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'Bully of the Town' - mystery word

DigiTrad:
BULLY OF THE TOWN
LOOKIN' FOR THE BULLY OF THE TOWN


Related threads:
Lyr Add: The Bully Song (8)
Lyr Req: 'Row On' & 'Bully Song' (9)
Tune Req: Lookin' for the bully of the town (18)


GUEST,Les B. 27 Jun 02 - 12:13 PM
Jim Krause 27 Jun 02 - 12:54 PM
GUEST,Les B. 27 Jun 02 - 12:59 PM
Mark Clark 27 Jun 02 - 01:00 PM
Art Thieme 27 Jun 02 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,Les B. 27 Jun 02 - 01:17 PM
Charley Noble 27 Jun 02 - 04:08 PM
GUEST,Les B. 27 Jun 02 - 05:03 PM
old moose 27 Jun 02 - 07:04 PM
Jim Krause 27 Jun 02 - 07:12 PM
Sorcha 27 Jun 02 - 09:13 PM
Art Thieme 27 Jun 02 - 10:15 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 27 Jun 02 - 10:16 PM
Art Thieme 27 Jun 02 - 10:21 PM
Art Thieme 27 Jun 02 - 10:29 PM
Louie Roy 27 Jun 02 - 11:25 PM
Jim Krause 27 Jun 02 - 11:44 PM
GUEST,Les B. 28 Jun 02 - 01:33 AM
Nigel Parsons 28 Jun 02 - 03:47 AM
GUEST,Les B. 28 Jun 02 - 12:41 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 28 Jun 02 - 02:44 PM
GUEST,On Personette 07 Sep 15 - 04:06 PM
Louie Roy 07 Sep 15 - 06:59 PM
BrooklynJay 08 Sep 15 - 03:10 PM
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Subject: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 12:13 PM

"Bully of the Town" is one of my favorite tunes, either as a fiddle tune or as a finger picked guitar piece. Its words, unfortunately, belong to the "coon song" genre so popular around 1900. A famous singer by the name of May Irwin popularized it in a stage show called "The Widow Jones." With careful editing a singable version can be lifted out of the original.

In looking over the original verses I was always puzzled by one of the terms – "coonjined" - as in "..I coonjined in the front door, the coons were prancin' high, for dat levee darky I skinned my foxy eye…" I thought it must be some kind of a dance step, like the "eagle rock" in the song Titanic, but wasn't sure.

Yesterday I stumbled onto a book in a second hand shop that explained that term. The book is "John Henry" by Roark Bradford, printed in 1935. It's a 225-page novel that seems to tell the story of John Henry, written in African-American dialect, and uses lyrics from a lot of folk and blues songs as part of the text. In idly flipping through it, my eye fell on a chapter headed "Coonjine" – and there it was! Coonjine was a step used by levee workers as they rolled (or in John Henry's case carried) 500-pound bales of cotton up the long springy planks from docks onto the boats. From the book – "And so John Henry got a spring in his knees and a weave in his hips, and a buck in his back… 'Jine it, you coon, jine it!' said the mate. 'Grab your cotton and jine that step!'"

Now I know – and thought some of you out in cyberspace might want to know too. Or maybe not.


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Jim Krause
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 12:54 PM

This must be a different Bully of the Town than I know.
Jim


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 12:59 PM

Jim - those are very pared down and cleaned up words taken from the original. You can find the original version at the Levy sheet music site (sorry, I don't know blue clicky trick) under "Bully". (There are several, including New Bully - you want the original by May Irwin)


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Mark Clark
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 01:00 PM

Les, That's great information. Thanks. I play the piece as a guitar instrumental but seldom sing any words. The only words I know include the line “Lookin' for the bully that shot the woman down” and I no longer rember where they're from, maybe Elizabeth Cotten, maybe Lead Belly.

I looked up “Bully of the Town” in the DT but it doesn't include the word “coonjined” either. Can you give us your version of the song or as least the verse(s) that deal with coonjine?

- Mark


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Art Thieme
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 01:08 PM

"Coonjine" is the particular step (sort of a dance step) that a person carrying a heavy load like a cotton bale up a long springy plank onto a steamboat would use to keep his footing and keep from dropping his load into the river.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 01:17 PM

Mark - we were posting at the same time. See my reference above. Here's the words I sometimes sing. If you compare to the original, you'll see I edited pretty heavily.

Have you heard about that bully that's just come to town
He's out among the poor folks, just layin' their bodies down
I'm lookin' for that bully and he must be found

Now I'm a Tennessee rounder, and I simply don't allow
No red-eyed river roustabout with me to raise a row
I'm lookin' for that bully and I'll make him bow

CHORUS:
Well I've walked this levee round, round, round
Lookin' for that bully of the town, town, town
Well I've walked this levee round
Lookin' for that bully of the town

I'm a gonna take my razor, I'm a gonna cut him bad
It'll be the worstest cuttin' that bully ever had
I'm lookin' for that bully of the town
Well my razor was a flyin', his gun began to squawk
I lit upon that bully just like a sparrow hawk
And that bully was just dyin' to take a walk

CHORUS:

When I got through with bully, a doctor and a nurse
Weren't no good to bully, so they put him in a hearse
A cyclone couldn't have tore him up much worse
Now you never hear about that bully that treated folks so free
Go down upon the levee and his face you'll never see
There's only one boss bully here, that's me!

CHORUS:


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 04:08 PM

Nice work, Les!

CAUTION: Thread Creep

Ever run into any early versions of "West Indies Blues"? I've been doing some research trying to track down some more Charlston verses.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 05:03 PM

Who did that tune, it sounds vaguely familiar?


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: old moose
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 07:04 PM

The only "Bully of the Town" That I know of is in the Leadbely legacy recordings. The coonjine word isn't in that. I'll look up the leadbelly recording numbers and post them lttle later.


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Jim Krause
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 07:12 PM

I have some different verses to Bully of the Town likely learned from Riley Puckett

I'm lookin' for that bully, that bully of the town
I'm lookin' for that bully, that bully can't be found
I'm lookin' for that bully of the town.

When I walk this levee round, round, round
Ev'ry day I can be found
When I walk this levee round
I'm lookin' for that bully of the town

Now when you see me comin' raise your windows high
When you see me leavin' hang your head and cry
I'm lookin' for that bully of the town


Jim


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Sorcha
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 09:13 PM

WOW! Jim, those are the words I am familiar with. They don't fit the fiddle tune too well, but the others do! I never heard the word "coonjined" either. Amazing what you can learn here, eh?


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Art Thieme
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 10:15 PM

The words I used I got from Paul Clayton a long time ago...

Have you heard the tale 'bout the bully of the tow,
Every night I can be found,
Walkin' that leveearound all around,
I'm looking for the bully if the town.

Well, I come across that bully just about four o'clock,
He pulled his knife just to take my life--you should've heard my pistol talk,
I was lookin' for that bully of the town.

Chorus) Lookin' for that bully of the town, town, town, town,
Every night I can be found, found, found, found,
Walklin' that levee around, around,
Just lookin' for that bully of the town.

Now that bully is dead and gone and they called for the herse,
I shot him up so bad Stacker Lee Couldn't a shot him worse.
Yes lookin' for that bully of the town.

Lookin' for that bully of the town, town, town,
Every night I can be found,
Walking that levee round and 'round,
I was lookin' for that bully and I shot him down.

(might be more but that's all I used to do I think---plus the fun of finger-picking it 5 or 6 times within the song.)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 10:16 PM

Put -cairo- in the DT and Forum Search, and you will find the song "Rolling Down to Cairo Town." Coonjine appears in the last verse of the Bustin version.
There was discussion in a recent thread, but Art and Les B are correct in their definition. The word was used by the levee and roustabout workers on the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio Rivers; Cairo in "Little Egypt," Shawneetown and others were important loading sites.
"Bully on the Town," versions sung by Negroes, are found in several collections of Negro songs.


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Art Thieme
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 10:21 PM

Another first verse that's more like what Paul Clayton sang now that I think about it some more.:

Have you heard the latest 'bout the bully of the town,
He went out late last evenin' and shot his woman down,
I'm lookin' for that bully of the town.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Art Thieme
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 10:29 PM

The words I used I got from Paul Clayton a long time ago...

Have you heard the tale 'bout the bully of the tow,
Every night I can be found,
Walkin' that leveearound all around,
I'm looking for the bully if the town.

Well, I come across that bully just about four o'clock,
He pulled his knife just to take my life--you should've heard my pistol talk,
I was lookin' for that bully of the town.

Chorus) Lookin' for that bully of the town, town, town, town,
Every night I can be found, found, found, found,
Walklin' that levee around, around,
Just lookin' for that bully of the town.

Now that bully is dead and gone and they called for the herse,
I shot him up so bad Stacker Lee Couldn't a shot him worse.
Yes lookin' for that bully of the town.

Lookin' for that bully of the town, town, town,
Every night I can be found,
Walking that levee round and 'round,
I was lookin' for that bully and I shot him down.

(might be more but that's all I used to do I think---plus the fun of finger-picking it 5 or 6 times within the song.)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Louie Roy
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 11:25 PM

This is the version of the Bully of the town that I learned back in the 1930s and it was played by all the bands at the local barn dances,Grange halls or country schools and it fits a fiddle guitar banjo mandolin piano or voice and it is also a good dance tune.
1st Verse Now there's a certain fellow hanging around this town
He thinks he is the toughest guy that ever came around>br> They've got him branded as the bully of the town.

Chorus

Well tonight I'm walking around the town
Looking for that baby all around
I'm turning this town upside down
I'm looking for that bully of the town.

2nd verse

He walks into a juice joint and lays his money down
He orders up a drink or two and pushes folks around
And says I'm known as the bully of the town
Chorus
3rd Verse
He has a reputation and brother how he struts
But if I run into him tonight,he's going to need some guts
Cause I'm looking for the bully of the town
Chorus

4th Verse
Now I don't pick on no one and I don't need to brag
But I'll bet when I get through he'll be a bully rag
I'm looking for the bully of the town


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Jim Krause
Date: 27 Jun 02 - 11:44 PM

Man, I never knew there were so many different versions of the song. That's pretty interesting. And several of 'em fit the melody Riley Puckett sang. I wonder how universal that particular melody was. It had kind of a ragtime chord progression. Maybe I'll have to work up a version and sing it on PalTalk sometime.
Jim


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 01:33 AM

This is pretty much the way I play the chords, in the key of C with walkdown runs to connect them. I usually capo up two frets so it's in D, to fit my voice. Fiddlers around here seem to play it in G because of double stop possibilities. I fiddle it in D.

(C) Have you heard about that (Cb) bully that's (C)just come to town He's (A)out among the (A7) poor folks, just (F)layin' their bodies (Dm) down I'm (G)lookin' for that bully and he must be (C)found

(C) Now I'm a Tennessee (Cb)rounder, and I (C)simply don't allow No (A)red-eyed river (A7)roustabout with (F)me to raise a (Dm)row I'm (G) lookin' for that bully and I'll make him (C) bow

CHORUS: (C) Well I've walked this levee (G7) round, round, round Lookin' for that bully of the (C) town, town, town Well I've walked this (F)levee (Dm)round (G)Lookin' for that bully of the (C)town


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 03:47 AM

For the version with the word 'coonjined' goto This site and either scroll down to class 15, or go to 'edit' and 'find on this page'.
This is the first time I've used Google and found only a single example of the word searched!

Nigel


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 12:41 PM

I guess the other line that has me mildly puzzled is "I was sandin' down the Mobile Buck just to cut a shine" Any idea what that means ?


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Jun 02 - 02:44 PM

Nigel, a wonderful collection of songs at that site. It won't bookmark for me, however.
The Negro version of a "Bully" song that you pointed to is more complete that others I have seen.


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: GUEST,On Personette
Date: 07 Sep 15 - 04:06 PM

I remember my father strumming his guitar and singing this song when I was a small child back in the 1930's. The only words I remember are; "when you see me walking round round round, when you see me with my head bowed down, when you see me walking round round round I'm looking for the bully of the town."

Dad sang many songs that today would be banned, among them was "Stay In Your Own Back Yard," and one about a child flying a kite that landed in a Jewish lady's yard and being killed by her.


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: Louie Roy
Date: 07 Sep 15 - 06:59 PM

The only tune of the bully of the town is the same one Jim Krause posted and I learned it about 1931 and it was a very popular dance tune at that time at the farm barn dances or at the local county school barn dances. These dances were very popular because you went there to drink home made-- home brew--- rot gut moonshine and home made wine and flex your muscles and end up with a black eye bloody nose but it was the only Saturday fun we had Louie Roy


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Subject: RE: 'Bully of the Town' - mystery word
From: BrooklynJay
Date: 08 Sep 15 - 03:10 PM

A 1907 recording by May Irwin (see OP) can be heard here.

WARNING: By today's standards, the lyrics would be considered offensive. Proceed at your own risk.


Jay


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