Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the G.R. Combs Ballad Collection

Asscession Number: SAA 105
G.R. Combs Ballad Collection
Bulk, 1907-1930
.4 linear ft.

Series Description
Series I - The Ballad Collection
Series II - Religious Songs
Series III - Documents by and about G.R. Combs

Access and Use

Provenance: These song and ballad texts were collected by Berea alumnus Gilbert Reynolds Combs and donated to Berea College by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. William P. Combs, in 1989.

Preferred Citation: G.R. Combs Ballad Collection, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky.

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Gilbert R. Combs (1886-1966) compiled his collection of songs and ballads in part from those he heard growing up in Eastern Kentucky, and also from his acquaintance with gospel music and spirituals from several southern states. The collection includes some biographical notes covering Combs' early life, and his own recollections of his early childhood and description of traditional songs in mountain settings.


The Rev. Gilbert Reynolds Combs, according to his own account, was born in a cabin in Owsley County, just over the county line from Breathitt County, on August 18, 1886. At age sixteen he left home for Berea, where he studied for seven years. He worked on the Berea College farm and graduated in 1904 from Berea's vocational school (having studied woodworking). In 1904 The Historical Register lists him as teaching in Booneville and living in Berea. By 1907 he had completed the two-year course at the Berea Academy, and then spent two more years taking college classes at Berea. He transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan College and graduated there as Valedictorian in 1911. While attending Vanderbilt the following year on a scholarship, he won the Founders Medal for oratory. Kentucky Wesleyan granted him a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1926. (Historical Register of Berea College, 1904, 1916; George Bain, biographical sketch)

In 1913 Combs was ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Between 1911 and 1928 he pastored three churches in Kentucky, including the First Methodist Church of Lexington. From 1928-1954 he pastored churches in North Carolina; in 1954 he was at Love's Methodist Church in Walkertown, North Carolina, according The Berea Alumnus (25:11).

During three of the years Combs spent at Berea, Prof. James Watt Raine, a Scot who began teaching English at Berea College in 1906, collected ballads from Berea students. (Raine's list of known contributors does not include G.R. Combs, but does include some Combs sources.) Although he may not have taken classes from Raine while he was at Berea, Combs had opportunity to realize that the songs he had taken for granted as a child were of interest to scholars. At some point he began to collect them himself. Carl Sandburg's 1927 collection, The American Songbag, cites G. R. Combs as the source of one version of "Red River Valley." Sandburg notes that "In a corner of his church study Mr. Combs has a collection of more than 300 mountaineer songs," and adds that "his singing of their ballads and ditties is quiet and convincing."

Series Description
  1 Manuscript Box

Series I The Ballad Collection Box 1

Occasionally Combs gives the name of an individual with the text of a ballad, but not the geographical region from which it came. Some, but not all, of these names can be found in the Historical Register of Berea College for 1916. At least one also appears in the Raine collection list of student informants. This suggests that most of the traditional ballads were collected while Combs was a student, and his notes on the history of those ballads was probably based on the work of Raine, and others.

Box 1: The Ballad Collection (Arranged alphabetically by title)


  1. As I Walked Out One Morning Fair
  2. Answer to the Gypsy's Warning


  1. Baggage Coach Ahead
  2. Ballad of Bachelor's Hall
  3. Bill Bailey
  4. Bird in a Gilded Cage
  5. Blind Child
  6. Blind Widow (Song Ballad)
  7. Bonnie Blue Eyes
  8. Boston Burgler
  9. Boy's Best Friend
  10. Boy's Lament
  11. Boys Won't Do To Trust
  12. Brakesman
  13. Brisk Young Farmer or Neat Young Lady
  14. Broken Engagement
  15. Broken Vow
  16. Buried Friends
  17. Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie
  18. Ballad of the Cross
  19. Barbara Allen


  1. Charles Giteau (Guiteau)
  2. Charley Brooks
  3. Charming Betsy
  4. Cherry Tree Carol
  5. Chewing Gum
  6. Chewing Gum Girl
  7. Christean Lee Roy
  8. Coal Creek Mines
  9. Chigers and Seed Ticks
  10. Come All Young People Who Delight in Sin
  11. Come, Little Pink, I Will Tell You What I Think
  12. Common Bill
  13. Coo Coo (The)
  14. Cottage by the Sea
  15. Crucifixion
  16. Crystal Eroy
  17. Cumberland Gap
  18. D

  1. Daddy Has a Sweetheart
  2. Darling I'm Dreaming of You
  3. Death of Mr. Moss
  4. Devilish Mary Dina
  5. Dog and Gun
  6. Don't Be Angry with Me
  7. Darling Don't Forget Me, Little Darling
  8. Don't Go Out Tonight My Darling
  9. Don't Leave Me Alone
  10. Down in the Valley
  11. Drunkard's Dream
  12. Dying Cow Boy
  13. Dying From Home and Lost
  14. Dying Maudie


  1. East Kentucky Hills
  2. English Girl


  1. Fair and Tender Ladies
  2. Fair Ellen
  3. False Lover
  4. Flora Ella
  5. Fond Affection
  6. Four, Jolly, Jolly Smith's
  7. Frankie
  8. Frankie Baker


  1. Grandma's Advice


  1. Hangman's Song (Briary Bush)
  2. Happy Girl
  3. He is Just the Same Today
  4. Helen Flannery Here We Go
  5. Hiram Hubbert
  6. Hobo (The)
  7. Hobo John
  8. Hook and Line
  9. Hop Along, Peter
  10. House Carpenter


  1. I Am Alone In This World
  2. I Cannot Come Back to You, Sweetheart
  3. Ida Red
  4. I Don't See Why I Love Him
  5. If You Will Marry Me
  6. I Have a Call for You
  7. I Have a Love in the Sourwood Mountains
  8. I Have No Mother Now
  9. I Have Written Him a Letter
  10. I'll Be All Smiles Tonight
  11. I'll Remember You, Love, In My Prayers
  12. I Loved You Better Then You Know
  13. I Love Little Willie
  14. Is There No Kiss for Me Tonight Love
  15. I Will Tell You of a Fellow


  1. Jackaro
  2. Jersey City
  3. Jesse James
  4. Jim Jackson
  5. Joe Bowers
  6. John Brown's Body
  7. John Hardy
  8. John Hartie
  9. Johnny Caudill
  10. Johnny Cordell
  11. John Riley J
  12. olly Group of Cowboys, The
  13. Josie
  14. Jumbo Town


  1. Little Rosewood Casket
  2. Love Somebody
  3. Lullabies or Cradle Songs


  1. A Maid and Her Lover
  2. Moonlight, The
  3. Mountain Top


  1. Nellie Darling
  2. The Nightingale or One Morning, One Morning, One Morning in May
  3. Nobody's Darling on Earth
  4. Nola Shannon
  5. Nora Darling
  6. No Sir


  1. The Ocean Burial
  2. Oh How Gladly My Heart Beats Toward Thee
  3. Oh What Shall I Do with the Baby?
  4. Oh, Willie
  5. Oh Willie Come Back
  6. Old Dan Tucker
  7. Old Bachelor
  8. Old Elm Tree, The
  9. Old Gray Mare
  10. Old Grey Horse Come a Tearing Out the Wilderness
  11. Old Tom Wilson
  12. Old Trundle-Bed, The
  13. Old Virginia
  14. Once I had a Sweetheart
  15. On the Railroad
  16. On the Danville Train
  17. Our Prayer


  1. Package of Old Letters, A
  2. Pearl Bryan
  3. Pearlie Bryant
  4. Poor Little Joe
  5. Pretty Fair Damsel, A
  6. Pretty Fair Miss All in the Garden, A
  7. Pretty Mohea, The
  8. Pretty Mollie
  9. Pretty Polly
  10. Prisoner's Song, The
  11. Prisoner's Song, The or The Moonlight


  1. Railroad Bum, The
  2. Rebel Soldier, The
  3. Red River Valley, The
  4. Rondy's Song, The
  5. Rose Conilee
  6. Rick Lady, The
  7. Rose of Red
  8. Rosy Nell
  9. Rowen County Crew, The
  10. Rowdy's Song, The


  1. Sad and Broken Hearted
  2. Sad Lamentations
  3. School Days
  4. Separation O'er Life's Long Weary Way
  5. Shady Grove
  6. Ship That Never Returned, The
  7. Shoot the Buffalo
  8. Silver Jack
  9. Single Soldier, The
  10. Sister Martha
  11. Six King's Daughters
  12. Skip to My Lu
  13. So Fare You Well My Darling
  14. Soldier Life is a Dreary Life
  15. Soldier Boy
  16. Soldier's Boy
  17. Somebody
  18. Sometimes I Think I am in the Way
  19. Sourwood Mountain
  20. Southern Railroad Wreck, Which Occurred Near New Market, Tenn. Sept. 1904
  21. So You Come Back to Me You Say
  22. State of Arkansaw, The
  23. Steamboat Bill
  24. Susan Gal
  25. Sweet Sunny South
  26. Sweet William T


  1. Take This Letter to My Mother
  2. Tambereen, Sweet Tambereen
  3. Tater Vine
  4. Texas Ranger, The
  5. There's Nothing Goes Hard with This Poor Boy
  6. They Always Picked on Me
  7. Time Enough Yet
  8. Time Enough Yet
  9. Twenty Long Years I've Been Married
  10. The Night Is Almost Over
  11. Tobacco Union
  12. Troubled Solider
  13. Two Sisters
  14. Two Orphans
  15. Two Sweethearts


  1. Village Bells


  1. Waxford Girl
  2. Wagoners Song
  3. Wake Up, Wake Up, You Saucy Sleeper
  4. Walking in the Parlor
  5. Webfooted Duck
  6. Wedding Bells
  7. We Are Seven
  8. We Parted by the River-Side
  9. When I Was a Little Boy
  10. Where Were You Last Saturday Night?
  11. Why Can't I Have a Beau?
  12. Why Does Mother Stay So Long?
  13. Widow by the Sea
  14. Wild Bill Jones
  15. Wild Bill Jones
  16. Wild-Wood Flower
  17. Willie
  18. With a Chicken on my Back
  19. Wreck on the C. & O. Road


  1. You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone
  2. You Cause Me to Weep
  3. Young Emily and the Driver Boy
  4. Young Charlotte
  5. Young Edward

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