And here's the third and final entry of the day, in this quick series of posts on versions from musical readers.
Barbara Dane wrote in some time ago. She's a professional singer ("sometimes folk, sometimes hot jazz or blues ... don't care much for categories or labels") who says she's performed the song for many years in many forms. One of her favorite versions is Jack Teagarden's take, she added, and "one of the oldest versions I know is called 'One Morning in May,' and is probably Irish in origin, about a young woman dying of syphilis."
In fact, she recorded that song, as "When I Was a Young Girl," on an album with that title (and later re-released as "Anthology of American Folk Songs.") This would be part of the cycle stemming from "The Unfortunate Rake," which eventually led to "St. James Infirmary," as discussed in the "SJI" essay. "I learned it off a Library of Congress record in 1946, so no doubt it has changed a lot." Presumably refering to current peformances, she wrote: "I like to sing it a capella first, a few verses, before bringing my jazz band in full force with 'St. James Infirmary.'"
While I was not familiar with Barbara Dane, she's had an interesting career, and was once referred to as "Bessie Smith in stereo" by Leonard Feather. She also toured with Teagarden at one point. She has performances coming up in the months ahead in San Francisco and New York. And her "When I Was a Young Girl" is available on iTunes.
"When I Was a Young Girl," performed by Barbara Dane