BRAWD AUTISTICO "On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine... Again"
Updated: Feb 14, 2021
PONG! A sudden clatter of falling bin lids disrupts the peaceful ambience of a slumbering residential street.
“Shh!” the universal response is echoed by the muffled giggling of three drunken young men.
“You’ve got to be quiet!”
A young girl leads them up the steps to her front door. She fumbles with her keys for a moment then slips inside, holding the door open for her intoxicated guests. She then shuts it behind her, restoring peace to the amber-lit neighbourhood.
The three men stand huddled together in the living room now, the light bright and sobering, what with them having been in the dark confines of a Bangor nightclub for the past few hours. Their sweaty hair and excited eyes suggest that they have had a good time. Two of the lighter-haired ones appear to be brothers, but the other looks very different to them in comparison. The girl eventually returns with two duvets and couple of cans of lager.
She dumps a duvet on each sofa and places the cans on the coffee table then bids two of them goodnight before taking one of the brothers by his hand and leading him upstairs. He gives the boys one last triumphant smirk before vanishing behind the bannister.
Giggling like schoolgirls, the other two crack open the cans and settle into their dens for the night. “I’m jealous of you being able to go out on the piss with your brother like this, mate- must be class!”
“Ah yeah, you can’t really do it with yours, can you? Does he drink at all? You can take him down the pub for a game of pool, right?!”
“Yeah, but- we will sometimes, but he doesn’t really grasp the concept of turn-taking or rules of play and stuff like that… and we’ll give him a drink, maybe two, but he downs them, see- he’d be lysh gachu if we gave him a crate!”
“Hahahaha! Who wouldn’t be?!”
“Haha! That is true... but, I meant like, proper nights out ‘n stuff- can't be done… anyway, so what do we do to entertain ourselves now that he's getting his end away…?”
“We could sing a sea shanty? That’s what they did in the good ol’ days, isn’t it?!”
“Haha! Sounds good! She did tell us to keep quiet, mind! Know any songs?”
"I got one... ahem... 'ooon a mountaiin in Virginiiia'..."
“I sing that song with my brother all the time!”
“No shit?! Wait… he can sing?”
“Aye! Well, he's completely tone deaf, just like his brother, like... but he knows all the words! We even change our voices for the bass and tenor bits, and do the whole ‘in-Vir-gin-ia’ background-singing bit.”
“Ha! So do you like Laurel and Hardy then, yeah?”
“I love Laurel and Hardy! We used to watch it all the time as kids!”
“No shit?! So did me and my brother! We both have all the DVDs at home, a set each!”
“Yeah. It used to be just me, but he kept nibbling on the cases, so we gave that set to him and I bought a new one… doesn’t stop him sneaking into my room to eat them, mind! But yeah, that’s nuts! Laurel and Hardy are a big part of our lives, to be honest… they’re on all the time, we re-enact scenes together, we sing ‘Lonesome Pine’ together in the mornings, do all the catchphrases… I'll do a little stunt and ask him where it's from and he'll say 'Laure a Har-di!'...”
Indeed, it is not uncommon whenever I stay at my parents’ house for me to wake up in the mornings to the sound of my brother singing “On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine”, with Dad leading, spontaneously ending his sentences so that my brother can finish them off. Then, towards the end of the song, Dad will suddenly change his tone to that of a deep bass, before coming out with a sudden “BOP!” sound, at which point my brother will continue the song in a hilariously high-pitched tone, ending the song with a drawn-out scream, pretty much.
I’d be lying in bed in my room above the kitchen, smiling to myself, picturing them; Dad drying the dishes as my brother sits at the table, mashing up Weetabix with a spoon.
‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’ was released way back in 1913, with lyrics by Ballard MacDonald and music by Harry Carroll. You may have seen it listed on a karaoke machine somewhere. It is not to be confused with bluegrass band Blue Highway’s ‘Lonesome Pine’, mind... the lyrics go:
“On a mountain in Virginia Stands a lonesome pine Just below is the cabin home of a little girl of mine Her name is June and very very soon She'll belong to me For I know she's waiting there for me 'neath that lone pine tree In the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia On the trail of the lonesome pine In the pale moonshine our hearts entwine Where she carves her name and I carved mine Oh June like the mountains I am blue Like the pines, I'm lonesome for you In the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia On the trail of the lonesome pine In the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia On the trail of the lonesome pine In the pale moonshine our hearts entwine Where she carves her name and I carved mine Oh June like the mountains I am blue Like the pines, I'm lonesome for you In the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia On the trail of the lonesome pine”
It’s actually based on a 1908 novel of the same name, by John Fox Jr. The book is a romantic western and was among the top ten best-selling novels in both 1908 and 1909, and has been adapted numerous times for the stage and screen, alike.
It’s set in the Appalachian Mountains in North America at the turn of the twentieth century, where a feud between two influential families, the Tollivers and the Falins, had been raging for the near-on thirty years. The character of ‘Devil Judd Tollier’ is based on the real-life “Devil John” Wesley Wright, a US Marshal for the region of Wise County, Virginia and Letcher County, Kentucky at the time. The story went that budding, city-boy entrepreneur 'John Hale' moves to the area and catches the eye of the gorgeous, all-country mountain gal 'June Tolliver'. Trouble and moral dilemmas ensue, mostly themed around the industrialization of rural areas that was taking place at the time. Ultimately, June must choose between family loyalties and the man she loves…
The song was likely first recorded in New York, on 28th March, 1913 by the Spanish-American tenor, Manuel Romain. It was released in June of that year on issue number 1743 of the Edison Blue Amberol Record label. It was not further popularised by Laurel and Hardy until 1937, when they released ‘Way Out West’, a film in which the comedy duo satirized the popular Western films of the time.
In the particular scene, Laurel and Hardy walk into a bar, where a young man is playing guitar and singing ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’. The pair then join in, or take over, rather, backed by The Avalon Boys, who sang and featured in other Laurel and Hardy films, as well as Chill Wills, who provided the deep bass for the part in which Stan decides to man the song up a bit, and Rosina Lawrence, who sang the last bit when Stan is hit on the head with a mallet and resorts to using a high-pitched, feminine voice.
Later, in 1975, when Laurel and Hardy films were popular on British television, the UK branch of United Artists Records produced an album comprising of dialogue and songs called ‘Laurel and Hardy- The Golden Age of Hollywood Comedy’ , which included ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’. As a result, the song was released as a single and reached No.2 in the UK Singles Charts! This was mainly thanks to it being championed by BBC Radio One disc jockey, John Peel.
Since, numerous artists have produced their own covers of the song, including English heavy-metal band Tokyo Blade, with ‘Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia’. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly also performed this routine as part of their 2019 biographical film, ‘Stan & Ollie’.
Growing up, it seemed almost as though Stan and Ollie were part of the family. I imagined generations of male family members passing on the ‘Stan and Ollie Gene’, brain-washing their sons into laughing hysterically at grown men experiencing deadly amounts of pain.
Dad would tell of an uncle of his who would sit in his armchair and belly-laugh at Stan and Ollie’s antics, tears streaming down his face as he cried out “Iesu Grist! Watchad! Watcha-ahahaha!” Dad had the entire collection on VHS, and the three of us would watch them religiously. It even got to the point where I was showing them off to my mates whenever they came round!
And as we grew, Stan and Ollie featured as integral parts of our interactions. We would re-enact scenes from the films together and sing the songs, or mimic the actors’ actions as the film played out in real-time.
I would begin saying one of Ollie’s catchphrases and my brother would finish it off:
“Why don’t you do something to…”
“Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me…”
Indeed, it seems that by being a Laurel and Hardy fan, my brother is carrying on a new family tradition, of sorts. But I do often wonder if his love for Stan and Ollie stems a lot from his fascination with hats.
As I discussed in my very first post, HERMANO AUTISTICO: "Your Brother isn’t like Other Brothers”, my brother can sit for hours at a time studying a hat from various angles. He goes to bed with a cowboy hat and takes it with him on long car journeys, and has an assortment of hats on top of his wardrobe. Sadly, he is yet to obtain a bowler hat, like the ones Laurel and Hardy wear, though his room is decorated with various Laurel and Hardy memorabilia... I’ve looked into buying him one before, but they tend to be insanely expensive, and I mean several hundred pounds... for his next big birthday, perhaps!
Indeed, some of you may know that I have written a blog about my brother and I before, and that it was indeed called ‘Lonesome Pine: Life with an Autistic Brother’. I started 'Lonesome Pine' back in 2012 and it remained in existence for several years, though any new posts had dried out long before then. I received some positive feedback from parents all over the world, and it was used by an autism support group in England on at least one occasion, but on the whole, I neglected the project.
Then, as I grew wiser of copyright infringements, I decided to take it all down and start afresh with ‘Brawd Autistico’, which I hope will reach a wider audience than the previous blog did, and I certainly aim to carry this one on for longer, working closely with Helen Bucke Autism Specialist Services & Training and eventually publish a collection of posts as a paperback book. Hopefully then, ‘Brawd Autistico’ should prove to be a bigger success than ‘Lonesome Pine: Life with an Autistic Brother’ did…
In the meantime, my brother and I will continue to re-enact scenes from Laurel and Hardy films, no doubt, and he and my Dad will surely carry on their melodic morning routine… I say ‘melodic’…
...in any case, I shall leave you with the song itself, performed by Laurel and Hardy et al in Way Out West, 1937...
Thanks for reading. I’m interested to know if there are any other Laurel and Hardy fans who read this blog, or if anyone with an autistic sibling or child share a love for something that is not exactly at the forefront of popular culture…?
Also, growing up, did anyone used to re-enact scenes or rehearse dialogue from films with their siblings like we used to do?