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Origin: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago

DownEast Bob 29 Sep 99 - 09:55 PM
Jim Dixon 05 Nov 09 - 03:01 PM
Cool Beans 05 Nov 09 - 04:22 PM
GUEST,Grandma Mary 29 Feb 12 - 10:09 AM
Charley Noble 29 Feb 12 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Grandma Mary 02 Mar 12 - 10:25 PM
Cool Beans 03 Mar 12 - 12:11 PM
GUEST 14 May 12 - 02:03 PM
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Subject: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago
From: DownEast Bob
Date: 29 Sep 99 - 09:55 PM

A friend of mine picked up a song called "Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago" from an old timer at a party in North Carolina in the early 60s. I've continued to sing it, in spite of it's politically incorrect title, from time to time but I've always been curious about its origins. It's all about a big fight that develops after a guy named Johnson tries to retrieve a "five and gold" that he had mistakenly dropped in an organ grinder's hat, thinking it was a quarter. It's a riot. Literally.

Chorus: They had it in and out, Lordy, up and down, In the alley and on the ground, I swear I never seen such carryin' on before. I do not know that monkey's name, But he got there just the same. Bill Johnson, the monkey and the dago.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 05 Nov 09 - 03:01 PM

WorldCat.org gives this catalog information:

BILL JOHNSON, THE MONKEY, AND THE DAGO
Bob Cole
New York: Cruger Bros., ©1894.

First line: Bill Johnson was a desp'rate man.
First line of chorus: 'Twas up and down and all around.

...which is a bit different from the lyrics in DigiTrad


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago
From: Cool Beans
Date: 05 Nov 09 - 04:22 PM

Ah, my late pal Bob Baldwin (Downeast Bob) speaks again from beyond the grave. We used to sing this song nearly every time we got together.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago
From: GUEST,Grandma Mary
Date: 29 Feb 12 - 10:09 AM

My mother who was from Arkansas used to sing this song. I had forgotten the lyrics. She was born in 1909. I always heard the chorus like this.
"It was up and down and all around,
in the air and on the ground,
I never heard such fighting done before,
I didn't know that Monkey's name
but he got there just the same.
WHO! (with a flash of hands)
Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago"

I am sooo happy to find some lyrics.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago
From: Charley Noble
Date: 29 Feb 12 - 01:05 PM

Maybe we can tease out some more lyrics.

Here's what I harvested from the link above:

BILL JOHNSON, THE MONKEY, AND THE DAGO

Bill Johnson, he was a desperate man; he come to town one day;
And he sold a herd of cattle that he raised out in the west.
And standin', on a corner, was a dago and his monkey,
And the monkey tickled Johnson way down in his chest.

Then they passed the hat around, and Johnson put some in;
And when he found out his mistake, it was then that the trouble begin.
'Cause he thought it was a quarter, but it was a five and gold.
That's when they started in just like brave warriors of old.

Chorus:

They had it in and out, Lordy, up and down
In the alley and on the ground,
I swear I never seen such carryin' on before.
I do not know that monkey's name, but he got there just the same.
Bill Johnson, the monkey, and the dago.


Well the dago, he threw a brick at Bill; Johnson let it go past.
It hit a dutchman on the head and broke a chinaman's window glass.
Then the chinaman, he come runnin' out; imagine what he found.
Old Johnson, he'd picked up the monkey by the tail and he knocked that Dago
down.

Chorus:

Then the dago he drew a stilletto, old Johnson went for his gun;
The dutchman whipped out a razor, and the chinaman broke into a run.
He ran into a policeman, and knocked him right offa his pins.
The cop, he sent for the big patrol and they run that whole crew in.

Chorus:

People who were offended by the Taco Bell commercial probably won't like
this little song very much either, but I think it's pretty neat. As far as
I know, this song exists only in oral tradition. A friend of mine, a
retired newspaper columnist named R.C. Smith, who lives in Guilford
College, N.C., recorded this song in about 1960 at a party in Raleigh
where it was sung by an aging state employee. He and I used to sing it
together at parties in the 60s. I have the old man's name somewhere, but
can't find it at the moment. DEB

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago
From: GUEST,Grandma Mary
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 10:25 PM

I talked to my brother and he said our grandfather who was born in approximately 1885 also sang this song. He sang base in a Barbershop Quartet for awhile. As I mentioned in a earlier post, Mom taught it to us. I learned it a little differently. This is how I learned it. The first verse isn't right because the last words in each line don't rhyme. But I can't remember how it went. When you say WHO! mom always flashed her hands. I sang it the best I could with the music I remember. When I tried to sing it with the other verses above. I couldn't get all the words in. How wonderful there are people out there who try to keep these over 100 year old songs alive.

Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago

Bill Johnson was a desperate man; he come to town one day;
He'd sold a herd of cattle that he raised way out west.
And standin', on a corner, was a Dago and his monkey,
And the monkey tickled Johnson way down in his chest.

Then they passed the hat around and Johnson put some in;
When found out his mistake, it was then the troubles begin.
'Cause he thought it was a quarter, but it was a five and gold.
That's when they started in just like brave warriors of old.

Chorus:
It was up and down and all around,
In the air and on the ground,
I never heard such fighting done before,
I never knew that monkey's name
But he got there just the same.
WHO? Bill Johnson the Monkey, and the Dago.

Well, the Dago threw a brick at Bill, and Johnson let it go past.
It hit a Dutchman on the head and broke a Chinaman's window glass.
The Chinaman, he come runnin' out; imagine what he found.
Johnson picked up the monkey by the tail and knocked the Dago down.

Chorus:
It was up and down and all around,
In the air and on the ground,
I never heard such fighting done before,
I never knew that monkey's name
But he got there just the same.
WHO? Bill Johnson the Monkey, and the Dago.

Then the Dago drew a stiletto, and Johnson went for his gun;
The Dutchman whipped out a razor, and the Chinaman broke and run.
He ran into a policeman, and knocked him right off his pins.
The cop, sent for the big patrol and they run the whole crew in.

Chorus:
It was up and down and all around,
In the air and on the ground,
I never heard such fighting done before,
I never knew that monkey's name
But he got there just the same.
WHO? Bill Johnson the Monkey, and the Dago.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago
From: Cool Beans
Date: 03 Mar 12 - 12:11 PM

Charley, it's a damned shame I never got to introduce you and Downeast Bob. You lived not far from each other and you both knew "Bill Johnson, The Monkey and the Dago." What're the odds?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Bill Johnson, the Monkey, and the Dago
From: GUEST
Date: 14 May 12 - 02:03 PM

Great to be able to see that this old song is known and sung still by a few folks. My dad use to sing it to us and he was very expressive and so much fun to hear him sing. It didn't matter that as we grew older still would get him to sing this for us when we got together. Never did pick up all the lyrics since it was sung fast like the action going on, so now we have access to it again and can continue to pass it down to the next generations.


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