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Lyr Req: 20 Cent Cotton, 90 Cent Meat

DigiTrad:
COTTON MILL BLUES
COTTON MILL COLIC
SEVEN CENT COTTON AND FORTY CENT MEAT


Related thread:
Lyr Add: Cotton Mill Colic (4)


jcamenga@remc7.k12.mi.us 08 Jun 97 - 08:07 AM
Gene Graham 08 Jun 97 - 11:18 AM
Jim Dixon 09 Nov 09 - 09:47 PM
Jim Dixon 09 Nov 09 - 10:04 PM
Jim Dixon 26 Sep 15 - 09:40 AM
cnd 26 Sep 15 - 06:35 PM
Jim Dixon 28 Sep 15 - 09:54 PM
Joe Offer 07 May 16 - 03:27 AM
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Subject: 20 Cent Cotton, 90 Cent Meat
From: jcamenga@remc7.k12.mi.us
Date: 08 Jun 97 - 08:07 AM

I'm seeking complete lyrics to a song called "20 Cent Cotton, 90 Cent Meat." It's a farmer protest song about the low cost of cotton compared to the cost of meat and shoes. I have a version by Stringbean, a deceased banjo player. Thanks. Jim Camenga jcamenga@remc7.k12.mi.us


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Subject: RE: 20 Cent Cotton, 90 Cent Meat
From: Gene Graham
Date: 08 Jun 97 - 11:18 AM

the song minus INFLATION over the years is in the Digital Tradition database ....

search for [ cotton meat ] to bring it up...


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Subject: RE: 20 Cent Cotton, 90 Cent Meat
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 09:47 PM

The Online 78-rpm Discography Project lists these recordings:

ELEVEN CENT COTTON
    Bob Ferguson, 1928
    Frank Luther & Carson Robison, 1929
    Texas Ranger (Loran Abrams), 1931
ELEVEN CENT COTTON & FORTY CENT MEAL (sic)
    Vernon Dalhart, 1929
ELEVEN CENT COTTON AND FORTY CENT MEAT
    Hank Smith (Al Bernard), 1929
    Wendell Hall, 1929
ELEVEN CENT COTTON, FORTY CENT MEAT PT. 2
    Bob Ferguson, 1928
FIVE CENT COTTON
    Bud Thompson, 1932
    Uncle Bob's Plowboys, 1932
    Uncle Bud & His Plowboys, 1932
FOUR CENT COTTON
    Lester Stoke's Potlickers, 1930
    Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers, 1931
LEVEN CENT COTTON
    Frank Luther, 1927
    Carson Robison Trio, 1928
    Mack Allen (V. Dalhart), 1928
    Carson Robison, 1929
TWELVE CENT COTTON ROLLIN' IN WEALTH
    Buck Nation, 1935


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Subject: RE: 20 Cent Cotton, 90 Cent Meat
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Nov 09 - 10:04 PM

Here's my transcription from the sound file at Honking Duck:


FOUR CENT COTTON
As sung by the Skillet Lickers
Columbia 15746-D :: Recorded October 24, 1931 :: Issued July 1932

Goin' down the road, hootin' and a-hollerin',
I got drunk on four-cent cotton.

Woke up this mornin' feelin' kind o' rotten.
I've been drunk on four-cent cotton.

Times is gettin' hard. They're gettin' kind o' rotten.
Ever'body's sellin' four-cent cotton.


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Subject: Lyr Add: ELEVEN CENT COTTON AND FORTY CENT MEAT
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 26 Sep 15 - 09:40 AM

ELEVEN CENT COTTON AND FORTY CENT MEAT
As recorded by Bob Ferguson, 1928.

PART 1

1. Eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat.
How in the world can a poor man eat?
Flour up high, cotton down low.
How in the world can we raise the dough?
Our clothes worn out, shoes run down,
Old slouch hat with a hole in the crown,
Back nearly broken, fingers all wore,
Cotton going down to rise no more.

2. Eleven-cent cotton, ten-dollar pants.
Who in the devil has got a chance?
We can't buy clothes; we can't buy meat.
Got too much cotton, not enough to eat.
Can't help each other; what shall we do?
I can't solve the problem, so it's up to you.
Eleven-cent cotton, two-dollar hose.
Guess we will have to go without any clothes.

3. Eleven-cent cotton, a carload of tax.
The load's too heavy for our poor backs.
Got a set of(?) farmers we all know well.
There's something wrong as sure as hell.
We all work hard; we groan and sweat.
We're plumb ruined and a boat(?) upset.
No use talkin'; any man's beat
With eleven-cent cotton and forty-cent meat.

4. Eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat.
Keep gettin' thinner cause we don't eat.
Try to raise peas, try to raise beans.
All we can raise is turnip greens.
Folks always sick; pa must cough.
Ain't had no sugar since ma dropped off.
No use talkin'; any man's beat
With eleven-cent cotton and forty-cent meat.

5. Eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat.
Feels like a chain is on our feet.
Poor gettin' poorer all around here.
Kids comin' regular ev'ry year.
Planted corn, was a wheat year.
Planted wheat, and it turned a corn year.
No use talkin'; any man's beat
With eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat.

6. Eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat.
How in the world can a poor man eat?
Mule's in the barn, the crops laid by.
The crib's plumb empty and the cow's gone dry.
Well water's low, nearly out o' sight.
Can't take a bath on a Saturday night.
No use talkin'; any man's beat
With eleven-cent cotton and forty-cent meat.

PART 2

7. Funny how prices make such a range!
The poor old farmer is always shortchanged.
Forty-cent meat, eleven-cent cotton,
Makes a fellow mad when he's treated so rotten.
We fatten up our hogs, take 'em into town.
All we get is six cents a pound.
Very next day we have to buy it back
At forty cents a pound in a paper sack.

8. Eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat,
Sun always scorching up our wheat.
Hogs got the colic, cattle mouth disease.
Boll weevils only eatin' all they please.
Even the help is so lazy,
No wonder that we're all crazy.
No use talkin'; any man's beat
With eleven-cent cotton and forty-cent meat.

9. Eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat.
How in the world can a poor man eat?
Pray for the sunshine, 'course it will rain.
Things getting' worse, drivin' all insane.
Built a nice barn, painted it brown,
Lightnin' come along and burned it down.
No use talkin'; any man's beat
With eleven-cent cotton and forty-cent meat.

10. Eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat,
Can't buy shoes to put on our feet.
Boll weevils here, boll weevils there,
Eats up our cotton and just don't care.
Then high water us awakes.
What the boll weevil won't eat the high water takes.
No use talkin'; any man's beat
With eleven-cent cotton and forty-cent meat.

11. Eleven-cent cotton, forty-cent meat.
How in the world can we stand the heat?
Summertime burn, winter time freeze,
Clothes worn out and we're ragged at the knees.
Hired hand sits and sleeps
While the hogs run loose rootin' up the wheat.
No use talkin;' any man's beat
With eleven-cent cotton and forty-cent meat.

12. No corn in the crib, no chicks in the yard,
No meat in the smokehouse, no tubs full o' lard,
No cream in the pitcher, no honey in the mug,
No butter on the table, no molasses in the jug.
Things to eat are always high.
Ev'ryone is selling; no one will buy.
We won't quit kickin'; the fault's not our own.
We just can't reap where we have sown.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 20 Cent Cotton, 90 Cent Meat
From: cnd
Date: 26 Sep 15 - 06:35 PM

There were also slightly-different versions recorded by Stringbean as "Fifty-Cent Cotton, Ninety-Cent Meat" (some inflation going on!), (listen), and as "Seven-Cent Cotton and Forty-Cent Meat Jim Lauderdale (listen), Pete Seeger (listen), and as "Eleven-Cent Cotton" by Porter Wagoner (listen). There was also versions recorded by Wendell Hall and Mickey Galyean on Spotify.

There's also a song called "Four-Cent Cotton" about the Whiskey Tax with the following lyrics:

FOUR-CENT COTTON
(Lowe Stokes)

Old John Davy is dead and rottin'
He got drunk on four-cent cotton
Hey, hey four-cent cotton
Hey, hey four-cent cotton

Sleep all night with a hole in your stockin'
Get no more of the four cent cotton'
Hey, hey four-cent cotton
Hey, hey four-cent cotton

All year runnin' in cotton
I went broke on four cent cotton.
Hey, hey four-cent cotton
Hey, hey four-cent cotton

Billie goat a-runnin' in the holler
We gonna sell some four cent cotton
Hey, hey four-cent cotton
Hey, hey four-cent cotton

Four cent cotton sure as you're born
I'm gonna drink some Georgia corn,
Hey, hey four-cent cotton
Hey, hey four-cent cotton

Source: http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/four-cent-cotton--lowe-stokes--1930.aspx

There's also a different version of it here: http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/old-time-music/old-time-songs/four_cent_cotton.html

There's also a (in my opinion) not-so-great different punk-rock song by Stephen Dale Petit under the name "7 Cent Cotton."


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Subject: Lyr Add: NINETY CENTS BUTTER (Oscar Brand)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Sep 15 - 09:54 PM

NINETY CENTS BUTTER
As recorded by Oscar Brand on "Pie in the Sky" (1969)

Come, ev'rybody; listen while I sing.
This high cost o' livin' is a terrible thing.
Ev'ry day you go into a store,
Prices hit the ceilin' just a little bit more.
You buy a piece of bread and some corned-beef hash.
All you got left is petty cash.
Look at your dollar now; what do you see?
It's only half as big as it used to be.

CHORUS: Ninety cents butter and ninety cents meat—
How in the heck can a poor man eat?

Winter time comes, there's a dickens to pay.
Food goes up in the same old way.
Coal gettin' higher and the kids gotta dress,
How you gonna do it is anybody's guess.
Even the bugs in the kitchen sink
Are pickin' in the pantry for food and drink.
If I don't get clothes and food to boot,
I'll starve to death in my birthday suit.

'Cause— CHORUS

I tell you, folks: you work hard all your life
Supportin' your kids and sometimes your wife.
Things gettin' higher, kind o' feel sick.
Somethin' gotta happen and it gotta happen quick.
Your congressman's workin' hard ev'ry day
Figurin' out how to cut down your pay.
Gotta give that boy somethin' to remember
When you meet him at the polls some cold November.

Well— CHORUS

You remember the days when butter and meat
Was the natural food for folks to eat.
I never had much as I now recall,
But nowadays I'm lucky when I eat at all.
I'm livin' in the hope I'll eat some day
Before my body just wastes away.
If they don't cut the price of a piece o' cow,
I ain't gonna linger; I'll starve right now.

CHORUS

When you go and ask 'em the cause of it all,
They hand you a line about ten foot tall,
Moan and groan and tear their hair
'Bout the high cost o' bein' a millionaire.
Take a full-page ad in the Evenin' News.
They blame it on Negroes and reds and Jews.
Well, I was born in the bushes; I was raised in the woods.
They can't sell me that line o' goods.

CHORUS


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 20 Cent Cotton, 90 Cent Meat
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 May 16 - 03:27 AM

I thought for sure this song was mid-19th century traditional, but the Traditional Ballad Index dates it to 1928. Can that be true?

Seven Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat

DESCRIPTION: The cotton farmer complains about dreadful prices; with "Seven cent cotton and forty cent meat, How in the world can a poor man eat?" With everything he has wearing out, replacements are too expensive. (He sees improvements under Roosevelt)
AUTHOR: Bob Miller & Emma Dermer
EARLIEST DATE: 1928 (recording, Bob Ferguson)
KEYWORDS: poverty hardtimes food clothes farming political money
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 877-878, "Seven-Cent Cotton and Forty-Cent Meat" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 117, "Seven Cent Cotton And Forty Cent Meat" (1 text)
DT, SVNCENT*

RECORDINGS:
Loren H. Abram, "Eleven Cent Cotton -- Forty Cent Meat" (Supertone 2774, c. 1932; rec. 1931)
Vernon Dalhart, "Eleven Cent Cotton" (Victor V-40050, 1929; Bluebird B-8406, 1940) (Harmony 821-H [as Mack Allen], 1929; rec. 1928) (Edison N-20001, 1929)
Bob Ferguson, "Eleven Cent Cotton, Forty Cent Meat, pts. 1 & 2" (Columbia 15297-D, 1928)
Bob Miller, "'Leven Cent Cotton And Forty Cent Meat" (Radiex 5044, c. 1929); "Eleven Cent Cotton And Forty Cent Meat" (Okeh 45475, 1930)
Carson Robison, "'Leven Cent Cotton, Forty Cent Meat" (Champion 15746, 1929) (Pathe Actuelle 32438/Cameo 9092 [both as Carson Robison's Trio], 1929)
Pete Seeger, "Seven Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat" (on PeteSeeger13, AmHist1)
Hank Smith [pseud. for Al Bernard] "Eleven Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat" (Vocalion 5318, 1929)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Flies Are On the Tummits" (theme of poor living for farmers)
NOTES: The 1928 recording by Bob Ferguson (recorded in August of that year) might seem to throw doubt on the authorship claim of Bob Miller. But his recording is on Radiex, part of the Grey Gull family of records, and dating those records is notoriously difficult and uncertain. For the moment, though, I've assigned the Earliest Date to the Ferguson recording, as it's the earliest for which we have unambiguous information.
Also, there's some ambiguity about Miller's 1930 OKeh recording; one source lists the title as "Four Cent Tobacco and Forty Cent Meat.
Interesting that most of these recordings appeared in 1928-1929, just *before* the stock market crash that most urbanites see as the beginning of the Great Depression. But times had been hard on the farms for several years before then. - PJS
And, of course, demand for recordings fell dramatically after the crash, so nobody was producing new versions.
Incidentally, low cotton prices were not a new phenomenon, and neither were wild price fluctuations. According to Allan Nevins, The Ordeal of the Union: Fruits of Manifest Destiny 1847-1852 [volume I of The Ordeal of the Union] (Scribners, 1947), p. 242, cotton in 1845 sold in the American south for sixteen cents a pound. By 1848, when the total production was half again as large, the price dropped to a mere four and a half cents a pound.
It is interesting to see this song become so popular in folk circles, because Bob Miller was a Tin Pan Alley songwriter. According to Doug deNatale and Glenn Hinson, "The Southern Textile Song Tradition Reconsidered," published in Archie Green, editor, Songs about Work: Essays in Occupational Culture for Richard A. Reuss, Folklore Institute, Indiana University, 1993, p. 81, his other occupation songs were generally not accepted by the fok. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.6
File: BAF877

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