Perrow, Eber Carle (1880–1968). Encyclopedia Of American Folklore

Professor of English and amateur folklorist known primarily for his collection of
folksong texts from the Southeastern United States. Perrow was born in Tye Valley,
Virginia, December 7, 1880, and was exposed at an early age to folklore from both Black
and White sources. Receiving his B.A. (1903) and M.A. (1905) degrees from Trinity
College, he went on to Harvard University, where he studied under George Lyman
Kittredge. Perrow earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1908, taught briefly at the University
of Missouri and elsewhere, and became head of the Department of English at the
University of Louisville in 1911.
From his post at Louisville, Perrow compiled folksong materials, relying heavily on
his students’ contributions and his own memory for texts. Between 1912 and 1915, his
“Songs and Rhymes from the South” (270 texts) was published in installments in the
Journal of American Folklore. Perrow helped found the Kentucky Folklore Society in
1912 and, from 1916 to 1918, served as its third president. Soon after, following medical
advice, he retired from the stress of academic involvements and spent his remaining years
farming and surveying in the north Georgia foothills. He died atTalking Rock, Georgia,
in 1968.
Influenced by the “communalist” theory of ballad origins advanced by Kittredge,
Francis Barton Gummere, and others, Perrow demonstrated the existence of what he felt
was spontaneous group folksong composition by citing religious revivals and community
dances. His own collecting went beyond the literary tradition of English and Scottish
popular balladry set forth by his teachers and encompassed a spectrum of lyric folksong,
American native balladry, plantation rhymes, dance songs, antislavery songs, and
mountain blues.
Perrow, like many others of his generation, tended to view Appalachia as a
homogeneous culture just emerging from the 18th century. In his writing, he perpetuated
certain cultural stereotypes such as mountaineers’ “inborn antipathy toward organized
authority.” Nevertheless, his “Songs and Rhymes of the South” was one of the first
published collections to demonstrate the potential richness of folk music in the Upland
South, a richness that was soon after brought to national prominence by the collecting
and publishing work of Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil Sharp.
Stephen Green
Perrow, E.C. 1957. Background. Kentucky Folklore Record 111:31–37.
Wilgus, D.K. 1957. Eber C.Perrow. Kentucky Folklore Record 111:29–31.