It was the summer of 1972... I
was living in Boston and one night I went out to a folk club to
hear a banjo playing gal. I don’t remember her name, but I will
never forget how she sang Wedding Dress.
Nine years later, I picked up the Anglo
concertina and for decades, every year or two, I would try to play
this song. I was never satisfied with how it sounded on my
instrument until last year when I tried again and bingo!
— after 30
years of practice I was finally able to wrap my mind around how to
play concertina along with my inner banjo. Without even trying
really, I was now able to join the banjo playing in my minds
Last fall I performed it all over the South of England at folk
clubs and festivals and audiences seemed to enjoy Wedding Dress and
even sing along. Here is a youtube link from a lovely evening at
the Seaford Folk Club, UK.
Wedding Dress comes from the singing of
songwriter/activist Aunt Molly Jackson of Clay County, Kentucky.
Jackson sang it for Pete Seeger in the 1930’s and then Peggy Seeger
heard it in 1953 at a campfire in Beacon, NY. She reports that it
was one of her earliest banjo songs and I believe she was the first
to record it; in 1957 for Folkways. Originally, the song was just a
fragment. Peggy penned additional lines to fill out this haunting
modal Appalachian song.
"She wouldn't say yes, She wouldn't say no,
All she'd do was sit and sew"