The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #52945   Message #812804
Posted By: Stewie
27-Oct-02 - 08:12 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNSON BOYS and JOHNSON GAL
Hi Richie,

The Meade et alia discography gives 2 recordings only of Johnson Boys - the Grant Brothers and Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters. In the latter, a rewrite, the Johnson Boys turn from 'men of valor' in the civil war 'to buffoons'. I reckon the note to 'Johnson Boys 2' in the DT is misleading in that, by implication, it suggests the NLCR's version is from Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters. It is, in fact, the text from the Grant Brothers recorded on 15 October 1928 in Johnson City, TN, and issued as Co 15460-D in December. A reissue of the Grant Brothers recording may be heard on Various Artists 'Rural String Bands of Virginia' County CD 3502. Meade notes: 'The tune is an adaptation of 'Doran's Ass' (see Laws Q19), dating from around 1860. It was also used with other Irish songs of the period'. The earliest textual reference Meade gives for 'Johnson Boys' is the Brown Collection vol III, #338, 394.

My transcription of the Al Hopkins text follows:

JOHNSON BOYS

Johnson boys went a-courtin'
The reason why they did not stay
The reason why they did not stay
They had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
They had no money for to pay their way

Johnson boys went a-huntin'
Took two dogs and went astray
The reason why they did not stay
They had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
They had no money for to pay their way

Johnson boys left the Blue Ridge
Travelling in a Chevrolet
The reason why they did not stay
They had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way

Johnson boys come to New York
Have a big time and see the white whale
The reason why they did not stay
They had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
They had no money for to pay their way

Source:   transcription of Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters recorded on 14 May 1927 in New York City and issued as Br 176 in February 1928. [vcl by Al Hopkins w/2 banjos, uke & gtr]. Reissued on The Hill Billies/Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters 'Complete Recorded Works Vol 2 1926-1927' Document DOCD-8040.

Meade gives only one old-time recording of 'Johnson Gal': the Leake County Revelers. The earliest text reference he gives is to Ira Ford 'Traditional Music of America' [1940] which he says is probably a transcription of the Leake County Revelers' recording. With stanza reshuffling and minor textual alterations, the Leake County Revelers recording is the same as that given in the DT. Their version:


JOHNSON GAL

Don't care where in the world I go
Can't get around with the calico

Oh my honey can't you see
Never get to heaven 'less you do like me

Want to go to heaven, yes I do
Want to go to heaven with the Johnson crew

Want to go to heaven, want to go straight
I want to walk through them pearly gates

See those girls, dressed so fine
Ain't a-got Jesus on their mind

Source: transcription of Leake County Revelers 'Johnson Gal' recorded on 13 April 1927 in New Orleans and issued as Co 15149-D in August 1927. [Fiddle and vocal by Will Gilmer w/gtr, mdln, bjo]. Reissued on Leake County Revelers 'Complete Recorded Works Vol I 1927-1928' Document DOCD-8029.

I hope the above is of some use to you.

Cheers, Stewie.