From the album “American Folk and Gambling Songs”.
The Gambling Songs were written by my father, John Jacob Niles, at the request of the famous baritone John Charles Thomas. John Charles Thomas, who had a very distinguished Metropolitan Opera Company of New York, became very well known with the American public on the radio. His renditions of “Annie Laurie” or “On the Road to Mandalay” were very popular with the radio audiences. In those days–the 1930’s and 1940’s–White singers sang Black Music. There were not a lot of Black singers on the concert stage in those days with the exception of Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson. And it was Robeson who indirectly brought about the commission of these songs. [Source]
[via Martin B. Jorck]