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Letters to Planet Slade: December 2010

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Murder Ballads
Secret London

November 9, 2010. Chico Rodriguez of Florida writes:
“I noticed that you have been following my memorials for awhile. The pictures that you took are incredible. Just to inform you, I will not be painting any walls for a while. I wanted to say thanks for doing a story on me, much appreciated. It is a part of the history of the neighborhood.
“I no longer live in NYC and relocated to Florida almost 2 yrs ago. I have gone back and forth to complete some commissioned work but do not anticipate going back any time soon.
“I like the pic of you that you have on your site. It would make a great piece. Let me know if you would like a canvas done by me, an original piece. I'd give you a great deal. Please fell free to look into my website . I am also on Facebook under Antonio Chico Garcia.”

Paul Slade replies: I've never known how to contact you before, Chico, so it's really good to get your letter. You'll find find comments from a few other people who've enjoyed your Alphabet City work at the Metafilter link below.
Now that I've had a chance to explore your website, I can see that I've photographed a lot more of your murals in New York without even realising it. Your World Trade Centre tribute and the Danny memorial with the big skulls are both among my favourites in the city, but somehow I'd never registered that you were the artist behind them. I spent half a day walking round the East Village once looking for that Lil' Al memorial from the NYPD Blue opening credits, but never knew that was your work either.
I love the way New Yorkers responded to your WTC painting by using it as a gathering point for their flowers, poems and so on. It shows the neighbourhood really welcoming a piece of public art, and finding a very practical use for it in their own emotional lives. If painting that one's not providing a service to the city, then I don't know what is.
Like everyone else, I'm a bit short of spare cash at the moment, I'm afraid. Next time I've got a significant birthday coming round, though, perhaps I'll treat myself to a Chico portrait to mark the occasion. Something on the side of Buckingham Palace, perhaps?

October 29, 2010. Greg Mullen of Austin, Texas, writes:
“I stumbled onto a post of yours in a Mudcat thread while researching the song Barb'ry Ellen which I heard for the first time today on a Tom Rush record.
“Immediately after hearing the song I began trying to play my own version of it and I went online to try and track down some lyrics. I got sucked into comparing and thinking about different versions I found and then got sidetracked by your website which I have thoroughly enjoyed so far. I read your piece about The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, and found it really rewarding.
“Anyway, I was interested in the printed version of The Life Death and Love of Barbara Allen that you mention, and wondering if there might be any chance of getting a scanned copy of it. I completely understand if its not possible or just too much of a hassle but I just thought I would ask.
“I don't know if you are a Townes Van Zandt fan but the Tom Rush version of this song reminded me of some of his songs, like Colorado Girl. I don't even know if that melody is at all related to other versions. I can't believe how old it is!
“I guess one of the really great things about learning old songs is feeling connected somehow to people who lived in a time that seems so distant and unrelatable in so many ways. If you get the chance I would love to see those verses and I would love to know some of your other favorite old songs."

Paul Slade replies: Thanks for your note. I'm glad you're enjoying the site. I've now sent you a scan of the Barbara Allen broadsheet you mention. It is one of those songs which it seems will never die. It was a good story then, and people evidently still find it a good story today.
One of the reasons I started the British Broadsides section of my site is that I wanted to encourage today's songwriters to take some of the old gallows ballads lyrics and set them to fresh music so they can live again as fully-performed songs. If you or any musician friends are ever moved to record or YouTube any of them, please do send me a link so I can hear the result.
I'm a big Townes Van Zant fan myself, so I'll have to dig out Colorado Girl and compare to Barbara Allen. As for my other favourite old songs, well, there are far too many to list, but I'm sure I'll get round to mentioning most of them on PlanetSlade sooner or later.

Message board round-up

Skeptics among you can find all the sources for my latest blurb box ("Quotes quiver at quintessence of quiet quality") below. I don't just make this stuff up, you know!




Word magazine

Reader reaction renders repeated radiant respect

On PlanetSlade
“Whoa - your site is great, bro.” - LaneXplace, Metafilter.

“Fantastic content.” - Filthy Light Thief, Metafilter.

On Murder Ballads
“Full of the stuff I'm interested in.” - Rennie Sparks, The Handsome Family, via e-mail.

“Very interesting stuff.” - Darlincommitme,

“This is amazing! You have a compelling underground piece here.”- Rob,

On Stagger Lee
“I got a kick out of this.”- Editor,

“You're doing a great job.” - Eurodan49, Authonomy.

On Knoxville Girl
“A lovely article.” - Emily Jorrey, Sing a Song of Murder, via e-mail.

“A nicely detailed history.” - Chris Davis,

On Frankie & Johnny
“A great history of Frankie's life and the song.” - Quanta, The

On Hattie Carroll
“Very comprehensive.”- William Stevenson, BBC Radio 4 message boards.

On Treasure Hunt Riots
“A great piece.” - Stenros, Pervasive Games.

“Er, wow.” - Severalbees, Twitter.

“Love the piece on treasure hunters.” - Lee Jackson,

“Very cool stuff.” - - Stein, Infocult.

“A wonderful recounting.” - Jinnet,

On Superheroes in Court
“Paul Slade's superb essay.” - Attorney Robert Scott Lawrence,