010 – “Days of ’49”

010 Days of 49”

  • (0:00) Kelly’s overview of the California Gold Rush
  • (6:25) Thoughts on the song (starting with the covers which you can find in our Spotify playlist! which were Judy Clark and Blackberry Winter Band)
  • Self-Portrait aside starting at 7:45
  • (11:12) Let’s dig into the song! What was going on in 1849?!
    • 11:40 rattle off all the historical events from 1849 with good links and analysis on my end
  • (15:50) Start analyzing the song!
    • Two characters Dylan doesn’t sing about Jess, that Mean Old Cuss / a jolly saucy crew” / (17:21) speaking of words: bummer shore” (which devolves into talk about Brixton and then The Clash) and at 21:36 for gin sot” / 22:00 #jollysaucycrewgoals / roving sign” (22:50) / a chorus, can you believe it?!” well, he didn’t write it!” (24:15) / repine” (24:31) / (25:00) all of the characters / butcher’s boy” (video of Ned Stark saying it for an hour!) / (25:37) tight,” which is probably another word for drunk! / (26:16) Poker Bill time! and poker in old folk songs / hat full” / (28:00) so many Bills (& JOYCE!!!) / ragshag” ragged or masquerade dress” like a ragshag parade! / (28:45) all of these songs (like Buffy and our Moral Learning Corner) have a cautionary tale! /  Kelly prefers the stripped down version of Dylan (see Real Live’s Tangled” versus BOTT) she would be JUDAS! 
    • (30:30) I found info on the song itself / (32:40) these are people trying to live a dignified life and going out as they lived, which we can all learn from! / Days of 49 from Folkways (33:27) and Pike’s Peak (34:08) / ghost towns (34:30) in KS and CA 
    • (35:10) Yankee songs from BDE and quote on Days of 49” as museum piece” / (36:00) this song as resonance of American history, referencing Honest With Me” / 
  • (39:00) The 10 episode check in
    • Kelly’s seen so many side of Bob Dylan for it being random, it’s turned out well
  • Recommendations
    • Kelly (43:10)
      • Naked and Afraid XL / Politically Reactive / 
    • Daniel (44:15)
      • TV: Leftovers S3, Fargo S3, British Bake Off Series 6
      • Carrie and Lowell Live and my writing 

Kelly’s Gold Rush History Corner


K: Okay, so I watched a couple of YouTube videos about the Gold Rush of 1849 so that I could educate myself. They were all under 10 minutes. It took me like 13 minutes to watch them all. I learned that there was this one

D: They’re all under 10?

K – Yes.”

K 2 of them were 3 minutes long. One was 8, way too long. So, I found out there was this guy, this Swedish guy, I don’t remember his name, it was probably Bill. I think it’s always Bill. So.

D There’s a lot of Bills.” 

K Swedish Bill. / OH OH, is it Sumpter? No. No. Is it Sumpter? No. It’s not Sumpter. Swedish Bill something built a fort out in California in a bunch of land and he was starting this agricultural EMPIRE right, he had like ALL the farms.”

D There was a Fort Sumpter but that’s in South Carolina. That’s the beginning of the Civil War.”

K What is his name? It’s not important.

D It’s Bill”

K So, Swedish Bill not his name has

D He could fit in this song though”

K but he has a bunch of debt for some reason. He has all this debt to creditors so he’s like, I need to get more people out here to do stuff.’ He ends up with like hundreds of employees somehow working on his farms. He hires this other guy Sawmill Bill to build him a sawmill. And while Sawmill Bill is building his sawmill he sees, in the river, the American River, it’s named THE AMERICAN RIVER, is that still a thing?”

D It is. It’s outside of Sacramento.”

K Sawmill Bill is building his sawmill at the American River, he looks down, sees gold, freaks out. Oh Shit. I don’t want none of this because if people find out there’s gold here, they’re gonna be all over our shit.” So he tells Swedish Bill this is a bad idea.”If people find out there’s gold out here, they’re gonna swarm the fucking river and I’m not gonna be able to build my sawmill.” And he’s like, This is a problem. We are building an agricultural empire. This is priority number 1. Let’s not tell anybody.’ SPOILER! Everyone finds out there’s gold in the river! So

D Who told? Which Bill?

K No. Well, see, there’s no confirmed reports that it was Swedish Bill

D I’m sure there is not.”

K My money’s on Swedish Bill because he owed people a lot.”

D He’s like, Ayyy I’mma need that gold.”

K So. People are like, Is there really gold in California tho cause we’re all skeptical and shit and California is really far, far away from everywhere else in America. Because America just even started being, or rather California just started being America, like, just then in 1849 because, or 1848, because the Spanish nope Mexican-American War ended in 1848. There wasn’t even California before that. I mean there was but it wasn’t America’s California. Then American took over’ California and that’s when we get Swedish Bill and, you know, the rest because I just told that, right? So then President Haaarrdddinng? nope nope a president

D Polk”

K POLK! That’s his name! Tells people that, Hey guys on the East Coast, there is legit gold up in that water, go get it!’ And then everybody goes out there. Turns out: there’s not a whole lotta gold and everybody gets fucking sick from cholera! 20% of people died just from cholera. 5% of people die from cholera. The other 20% die from other GARBAGE stuff that happens to you when you gold mine. And insurance companies won’t even insure them cause that shit’s risky. You know who makes all the money? There’s this one asshole not Swedish Bill he’ll be… Manipulative Bill. Manipulative Bill, the day before, like, he’s like oh shit, I’ve got my ear to the ground, people are a-coming for this gold, right? Polk just said some shit. Thing are about to pop off. So he, the day before there’s this huge flood of people, buys all of the shovels and metal pans and all of the things that you would need for mining. Buys ALL OF THEM. And Manipulative Bill sells them all the next day to these people coming in…”

D Or Opportunistic Bill?” 

K Manipulative Bill. Well, Understanding of Supply and Demand Bill, buys all these things for like 20 cents a piece and sells them for $15 fucking dollars! Which I feel like is a lot of money for 1849.

D You also need it though.

K Yeah, you need it. That doesn’t… Supply and Demand. That’s why Knowledge of Supply and Demand Bill [a new character?] knows. And so he’s the one that makes the most… He made $36,000 1849 dollars in NINE WEEKS

D That’s crazy. Even in today’s dollars that’s a good chunk of change

K And that, is the Gold Rush of 1849





010 Days of 49” #SelfPortrait


Recommendations: Carrie and Lowell Live by Sufjan Stevens; 


This experience was transportive. Not just with the lights or the sense of being abducted by aliens, but because he was singing about my home for almost 3 years and I was compelled to watch from afar. He mourned a complicated and difficult relationship that ended abruptly with no sense of finality, no resolution. He found strength in the pulses of wonder, regret, estrangement, attachment and chaos that ebbs and flows in these songs. It felt like he was talking to me when he said sadness is important but to wallow in misery too long helps no one. Look up! Look up! Look up!,” he said, talking about the windows of the world we must keep open. There’s light all around you!” I’d steeled myself to these songs unlike the girl next to me who bawled the entire time but I almost lost it in that split second of wondrous human recognition. It was dark, yes, but in the squalor, Sufjan suffused beauty and awe as our lens. Here’s suffering! Here’s resentment! Here’s sadness! he almost seemed to be screaming, But look! Here’s Perseus! Here’s the Pacific Ocean! Here’s transcendence! Sufjan sculpted a sonic spire that stretched into the exosphere and beyond, knocking firmly on the door to the Tower of Song.


I have this strong attachment to these shows: swallowing a feather in Richmond, crying after Eugene” here in Portland, the dance party in Brooklyn. There is no one quite like Sufjan in Illinois sweater, in day-glo wings or quietly singing from the stage



Use my stories for Starving in the episode to highlight the days of 49, and after


Self Portrait

“Bob Dylan: That album was put out … [because] at that time … I didn’t like the attention I was getting. I [had] never been a person that wanted attention. And at that time I was getting the wrong kind of attention, for doing things I’d never done. So we released that album to get people off my back. They would not like me anymore. That’s … the reason that album was put out, so people would just at that time stop buying my records, and they did. [1981]”


“Bob Dylan: I said, Well, fuck it. I wish these people would just forget about me. I wanna do something they can’t possibly like, they can’t relate to’ … And then I did this portrait for the cover. I mean, there was no title for that album … And I said, Well, I’m gonna call this album Self Portrait’ … And to me it was a joke. [1984]”


“They were truly his lexicon and … prayer-book.’ If it is possible to glean intent from a set of tape logs, then Dylan’s original’ intent was the same as the one that inspired his attempt at a joint Dylan–Cash project, and the album of country covers he recorded in Nashville in the spring of 1969—to put together a set of covers that reflected something of who he was, and how he came to be.” (Heylin, Behind the Shades)


“The result: an album of outtakes and live oddities from one of the least interesting periods of Dylan’s career.” (Heylin)


“Days of 49” is flavorful period Americana.”  Robert Shelton. No Direction Home


“What is this shit?” Greil Marcus challenged Dylan, warning, Unless he returns to the marketplace, with a sense of vocation and the ambition to keep up with his own gifts,” the music of 1965–66 would dominate his career.” Griel Marcus


“It was another step in Dylan’s retreat from significance toward being the simple man, the country squire pictured inside the album jacket standing near a barn, talking to a chicken. Perhaps he figured that if Nashville Skyline had reached more listeners than any previous album, he should try a middle-of-the-road approach and touch even more people. Now I view Self Portrait as an experiment in appealing to Middle America on its own terms. Dylan later said: A lot of worse stuff was appearing on bootleg records.” It was, so to speak, my own bootleg record.” Robert Shelton. No Direction Home 

The Days of 49



Old Tom Moore is an example of the returning forty-niner, the disillusioned seeker of that elusive pot of gold.


Yankee songs: a traditional Yankee perspective it deals very consciously with a working community’s suffering, treated through the story of one family’s misfortunes, and that community’s annihilation. The song provides a timely epitaph to the destruction of the folk culture such communities produced, while taking the dynamics of its construction from that kind of culture. When, on the later album Self Portrait, Dylan returns to a genuinely old Yankee song, Days of 49’, he offers it quite rightly as a museum-piece even as he breathes new life into it.” Michael Gray, BDE



  • According to Professor William L. Alderson of Reed College [ Days of 49, Reprise,” Northwest Folklore I (1965): 5—101, the first appearance of this song in print was in The Great New Popular Songster (San Francisco, 1872) where it was described as sung with great success by [Billy] Emerson’s Minstrels at the Alhambra Theatre in San Francisco.” 
  • Professor Alderson says the original song probably was written by banjo artist Charles Bensell (stage name: Charley Rhoades) who died in June 1877. It is certainly a minstrel song par excellence.” It was published in many songsters of the seventies and eighties, including, we are sure, Old Put’s Golden Songster” in its later editions. 
  • “Days of 49″ came originally from Old Put’s Golden Songster”, put together by Old Put himself in Gold Rush Days. He found that, while there was no money in the mines, there were plenty of miners willing to pay for any kind of music or entertainment, this being a scarce commodity. The real money in the gold fields was made by the grocers, dry good salesmen, saloon keepers, and, I guess, musicians. Put probably intended the song to be comic, but people have since found sad truth in it. Jeff Davis, liner notes for Jeff Warner & Jeff Davis, Days of Forty-nine” (Minstrel JD-206, 1977)


 My notes:

  • gin sot
  • A jolly saucy crew
  • Tom Moore, a bummer sure and his crew: New York Jake and Bob Syne / Poker Bill / Ragshag Bill from Buffalo, I never will forget.
  • Like his interjections during the song, the oh’s” and disbelief


 Listen to Days of 49: Songs of the Gold Rush performed by Logan English



One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s