Sonntag, 26. Februar 2012

John the Balladeer


John the Balladeer

By Manly Wade Wellman.

Baen Books 1988


Hi Folks, it’s going to be a shorter post this week. The sun is shining, it’s pushing 50° and I have some garden work to do!

I had a hard time on deciding whether a paperback from 1988 qualifies as “vintage” or not. In my  eyes since I was already married for a year back then and close to being 30 than 20 it isn’t really all so “vintage” to me. But then I decided,  ”what the hell”. If you’re under 40 then I guess that you would consider this a vintage paperback.

I’ve been in love with the ManlyWade Wellman’s “Silver John” stories since I first read “The Desrick on Yandro” in “Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum” back in the late 1960s. Of course I didn’t know back then that this was part a series of short stories and (much later on) and novels. When I was small we would drive down from Ohio to North Carolina to visit my maternal Grand Parents. The road over the Mountains was still 2 lanes back then between the West Virginian Turn Pike and Mt. Airy North Carolina (Andy and Barney country.). You didn’t have Interstate 77 back then. You had to take the old Rt. 52. It was an amazing drive that took more than 5 hours to cross over the Blue Ridge Mts. There were forest covered mountains as far as the eye could see and to a 10 year old “Buckeye” it was amazing and a little bit frightening since you never new what was out there. I know now though. It was the world of “John the Balladeer”. My Dad, being a joker” claimed that there was a little lost Indian boy who we needed to keep an eye out for. This he explained, was why we constantly saw road signs which said “Watch for Falling Rocks”.  Back then, you were a real cut up Dad! :-)

To keep it short, “Silver John” aka “John the Balladeer” is a Korean War veteran from the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina who wanders the back roads and forgotten places of the Appalachian Mountain chain running from Virginia down to northern Georgia. Armed with only his silver strung guitar, wits, courage, a small book of bible inspired counter charms and a very strong faith in God and Jesus, John does battle with the forces of evil haunting the eastern mountains and her peoples.

Wellman settled in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina and feel in love with her people and folkways. This shows in the entire series of Silver John stories which were mostly published in “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction back in the 1950s. The stories take place in an Appalachia that never was but should have been. His mountains are populated with proud God fearing people who are often besieged by supernatural forces that exist only in Appalachian folk lore. These stories are a love song to the mountains and her people. Even if these people are living simple lives in a simpler world, they are treated with the utmost respect. This is just is one of the things that make these stories work so well. These stories also receive a timeless quality by all taking place in the forgotten/hidden places of the mountains. John being a humble mover and shaker makes him a sympathetic narrator who never comes off as boastful. An lastly the huge list of supernatural entities and “monsters” that exist only in this mountain world gives the stories a flavour that is found no where else. This book is still in print and available by Amazon or you can read it online here at Baen Books!





Table of Contents

O Ugly Bird!
The Desrick on Yandro
Vandy, Vandy
One Other
Call Me From the Valley
The Little Black Train
Shiver in the Pines
Walk Like a Mountain
On the Hills and Everywhere
Old Devlins Was A-Waiting
Nine Yards of Other Cloth
Wonder as I Wander:
Farther Down the Trail
Trill Coster's Burden
The Spring
Owls Hoot in the Daytime
Can These Bones Live?
Nobody Ever Goes There
Where Did She Wander?

And lastly, here are two clips from the awful, but well meaning film versuion "The Legend of Hill Billy John" The clip says 1974 but I swear i saw in in north Carolina back in October 1973.


  1. The ad for the movie intrigued the heck out of me when I came across it as a kid in the Little Rock newspaper, & I finally found a copy of the flick on VHS a couple of years ago. It's ... not a masterpiece, but it was decent enough.

    First copy of WHO FEARS THE DEVIL I ever owned was a British edition with a really neat cover from around 1974. About 15 years later, I found the Ballantine first pb edition in a used store in the French Quarter while I was living near New Orleans. I think the store a couple of miles from my house still has a copy of that one ...

  2. The UK edition has the guitar on cover, right?
    I actualy saw this film back during the fall of 73 down in Jacksnonville NC. Or maybe it was the summer of 74. Anyways, it was in the same cinema where I saw "The Devil's Rain" at around the same time.
    The lady selling tickets didn't care about your age!
    Take care.

    1. That's the one. Some mail-order place I used to buy PBs from back in the mid-'70s regularly offered UK editions; I remember various Clark Ashton Smith collections with really striking graphics, as well as Hodgson's CARNAKI THE GHOST-FINDER.

      As it happens, DEVIL's RAIN is one of the relatively few horror movies I was able to see at the cinema as a kid. My home county was too small to have a cinema (it's a lot smaller now) -- the one downtown in my hometown closed around '68, judging from the fact that John Wayne's THE HELLFIGHTERS remained on the marquee for years afterward -- & I had to depend on my mother for rides to the next town of any size whatsover. Which is how I was able to see THE OTHER & some Amicus anthology at one drive-in & NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD at another ...