Monday May 24, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Mary Had a Little Lamb

On this Day:

In 1830, “Mary Had A Little Lamb” by Sarah Josepha Hale, was first published by Boston firm Marsh, Capen & Lyon.

“Mary Had a Little Lamb” is an English language nursery rhyme of nineteenth-century American origin. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 7622.

The nursery rhyme was first published by the Boston publishing firm Marsh, Capen & Lyon, as a poem by Sarah Josepha Hale on May 24, 1830, and was possibly inspired by an actual incident. As described in one of Hale’s biographies:

“Sarah began teaching young boys and girls in a small school not far from her home [in Newport, New Hampshire]…It was at this small school that the incident involving ‘Mary’s Lamb’ is reputed to have taken place. Sarah was surprised one morning to see one of her students, a girl named Mary, enter the classroom followed by her pet lamb. The visitor was far too distracting to be permitted to remain in the building and so Sarah ‘turned him out.’ The lamb stayed nearby till school was dismissed and then ran up to Mary looking for attention and protection. The other youngsters wanted to know why the lamb loved Mary so much and their teacher explained it was because Mary loved her pet. Then Sarah used the incident to get a moral across to the class:

And you each gentle animal,

In confidence may bind,

And make them answer to your call,

If you are always kind.”

The Redstone School (1798), now in Sudbury, Massachusetts, is the schoolhouse Mary Tyler attended.

In 1876, at the age of 70 years, Mary Tyler (née Sawyer; March 22, 1806 – December 11, 1889) emerged to claim that she was the “Mary” from the poem. As a young girl, Mary kept a pet lamb that she took to school one day, at the suggestion of her brother. A commotion naturally ensued. Mary recalled, “visiting school that morning was a young man, by the name of John Roulstone; a nephew of the Reverend Lemuel Capen, who was then settled in Sterling. It was the custom then, for students to prepare for college, with ministers and, for this purpose, Roulstone was studying with his uncle. The young man was very much pleased, with the incident of the lamb and, the next day, he rode across the fields on horseback, to the little old schoolhouse and handed me a slip of paper, which had written upon it the three original stanzas of the poem …” This account is not supported by evidence, beyond Mary’s memory. The “slip of paper” has never been produced as evidence. The earliest existing evidence of the poem’s publication is Sarah Josepha Hale’s 1830 collection of poems, supporting her complete authorship of the poem.

Even though this claim lives on unsupported by evidence, multiple sites in the town of Sterling, Massachusetts, perpetuate the claim. A two foot tall (61 cm) statue and historical marker, representing Mary’s Little Lamb, stands in the town center. The Redstone School, where Mary Sawyer attended school and purports the incident takes place, was built in 1798. The property was later purchased by Henry Ford and relocated to a churchyard, on the property of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Mary Sawyer’s house, located in Sterling, Massachusetts, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, but was destroyed by arson on August 12, 2007 (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

How did the male lamb tell the female lamb that it had a crush on her?  Sheepishly.

Second, a Song:

Stephen Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the blues rock band Double Trouble. Although his mainstream career only spanned seven years, he is considered to be one of the most iconic and influential musicians in the history of blues music, and one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Vaughan began playing guitar at age seven, initially inspired by his elder brother Jimmie Vaughan. In 1972, he dropped out of high school and moved to Austin, where he began to gain a following after playing gigs on the local club circuit. Vaughan formed the band Double Trouble in 1978 and established it as part of the Austin music scene, which soon became one of the most popular acts in Texas. He performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982 where David Bowie saw him play and contacted him for a studio gig, resulting in Stevie playing his blues guitar on the album Let’s Dance (1983) before being discovered by John Hammond, who interested major label Epic Records in signing them to a record deal. Within months, Vaughan achieved mainstream success with Double Trouble for the critically acclaimed debut album Texas Flood. With a series of successful network television appearances and extensive concert tours, he became the leading figure in the blues revival of the 1980s. Playing his guitar behind his back or plucking the strings with his teeth like Jimi Hendrix did, he earned unprecedented stardom in Europe which later resulted in breakthroughs for guitar players like Robert Cray, Jeff Healey, Robben Ford and Walter Trout, amongst others.

During the majority of his life, Vaughan struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. He also struggled with the personal and professional pressures of fame, and his marriage to Lenora “Lenny” Bailey. He successfully completed rehabilitation and began touring again with Double Trouble in November 1986. His fourth and final studio album In Step reached number 33 in the United States in 1989; it was one of Vaughan’s most critically and commercially successful releases and included his only number-one hit “Crossfire”. He became one of the world’s most highly demanded blues performers, and he headlined Madison Square Garden in 1989 and the Beale Street Music Festival in 1990.

On August 27, 1990, Vaughan and four others were killed in a helicopter crash in East Troy, Wisconsin, after performing with Double Trouble at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. An investigation concluded that the cause was pilot error and Vaughan’s family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Omniflight Helicopters, which was settled out of court. Vaughan’s music continued to achieve commercial success with several posthumous releases and has sold over 15 million albums in the United States alone. In 2003, David Fricke of Rolling Stone ranked him the seventh greatest guitarist of all time. Vaughan was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, along with Double Trouble bandmates Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, and Reese Wynans.

Vaughan throughout his career revived blues rock and paved the way for many other artists. Vaughan’s work continues to influence numerous blues, rock and alternative artists, including John Mayer, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Mike McCready, Albert Cummings, Los Lonely Boys and Chris Duarte, among others. AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine described Vaughan as “the leading light in American blues” and developed “a uniquely eclectic and fiery style that sounded like no other guitarist, regardless of genre”. In 1983, Variety magazine called Vaughan the “guitar hero of the present era”.

In the months that followed his death, Vaughan sold over 5.5 million albums in the United States. On September 25, 1990, Epic released Family Style, an LP the Vaughan brothers cut at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. The label released several promotional singles and videos for the collaborative effort. In November 1990, CMV Enterprises released Pride and Joy, a collection of eight Double Trouble music videos. Sony signed a deal with the Vaughan estate to obtain control of his back catalog, as well as permission to release albums with previously unreleased material and new collections of released work. On October 29, 1991, The Sky Is Crying was released as Vaughan’s first posthumous album with Double Trouble, and featured studio recordings from 1984 to 1985. Other compilations, live albums, and films have also been released since his death.

On October 3, 1991, Texas governor Ann Richards proclaimed “Stevie Ray Vaughan Commemoration Day”, during which a memorial concert was held at the Texas Theatre. In 1993, a memorial statue of Vaughan was unveiled on Auditorium Shores and is the first public monument of a musician in Austin. In September 1994, a Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Run for Recovery was held in Dallas; the event was a benefit for the Ethel Daniels Foundation, established to help those in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction who cannot afford treatment.

In 1999, the Musicians’ Assistance Program (later renamed MusiCares MAP Fund) created the “Stevie Ray Vaughan Award” to honor the memory of Vaughan and to recognize musicians for their devotion to helping other addicts struggling with the recovery process. The recipients include Eric Clapton, David Crosby, Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Pete Townshend, Chris Cornell, Jerry Cantrell, Mike McCready, among others.

In 1993, Martha Vaughan established the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Scholarship Fund, awarded to students at W.E. Greiner Middle School in Oakcliff who intend to attend college and pursue the arts as a profession.

Vaughan won five W. C. Handy Awards and was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2000. In 1985, he was named an honorary admiral in the Texas Navy. Vaughan had a single number-one hit on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for the song “Crossfire”. His album sales in the U.S. stand at over 15 million units. Family Style, released shortly after his death, won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album and became his best-selling, non-Double Trouble studio album with over a million shipments in the U.S. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked him seventh among the “100 Greatest Guitar Players of All Time”. He also became eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, but did not appear on a nominations roster until 2014. He was inducted in the RRHOF alongside Double Trouble in 2015. Guitar World magazine ranked him eighth in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.

In 1994 the city of Austin, Texas, erected the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial on the hiking trail beside Lady Bird Lake (per Wikipedia).

Here is Stevie Ray Vaughan performing Mary Had A Little Lamb & Cold Shot, live, at Montreux85. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“We rise with the lark and go to bed with the lamb.” – Nicholas Breton

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

Leave a Reply