"Annabelle," You Promised!

  • Hi Gillian fans! I wrote this story on Gillian's site on fb back on October 27 of 2011. Unbeknownst to me, the administrator of the site had messaged me, and asked if I would post the story on this site as a blog, a message that was filtered and that I didn't see until recently. So here it is!

     It's hard to know where to start this story. About ten years ago, I was visiting my dear friend and ex-lover Darragh in Burlington, VT, in from Chicago. When I arrived, Darragh and her boyfriend Tom informed me that Gillian Welch was going to be playing at Higher Ground in Winooski, VT at the time. It was a magical concert at which I first heard the songs, "Elvis Blues" and "Everything Is Free," two of my most favorite songs of Gillian's. All night, I kept yelling out a request for her to play "Annabelle," my most favorite of all her songs, but she didn't. After the concert, Gillian came out to meet and greet. I went up to her and told her that I had come all the way from Chicago to see her. "No you didn't," she responded. "Yes, I did," I lied. "No you didn't," she repeated. "Yes, I did," I lied yet again. Gillian then said, "Well, it's silly that you came to see me here, I'll be in Chicago in two months." I then asked that if I came to the concert in Chicago, would she play "Annabelle" for me. She said she would and told me "just yell out, Annabelle, you promised, and I'll play it for you."

    Well two months later, I was at Park West in Chicago for her concert. It was packed and I was sitting in the back. I was nervous but after two or three songs I yelled out, "Annabelle, you promised." She responded, "Oooooooooh yeah. Where was that?" I yelled out "Burlington." What? Burlington."
    She did not play the song in the first set and into the second set she still had not played it, so I yelled out again, "Annabelle, you promised." In frustration she growled "OKAY!" She went on to tell the story of how she recorded the song in mono, against the better judgement of the producer. The song received a huge ovation. After the concert, I went up to her with my copy of Hell Among the Yearlings for her to sign. She thanked me and said that the song worked well in the set.

    Okay now the personal part. I saw Darragh 16 years ago for the first time at a lecture I was giving at a Waldorf School in Shelburne, VT where I now live. I fell in love with her that very moment. We dated for six months, some of which was promising but mostly it was very painful. I stayed in touch with her, because her young son Benjamin was important to me and his father was not in his life. I moved away to California. We spoke to each other at least twice a year and shared everything that was going on in our lives. In one of these conversations, she told me that she had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor which she had surgery to remove most of it. She felt that her life had totally opened up when it had been removed, and she felt totally surrounded by love and loved ones. To cheer her up during her convalescence I sent her a copy of Hell Among the Yearlings which she loved the moment she heard it. She was always tough to figure musically so I felt pretty proud of myself.

    Skip ahead now to 2009. I came back to Burlington to visit Darragh and low and behold she fell in love with me this time. We quickly became engaged and I uprooted my life in Madison, WI to live with her. The tumor had been in remission for 10 years. Soon after I arrived, an MRI showed that the tumor was growing again. In February of 2010, Darragh was admitted to the hospital because of pain and pressure building up in her head from fluid emanating from her tumor. Darragh had surgery again and then finally she had radiation. None of it worked. Darragh died in hospice on September 29 of this year.

    Tonight, I was at the Gillian Welch concert at the Flynn Theatre in Burlington, VT. I had invited my ex-wife Marcie to go with me. At dinner, I told her the story about my two-part brush with Gillian. Marcie suggested that I yell out, "Annabelle, you promised" again. I thought it might be interesting to see if Gillian would remember. But I decided not to do it because I loved her new alburm and was going to be happy with anything she would  choose to play. It was an amazing show!

    During the second set, Gillian announced to the audience that she hadn't planned to, but she was going to play this song. From the first note, I knew that it was Annabelle and I also knew that my love Darragh had whispered in the ear of Gillian and Gillian heard! 


  • JasonK
    JasonK My wife's mother Annabelle died around the time we first heard Revival. The death made my wife an orphan as her father had already passed. Her step father who I believe now to be a wrong'un never gave his wife a gravestone, instead he sold the family...  more
    March 28, 2017 - 1 likes this - Report
  • shinyapple
    shinyapple Thanks for sharing, what a story!
    April 8, 2017 - 2 like this - Report
  • gibsongirl
    gibsongirl thanks for the lovely story, matthew!
    April 14, 2017 - 1 likes this - Report