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Lyr Add: The Bully Song

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


Related threads:
'Bully of the Town' - mystery word (24)
Lyr Req: 'Row On' & 'Bully Song' (9)
Tune Req: Lookin' for the bully of the town (18)


harpgirl 03 Oct 02 - 10:17 PM
toadfrog 03 Oct 02 - 10:30 PM
harpgirl 03 Oct 02 - 10:54 PM
GUEST 03 Oct 02 - 11:00 PM
GUEST,Richie 04 Oct 02 - 09:02 AM
harpgirl 04 Oct 02 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,Phil in the UK. 28 Apr 03 - 08:05 AM
Jim Dixon 01 Dec 10 - 08:44 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 18 May 20 - 02:48 AM
GUEST,J.F. Walsh, Jr. 26 Nov 20 - 10:25 AM
GUEST 26 Nov 20 - 10:33 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: THE BULLY SONG
From: harpgirl
Date: 03 Oct 02 - 10:17 PM

THE BULLY SONG

1. Have yo' heard about dat bully dat's just come to town?
He's round among de niggers, a-layin' their bodies down.
I'm a-lookin' for dat bully and he must be found.
I'm a Tennessee nigger and I don't allow
No red-eyed river roustabout with me to raise a row.
I'm lookin' for dat bully and I'll make him bow.

CHORUS: When I walk dat levee round, round, round, round,
When I walk that levee round, round, round, round,
When I walk that levee round,
I'm a-lookin' for dat bully an' he must be found.

2. I's gwine down the street with my ax in my hand.
I'm lookin' for dat bully, and I'll sweep him off dis land.
I'm a-lookin for dat bully and he must be found.
I'll take 'long my razor. I'se gwine to carve him deep,
And when I see dat bully, I'll lay him down to sleep.
I'm lookin' for dat bully and he must be found.

3. I went to a wingin' down at Parson Jones'.
Took along my trusty blade to carve dat nigger's bones.
Just a-lookin' for dat bully, to hear his groans.
I coonjined in the front door. The coons were prancing high.
For dat levee darkey I skinned my foxy eye,
Just a-lookin' for dat bully, but he wa'n't nigh.

4. I asked Miss Pansy Blossom if she would wing a reel.
She says, "Law, Mr. Johnsing, how high you make me feel!"
Then you ought to see me shake my sugar heel.
I was sandin' down the Mobile Buck; just to cut a shine,
Some coon across my smeller swiped a watermelon rin'.
I drawed my steel dat gemmen for to fin'.

5. I riz up like a black cloud and took a look aroun'.
There was dat new bully standin' on the ground.
"I've been lookin' for you, nigger, and I've got you found."
Razors 'gun a-flyin'. Niggers 'gun to squawk.
I lit upon that bully just like a sparrow hawk,
And dat nigger was just a-dyin' to take a walk.

6. When I got through with bully, a doctor and a nurse
Wa'n't no good to dat nigger, so they put him in a hearse.
A cyclone couldn't have tore him up much worse.
You don't hear 'bout dat nigger dat treated folks so free.
Go down upon the levee and his face you'll never see.
Dere's only one boss bully and dat one is me.

ENCORE: When you see me comin', h'ist your windows high.
When you see me goin', hang your heads and cry.
I'm lookin' for dat bully and he must die.
My madness keeps a-risin' and I'se not gwine to get left.
I'm gettin' so bad dat I'm askeer'd of myself.
I was lookin' for dat bully, now he's on the shelf.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: toadfrog
Date: 03 Oct 02 - 10:30 PM

A very similar song is HERE on the DT, attributed to one Charles E. Trevathan. THIS SITE states the song was first published in San Francisco in 1896. Apparently a ragtime composition.
See Bluegrass Messengers (click)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: harpgirl
Date: 03 Oct 02 - 10:54 PM

According to liner notes from Paramount Old Time Tunes, "

Other popular music historians--Edward B. Marks, Sigmund Spaeth, Douglas Gilbert-- are of the opinion that the song was popularized before Trevathan got his hands on it my Mama Lou, the short, fat, homely belligerant powerhouse singer in Babe Conner's classy St. Louis brothel, a popular establishment in the 1890's that drew all sorts of people in its. day.

Either Trevathan picked up the song from Mama Lou, or equally likely, both learned it from black oral tradition in the south of the early 1890's. Gilbert cites, in addition to Trevathan's 1896 copyright, a nearly identical version pulblished by Delaney the same year, crediting Will Carleton with the words and J.W. Cavanaugh with the music. In other words, the song seems to have been around before Trevathan gave it to May Irwin to popularize.

I believe the above is the original copyrighted version.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Oct 02 - 11:00 PM

This has been gone over more than once. Please see threads 31335 and 41379, among others.
Bully
Bully


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 04 Oct 02 - 09:02 AM

Harpgirl-

What is the source of your lyrics?

Richie


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: harpgirl
Date: 04 Oct 02 - 12:21 PM

The recording "Paramount Old Time Tunes"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: GUEST,Phil in the UK.
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 08:05 AM

Does any one have the lyrics (chords would be good too) to Doc' Watsons' version of Bully of the Town? There seem to be many different versions of this song (as there usualy are with old minstrel-style stuff) but Docs' version, which I believe is very similar to Gid Tanners', is the tune most played here. Thanks all. Great site by the way, only just found it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 01 Dec 10 - 08:44 AM

The lyrics that harpgirl posted exactly correspond to the lyrics in the sheet music a The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music, described thus:

MAY IRWIN'S "BULLY" SONG
As sung with great success in the "Widow Jones"
Words and music by Charles E. Trevathan
Boston, New York, Chicago: White-Smith Publishing Co., 1896.

In the upper left corner of the sheet-music cover, there is this apparently hand-written note:

This is the only
correct publication,
of the "Bully Song"
as sung by me
in "The Widow Jones"
[signed] May Irwin


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 18 May 20 - 02:48 AM

Trevathan reportedly said he learned the first verse from _plantation_ blacks in roughly January 1895. Trevathan was a wealthy amateur guitarist unable to read music who liked to learn black folk songs and he taught the gist of "The Bully" to pro singer Ferris Hartman in San Francisco before he just as enthusiastically taught it to May Irwin after they rode a train from S.F. to Chicago together and he played it on the train. Hartman and Irwin both adopted it on stage. All the verses except the first were typical "coon song" junk of the time that had been added on, not the folk kernel, junk varying from city to city. E.g. Irwin mentioned that she added stuff herself. In practice the exact order of the various copyrights and publications usually can't prove much about any of that stuff on the ground, and to my understanding doesn't in this case.

The idea that if someone in St. Louis _also_ knew a particular folk number by such-and-such a time, Trevathan must have visited a particular brothel, is connecting dots for no good reason. It's a lot like finding out that two people knew "Duncan And Brady" e.g. and concluding that... one must have learned it from the other. And where.

Sigmund Spaeth, one of the writers involved in the mythology here, certainly wasn't above intellectual dishonesty. Paul Oliver, who certainly was above it, eventually talked about Trevathan "probably" hearing stuff in St. Louis (probably?!), and that has crept over to the outright claim that he did without the probably in some more recent sources. Oliver was awesome at collecting mountains of information _and_ synthesis _and_ writing clearly but he was sometimes not skeptical enough about sources of information (e.g. about John Jacob Niles' tall tale about an early blues stage singer Niles had made up). A recent book says Trevathan was a "St. Louis sports writer," but when I was digging around in vintage newspapers today, he was a sports writer and St. Louis wasn't one of the cities that came up.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: GUEST,J.F. Walsh, Jr.
Date: 26 Nov 20 - 10:25 AM

There are other tales of how the song began floating around, none particularly believable. Blues researcher John Garst believes that the song evolved from "Ella Speed," which itself was based on the murder of a New Orleans prostitute in September, 1894. He believes this because Ella was killed by a city bully, because "The Bully Song" was first extant shortly after the murder, because of the similarity between "Ella" and "Bully," and because of the similarity between the two tunes. I don't buy the tune similarity, and the rest simply seems silly (especially since "Ella" supposedly evolved into "Bully" and traveled to Tennessee within two years). Even more far-fetched was the claim of minor songwriter Lee Johnson, reported in “Coon Song and Ragtime,” Hawaiian Star (Honolulu), July 13, 1901, p. 13, that he wrote "The Bully Song." Johnson provided no details as to why he didn't publish it or how it got so quickly to May Irwin.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bully Song
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Nov 20 - 10:33 AM

Oh, re Trevathan and "sportswriter." He was a sportswriter, but not in St. Louis. Apparently, he wrote for a paper in San Francisco, although I'm relying one of his own accounts for how the song got to May Irwin for that. Supposedly, the two shared a train ride from St. Louis to San Francisco where Trevathn lived. Trevathan played the guitar and sang the song for Irwin, and Irwin demanded a cleaned up version. Trevathan obliged. According to that account, Trevathan got the song from black singers in Tennessee. Note the possibility that he may have been reluctant to tell Irwin that he picked it up in Babe Connor's brothel.


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