Maude, Billy & Mr.’ D’ – Western Folk Opera
Way back in the mid-fifties, I read a story in the Saturday Evening Post titled, “The Rider on the Pale Stallion”, written by Helen Eustis, an author well regarded back then in the heyday of folk music and folk tales. Her story simply cried aloud for music and rhyme, so I began making it into a Folk Opera, writing lyrics and music, using the author’s words in-between the songs to keep the story intact.
While I was performing at the Blue Angel in New York, and had almost finished the music, I looked her up. I played it on my guitar, sang it for her, and learned that her original title was Mr. Death and the Redheaded Woman; that it had been performed for Television–acted (no music) by Eve Marie Saint and Lee Marvin. She pronounced it “horrible,” told me mine was the best treatment of her story yet, and encouraged me to finish it – which I did and began performing it in concerts throughout the USA.
Next thing I heard was from Marge and Gower Champion, back in Hollywood. They wanted to make a TV movie of her story using my music and lyrics. Now, the only way they could have known about my version was from Helen herself, but when we got to the table, they wanted my music and lyrics for free. Of course, by then I’d copyrighted both, so there was no way they could use it without my consent. They ended up acting the story, rather than dancing it. Once again Helen pronounced it, “Horrible.” For more than ten years I performed Maude, Billy & Mr. “D’ (the title I’d given my work) in concert; keeping audiences from three to ninety-three in spellbound silence.
In the mid 70’s I recorded it, but still did not put it on the market; being intensely involved in writing a book about my years as an explorer in Glen Canyon; actively protesting the building of a dam that would kill the river and canyons I loved; performing all the while for cowboy poetry gatherings, ecological seminars, non-profit organizations, middle schools, Colleges and Universities.
I have always considered Maude, Billy & Mr. ’D’ to be the best work of my entire musical career, bringing together the talents of composing-acting-playing-singing, in one non-stop, forty-two minute, performance, that was recorded at the height of my career. So… with my middle finger up in the face of blaring cacophony that’s called ‘music’ today, I have decided to make a Western Story in Melody, Rhyme & Prose available to those who want to take an intriguing journey by listening to a lovely Folk Tale with a philosophical concept that everyone can relate to. [Available in Katie’s Store HERE…]
Now Maude rode high and she rode low,
Through the sheep and the cow country, way down below.
She rode through the sheep country up on the hill
Where the lone eagle circles, so high and so still.
She rode through the Injun lands where the wind whines,
To the furaway mountains, through the yallerjack pines.
Her daddy’s poor pinto stumbled over the boulders,
And Maude’s red hair tumbled down o’er her shoulders.
The shadows so dark stole the light from the ground;
The hoot-owl and night critters gathered around;
A lean, hungry lion roared loud from its lair,
And the slip of a silver moon rose in the air.
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