Folk Music:
An Index to Recordings

by Jane Keefer, copyright, 1996-2013
14th major update


This index to recordings of tunes and songs from traditional and contemporary sources had its beginnings in the late 1970s. As a teacher of traditional music styles on banjo, guitar, fiddle and dulcimer, I was constantly in need of both written and recorded sources for the music that my students wanted to learn. Started originally on old-fashioned 4x6 cards, I began indexing both recordings, magazines and books in my personal collection. By 1985 my card index had grown to nearly 12 file drawers of cards, at which point the index stopped, as I returned to school to pursue a different and more stable profession.

In 1991, with the purchase of a shiny new PC and the acquisition of some incredible bargains and rarities as the LP gave way to the CD, I decided to put my index into a database, starting with the recordings, for which indexes are much harder to come by. At present the database lists mostly recordings, but now also includes some of the major song collections and tune folios that I originally did on cards in the early 80's. Other indexes to mostly printed material are listed in the Bibliography.

The recordings indexed generally have a major emphasis on tradition based material from both commercial and non-commercial performers, including a considerable amount of old-time fiddle and banjo tunes. Although most of the recordings included are vinyl LP's, many have been reissued in both cassette and CD format and out of print material can often be found in both public and university libraries by search in the world catalog.

The basic indexes for song titles and performers, including both side and principal performers, are displayed in a standard discographic format. Specific entries can be located by either alphabetic browsing or keyword searching which is automatically linked to the title or performer alphabetic listings. Additionally, cross references to alternate titles, related pieces and similar melodies have been included and these constitute around 18.5% of the nearly 72,000 titles in the title index. Links to the Performer and Source index are active and thus you may click on any performer name to see what else this performer has done. Publisher Source information is also available and includes some links to world wide web sites.

Songs and tunes can have more than one title; similarly a song or ballad can be sung to more than one melody. In the past, traditional airs and jig tunes were used as melodies for ballads. Furthermore, within the folk process both songs and tunes are fluid creations that borrow freely from other similar pieces. Parodies are generated and floating verses abound, as singers and now songwriters adapt their art to both the tradition and the times. I have tried to capture some of this by indicating connections between related songs and tunes. Thus, you will see certain two-letter abbreviations that indicate these kinds of relations.

These cross references are added to the database in two ways. First, virtually all the cross references described and listed in the recording annotations are reproduced in the database. Thus you may see cross references to pieces that do not appear on any of the sources indexed in the database. Secondly, if I have knowledge as a practicing folk musician about a mistittling or related melodies, these links are also entered into the database.

Before closing, a few caveats are in order. As in any index of this size, there are bound to be some mistakes. My policy is to listen to all recordings as they are indexed. However, some of the earliest items entered into the database were not audited at the time of entry, although all sources have been auditioned at one time or another. Thus you will find that not all the cross references are completely consistent nor have all the alternate title occurrences been fully identified.

As you browse through the index you will notice numerous very similar titles, some of which are quite probably the same song, but which I have not actually verified to be the case by comparison listening. Additionally, I now distinguish distinctly different pieces that use the same title with either roman numerals for songs or integer numbers for instrumental pieces (reels, hornpipes, waltzes, etc.) A good example of this use is the song title Railroad Blues, for which I have 7 different pieces. This will hopefully make searching a bit more accurate, as well as enhancing your awareness of those many titles that are used for more than one distinct song or tune. I have reviewed the vast majority of these cases, but if you have more knowledge about such relations or identity, or discover any other obvious mistakes, do let me know. Your corrections will be gratefully implemented.

Cross References, Bibliographic IDs and Abbreviations Used

Cross referencing in any specialized index is an art. In folk music this is especially so, since any song can have many different titles and different melodies can be associated with both songs and (dance) tunes. Furthermore what I may identify as related pieces, another musician or listener will not. These cavaets aside, the power of hypertext, now makes these links instantaneous. All the cross references are just a "click" away from each other.

Folklorists identify song motifs and tune families, while ballad scholars can relate current instances of performances to the traditional collections of Child, Laws, and Sharp. This current edition does list both song & tune IDs as assigned by the author/editors of books and recording annotators. Identification with respect to some of the standard fiddle music collections such as O'Neills, is also available. Most of these reference works can be located in libraries near your location via worldcat. listed on this website. All of these IDs appear in brackets after the title and composer (if any) as follows:

Currently these Bibliographic IDs are not hot-linked, although it is something I have considered undertaking. Since, the vast majority of ID assignments come from the annotations of a recording or a book, unless there is an obvious misprint or mistake, my approach is to point you, the user, to the past performances and collections within the context of the collector's own knowledge of the traditions. Among songs there is considerable variation, which in turn has generated wide variation in ID assignments. Thus I have not collated all the titles that a specific ID might have, depending on this variety factor; however, many of the related titles that are cross-linked, are obtained from these assignments. Two other databases that can be very useful in this area are the Traditional Ballad Index and the Steve Roud Folk Song and Ballad Index Both indexes provide references to Child and Laws numbers and the Ballad Index also provides a reference to the Roud ID, that has been assigned to titles in the Steve Roud Index. Within the coming year I hope to provide more linkage to these indexes via the addition of the Roud numbers to my titles along with direct links to the Ballad Index.

If you are looking for a specific title and determine that it is related to another title, that relation may be small or large depending on a variety of contexts. In the database, these cross references fall into two basic classes; related titles or melodies and alternate titles for a single given piece, either song text or instrumental music. For very common well know songs and tunes with multiple titles, I have attemped to use a consistent uniform title. Thus "Buffalo Gals" is the prefered title, while "Roundtown Gals," "Alabama Gals," etc. are all alternate titles for this piece and thus will actually be indexed under "Buffalo Gals." Entries for these alternate titles appear in the index with a "clickable" pointer to the title that the pieces are actually indexed under; for example:

Alabama Gals
Us - Buffalo Gals

Recordings that use the "Alabama Gals" title will indicate this by showing this alternate title in parenthesis after the recording citation as shown below.
Buffalo Gals
  1. ...
  2. ...
  3. Bloke, Bill. Banjo Tunes and Songs. Folklife Records ST-041 (Alabama Gals)
  4. ...
  5. ...
Related pieces
Related titles include similar texts, members of tune families, and parodies. The abbreviations used to indicate these various relations are listed below. As noted above with respect to Bibliographic IDs, the relation may be fairly close or not depending on a variety of contexts.
  1. Rt - Related title. This title is related to another titles is some way (text or tune)
  2. Rm - Related melody. This melody is related to another melody (phrasing, structure, etc.)
  3. Pb - Parodied by - This song is parodied by or another named song.
  4. Pd - Parody (of) - This song is a parody of a named song.
Identical pieces
Here we are concerned with identifying different titles that: name the same musical piece, either song or tune; have alternate titles or appear in a medley of pieces; and finally, "mistitlings." These cases are indicated as follows.
  1. Sm - Same or very similar melody. This title has the same melody as the named title.
  2. At - Alternate title. This song has an alternate title
  3. Im - In medley. This song appears in a separately titled medley or performance.
  4. Us - Use. This title is not the uniform preferred title. Search under the listed title.
  5. Uf - Used for. This title has been "mistakenly" used for another title, or has been used for more than one song or tune.
  6. Mf - Melody for. This melody has been used for another song. If possible, I try to identify the earliest known listing of a melody or air and use that melody as the basic title, but some of the earlier material that has been indexed does not always follow this rule
The most confusing of the above abbreviations is the Uf item. This occurs when the preferred title for a certain song will be "mistakenly" used for another piece. This reminds you to check under the title being pointed to. Thus:

Cotton Eyed Joe

Uf - Soldier's Joy

means that on at least one recording, the tune we commonly identify as "Soldier's Joy" appeared titled as "Cotton Eyed Joe." In past editions I put the "Uf" cross reference all under a single title; however, in this listing I have separated out most of these "Used for" listings under separate titles, which hopefully will make it easier to connect to the actual pieces you are searching for.

A handy quick guide to abbreviations is available in a separate frame that you can print out for future reference or leave open and minimized on the screen for easy access. Hotlinks to this guide are now a part of the new frames based navigation.

Statement of copyright

All original work presented here is copyrighted by the author. You may make copies for your own personal or non-commercial use, but printing or display of the index in any form for profit without permission is prohibited. If you do use or display material obtained from this website for non-profit or other activities, I would very much appreciate your acknowledgement of this index as your source. If you are concerned about copying issues, the best approach is to just cite my index with a link to the pages that have the information you wish to display. This way you will also be able to document additions and changes. For any further information please feel free to contact me at:

Jane Keefer
4111 SE Raymond St.
Portland, OR 97202

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Updated - Nov 25, 2013,