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Origin: Limber Jim

John Minear 25 Jun 02 - 07:37 AM
John Minear 25 Jun 02 - 08:48 AM
masato sakurai 25 Jun 02 - 11:13 AM
John Minear 25 Jun 02 - 01:40 PM
Stewie 25 Jun 02 - 08:08 PM
John Minear 26 Jun 02 - 06:14 PM
John Minear 28 Jun 02 - 08:48 PM
masato sakurai 28 Jun 02 - 09:27 PM
masato sakurai 29 Jun 02 - 02:44 AM
John Minear 29 Jun 02 - 06:23 AM
John Minear 04 Jul 02 - 10:27 AM
John Minear 04 Jul 02 - 10:46 AM
John Minear 04 Jul 02 - 10:48 AM
masato sakurai 04 Jul 02 - 10:59 AM
masato sakurai 04 Jul 02 - 11:04 AM
John Minear 06 Jul 02 - 03:40 PM
John Minear 06 Jul 02 - 04:11 PM
John Minear 06 Jul 02 - 05:12 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 06 Jul 02 - 09:34 PM
John Minear 07 Jul 02 - 09:59 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 07 Jul 02 - 02:19 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 07 Jul 02 - 02:30 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 07 Jul 02 - 10:57 PM
John Minear 08 Jul 02 - 07:21 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 08 Jul 02 - 03:19 PM
John Minear 10 Jul 02 - 09:47 AM
John Minear 11 Jul 02 - 05:11 PM
John Minear 11 Jul 02 - 05:14 PM
John Minear 13 Jul 02 - 07:45 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 13 Jul 02 - 12:34 PM
John Minear 15 Jul 02 - 06:35 AM
John Minear 16 Jul 02 - 01:36 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 16 Jul 02 - 04:04 PM
John Minear 17 Jul 02 - 06:32 AM
GUEST,richiematt@aol.com 05 Aug 02 - 10:26 AM
masato sakurai 05 Aug 02 - 10:42 AM
John Minear 05 Aug 02 - 11:14 AM
John Minear 05 Aug 02 - 11:21 AM
John Minear 18 Sep 02 - 02:30 PM
Acme 07 Dec 02 - 08:50 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 07 Dec 02 - 09:01 PM
John Minear 08 Dec 02 - 06:57 PM
John Minear 08 Dec 02 - 06:59 PM
delphinium 08 Dec 02 - 09:00 PM
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Acme 08 Dec 02 - 09:27 PM
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John Minear 17 Dec 02 - 10:12 PM
GUEST,Q 19 Jan 03 - 09:12 PM
Stewie 09 Apr 03 - 08:17 PM
John Minear 09 Apr 03 - 10:05 PM
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masato sakurai 10 Apr 03 - 01:08 AM
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Subject: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 07:37 AM

I was looking for background on "Buckeye Jim" and came across this reference in the Ballad Index:

Limber Jim
DESCRIPTION: A long collocation of (often) floating verses, with recurrent themes of gambling, women, comparisons between black and white, "rebels," all in no apparent order, with a variable refrain including the words "Limber Jim" and the chorus response "Shiloh!" AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1924
KEYWORDS: gambling nonballad floatingverses
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Botkin-MRFolklr, p. 593, "Limber Jim" (1 text)
Courlander-NFM, pp. 120-121, "(Shiloh)" (1 text)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Ease that Trouble in the Mind" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Buckeye Jim"
File: BMRF593B

I have not been able to check out either Botkin or Courlander yet since they are "checked out" at the library. I have found two versions of this song. One is on line at Click here (I hope I did that right for a blue clicky - if this doesn't help, try GOOGLE search for "Colony Times"). This is entitled "Buckeye Jim" and comes with a tune

Way up yonder above the moon,
A Jaybird lived in a silver spoon.

Chorus: Go limber, Jim: you can't go.
Go weave and spin, you can't go, Buckeye Jim.

Way up yonder above the sky,
a Jaybird built in a blue-bird's eye.

Way down yonder in a sycamore through(sic)
an old lady died with the whoopin'-cough.

Wake up snakes and come to taw, we won't have any more your link and law. (Lincoln Law ?)

It says that this was transcribed by Fletcher Collins. Fletcher Collins is also mentioned by the Lomaxs in FOLKSONG USA as being the one who discovered/collected "Buckyed Jim" and gave it to Burl Ives. The website for the above version gives no other references or background.

There is a version of this printed with tune in FOLK SONGS NORTH AMERICA SINGS: A SOURCE BOOK FOR ALL TEACHERS by Richard Johnston (Toronto: E.C.Kerby, c 1984)p.122. He has the first two verses from the version listed above. His source is "Appalachian Folk Song" and he got this song from: JOHNSTON, Richard et al - SONGS FOR TODAY! VOL. V - Waterloo Music Co. Ltd., Waterloo, Ontario, 1958. I don't have access to this book. The tune looks to be the same as the midi at the above website.

A GOOGLE search on "Limber Jim" turned up not only the above website, but all sorts of other strange things, everything from a forest, to a creek, to some guy who wandered off into a swamp, to a Civil War vet, to a locomotive in West Virginia, to a carved, wooden toy, but no other songs.

Is this the "earlier" version of "Buckye Jim", and if so where did it come from? If it is Fletcher Collins' original collected version, where did it go into print and what is that source? I am speculating that Collins received it from someone in North Carolina. From there he gave it to Burl Ives, who changed it. The Lomaxs published Burl Ives's version, which has become the definitive, popular version. Others have added new verses. But then there is this "Limber Jim" version that may also go back to Collins and be his original collected version, which also got into print somehow, somewhere.

Does anybody have additional information on this?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 08:48 AM

That should be "Buckeye Jim" and not "Buckeyed Jim" or "Buckye Jim". Sorry. Also, you have to scroll down to "Buckeye Jim" once you hit the Colony Times website.


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Subject: Lyr Add: LIMBER JIM (from B.A. Botkin)
From: masato sakurai
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 11:13 AM

Botkin quotes a whole chapter ("Cincinnati Levee Life and Songs", original title being "Songs of the Roustabouts") from Lafcadio Hearn's An American Miscellany, vol. 1 (1924); the chapter first appeared as an article in The [Cincinnati, Ohio] Commercial, March 17, 1876. This song is in it (without music).

LIMBER JIM

Nigger an' a white man playing seven-up,
White man played an ace; an' nigger feared to take it up,
White man played ace an' nigger played a nine,
White man died, an' nigger went blind.

 Limber Jim,
 [All.] Shiloh!
 Talk it agin,
 [All.] Shiloh!
 Walk back in love,
 [All.] Shiloh!
 You turtle-dove,
 [All.] Shiloh!

Went down the ribber, couldn't get across;
Hopped on a rebel louse; thought 'twas a hoss,
Oh, lor', gals, 't ain't no lie,
Lice in Camp Chase big enough to cry,--

Bridle up a rat, sir; saddle up a cat,
Please han' me down my Leghorn hat,
Went to see widow; widow warn't home;
Saw to her daughter--she geve me honeycomb.

Jay-bird sittin' on a swinging limb,
Winked at me an' I winked at him.
Up with a rock an' struck him on the shin,
G--d d--n yer soul, don7t wink again.

Some folks says that a rebel can't steal,
I found twenty in my corn-fiel',
Sich pullin' of shucks an' tearin' of corn!--
Nebber saw the like since I was born.

John Morgan come to Danville and cut a mighty dash,
Las' time I saw him, he was under whip an' lash;
'Long come a rebel at a sweepin' pace,
Whar 're ye goin', Mr. Rebel? "I'm goin' to Camp Chase."

Way beyond de sun and de moon,
White gal tole me I were too soon.
White gal tole me I come too soon,
An' nigger gal called me an old d--d fool.

Eighteen pennies hidden in a fence,
Cynthiana gals ain't got nosense;
Every time they go from home
Comb thar heads wid an ole jaw bone.
Had a little wife an' didn't inten' to keep her;
Showed her a flatboat an' sent her down de ribber;
Head like a fodder-shock, mouf like a shovel,
Put yerself wid yaller gal, put yerself in trubble.

I went down to Dinah's house, Dinah was in bed,
Hoisted de window an' poked out her head;
T'rowed, an' I hit her in de eyeball,--bim;
"Walk back, Mr. Nigger; don't do dat again."

Gambling man in de railroad line,
Saved my ace an' played my nine;
If you want to know my name,
My name's High-lw-jack-in-the-game.

 Limber Jim,
 Shiloh!
 Talk it agin,
 Shiloh!
 You dancing girl,
 Shiloh!
 Sure's you're born,
 [All.] Shiloh!

Grease my heel with butter in the fat,
I can talk to Limber Jim better'n dat.

 Limber Jim,
 Shiloh!
 Limber Jim,
 Shiloh!
 Walk back in love,
 Shiloh!
 My turtle dove,
 [All.] Shiloh!

[Patting Juba]
 And you can't go yonder,
 Limber Jim!
 And you can't go yonder,
 Limber Jim!
 And you can't go-oo-o!

(SOURCE: B.A. Botkin, ed., A Treasury of Mississippi Foklore, Bonanza, 1978, pp. 593-595)

Harold Courlander quotes several verses of the same version from Hearn's "American Sketches" in Selected Writings of Lafcadio Hearn (Negro Folk Music, U.S.A., Columbia University Press, 1963, pp. 120-121; without music)

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 01:40 PM

Thanks, Masato. You've saved me a trip to the library. What I had hoped might be two independent sources turns out to be the same one. If you divide the verses in two, they almost fit the "Limber Jim" tune and I could imagine the chorus being related. I had always suspected that "Buckeye Jim" probably had some Black roots if not minstrel relatives. I'll go looking for Hearn next time I get into the library. I'm still mighty curious about the link between Collin's "original" collected version and how and where it got into print, as well as the link now between that version and this one from Hearn. Has anybody ever heard anyone singing "Limber Jim" or perhaps sung it yourself?


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Subject: Lyr Add: LIMBER JIM (from Paul Oliver)
From: Stewie
Date: 25 Jun 02 - 08:08 PM

Paul Oliver in his 'Songsters and Saints' Cambridge Uni Press p105 gives the following as another widely collected stanza [Hearne, Odum & Johnson, Talley, White]:

Nigger and the white man playing seven-up
Nigger won the money scared to pick it up
Nigger made the motion, the white man fell
Nigger grab the money and he run like hell

Also from Odum:

Niggers plant the cotton
Niggers pick it up
White man pockets money
Niggers does without

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 26 Jun 02 - 06:14 PM

I came across Sandy Paton's discussion of "Limberjacks" in an old thread called "Kid-mudcateers" Click here If I am not mistaken, one of the references on my GOOGLE search for "Limber Jim" was talking about Limberjacks. If a "Limber Jim" is a dancing wood puppet doing an Appalachian clog dance, then the phrase "be limber, Jim" may refer to a dance, since clogging seems to demand limberness. Once again, there must be some connection with African American dance music here.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 08:48 PM

I found the Lafcadio Hearn material that Masato referred to above. It has been published in several forms. I found it in a little book called CHILDREN OF THE LEVEE, published by the University of Kentucky Press in 1957. It is a reprint of the original articles written by Hearn in 1874-1877 for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Commercial. Here is what he says about the song "Limber Jim":

"But the most famous songs in vogue among the roustabouts is "Limber Jim," or "Shiloh." Very few know it all by heart, which is not wonderful when we consider that it requires something like twenty minutes to sing "Limber Jim" from beginning to end, and that the whole song, if printed in full, would fill two columns of the Commercial.(!) The only person in the city who can sing the song through, we belileve, is a colored laborer living near Sixth and Culvert streets, who "run on the river" for years, and acquired so much of a reputation by singing "Limber Jim," that he has been nicknamed after the mythical individual aforesaid, and is now known by no other name. He keeps a little resort in Bucktown, which is known as "Limber Jim's," and has a fair reputation for one dwelling in that locality. Jim very good-naturedly sang the song for us a few nights ago, and we took down some of the most striking verses for the benefit of our readers. The air is wonderfully quick and lively, and the chorus is quite exciting. The leading singer sings the whole song, excepting the chorus, "Shiloh," which dissyllable is generally chanted by twenty or thirty voices of abysmal depth at the same time with a sound like the roar of twenty Chinese gongs struck with a tremendous force and precision. A great part of "Limber Jim" is very profane, and some of it is not quite fit to print. We can give only about one-tenth part of it.(!) The chorus is frequently accompanied with that wonderfully rapid slapping of thighs and hips known as "patting Juba." (And then follows the song given by Masato above. The chorus is indicated after each verse). Pages 70-71.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: masato sakurai
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 09:27 PM

The passage is the same in the artcle in Botkin's Treasury. Incidentally, the house where I was brought up was only a 15-minute walk from Hearn's grave (Click here), and I visited his Matsue house (now Hearn Museum) several years ago (For info on Hearn in Japan, see Lafcadio Hearn, and The Lafcadio Hearn Society of Matsue, Japan).

~Masato

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: masato sakurai
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 02:44 AM

This is the link to "Kid mudcateers" thread. If my memory is correct, dancing limber jacks can be seen in Alan Lomax's video Appalachian Journey. Description is in Dick Schnacke's American Folk Toys: How to Make Them (Penguin Books, 1973, pp. 42-43).
Correction to my post above: Botkin did not quote a whole chapter; it's about two thirds of it. I've just read it in Japanese, which is in Selected Writings of Lafcadio Hearn [Japanese translation], vol. 1 [An American Miscellany] (Kobunsha, 1980, pp. 135-163; the title is "Levee Life").

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 29 Jun 02 - 06:23 AM

Thanks for fixing the "Limber Jack" link, Masato. Lafcadio Hearn must have been quite a guy. In doing a library search on him I came across 500 references, most of which were in the Special Collections section. He wrote about a lot of things.

I am struck by the final "Juba" chorus of his "Limber Jim".

[Patting Juba]
And you can't go yonder,
Limber Jim!
And you can't go yonder,
Limber Jim!
And you can't go-oo-o!

When you compare this to the Fletcher Collins' chorus

Go limber, Jim, you can't go.
Go weave and spin, you can't go,
Buckeye Jim.

the similarities are pretty obvious. Aside from the "Limber Jim" reference, it is the "you can't go(yonder)" that is unique. I have looked and looked for a similar "patting Juba" or a similar phrase and so far have not come up with anything.

The verses in "Limber Jim" (and also "Buckeye Jim") are also unique, though perhaps more closely related to other animal and location songs. I did find a reference that suggested that the "way down yonder..." phrase comes from the ante-bellum minstrel tradition. Also there have been a lot of deaths by "whooping cough" at many "wooden troughs", but not any other old women that I know of. So, I have also been looking through some minstrel and blackface materials, although I haven't been able to get back to any original sources on this.

So, perhaps we have a song with pre-Civil War, minstrel/blackface roots, being reappropriated by Afro-Americans along the Ohio River after the War and being greatly expanded with floater verses and also being given a "patting Juba" dimension. Perhaps this got simplified and somehow found its way into the Appalachians as a banjo tune and became either a children's song, a dance song, or a lullabye, or all three. Obviously we still have a number of missing connections.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 04 Jul 02 - 10:27 AM

I've been taking "Limber Jim" apart and looking at the various pieces and trying to trace possible connections. The chorus part of the "Limber Jim" collected by Lafcadio Hearn is in a "call and response" form. The response "Shiloh!" is interesting. I have found two other references on this. First of all is the play-party song in Ruth Crawford Seeger's AMERICAN FOLK SONGS FOR CHILDREN, pp. 96-97, called "Scraping Up Sand In The Bottom Of The Sea". You can find it on another thread here Click here and here Click here The chorus goes:

Scraping up sand in the bottom of the sea, Shiloh, Shiloh,
Scraping up sand in the bottom of the sea, Shiloh, Liza Jane.

Seeger says that this comes from "The Missouri Play-Party" by Mrs. L.D.Ames, Vol. 24 of the AMERICAN FOLKLORE SOCIETY's bulletin.

There is a verse in this song that goes:

Black those shoes and make them shine,
Shiloh, Shiloh,
Black those shoes and make them shine,
Shiloh, Liza Jane.

Vance Randolph, in his OZARK FOLKSONGS (Vol ?, p. 359) has a version of this song, without the "Shiloh" response, that goes:

Black them boots an' make'em shine,
Good-bye, good-bye,
Black them boots an' make'em shine,
Good-bye, Lazy Jane.

Oh how I love her, ain't that a shame?
Goobye, goodbye,
Oh how I love her, ain't that a shame?
Goodbye lazy Jane

See that snail a-pullin' that rail?
Goodbye, goodbye,
See that snail a-pullin' that rail?
Goodbye, lazy Jane.

In his headnote, Randolph says, "Compare the "Shiloh" game-song reported by Ames (JAFL 24, 1911, p.317), also a similar item published by Hamilton (JAFL 27, 1914, p.296) under the title "So Goodbye Susan Jane."

In THOMAS W. TALLEY'S NEGRO FOLK RHYMES: A NEW, EXPANDED EDITION, WITH MUSIC, edited by Charles K. Wolfe, there is a song, #110, called "Salt Rising Bread" (pp. 71-72), that has a verse that refers to dancing "Shiloh":

I loves saltin', saltin' bread.
I loves saltin', saltin' bread.
You loves biscuit, butter, an' fat?
I can dance Shiloh better 'an dat.
Does you turn 'round an' shake yo' head?-
Well;I loves saltin', saltin' bread.

I've not found any other references to a dance called "Shiloh", but this suggestion would tie in with the "Juba" context in Hearn's version. There is a very interesting discussion at the end of Talley's book on call and response and on dancing Juba(p.269). The response "Shiloh!" would be given by the larger group of people, which is what is indicated in the Hearn version.

Aside from the Shiloh battle songs, which don't seem to be related here, does anyone know of any other references to "Shiloh" as a call/response dance or play-party song?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 04 Jul 02 - 10:46 AM

Let me try those thread links "Scraping Up Sand" again: Click here and Click here

Links fixed. --JoeClone, 6-Jul-02.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 04 Jul 02 - 10:48 AM

Nope. Well, the threads are "Shiloh" and "Goodbye, Liza Jane".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: masato sakurai
Date: 04 Jul 02 - 10:59 AM

Thanks for the detailed research.
Minor additions. "Black Them Boots" is in Randolph's Vol. III (no. 550). "Scraping Up Sand In The Bottom Of The Sea" is on Mike & Peggy Seeger: American Folk Songs for Children [with sound clip] (Rounder), CD (formerly LP) version of Crawford Seeger's book. Info on "Patting Juba" in the antebellum days is in Dena J. Epstein, Sinful Tunes and Spirituals (University of Illinois, 1977, pp. 141-144).

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: masato sakurai
Date: 04 Jul 02 - 11:04 AM

The links are:

Goodbye Liza Jane

Shiloh


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 06 Jul 02 - 03:40 PM

Go limber, Jim: you can't go.
Go weave and spin, you can't go, Buckeye Jim.

This chorus is what ties together "Limber Jim" and "Buckeye Jim". It doesn't actually call him "Limber Jim", but says "go limber, Jim". But we do know that there was the earlier "Limber Jim" song from Ohio.

In another thread back in February called "Buckeye Jim: Oddest Lullaby I've heard" (I won't try to blue click it since I can't seem to make that work), someone suggested that maybe Buckyed Jim was from Ohio, since Ohio is the "Buckeye State". I wonder when Ohio came to be known as the Buckeye State. We do know that "Limber Jim" hung out in Cincinnati, according to Lafcadio Hearn. Perhaps he did pick up an additional nickname.

I've only found two other references to "buckeye" or "buck-eyed". One is the song "Big Eye Rabbit". A version from Alabama goes as follows:

I wanted sugah very much,
I went to Sugah Town
I climbed up in that sugah tree.
An' I shook that sugah down.

CHORUS:
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo! Shoo!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo-dah!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!
Buck-eye rabbit, Shoo-dah!

I went down to my sweetheart's house,
I ain't been dah befo'
She fed me out of an old hog trough,
And I don't go dah no mo'!

Way down yonder on Cedar Creek,
Where all them gals grow 'bout 'leven feet,
Jump in the bed but it ain't no use,
Feets stick out like a chicken roost.

[From: p. 120 of FOLK SONGS OF ALABAMA, Byron Arnold (University of Alabama Press, 1950). Reprinted in Alan Lomax's THE FOLK SONGS OF NORTH AMERICA, #266, p. 504]

Note the "trough" and the "way down yonder".

Thomas Talley also has a version called "Buck-Eyed Rabbit! Whoopee!" (#269, p.149, THOMAS W. TALLEY'S NEGRO FOLK RHYMES): last verse only

Buckeyed Rabbit! Whoopee!
Buckeyed Rabbit! Ho!
Buckeyed Rabbit! Whoopee!
Squir'l's got a long way to go.

It is not clear which came first, "buckeyed" or "big-eyed". Mellinger Henry has a different variation of "Big-Eye Rabbit" (#173 FOLK-SONGS FROM THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS, 1938), obtained from Mr. C.L. Franklin, of Crossnore, Avery County, North Carolina, "who learned it when a child from his father, William Franklin." Henry does not give a date.

Big eyed rabbit behind the pine;
Big eyed rabbit, you are mine.
Rabbit skipped; rabbit hopped;
Rabbit ate my turnip top.
I cocked my gun; the hammer flew;
I tore that rabbit square in two.

My only other reference is to a "buck-eyed Whippoorwill" in a song in Talley's book (#79,pp.51-52) called "Sheep Shell Corn": (first verse only)

Oh: De Ram blow de ho'n an' de sheep shell co'n;
An' he sen' it to de mill by de buck-eyed Whippoorwill.
Ole Joe's dead an' gone but his Hant blows de ho'n;
An' his hound howls still from de top o' dat hill.

So, who knows the orign of "buckeye". It could refer literally to a deer's eye, or to a horse chestnut, or to Ohio, or be a form of "big-eyed", or simply brown-eyed, or it might have a racial overtone, like "Cotton-eyed Joe". There is a "Buckeyed Jim" version in the DT. I am curious as to the sources for both of the versions in the DT. Does anyone know where they came from?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 06 Jul 02 - 04:11 PM

I just discovered another internet site with the "Limber Jim" lyrics: Click here


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 06 Jul 02 - 05:12 PM

Here is the lyrics site of the Bluegrass Messengers, which has the "Limber Jim" song above: Click here


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 06 Jul 02 - 09:34 PM

Verses of similar type may be found in "Bile Them Cabbage Down." These old party songs and minstrel dance tunes are so intertwined that putting them in order with regard to time is almost impossible.
Very few people were interested in the songs and dances of the common people; examples from the 19th century like the one taken down by Lafcadio Hearn are uncommon. We have the composed pieces- minstrel songs, popular songs, hymns.
Folk song collectors really didn't appear until after 1900; by that time many songs had already gone through changes. Interests of these early collectors rarely extended to play party and rural dance songs; Child and other early ballads with roots in Europe were the prizes in their collections. By the time collections of the "lower" order of song appeared, origins were forgotten and verses were well-scrambled. The origin of Buckeye Jim-Shiloh-Liza Jane etc. could be in a combination of minstrel and old fiddle tunes.
There is still information to be found in old letters, diaries and ephemera residing in archives, trunks and attics, but it is difficult to come by.

It will be interesting to see further additions to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 07 Jul 02 - 09:59 AM

Unfortunately, Dicho, my searches seem to be proving the truth of what you have said. However, here's a little song collected by Cecil Sharp from Mrs. Jane Gentry of Hot Springs, N.C. on September 15, 1916. There are some interesting overtones in verses 2 and 3 that perhaps share a context with "Limber Jim".

I whipped my horse till I cut the blood,
I whipped my horse till I cut the blood,
I whipped my horse till I cut the blood,
And then I made him trod the mud.

Refrain:
Coy ma lin dow, kill ko, kill ko,
Coy my lin dow, kill ko me.

I fed my horse in a poplar trough,
And there he caught the whooping cough.

I fed my horse in a silver spoon,
And then he kicked it over the moon.

My old horse is dead and gone,
But he left his jaw bones ploughing the corn.

[Cecil Sharp, ENGLISH FOLK SONGS FROM THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS, Vol. II, (1932), #219, p.311]

In 1950-55, Maude Karpeles, who assisted Cecil Sharp with his original collecting, went back to the Southern Appalachians to see if any of their original sources were still around. This time she took a tape recorder. She actually found a few of them and recorded them singing the same songs they sang for Sharp. And she found younger members of their families. These recordings are in the Library of Congress. They were also released commercially in Great Britain on two cassettes, by Folktracks. They are entitled: BLACK IS THE COLOR: ENGLISH FOLKSONGS FROM THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS RECORDED BY MAUD KARPELES 1950-1955 (Folktracks FSU-60-907) and CUMBERLAND GAP...(Folktracks FSU-60-908). On the BLACK IS THE COLOR cassette, Maud Long sings "I Whipped My Horse" (titled "I Fed My Horse", A8). She was the daughter of Jane Gentry. These cassettes are in the Library of Congress and are also possibly available through Interlibrary Loan from California. I could not find a source in Great Britain, but one should check at the Cecil Sharp House.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Jul 02 - 02:19 PM

I have just posted "Good bye Liza Jane" from 1871 sheet music in thread 2777 (Liza Jane) but it doesn't help. Liza Jane


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Jul 02 - 02:30 PM

Looking for Liza Jane, I found a short discussion that relates a number of tunes, mostly fiddle, to Liza Jane. They include "Greasy String" (audio), Coon Dog, Dinah, Seneca Square Dance, Running from the Federals, Raccoon Tail and others. I don't have time now, but it might be productive to run these through the websites and library.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Jul 02 - 10:57 PM

Talley has a little verse called "As I Went to Shiloh;" probably no bearing but may remind someone of more about "Shiloh."
As I went down to Shiloh town,
I rolled my barrel of Sogrum down.
Den 'lasses rolled; An' de hoops dey bust,
An' blowed dis Nigger clear to Thundergust!
(p. 11, Negro Folk Rhymes, Thomas W.)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 07:21 AM

That Liza Jane, po gal, really got around! She seems to have completely overshadowed our mystery man, Limber Jim, who might have been a Yankee prisoner at Andersonville (apparently he was on tv a few years ago)- a historical figure - or perhaps an outlaw in the Indian Territory in the 1870's, whose real name was J. Samuel Merrick, or some guy who was shot in Cheyenne, Wyoming, along about the same time, or one of several race horses in Missouri, or a locomotive in West Virginia, or I believe even a contemporary felon (all of the above floating around in another long GOOGLE search). Oh, I forgot the guy who wandered off into a swamp in Indiana, whose was called Limber Jim, and of course when Limber became lost, we get the "Limberlost"...and he never returned. But back to the song. Here are a few more "echoes".

From White's AMERICAN NEGRO FOLK-SONGS, pp. 242-43:

Over de hills and a great way off
De jaybird died with de hookin' cough,
An a way down in a big muddy pon'
Oh dis jaybird died wid his breeches on.

Or

'Way down yonder, and a long way off,
Jaybird died wid der whoopin' cough.

And, from Thomas Talley, pp. 153 and 212:

De jaybird build on a swingin' lim',
De sparrow in de gyardin;
Dat ole gray goose in de panel o' de fence,
An' de gander on de t'other side o' Jordan.

and,

A-way down yoner at de ris-in sun,
Throwin' san' on me!
Dat Jay-bird talkin wid a forked tongue;
Throwin' san' on me!
He's been down dar whar de Bad Men's dwell,
Throwin' san' on me!
"Ole Fri-day Devil" far' you well!
Throwin' san' on me!

{Some folks believed that the Jaybird went down to Hell every Friday to get his hair done. From the sound of about five of them outside my window this morning I could believe that they just go back!}

From the Frank Brown collection of North Carolina Folklore, Vol. III, p. 202,

The jaybird sat on the redbird's nest.
The redbird sat and mourned.
The blind man sat and shopped his shoe,
And the boatman blowed his horn.

And,

Redbird sitting in jaybird's nest,
Jaybird sitting in de morn.
Oh, look at the blind man sewing up the shoe
And the dead man just coming to.

And back on the previous page, 201,

Jay bird died with the whoopingcough,
Black bird dies with the colic;
'Long came a toad-frog with his tail bobbed off
And that broke up the frolic.

And I like,

Way down yonder, a long way off,
A jay bird died with the whooping cough.
Stiff shirt collar, three rows of stitches,
Square-toed boots and short-legged breeches.

So you can see how that broken-hearted redbird might have gotten together with that bob-tailed bull frog...

There is a series of articles in the JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLKLORE by E.C. Perrow, #25(1912), pp.137-55; #26(1913), pp.123-73; and #28(1915), pp.129-190, entitled "Songs and Rymes from the South" that is worth looking at. And once you get in there you'll be lost for the rest of the day discovering stuff that no one has looked at in nearly a hundred years. From Volume XXVI, p.125, from Mississippi:

I hitched my horse to the poplar trough,
The poplar trough, the poplar trough, the poplar trough,
And dar he cotched de whoopin'-cough,
De whoopin'-cough, de whoopin'-cough, de whoopin'-cough.

I hitched my horse to the swingin' lim, etc.
And dar he cut de pidgin-wing, etc.

And finally, from STEP IT DOWN: GAMES, PLAYS, SONGS, AND STORIES FROM THE AFRO-AMERICAN HERITAGE by Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes, pp. 100-103:

Way down yonder,
Sometimes,
Below the log,
Wild geese are holl'ring.
Sometimes,
Ganders trot,
Sometimes,
Bullfrog marry,
Sometimes,
His mother-in-law,
Sometimes,....

And,

Way down yonder,
Soup, soup,
Below the moon,
Soup, soup,
I got a letter,
Soup, soup,
From Alma Stone....

And, on pp. 119-120,

Way down yonder where I come from,
Oh, happy land,
Girls love boys like a hog loves corn,
Oh, happy land,
Way down yonder in the old cornfield,
Oh, happy land,
Black snake popped me on my heel,
Oh, happy land,

In each of these songs, both Bessie Jones and Alan Lomax made "adaptations" and added new words and "material". A more traditional version might be found on pp. 134-35:

Way down yonder,
Sandy ree,
Where I come from,
Sandy ree,
Girls love boys,
Sandy ree,
Like a hog loves corn,
Sandy ree.

A version of "Sangaree".

When you look at all this stuff, it is not hard to begin to imagine how "Limber Jim" aka "Buckeye Jim" emerged. Nor is it hard to imagine singing it a number of different ways, fast or slow, call and response, etc.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Jul 02 - 03:19 PM

Turtle Old Man, I looked at Google as well, and was surprised at how common the nickname "Limber Jim" was.
I tend to regard it as a different way of referring to Buckeye Jim who could "weave and spin" a la minstrel dancers, but that doesn't rule out other possibilities.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 09:47 AM

According to the Library of Congress, Fletcher Collins collected "Buckeye Jim" (aka "Limber Jim") from Mrs. J.U. (Patty) Newman in 1939, at Elon College, in North Carolina. From Fletcher Collins himself, in his liner notes for THE TRUE LOVER'S FAREWELL: APPALACHIAN FOLK BALLADS, by Custer LaRue (Dorian Recordings Dor-90213):

"It is important not to overtypify our image of the ballad-singer. They don't run to stereotype. My best traditional singer, who in 1939 sang me eighty-one ballads, was far from being an illiterate old woman dipping snuff in her Appalachian cabin. Born in 1864, singing to me in a modern brick cottage on the edge of the campus of Elon College in North Carolina, she was the wife of a professor of Greek and Latin. She attended Antioch College in Ohio, taught school in her time, and was the niece of two Long brothers who were respectively presidents of Elon and Antioch Colleges in the 1880's. Her father, the eldest Long brother, farmed in North Carolina and Missouri; her mother was from an old Guilford, North Carolina, family. The Longs were a singing family, led by grandmother Long and Patty Newman's elder sisters, from whom she learned her bountiful repertory of songs. That she remembered them at seventy-six, when she gave them to me, she attributed to learning them when she was very young, some when she was only four, and to the fact that she married into an unmusical family and had to keep singing to herself, as well as to her own children, even though they were stone-deaf.

She was pleased that her songs were being recorded for the Library of Congress, for she was aware of old mortality and felt that the songs were too good to die with here. But it was not her singing that she valued; it was the songs. When I inquired politely about her family and early life, she stopped me and said, "Now look here, Fletcher, I'm just telling you all this because you wanted to know. I don't want any of this in the newspapers. If my life's been worth anything, it'll be found out withut being stuck in the papers." - Fletcher Collins, 1995.

Collins did record this song and it can be heard at the Library of Congress in the Folklife Reading Room, and "copies can be made through the Library's Recording Laboratory, but that can be a rather expensive process." (reference specialist LOC).

It is especially interesting to note that Mrs. Newman attended college in Ohio, and that her father farmed in Missouri. This might provide some connection to Hearn's "Limber Jim" tradition.

You can hear Custer LaRue sing three other of Mrs. Newman's songs, collected by Fletcher Collins, on this same album: "Berayna" (a version of "The Three Jolly Huntsmen") and "Johnny Home from Sea" and "Charlie's Sweet".


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Subject: Lyr Add: BUCKEYE JIM (from Fletcher Collins)
From: John Minear
Date: 11 Jul 02 - 05:11 PM

Today I went to see Fletcher Collins. I recently discovered that he lives just over the mountain from me, so I called him up and said I wanted to come talk to him about "Buckeye Jim". He was glad to spend some time with me. He is 95 years old and acts like he's about 65. We cleared up at least one of the mysteries. He did publish the version of "Limber Jim" that he originally collected from Mrs. Newman in his little booklet called ALAMANCE PLAY-PARTY SONGS AND SINGING GAMES (1940). While this is a somewhat obscure source, I think that it is probably the origin of the "Limber Jims" that are out there on the web and also the one mentioned above in Richard Johnston's book.

So, there were/are two versions out there, the "Limber Jim" published by Collins in ALAMANCE and the "Buckeye Jim" made popular by Burl Ives and subsequently published by Alan Lomax in FOLK SONG U.S.A. And it is the latter one that is the more familiar one. The lyrics for Collins' "Limber Jim" are as follows:

Way up yonder above the moon
A jay bird lived in a silver spoon.

Chorus: Go limber, Jim; you can't go.
Go weave and spin; you can't go.
Buckeye Jim.

Way up yonder above the sky
Jay bird built in a bluebird's eye.

Way down yonder in a sycamore trough
An old lady died with the whoopin' cough.

Wake up, snakes, and come to taw.
We won't have any more your link and law.

The tune is the same as the one on the link to "Old Colony Times" in my opening note on this tread. In a "note for users" of the play-party booklet, Collins says:

"Do not suppose that these songs exist here because of unusually fortunate environmental and historical conditions. These are not "Southern mountain" songs' they were picked up in and around a busy textile-mill town in the industrial Piedmont area (of North Carolina), and - of all places - within a stone's throw of a liberal arts college."

However, he did say that Patty Newman's family background was primarily North Carolina on both her mother's and her father's sides. See also the previous note for possible Missouri and Ohio influences.

I shared with Fletcher Collins what we had come up with here. He was quite interested, especially in the Lafcadio Hearn piece. He suggested the possibility that "shiloh" might be related to the "game of craps", as something you say when you roll the dice. Anybody know about this? We talked about all of the possibilities having to do with "limber" and with "buckeye". He suggested that "buckeyed" might be a synonym for "wall-eyed".

At least we have the definitive text as far as his collected version is concerned. And we know that it contained the "limber, Jim" reference. And we know that he did publish this, and where and when. Now we just need the missing chapters between Lafcadio Hearn's roustabout song and Mrs. Patty Newman's lullaby (as well as anything prior to Hearn). Collins said she did sing it slow.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 11 Jul 02 - 05:14 PM

One other note on Patty Newman, the source for Fletcher Collins' "Limber Jim". He said that she could be dated back to about 1870.


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Subject: Lyr Add: BUCKEYE JIM (from Burl Ives/the Lomaxes)
From: John Minear
Date: 13 Jul 02 - 07:45 AM

It seems to me that Burl Ives' remake of Mrs. Newman's "Buckeye Jim" was a mid-20th century part of the "folk process". He got his version of the song out there into circulation more successfully than did Fletcher Collins. I'm not saying that his efforts were better or worse, or necessarily an improvement. They were just another step in the tradition. They did become somewhat authoritative, perhaps because very few folks knew the more original version. But the process did not end with Mr. Ives. It has continued to develop over the last 60 some years.

I'm not sure whether it would be better to talk about "Buckeye Jim" being a variant of "Limber Jim" or vice-versa. I realize that this whole discussion may have been somewhat confusing since there are actually two "Limber Jims" at play here. So, I would suggest that we talk about Hearn's "Limber Jim/Shiloh" song and Fletcher Collins'/Patty Newman's "Limber Jim", and Burl Ives'(Alan Lomax's) "Buckeye Jim", even though Collins was the first to call the song "Buckeye Jim" in print and still refers to it as "Buckeye Jim". However, when his original went into print after it's original publication in the ALAMANCE booklet, it seems to have become "Limber Jim". As much as we might like to correct history, that's probably not possible.

Until someone comes up with some more of the missing history that might connect Hearn's "Limber Jim/Shiloh" to Mrs. Newman's/Collins' "Limber Jim", at least we can bring the history of the tradition over the last 60 years up to date.

It would appear that John and Alan Lomax (I've been neglecting to include father, John, in my credits) were the first ones to print "Buckeye Jim" in FOLK SONG U.S.A., in 1947. They gave it pride of place by making it the first song in their book. They got it from Burl Ives. As far as I know, Ives didn't publish it until 1962 in his SONG IN AMERICA. He recorded it on his "Little White Duck" album and probably somewhere else (WAYFARING STRANGER ?), but I don't have a date for the original release of that album. I would guess that Burl was the first one to make a commercial recording of the song. If anybody has different or additional information, I'd like to know.

Burl Ives/Lomaxs' version of "Buckeye Jim":

Way up yonder above the sky
A blue bird lived in a jay bird's eye.

CHORUS: Buckeye Jim you can't go!
Go weave and spin, you can't go,
Buckeye Jim.

Way up yonder above the moon;
A bluejay nest in a silver moon/spoon.

Way down yonder in a woodland/wooden trough
An old woman died of the whooping cough.

Way down yonder in a hollow log
A red bird danced with a green bullfrog.

There are only minor variations in the two sets of words. I've put the words from Ives' book first where there is a difference. The tune is almost exactly the same with a one note difference at the end. I prefer the arrangement by Charles and Ruth Seeger in the Lomax book, but that is because that's where I learned the song.

At least one other person got "Buckeye Jim" into print before Burl Ives. In her classical little gem, THE FIVE STRING BANJO - AMERICAN FOLK STYLES, Peggy Seeger includes a version. She published this in 1960. Peggy rearranges the order of the verses and makes a few changes in the words, and adds two verses. She changes "bluejay" to "jaybird", and she has "jaybird" dancing with the green bullfrog, rather than a redbird. She adds:

Way up yonder on a shooting star,
A bullfrog jumped, but he jumped too far,

Jaybird sittin' on a swinging limb,
He winked at me and I winked at him,

At least she doesn't zonk Mr. Jaybird with a stone in the eye as is usually the case with that last verse!

Also, in 1961, Norman Cazden published a songbook, and all I have is a xeroxed page from it with no other information. He has a version of "Buckeye Jim" with "New Words and New Music Arrangement by Norman Cazden". His tune is slightly different and he adds a bunch of minor chords. He has an eagle nesting in the silver spoon, and the redbird and bullfrog have taken their dance inside of the log instead of on top of it. The old woman died "Away down yonder, and a long ways off," and he adds two new verses:

Away over yonder, across the sea,
I courted a girl, but she wouldn't have me.

And away down yonder, and through the wood,
An old beaver said, he hadn't thought she should.

I am sure that there are other places where "Buckeye Jim" has gone into print and certainly many recordings of it. I've not been able to access the website that lists the recording history of a particular song. I know that Anne Muir recorded a nice version and that it can be found on a Folk-Legacy album A WATER OVER STONE, with Gordon Bok and Ed Trickett. This came out in 1980. She has a bluejay nesting in the jaybird's eye, and the same bluejay nesting in a silver spoon. And everything is "Way up yonder". Their tune sounds slightly different but it is probably more the instrumental accompaniment and the tempo that make it sound different.

Anyone else have additions?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Jul 02 - 12:34 PM

"Away Down Yonder" verses are so common that they could make up a song together, and probably did. Turtle Old Man quoted a number of them from different sources, and there are many more. Many are floatng. Our first verses come from the minstrel song books of the mid-19th century.

The jaybird was equally popular. The earliest verses perhaps are in the song "JIM ALONG JOSEY," p. 286 of "Negro Singers Own Book," ca. 1846 (Ref. in White, p. 242):

The Old Cow also showed up frequently:
'Way down yonder in de growin' corn
De old cow died wid de holler horn.
(Again from White)
'Way down yonder, in de forks o' de creek,
De old cow died in de middle o' next week.
(From VA, 1913 and later).
There are several verses about the cow's death, perhaps originating with "CHRISTY'S NIGGA SONGSTER," p. 239. (Ref. again White)

Buckeye Jim and Limber Jim seem to have originated in the minstrel songs of the 19th century, but it turn these could have their origin in the fiddle, dance and play songs of the time.

Burl Ives, the Lomaxes and others in the 1960s selected from among these verses, and gave us our popular versions, as Turtle Old Man has shown. A good book could be written about all of these verses and the evolution of the song. The old minstrel song books, however, are hard to find and consult-

Where did the tune come from? Is it Irish (They claim most folk songs, why not that one? Snort!) It may be from two tunes put together- those of the 'Way Down Yonder type, and the differently accented Weave and Spin-Can't Go chorus.

Lots of fun trying to work it out, anyway!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 15 Jul 02 - 06:35 AM

Dicho, I really appreciate the stuff from White. Along with Talley, he's a great source. I have been looking some more at the contemporary "growth" of the "Buckeye Jim" tradition, and would mention two songs that have already shown up in other threads and received some discussion there.

First of all is Howie Mitchell's beautiful song Kitty Alone. I suspect that "And a cat spinning toe..." has something to do with "Wake up, snakes, and come to taw". And he has two "way up yonder" verses:

Way up yonder above the moon...
Bluebird sleeps in a silver spoon...

Way up yonder above the sun...
Eagle flies when his work is done...

Howie Mitchell's "Kitty Alone" is haunting in the same way that Alan Lomax describes "Buckeye Jim". And it is a wonderful example of how these verses continue to float and get tweaked in new directions.

The other example that comes to mind is Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin's Old Country Stomp. In this case, we not only have the use of lyrics from "Buckeye Jim"

Way down yonder above the moon,
bluebird nest in a silver spoon.

Way down yonder above the sky,
redbird nest in the bluebird's eye.

Way down yonder in a hollow log,
redbird danced with a green bullfrog

but floater verses from a number of other places, and a tune that reminds me of the "Limber Jim"(Collins) tune in the way it sort of flatens out. It's interesting how they increase the tension with the juxtaposition of "way down yonder" with "above". One of the really nice things about the "Buckeye Jim" tradition is the juxtaposition of images. They are very vivid in my mind's eye and have been so since I first heard this song forty years ago. And I think they invite playfulness, imagination, and new additions.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 01:36 PM

In a note on July 11, above, I said:

"He(Fletcher Collins) did publish the version of "Limber Jim" that he originally collected from Mrs. Newman in his little booklet called ALAMANCE PLAY-PARTY SONGS AND SINGING GAMES (1940). While this is a somewhat obscure source, I think that it is probably the origin of the "Limber Jims" that are out there on the web and also the one mentioned above in Richard Johnston's book."

I would like to revise that last statement. I think that the ALAMANCE book is the ultimate, or earliest source in print for Collins'/Newman's "Buckeye Jim"("Go Limber, Jim"). However, I discovered what is probably the intermediate and much more accessible source today in the library. Of all places, it is THE FIRESIDE BOOK OF FAVORITE AMERICAN SONGS, selected and edited by Margaret Bradford Boni, published in 1952 by Simon and Schuster. The song is on page 277, with music, verbatim to the ALAMANCE version, as well as for the two website versions mentioned in previous notes, and the Richard Johnston book. The ALAMANCE booklet was mimeographed and published by the WPA. It would have been much more difficult to access than the FIRESIDE book.

The headnote in the FIRESIDE book says:

"Fletcher Collins got this song from a friend in the hills of the Southern Appalachians. It has a quality of unreality, of mystery, quite unlike the feeling of other American songs about animals."

And it says "Transcribed by Fletcher Collins" and "By permission of Fletcher Collins." Dr. Collins did not mention this publication to me when I visited with him. If I live to be 95, I hope to be half as lucid as he is and I certainly wouldn't expect him to remember every detail of his career!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Jul 02 - 04:04 PM

In the thread Kitty Alone, 21125, I have posted a nursery rhyme, "Kitty Alone," from Brown's North Carolina Folklore, vol. 5, pp. 81-82, which most closely approaches the Howie Mitchell version: Kitty Alone


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 17 Jul 02 - 06:32 AM

At the library that I frequent, parking is always a problem and has a two hour limit, and as is too often the case, I was rushing when I looked through the Brown material again, and missed the "Kitty Alone". Thanks for the cross-referencing, Dicho. I like the cat spinning tow.

I had a followup note from Fletcher Collins. Our conversation inspired him to do some more research on the word "limber". From the O.E.D. he found an item on "limber-holes" and "limber-ropes". He says that "Limber-holes are holes made in the floor timbers of a ship to allow bilge water to pass through [along with mud from boots etc.] for pumping." And a "limber-rope" is a "rope used to clean the limber-holes so the stuff can go through for pumping out." Perhaps there is a shanty connection for "Limber Jim"/"Buckeye Jim".

Dr. Collins suggests the possibility that the song is about a roustabout on the Ohio/Mississippi rivers whose job it is to pump the bilges and that he has been ordered to do this instead of going ashore for "fun and games". So, "Go, limber, Jim. You can't go. Weave and spin, Buckeye Jim. You can't go." Contrary to the more noral dancing image of "weaving and spinning", Dr. Collins suggests the opposite, of "sitting rather motionless, like twiddling your thumbs."

There certainly are many instances of cross-overs between riverboat and sea-going chanties, as well as black roustabout songs becoming sea-going chantey's, such as:

Was you ever in Mobile Bay,
Bonnie Laddie, Hieland Laddie?
Screwing cotton by the day
My Bonnie, Hieland Laddie!

And there are instances of sea-going chanties coming back ashore and taking on life as dance tunes. I believe that was the case for a version of "Hog-eye Man". And lively chanties or square dance tunes can always be used for lullabies, whether you slow them down or not. My son used to go to sleep with "What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor?" and he loved "Johnny's Gone to Rio".

Does anyone know more about "limber holes" and can you imagine "Buckeye Jim" at sea?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: GUEST,richiematt@aol.com
Date: 05 Aug 02 - 10:26 AM

Lafcadio Hearn's "Limber Jim" has the same lyrics as the fiddle tune "Seven Up" which is a dice (Craps) game similar to seven-eleven.


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Subject: Lyr Add: NIGGER AND THE WHITE MAN
From: masato sakurai
Date: 05 Aug 02 - 10:42 AM

The fiddle tune & lyrics are transcribed by Marion Thede.

NIGGER AND THE WHITE MAN (or "Seven Up")
(From Rance Willhite, Jefferson County)

Nigger an' the white man
Playin' Seven Up
Nigger won the money an'
Afraid to pick it up.

SOURCE: Marion Thede, The Fiddle Book (Oak, 1970, p. 68; one verse only; with music)

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 05 Aug 02 - 11:14 AM

Thanks richiematt and Masato. In an earlier note, I related how Fletcher Collins suggested that "Shiloh" might have had something to do with crap-shooting:

"I shared with Fletcher Collins what we had come up with here. He was quite interested, especially in the Lafcadio Hearn piece. He suggested the possibility that "shiloh" might be related to the "game of craps", as something you say when you roll the dice. Anybody know about this?"

The song collected by Hearn, suggests a number of possible contexts: gambling, dancing, working, minstrel show, etc. It would be very interesting to come up with some other examples of similar songs.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 05 Aug 02 - 11:21 AM

Thanks richiematt and Masato. In an earlier note, I related how Fletcher Collins suggested that "Shiloh" might have had something to do with crap-shooting:

"I shared with Fletcher Collins what we had come up with here. He was quite interested, especially in the Lafcadio Hearn piece. He suggested the possibility that "shiloh" might be related to the "game of craps", as something you say when you roll the dice. Anybody know about this?"

The song collected by Hearn, suggests a number of possible contexts: gambling, dancing, working, minstrel show, etc. It would be very interesting to come up with some other examples of similar songs.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 18 Sep 02 - 02:30 PM

A footnote on "Limber Jims". I just returned from a quick trip over to Berea, Kentucky, and in one of the craft stores there, they had a toy that they called a "Limber Jim". It is not the same thing as a "Jumping Jack", at least in that part of the country, which is not too far south of Cincinnati, the location of Lafcadio Hearn's "Limber Jim" song. This toy was composed of two sticks of wood joined by a cross bar in the middle and bands of string tying both ends. Threaded on the top string was a little wooden guy, all jointed at the elbows and legs, etc. When you squeezed the bottom half of the this thing it caused him to do flip-flops and somersaults on the top, like a gymnist on parallel bars. Quite amazing. He could do forward and backward flips and of course was quite "limber". I remember one of the references above was to contortionism. I guess gymnastics would be another one.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Acme
Date: 07 Dec 02 - 08:50 PM

Turtle Old Man,

Since you bounced us here from a different thread, I'll comment here.

I read through this fairly quickly, and see that much of it has origins in North Carolina and Ohio. But there are aspects of this that take me down the Mississippi to the Choctaw region of Louisiana and Mississippi (and you might find something related in other Muskogean speaking people). The connection is the number of references that seem to tie into Brer Rabbit stories. Those originated with Choctaw people, who mixed freely with the black slave population. The Brer Rabbit stories were absorbed into the culture, and not until they were appropriated by white writer Chandler Harris did they become known by a wider audience.

There is a lot of signifying in the verses presented here, substituting an innocuous animal when actually representing something more serious (often to do with white owners or overseers). For many people that didn't make sense (it wasn't supposed to make sense to white ears) and they were changed by that famous folk process to make a bit more sense. This is largely a guess, based on what I know of the appropriation of literature from one culture to the next (happens all of the time) and from sources like Henry Louis Gates' The Signifying Monkey.

In addition to this, there are references that could apply anywhere, or could have more origin-story meanings, such as the "Way down yonder in a hollow log, redbird danced with a green bullfrog" line. That may be exactly what it looks like, a nonsense line, or it could be a hint to the origin stories and eschatology of Choctaw, who carried logs in their travel from their original land to the Northwest--every morning they stood then dropped the log to determine the direction they should travel. They crossed logs across the Black River on their way to the promissed land, and as they migrated to the region they live in now, may even have picked up stories about emerging as a people from in the earth through a hollow log.

I realise this is really reaching, but you did ask. I did a lot of research on Choctaw eschatology and origins when I was working on a scholarly paper a few years ago about a book by a Choctaw friend and author, and for my master's thesis in English (about American Indian Literature). There are lots of watery references that would certainly be in keeping with the various swampy rivers in Mississippi and Louisiana.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 07 Dec 02 - 09:01 PM

Limber Jim's are popular here in Nova Scotia as well. HAve seen them over a number of years.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 08 Dec 02 - 06:57 PM

Stilly River Sage,

Thank you very much for your comments on the possible history of "Limber Jim". I had looked through some of Harris' "Uncle Remus" tales to see if I could find any similarities to "Limber Jim", without any success.   However, I was not aware of the relationship to the Choctaw. I did a master's thesis on the Tewa Pueblo people from San Juan Pueblo out in northern New Mexico about fifteen years ago. A lot of that work had to do with their origin stories. They emerged out of hole in the ground up in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Or maybe more toward the west. Or.... It was fascinating stuff.

What you say about this makes sense to me. I think that we too often forget the Native American contributions to "American" folklore! What was the title of the book you referred on the Choctaw? I'm afraid that all I know about them is that they contributed "file" (I can't do accent marks, so I'm talking about feelay) for the "file gumbo", which is made from dried sassafras leaves. A not insignificant contribution for those gumbo lovers amongst us. But I would like to learn more. What other references would you recommend?

By the way, while "Limber Jim" was collected in North Carolina, no other versions of it have ever been found there as far as we know at this time. And Patti Newman, from whom Fletcher Collins collected "Limber Jim" in the late 1930's, had spent a good deal of time out in Missouri. The Lafcadio Hearn piece from Cincinnati is the only other reference we have.

I would be especially interested in knowing if the "jaybird" is a trickster figure for the Choctaw. He sure "travels" around a lot in many different songs.

T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 08 Dec 02 - 06:59 PM

George, can you give us a description of your Nova Scotia "Limber Jims" and how they work? And do you call them "Limber Jims"? Thanks.
T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: delphinium
Date: 08 Dec 02 - 09:00 PM

A picture of the toy often called a "limber jack" or, in French Canada, a "Ti-Jean" can be seen here. (Or find other pictures by doing a Google search for images.) I bought one many years ago from a street performer in Quebec City ? I think mine is more jointed and handsomer than these ones. We still bring him out for special occasions.

My kids used to have a toy like the one described by Turtle Old Man on 18 Sept. ? it is quite different. Don't know if it had a proper name, ours was a Henry or something.

I've never heard either toy called a "limber jim" and this isn't really a useful addition to the thread, so I'll go back to just reading again ...


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 08 Dec 02 - 09:11 PM

delphinium, we are interested in all things "limber"! Thanks for the picture of the "limber jack". Since this thread is up and running again, I'll ask again, what does "go limber, Jim, you can't go" mean?
T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Acme
Date: 08 Dec 02 - 09:27 PM

Blue jays are tricksters in lots of cultures. I pulled out the paper with the citation for a lot of material: see
    Swanton, John R. Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians: Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 103. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931.

There are several other sources, such as
    Campbell, T.N. "The Choctaw Afterworld." Journal of American Folklore, 1959: 72:146-54.

The Campbell article is particularly concise. Swanton covers more of the origin stories, Campbell the eschatology.

I've read a fair amount about the Tewa culture in the context of American Indian literature. An observation (a la Joseph Campbell, who was on PBS in a Moyer replay today): many Euramericans within the framework of the Enlightenment (and beyond, up to today) looked at Indian origin stories and assumed they're just stories that people take lessons from, but they can't possibly be real. Then they forced their own Christian beliefs on those cultures because they take their own origin myths literally. Duh. No wonder other cultures learned to "signify," to bury their own sharp, witty meanings within their songs, in plain sight of the colonizers.

Okay, off my soapbox, now back to weaving and spinning.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 08 Dec 02 - 11:44 PM

The French Canadians and the Metis have been making "Limber Jack's" in Canada for many, many years. I can't remember their name for them at the moment, but I will post it when I remember.
I believe that the toy came from Europe originally.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 09 Dec 02 - 08:19 AM

Stilly River Sage, thanks for the bibliography. The good old Smithsonian ethnologies, and of course the JAF. Next time I get in to the university library I'll take a look. The "comparative" study of religion is always an interesting process, "ours" and "theirs", and so forth. I've often thought that "ours" could have used some jaybirds, and how much difference is there between emerging out of a hole in the earth and being scooped up out of the mud of the earth? Both seem to be talking about earth origins. But I am not one to collapse the differences! They are very important.

So, what about that jaybird building his nest up above the moon in a silver spoon and a redbird's eye? The redbird's dance with a bull frog on the hollow log probably had its origin with Burl Ives when he changed Patti Newman's song for his own purposes. It wasn't in the version collected by Fletcher Collins from Patti Newman down in Elon, NC.

To refresh our memories: Fletcher Collins "gave" Burl Ives a copy of the song he had collected from Patti Newman. I call Collins'(Newman's) song "Limber Jim" because it got published under that title in a few places and because it has the phrase "go limber, Jim" in it. Collins, and probably Newman, called it "Buckeye Jim". However, Burl Ives significantly altered the verses and the tune, and dropped the "limber Jim" phrase, when he recorded it and published it. It was Ives' version that became popular and was published by the Lomaxes in FOLKSONGS, USA. So, while it may be confusing, I let old Burl have the "Buckeye Jim" title and reserve "Limber Jim" for the "original" version. Also, Lafcadio Hearn's version was called "Limber Jim".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Acme
Date: 09 Dec 02 - 10:27 AM

Good summary and distinctions.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 17 Dec 02 - 10:12 PM

Back in July, I posted the lyrics from a song that was collected by Cecil Sharp from Jane Gentry of Hot Springs, North Carolina. It was called "I Whipped My Horse". I came across that song again today and was struck by these two verses:

I fed my horse in a poplar trough,
And there he caught the whooping cough.

I fed my horse in a silver spoon,
And then he kicked it over the moon.

Compare them with two of the verses from Patti Newman's "Limber Jim":

Way down yonder in a sycamore trough,
An old lady died with the whooping cough.

Way up yonder above the moon,
A jaybird lived in a silver spoon.

While there are any number of "trough/whooping cough" examples floating around from song to song, this is the only other example that I have found of the "moon/silver spoon" motif. In both of the "moon/silver spoon" examples, there is a "cow jumped over the moon" sense involved. In fact, as I recall that nursery rhyme:

Hey diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed
To see such a sight,
And the dish ran away with the spoon,

I am reminded that here we also have a "moon/spoon" motif.

It is interesting to see the "jaybird", an African American as well as a White Appalachian favorite critter, which may come from a Native American trickster tradition, somehow getting mixed up with a "silver spoon", which tends to call to mind old English nursery rhymes.

And, to "jump over the moon" is to be "way up yonder above the moon". This is the only place I've come across where "way up/down yonder" has been linked to the moon. I wonder if there are any stories about the jaybird and the moon.

I don't know if there is any significance to the fact that both Patti Newman and Jane Gentry were from North Carolina. Jane lived in the moutains at Hot Springs. Her family had come from a little further north, up in the Beech Mountain area. She was a Hicks. Patti lived in the piedmont area of North Carolina at a place called Elon College, just east of Greensboro, I think. Her folks came from North Carolina, but had spent a significant amount of time out in Missouri. They shared a common era.

This little song about "Limber Jim" continues to intrigue me. T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 19 Jan 03 - 09:12 PM

"Black Them Boots" from Randolph, No. 550 in vol. 3. has been posted in this thread. Several other threads have the chorus or chorus plus one verse. The singer, Pauline Petty of Arkansas, in Randolph, couldn't remember the dance figure.
A version from W. P. Detherow of Arkansas, recorded by J. Q. Wolf in 1952 and included in the Wolf Collection, with Audio, contains a description of the figure. Black Them Boots

Lyr. Add: Black Them Boots

Mr. Detherow " ...played considerable...but they don't know that it is a play song, a ring play song."

Black them boots and make them shine;
Goodbye and goodbye.
Black them boots and make them shine;
Go see, Liza Jane.

Chorus:
Oh, how I love her.
Ain't that a shame?
Oh, how I love her;
Swing ol' Liza Jane.
Oh, how I love her.
Ain't that a shame?
Oh, how I love her;
Swing ol' Liza Jane.

River's wide and the channel deep;
Goodbye and goodbye.
The girls are pretty and I know they're sweet;
Goodbye, Liza Jane.

Chorus

Hawk got a chicken and it flew upstairs;
Goodbye and goodbye.
Hawk got a chicken and it flew upstairs;
Goodbye, Liza Jane.

Chorus

Spoken comment by Mr. Detherow: "In this they ring up and they pass right and left through, square dance style, and when they meet they swing once and a half, and then they commence to singing. 'Oh, how I love her; swing ol' Liza Jane,' and this is repeated with diffeent couples."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: Stewie
Date: 09 Apr 03 - 08:17 PM

[WARNING: Explicit sexual references in the following post may offend some people.]

Turtle Old Man

In your posting of 28 June 2002 above, you quoted comments from Hearn that included:


A great part of "Limber Jim" is very profane, and some of it is not quite fit to print. We can give only about one-tenth part of it.(!) The chorus is frequently accompanied with that wonderfully rapid slapping of thighs and hips known as "patting Juba."


I have recently obtained a copy of a fascinating book by Vance Randolph: 'Blow the Candle Out: "Unprintable" Ozark Folksongs and Folklore Volume II' (Ed G.Legman) Uni of Arkansas Press 1992. I was struck by the number of times the word 'limber' occurs in a sexual context. I quote the following to illustrate.

In section D, 'Ribaldry at Ozark Dances', Randolph talks inter alia about ribald titles for fiddle tunes that were not announced by the fiddler but were well-known to the dancers at the frolics. At #8, p759, Randolph wrote (Legman's note follows in square brackets):


Rufe Scott, an elderly attorney at Galena, Mo., was a left-handed fiddler. In the 1930s, I heard him play one very fine tune, always greeted by with grins by the villagers, because the title of it was 'Big Limber'. Allen McCord, who lived near Galena, could play the same piece. But I have not found many fiddlers who ever heard of it. [The humorous reference in the title is in the word 'limber', meaning heavy and soft, not stiff, alluding to the penis. It is an item of folk belief, and may even be true, that very large penises never can become very stiff.]


In section E, 'Bawdy Elements in Ozark Speech', Randolph has at #9, p 776:


'Stiff as a young man's pecker' is natural enough and so is 'stiff as a bride's present'. And 'limber as an old man's plaything' is understandable ...


In section F, 'Obscenity in Ozark Riddles', Randolph gives the following at Nos 13 and 14, p 826:


13
Remembered by a lady in Pineville, Mo., 1933:

Goes in hard, comes out easy
Comes out limber, slick and greasy

Cabbage cooked with pork.

14
Heard in Fayetteville, Ark., 1942:

It goes in stiff and stout
Limber and greasy when it comes out

Cabbage boiled with meat.


In section G, 'Folk Graffiti from the Ozarks, Randolph quotes from graffiti in a filling station run by a woman near Crane, Mo. This is #58, at p 857:



A.

Please do not draw such pictures or write
such dirty writings in my toilet. You are
just showing your ignorance.

B. Someone has added below, in large masculine hand. [Compare the the 'Twelve (Silver) Dollar Jack' references elsewhere in this collection]

Lady I don't want to show my ignorance. But
I sure would like to show you my prick, which
it is twelve inches long limber, and never been
measured hard.


There may be other references and I have yet to receive a copy of Vol I 'Roll Me In Your Arms'. I hope the above may be of some use in your quest for the meaning of 'Limber Jim'.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 09 Apr 03 - 10:05 PM

Stewie,

   I just received my copy of Randolph's BLOW THE CANDLE OUT a week ago and I haven't had time to really sit down and look at it yet. I really appreciate your research and your references. I think you may have discovered a very important piece of this puzzle: "go limber, Jim, you can't go..." Ever since I first read Hearn's remark I suspected that there was a lot more to this particular tradition than we were turning up. It's like watching old WWII war movies about Marines in combat without a single cussword in the whole film! I wonder where Hearn's papers are and if there is any chance that he preserved more complete notes on his "Limber Jim". Sometimes it feels like we have little chips left from huge glaciers. I look forward to spending time with Randolph's book. I have looked rather extensively at his ROLL ME IN YOUR ARMS, and didn't come across anything that caught my attention, but I was looking for particular songs rather than phrases. It is certainly worth another look there as well. Again, thanks for this good work. - T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 09 Apr 03 - 10:40 PM

In Randolph, Roll Me in Your Arms, the tune "In the White Oak Timber," has the lines:
Way down south in the white oak timber,
Can't get a hard-on, stick it in limber,
Look away, look away,
Look away, in Dixie land.

Nothing on "Limber Jim."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 09 Apr 03 - 10:59 PM

Verse from "OLd Dan Tucker" - also from Randolph, "Roll Me in Your Arms."

Old Dan Tucker
Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man,
Washed his face in a fryin' pan,
Combed his head with a hickory stick,
Layed down to die with a limber prick.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: masato sakurai
Date: 10 Apr 03 - 01:08 AM

I've heard that Tulane University has a Hearn collection. Recently, Penn State professor Simon J. Bronner published a book of Hearn's writings, Lafcadio Hearn's America: Ethnographic Sketches and Editorials (University of Kentucky Press, 2002), in which the "Levee Life" essay is contained.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 10 Apr 03 - 11:09 AM

Guest Q, Thanks for the two verses from ROLL ME IN YOUR ARMS. It definitely looks like we have another nuance on old Limber Jim.

Masato, Next time I get to the library I'll see if they have this volume on Hearn. I haven't been in a while so this will give me an excuse to go. Thanks. T.O.M.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics
From: John Minear
Date: 19 Aug 05 - 10:57 AM

I'm a little late on this, but I just discovered this very important piece of information and I thought that it was only appropriate that it be posted here as well. Fletcher Collins was the the man who originally collected the only known version (so far) of "Limber Jim".
T.O.M.
-------------
Subject: Obit: Fletcher Collins, folklorist and scholar
From: lamarca - PM
Date: 10 May 05 - 12:09 PM

I am sad to report the passing of Fletcher Collins, Jr. on May 6, 2005, at the age of 98. Dr. Collins was an eminent scholar, teacher, and collector of folksong and folklore, who had a long, rich life. Here is his obituary from the Mary Baldwin College website:

http://www.mbc.edu/news/r_detail.asp?id=1665


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Subject: RE: Origin: Limber Jim
From: GUEST,Ira
Date: 14 Apr 15 - 04:01 AM

For what it's worth, I knew a white guy from Tennessee who used to sing the 7-Up verse in the 1980's, along with some other verses all intended to be as obscene and offensive as possible. No mention of Jim, and the refrain was "Get your finger out of it, get your finger out of it, get your finger out of it 'cause it don't belong to you."


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