The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #97813 Message #1930167
Posted By: GUEST,Bob Coltman
08-Jan-07 - 09:35 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Alabama Bound & Don't You Leave Me Here
Subject: RE: origin and lyr: Alabama Bound
Just a word of praise to you for working this vein. The Alabama Bound/ Elder Green etc. song cluster is one of the big mysteries.
I agree in suspecting that Jelly Roll, despite his claim, wasn't the originator, that the song goes back further, either in the "Elder Green" or the "Alabama Bound" version. Or, perhaps, the "Big Boat's Up the River" strain may be the original -- an origin in stevedore work chant makes sense, especially given the echo format. Big boat's up the river -- (big boat's up the river) ... etc. A work gang could really wail on that one.
But sound information about any previous version has been hard to find. In a hasty search I find nothing in Talley's Negro Folk Rhymes, which produced precursors to so many other early African-American lyrics.
Also I've never been sure of the meaning of "don't ease me in." If directed to the labor boss, Cunningham, could it mean that he spoke in terms like "I'm going to ease you in onto that ditch digging crew" or something of the kind? As far as I know nothing has ever been learned for sure about Henry Thomas' life except that it's speculated he may have been an entertainer on a passenger train. Whether he was also part of a labor gang, who knows.
Keep up the good work. I'm rooting for discovery of any early lyric that definitively goes back before about 1910, and better yet, before 1908 (Gates Thomas) and especially 1905 (Morton date).
Best of luck, Bob