Archive for the 'Mountain/southern us' Category



The Ballad of the Boll Weevil


h1 Monday, October 1st, 2007


Sharecropper working with one-horse plow,
Green County, Georgia, July 1937.
Photo by Dorothea Lange, Farm Security Administration

This is a fairly new folk song. The Boll Weevil didn’t come to Texas from Mexico until around 1900. Sharecroppers who sang this song took delight in identifying with this nearly indestructible insect. It gave them great hope!

Barry McGuire was visiting the Folk Den and we sang The Ballad of the Boll Weevil together, trading verses. McGuinn & McGuire – sit and sing by the fire. To read more about Barry McGuire’s visit, check out Roadie Report 30

Lyrics:
The Ballad of the Boll Weevil

[G] The Boll Weevil is a little black bug come from Mexico they say
[C] All the way from Texas, just a-lookin’ for a place to [G] stay
[D7] Just a-lookin’ for a home, [G] just a-lookin’ for a home
[C] Just a-lookin’ for a home, [G] just a-lookin’ for a home
[D7] Just a-lookin’ for a home, [G] just a-lookin’ for a home

The first time I saw the boll weevil he was sitting in the square
The next time I saw the boll weevil he had his whole family there
Just a-lookin’ for a home (X6)

The farmer took the boll weevil and put him in the hot hot sand
The boll weevil said “This is mighty hot but I’ll stand in it like a man”
This’ll be my home (X6)

The farmer took the boll weevil and put him in a lump of ice
The weevil said to the farmer ” Man! This is mighty cool and nice”
This’ll be my home (X6)

The boll weevil said to the farmer “You can ride that Ford machine
But when I get through with your cotton field you won’t buy no gasoline
You won’t have no home” (X6)

The merchant got half the cotton the boll weevil got the rest
He didn’t leave that farmer’s wife but one old cotton dress
And it was full of holes (X6)

The Boll Weevil is a little black bug come from Mexico they say
All the way from Texas just a-lookin’ for a place to stay

Sugar Baby


h1 Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

The New Lost City Ramblers were the first to introduce me to this song in the early 60s in New York City. Mike Seeger of the Ramblers had made friends with Dock Boggs who was famous for recording “Sugar Baby” for Brunswick Records in 1926. The song was eventually included on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.

Mike gave Boggs the opportunity to come to New York and record again after a long hiatus from the music business. Dock’s style of banjo playing is interesting because he didn’t use the claw hammer approach common to most banjo stylists of Appalachia. Dock used a three finger up-picking technique that was quite unique.

This song also appears on “Harry Smith Connection” sung by Jeff Tweedy, Jay Bennett and me – a compilation CD recorded live at the Wolf Trap Farm in October, 1997

The Harry Smith Connection

Lyrics:
Sugar Baby

Oh I’ve got no sugar baby now
All I can do is to seek peace with you
And I can’t get along this a-way
Can’t get along this a-way

All I can do, I’ve said all I can say
I’ll send it to your mama next payday
Send you to your mama next payday.

I got no use for the red rockin’ chair,
I’ve got no honey baby now
Got no sugar baby now

Who’ll rock the cradle, who’ll sing the song
Who’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone
Who’ll rock the cradle when I’m gone?
I’ll rock the cradle, I’ll sing the song
I’ll rock the cradle when you gone.

It’s all I can do
It’s all I can say,
I will send you to your mama next payday

Laid her in the shade, give her every dime I made
What more could a poor boy do
What more could a poor boy do?

Oh I’ve got no honey baby now
Got no sugar baby now

Said all I can say, I’ve done all I can do
And I can’t make a living with you
Can’t make a living with you

The Coo Coo


h1 Sunday, July 1st, 2007

“The Coo Coo” is a “folk-lyric” style song, where verses are interchangeable with verses from other folk songs such as “The Wagoner’s Lad,” and “East Virginia,” which are otherwise unrelated. The first verse can also be heard in “Way Down The Old Plank Road” sung by Dave Macon. “The Coo Coo” was originally recorded by Clarence “Tom” Ashley in Johnson City TN November 23, 1929.
This song style possibly developed between 1850 – 1875 in Kentucky.

A British version can be found in Cecil Sharp’s collection: “Folk Songs From Somerset.”

Lyrics:
No chords are given because it’s all in A modal tuning.

The Coo Coo

Gonna build me – log cabin on a mountain so high
So I can – see Julie as she goes on by

Aw the Coo Coo is a pretty bird she warbles as she flies
She never hollers coo coo till the fourth day July

I’ve played cards in England I’ve played cards in Spain
I’ll bet you ten dollars that I’ll beat you next game

Jack of diamonds jack of diamonds I’ve known you from old
Now you’ve robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold

I wish I had a good horse and corn to feed him on
I wish I had Julie to feed him when I’m gone

I’ve played cards in England I’ve played cards in Spain
I’ll bet you ten dollars I’ll beat you this game

Aw the Coo Coo is a pretty bird she warbles as she flies
She never hollers coo coo till the fourth day July

The Butcher’s Boy


h1 Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

The Butcher’s Boy
Buell Kazee recorded this on January 16, 1928 in New York City. The original recording was included on Harry Smith’s “Anthology of American Folk Music” Originally released in 1952 on a six LP set and again in 1997 on a six CD set. The “Harry Smith Anthology” was the cornerstone of the folk revival of the 50s and 60s. I didn’t own a copy but learned many of these songs second hand at places like the Gaslight in Greenwich Village. “The Butcher’s Boy” is another of the sad ending songs popular in Appalachian love ballads. I love the G modal banjo tuning on this.
Lyrics:
BUTCHER’S BOY

She went upstairs to make her bed
And not one word to her mother said

Her mother she went upstairs too
Saying, “Daughter, oh daughter, what troubles you?”

“Oh mother, oh mother, I cannot tell
That butcher’s boy I love so well

He courted me my life away
And now at home he will not stay”

“There is a place in London town
Where that butcher’s boy goes and sits down

He takes that strange girl on his knee
And tells to her what he won’t tell me”

Her father he came up from work
Saying, “Where is my daughter, she seems so hurt”

He went upstairs to give her hope
And found her hanging from a rope

He took his knife and cut her down
And in her bosom these words were found

“Go dig my grave both wide and deep
Place a marble slab at my head and feet

And over my coffin, place a snow white dove
To warn the world that I died of love

Pretty Polly


h1 Thursday, June 1st, 2006

On our way up to Oriental North Carolina for a concert, we stopped for “Carolina Bar-B-Que” at a place called “Prissy Polly’s” just south of Winston Salem. The name reminded me of a song we recorded in the Byrds on the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album called “Pretty Polly.” I’d known the song since my days at the Old Town School of Folk Music and had always loved the modal tuning on the banjo and guitar in spite of the morbid lyrics. This is a good example of a song used for spreading the news of the day, way back before radio, television or the Internet. The content of the news today is however strikingly similar.
Lyrics: [G modal tuning]

There used to be a gambler who courted all around
There used to be a gambler who courted all around
He courted Pretty Polly such beauty had never been found

Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly come go along with me
Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly come go along with me
Before we get married some pleasures to see

She jumped up behind him and away they did go
She jumped up behind him and away they did go
Down into the valley that was far below

They went a little further and what did they spy?
They went a little further and what did they spy?
But a new dug grave with a spade lying by

Oh Willy dear Willy, I’m afraid of your way
Oh Willy dear Willy, I’m afraid of your way
I’m afraid you might lead my poor body astray

Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly you’ve guessed it just right
Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly you’ve guessed it just right
I dug on your grave the better part of last night

He stabbed her in the heart til her heart’s blood did flow
He stabbed her in the heart til her heart’s blood did flow
Down into the grave Pretty Polly did go

Now a debt to the Devil that Willy must pay
Now a debt to the Devil that Willy must pay
For killing Pretty Polly and running away

On Top Of Old Smokey


h1 Friday, July 1st, 2005

Smokey2.jpg

I remember lying on the floor in front of the big brown cathedral radio at my grandmother's house, listening to The Weavers sing 'On Top of Old Smokey.' It was on the 'Hit Parade' back then, just as popular as Coldplay, Weezer or Black Eyed Peas are today. It's still a great song. I recorded it with my new 7-string Martin, a 5-string banjo and bass, with a few Rickenbacker 12-string licks at the end.
Lyrics:
[D] On top of old [G] Smokey
All covered with [D] snow
I lost my true [A] lover
For courting too [D] slow

Courting 's a pleasure
And parting is a grief
But a false hearted lover
Is worst than a thief

For a thief he will rob you
And take what you have
But a false hearted lover
Will lead you to your grave

The grave will decay you
And turn you to dust
One girl in a thousand
That a poor boy can trust

For they'll hug and they'll kiss you
And tell you more lies
That the crossties on a railroad
Or the stars in th sky

So come all you young fellows
Take a warning from me
Never place your affection
On a green growing tree

For the leaves they will wither
And the roots will decay
And a false hearted lover
Will soon fade away

On top of old Smokey
All covered with snow
I lost my true lover
For courting too slow

So Early In The Spring


h1 Sunday, May 1st, 2005

early_spring.jpg

This is a sea chantey that got distilled, and transformed into a love ballad in the Appalachian Mountains. The origin is Scottish, but the lyrical style is obviously from the Southern United States. Many settlers to the New World brought their music with them, only to have it subtly changed over time.

Another example of this phenomenon is Jean Ritchie's song 'Nottamun Town,' which only survived by being brought to North America. When, as a Fulbright Scholar she visited Nottingham, England to research the roots of the song, it had completely disappeared in its original form.

Appalachian Traditional Music, A Short History:

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/appalach.htm

Lyrics:
SO EARLY IN THE SPRING

[A] It being early in the spring
I went on board to serve my [E] king
[A] Leaving my dearest [F#m] dear behind
She [E] oftimes swore her heart was[F#m] mine

As I lay smiling in her arms
I thought I held ten thousand charms
With embraces kind and a kiss so sweet
Saying We'll be married when next we meet

As I was sailing on the sea
I took a kind opportunity
Of writing letters to my dear
But scarce one word from her did hear

As I was walking up London Street
I shoved a letter from under my feet
Straight lines being wrote without any blot
Saying seldom seen is soon forgot

I went up to her father's hall
And for my dearest dear did call
She's married, sir, she's better for life
For she has become a rich man's wife

If the girl is married, whom I adore
I'm sure I'll stay on land no more.
Straight lines being wrote without any blot
Saying seldom seen is soon forgot

So come young lads take a warn from me
If in love you'll ever be
For love is patient,love is kind,
Just never leave your love behind

It being early in the spring
I went on board to serve my king
Leaving my dearest dear behind
She oftimes swore her heart was mine

New words and new music by Roger McGuinn (C) 2005 McGuinn Music (BMI)

Follow The Drinking Gourd


h1 Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

gourd.gif

Special thanks to Nedra Talley Ross (of the Ronettes) for background vocals.

http://www.history-of-rock.com/ronettes.htm

FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD DECODED

[A] Follow the [Em] drinking gourd!
[A] Follow the [Em] drinking gourd.
For the [G] old man is [D] waiting to [C] carry you to [D] freedom
[Em] Follow the [D] drinking [Em] gourd.

The old man in this chorus was Peg Leg Joe, a sailor-turned-carpenter who had lost part of his right leg in an accident at sea. Joe wintered in the South doing odd jobs, from plantation to plantation. When he wasn't working he taught the slaves this song containing a secret escape route to freedom in the North.

The Drinking Gourd is not a gourd, but the Big Dipper with its two pointer stars (Dubhe and Merak) that visually lead to the North Star.
By following the North Star the slaves were able to consistently navigate northward.

When the sun comes back and the first quail calls,
Follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is waiting to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd.

Each year when the quails migrated south, the slaves were told to begin their journey northward, which entailed crossing the unnavigable Ohio River. It was too swift and wide to cross, except in winter, when it was frozen and slaves could walk to the other shore on the ice.

The riverbank makes a very good road,
The dead trees will show you the way,
Left foot, peg foot traveling on,
Following the drinking gourd.

Peg Leg Joe marked one bank of the Tombigbee River in Mississippi with his easily identifiable footprints. By following them and the dead trees along the riverbank, the slaves could have a safe journey free from plantation owner's hounds.

The river ends between two hills,
Follow the drinking gourd,
There's another river on the other side,
Follow the drinking gourd.

When the Tombigbee ended, the slaves were told to continue northward, over the hills, to the Tennessee River where the Underground Railroad would help them.

Lyrics:
FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD

[Em] When the sun goes back and the [C] first quail calls
[Em] Follow the [D] drinking [Em] gourd
[Em] The old man is a-waitin' for to [C] carry you to freedom
[Em] Follow the [D] drinking [Em] gourd

[A] Follow the [Em] drinking gourd!
[A] Follow the [Em] drinking gourd.
For the [G] old man is [D] waiting to [C] carry you to [D] freedom
[Em] Follow the [D] drinking [Em] gourd.

The river bed makes a mighty fine road,
Dead trees to show you the way
And it's left foot, peg foot, traveling on
Follow the drinking gourd

CHORUS

The river ends between two hills
Follow the drinking gourd
There's another river on the other side
Follow the drinking gourd

CHORUS

I thought I heard the angels say
Follow the drinking gourd
The stars in the heavens gonna show you the way
Follow the drinking gourd

CHORUS

Cindy


h1 Sunday, January 2nd, 2005

Cindy.jpg

This is one of the great American folk songs that I learned at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. I love playing banjo on this song, which according to John Lomax is originally from North Carolina. Cindy is a widely known frolic tune, appearing in many folk music collections and even old elementary school songbooks.
Lyrics:
CINDY

[C] You ought to see my Cindy
She lives away down [G] south
[C] She's so sweet the [F] honeybees
[C] Swarm [G] around her [C] mouth.

cho: Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
Get along [C] home.
Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
I'll [C] marry [G] you some [C] day. (I'm a-gonna leave you now)

Wish I was an apple
Hangin on a tree
An' every time that Cindy passed
She'd take a bite o' me

cho: Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
Get along [C] home.
Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
I'll [C] marry [G] you some [C] day. (I'm a-gonna leave you now)

She took me to the parlor
She cooled me with her fan
She said I was the prettiest thing
In the shape of mortal man

cho: Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
Get along [C] home.
Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
I'll [C] marry [G] you some [C] day. (I'm a-gonna leave you now)

Now Cindy got religion,
She had it once before
When she heered my old banjo
She's the first one on the floor.

cho: Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
Get along [C] home.
Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
I'll [C] marry [G] you some [C] day. (I'm a-gonna leave you now)

Now Cindy got religion,
She wheeled round and round
She got so full of glory
That she knocked the preacher down

cho: Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
Get along [C] home.
Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
I'll [C] marry [G] you some [C] day. (I'm a-gonna leave you now)

[C] You ought to see my Cindy
She lives away down [G] south
[C] She's so sweet that [F] honeybees
[C] Swarm [G] around her [C] mouth.

cho: Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
Get along [C] home.
Get along [F] home, Cindy Cindy
I'll [C] marry [G] you some [C] day. (X2)

Some additional verses:

Cindy in the summertime
Cindy in the fall
If I can't have Cindy all the time
Have no one at all.

Cindy is a pretty girl
Cindy is a peach;
Threw her arms around my neck
Hung on like a leach.

Cindy got religion,
Tell you what she done:
Walked up to the minister
Chawed her chewin' gum.

Cindy got religion,
She had it once before
When she heered my old banjo
She's the first one on the floor.

Cindy got religion
She really went to town;
Got so full of glory, Lord,
Shook her stockin's down.

If I had a pretty gal
I'd put her on a shelf;
Ev'ry time she smiled at me,
I'd jump right up myself.

Cindy had one blue eye
She also had one brown
One eye looked in the country
The other one looked in town

Wish I had a needle and thread
Wish that I could sew
I'd sew that gal to my coat tails
And down the road we'd go

alt chorus:
Git along home, Cindy
Git along home to stay
Git along home, Cindy
One more night 'n' day

alt cho: It's kiss me, gal
Kiss me once again.
Oh, it's kiss me, gal
All night long.

Ezekiel Saw A Wheel


h1 Thursday, April 1st, 2004

EZ_Wheel.gif

Image Credit: http://www.untiedmusic.com/ezekiel/

This is a spiritual I learned many years ago at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. It refers to a part of the Old Testament where Ezekiel sees a vision of concentric wheels floating in space. They have many properties attributed to flying saucers. It makes one wonder whether people who claim to see flying saucers are seeing into a spiritual dimension. There are many mysteries.

I have recorded this song in the new genre Pho-Kop to coincide with the April 1, 2004 release of my new CD 'Limited Edition' where Pho-Kop first appears in the song 'Shady Grove.'

Trad., Arr. R. McGuinn / McGuinn Music (BMI) 2004

Lyrics:
[G] Ezekiel saw a wheel, way up in the middle of the air

Ezekiel saw a wheel way in the [D] middle of the [G] air

Little wheel run by faith, big wheel run by the grace of God

Ezekiel saw a wheel way in the [D] middle of the [G] air