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Lyr Add: Run, Jimmie, Run

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Abby Sale 18 Dec 99 - 08:38 PM
Dale Rose 18 Dec 99 - 09:49 PM
Stewie 19 Dec 99 - 09:19 PM
GUEST,Bud Savoie 04 Feb 00 - 08:43 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: RUN, NIGGER, RUN
From: Abby Sale
Date: 18 Dec 99 - 08:38 PM


So I believe I mentioned I got the CD of Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley, from Smith/Folkways?  There's an exciting song on it called "Run, Jimmie, Run."  Like many of the well-known mountain tunes it's both familiar & hard to place.  The words are difficult to make out but seem to be one of those last remnants of a legit ballad.  So I had a lookaround.

It turns out to be a travesty of a travesty of "Run, Nigger, Run."  That one comes in many forms (See Jane Keefer's Index) mostly as a children's play song, "Run, Child, Run," etc.  Most innocuous.  Then we find a minstrel show travesty when we Search "America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets" under "Run, Nigger, Run" with Mr Bones singing what was probably well-known to a comic monolog.  Rinzler, in the CD's notes doesn't help much but pushes reported versions back to Ozark 1852 reports as ""Patteroller's Song." (It comes with both single or double t's.)

Finally (for me) Lomax in Amer. Ballads & F S, p228 refers to escaping the patrols after Nat Turner's Revolt.  The song & persisting base tune "Fire on the Mountain" processed into many instrumental & comic versions.

Virginia: Nat Turner (b1800, executed 11/11/1831) began the only effective, sustained slave revolt in U.S. history on 8/21/1831.  The rebellion created panic throughout the white South but put an end to their myth that slaves were either contented with their lot or too servile to mount an armed revolt. [EB]  From 1832 "Negroes were put under special restriction to home quarters and patrolmen ("patter-rollers") appointed to keep them in." [Lomax]

Now the more political & story type (not quite balladic) & still likely somewhat corrupt, words are clear: (they're essetially the same as the L of C text as above.)

"'The day is done, night comes down
Ye are long ways from home--
Oh, run, nigger, run, patter-roller git you.

"'Yaller gal look and trine keep you overtime,
De bell done rung, overseer hallowing loud--
Oh, rull, nigger, run--'

"Like everything of merit it has been plagiarized and burdened with
outside inventions until it is hardly recognizable, but the 'Fire in the
Mountains' still sticks."
Do, please, marster, don't ketch me,
Ketch dat nigger behin' dat tree;
He stole money en I stole none,
Put him in the calaboose des for fun!

Chorus: Run, nigger, run, de patter-roller ketch you.
                 Run, nigger, run! it's almos' day.
                 De nigger run, de nigger flew,
                 De nigger  los'  his Sunday shoe.
                 Run, nigger, run, de patter-roller ketch you.
                 Run, nigger, run! it's almos' day.


Chorus: Oh, run, nigger, run! de patter-roller ketch you.
                 Run, nigger, run! it's almos' day.
                 Oh, run, nigger, run! de patter-roller ketch you.
                 Run, nigger, run! it's almos' day.

Some folks say dat a nigger won't steal,
But I kotch one in my corn-fiel';
He run ter de eas', he run ter de wes',
He run he head in a hornet nes'!

De sun am set, dis nigger am free;
De yaller gals he goes to see;
I heard a man cry, "Run, doggone you,"
Run, nigger, run, patter-roller ketch you.

Wid eyes wide open and head hangin' down,
Like de rabbit before de houn',
Dis nigger streak it for de pasture;
Nigger run fast, white man run faster.

And ober de fence as slick as a eel
Dis nigger jumped all but his heel;
De white man ketch dat fast, you see,
And tied it tight aroun' de tree.

Dis nigger heard dat old whip crack,
But nebber stopped fur to look back;
I started home as straight as a bee
And left my heel tied aroun' de tree.

My ol' Miss, she prommus me
Dat when she die, she set me free;
But she done dead dis many year ago,
En yer I'm hoein' de same ol' row!

I'm a-hoein' across, I'm a-hoein' aroun'
I'm a-cleanin' up some mo' new groun'.
Whar I lif' so hard, I lif' so free,
Dat my sins rise up in front er me!

But some er dese days my time will come,
I'll year dat bugle, I'll year dat drum,
I'll see dem armies a-marchin' along,
I'll lif' my head en jine der song--
I'II dine no mo' behin' dat tree,
W'en de angels flock fer to wait on me!

Polk Miller, Richmond, Virginia, who interpreted Negro songs sucessfully on the platform, contributed these stanzas:
I run down to de ribber, but I couldn't get across,
I jumped 'pon a hog and thought he was a hoss!

As I was goin' through the fiel'
A black snake bit me 'pon my heel,
Dat serpent he did 'ceive a shock,
For de nigger's heel's as hard as a rock.

As I was passin' Wright's old mill,
My team got balked at de foot o' de hill.
I hollered to de driver, "Dat won't do;
I must shove an' so mus' you."

I don't know any way to post the sheet music here but as I said, "Fire on the Mountain" is pretty rousing & surely accounts for the persistance  of the song.

I just thought you'd like to know.

Click for related song

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Run, Jimmie, Run'
From: Dale Rose
Date: 18 Dec 99 - 09:49 PM

Yes, I enjoyed it. I am always pleased to learn more about the old songs. Thank You.

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Subject: Lyr Add: RUN, NIGGER, RUN
From: Stewie
Date: 19 Dec 99 - 09:19 PM

In his note to the song in the Watson/Ashley, Rinzler referred to the Tanner/ McMichen duo fiddling. The Skillet Lickers recorded 'Run Nigger Run' in 1927. This was reissued on an very early Rounder LP. In his note to the song, Mark Wilson also points out that it was sometimes called 'The Pateroller Song' and that it is widely known across the South as a fiddle tune, but is most often titled 'Run Boy Run'. Snuffy Jenkins and Pappy Sherrill, for example, recorded it under the latter title. As pointed out above, the song dates to the slave rebellions of the 1830s when the plantation owners forbade free association among slaves and organised patrols to catch slaves off their plantations after curfew. Wilson agrees that 'pateroller' presumably derives from 'patroller'. The song was quickly taken up by the earliest minstrel shows. The Rounder note quotes a skit from 'White's Serenaders Song-Book of 1857' which can be accessed through the link to 19th song sheets posted above by Abby: 'De sun am set – dis nigger is free' etc. Supposedly the skit was composed and sung by C.White of White's Band of Serenaders at the Melodeon Concert Saloon, 53 Bowery, NY.

There was an earlier commerial recording than that of the Skillet Lickers: Fiddlin' John Carson recorded it as solo piece, accompanying himself on the fiddle, in 1924. It has different lyrics, but is along the same lines. It has been reissued on Fiddlin' John Carson 'Complete Recorded Works Vol II' Document DOCD – 8015.

Here is the song as sung by the Skillet Lickers – it shares only 2 verses (the 'hornet' verse and the 'snake' verse) with the version sung by Clint Howard on the Watson/Ashley set. Wilson points out that, for Tanner, the song had lost its meaning because when asked what a 'pateroller' was, he could only reply: 'A bad man, I reckon'. As Tony Russell has commented elsewhere, like numerous post-Civil War numbers, the song is basically a pastiche:


Oh run nigger run the pateroller will catch you
Oh run nigger run you better get away (x2)

Nigger run, nigger flew
Nigger tore himself in two

Nigger run, he run so fast
He stove his head in a hornet's nest

Nigger run, he run through the field
Black snake caught him by the heel

Some folks say a nigger won't steal
I caught three in my cornfield

One had a bushel, one had a peck
One had a roasted ear tied round his neck

Oh nigger run, nigger flew
What in the devil can a white man do

Hey Mr pateroller, don't catch me
Catch that nigger behind that tree

Verse 2 repeated

Nigger run, was so fast
Nigger he got away at last

Source: Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers 'Run Nigger Run' Co 1518-D Recorded 28 March 1927. Reissued on Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers 'Hear These New Southern Fiddle and Guitar Records!' Rounder LP 1005.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Run, Jimmie, Run'
From: GUEST,Bud Savoie
Date: 04 Feb 00 - 08:43 AM

When I was a boy and reading Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus tales, I recall Bre'r Rabbit strutting around in one of the tales as if he was "king ob de patterollers." A footnote gave some of the words to the song, although no music. I have since heard versions of it from many sources, all changing the operative word to Johnny, Jimmie, slave, chillen, Smoke, Boy, and others. Hedy West sings "Run, Slave Run" in Vanguard II, and the liner notes state that the existtence of this song in the lWest family suggests a long-held sylmpathy for the slaves.

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