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180827 August 27, 2018


The Searchers

The Lee Generals and The Searchers
Max Kull
LHS '67

    This was posted on the LHS Class of '67 site just before last September's reunion.  

The Searchers - Do You Notice Anything?

    At least two of us here have John Ford's 'The Searchers' on our list of favorite movies. In my opinion, it's the greatest western ever made. It shows up on pretty much every list of "top westerns", usually at #1 or #2.  The American Film Institute puts it at #1.  Many believe the final shot framed by the doorway is one of cinema's most iconic but John Ford's opening scene is equally impressive. So does anyone notice something significant here for *us*? 

    The answer is that the opening strains heard here are from the song that Jasper Jenkins selected for use when he penned our LHS Alma Mater.  I can't remember exactly what year that was but I do remember it being first introduced at a school assembly while I was there.  Before the song was performed for the first time, Mr. Jenkins explained that the music came from an "old Civil War song."  This seemed fitting since we were the Lee Generals. 

    For those who may not remember, the words added by Jenkins are below:

The Generals’ banner waves above us, 
We love the blue and gray we see.
It tells of friends, love, and trust 
And brings us ever close to Lee.
Ever onward through life’s journey now, 
Though parted we may always be—
Still lingering in our fondest memory, 
Our hearts will ere be true to Lee.
Still lingering in our fondest memory, 
Our hearts will ere be true to Lee.

    The song the tune comes from is 'Lorena'.  I didn't learn anything more about it's history until years later. It started out as a poem (a "lost love's lament") by Rev. Henry D. L. Webster in 1856.  Several years earlier he had fallen hard for Martha Ella Blocksom, a young member of his Zanesville, Ohio, congregation. Apparently the affection was mutual but the young girl's well-to-do relatives persuaded her to break off the relationship due to the meager financial prospects of the young preacher.  In her “break-up” note to Webster, Ella wrote the line “If we try, we shall forget,” which became part of Webster’s poem.  Webster was heartbroken, resigned his position, and moved away.  Around the same time he wrote the poem, the jilted pastor met Joseph P. Webster (no relation) who was looking for lyrics for a tune that he was composing.  The Reverend offered up his poem which was accepted.  There was just one problem.  He had used the name Bertha as a "stand in" for Ella in his poem.  The composer felt the name needed three syllables to properly fit his tune. Lorena was the agreed on substitute, purportedly inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's longed for Lenore from 'The Raven'.  The song was published by Higgins Brothers in Chicago the following year and became a nationwide hit.

    The song increased in popularity after the war broke out a few years later.  It was sung on both sides with the theme of separation and loss of loved ones being especially relevent for soldiers in the field.  It is said that some officers banned the song in their camps because it made the troops homesick to the point that many would desert and head home. From one account, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan called it "The cursed ballad" and ordered his officers to kill the author.  Music historian, Bob Milne recounted another story, "One night 'Lorena' was sung at nearby opposing campfires. The day after, soldiers who had sung to each other the night before refused to fight each other."

    If you'd like to hear the original song, there are many versions available on youtube including those from Bobby Bare, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings. I personally like the two I've linked below.


    This one is by Tom Roush who specializes in 19th century American classics.



    (Editor's Note: To the best of my knowledge this Alma Mater did not exist for the Class of '64; at least I know I never heard it before I graduated in 1964. In checking the '63-'64 Student Handbook there is no mention of a school Alma Mater. Of course history was still being made with each new graduating class back then, so who remembers when this became available?}

        Memphis, TN -  Apparently is still blocking my announcements about the publishing of the latest editions of Lee's Traveller, identifying my emails as spam. This is probably done because I send the announcement to over 300 people each week. I have heard from Glenn James and Rainer Klauss saying they did, in fact, go into their settings and put me on their safe senders list, but that does not seem to eliminate the problem. Until some solution is found I suppose I will have to continue sending out two sets of emails.

    Many thanks this week to Max Kull for supplying this week's feature. It is interesting and I have always loved The Searchers. I can do the dialogue along with most of it while I am watching. Here's a question for it. Do you know which rock and roll singer wrote a song based on a line from the movie and the name of the song? I do!

The Searchers (Band)
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    This is not the answer to the question above, but I was reminded of the group back when I was at Lee called "The Searchers". The Searchers are an English beat group, which emerged as part of the 1960s Merseybeat scene along with The Beatles, The Hollies, The Fourmost, The Merseybeats, The Swinging Blue Jeans, and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

    The band's hits include a remake of the Drifters' 1961 hit, "Sweets for My Sweet"; remakes of Jackie DeShannon's "Needles and Pins" and "When You Walk in the Room"; an original song written for them, "Sugar and Spice"; a cover of The Orlons' "Don't Throw Your Love Away"; and a cover of The Clovers' "Love Potion No. 9". With The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Searchers tied for the second group from Liverpool, after The Beatles, to have a hit in the US when their "Needles and Pins" and The Swinging Blue Jeans' "Hippy Hippy Shake" both reached the Hot 100 on 7 March 1964. Here's a couple of their songs to enjoy.

Sugar and Spice - 1963

Needles and Pins - 1964

When You Walk in the Room

Love Potion #9