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Origins: Sweet Betsy from Pike

DigiTrad:
JOE BOWERS
MASTER MCGRATH
SWEET BETSY FROM PIKE
THE POKEGAMA BEAR
VILLIKINS AND HIS DINAH


Related threads:
Help: Origin of Villikins&Dinah tune (16)
(origins) Origins: Master McGrath (60)
Lyr Req: Villikins & his Dinah: songs using tune (68)
(origins) Origins: They Died as they Lived (1)
Lyr Add: Little Dame Crump (2)
Where is Pike (as in 'Sweet Betsy from.. (22)
Lyr Req: Dinah and Villikens (23)
Sweet Betsy From Pike - refrain??? (50)
Info on: Master McGrath (14)
This remind you of Villikins & Dinah? (13)
SFTD-Pokegama Bear-11/17 (16)


GUEST,pal_lascano@yahoo.com 21 Aug 00 - 07:34 PM
rabbitrunning 21 Aug 00 - 07:42 PM
rabbitrunning 21 Aug 00 - 07:46 PM
Jacob B 22 Aug 00 - 09:53 AM
GUEST,magneticreversal@yahoo.com 19 Oct 01 - 07:30 PM
Snuffy 19 Oct 01 - 07:38 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 19 Oct 01 - 08:08 PM
masato sakurai 19 Oct 01 - 09:09 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 19 Oct 01 - 09:20 PM
Sorcha 20 Oct 01 - 01:23 AM
Snuffy 20 Oct 01 - 08:21 AM
Charley Noble 20 Oct 01 - 09:37 AM
Sorcha 20 Oct 01 - 03:45 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 20 Oct 01 - 05:28 PM
masato sakurai 07 Oct 02 - 06:55 AM
GUEST,cyrusdubman31@hotmail.com 03 Oct 04 - 10:09 PM
GUEST,Flash Company 04 Oct 04 - 06:49 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Oct 04 - 02:51 PM
Cap't Bob 04 Oct 04 - 07:46 PM
Abby Sale 04 Oct 04 - 08:52 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Oct 04 - 09:59 PM
Joe Offer 28 Nov 14 - 03:53 PM
BrooklynJay 29 Nov 14 - 12:37 AM
GUEST 02 Dec 17 - 12:46 PM
Lighter 03 Dec 17 - 12:51 PM
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Subject: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: GUEST,pal_lascano@yahoo.com
Date: 21 Aug 00 - 07:34 PM

Last week I bought a CD with some nice versions of traditional songs. However, the singer has a lot of accent, and I couldn't understand what he says at the chorus of Sweet Betsy from Pike. I am aware that some versions are mere to-rall-ay to-rall-ay, but this singer actually says something. It goes like: Saying good bye Pike County farewell for a while, we will come back again ......................... I would be grateful for any comments, information, etc. about the missing words.

By the way, I couldn't find the lyrics of 'Night Visiting Sun'. Please, send your comments, etc. to my e-mail adress. Thanks in advance.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: rabbitrunning
Date: 21 Aug 00 - 07:42 PM

well it's here... (I hope I got the html right!)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: rabbitrunning
Date: 21 Aug 00 - 07:46 PM

Whoops. I was so busy trying to do the html right I didn't read your message carefully enough.

I've heard the chorus as:

So goodbye Pike County, farewell for a while
We'll come back to you when we've gotten our pile.

I assume the pile is a pile of gold.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: Jacob B
Date: 22 Aug 00 - 09:53 AM

I've seen a final chorus, after Betsy has thrown Ike out, whick says something like, "Goodbye, you bastard, I'm glad that you're gone, but come back now and then to light my fire."


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Subject: Sweet Betsy from pike
From: GUEST,magneticreversal@yahoo.com
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 07:30 PM

Does anyone know any history about this song! I've always know it, but have no idea where it came from! Thanks! -Teresa


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy History
From: Snuffy
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 07:38 PM

In The Penguin Book of American Folksongs Alan Lomax says merely:
Perhaps the best of all the songs set to the tune that Englishmen know as Villikins and his Dinah, this gold-rush ballad tells the rollicking story of a covered wagon trek to California in the days of forty-nine. Such songs were performed by the professional entertainers who toured the gold camps, and were circulated in the little pocket songs books of that day.

WassaiL! V


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 08:08 PM

To be called a "Piker" was to be called a fool, a bafoon, a "pilgram in the John Wayne sense of the word," or total "greenhorn;" hence the common expresion used today is: "He is NO Piker" or "I am NO Piker."

Pike County (Missouri) History - http://www.pikecountytourism.com/history.htm


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy History
From: masato sakurai
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 09:09 PM

"The first known printing of Sweet Betsy from Pike was in Put's Golden Songster (San Francisco, 1858), copyrighted Aug. 23, 1858, which has the complete words, without music, but specified to the "Air, Villikins and His Dinah," p. 50; NYPL and JF. As the copyright is in the name of John A. Stone and the introduction by the "Author" indicates that the words are original, it is believed that John A. Stone is the author of the new words. Stone had crossed the plains from Pike County, Mo., in 1849-1850, and had a small group of singers, the Sierra Nevada Rangers, which toured the mining camps. He died in 1864 and is buried in Greenwood, Neb." (James J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music, 4th ed., Dover, p. 604). The Stone version is reprinted in Richard A. Dwyer and Richard E. Lingenfelter, eds., The Songs of the Gold Rush (University of California Press, 1965, pp. 43-44), and Austin E. Fife and Alta S. Fife, eds., Cowboy and Western Songs: A Comprehensive Anthology (Clarkson N. Potter, 1969, pp. 48-49). The Fifes' comments are:

"'Sweet Betsey' is the most sung of all frontier women. Her Odyssey with Long Ike offers a rollicking humor and the stereotype of a rugged pioneer woman having no counterpart in this puritanized generation of ours. The song has been recorded, printed, sung, copied innumerable times: there are many stanzas not offered in this 1858 text, including some that 'don't look good in print'"(p. 48).

~Masato


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Subject: Lyr Add: SWEET BETSY FROM PIKE (Mormon version)
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Oct 01 - 09:20 PM

Here is a version from Utah, taken from "Mormon Songs From the Rocky Mountains," ed. by Thomas E. Cheney. Some lines are different.

SWEET BETSY FROM PIKE (Mormon version)

Oh, don't you remember sweet Betsy from Pike
Who crossed the wide mountains with her lover Ike
With two yoke of oxen, a large yellow dog,
A tall Shanghai rooster, and one spotted hog.

One evening quite early they camped by the Platte
Close by the roadside on a green shady flat
When Betsy, sure-footed, lay down to repose
With wonder she gazed on his Pike County nose.

The Shanghai ran off and the cattle all died;
The last piece of bacon that morning was fried.
Poor Ike was discouraged and Betsy was mad;
The dog wagged his tail and looked mournfully sad.

At length the old wagon came down with a crash
And out on the prairie rolled all kinds of trash,
A few litle baby clothes, done up with great care,
Looked rather suspicious but all on the square.

They went by Salt Lake to inquire the way
Where Brigham declared Sweet Betsy should stay.
Betsy got frightened and ran like a deer
While Brigham stood pawing the ground like a steer.

other last lines-
When Betsy said no, Brigham brayed like a mule.
and- Brigham said, "If you don't to Hell you will go."
In the 3rd verse, "Betsy went mad" is often sung.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy History
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 01:23 AM

The banjo player in my band swears he has seen a version in which Betsey was Joe Bowers sister.........


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy History
From: Snuffy
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 08:21 AM

Who he?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 09:37 AM

I've never run across one of my mother's odd verses which runs:
    Ike yelled, "Betsy, where are you?" and she shouted back,
    "A grizzly bear's got me down flat on my back!
    But don't you come out here; you'd best stay indoors,
    For a lady can't wrestle without showing her drawers."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy History
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 03:45 PM

Actually, I goofed. Joe was Ike's brother; see here.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Oct 01 - 05:28 PM

Any more verses out there? Should be hundreds!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy History
From: masato sakurai
Date: 07 Oct 02 - 06:55 AM

"Villikins and his Dinah" is posted and discussed HERE.

Stephen Foster wrote lyrics to this tune (Click here; the music is on page 3):

Title: [Foster-Hall Reproductions]. The Great Baby Show, or, The Abolition Show.
Composer, Lyricist, Arranger: Stephen C. Foster [holograph of text and music sent to the composer's brother, Wm. B. Foster, Jr., March 11, 1857].
Wm. B. Foster, Jr. Publication: n.p., n.d.: , .
Form of Composition: strophic with chorus
Instrumentation: piano and voice
First Line: On the Seventeenth day of September you know
First Line of Chorus: Sing tu ral lal lu ral lal etc.
Subject: Satire
Subject: Political platforms
Subject: Parades & processions
Subject: Politicians
Call No.: Box: 071 Item: 049

Beethoven used a related tune called "Paddy Whack" as a theme in his "Air ecossais In D Major" (Click here (track 11), and Click here (track 6)). The score is in Beethoven: Variationen über Volkslieder, Opus 105 und 107 für Klavier und Flöte (Violine) ad lib. (G. Henle Verlag, [2001], pp. 29-33).

For more information on the tune, see The Fiddler's Companion: Paddy Whack.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: GUEST,cyrusdubman31@hotmail.com
Date: 03 Oct 04 - 10:09 PM

seems to me that I've heard a version of the lyrics that (as near as I can remember)goes:
    The jug was brought out
    and betsy got tight
    and danced a sung all through the night,
    and continued all through the week
    and showed her bare ass to the whole wagon train


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: GUEST,Flash Company
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 06:49 AM

    Long Ike and sweet Betsy attended a dance,
    Ike wore a pair of his Pike County pants,
    Sweet Betsy was dressed all in ribbons and rings,
    Said Ike 'You're an angel, but where are your wings?'

    A miner came up, said 'Will you dance with me?'
    'I will you old hog if you don't make too free,
    And I'll tell you the reason, do you want to know why,
    Doggone ye I'm chock full of strong alkali!'

Both verses from Burl Ives

FC


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Subject: Lyr Add: SWEET BETSEY FROM PIKE (John A. Stone)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 02:51 PM

Here is the original, written by John A. Stone.

SWEET BETSEY FROM PIKE
(John A. Stone, 1858)

Oh, don't you remember sweet Betsey from Pike,
Who crossed the big mountain with her lover Ike,
With two yoke of cattle, a large yellow dog,
A tall Shanghai rooster and one spotted hog.

Chorus:
Tooral lal looral lal looral lal la.

One evening quite early they camped on the Platte,
'Twas near the road on a green shady flat,
Where Betsey, sore-footed, lay down to repose-
With wonder Ike gazed on that Pike County rose.

Their wagons broke down with a terrible crash,
And out on the prairie rolled all kinds of trash;
A few little baby clothes done up with care-
'Twas rather suspicious, though all on the square.

The shanghai ran off, and their cattle all died;
That morning the last piece of bacon was fried;
Poor Ike was discouraged, and Betsy got mad,
The dog drooped his tail and looked wondrously sad.

They stopped at Salt Lake to inquire the way,
When Brigham declared that sweet Betsey should stay;
But Betsey got frightened and ran like a deer,
While Brigham stood pawing the ground like a steer.

They soon reached the desert, where Betsey gave out,
And down in the sand she lay rolling about;
While Ike, half distracted, looked on with surprise,
Saying, "Betsey, get up, you'll get sand in your eyes."

Sweet Betsey got up in a great deal of pain,
Declared she'd go back to Pike County again;
But Ike gave a sigh, and they fondly embraced,
And they traveled along with his arm round her waist.

They suddenly stopped on a very high hill,
With wonder looked down on old Placerville;
Ike sighed when he said, and he cast his eyes down,
"Sweet Betsey, my darling, we've got to Hangtown."

Long Ike and sweet Betsey attended a dance;
Ike wore a pair of his Pike County pants;
Sweet Betsey was covered with ribbons and rings;
Says Ike, "You're an angel, but where are your wings?"

A miner said, "Betsey, will you dance with me?"
"I will that, old hoss, if you don't make too free;
But don't dance me hard; do you want to know why?
Dog on you! I'm chock full of strong alkali!"

This Pike County couple got married of course,
And Ike became jealous- obtained a divorce;
Sweet Betsey, well-satisfied, said with a shout,
Good bye, you big lummox, I'm glad you backed out!

Text from John A. Stone, 1858, "Put's Golden Songster," 1st. ed. San Francisco: Appleton & Co. pp. 50-52; reproduced in Lingenfelter and Dwyer, 1968, "Songs of the American West," pp. 42-43 with music. Univ. California Press.
Stone printed some variant verses in the second edition of his "Songster" (also in 1858 not found).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: Cap't Bob
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 07:46 PM

I learned the last verse as:

"So goodbye Pike County, farewell for a while
We'll come back to you when we've panned our pile"

Cap't Bob


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: Abby Sale
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 08:52 PM

I believe Guest is asking for the following verse.

Out on the prairie on bright starry night
They broke the whiskey and Betsy got tight
She sang and she shouted and danced o'er the plain,
And showed her bare arse to the whole wagon train.

The verse is in the database and several collections, eg, Lomax, _Folk Songs of North America_.

I've taken a few notes on it over the years. It's notable that this sweet little ditty (who can forget the cute little sad doggie wagging his tail?) also mentions pre-marital sex, starvation, cholera, slaughter, privation, drunkenness, public disorderliness, public (partial) nudity, racial slurs, scalping, mortal fear, manslaughter, debility, toxemic seizure, bickering, morbid frustration, despair and discouragement, terror, pain, religious slurs, bigamy, kidnap, vehicular breakdown and crash, possible infanticide, animal abuse & death, alcohol poisoning, jealousy, unfaithfulness, divorce.

And I likely left some things out.

Hangtown is along Hangtown Creek, now part of Placerville, CA on US Route 50, northeast of Sacramento, one of the first places you'd hit in California. Hangtown prostitutes apparently had such a great reputation as the best whores in California that many girls in other areas falsely claimed to be from Hangtown. Nothing new about false advertising.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 09:59 PM

John Stone would have been surprised by all the verses added to his original song- but I think he would have applauded them.
He also wrote "Sacramento Girls."


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Subject: ADD Version: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 Nov 14 - 03:53 PM

This is one of those songs that doesn't quite work in the original, which has 11 verses. And some of those 11 verses are really boring, and there are more interesting verses that have come along with the passage of time.

I found a fairly nice version here:
http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/roughingit/map/wombetsy.html. The "Brigham" and "Injun" verses cause me some uneasiness, and I guess I'd be tempted to leave them out since they're not in the original. And since I'm from the Sacramento area, I'd add the penultimate verse, taken from the original.

SWEET BETSY FROM PIKE
(John A. Stone - "Old Put")

Oh don't you remember sweet Betsy from Pike,
Who crossed the wide prairie with her lover Ike,
With two yoke of oxen, a big yellow dog,
A tall Shanghai rooster, and one spotted hog?

CHORUS:
Singing dang fol dee dido,
Singing dang fol dee day.

One evening quite early they camped on the Platte.
'Twas near by the road on a green shady flat.
Where Betsy, sore-footed, lay down to repose --
With wonder Ike gazed on that Pike County rose.

The Shanghai ran off, and their cattle all died;
That morning the last piece of bacon was fried;
Poor Ike was discouraged and Betsy got mad,
The dog drooped his tail and looked wondrously sad.

They stopped at Salt Lake to inquire of the way,
Where Brigham declared that sweet Betsy should stay;
But Betsy got frightened and ran like a deer
While Brigham stood pawing the ground like a steer.

They soon reached the desert where Betsy gave out,
And down in the sand she lay rolling about;
While Ike, half distracted, looked on with surprise,
Saying, "Betsy, get up, you'll get sand in your eyes."

Sweet Betsy got up in a great deal of pain,
Declared she'd go back to Pike County again;
But Ike gave a sigh and they fondly embraced,
And they traveled along with his arm round her waist.

The Injuns came down in a wild yelling horde,
And Betsy was scared they would scalp her adored;
Behind the front wagon wheel Betsy did crawl,
And there fought the Injuns with musket and ball.

They suddenly stopped on a very high hill,
With wonder looked down upon old Placerville;
Ike sighed when he said, and he cast his eyes down,
"Sweet Betsy, my darling, we've got to Hangtown."

Long Ike and Sweet Betsy attended a dance;
Ike wore a pair of his Pike County pants;
Sweet Betsy was dressed up in ribbons and rings;
Says Ike, "You're an angel, but where are your wings?"

'Twas out on the prairie one bright starry night,
They broke out the whiskey and Betsy got tight,
She sang and she howled and she danced o'er the plain,
And showed her bare legs to the whole wagon train.

The terrible desert was burning and bare,
And Isaac he shrank from the death lurkin' there,
"Dear old Pike County, I'll come back to you."
Says Betsy, "You'll go by yourself if you do."

They swam wild rivers and climbed the tall peaks,
And camped on the prairies for weeks upon weeks,
Starvation and cholera, hard work and slaughter,
They reached Californy, spite of hell and high water.

A miner said, "Betsy, will you dance with me?"
"I will, you old hoss, if you don't make too free.
But don't dance me hard, do you want to know why?
Doggone ye, I'm chock full of strong alkali."

They suddenly stopped on a very high hill,
With wonder looked down upon old Placerville;
Ike sighed when he said, and he cast his eyes down,
"Sweet Betsey, my darling, we've got to Hangtown."


Long Ike and Sweet Betsy got married, of course,
But Ike, getting jealous, obtained a divorce,
While Betsy, well satisfied, said with a shout,
"Goodbye, you big lummox, I'm glad you backed out!"

[There are many different versions of these lyrics. This set is from The Western Women's Reader, edited by Lillian Schlissel and Catherine Lavender (New York: Harper Perennial, 2000).]


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: BrooklynJay
Date: 29 Nov 14 - 12:37 AM

I'm a little confused, here: In the version given just above, the penultimate verse is also the eighth verse.


Jay


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Dec 17 - 12:46 PM

Which version has the line: "She sang and she shouted and danced o'er the plain, and showed her bare ass to the whole wagon train"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sweet Betsy from Pike
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Dec 17 - 12:51 PM

The earliest appearance of that stanza I can find is in John and Alan Lomax's "American Ballads and Folk Songs" (1934). "Ass" is spelled "arse," which can sound humorously euphemistical to Americans.

The Lomaxes' version of the song is 14 stanzas long. They give no source information.


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