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A legend in the folk music community, John Jacob Niles enjoyed a lengthy career as a balladeer, folk collector, and songwriter. Ever close to his Kentucky roots, he spent much of his adulthood searching for the most well-loved songs of the southern Appalachia. The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles brings together a wealth of songs with the stories that inspired them, arranged by a gifted performer. This new edition includes all of the melodies, text, commentary, and illustrations of the 1961 original and features a new introduction by Ron Pen, director of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky.

"Niles’s stories and the songs themselves flesh out the line drawings of preservationist recordings."—Green Man Review

"The histories accompanying each ballad in this work are delightful histories, anecdotes and vignettes, interesting in and of themselves."—Kentucky Libraries

"Niles has really given us two books in one: a superior 'Child-ballad' songster, [and] a series of descriptions, anecdotes, and folksay from informants. . . . For more than fifty years he has made a traditional culture seem as beautiful as his own devoted and dignified spirit."—New York Herald-Tribune

"His most ambitious effort in a long and rich career."—New York Times

"A treasure trove for musicians, living history enthusiasts, and many other readers."—Reviewers Consortium

"His comments are as valuable as the songs are beautiful. . . . A marvelous book."—Washington Post

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






John Jacob Niles, Kentucky, Ballads, Folk songs




Reprint of original 1961 edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin).

Includes background material on the songs, piano accompaniment, chord symbols, and illustrations from the 1961 original edition.

With a new introduction by Ron Pen.

The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles
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