Tales of a Life Well Wasted & Other Gems

Sleep Kentucky Babe

I was sitting at the computer one day doing something totally innocuous and listening to Music Channel’s Soundscapes.  It’s fascinating how certain sounds, sights, smells can trigger specific memories.  One of the songs that was played was a variation on a very old lullaby – I don”t even remember now which one it was.  But that tune triggered the memory of a time when I used to sing a different lullaby to my baby brother.  It’s been so long now I had to wrack my brain for a few minutes to even remember a single phrase, but I did remember enough to be able to go online and find the lyrics.  (Ain’t the Internet wonderful?)

When I was in the 8th grade, one of my electives was a chorus class.  Our teacher had been teaching us old traditional tunes, and this particular lullaby was one of them, which is how I happened to know it.  The song was “Sleep, Kentucky Babe” and my guess is that 98% of the people who read this (all 2 of them, no doubt) will go “huh?”.  When I said it was old, I meant it.  The song is from the turn of the century — the LAST century.

My youngest brother is 11 years younger than I, so he would have been about two years old then.  I am the oldest of six kids, three boys and three girls.  At that time we were living in a little three-bedroom, one-bath house in Sacramento.  We kids were split between two bedrooms.  We girls had bunkbeds and a single bed and shared two drawers each in a six-drawer upright dresser.  The two older boys shared bunkbeds and Bob, the baby, was in a crib.  Poor Bob, he was in that crib until he was five!

I”m not sure if my dad was still working for the Salvation Army or was driving a school bus at that particular time, but my mom was an RN working at one of the Sutter Hospitals.  I think she was working the swing shift then, either part- or full-time.  Dad would make sure we all got bathed and put to bed and Bob was always first.  Sometimes I would sit with him while he was falling asleep, stroking his brow so he would close his eyes and I would sing to him.

He was so young then I doubt he has any memory of it. And until I got it jogged, it had totally escaped mine.

Note: The complete original lyrics and author information can be found here.

“Skeeters am a-hummin’ on the honeysuckle vine,

Sleep, Kentucky babe.

Sandman am a-comin’ to this little babe of mine,

Sleep, Kentucky babe.

Silv’ry moon am shinin’ from the heavens up above.

Bob-o-link am pinin’ for it’s little lady love.

You is mighty lucky, babe from old Kentucky,

Close your eyes and sleep.

Fly away (fly away).

Fly away, Kentucky babe, fly away to rest.

Fly away (fly away).

Lay your sleepy little head on your Daddy’s breast.

Close your eyes and sleep.

Close your eyes and sleep.”