The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #48893   Message #739174
Posted By: John Minear
28-Jun-02 - 08:48 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Limber Jim
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
I found the Lafcadio Hearn material that Masato referred to above. It has been published in several forms. I found it in a little book called CHILDREN OF THE LEVEE, published by the University of Kentucky Press in 1957. It is a reprint of the original articles written by Hearn in 1874-1877 for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Commercial. Here is what he says about the song "Limber Jim":

"But the most famous songs in vogue among the roustabouts is "Limber Jim," or "Shiloh." Very few know it all by heart, which is not wonderful when we consider that it requires something like twenty minutes to sing "Limber Jim" from beginning to end, and that the whole song, if printed in full, would fill two columns of the Commercial.(!) The only person in the city who can sing the song through, we belileve, is a colored laborer living near Sixth and Culvert streets, who "run on the river" for years, and acquired so much of a reputation by singing "Limber Jim," that he has been nicknamed after the mythical individual aforesaid, and is now known by no other name. He keeps a little resort in Bucktown, which is known as "Limber Jim's," and has a fair reputation for one dwelling in that locality. Jim very good-naturedly sang the song for us a few nights ago, and we took down some of the most striking verses for the benefit of our readers. The air is wonderfully quick and lively, and the chorus is quite exciting. The leading singer sings the whole song, excepting the chorus, "Shiloh," which dissyllable is generally chanted by twenty or thirty voices of abysmal depth at the same time with a sound like the roar of twenty Chinese gongs struck with a tremendous force and precision. A great part of "Limber Jim" is very profane, and some of it is not quite fit to print. We can give only about one-tenth part of it.(!) The chorus is frequently accompanied with that wonderfully rapid slapping of thighs and hips known as "patting Juba." (And then follows the song given by Masato above. The chorus is indicated after each verse). Pages 70-71.