The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #86330   Message #1604799
Posted By: Q (Frank Staplin)
14-Nov-05 - 02:05 PM
Thread Name: PC-Where is thy sting?-'Pick a Bale of Cotton' Ban
Subject: RE: Folklore: Ban 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?
First collected from prison farms in Texas, a boastful song about picking an impossibly large quantity of cotton (it has never been done). The version with the lines about the "nigger from Shiloh" was sung by Moses Clear Rock Platt, African-American singer, story teller and sometime prisoner on prison farms in Texas. His material was first recorded by Lomax (printed in Lomax and Lomax, 1934, "American Ballads and Folk Songs," pp. 231-233).

Pete Seeger picked it up, and along with the printed version in Silber, "Folksinger's Wordbook," p. 123 (with chords), it became a standard among folk singers. I believe it was Seeger who introduced the "Jump down turn around" lines, borrowed from the old dance and strut songs (Jump Jim Crow, mentioned in a previous post) of the minstrels. Another African-American who recorded it, first on a Texas prison farm, was James 'Ironhead' Baker (Rounder Records).

According to the Traditional Ballad Index, Seeger also recorded it with Sonny Terry.

The Lead Belly version is posted in thread 72256. Pick a Bale

Rather than teaching and interpreting American history, many would suppress it and stick to "Yankee Doodle" and "Remember the Alamo."