The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #48893   Message #736404
Posted By: John Minear
25-Jun-02 - 07:37 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Limber Jim
Subject: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
I was looking for background on "Buckeye Jim" and came across this reference in the Ballad Index:

Limber Jim
DESCRIPTION: A long collocation of (often) floating verses, with recurrent themes of gambling, women, comparisons between black and white, "rebels," all in no apparent order, with a variable refrain including the words "Limber Jim" and the chorus response "Shiloh!" AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: gambling nonballad floatingverses
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Botkin-MRFolklr, p. 593, "Limber Jim" (1 text)
Courlander-NFM, pp. 120-121, "(Shiloh)" (1 text)
cf. "Ease that Trouble in the Mind" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Buckeye Jim"
File: BMRF593B

I have not been able to check out either Botkin or Courlander yet since they are "checked out" at the library. I have found two versions of this song. One is on line at Click here (I hope I did that right for a blue clicky - if this doesn't help, try GOOGLE search for "Colony Times"). This is entitled "Buckeye Jim" and comes with a tune

Way up yonder above the moon,
A Jaybird lived in a silver spoon.

Chorus: Go limber, Jim: you can't go.
Go weave and spin, you can't go, Buckeye Jim.

Way up yonder above the sky,
a Jaybird built in a blue-bird's eye.

Way down yonder in a sycamore through(sic)
an old lady died with the whoopin'-cough.

Wake up snakes and come to taw, we won't have any more your link and law. (Lincoln Law ?)

It says that this was transcribed by Fletcher Collins. Fletcher Collins is also mentioned by the Lomaxs in FOLKSONG USA as being the one who discovered/collected "Buckyed Jim" and gave it to Burl Ives. The website for the above version gives no other references or background.

There is a version of this printed with tune in FOLK SONGS NORTH AMERICA SINGS: A SOURCE BOOK FOR ALL TEACHERS by Richard Johnston (Toronto: E.C.Kerby, c 1984)p.122. He has the first two verses from the version listed above. His source is "Appalachian Folk Song" and he got this song from: JOHNSTON, Richard et al - SONGS FOR TODAY! VOL. V - Waterloo Music Co. Ltd., Waterloo, Ontario, 1958. I don't have access to this book. The tune looks to be the same as the midi at the above website.

A GOOGLE search on "Limber Jim" turned up not only the above website, but all sorts of other strange things, everything from a forest, to a creek, to some guy who wandered off into a swamp, to a Civil War vet, to a locomotive in West Virginia, to a carved, wooden toy, but no other songs.

Is this the "earlier" version of "Buckye Jim", and if so where did it come from? If it is Fletcher Collins' original collected version, where did it go into print and what is that source? I am speculating that Collins received it from someone in North Carolina. From there he gave it to Burl Ives, who changed it. The Lomaxs published Burl Ives's version, which has become the definitive, popular version. Others have added new verses. But then there is this "Limber Jim" version that may also go back to Collins and be his original collected version, which also got into print somehow, somewhere.

Does anybody have additional information on this?