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Origins: Shake Sugaree

DigiTrad:
FREIGHT TRAIN
OH, BABE IT AIN'T NO LIE
SHAKE SUGAREE


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murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 06 Jun 99 - 07:59 AM
Pete 06 Jun 99 - 02:56 PM
Art Thieme 06 Jun 99 - 03:06 PM
Art Thieme 06 Jun 99 - 03:07 PM
Rick Fielding 06 Jun 99 - 04:36 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 06 Jun 99 - 10:00 PM
Rick Fielding 07 Jun 99 - 01:04 AM
DonMeixner 07 Jun 99 - 07:59 AM
Marc Feingold (inactive) 10 Jun 99 - 01:12 AM
dwditty 10 Jun 99 - 06:00 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 10 Jun 99 - 07:44 AM
Joe Offer 22 Jan 17 - 08:51 PM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 23 Jan 17 - 12:28 AM
gillymor 23 Jan 17 - 07:39 AM
gillymor 23 Jan 17 - 08:36 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 23 Jan 17 - 08:40 PM
Joe Offer 21 Jan 20 - 04:15 PM
Joe Offer 21 Jan 20 - 04:59 PM
Karen Impola 21 Jan 20 - 10:17 PM
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Subject: Shake Sugaree
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 07:59 AM

I am renewing my acquaintance with Elizabeth Cotten's song "Shake Sugaree" and I realize I don't kow what the title means. In fact I am not sure if "sugaree" is an adverb modifying the verb "shake" or if "Sugaree" is the subject of the command "shake".

Anyond know?

Murray


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: Pete
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 02:56 PM

I'm not sure about the Elizabeth Cotten version but Grateful Dead do a version which includes the line "my darling Sugaree." I'd always assumed this was a person. Hope this helps. Pete


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: Art Thieme
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 03:06 PM

This was like we'll "have a shivaree"---a part---a celebration. Like sayin' "din't we have a time" or "didn't we boogie".

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: Art Thieme
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 03:07 PM

Of course, that's NOT "part"---it should be "party".

Art


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 04:36 PM

Is the phrase possibly connected to "Sugar on the floor", which Jean Ritchie says they did to "slick up the dance floor" back in the country?


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 06 Jun 99 - 10:00 PM

Art and Rick. Both of your explanations fit together. She might have been having fun with the expression to mean shake sugar on the floor. I didn't know about that custom, Rick. I was also not familiar with the expression "have a shivaree". She might have meant both expressions.

Pete. That might be the G.D's interpretation of the song. I suspect that anyone who learns it must have to try to work out what the prrase means.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Jun 99 - 01:04 AM

I thought a "shivaree" was a knife used by a hood with a fey sense of humour.


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: DonMeixner
Date: 07 Jun 99 - 07:59 AM

Rick

Fey sense of humor?

At the boatyard I worked in we called rigging a sail boat a sheeveree.

Don


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: Marc Feingold (inactive)
Date: 10 Jun 99 - 01:12 AM

Great version of this song by Merl Saunders! Merl is a bay area musician/legend whose recordings with Jerry Garcia and others have made him pretty famous with the Dead set. He does a nice, slow version... it's a staple of his live shows, too.


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: dwditty
Date: 10 Jun 99 - 06:00 AM

To really appreciate Merle Saunders, go back to the Fugs.


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Subject: RE: Shake Sugaree
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 10 Jun 99 - 07:44 AM

Or a very little knife.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Origins: Shake Sugaree
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Jan 17 - 08:51 PM

Here's another song that I'm not satisfied with. It seems like a timeless song, but I can't trace it back farther than Libba Cotten? Does it have earlier roots?
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Shake Sugaree
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 23 Jan 17 - 12:28 AM

Supposedly she really wrote it. Unlike "Freight Train" so much probably, since a variant of that one was collected in 1919 (Frank C. Brown again -- and the college student born in 1901 again, Blake Harrison).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Shake Sugaree
From: gillymor
Date: 23 Jan 17 - 07:39 AM

I'd always heard that she wrote it at the age of 11 before some preacher convinced her to give up the guitar.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Shake Sugaree
From: gillymor
Date: 23 Jan 17 - 08:36 AM

I may have been thinking of "Freight Train". Gotta remember, "Google first, then post."

My favorite version was done by the late Fred Neil who called it "I've Got a Secret (Shake Sugaree)" with some gorgeous guitar work by Pete Childs. I don't recall whether or not he claimed authorship.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Shake Sugaree
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 23 Jan 17 - 08:40 PM

"I'd always heard that she wrote ['Freight Train'] at the age of 11 before some preacher convinced her to give up the guitar." Maybe she meant she wrote part of her version of it, which best I know she did.

Considering how many guitars and folk stanzas were all over the place, it's possible but unlikely that the child Ella Nevill (as she was known then) would completely originate a song that would -- more or less as she quit playing guitar for years -- find its way to a white college student by 1919, _and_ that that same child would also later happen to work as a maid for the Seeger family.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Shake Sugaree
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Jan 20 - 04:15 PM

I found a performance of this song by Rhiannon Giddens, and I think I'm in heaven.

Janie posted a wonderful Arhoolie recording of this Libba Cotten song on Facebook, and I wanted to make sure it got posted here. It's quite different from the better-known Folkways performance.

There's no listing for this song in the Traditional Ballad Index, and only two entries in Roud (click)


Here are the lyrics we have in the Digital Tradition:

SHAKE SUGAREE
(Libba Cotten)

I have a little song, won't take long
Sing it right, once or twice
Oh lord oh me, didn't I shake sugaree
Everythiny I got is done in pawn (2x)

I pawned my watch, pawned my chain
Pawned everything that was in my name

I pawned my buggy, house and cot
Pawned everything that was on my lot

I pawned my chair, I pawned my bed
Don't have nowhere to lay my head

I have a little secret I ain't gonna tell
I'm goin' to heaven in a ground pea shell

I pawned my house, I've pawned my home
Pawned everything that I own

I pawned my tobacco, I pawned my pipe
Pawned everything that was in my sight

I know something, I ain't gonna tell
I'm goin' to heaven and I ain't goin' to ...

I pawned my hat, I pawned my shoes
Pawned everything that I could use

I chew my tobacco, spit my juice
I would raise cain but it ain't no use

filename[ SUGAREE
TUNE FILE: SUGAREE
CLICK TO PLAY
LP

Popup Midi Player




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Subject: DT Correction: Shake Sugaree (Elizabeth Cotten)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Jan 20 - 04:59 PM

Here's the version from Sing Out! Magazine, Vol 16, No 2, p. 13 (April-May 1966).

It's almost exactly the same as what's in the Digital Tradition, but the DT has a few typographical differences and errors.

SHAKE SUGAREE
(Libba Cotten)

I have a little song, Won't take long,
Sing it right, Once or twice,
CHORUS
Oh, Lord, oh, me, Didn't I shake Sugaree
Ev'rything I got is done in pawn. (2x)

I pawned my watch, pawned my chain,
Pawned everything that was in my name.

I pawned my buggy, house and cot,
Pawned everything that was on my lot.

I pawned my chair, I pawned my bed,
Don't have nowhere to lay my head.

I have a little secret I ain't gonna tell,
I'm goin' to heaven in a ground pea shell.

I pawned my house, I've pawned my home,
Pawned everything that I own.

I pawned my tobacco, I pawned my pipe,
Pawned everything that was in my sight.

I know something I ain't gonna tell,
I'm goin' to heaven and I ain't goin' to ...

I pawned my hat, I pawned my shoes,
Pawned everything that I could use

I chew my tobacco, spit my juice,
I would raise cain but it ain't no use.

Words and music by Elizabeth Cotten, ©1965 by Stormking Music, Inc.

Sing Out! notes by Mike Seeger:
    One evening a couple of years ago as Elizabeth Cotten was putting her great grandchildren to bed, the oldest Johnny, made the first verse of this song. Elizabeth gave it a tune, a verse or two and (according to the next eldest, Brenda) the chorus. The remainder of the song evolved gradually during the following weeks.

    “Now, that ‘Shake Sugaree,’ that’s more my(four great) grandchildren’s song. They made the verses and I played the music. The first verse my oldest (great)grandson, he made that himself, and from that each child would say a word and add to it.

    “To tell the truth, I don’t know what got it started...but it must’ve been something said or something done. That’s practicalLy how all my songs, I pick up. There’s somebody’ll say something or something done and then... something will come into your mind...”

    “Sugaree” Is sung by Brenda Evans (age 12) on ELIZABETH COTTEN VOL. 2 (Folkways FG 3537- soon to be released) which, along with many old tunes includes seven more recent compositions. Mike Seeger


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Subject: RE: Origins: Shake Sugaree
From: Karen Impola
Date: 21 Jan 20 - 10:17 PM

For those reading from the beginning of the thread: the Grateful Dead song "Sugaree" is NOT the same as Elizabeth Cotten's song.

I just found a very interesting and knowledgeable blog post about the origins and meaning of "Shake Sugaree".

The author gives "shivaree" and "sugar on the floor" as possible origins for the phrase, and also suggests that it might be related to "Sangaree", which is the refrain of song/dance from the Georgia Sea Islands.

Fascinating stuff. I first heard the Libba Cotten/Brenda Evans version sometime in the 1980's, and I've always loved it.


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