Calvary (On a Hill Lone and Gray)

TITLE: Calvary (On a Hill Lone and Grey)
AUTHOR: Words: Beverly F. Carradine, Music: Unknown, possibly Dock Boggs
CATEGORY: Public Domain, Author Known
KEYWORDS: grief, punishment, resurrection, death, dying, Bible, religious, Jesus
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: © 1895, R. M. McIntosh Co., Charles M. Alexander, Owner.
HISTORICAL REFERENCES: It would appear that this song generally follows the passion account of the Gospel of John (Jesus carries his own cross (John 19:17) and makes no complaint. (info from The Traditional Ballad Index)

DockBoggsIf you look up Dock Boggs and “Calvary” there is quite a bit of discussion about his unusual banjo tuning, f#CGAD. But what I like is the tune that Dock Boggs uses and how it draws out the emotions of the lyrics. So I started searching for the lyrics and tune. Knowing Bogg’s brother-in-law, Lee Hansucker, was a Holiness preacher who taught Dock religious songs, I started searching through hymnals from the 1800s. I found the lyrics were written by Beverly F. Carradine (1848-1931) and two different tunes were published with the lyrics, one tune by John R. Bryant in 1895 and another tune in 1896 by Rev. L. L. Pickett. Unfortunately, neither one of these tunes is the one Doc Boggs sung. The Bryant tune is the one the Carter Family recorded.

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • On a Hill Lone and Grey
  • On a Hill Lone and Gray

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO: 

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Crooked Still

Calvary (There’s a Hill Lone and Grey)

There’s a hill lone and grey, in a land far away,
In a country beyond the blue sea.
Where beneath that fair sky went a man forth to die
For the world and for you and for me.

Oh, it bowed down my heart
And the teardrops will start,
When in mem’ry all the grey hill I see.
For ’twas there on its side, Jesus suffered and died
To redeem a poor sinner like me.

Behold faint on the road, ’neath a world’s heavy load,
Comes a thorn crownèd Man on the way,
With a cross He is bowed, but still on through the crowd
He’s ascending that hill lone and grey.

Hark! I hear the dull blow of the hammer swung low;
They are nailing my Lord to the tree,
And the cross they upraised while the multitude gaze
On the blest Lamb of Calvary.

Oh, it bowed down my heart
And the teardrops will start,
When in mem’ry all the grey hill I see.
For ’twas there on its side, Jesus suffered and died,
To redeem a poor sinner like me.

How they mocked Him in death, to His last lab’ring breath,
While His friends sadly weep o’er the way;
But though lonely and faint, still no word of complaint
Fell from Him on the hillock of grey.

Then the darkness came down and the rocks rent around,
And a cry pierced the sad laden air;
’Twas the voice of our King who received death’s dark sting,
All to save us from endless despair.

Oh, it bowed down my heart
And the teardrops will start,
When in mem’ry all the grey hill I see.
For ’twas there on its side, Jesus suffered and died,
To redeem a poor sinner like me.

Well, let the sun hide its face, let the earth reel in space,
Over us, whose Savior we’ve slain;
But behold from the sod, comes the blessed Lamb of God,
Who was slain, but is risen again.

Oh, it bowed down my heart
And the teardrops will start,
When in mem’ry all the grey hill I see.
For ’twas there on its side, Jesus suffered and died
To redeem a poor sinner like me.

For ’twas there on its side, Jesus suffered and died
To redeem a poor sinner like me.

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Blues and Gospel Records 1902-1943, John Goodrich and Robert M.W. Dixon—Amazon Books [mentions a recording for Victor by Rev. F.W. McGee, “On a Hill Lone and Grey” recorded on Tuesday April 15, 1930. Wish I could find it.]
  •  [Roud Folk Song IndexSteve Roud’s Folksong Index, a database pointing to over 170,000 song citations plus broadsides, etc. Citations by Roud Number. Roud #12169
  •  Traditional Ballad Index

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2015 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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