pic of the album cover

 

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 White Mansions

A tale from the American Civil War 1861-1865

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What is it?

A concept album (1978 release: A&M LP 6004) of songs, accompanied by a

booklet, that tells a story that takes place during the American Civil War.


Browsing the booklet, you can read passages, view pictures, and follow the lyrics and

storyline while listening to the songs. The "original idea" and all songs written/composed by

Paul Kennerley (except the song "White Trash" - Bernie Leadon & Paul Kennerley).


The Ozark Mountain Daredevils did not write any of the songs,

but John Dillon and Steve Cash did play and sing on the album.

 

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The Story

A tale from the American Civil War 1861-1865.

White Mansions is a portrayal of life in the Confederate States of America 1861-1865.

The high hopes and deep sorrows of the Southern People are reflected in the experiences

of the four characters whose combined words tell the tale of the American Civil War.

 

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The Characters

 

MATTHEW J. FULLER, played by John Dillon,

is the 23 year old son of a wealthy Georgian cotton planter and is typical of

the young aristocracy of the South. Brought up on a large plantation worked

by four hundred slaves, he attended both college and military academy

and is dedicated to preserving the grand lifestyle of Old Dixie.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, he joins a Georgia infantry

regiment of the Confederate States Army as a Captain.


 

POLLY ANN STAFFORD, played by Jessi Colter,

is Matthew's beautiful sweetheart and lives an equally opulent life as the daughter

of a neighboring land owner and diplomat. Shortly after the start of the war, she serves the cause

by working in a disease-ridden hospital attending to the many wounded and dying soldiers.

 


CALEB STONE, played by Steve Cash,

epitomizes "white trash," a class of poor southern whites who have no profession,

land or property. He finds work whenever he can as an overseer keeping order

among the Negro field hands. Caleb resents the power and status of the plantation

owners whose wealth emphasizes his own poverty, but in spite of this,

he feels a deep loyalty to the South. He joins the fight even if it is just to

preserve his only heritage, his superiority over the blacks.

 


THE DRIFTER, played by Waylon Jennings,

acts as the narrator of this story. Descended from good southern stock, he has

been unable to settle since being wounded fighting for Texas in the Mexican war.

He now leads a lonely life roaming from town to town. Not involved in the actual fighting,

the Drifter views both sides clearly and says his piece with gentle strength and worldly wisdom.

 


THE SLAVES have very little to say in this tell of the war,

as indeed they did in reality. Much was talked of them and in the

end, the war was fought because of them. But, despite the fact that they

represented over a third of the population of the South, their voice was seldom heard.

 

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The Songs

 

Polly has a premonition in which she sees the collapse and destruction of the "Old South"
reflected in the face of a white haired gentleman planter.  Her song acts as a preface to the story.


Story To Tell - Polly (Jessi)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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At first, the drifter warns of the pressures on the South from the "civilized" North. Then, realizing the
severity of a move to split the United States into two totally separate commonwealths, which would
have destroyed the strength of America, he advises caution and debate. But finally, his good sense
withers under the strain of his Southern spirit and in the final verse he offers up "fighting talk."


Dixie, Hold On - The Drifter (Waylon)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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Matthew, like the majority of young men at the time, is caught up in the wave of excitement that sweeps the South
following the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter, the last remaining Union Army post in the newly formed
Confederacy. He exudes enthusiasm for his "new country" and its President Jefferson Davis and urges everyone
to join in the bold adventure and support the secession of the Southern states from the Union.


Join Around The Flag - Matthew (John)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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Enter the "redneck" Caleb.  Like the majority of  "white trash," Caleb lived little better than the slaves and have been contemptuously
tolerated and frowned on by the middle and upper classes - until now, when they needed him to fight. In the first days of the war, Caleb is quick
to join Colonel J. Hood's 4th Texas Volunteers and will soon be serving at such battles as Gaines' Mill, Manassas, Gettysburg and Chickamauga.


White Trash - Caleb (Steve)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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At a farewell ball in his father's fine home beneath the flow of the Parisian chandeliers, Matthew and Polly
say goodbye to each other before he rides off to join General Beauregard's army in Virginia.


The Last Dance & The Kentucky Racehorse - Matthew (John) & Polly (Jessi)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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The War is on and Caleb relates the initial success of the Confederacy in the opening year and reflects the general overconfident
feeling in the South, that victory would soon be theirs. However, this was to last as long as it would take the Union
to organize its superior numbers of men, money, and armaments into a proper trained and powerful army.


Southern Boys - Caleb (Steve)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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The "amateurish" approach to war that had at first prevailed on both sides was now giving way to the bitter relentless fighting on
such shell-rutted battlefields as Gaines' Mill, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Like the Drifter, many people were beginning
to grasp the terrible horror of what was happening and they were starting to regret their initial desire to fight their political
arguments with weapons rather than continue with words. What they had started was not to end for another three bloody years.


The Union Mare & The Confederate Grey - The Drifter (Waylon) & Polly (Jessi)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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In a letter to Polly, Matthew now disillusioned and uncertain of a Confederate victory, writes of the woes of war.
Robert Lee's loss to General Meade's Union army at the battle of Gettysburg (the climax of Lee's drive into the heart of the North)
was catastrophic.  Not only did Lee lose 28,063 men (one third of the army), but all hopes of support for the Confederacy from the
governments of Britain and France are finally dashed - the tide has turned.


No One Would Believe A Summer Could Be So Cold - Matthew (John)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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The Drifter realizes that although Lee is still winning some battles, the very fabric of the South is crumbling under the strain.
Old fashioned plantation owners could not administrate or supply a country at war, nor did they have the means by which to do so.
The pride of the South, J. E. B. Stuart's cavalry had been smashed, the Shenandoah Valley had been devastated by Sheridan and soon Atlanta was
to fall, followed by the demise of General Hood's entire army at Nashville. The desertion rate was shocking, and Grant would not exchange prisoners
which severely threatened the South's depleted manpower. This failure to do so produced atrocious situations such as that at Andersonville Prison
in Georgia where 14,000 Union prisoners died of malnutrition and disease, partly through horrible mismanagement, and partly due to lack of
food and medical supplies available in the Confederacy. It was time to quit, but foolishly they would not until April of the following year.


The Southland's Bleeding - The Drifter (Waylon)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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By March 1865, the Armies of the South were shattered. Badly armed, poorly provisioned and undermanned, Lee's bedraggled forces
were smashed as Grant tore through them at Petersburg, Virginia. Richmond, the Confederate capital, and Petersburg were abandoned (as was Atlanta, Georgia)
by the fleeing Southerners, and the exhausted Army of Northern Virginia under Lee was foiled in its escape to North Carolina by General Sheridan at Sayler's Creek.

Meanwhile, further south, Union General Sherman had outwitted General Hood and had mercilessly driven through Georgia and South Carolina bringing Dixie to its knees.
Lee saw that there was no hope for his starving and depleted army and so, on April 19th, he surrendered to Ulysses Grant at the Virginia village of Appomattox Court House. The
total collapse of the Confederacy rapidly followed with General Johnston's surrender to Sherman and the capture of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States.

Prior to the surrender we find the exhausted Matthew hopelessly ordering up twelve pound artillery that no longer exists, in a vain attempt to hold on.
Matthew is replied to by the ghosts of the Confederate dead.  The war had come to and end, but the cost was still to be counted.

 

Bring Up The Twelve Pounders - Matthew (John)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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When Caleb, Matthew, and the Drifter return to their homes in the South after the surrender, they see the devastation that was brought to Georgia a few months
before the end of the war by Sherman's March to the Sea. This was a move designed to knock the wind out of the South and was enforced with unnecessary relish.

On April 14th, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was tragically assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern fanatic. Lincoln's death was a great loss
to the defeated Confederacy because he had planned the reconstruction of the Union with "malice toward none" and "charity for all."

 

They Laid Waste To Our Land - Caleb (Steve), Matthew (John), & The Drifter (Waylon)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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Lincoln freed the slaves in his proclamation of January 1, 1863. Of course, this was ignored by the Confederacy and only made them fight
still more fiercely because emancipation meant the economic destruction of a society based on cotton production. It did, however, spur the North on with
the feeling of a moral crusade. In the end, when the Negro slaves were set free at the end of the war, they were disillusioned. Some loyalty stayed with their
former masters but most of the 3,500,000 left the plantations, many of the heading for the haven of the North. Agricultural production and property
values were halved by this exodus and poverty and hunger became widespread in the South.

In setting about the reconstruction, U.S. President Andrew Johnson gave each former Confederate State a new governor charged to call a convention
to disband slavery and secession, made up of Southerners who had quickly pledged allegiance to the Union. They elected State Governments who
passed "Black Codes" which gave certain rights to Negroes regarding education and property, but not the right to vote. The free slaves were given very
poor jobs and most certainly were still not treated as equals.  For the most part, these unfortunate people were, in fact, no better off and in many
cases their conditions were worse because they were no longer fed and cared for by their old masters. Thousands lived as virtual "slaves" in the Northern
factories and no real effort was made to integrate them with the whites. But bondage is the most odious state for a human being to be in,
and however rocky the road at the beginning of freedom, it was a completely worthwhile journey.  Obviously, the
"great jubilee of the unshackling of the chains" was met with tremendous joy by these Southern Negroes.


Praise The Lord - The Slaves
(
lyrics) (chords)

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Sickened by the sights he has seen and his own callous attitude to life, Caleb finds solace from the scriptures.  Although he came from the humblest of backgrounds,
the Bible was to be found in his home. Indeed his mother often read it to him as a child and whatever lessons he had picked up from it would have been the
closest he came to any formal education.  Now he finds a new interest in the teachings of the Lord, and goes from town to town preaching "fire and brimstone"
sermons - It is possible, however, that his taking up "the cloth" has not necessarily cured him of his drinking habits.


The King Has Called Me Home - Caleb (Steve)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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When Matthew returns to Georgia after the surrender he finds that nothing of his former life remains. His fine plantation home has been razed
to the ground, those members of his family that are still alive have fled to avoid persecution, but worst of all, his darling Polly has died,
the victim of an epidemic disease which killed thousands. Matthew is shattered.

Around him, Dixie is in hopeless turmoil. Poverty and sickness are rife amongst the Southerners.  The State governments set up by President Johnson
have been disbanded by Congress and replaced by a Military Government and Army of Occupation. Greed and corruption are abundant in people with official
positions, and Northerners vindictively humble the "rebels." Carpetbaggers exploit those who due to privation, excessive taxation and general misfortune
have to sell their property, land, and valuables at a pittance.

It was for for men like Matthew, who had lived a "privileged" life, to accept and harder still since many of them had
nothing left to lose.  The laws were often unfair - Mathew driven by a deep hate chooses to live outside of them.


Bad Man - Matthew (John)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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The Drifter concludes, the story is over.

Dixie, Now You're Done - The Drifter (Waylon)
(
lyrics) (chords)

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The Musicians

 

Henry Spinetti
Drums

Dave Markee
Bass Guitar, String Double Bass

Steve Cash
Harmonica, Lead & Backing Vocals

John Dillon
Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Electric Piano, Dulcimer, Fiddle, Lead & Backing Vocals

Bernie Leadon
Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Banjo, Mandolin, Dobro, Pedal Steel Guitar, Backing Vocals

Waylon Jennings
Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Lead Vocals

Jessi Colter
Lead & Backing Vocals


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Guest Artists

Tim Hinkley
Piano, Organ

Eric Clapton
Electric Slide Guitar, Dobro

Paul Kennerley
Backing Vocals

Rodena Preston's "Voices of Deliverance"
as The Slaves

Brian Rogers
All String Arrangements

 

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Note:

The "White Mansions" LP and "The Legend of Jesse James" LP (A&M Records, 1980) were released

in 1999 as a double CD, "Confederate Tales", available at Barnes & Noble and other vendors.

You also may find the CD or the vinyl of "White Mansions" at ebay.

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Steve sez.....

I highly recommend "White Mansions" to anyone - especially if they like the earlier music of the

Ozark Mountain Daredevils. The songs, vocals, musicianship, and 'sound' are all outstanding.

The orchestral strings in the music really add to the overall fullness of the recording. And of course, the story is touching.

Get the album so that you can have the biggie-sized booklet and the better sound - ya just can't go wrong with this one!


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 Label: Mercury Nashville
Original Release Date: 1978
Recording Mode: Stereo
Engineer: Glyn Johns
Recording Type: Studio
Distributor: Universal Distribution

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Much of the text on this page was copied from the album jacket and the inserts without permission.
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Date of Birth: 17 January 2003

Rejuvenated: 6 August 2011

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