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Billy Weeks Origin: Jim Along Josey / Jim Along Josie (60* d) RE: Jim Along Josie: lyrics and origin 13 Sep 06

The distinguished actor and vocalist Madame Lucia Vestris sang a parody of 'Jim Along Josey' in an extravaganza based on 'Beauty and the Beast' in Covent Garden in the late 1840s. The song (by Planché) was published as 'The Celebrated Rose Song: Oh get along - get along do!' The lithographed portrait figure on the sheet music front shows Vestris in character in oriental dress with what appears to be a slightly dusky complexion. It would be interesting to know whether she blacked up (even if ever so slightly) for the part.

A collection of minstrel songs published by Turner & Fisher (NY and Philadelphia) about 1840, entitled 'Jim Along Josey Roarer, an entire new collection of negro songs' (running title 'Nigga Songs') testifies to the popularity of JAJ at that time. The title page decoration is of a dancing, barefoot figure in what may be sailor attire. It has all the characteristics of contemporary caricatures of African Americans.

Publishers and performers of early minstrel songs seemed to be happy to blur the origins of their material until such time as primacy and profit became serious issues. Harper, like Cowell claimed JAJ, and no doubt they and other minstrels did invent songs in the genre. I can't myself believe that that genre itself sprang into existence in the 1830s without drawing heavily from African American sources and pre-existing songs. But...

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