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Origins: Billy's Mule - New Christy Minstrels?

rgreer@sympatico.ca 23 Nov 99 - 11:24 PM
Nathan in Texas 24 Nov 99 - 02:20 PM
Joe Offer 03 Sep 11 - 05:34 PM
Fl!p Breskin 03 Sep 11 - 07:20 PM
Gibb Sahib 04 Sep 11 - 12:27 AM
GUEST,AGM 18 Feb 21 - 08:18 PM
Cool Beans 19 Feb 21 - 09:37 AM
GUEST,# 19 Feb 21 - 10:02 AM
cnd 19 Feb 21 - 12:00 PM
cnd 05 Apr 21 - 09:49 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: BILLY'S MULE
From: rgreer@sympatico.ca
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 11:24 PM

BILLY'S MULE

CHORUS:
Billy's mule can tow the wagon. He can pull the plow.
He can figure 'rithmetic and milk a muley cow.
Don't need no education, ain't never been to school,
But anything worth doing can be done by Billy's mule.

1. A talent scout from Hollywood came into town one day.
He said, "I'll make you famous if you learn to sing and play."
Billy's Mule just laughed and said, "I don't want to be a star.
But who do you think taught Elvis how to play the old guitar?"
Uh Huh Uh Huh

2. I went on a date the other night with good old Sally Brown.
I took her to a dog fight on the other side of town.
I noticed when I kissed her she was acting kind of cool.
She said, "I'd get more pleasure out of kissing Billy's Mule."

3. Well, I get so mad when I draw my pay and all my money's spent,
I called up the White House and said to the Pres-E-Dent:
"If you don't cut out this income tax, you ain't no friend of mine."
He said, "I'll speak to Billy's mule. He's on the other line."


I would like to know who recorded this song and any other info I could get on it.


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Subject: RE: Billys Mule Who, Where and when please
From: Nathan in Texas
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 02:20 PM

An internet search found that it was recorded by the New Christy Minstrels on the album "Tell Tall Tales! Legends and Nonsense" (1963). I don't have any further information.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Billy's Mule - what's a muley cow?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Sep 11 - 05:34 PM

I just came across a great recording of this song on Marty Kohn's The Hat Album. It brought up two questions:
  1. Is the song traditional, or is it a Randy Sparks/New Christy Minstrels creation? (YouTube)
  2. What the heck is a muley cow? Lots of songs use that term.
Please enlighten me.
-Joe, Curious-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Billy's Mule - what's a muley cow?
From: Fl!p Breskin
Date: 03 Sep 11 - 07:20 PM

Just looked it up: A female cow born naturally without horns.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Billy's Mule - what's a muley cow?
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 04 Sep 11 - 12:27 AM

Also mentioned in "Camptown Races".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy's Mule - New Christy Minstrels?
From: GUEST,AGM
Date: 18 Feb 21 - 08:18 PM

Sang this song when I was a boy (in the 60's) at Camp Tall Trees. It was one of my favorites. I still hum it today


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy's Mule - New Christy Minstrels?
From: Cool Beans
Date: 19 Feb 21 - 09:37 AM

It's credited to Randy Sparks, founder of the New Christy Minstrels.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy's Mule - New Christy Minstrels?
From: GUEST,#
Date: 19 Feb 21 - 10:02 AM

A slightly different view of the song.

http://daughternumberthree.blogspot.com/2017/11/anything-worth-doing-can-be-done-by.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy's Mule - New Christy Minstrels?
From: cnd
Date: 19 Feb 21 - 12:00 PM

Though copyrighted by Randy Sparks, the liner notes seem to indicate that the song has older origins:
partly legend, but mostly tall-tale or bald-faced lie. The story has been up-dated with references to Francis of the movies, Elvis and the income tax.
I haven't searched extensively, but I haven't found an older version of this song than the NCM recording


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy's Mule - New Christy Minstrels?
From: cnd
Date: 05 Apr 21 - 09:49 AM

After a bit more searching, here's something closer to an origin of the song... not clear how much of the story is 'genuine' folk or just someone's tall tale of years past, but here's something: https://www.cantonrep.com/article/20071222/NEWS/312229963
The similarities to the lines provided to the New Christy Minstrel version gives me doubts, but perhaps it's a starting place.

Jim Hillibish: No one can forget Jimmy’s Mule


Cairo in northern Stark County refuses to blow away. Sometimes it’s folk lessons that are the glue.

In the mid-1800s, everybody knew Cairo. Rich loads of coal in the vicinity attracted haulers, first in mule wagons, then steam trains to Canton. Buck Morgan insisted there was so much coal, it jumped into your buckboard as you passed.

In the memories of some is a coal-mining creature named Jimmy’s Mule.

One day, as Jimmy and Jimmy’s Mule were awaiting something, Jimmy bought a jar of 20-cent white lightning from a miner. He handed him a quarter and the purveyor dutifully and purposefully counted him three filthy cents in change. It was almost grand larceny, and Jimmy didn’t know it.

Jimmy’s Mule had taken all of this in with the wariness of a March hay merchant. He raised such a heavy snort, our moonshining friend forked over the other two coppers and fled with a mule bite ripping drawers and flesh of his rear end.

That night, the boys, over the ’shine, birthed the Legend of Jimmy’s Mule, which exists to this day:

Jimmy’s Mule can tote a wagon, he can pull a plow.
He can figure ’rithmetic and milk a muley cow.
No need no education. Ain’t never sat no schooool.
Anything worth doin’ can be done by Jimmy’s Mule.

It seemed to please that old coot of a mule tied to a mine ventilator to hear that git-fiddle and those words drift over the flat Cairo plains. If mules could smile, and some say they do on the insides, Jimmy’s Mule did.

A few days later, some federal mine inspectors cast a cloud over town. They wanted records, tax receipts, everything owner Buck Morgan had figured he’d get to filling out tomorrow but never did. The revenue boys had him by the coal tongs, that is, until they crossed the yard shoving Buck ahead of them toward his shack of an office. Jimmy’s Mule, up for watering and haying, shot across the yard. While connecting rear hooves to federal man flesh on one of those boys, he flailed incisors at the other, eating a hearty portion of the man’s shirt and heading in toward meat and bone.

Funny how those federals suddenly figured old Buck had everything in order. They were last seen running past Medina, tatters flapping.
That night over some shine, this time provided by Buck, the Legend expanded a piece:

I got fed up the other day at paying my federal rent.
I called up the White House; I got the pres-i-dent.
If you don’t cut out this mining tax, you ain’t no friend of mine.
He said, I’ll con-sult with Jimmy’s Mule, he’s on the other line.

This song does go on and on, built over decades of celebrating the mule that could do anything.

Let it be said that in addition to being the first sterile mule to father 157, Jimmy’s Mule took credit for inventing the steam-mining machine, sitting in the State Legislature for six terms and bagging limit deer within 10 minutes of the start of every hunting season.

All this remained comfortably planted in two-part harmony with plentiful fiddle and harmonica chances before each chorus, of course.

As was the usual case, Buck’s mine soon got too deep to work coal. Buck sold everything off, including Jimmy’s Mule. It didn’t mean much anyway, since all the miners were joining the Army. There was war in Europe. It was 1918.

As for what happened to Jimmy’s Mule, nobody seems to know. Some say there’s an epitaph on a grave near a battlefield in perhaps France that sheds some light.

It memorializes an unnamed ammunition mule, a critter that braved shell, bullet and gas without fail, lugging the fight to our boys in the trenches, returning with litters of their torn bodies:

Here lies Jimmy’s Mule of Cairo, Ohio

He kicked 27 privates, 19 corporals, 11 sergeants, 10 lieutenants, 7 captains, 5 majors, 3 colonels, and one box of howitzer shells.

He didn’t need no education, he never went to school.

Anything worth doing can be done by Jimmy’s Mule.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(Note that though Jimmy Martin does a song called Jimmy's Mule, it's not this song but rather a version of Johnson's Old Gray Mule)


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Mudcat time: 20 April 8:26 AM EDT

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