The Archives – The Lyric Book “The Lass”

There is quite a bit to this one. This started off as a project I had while attending Berklee College of Music. This song culminated after a local Maryland brewery, the Ruddy Duck, created a beer that was inspired by this song.

So let me tell you a little about this song’s history and how much music has been a part of my family’s life.

 

The Story of Mildred……

In 1910 a man named Frank Carlton was working at his quaint barbershop in Maine. One day, a traveling publisher who was on vacation, Tell Taylor, strolled into his shop to get a haircut. As Frank trimmed away he was humming a song.

Tell asked the barber “Hey that tune….where did you hear that? That’s a great tune”.
Frank replied “I wrote it”.
Tell said “oh yeah? Would you ever sell it?”
Frank said “I don’t know….”
“How about 60 bucks?”
“Really!? SOLD”.

That song would later be known as one of the classic American standards “Down by the Old Mill Stream” which Frank wrote as a love song for his wife. In it’s first year of publishing it made $8,000 and continues to make money to this day.

Ten years later on July 11, 1920, Frank Carlton would meet his new granddaughter, Mildred Neil. Mildred herself learned to play guitar and sing, keeping the music gene in the family. She was an attractive and brazen performer who played in local music venues around Maine throughout the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Her stage name was “Milly Melody”. She was compared to country western greats like “Patsy Kline” and Patty Paige. During this time, it was still taboo for women to be too independent and many men didn’t like the idea of a woman being on stage, so as a precaution, she would always keep a one-shot derringer pistol close by because of the real world threat of being assaulted for being an independent woman.

Half a century later, Mildred’s great grandson, Dylan, wrote a song for a school project while attending Berklee College of Music. The song is about a young Irish girl with a beautiful singing voice who grows up in a poor town and aspires to bring good things to her old town and her poor family. She is discovered at an early age and travels the world, and sings her heart out to huge audiences all over the world. Despite the attempts to exploit her talents by money hungry businessmen, she never lets them get to her and keeps her art first and her fans close. In her old age, she’s afflicted by illness and eventually passes away. The purity of her love of music outlives her and people for generations remember her with a smile.

And Here we are Today:

Mildred, or Great Nana as we called her, passed away on aug 3, 2002. I knew her as the short, little grandma who made cookies and called me and my brother “lovey”. Only after she had passed did I ever learn she was a musician, just like me. I was very so struck by the similarity of this song with parts of her life that I had never known I wanted to dedicate this song “The Lass” to her. So this is my tribute to my Great Nana, Mildred Neil. Thank you for listening to my song May nothing put out her fire.

The Lass – Final Version

 

Behind the weathered wood and stone
And shards of broken glass
A child born without a dime
Would grow up all to fast
With hair of silk, a voice of gold
she’d make her parents proud
She’d sing the world her songs of hope
And buy this dying town
Late at night when cold rushed in
She lay hungry and tired
But nothing would ever put out her fire

Sweet as wine she left
The world drank her by the sip
Growing warm inside they all heard money
Dancing from her lips
Fame and fortune’s leaky ship
Saw waters rising higher
But nothing would ever put out her fire

She’d been bought and sold like aged merlot
The world had drank it’s fill
Years had passed, this aging lass eventually grew ill
But her spark had set a blaze that stayed
When her hear beat had expired
But nothing will ever put out her fire