opportunity to receive the 1,000 piece puzzle.