The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #26572   Message #321000
Posted By: Abby Sale
17-Oct-00 - 02:24 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Buffalo Skinners
Subject: RE: Tune Req: BUFFALO SKINNERS - Origins, Anyone?
A (believe it or not) brief excerpt from my notes on the song:

The roots of "Buffalo Skinner" can be exactly date to 1853.

Fannie H. Eckstorm & Mary W. Smyth in Minstrelsy of Maine; Houghton Mifflin; 1927 (republished by Gryphon Books, Ann Arbor; 1971) deals in some detail with "Canaday-I-O" on page 21 et seq.

I note from this:
Eckstorm had searched the Maine woods for "Canaday-I-O" for 25 years since hearing a fragment of it as a child.  Then finally collected a fragment in 1890.

First printing of any version was Shoemaker, 1919 as "The Jolly Lumbermen" (located at Colley's Run, PA.)  [Assumedly the same song as "Colley's Run-I-O."]

She finally acquired the first known complete Eastern text anywhere from the elderly Mrs. Annie Marston. (no date given... after 1923?.)  This version clearly pre-dates "The Jolly Lumbermen."

Rickaby published the North Dakota version, "Michigan-I-O" (with tune) in 1926

In January, 1914 Eckstorm heard "Buffalo Skinners" at a Lomax lecture & told him it was a later version of  "Canaday-I-O." This was new information to Lomax.  (However, Lomax apparently didn't tell Sandberg of the connection as it doesn't appear in Songbag.)  In fact, it is not until Folk Song U.S.A. (1947) that the Lomaxes finally give full credit to "Canaday-I-O" as the source of "Buffalo Skinners."

"Canaday-I-O"  dates itself as the "fall of [18] fifty-three."

Eckstorm: "This woods song is entirely unlike the sea song, also called 'Canada I O,' which was much sung in Maine, both in the woods and elsewhere, and was common in English broadsides and in early songbooks."

Full details, including both text and tune for both the "old" and the "new" "Canaday I.O."
are available in Fannie H. Eckstorm's article, "Canada I-O;" Bulletin of the Folk-song Society of the Northeast; (Cambridge, MA, 1933, no. 6, page 10) which includes her more extensive historical  treatment.  The two tunes are very similar, even 50 years after their bifurcation.  The tune is only vaguely like the modern "Buffalo Skinners" but the roots can clearly be heard there.

Duncan Emrich, editing Library of Congress record #L28,  Cowboy Songs, etc. as collected  by John Lomax; (1952) gives a more extensive summary and introduces some new information and (finally) references.  The record includes a field recording of "Colley's Run-I-O." He credits the roots as Maine & before that, England.  "An original English love song, 'Caledonia,' appeared in print somewhere before 1800 in The Caledonian Garland (Boswell Chapbooks...) and this song was used as the base upon which was built the English sea song 'Canada I O,' which was printed in the Forget-me-not Songster." The Maine lumberjack, Ephraim Braley, probably read the Forget-me-not Songster.  After a stint of lumberjacking in Canada in 1853, he composed "Canada I O." In Maine, the song existed in oral tradition only (until printed by Eckstorm) but the versions that erupted out to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, etc. became well-known and were printed.  He credits Eckstorm's 1933 article for most of the historical background.

Finally, Emrich prints the first and last stanzas of the songs from both the Forget-me-not Songster (now calling it a "love song of the sea") and Braley's  "Canada I O."

"Caledoni-o" ("the love song") is in Greig~Duncan.  The only link I haven't been able to fill is common tunes for the English version of "Canadee-I-O."  Of course Nic Jones does a superb job on Penguin Eggs but there is, and he has, no record of his tune's origin.