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Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals

DigiTrad:
JOHNSON BOYS
JOHNSON BOYS 2
JOHNSON GAL


Related thread:
Lyr Req: Johnson Girls (chantey) (28)


GUEST,Richie 27 Oct 02 - 01:45 PM
Stewie 27 Oct 02 - 08:12 PM
Stewie 27 Oct 02 - 08:48 PM
Joe Offer 27 Oct 02 - 09:03 PM
masato sakurai 27 Oct 02 - 09:13 PM
Stewie 27 Oct 02 - 09:19 PM
GUEST,Richie 27 Oct 02 - 09:32 PM
Stewie 27 Oct 02 - 09:43 PM
GUEST 27 Oct 02 - 10:14 PM
Joe Offer 27 Oct 02 - 10:45 PM
Stewie 28 Oct 02 - 12:57 AM
Stewie 28 Oct 02 - 03:00 AM
GUEST,Richie 28 Oct 02 - 07:26 AM
GUEST,Richie 28 Oct 02 - 07:32 AM
GUEST,Richie 28 Oct 02 - 08:21 AM
GUEST,Richie 29 Oct 02 - 09:15 AM
Declan 29 Oct 02 - 09:56 AM
wysiwyg 29 Oct 02 - 10:11 AM
GUEST,Richie 29 Oct 02 - 09:14 PM
GUEST,Richie 29 Oct 02 - 09:22 PM
toadfrog 29 Oct 02 - 09:33 PM
GUEST,Richie 31 Oct 02 - 10:54 AM
Stewie 31 Oct 02 - 04:31 PM
GUEST,Richie 31 Oct 02 - 09:45 PM
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Richie 06 Jan 03 - 08:48 AM
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fretless 13 Aug 09 - 09:34 AM
Richie 19 Aug 09 - 12:36 AM
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Subject: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 01:45 PM

I was wondering about the origin of the Johnson Boys- one version seems to be about the civil war (origin 1964) and the other about "Johnson Boys don't know how to court a maid" (origin 1941). Ballad index origins. What is the earliest origin of Johnson Boys?
Is it PD?

I was also wondering if the Johnson Gals is the same song as Calico. What is the origins of Johnson Gals?

The songs don't seem to be related except by name? Was the Johnson Boys named after the (earlier?)Johnson Gals?

There are 2 versions of Johnson Boys and one of Johnson Gals in the DT. Any other versions or lyrics?

-Richie


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNSON BOYS and JOHNSON GAL
From: Stewie
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 08:12 PM

Hi Richie,

The Meade et alia discography gives 2 recordings only of Johnson Boys - the Grant Brothers and Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters. In the latter, a rewrite, the Johnson Boys turn from 'men of valor' in the civil war 'to buffoons'. I reckon the note to 'Johnson Boys 2' in the DT is misleading in that, by implication, it suggests the NLCR's version is from Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters. It is, in fact, the text from the Grant Brothers recorded on 15 October 1928 in Johnson City, TN, and issued as Co 15460-D in December. A reissue of the Grant Brothers recording may be heard on Various Artists 'Rural String Bands of Virginia' County CD 3502. Meade notes: 'The tune is an adaptation of 'Doran's Ass' (see Laws Q19), dating from around 1860. It was also used with other Irish songs of the period'. The earliest textual reference Meade gives for 'Johnson Boys' is the Brown Collection vol III, #338, 394.

My transcription of the Al Hopkins text follows:

JOHNSON BOYS

Johnson boys went a-courtin'
The reason why they did not stay
The reason why they did not stay
They had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
They had no money for to pay their way

Johnson boys went a-huntin'
Took two dogs and went astray
The reason why they did not stay
They had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
They had no money for to pay their way

Johnson boys left the Blue Ridge
Travelling in a Chevrolet
The reason why they did not stay
They had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way

Johnson boys come to New York
Have a big time and see the white whale
The reason why they did not stay
They had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
They had no money for to pay their way

Source:   transcription of Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters recorded on 14 May 1927 in New York City and issued as Br 176 in February 1928. [vcl by Al Hopkins w/2 banjos, uke & gtr]. Reissued on The Hill Billies/Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters 'Complete Recorded Works Vol 2 1926-1927' Document DOCD-8040.

Meade gives only one old-time recording of 'Johnson Gal': the Leake County Revelers. The earliest text reference he gives is to Ira Ford 'Traditional Music of America' [1940] which he says is probably a transcription of the Leake County Revelers' recording. With stanza reshuffling and minor textual alterations, the Leake County Revelers recording is the same as that given in the DT. Their version:


JOHNSON GAL

Don't care where in the world I go
Can't get around with the calico

Oh my honey can't you see
Never get to heaven 'less you do like me

Want to go to heaven, yes I do
Want to go to heaven with the Johnson crew

Want to go to heaven, want to go straight
I want to walk through them pearly gates

See those girls, dressed so fine
Ain't a-got Jesus on their mind

Source: transcription of Leake County Revelers 'Johnson Gal' recorded on 13 April 1927 in New Orleans and issued as Co 15149-D in August 1927. [Fiddle and vocal by Will Gilmer w/gtr, mdln, bjo]. Reissued on Leake County Revelers 'Complete Recorded Works Vol I 1927-1928' Document DOCD-8029.

I hope the above is of some use to you.

Cheers, Stewie.


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNSON BOYS (from Alan Lomax)
From: Stewie
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 08:48 PM

Lomax gives a version of 'Johnson Boys' from Lily Mae Ledford that shares its opening stanza with the Frank Proffitt version in DT and some other lines with the Al Hopkins version. Lomax gives no other source note apart from a reference to Brown III.


JOHNSON BOYS

Johnson boys, raised in ashes
Never knew how to court a maid
Turn their backs and hide their faces
Sight of a pretty maid makes them afraid (x3)

Johnson boys went a-courtin'
The Coon Creek girls so pretty and sweet
They couldn't make no conversation
They didn't know where to put their feet (x3)

The Johnson boys, they went a-huntin'
Took two dogs and went astray
Tore their clothes and scratched their faces
They didn't get home till break of day (x3)

The Johnson boys went to the city
Ridin' in a Chevrolet
They came home broke and a-walkin'
They had no money for to pay their way (x3)
Shame, o shame on the Johnson boys

Source:   #115 in Alan Lomax 'The Folk Songs of North America' Doubleday & Co 1960. From the singing of Lily Mae Ledford


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 09:03 PM

Am I correct in thinking the sea shanty "Johnson Girls" isn't related in any way? I've included it in the crosslinks because of the similar name, but I see no connection.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: masato sakurai
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 09:13 PM

From Honkingduck:

"Johnson Boys" by Grant Brothers & Their Music (Recording: Columbia 15466 - D; Date Issued: September 1929) [Realaudio]

"Johnson Gal" by Leake County Revelers (Recording: Columbia 15149 - D; Date Issued: May 1927) [Realaudio]

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Stewie
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 09:19 PM

I had a trawl around the archives of old-time music newsgroup and found this comment. Unfortunately, it is unsourced but nonetheless interesting and plausible:


What apparently happened here is that the "boys of honor" version was the original, up to the civil war. The song was popular with the Southern troops, so the Northern troops started to satirize it:

        Johnson boys, raised in the canebreak
        Never learned how to court a maid
        Turn their backs & hide their faces
        Sight of a pretty girl makes them afraid

etc. I've seen both versions in songbooks; the satire version is much
more fun to sing. [Sorry I can't cite a source for this info. I came
across it somewhere a few years ago when I was trying to find the funny words and could only seem to locate the straight versions]

terry friedman



Joe, the shanty seems to be unrelated.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 09:32 PM

-Stewie

Thanks for the excellent posts and lyrics.

Many suspect that the Johnson Boys originated as a Civil War song becuase of the lyrics- No proof yet.

Does anyone know the history of Doran's Ass- Laws Q19 in the US? There's a Pennsylvania folk song, "Dolan's Ass" that is derived from it. There might be some early connection because Pennsylvania is not far from North Carolina and is also a Civil War area.

Anyone have a version of Dolan's Ass?

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Stewie
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 09:43 PM

My apologies, in my initial posting above [8:12], it should have read 'issued as Co 15460-D in December 1929' rather than 'issued as Co 15460-D in December' in respect of the Grant Brothers recording. I don't know why the Meade recording and issuing dates differ from those posted by Masato from Honkingduck, but I will stick with Meade.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 10:14 PM

From Stewie's post: Meade notes: 'The tune is an adaptation of 'Doran's Ass' (see Laws Q19), dating from around 1860.'

Doran's Ass/Dolan's Ass is also known as "Finnegan's Wake" or "Tim Finnegan's Wake." Any info?

Also wondering about the word 'calico' in "Johnson Gals." Referring to light-skinned African-American woman?

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 10:45 PM

The Traditional Ballad Index has two entries.
-Joe Offer-

Johnson Boys

DESCRIPTION: "I hear the Johnson boys a-coming, Singing and a-hollering and shooting off their guns." A list of exploits of the minimally civilized Johnson Boys, who shoot, court, wash, farm, and fiddle in extravagant ways (but don't know how to court)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1941
KEYWORDS: talltale family humorous
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Warner 129, "Johnson Boys" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 115, "Johnson Boys" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 170, "The Johnson Boys" (1 text)
DT, JHNSNBOY* JHNSNBY2*

RECORDINGS:
New Lost City Ramblers, "Johnson Boys" (on NLCR03)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Johnson Boys (II)"
cf. "Aunt Sal's Song (The Man Who Didn't Know How to Court)" (theme)
File: Wa129

Johnson Boys (II)

DESCRIPTION: Description of the Johnson boys, who were boys of honor and DID know how to court; song describes their heroic service to the Confederacy as scouts: "When the Yankess saw them coming, They throw down their guns and hide."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1964
KEYWORDS: Civilwar family soldier
FOUND IN:
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 155, "Johnson Boys" (1 text, 1 tune)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Johnson Boys"
Notes: This is an anti-parody, I guess -- a serious takeoff on a song that was originally humorous. - PJS
And if it describes actual people, I have been unable to determine who they are. - RBW
File: CSW155

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2002 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Stewie
Date: 28 Oct 02 - 12:57 AM

Richie,

Other tune references that Meade gives for 'Johnson Boys' are:

Teddy Regan Songster 1861, p51.

Francis O'Neill 'O'Neill's Music of Ireland: Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Melodies' Bronx, NY, Lyon & Healy 1903. 'Finnigan's Wake' #265.

Frank Quinn 'Doran's Ass' recorded 10 Feb 1925 [Gnt 5667].

John McKenna & James Morrison 'Thady Regan' recorded ca Feb 1929 [Co 33342-F].

John McGettigan's Irish Minstrels 'The Star of Donegal' recorded 14 September 1936 [Bluebird B4999].

I should point out that the Meade, Spottswood, Meade biblio-discography documents only to the early 1940s.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Stewie
Date: 28 Oct 02 - 03:00 AM

Richie,

There is another reference that I overlooked:

Samuel P. Bayard 'Dance to the Fiddle March to the Fife: Instrumental Folk Tunes in Pennsylvania' Pennsylvania State Uni Press 1982 - #276 at pages 231-2.

--Stewie.


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Subject: Lyr Add: DORAN'S ASS and FINNIGAN'S WAKE
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 28 Oct 02 - 07:26 AM

Here are two sets of lyrics that according to Meade, Spottswood, Meade have similar melody to Johnson Boys:

DORAN'S ASS
Similar melody: Johnson Boys

1.One Paddy Doyle lived in Killarney;
He courted a girl called Biddy O'Toole.
Her tongue was tipped with a bit of the blarney;
The same to Pat was a golden rule.
Day and dawn she was his colleen.
Pat was often heard to say,
"Arrah, what's the use of me walking faster?
Biddy, she will meet me on the way."

Chorus: Whack fol loora loora lido
Whack fol loora loor I day.

2. One heavenly night in dull November,
The moon shone dearly from above
The night it was I don't remember
Pat sought out to meet his love.
This boy to-day had drunk some liquor,
His spirits being light and gay.
Fatigue and whisky overcome him;
Pat lay down upon the way
Chorus:

3. Pat lay down in gentle slumber,
Thinking of his Bridget dear,
Dreaming of pleasures without number,
Thinking of her coming near.
But he was not long without a comrade,
And one that could toss up the hay,
For an old jackass had smelled of Paddy,
And he laid beside him on the way.
Chorus:

4. Pat snugged and he hugged this hairy devil,
And threw his head to the world of care.
Says Pat, "She's mine, may the heavens bless her!
But by my soul she's like a bear."
Pat put his head on the donkey's forehead,
And then the ass began to bray.
Pat he yelled and screamed out, "Murder!
Who has served me in such a way?"
Chorus:

5. Pat jumped up and off he ran
At railroad speed and faster too.
He never stopped neither hand nor foot
Till he arrived at Bridget's door.
By this time it was getting morning.
Pat fell on his knees to pray,
Saying, "Open the door, my Bridget darling!
I'm killed, I'm murdered on the way!"
Chorus:
6. Pat told his story mighty civil
While Biddy prepared a whisky glass
How he hugged and he snugged that hairy devil.
"Go along," says Biddy. "It was Doran's ass."
"I knew it was, my Bridget darling."
They both got married that same day,
But Pat he never saw his old straw hat,
For the jackass eat it on the way.
Chorus:

FINNIGAN'S WAKE
Similar melody: Johnson Boys

Tim Finnigan lived in Walker Street
A gentle Irish man mighty odd.
He'd a beautiful brouge so rich and sweet
And to rise in the world he carried a hod.
You see he'd a sort of a tippling way
With a love for the liquor, Tim was born
To help him on with his work each day
He'd a drop of the creatur every morn.

Chorus: Whack for the didloh, dance die your partners
Round the floor ye trotters shake
Wasn't it the truth I told you
Lots of fun at Finnigan's wake.

One morning Tim was rather full
His head felt heavy which made him shake
He fell off the ladder and broke his skull
So they carried him home his corpse to wake.
They wrapped him up in a nice clean sheet
And laid him out upon the bed
With a gallon of whiskey at his feet
And a bottle of porter at his head.

His friends assembled at the wake
And Missis Finnigan called for lunch
First they laid out tea and cakes
Then pipes tobacco and whiskey punch.
Then Biddy O'Brien began to cry
Such a lovely corpse did you ever see
Arrah! Ti avourneen why did you die
Ah! none of your gab said Biddy Magee.

Then Peggy O'Connor took up the job
Arrah! Biddy says she, you're wrong I'm sure
But Biddy gave her a belt on the gob
And left her sprawling on the floor.
Each side in war did soon engage
't was woman to woman and man to man
Shillelagh-law was all the rage
And the row and a ruction soon began.

Mickey Maloney raised his head
When a gallon of whiskey flew at him
It missed and landed on the bad
The liquor scattered over Tim.
Tim revives! see how he rises
Tim Finnigan jumping from the bed
Crying while he ran around like bazes
Thundering blazes ye think I'm dead.

Note: The title of this well-known Dublin Ballad was used by James Joyce for his famous book which is set in Dublin.


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 28 Oct 02 - 07:32 AM

Here's one version of Calico from Ceolas. Same as Johnson Gals?

CALICO. AKA and see "Want to go to Meeting and Got No Shoes." Old-Time, Breakdown. USA; Mississippi, south-central Kentucky. G Major. The 'Calico' fiddle tuning, or AEAC#, was so-called because it is employed in this piece. Recorded by Herbert Halpert for the Library of Congress from the playing of Lauderville County, Mississippi, fiddler Stephen B. Tucker in 1939. The rhyme sung to the tune goes:
***
Don't care where in the world I go,
Can't get around for the calico.
***
A tune by this name was learned by south-central Kentucky African-American fiddler Jim Bowles (b. 1903) from local musicians, although his cross-tuned version was supposedly not widely known outside his area.

-Richie


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNNY BOOKER
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 28 Oct 02 - 08:21 AM

I was wondering about the Mister Booger (Randolph) Johnny Booker connection to Johnson Boys. Here are two sets of lyrics (the Copusin Emmy set is in the DT):

JOHNNY BOOKER: Cousin Emmy

I saw an old man come walkin' by
I said, "Old man, your hog's gonna die"
Says," If he dies, I'll eat the meat
And give Johnny Booker the head and the feet."

chorus: Do, Johnny Booker, oh do, do me do
       Do, Johnny Booker, oh do.

Old Johnny Booker is a fine old man
Washed his face in an old tin can
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
Died with a toothache in his heel.

Johnny Booker: From Max Hunter Collection

VERSE 1: I drove down to Lickburg town
I broke my yoke to th collar of th ground
Drove from there to ole Ike's shop
I hallered at my driver an' told 'em t' stop
Do, Johnny Booker won't you help this nigger
Do, Johnny Booker, do.

There's a connection with Old Dan Tucker but any connection to Johnson Boys here? Does anyone have lyrics for Mister Booger?
Anyone have "Kentucky Boys" by Joe Hicks?
-Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 29 Oct 02 - 09:15 AM

Here's some more info from the Folk Music Index:

Johnson Boys

Rt- Kentucky Boys; Mister Booger

1. Best, Carroll; Band with Tommy Hunter. Carroll Best Band with Tommy Hunter, Ivy Creek ICR 250, Cas (1993), cut# 12
2. Cohen, John. Old-Time Banjo Project, Elektra EKL-7276, LP, cut# 2
3. Flatt & Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys. Folk Songs of our Land, Columbia CL 1830, LP, cut# 1 (Legend of the Johnson Boys)
4. Freight Hoppers. Where'd You Come From, Where'd You Go?, Rounder 0403, CD (1996), cut# 6
5. Gellert, Dan; and Brad Leftwich. Moment in Time, Marimac 9038, Cas (1993), cut#A.01
6. Hicks, Buna. Traditional Music of Beech Mountain, NC, Vol II, Folk Legacy FSA-023, LP (1965), cut# 3
7. Hillbillies. Hillbillies, County 405, LP (197?), cut#A.01
8. Iron Mountain String Band (Galax). Music from the Mountain, Heritage (Galax) 101C, Cas (1992), cut# 6
9. Lindley, David. 5-String Banjo Greats, Liberty LST 7357, LP (196?), cut# 13
10. Lindley, David. Anthology of the Banjo, Tradition TR 2077, LP (196?), cut# 8
11. Mainer's Mountaineers (J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers). J. E. Mainer & the Mountaineers. Vol 20. 20 Old-Time Favorites, Rural Rhythm RC-250, Cas (1988), cut#A.02
12. New Lost City Ramblers. New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 3, Folkways FA 2398, LP (1961), cut# 11
13. New Lost City Ramblers. Old-Time String Band Songbook, Oak, Sof (1964/1976), p155
14. Phillips, Theopolis Lacey. Music from the Hills of Caldwell County, Physical 12-001, LP (1975), cut# 7
15. Reid, Boone. Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians, Tradition TR 1007, LP (196?), cut# 15
16. Shanty Boys. Shanty Boys, Elektra EKL-142, LP (195?), cut# 3
17. Smith, Glen. Traditional Music From Grayson and Carroll Counties, Folkways FS 3811, LP (1962), cut# 20
18. Southern Michigan String Band. Transplanted Old Timy Music, Pine Tree PTSLP 509, LP (197?), cut# 8
19. Stecher, Jody. Snake Baked A Hoecake: Jody Stecher and Friends, Bay 203, LP (1974), cut# 2
20. Vanoy, Henry. Comin' Round the Mountain, Voyager VLRP 302, LP (197?), cut# 5
21. Vanoy, Henry. Comin' Round the Mountain, Voyager VLRP 302, LP (197?), cut# 18
22. Ward, Wade. Clawhammer Banjo, Vol. 3, County 757, LP (1978), cut# 15
23. Warner, Frank. Our Singing Heritage. Vol III, Elektra EKL-153, LP (1958), cut#A.05
24. Weavers. Weavers' Song Book, Harper & Row, Sof (1960), p 93
25. Weavers. The Weavers at Home, Vanguard VRS 9024, LP (195?), cut#A.04 (Meet the Johnson Boys)
26. Whitetop Mountain Band. Seedtime on the Cumberland. Sampler 1990-91, June Appal JA 0067C, Cas (1992), cut# 2
27. Williams, Robin and Linda. Dixie Highway Sign, June Appal JA 0031, LP (1979), cut# 10 (Johnson Girls)

-With so many versions available I'm surprised that only Stewie has been able to post info and lyrics- Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Declan
Date: 29 Oct 02 - 09:56 AM

Tim Finnegan lived in Wattlin' street


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 Oct 02 - 10:11 AM

Hooee, you fellas are having some fun with these!

The songs you've posted come up a lot easier on search, later, if you change the subject line of your post to somethig like:
ADD: Johnny Booker. Makes them easier for the DT-harvest crew to find them too.

~Susan


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNSON BOYS (from Bluegrass Messengers)
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 29 Oct 02 - 09:14 PM

JOHNSON BOYS

Have you heard many a story,
Told by young and old with joy,
About the many deeds of daring,
That was done by the Johnson boys.

Chorus: Hop up pretty girls don't be afraid,
Hop up pretty girls don't be afraid.

Johnson boys were raised in the ashes;
Didn't know how to court a maid
Turn their backs and hide their faces
Sight of a pretty girl makes 'em afraid.

Chorus

The Johnson boys went to the mountains,
Didn't reckon long to stay,
Met up with some high dollar ladies,
Had no money for to pay their way.

Chorus

They were scouts in the rebel army,
And were known far and wide,
When the Yankees saw 'em comin',
They throw'd down their guns and hide.

Chorus

Note: Version played by Bluegrass Messengers. Learned at Mt. Airy Fiddler's Convention- NC 1999


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Subject: Lyr Add: JOHNSON BOYS (North Carolina version)
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 29 Oct 02 - 09:22 PM

JOHNSON BOYS

Have you heard many a story,
Told by young and old with joy,
About the many deeds of daring,
That was done by the Johnson boys.
Oh, oh, the Johnson Boys.

Johnson boys were raised in the ashes;
Didn't know how to court a maid
Turn their backs and hide their faces
Sight of a pretty girl makes 'em afraid.
Oh, oh, the Johnson Boys.

They were scouts in the rebel army,
And were known far and wide,
When the Yankees saw 'em comin',
They threw down their guns and hide.
Oh, oh, the Johnson Boys.

Johnson Boys went to town
Ridin' in a Chevrolet
They came back broke and walkin'
Had no money for to go their way
Oh, oh, the Johnson Boys.


Note: From manuscript, collected in North Carolina, circa 1990 with melody- Key of C.


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: toadfrog
Date: 29 Oct 02 - 09:33 PM

Same lyrics, (Johnson Boys) except for the last verse, were sung by (the original) NLCR on Folkways # 2398, recorded in 1961. That may be the source of the North Carolina version. Unfortunately I lost the liner notes to that one. Perhaps someone else has them.


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 31 Oct 02 - 10:54 AM

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this post on the origin of Johnson Boys/ Johnson Gals.

I'm curious about the song, "Want to go to Meeting and Got No Shoes" by Frank Kittrell, Great Big Yam Potatoes. Anglo-American Fiddle Music from Mississippi, and its relationship with Johnson Gal.

Does anyone know about "Calico" or "Want to go to Meeting and Got No Shoes" or have any lyrics?

Also as mentioned by Joe offer on this thread, it seems the shanty "Johnson Girls" has related lyrics to Johnson Gal and is a cross-over song much like "Hog-eye" and "Johnny Come Down to Hilo." Anyone have any shanty lyrics?

Thanks again,

-Richie


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Stewie
Date: 31 Oct 02 - 04:31 PM

Richie

The tune for Jim Bowles' version of 'Calico', mentioned in the Fiddler's Companion entry for the piece, is given as #21 in Jeff Todd Titon's recent 'Old-Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes' Uni Press of Kentucky. No lyrics. Titon notes that a field recording of Bowles' version was made by D.K. Wilgus in 1959 and issued on Marimac 9060. Titon notes also that the melody is similar to 'Citico' as recorded (but unpublished) by fiddler Marcus Martin for the Library of Congress. Bowles was from Rock Bridge, Monroe County, Kentucky.

That is all I have on 'Calico'. I hope it is of some use to you.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 31 Oct 02 - 09:45 PM

Thanks Stewie,

I think the fiddle tune "Citico," a fast dance tune, is named after a Citico Creek and a region in nearby Tennessee that borders, NC.
If anyone has info about "Citico," please post.

Also today I found an old version of "Joe Turner Blues" (with 4 verses and music) inside one of my grandfather's old books. Looks like they were added onto Handy's music (probably in the 1930's?). Haven't seen anything like it. I played though it, nice version! I'll try and post later or maybe I can record it and post it with music.

Thanks,

Richard


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals (Citico)
From: GUEST,Ron Williams
Date: 05 Jan 03 - 04:49 PM

Citico is a local fiddle tune. (in fact, our band takes our name from that tune.) I learned it from Eldia Barbee (1910-1981) from Soddy, TN. Eldia played it "flat-keyed" (AEAE) in A. It appears on the first Pine Breeze LP of local field recordings which I released in 1976. It also appears on the LP "Tennessee: The Folk Heritage, Vol 2, The Mountains" released by the Tennessee Folklore Society in 1981. I have another version with Eldia that was recorded live at the 1978 National Folk Festival at Wolf Trap. One of Eldia's friends from North Georgia, Lowe Stokes, also played the tune as did several old time fiddlers from around Chattanooga: Sawmill Tom Smith, Blain Smith, Mac Green. I don't remember if Bob Douglas played this tune or not. Anyway, Eldia's is the best version I've heard. The tune will appear on our CD which should come out in April - and our band is named "Citico"

Ron


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Subject: RE: Origin Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Richie
Date: 06 Jan 03 - 08:48 AM

Ron,

Thanks for the info on Citico. Do you have any lyrics that you can post. Also when your CD comes out let me know, I'd like a copy.

Thanks,

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 12 Aug 09 - 09:44 AM

Getting back to "Johnson Boys" as we know it today, let me try out this origin theory on you.

I've always suspected "Johnson Boys" of being originally a composed song from outside the traditional mainstream. Perhaps not far outside, but still outside.

Gus Meade's Country Music Sources finds no versions older than the recorded ones of the late 1920s. The song does not occur in early published collections such as Sharp, Henry, Randolph, etc. It does appear in Lunsford and Stringfield's "30 and 1 Folksongs from the Southern Mountains" (1929), but Lunsford's and the Grants' versions are so similar I'm guessing they could stem from a Grant Bros. performance, or even their 1929 recording or someone who'd heard it.   

None of the first three versions in Brown's North Carolina Folklore (1952, but representing a collection period that ended in 1943) is dated, but the third quotes Thomas Smith of Zionville, Watauga Co., NC: 'Johnson Boys' is said by our oldest people to be one of the oldest tunes. It was years ago one of the chief tunes played at parties, shindigs, etc."

Brown's note about an unquoted fourth version says its one verse (evidently the usual first verse) was "contributed in 1922 by — Pickens." This is the first firm date of a lyric being put to what in its earlier days appears to have been solely an instrumental—a fiddle tune. (Whether then known by its current title or some other, I don't know.)

Frank Warner confirm that "Johnson Boys" was an instrumental, lyricless or nearly so, until quite late in its development. In his 1962 notes to Frank Proffitt's brief recorded version on Folkways FA 2360 he writes, "This is a dance tune for fiddle and banjo—one of the oldest in the mountains—and the words are incidental. Frank ... picked up these verses from people on Beech Mountain, friends from Virginia, and others here and there. The version in Warner's book "Traditional American Folk Songs" is longer, but only because it's compounded with verses learned elsewhere, none of them clearly very old.

Certainly the Civil War reference in the Grants' version is no indication of age, any more than is, say, Jimmy Driftwood's "Billy Yank and Johnny Reb."

My tentative conclusion, therefore, is that "Johnson Boys" never had any words apart from, that familiar first verse, until the mid- to late 1920s at the earliest. Someone, several someones in fact, then tailor-made their own lyrics to fit that piquant tune with its one haphazard verse.

Who might have been the perpetrators? The first three performers of record, the Al Hopkins band, the Grant Bros., and Lily Mae Ledford of the Coon Creek Girls—while all had impeccable traditional-music origins and sang traditional songs with great flair—were highly professional radio and/or live stage performance bands constantly needing new repertoire. I'm guessing they each wanted to make the "Johnson Boys" fiddle tune into a song with enough verses for record/radio play, and each came up with different sets of lyrics.

Now, as to that North Carolina version ... If you want to venture really far into speculation, recall that Jimmie Rodgers began as vocalist for the Grant Brothers. Perhaps you need look no farther for a wordsmith for the lyric? Well, no ... it really isn't in Jimmie's style at all. But one of the Grants could have been the lyricist.

In any case I'm proposing that the multi-verse lyrics to "Johnson Boys" all sprang up between, say, 1926 and 1936 around Virginia (Hopkins), North Carolina (Grants) and later eastern Kentucky (Lily Mae Ledford and the Coon Creek Girls) in response to repertoire needs.

Before that, it was a fiddle tune entirely, or almost, without words ... just that first verse that nearly all the later versions—no matter how much they diverge otherwise—have in common.

There, I've stuck my neck out. Your thoughts?

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Aug 09 - 12:42 PM

Hi Bob,

As I remember there were a few early versions that used "Yankee Boys" instead of Johnson Boys. Check early JOAFL.

Perhaps that's a new angle for uncovering early versions.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: RangerSteve
Date: 12 Aug 09 - 12:50 PM

A couple of friends of mine composed some risque verses for Johnson Boys. The only one I remember:
    Johnson Boys, they have girlfriends,
    Girls so ugly, you could weep,
    Still, it beats an ice-cold shower,
    Or visiting the neighbors sheep.

No, wait, I remembered another:
    Johnson Boys, Jack and Ernie
    Practicing their favorite sport
    Pinching women on the fanny,
    Laughing loudly, snort, snort snort.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 12 Aug 09 - 03:09 PM

Hi Richie:

I haven't access to early JOAFL archives. Any chance you could come up with examples of "Yankee boys" substituting for "Johnson Boys?" That's something I've never seen. Best as always, Bob

P.S. Ranger Steve, thanks for a chuckle. Sounds like the germ of a good long bawdy song there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: fretless
Date: 13 Aug 09 - 09:34 AM

Thanks, Steve. Brings back wonderful memories. But I always sing the second verse as Bert and Ernie to conjure up the image of Sesame Street, which of course adds to the fun because it is so entirely inappropriate in this context.

In a more serious vein, the tune of Johnson Boys is so close to the tune of Like A Songbird That Is Fallen from Cold Mountain that I have trouble playing the two back to back. One tends to slip into the other. Is there a connection in these very different songs with very similar tunes?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Richie
Date: 19 Aug 09 - 12:36 AM

Bob,

I don't have access to JOAFL either, hopefully the editions will be made available on-line soon.

I looked at the Johnson Boy's- Brown and think that the song is probably quite old certainly dating back to the 1800s, an IMHO back to the Civil War.

Brown collected verses from Thomas Smith of Zionville, there's no date given but the Smith contributions date 1915.

So give a circa 1915 date and the following, "Johnson Boys is said by our oldest people to be one of the oldest tunes. It was years ago teh chief tune played at our parties shindigs etc"

Even tho the quote doesn't say songs, it implies that the tune was still named Johnson Boys" and logically there would be lyrics, since that was a common practice to add lyrics to the tunes.

Someone that was old in 1915 and says the song was one of the oldest tunes means 1865 is realistic date.

Richie

PS I checked Yankee Boys and Lincoln Boys but have found nothing yet.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: Richie
Date: 03 Sep 09 - 11:10 AM

Bob,

Perhaps a simlar song (found in Sandburg 1927) is Kansas Boys. Perhaps they are related.


KANSAS BOYS

1 Come, all young girls, pay attention to my noise,
Don't fall in love with the Kansas boys,
For if you do your portion it will be,
Johnny cake and antelope is all you'll see.

2 They'll take you out on the jet black hill,
Take you there so much against your will,
Leave you there to perish on the plains,
For that is the way with the Kansas range.

8 Some live in a cabin with a huge log wall,
Nary a window in it at all,
Sand stone chimney and a puncheon floor,
Clapboard roof and a button door.

4 When they get hungry and go to make bread,
They kindle a fire as high as your head,
Rake around the ashes and in they throw,
The name they give it is "doughboys' dough."

5 When they go to milk they milk in a gourd,
Heave it in the corner and cover with a board,
Some get plenty and some get none,
That is the way with the Kansas run.

6 When they go to meeting the clothes that they wear
Is an old brown coat all picked and bare,
An old white hat more rim than crown,
A pair of cotton socks they wore the week around.

7 When they go to farming you needn't be alarmed,
In February they plant their corn,
The way they tend it I'll tell you now,
With a Texas pony and a grasshopper plow.

8 When they go a-fishing they take along a worm,
Put it on the hook just to see it squirm,
The first thing they say when they get a bite
Is "I caught a fish as big as Johnny White."

9 When they go courting they take along a chair,
The first thing they say is, "Has your daddy killed a bear,'*
The second thing they say when they sit down
Is "Madam, your Johnny cake is baking brown."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: stevewise
Date: 18 May 10 - 05:14 PM

The Old-Time String Band Songbook, as edited by John Cohen and Mike Seeger have the words to the Grant Brothers version, described above. However they say that 'this unusual variant casts them as heroes in the Civil War'. Since they only refer to this and the Al Hopkins version, it is not clear why they regard the Hopkins version as typical and the Grant Brothers version as unusual.

On our CD we (the Down Trodden String Band) sing lyrics which come from Eric Muller and Barbara Koehler's excellent 'Frailing - an Instruction Manual' - they are similar to the ones in the Lomax book referred to above:

Johnson boys, raised in ashes
Never knew how to court a maid
Turn their backs and hide their faces
Sight of a pretty maid makes them afraid (x3)

Johnson Boys went to the city
Ridin' in a Chevrolet
They came home broke and walkin'
Had no money for to pay their way (x3)

Johnson boys went a-courtin'
The Coon Creek girls so pretty and sweet
They couldn't make no conversation
They didn't know where to put their feet (x3)

Johnson Boys they'll never get married
They'll stay single all their life
They're too scared to pop the question
Ain't no woman that'll be their wife (x3)

Interestingly, the book says that this is 'as sung by the N.W.Johnson Family, Avery Co., N.C. - but gives no date

Of course as part of the folk process, we add the 'Hop Up Pretty Girls, Don't Be Afraid' lines instead of repeating the last line - and change the odd phrase through not learning the words verbatim - hence the song gets another little twist!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 01 Jun 11 - 02:03 PM

Hi,

According to Bascom Lamar Lunsford "The Johnson Boys" is derived from the old ballad "Go Way, Go Way." Similar text is in Belden, "Bedroom Window" and both are part of the "Awake Awake" or Drowsy Sleeper" family of songs.

Lunsford subtitles his version "Awake O Wake". Most of this info is from memory- haha. I just stumbled on this thread looking for something else.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson Boys/Johnson Gals
From: GUEST,Dave Usher
Date: 13 Aug 16 - 10:02 PM

I have known the Kossoy sisters since childhood and heard them do Johnson Boys many times. I have several reoordings of them doing the song. Here is their version.

Have you heard latest story
Told by young and old with joy
About the deeds of strength and courage
Told about them Johnson boys
Hopalong pretty girls don't be afraid
Hopalong pretty girls don't be afraid

Johnson boys raised in the ashes
Don't know how court a maid
Turn their backs and hide their faces
Sight of a pretty girl makes them afraid
Sight of a pretty girl makes them afraid
Sight of a pretty girl makes them afraid

They were scouts in the Rebel's army
They were known far and wide
When they saw the Yankees coming
They threw down their guns and cried
Hopalong pretty girls don't be afraid
Hopalong pretty girls don't be afraid

Johnson boys went a-hunting
Took two dogs and went astray
Tore their clothes and scratched their faces
Didn't get back till the break of day

Johnson boys went a-courting
Jackson girls so pretty and sweet
They couldn't make no conversation
Didn't know where to put their feet.
Hopalong pretty girls don't be afraid.
Hopalong pretty girls don't be afraid.

Johnson Boys went to New York
Went for to see the great White Way
Reason that they could not stay
Had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way
Had no money for to pay their way

Johnson boys will never get married
They'll stay single all their life
They're too scared to pop the question
Ain't no woman gonna be their wife
Ain't no woman gonna be their wife
Ain't no woman gonna be their wife

Hopalong pretty girls don't be afraid.
Hopalong pretty girls don't be afraid.


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