The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #52945   Message #2909459
Posted By: stevewise
18-May-10 - 05:14 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
The Old-Time String Band Songbook, as edited by John Cohen and Mike Seeger have the words to the Grant Brothers version, described above. However they say that 'this unusual variant casts them as heroes in the Civil War'. Since they only refer to this and the Al Hopkins version, it is not clear why they regard the Hopkins version as typical and the Grant Brothers version as unusual.

On our CD we (the Down Trodden String Band) sing lyrics which come from Eric Muller and Barbara Koehler's excellent 'Frailing - an Instruction Manual' - they are similar to the ones in the Lomax book referred to above:

Johnson boys, raised in ashes
Never knew how to court a maid
Turn their backs and hide their faces
Sight of a pretty maid makes them afraid (x3)

Johnson Boys went to the city
Ridin' in a Chevrolet
They came home broke and walkin'
Had no money for to pay their way (x3)

Johnson boys went a-courtin'
The Coon Creek girls so pretty and sweet
They couldn't make no conversation
They didn't know where to put their feet (x3)

Johnson Boys they'll never get married
They'll stay single all their life
They're too scared to pop the question
Ain't no woman that'll be their wife (x3)

Interestingly, the book says that this is 'as sung by the N.W.Johnson Family, Avery Co., N.C. - but gives no date

Of course as part of the folk process, we add the 'Hop Up Pretty Girls, Don't Be Afraid' lines instead of repeating the last line - and change the odd phrase through not learning the words verbatim - hence the song gets another little twist!