Growing up mainly in the small Missouri town of Warrensburg, one couldn't help but become acquainted with the town's famous canine 'mascot' Old Drum. Over the years I've heard many incarnations of and references to the eulogy written about him in 1870 by George Graham Vest.
The oft-recorded "Tribute to a Dog" text was originated by Mr. Vest after he took the case in Sedalia, Missouri, working for a farmer who was suing for the top dollar of the day- $150.00, because his prize foxhound had been shot by a neighbor, who had warned him, by the way, that he'd better keep his dawg at home.
Vest's closing arguments in the case became known as his much-quoted "Eulogy on the Dog". Mr. Vest was a Missouri secessionist who served on the Confederate Senate at one time, and in 1853 had defended a young African American man accused of murder, later acquitted, the poor fellow was burned at the stake anyway by an angry mob. From 1882 on Vest was well-known for his spirited defense and political protection of Yellowstone Park.
I recently came across yet another recording of the text (or at least the pertinent part of it that everyone seems to quote) as well as an a capella rendition of the Old Drum story on a seven-inch single, produced in Kansas City on the Damon label and performed by the Dockery Four (Bill Grace, Jerry Fuchs, John Chronister and Ed Grace). It went a bit higher than most singles that I buy, and I hoped that it would be in playable condition. I wasn't disappointed- it's actually rather nice. On the personal side, I was also interested because during my mother's singing career in the late 1940's and early 1950's, she had recorded a number of sides at Damon, and they were the only records that I had on that obscure label up to the present.
Sadly, I couldn't track down much info about the Dockery Four themselves, although I haven't searched on their individual names. The label informs us that this version of Old Dog Drum was originally titled Old Dog Tray. Well, be it tray or drum, I'll always give a listen to any songs about dogs or food. I had expected that this would be some snappy little country song, but was pleasantly surprised with the actual style and content of the single.
To flesh out this subject a bit, I have included another version of the "Triubute to a Dog" text, by my main man Walter Brennan (some people used to say that I could always steer any subject back to Brennan eventually), and a bonus tear-jerking dog song as well: Old Shep. I learned recently from experience that it IS actually easier to write a tragic dog song, rather than a happy-go-lucky dog song. Oh yeah, these pieces are from Walter's brilliant Dutchman's Gold lp, really his best work, in my opinion. I hope y'all enjoy these melodramatic servings of Dawg Music. The MP3s:
OLD DOG DRUM
TRIBUTE TO A DOG - The Dockery Four version