Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Just love this tune. Lorena

John Hartford greatly missed


Cool, I hadn’t heard that one. I love the sound of his banjo! Who’s Lorena? Is the song a true story?

Hi Gunnar, I think the tuning is possibly in E. John’s banjo which I do believe was build to his own specification has 24 frets.

I guess you could say “Lorena” was every soldiers sweetheart during the American Civil War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“Lorena” is an antebellum song with Northern origins. The lyrics were written in 1856 by Rev. Henry D. L. Webster, after a broken engagement. He wrote a long poem about his fiancée but changed her name at first to “Bertha” and later to “Lorena”, perhaps an adaptation of “Lenore” from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven.” Henry Webster’s friend Joseph Philbrick Webster wrote the music, and the song was first published in Chicago in 1857. It became a favorite of soldiers of both sides during the American Civil War. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.

During the American Civil War, soldiers on both sides of the conflict thought of their wives and girlfriends back home when they heard the song “Lorena”. One Confederate officer even attributed the South’s defeat to the song. He reasoned that upon hearing the mournful ballad the soldiers grew so homesick that they lost their effectiveness as a fighting force.

“Lorena” was based on the lyricist’s love for a Zanesville, Ohio girl named Ella Blocksom.

Her parents being deceased, Miss Blocksom lived with her brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Blandy. The family attended the Universalist Church in Zanesville where the Rev. Henry DeLafayette Webster was the minister. Miss Blocksom caught the eye of the young preacher and his feelings became more than just pastoral. Henry Blandy and his brother Fred were co-owners of the Blandy foundry in Zanesville. As a wealthy and prominent member of the community he could not see his sister-in-law becoming romantically attached to a poor preacher and so stepped in to put an end to the relationship. Miss Blocksom told Webster that they must part and gave him a letter containing the line “If we try, we may forget,” which found its way into the song. The brokenhearted Mr. Webster resigned his pastorate and left Zanesville. In 1856, Webster met Joseph P. Webster (who later composed the music of “[In the] Sweet By-and-By”). J. P. Webster was looking for lyrics to a song he was writing and Henry Webster responded by writing a ballad about his lost love, changing her name from Ella to Bertha. The composer required a three-syllable name and Henry Webster changed the name again, this time to Lorena. The song was published in 1857 by Higgins Brothers of Chicago and soon was known across America.

In 1854 Martha Ella Blocksom married William Wartenbee Johnson, Ohio Supreme Court justice from 1879 to 1886. She died in 1917 and is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Ironton, Ohio.

Henry D.L. Webster also married, fathered four children, and eventually became the minister of a Unitarian church in Chicago, Illinois. He died in 1896, and is buried in Chicago.


Oh, the years creep slowly by, Lorena,
The snow is on the ground again.
The sun’s low down the sky, Lorena,
The frost gleams where the flow’rs have been.
But the heart beats on as warmly now,
As when the summer days were nigh.
Oh, the sun can never dip so low
A-down affection’s cloudless sky.

A hundred months have passed, Lorena,
Since last I held that hand in mine,
And felt the pulse beat fast, Lorena,
Though mine beat faster far than thine.
A hundred months, 'twas flowery May,
When up the hilly slope we climbed,
To watch the dying of the day,
And hear the distant church bells chime.

We loved each other then, Lorena,
Far more than we ever dared to tell;
And what we might have been, Lorena,
Had but our loving prospered well –
But then, 'tis past, the years are gone,
I’ll not call up their shadowy forms;
I’ll say to them, “Lost years, sleep on!
Sleep on! nor heed life’s pelting storms.”

The story of that past, Lorena,
Alas! I care not to repeat,
The hopes that could not last, Lorena,
They lived, but only lived to cheat.
I would not cause e’en one regret
To rankle in your bosom now;
For “if we try we may forget,”
Were words of thine long years ago.

Yes, these were words of thine, Lorena,
They burn within my memory yet;
They touched some tender chords, Lorena,
Which thrill and tremble with regret.
'Twas not thy woman’s heart that spoke;
Thy heart was always true to me:
A duty, stern and pressing, broke
The tie which linked my soul with thee.

It matters little now, Lorena,
The past is in the eternal past;
Our heads will soon lie low, Lorena,
Life’s tide is ebbing out so fast.
There is a Future! O, thank God!
Of life this is so small a part!
'Tis dust to dust beneath the sod;
But there, up there, 'tis heart to heart

Thanks for the history!

Probably not too politically correct - and all due respect to all the Berthas out there… but I, for one, am very happy that he decided to change it!

Lorena is a prettier-sounding name… At least to me… No offense!

Thanks for retrieving the story on this one, @Archie!

You know, I have been curious to ask you @Archie - as your appreciation of Bluegrass is clear… I wonder if others in your parts share the appreciation and see a link to “Old Time American music”?

What I mean is… I admire and suspect that many across Scotland, Ireland and maybe England and Wales… are closer to the acoustic culture and heritage in their folk songs than many Americans.

If nothing else, I consider that they can appreciate it - even if they don’t particularly enjoy the style…

In your opinion, do you think there is an awareness, appreciation and sense of kinship to the influence and foundations of the American Bluegrass tradition?

Or… Do you think that any connection is mostly overlooked or dismissed as being entirely different music?

Maybe, I should have started another topic with the introduction of this…?

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Hi @WillCoop I’d say that most folks in the UK do not share my interest in Bluegrass I kinda stumbled into it because of my love for the sound of the banjo,

Country music does have quite a large following over here. Johnny Cash, John Denver, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton and many others have continued to fuel an interest over here. Line dancing seems popular with the ladies . Clogging has it’s origins here in the UK so the instruments that make up a bluegrass band would be naturally pleasing to our culture. We did have our own equivalent to Earl Scruggs but he didn’t play bluegrass he had his own unique sound , Look up George Formby.

Those that are interested in Bluegrass are mostly small groups. In my area maybe as many as twenty individuals with one annual Bluegrass Festival near Dumfries in the fall

Middle and the South of England seems to have a larger following.with several bluegrass festivals none of which I have attended The music also seems popular in Wales and Ireland.

I would say the awareness and kinship you speak of is not present in the same way you would recognise at home. In the few concerts I have attended here in Scotland those folks newly exposed to the music seemed to embrace the music. My own exposure to live American Bands has been fairly limited I have only ever attended one bluegrass festival. I think the best folks to seek answers to your questions are the American Bands that have played to British audiences.

Ron Block,Tony Furtado, Alan Munde, Jens Kruger Bill Evans
Greg Cahill, Special Consensus
Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa
The Gold Heart Sisters
Craig Duncan & Friends
Laurie Lewis Band
Whitetop Mountain Band

With the exception of Alan Munde, Jens Kruger and Bill Evans I’ve been to concerts with all these bands.

I do have a natural curiosity for historical events particularly the Victorian Era and the Industrial Revolution here in the UK. Since I started learning to play banjo I have dabbled into the history of the banjo and that has lead me to research banjo pickers who follow the three finger style.

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Well, this is all very interesting to me. Fascinating.

I enjoy the exchange of knowledge.

Perhaps it is more what I imagined it to be… that Europeans embrace accoustic and folk roots and traditional tunes. I envision local bands in pubs and pints everywhere…

That said, I am not too surprised that American Bluegrass is less common but had hoped the acceptance of acoustic music somehow bridge to bigger gap into acceptance.

@Archie - thank you for being our Bluegrass Ambassador into the lands of (some of) our families, ancestors and distant relatives.

Hi @WillCoop I should have added that Jazz & Folk Music is quite popular in pubs right across the UK more so near large Universities and that’s probably where a lot of bluegrass musicians play. Many also just play for their own amusement rather than paid gigs.