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Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs

Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Sep 08 - 08:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Sep 08 - 01:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Sep 08 - 02:25 PM
SouthernCelt 14 Sep 08 - 03:07 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 14 Sep 08 - 05:45 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Sep 08 - 03:17 PM
Jim Dixon 16 Sep 08 - 01:55 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Sep 08 - 03:04 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Sep 08 - 03:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Sep 08 - 12:10 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Sep 08 - 12:23 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Sep 08 - 12:57 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Sep 08 - 08:45 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Sep 08 - 08:35 PM
oldhippie 18 Sep 08 - 09:04 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Sep 08 - 10:31 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Sep 08 - 01:21 PM
SINSULL 21 Sep 08 - 01:36 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Sep 08 - 09:21 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Sep 08 - 09:53 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Sep 08 - 10:13 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Sep 08 - 11:47 PM
Newport Boy 01 Oct 08 - 04:06 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Oct 08 - 01:54 PM
Jim Dixon 02 Oct 08 - 08:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Oct 08 - 09:07 PM
topical tom 03 Oct 08 - 02:38 PM
topical tom 03 Oct 08 - 02:55 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Oct 08 - 07:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Oct 08 - 08:06 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Oct 08 - 08:35 PM
Richie 08 Oct 08 - 07:36 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Oct 08 - 03:16 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Oct 08 - 09:42 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Oct 08 - 10:39 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Oct 08 - 02:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Oct 08 - 06:10 PM
Janie 13 Oct 08 - 07:31 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Oct 08 - 08:00 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Oct 08 - 08:28 PM
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Subject: Lyr. Add: WELL, SHE ASK ME IN DE PARLOR
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Sep 08 - 08:58 PM

WELL, SHE ASK ME IN DE PARLOR
African-American traditional

Well she ask me- whuk
In de parlor- whuk
An' she cooled me- whuk
Wid her fan- whuk
An' she whispered- whuk
To her mother- whuk
"Mamma, I love that- whuk
Dark-eyed man"- whuk
Well, I ask her- whuk
Mother for her- whuk
An' she said she- whuk
Was too young- whuk
Lord, I wish'd I- whuk
Never had seen her- whuk
An' I wish'd she- whuk
Never been born- whuk
Well, I led her- whuk
To the altar- whuk
An' de preacher- whuk
Give his comman'- whuk
An' she swore by- whuk
God that made her- whuk
That she never- whuk
Love 'nuther man- whuk

"It is suited to pulling, striking, digging [and heaving] or any work that calls for loose and rhythmic movements of the body."
Odum, Howard W., 1911, Folk Song and Folk Poetry as Found in the Secular Songs of the Southern Negroes, concluded. JAFL, v. 24, no. 44, Oct.-Dec. 1911.

These songs vary according to the rhythm needed for the work.
Some develop a more complex rhythm than shown be the examples above.

Please add contributions.


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Subject: Lyr Add: EARLY IN DE MORNIN'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 01:44 PM

EARLY IN DE MORNIN'

Early in de mornin' -
Honey, I'm goin' rise -
Yes, early in de mornin' -
Honey, I'm goin' rise -
Goin' have pick an' shovel -
Right by my side -

Goin' take my pick an' shovel -
Goin' deep down in mine -
I'm goin' where de sun -
Don't never shine -

Wel, I woke up this mornin' -
Couldn't keep from cryin' -
For thinking about -
That babe of mine -

Well, I woke up this mornin' -
Grindin' on my mind -
Goin' to grind, honey -
If I go stone-blind -

Rather that using a word, there is a pause-

H. W. Odum and G. B. Johnson, 1925, The Negro and His Songs, Univ. North Carolina; reprint 1968, Negro Universities Press.


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Subject: Lyr Add: RAISE THE IRON
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 02:25 PM

Lyr. Add: RAISE THE IRON

Brother Rabbit, Brother Bear,
Can't you line them just a hair?
Shake the iron, um-uh!

Down the railroad, um-uh!
Well, raise the iron, um-uh!
Raise the iron, um-uh!

Well, is you got it, um-uh!
Well, raise the iron, um-uh!
Raise the iron, um-uh!

Throw the iron, um-uh!
Throw the iron- throw it away!

"The foreman of the gang cries out, "Can't you line 'em a little bit?" The leader replies in the affirmative.
He then sets the standard, and they all pull together for the desired work. The formula is a good one."

P. 262, H. W. Odum and G. B. Johnson, 1925, "The Negro and His Songs," Univ. North Carolina Press; reprint 1968, Negro Universities Press.
Also no. 105, H. W. Odum, 1911, "Folk-Song and Folk-Poetry as Found in the Secular Songs of the Southern Negroes- concluded. JAFL, vol. 24, no. 44, pp. 351-392.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: SouthernCelt
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 03:07 PM

The first one, "WELL, SHE ASK ME IN DE PARLOR", seems like it would be best suited to gandy dancer work, a dying, perhaps now dead, form of labor for a specific purpose. Without totally commandeering this thread, do any of you know what gandy dancers did?

SC


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 14 Sep 08 - 05:45 PM

A gandy dancer is a track laborer or section hand in railroad parlance. First applied to those who tamped down the earth between the rails or elsewhere (1918). Later applied to pick-and-shovel and other labor.


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Subject: Lyr Add: HAUL, HAUL, HAUL, BOYS
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 03:17 PM

Lyr. Add: HAUL, HAUL, HAUL, BOYS

Haul, haul, haul, boys, haul and be lively,
Haul, oh haul, boys, haul.
She will come, she must come; haul, boys, haul.
She will come, she must come; haul, boys, haul.
Well, it seems to me like the time ain't long;
Haul and be lively, haul, boys haul.

Fishermen, pulling in nets. After several pulls, the leader intersperses a phrase to break the rhythm, then the 'hauls' begin again.
Mention is made of the bowline chanty, "Haul away, Jo," but there is no real evidence that the two songs are related.

Brown MS, Pamlico Co., NC; no. 226, The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, ed. H. M. Belden and A. P. Hudson, vol. 3.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 01:55 PM

Wikipedia gives a very good description of the work of a gandy dancer.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 03:04 PM

Work gang songs, fragments from Newman I. White, "American Negro Folk Songs,"

No. 36
I been hammering- huh
All over Georgia- huh
Alabama too- huh
Alabama too- huh
(Coll. 1915, Alabama, sung by Negro ditch-diggers)

No. 38
Oh let the sun go down- hunk
And we'll get rest- hunk
Oh let the sun go down- hunk
And we'll be blest.
(1919, prisoner on Public Works, South Carolina)


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Subject: Lyr Add: WOOD CUTTERS' SONG
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 03:14 PM

Lyr. Add: WOOD CUTTERS' SONG

Hey, Bull and Ben tally - wham!
How long, how long - wham!
Fo' the sun goes down - wham!
Poor boy cryin' all day long - wham!
Can't heah no train - wham!

Can't heah no whistle blow - wham!
All I can heh - wham!
The Boss man say - wham!
"Let the chips fly" - wham!

No. 37, Gang Laborers song, coll. AL, 1915, MS F. Mitchell; Negro wood cutters.
N. I. White, 1928, "American Negro Folk Songs;" Reprint 1965, Folklore Associates.


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHN HENRY WAS A MAN O' MIGHT
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 12:10 AM

JOHN HENRY WAS A MAN O' MIGHT

John Henry was a man o' might,
John Henry was a man o' might,
John Henry was a man o' might,
He beat de iron man down.

John Henry had a hammer han',
John Henry had a hammer han',
John Henry had a hammer han',
An' he beat de iron man down.

"Lawd, Lawd, boss," he cried,
"Lawd, Lawd, boss," he cried,
"De iron man too much for me."

An' dey laid John Henry low, (3x)
He won't swing dat hammer no mo'.

John Henry was big an' strong (3x)
But de iron man brung 'im down.

John Henry was big an' brown
But de iron man brung him down.

John Henry say, "I got to go, (3x)
I can't swing de ball no mo'."

John Henry was a mighty man, (3x)
An' he swing dat hammer.

A repetitive version of "John Henry," suited to digging or driving steel.

"A vast throng of Negro workaday singers, mirrors of a race."
"Workingmen in the Southern United States from highway, construction camp, from railroad and farm, from city and countryside, a million strong."
.................
"A horde of Southern casual laborers and wanderers down that lonesome road."

The authors do not give details of collection, but the above lines from the introductory pages of the book give the singers and workers credit.

P. 237, H. W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson, 1926, "Negro Workaday Songs," Univ. North Carolina Press.


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Subject: Lyr Add: HEARD MIGHTY RUMBLIN'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 12:23 AM

HEARD MIGHTY RUMBLIN'

Heard mighty rumblin',
Heard mighty rumblin',
Heard mighty rumblin',
Under the groun'.

Well, heard mighty rumblin',
Under the groun',
Under the groun',
Must be John Henry turnin' aroun'.

Up on the mountain,
Up on the mountain,
Well, up on the mountain,
Heard John Henry cryin'.

Heard John Henry cryin',
Heard John Henry cryin',
Well, I heard John Henry cryin',
"An' I won't come down."

Another repetitive John Henry work song.

Pp. 236-237, Odum and Johnson, 1926, "Negro Workaday Songs."
Some full, song versions of "John Henry" are included in the volume, and one tune.


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Subject: Lyr Add: I DON'T WANT NO TROUBLE WITH DE WALKER
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 12:57 PM

I DON'T WANT NO TROUBLE WITH DE WALKER

I don't want no,
Want no trouble with de walker.
I don't want no,
Want no trouble with de walker.
I wanta go home,
Lawd, Lawd, I wanta go home.

Oh, me and my buddy
Jes' came here this mornin'.
Wanta go home,
Lawd, Lawd, wanta go home.

I can drive it,
Drive it as long as anybody.
Wanta go home,
Lawd, Lawd, wanta go home.

Cap'n, did you hear about,
Hear about two your womens gonna leave you?
Wanta go home,
Lawd, Lawd, wanta go home.

I'm gonna roll here,
Roll here a few days longer.
I'm goin' home,
Lawd, Lawd, I'm goin' home.

Cap'n an' walker,
Walker been raisin' san'.
Cap'n told walker
He could git 'im another man.

Lawd, dey got my buddy,
Buddy an' his forty-fo!
Next 'lect'ocution
Dey'll git him sho'.

Pick song "commonly heard around Chapel Hill, NC." Music provided, p. 240.
The walker is the walking boss or overseer. The workers often teased the walker or captain in their songs.

Odum and Johnson, 1926, Negro Workaday Songs, Ch. 6, Construction Camps and Gangs, p. 113.


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Subject: Lyr Add: GRADE SONG
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Sep 08 - 08:45 PM

GRADE SONG

Well, I tole my captain my feet wus cold
"Po' water on fire, let wheelers roll!"

Told my captain my han's wus cold.
"God damn yo' hands, let the wheelers roll!"

Well, captain, captain, you mus' be blin';
Look at yo' watch! See ain't it quittin' time?

Well, captain, captain, how can it be?
Whistles keep a-blowin', you keep a-workin' me.

Well. captain, captain, you mus' be blin';
Keep a-hollerin' at me, skinners damn nigh flyin'.

Well, I hear mighty rumblin' at water-trough;
Well, it mus' be my captain an' water boss.

Well, de captain an' walker raise Cain all day;
Well, captain take a stick, run walker away.

Wasn't dat ter'ble time- so dey all did say-
When cap'n take hick'ry stick an' run walker away?

Well, I hear mighty rumblin' up in de sky,
Mus' be my Lord go passin' by.

Well, dey makin' dem wheelers on de Western plan,
Dey mos' too heavy for light-weight man.

"Skinner, skinner, you know yo' rule,
Den go to de stable and curry yo' mule.

"Well, curry yo' mule an' rub yo' hoss,
An' leave yo' trouble wid de stable boss."

Well, if I had my weight in lime,
I'd whip my captain till I went stone-blind.

Well, captain, captain, didn't you say
You wouldn't work me in rain all day?

Well, you can't do me like you do po' Shine,
You take Shine's money, but you can't take mine.

Well, de boats up de river an' dey won't come down,
Well, I believe, on my soul, dat dey's water-boun'.

Well, pay-day comes, and dey done paid off,
I got mo' money dan de walkin' boss.

Well, I got up on level, look as far's I can,
Nuthin' wus a-comin' but a big captain.

Well, I went to my dinner at twelve o'clock,
I looked at table; "fohty-fo's was out. (peas)

Get up in mornin' when ding-dong rings,
Look at table- see same damn things.

Oh, Captain Redman, he's mighty damn mean,
I think he come from New Orleans.   

The walker (and captain, if present) let the workmen complain or comment in their songs and talk, as long as the work goes on without pause. The captain may overrule the walker on some point, this rare occurrence is made into a big confrontation in two of the verses.
Material may come from any source, old songs, hymns, current events, work conditions or whatever comes to mind.

Odum and Johnson, 1926, "Negro Workaday Songs," Ch. 6, The Work Songs of the Negro, p. 253-254.
Previously printed in H. W. Odum, 1911, "Folk-Song and Folk-Poetry as Found in the Secular Songs of the Southern Negroes- Concluded." JAFL, vol. 24, no. XCIV, pp. 351-392.


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Subject: Lyr Add: ME AND MY PARDNER
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 08:35 PM

ME AND MY PARDNER

Oh, baby. Ugh!
What you gwine to do? Ugh!
Three C Railroad. Ugh!
Done run through. Ugh!

Chorus:
Me and my pardner. Ugh!
Him and me! Ugh!
Him and me-e. Ugh!
Him and me! Ugh!

Oh, baby. Ugh!
What you gwine to do? Ugh!
Seaboard Air-line. Ugh!
Done run through. Ugh!

Chorus:

Oh, baby. Ugh!
What you gwine to do? Ugh!
B and O Railroad. Ugh!
Done run through. Ugh!

Chorus:

The song may continue, naming other railroads. With music. No data, heard from 'roving' construction workers.

Dorothy Scarborough, 1925, "On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs," Work Songs, pp. 216-217, Harvard Univ. Press; reprint 1963, Folklore Associates.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: oldhippie
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 09:04 PM

Would Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" song from the fifties fall into this category?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 10:31 PM

It wouldn't take much to make "Ain't That Good News," Sam Cooke, into a metrical work song. Good News

"Chain Gang" is on Youtube- Chain Gang
The song is a good one about working on a chain gang, but I can't see it being used to pace the gang.


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Subject: Lyr Add: BAD MAN LAZARUS
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Sep 08 - 01:21 PM

BAD MAN LAZARUS

1
Oh, bad man Lazarus,
Oh, bad man Lazarus,
He broke in de commissary,
Lawd, he broke in de commissary.
2
He been paid off,
He been paid off,
Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
He been paid off.
3
Commissary man,
Commissary man,
He jump out comissary window,
Lawd, he jump out commissary window.
4
Startin' an' fall,
O Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Commissary man startin' an' he fall,
O Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
5
Commissary man swore out,
Lawd, commissary man swore out,
Lawd, commissary man swore out
Warrant for Lazarus.
6
O bring him back,
Lawd, bring him back,
O Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Bring Lazarus back.
7
They began to wonder,
Lawd, they began to wonder,
Lawd, they began to wonder
Where Lazarus gone.
8
Where in world,
Lawd, where in world,
Lawd, where in world
Will they find him?
9
Well, I don't know,
I don't know,
Well, Lawd, Lawd,
Well, I don't know.
10
Well, the sheriff spied po' Lazarus,
Well, the sheriff spied po' Lazarus,
Lawd, sheriff spied po' Lazarus
Way between Bald Mountain.
11
They blowed him down,
Well, they blowed him down,
Well, Lawd, Lawd,
They blowed him down.
12
They shot po' Lazarus,
Lawd, they shot po' Lazarus,
Lawd, they shot po' Lazarus
With great big number,
13
Well, forty-five,
Lawd, great big forty-five
Lawd, forty-five,
Turn him roun'.
14
They brought po' Lazarus,
And they brought po' Lazarus,
Lawd, they brought po' Lazarus
Back to the shanty.
15
Brought him to de number nine,
Lawd, brought him to number nine,
Lawd, they brought him to the number nine,
Lawd, they brought po' Lazarus to number nine.
16
Ol' friend Lazarus say,
Lawd, old friend Lazarus say,
Lawd, old friend Lazarus say,
"Give me cool drink of water.
17
"Befo' I die
Good Lawd, 'fo' I die,
Give me cool drink of water,
Lawd, 'fo' I die."
18
Lazarus' mother say,
Lawd, Lazarus' mother say,
"Nobody know trouble
I had with him.
19
"Since daddy died,
Lawd, since daddy been dead,
Nobody knows the trouble I had,
Since daddy been dead."
20
They goin' bury po' Lazarus,
Lawd, they goin bury po' ol' Lazarus,
They goin' bury po' Lazarus
In the mine.
21
At half pas' nine, O Lawd,
Good Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Goin' bury po' Lazarus
At half pas' nine.
22
Me an' my buddy,
Lawd, me an' my buddy,
We goin' over to bury him,
Half pas' nine.
23
Lazarus' mother say,
"Look over yonder,
How dey treatin' po' Lazarus,
Lawd, Lawd, Lawd."
24
They puttin' him away,
Lawd, they puttin' him away,
Lawd, they puttin' Lazarus away,
Half pas' nine.

Sung in unison by pick and shovel workingmen at Danielsville, Georgia. When asked if the singing hinders the work, one of them replied, "Lawdy-Lawd-Lawd-Cap'n. ... Cap'n dat's whut makes us work so much better, an' it nuthin' else but."
"One of the group acted the part of the "shouter" very much like the hearers in the church. ..."Once, as the singers recorded the shooting of Lazarus, he shouted, "Yes, yes, Lawd, I seed 'em, I wus dere.""
The legend of Lazarus is put in many localities; the mine, the pine forests, the fields, the highway, the railroad or any place a work gang operates; in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, etc. One of the stories might have some truth to it.

Most of Odum's collection dates from 1915-1916, but this one was published in 1926; no collection date given.
Howard W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson, 1926, "Negro Workaday Songs," Univ. North Carolina Press, pp. 49-53.

Versions of "Po' Lazarus" are quoted in thread 12768: Po Lazarus


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: SINSULL
Date: 21 Sep 08 - 01:36 PM

The last scene in the the movie "Apostle" is of a chain gang with Robert Duvall leading a work song. Have to check and see what it is.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Sep 08 - 09:21 PM

Sinsull, please do. Although simple in form and easy to record, few collectors bothered with them.


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Subject: Lyr Add: HELLO, MAMIE!
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Sep 08 - 09:53 PM

Lyr. Add: HELLO, MAMIE!

1
Hello, Mamie! (Whuck) 3x
Honey, God bless yo' soul.
2
Gwine back to Weldon, gal; (Whuck) 3x
Work on the Weldon road.
3
Gwine to Cincinnati, gal; (Whuck) 3x
Honey, where they pay you mo.
4
Bring you mo' money, gal; (Whuck) 3x
Honey, dan yo' lap kin hol'.
5
Captain and the walkin' boss, (Whuck) 3x
A-raisin' cain all day.

Sung "by Negroes employed with Federal Flood Relief money in 1916 to construct highways in the lower part of Marion County (South Carolina)."
Brief musical score given. P. 420-421, "Negro Songs from the Pedee Country," Robert Duncan Bass, pp. 418-436, Jour. American Folklore, vol. 44, no. 174, 1931.


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Subject: Lyr Add: DON'T WANT NO CORNBREAD
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Sep 08 - 10:13 PM

Lyr/ Add: DON'T WANT NO CORNBREAD

Don't want no col' co'n bread an' molasses; (Whuck)
Don't want no col' black gal fo' my reg'lar; (Whuck)
Gwi' buy my good-gal a hoss an' buggy, (Whuck)
So she kin ride wheneber she get ready.

Also sung by Negroes in 1916 constructing highways in South Carolina (see previous post).
With brief musical score.
P. 421, "Negro Songs from the Pedee Country," Robert Duncan Bass, pp. 418-436, Jour. American Folklore, vol. 44, no. 174, 1931.

A long version of this song, with title "Don't You Give Me No Cornbread," was published by Odum and Johnson, 1926, "Negro Workaday Songs," pp. 105-106. It will be posted later.


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Subject: Lyr Add: NEVER TURN BACK
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Sep 08 - 11:47 PM

Lyr. Add: NEVER TURN BACK

1
No mo', oh, no mo'!
No mo', oh, never no mo'!
My Lord
Be here.
2
I will never
Turn back,
Never turn back
No mo', no mo'.
3
If you get there
Befo' I do,
Oh, you can tell 'em
I'm comin' too.
4
I will never turn back,
Never turn back no mo',
An' I would never turn back,
Never turn back no mo'.
5
Jesus my all
To heaven is gone,
An' whom may I fix
My hopes upon?
6
No mo', no mo',
No mo', never, my Lawd,
I would never turn back,
Never turn back no mo'.

H. W. Odum and G. B. Johnson, 1926, "Negro Workaday Songs," section on Construction Camps and Gangs, pp. 107-108.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Newport Boy
Date: 01 Oct 08 - 04:06 AM

A great collection so far.

Never Turn Back was the first song I heard Long John Baldry sing - he must have been about 18. I asked him where it came from, and as a result bought the 'Murderer's Home' LP - the Lomax recordings. It has a good few worksongs.

I can't find it at the moment, but it must be around somewhere. I'll see if I can add anything from it.

Phil


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Subject: Lyr Add: BOYS, PUT YO' HANDS ON IT
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Oct 08 - 01:54 PM

Lyr. Add: BOYS, PUT YO' HANDS ON IT

1
O boys, put yo' hands on it,
O boys, put yo' hands on it,
When I say go, boys, go!
2
O boys, put yo' hands on it,
O boys, when I holler set it on time,
Everybody goes around.
3
Say pick up, boys, pick up high,
Goin' line that track steel,
O boys, pick it up high.
4
Say, boys, when you get back here,
Pick up that steel,
Say, put your hands on it.
5
Say, boys, put your hands on it,
Everybody goin' to jump at it.
Set it in the bed, boys.
6
Say, boys, raise your hand higher,
Says, boys, raise your hands higher,
Everybody goin' to jump at it.

H. W. Odum and G. B. Johnson, 1926, "Negro Workaday Songs," p. 107.
No collection date given, locality not stated.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Oct 08 - 08:23 PM

There is a short video demonstration of gandy dancers at work at YouTube.

That's just the trailer for a 30-minute video that can be seen at folkstreams.net. (I haven't seen it.)

Also here's a short video showing how track repair is done today, with machines.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Oct 08 - 09:07 PM

Thanks, Jim. I wonder how widespread the term 'gandy dancers' was among the work gangs. I haven't found it in the work songs.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: topical tom
Date: 03 Oct 08 - 02:38 PM

"Take This Hammer" by Leadbelly and "Bring Me a Little Water, Sylvie"


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Subject: Lyr Add: BRING ME A LITTLE WATER SYLVIE
From: topical tom
Date: 03 Oct 08 - 02:55 PM

Ooops! Here's "Bring me a Little Water, Sylvie": While traveling on the Judy Collins Wildflowers Festival Tour, I had a few days off and decided to spend it in Bucks County PA with friends, John and Mary Ann Davis. It was there that I recorded Lead Belly's 'Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie.' John accompanied me on bass and the old blues singer Rusty James (AKA Leon Redbone) stopped by to add a low vocal soul.

Lyrics:

D
Bring me little water, Sylvie
A
Bring me little water now
D G
Bring me little water, Sylvie
A D
Every little once in a while

Don't you hear me calling, Sylvie?
Don't you hear me calling now?
Don't you hear me calling, Sylvie?
Every little once in a while

Getting' mighty thirsty, Sylvie
Getting' mighty thirsty now
Getting' mighty thirsty, Sylvie
Every little once in a while

Bring me little water, Sylvie
Bring me little water now
Bring me little water, Sylvie
Every little once in a while

Can't you hear me, Sylvie?
Can't you hear me now?
Can't you hear me, Sylvie?
Every little once in a while

Getting' hot and thirsty, Sylvie
Getting' hot and thirsty now
Getting' hot and thirsty, Sylvie
Every little once in a while

Bring me little water, Sylvie
Bring me little water now
Bring me little water, Sylvie
Every little once in a while

Bring me little water, Sylvie
Bring me little water now
Bring me little water, Sylvie
Every little once in a while

Bring me little water, Sylvie
Bring me little water now
Bring me little water, Sylvie
Every little once in a while

Can't you hear me calling, Sylvie?
Can't you hear me calling now?
Can't you hear me calling, Sylvie?
Every little once in a while


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Oct 08 - 07:58 PM

Topical Tom, Joe Offer kindly copied your song to the Bring Me Water, Sylvie thread, where it is getting some attention. Bring water Sylvie
A very singable version.

It belongs in the "calls and cries" group of songs, rather than with work gang songs, which are the subject of this thread.


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Subject: Lyr Add: LOOKIN' OVER IN GEORGIA
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Oct 08 - 08:06 PM

Lyr. Add: LOOKIN' OVER IN GEORGIA

Well I can stan',
Lookin' 'way over in Georgia;
Well I can stan',
Lookin' 'way over in Georgia;
Well I can stan',
Lookin' 'way over in Georgia,
O-eh-he, Lawd, Lawd,
She's burnin' down,
Lawd, she' burnin' down.

Sung by a pick and shovel gang. Apparently not related to any historical event.
H. W. Odum and G. B. Johnson, 1926, "Negro Workaday Songs, p. 121. No music given.


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Subject: Lyr Add: I GOT A MULIE
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Oct 08 - 08:35 PM

Lyr. Add: I GOT A MULIE

I got a mulie,
Mulie on the mountain, call 'im Jerry.
I got a mulie,
Mulie on the mountain, call 'im Jerry.
I can ride 'im,
Ride 'im any time I want to,
Lawd, Lawd, all day long.
2
Lawd, this ol' mountain,
Mountain must be hanted,
My light goes out,
Lawd, Lawd, my light goes out.
3
I'm gonna buy me,
Buy me a magnified lantern,
'Twon't go out,
Lawd, Lawd, won't go out.
4
I'm gonna buy me,
Buy me a Winchester rifle,
Box o' balls,
Lawd, Lawd, box o' balls.
5
I gonna back my,
Back myself in the mountains
To play bad,
Lawd, Lawd, to play bad.
6
Mike an' Jerry*
Must be a gasoline burner;
Didn't stop here,
Lawd, Lawd, didn't stop here.
7
Mike an' Jerry
Hiked from Jerome* to Decatur
In one day,
Lawd, Lawd, in one day.

8
Didn't stop here, Lawd,
To get no coal, neither water,
Hiked on by,
Lawd, Lawd, hiked on by.

Pick and Shovel song, many variations, and exclamations.
Mike and Jerry* are two legendary mules that broke away, and covered the distance from *Rome to Decatur, GA, in one day. They are mentioned in other songs.

Odum and Johnson, 1926, Negro Workaday Songs, pp. 120-121, Music score in Ch. 14, p. 256. Various pitch changes, e. g. 'ride' begins between D-sharp and E and carries it as high as G-sharp.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    .


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Subject: Lyr Add: SWANNANOA TUNNEL
From: Richie
Date: 08 Oct 08 - 07:36 AM

I have several versions of this work gang song. Sharp collected a version un 1916.

SWANNANOA TUNNEL
Bascom Lamar Lunsford

1. I'm going back to that Swannanoa Tunnel,
That's my home, baby, that's my home.

2. Asheville Junction, Swannanoa Tunnel,
All caved in, baby, all caved in.

3. Last December, I remember,
The wind blowed cold, baby, the wind blowed cold.

4. When you hear my watchdog howling, /Somebody around, (etc.).

5. When you hear that hoot owl squalling, /Somebody dying, (etc.).

6. Hammer falling from my shoulder /All day long, (etc.).

7. Ain't no hammer in this mountain /Outrings mine, (etc.).

8. This old hammer, it killed John Henry, /It didn't kill me, (etc.).

9. Riley Gardner, he killed my partner, /He couldn't kill me, (etc.).

10; Riley Rambler, he killed Jack Ambler, /He didn't kill me, (etc.).

11. This old hammer rings like silver, /Shines like gold, (etc.).

12. Take this hammer, throw it in the river, /It rings right on, baby, it shines right on.

13. Some of these days I'll see that woman, /Well that's no dream, (etc.).

Richie


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Subject: Lyr Add: NORAH
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Oct 08 - 03:16 PM

John Henry is often mentioned in the hammer songs. Noah is the subject in this one.

Lyr. Add: NORAH

1
Norah was a hundred and twenty years
buildin' de ark of God,
And ev'ry time his hammer ring,
Norah cried, "Amen!"

Chorus:
Well, who build de ark?
Norah build it.
Who build de ark?
Norak build it.
Who build de ark?
Norah build it,
Cut his timber down.

Fust thing dat Norah done,
Cut his timber down.
Second thing dat Norah done,
Hewed it all around.

2
Norah was a hundred and twenty years
buildin' de ark of God,
And ev'ry time his hammer ring,
Norah cried, "Amen!"

Chorus:
Well, who build de ark?
Norah build it.
Hammer keep a-ringin', said,
"Norah build it!"
Well, who build de ark?
Norah build it.
Who build de ark?
Norah build it.
Who build de ark?
Norah build it.
Cut his timber down.

With musical score. In the verse, 'Norah' is held a couple of beats.
Dorothy Scarborough, 1925, "On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs," pp. 222-223. Where the song came from is not stated; she received many of the songs in letters.


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Subject: Lyr Add: WOODCHOPPER'S SONG
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Oct 08 - 09:42 PM

Lyr. Add: WOODCHOPPER'S SONG

Ole Mister Oak tree, yo' day done come!
Zim-zam-zip-zoom!
Gwine chop you down an' cahy you home!
Bim-bam-biff-boom!
Buhds in de branches fin' anodder nes'!
Zim-zam-zip-zoom!
Ole Mister Oak Tree, he gwine to his res'!
Bim-bam-biff-zoom!

White folks callin' for day wahm wintah fiah!
Zim-Zam-zip-zoom!
Lif' de axe, Black Boy, hyah, hyah, hyah!
Bim-bam-biff-boom!

The zim- etc. sounds are "more like hissing, humming, whistling and crooning tones emphasized by the blows of the axe."
Coll. by Mrs. R. C. Thompson, Arkansas.
Dorothy Scarborough, 1925, "On the Trail of Negro Folk Songs," pp. 214-215.

Not a work gang song, but sung by the working individual.


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Subject: Lyr Add: TRACK LINERS' SONG
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Oct 08 - 10:39 PM

Lyr. Add: TRACK LINERS' SONG

The foreman gives orders to the straw boss, the singing leader, who relays them to the gandy dancers (track liners) "and then gives them a song and a rhythm to work by."

Called-
All right. Captain wants to line the track.
Hoh! Hold 'em right there!
Get you six bars! Put two bars on this side over here!
All right, shake it east!

Sung-
Oh the Captain can't read, the Captain can't write.
Captain can't tell you when the track's lined right.
Mobile, Alabama [!!!!!!!]
Mobile, Alabama [!!!!!!!]

Called-
Oh, move it, give me j'int ahead, j'ine 'em back behind the j'int ahead!
Set two bars in there and hold it east! Three bars, shake it west!
Oh, set it down boys!

Sung-
Woh, eat 'em up whiskers, one-eyed shave,
Eat 'em up by the light [.......] day.
Big boy, let's line it. [!!!!!!!]
Big boy, let's line it. [!!!!!!!]

Called-
Oh, j'ine ahead, j'int back, ahead of the j'int ahead!
All right, set 'em down and shake 'em west!
Woh, set 'em down, boys!

Sung-
Woh, Captain, when you get your section,
want to be your straw,
Git your daughter, be your son-in-law.
Mobile, Alabama. [!!!!!!!]
Mobile, Alabama. [!!!!!!!]

[!!!!!!!] represents the sounds made by the bars shaking the rails, "and, in the ears of the workmen, an integral part of the music." When the song is repeated to someone, the sounds often are given as "ratta-datta-datta-datta" or yakka-yakka ..."
No collection data.
Harold Courlander, 1963, "Negro Folk Music U. S. A.," pp. 95-96.

TRACK LINING SONG 2

All I hate about linin' track,
This old bar's 'bout to break my back.
Big boy, can't you line 'em? [!!!!!!]
Oh boy, can't you line 'em? [!!!!!!]
Oh boy, can't you line 'em? [!!!!!!]
Oh boy, can't you line 'em? [!!!!!!]
Here we go line them track.

If I could I surely would
Stand on the rock where Moses stood.
Big boy, can't you line 'em? [!!!!!!]
etc.

Moses stood on that Red Sea shore,
Smoten that water with a two-by-four.
Big boy, can't you line 'em? [!!!!!!]
etc.

Courlander, p. 97.
Sung by Leadbelly, Disc record 3001-A; V. Sounds of Work, note p. 295.


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Subject: Lyr Add: CALL ME HANGIN' JOHNNY
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Oct 08 - 02:23 PM

Lyr. Add: CALL ME HANGIN' JOHNNY

Solo
Call me hangin' Johnny
Chorus
O hang boys hang.
(Solo and response continues)

You call me hangin' Johnny
O hang boys hang.
Yes, I never hang nobody
O hang boys hang.
I never hang nobody
O hang boys hang.
O we'll heave an' haul together
O hang boys hang.
We heave an' haul forever
O hang boys hang.
They hang my ole Grandaddy
O hang boys hang.
They hang him for his money
O hang boys hang.
O they hang him for his money
O hang boys hang.
They hang him for his money
O hang boys hang.
They call me hangin' Johnny
O hang boys hang.
O I never hang nobody
O hang boys hang.

Sung by Joe Armstrong, onetime head stevedore. Musical score provided.

"Song used in loading lumber, six men on each side of the rope hauled on the block and tackle in putting a great "stick" in place on board a vessel." The sticks were timbers, 16" x 16" x 40' long.
The work was directed by "headers," stevedores responsible for proper loading of a vessel. The head stevedore was white, and Irish, or had learned the craft from Irish stevedores.
Most of the workmen were from the dock, although some ships had contract slaves or freedmen on board.
Ships came loaded with rock ballast, which was off-loaded on wasteland, between St. Simon's and Brunswick.

Sometimes called a chantey, but not concerned with sailing a vessel.

Lydia Parrish, 1942 (and later reprints), "Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands," pp. 203-204, 1992 edition.


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Subject: Lyr Add: HAMMERIN' SONG I
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Oct 08 - 06:10 PM

Lyr. Add: HAMMERIN' SONG I

Boss is callin' (huh!)
Let her drive, boys, (huh!)
Foller me,- (huh!)
Foller me! (huh!)
Boss is me! (huh!)

I been hammerin', (huh!)
In dis mountain, (huh!)
Four long year,- (huh!)
Four long year. (huh!)

Ain't no hammer (huh!)
In dis mountain (huh!)
Ring like mine,- (huh!)
Ring like mine. (huh!)

Cap-t'n tol' me (huh!)
Heard ma hammer (huh!)
Forty-nine mile,- (huh!)
Forth-nine mile. (huh!)

Ev'ry body (huh!)
What talks 'bout hammerin' (huh!)
Don't know how,- (huh!)
Don't know how. (huh!)

Hammerin' man, you (huh!)
Can't beat me, (huh!)
I'll go down,- (huh!)
I'll go down. (huh!)

With music score, spaced to match the rhythm, sung slowly and steadily. Most often sung alone by the "header."
"From the mines of Virginia.
Natalie Curtis-Burlin, 1918-1919, "Negro Folk-Songs," The Hampton Series Books 1-4, G. Schirmer Inc.
Dover unabridged republication, 2001, p. 146-148.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Janie
Date: 13 Oct 08 - 07:31 PM

I don't read music. If anyone has or stumbles across videos, mp3s or midis for some of these work songs, it would be great if you would post a link.

Q - as always - thanks for all that you contribute to the 'Cat. (ditto to Jim, Topical Tom, et. al.)

Janie


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Work Gang Songs
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Oct 08 - 08:00 PM

Janie, I have noted if music was provided- perhaps someone might provide a few midis. A very few are on Smithsonian recordings, but many have never been recorded.
Most were sung as part chant, part song, the 'leader' using whatever tune or tunes came into his head. Lyrics were changed to provide variety. Use whatever seems to suit the work rhythm.

Machinery changed the rhythm and worker interactions, the songs have largely disappeared.

I hope I have covered some of the range of these songs. I have a few more, but there is little point in posting slight variations.


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Subject: Lyr Add: COTT'N-PACKIN' SONG
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Oct 08 - 08:28 PM

Lyr. Add: COTT'N-PACKIN' SONG

Screw dis cott'n, heh!
Screw dis cott'n, heh!
Screw dis cott'n, heh!
Screw it tight- heh!

Screw dis cott'n, heh! (3x)
Wid all yo' might- heh!

Here we come, boys, heh! (3x)
Do it right- heh!

Don't get tired*, heh! (3x)
Time ain't long- heh!
*two syllables, 'ti-yerd' or 'ti-ohn'

Keep on workin', heh! (3x)
Sing dis song- heh!

Pay-day here, boys, heh! (3x)
I hear dem say- heh!

We'll have money, heh! (3x)
Dis your day- heh!

"The 'heh' is a sharp...ejaculation, accompanying the rhythmic turning of the screw in packing cotton."

"Last two verses are modern."

From coastal Georgia, Savannah, brought to Hampton by James Scott.

"The black packers in the hold, in gangs from five to ten men, stowed the cotton by means of iron "screws" which squeezed the bales tightly and compactly into the smallest possible space. Each gang was directed by a "header" or head-man, for the labor required precision and skill as well as strength."

Natalie Curtis-Burlin, 1918-1919, "Negro Folk-Songs," The Hampton Series. Book 4. Dover unabridged republication, 2001, pp. 108-110, with musical score.


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