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Lyr Add: Nathan Killed the Bell Cow

toadfrog 25 May 03 - 11:41 PM
GUEST,Q 26 May 03 - 03:37 PM
GUEST,Q 26 May 03 - 06:13 PM
masato sakurai 26 May 03 - 07:23 PM
toadfrog 30 May 03 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Q 30 May 03 - 01:57 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: Nathan Killed the Bell Cow
From: toadfrog
Date: 25 May 03 - 11:41 PM

NATHAN KILLED THE BELL-COW
(Traditional)
Nathan killed the bell-cow and fed the dogs the liver
And now we're out of meat, and we'll hang the dogs forever.
We'll hang the dogs forever, we'll hang the dogs forever.
And now we're out of meat, and we'll hang the dogs forever.

The hawk shoot the buzzard, and the buzzard shoot the crow,
We'll wander through Blythe Canyon* and kill the buffalo.
We'll kill the buffalo, we'll kill the buffalo.
We'll wander through Blythe Canyon and kill the buffalo.

The maggots and the skippers they do grow so very bold,
Them sav'in up your buttermilk, seven years old.
Seven years old, seven years old,
Them sav'in up your buttermilk, seven years old.

*Alternative: "Wind through bright cane yonder."

In Green are the Woods, sung by Helena Triplett. Liner notes say: "Another song from Phyllis Marks. She explained to me that this was a play-party song from the Civil War era."
JWM


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nathan Killed the Bell Cow
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 26 May 03 - 03:37 PM

Anyone know of a precursor or traditional version?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nathan Killed the Bell Cow
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 26 May 03 - 06:13 PM

The song has elements of "Shoot the Buffalo," a dance song (see thread 26594, for a version from Randolph) but the first verse, "Nathan..." has no antecedents that I can find. Made up by Phyllis Marks?
The verse about maggots and skippers is a floater. The song may be related to "We'll Hunt the Buffalo," but they have little in common except killing a buffalo.

I would speculate that this dance tune originated near the beginning of the 20th century, and does not go back as far as the Civil War. Apparently no precurser from the 19th century is known.

Thread 26594: Shoot the Buffalo


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nathan Killed the Bell Cow
From: masato sakurai
Date: 26 May 03 - 07:23 PM

Only one recording (by Phyllis Marks) is on the list at Folk Music Index:

Nathan Killed the Bell Cow

1. Marks, Phyllis. Folksongs and Ballads, Vol 2. Phyllis Marks, Augusta Heritage AHR 008, Cas (1991), cut#1.07

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nathan Killed the Bell Cow
From: toadfrog
Date: 30 May 03 - 01:05 PM

The assumption being, if there is no known precursor, the person who sang the song must have made it up?? I'm not a folklore scholar, but I'm a little puzzled by that assumption. I've ordered that casette, so if it comes with more information, I'll post it.

Yes, I'd swear I'd heard that "buttermilk" verse somewhere before, but I couldn't say where


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Nathan Killed the Bell Cow
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 30 May 03 - 01:57 PM

I've been digging for maggots and skippers, working on that verse as well. No buttermilk, but these:

Milk in the dairy getting mighty old,
Skippers and the mice working mighty bold,
Sing song Kitty can't yer kinny meo
Keymo ki mo doro hi me hi me ho.
In come Sally singing, sometimes
Penny with a wink turnings cat
Sing song Kitty can't yer ki meo
Key mo ki mo doro hi, me hi me ho.

Obviously descended from the song "Kemo Kimo." Collected in 1915, "sung by an ex-slave." N. I. White, American Negro Folk-Songs, 1928 (1965 reprint by Folklore Associates), p. 176.

I went up to town to get a cake of cheese,
The skippers and the maggots and a long-tailed mouse,
Yonder come a nigger with a bucket full o' souse,
Just come down from the white folk's house.

Collected 1915-1916, Auburn, AL, heard in southern Alabama.
Also in White, p. 176.
Kemo Kimo is an old English nonsense rhyme, but it got a workout in minstrel shows in mid-19th century and later and passed into Negro folk songs.
A variant of the first occurs in "Git Along John," Negro Singers' Own Book, 1846(?). Mentioned in White, p. 175. A similar verse was reported by Odum, also mentioned in White.

The buzzards and the hawks appear in a number of old Negro rhymes and tales. One in Tally (collected in the 1920s):
Once: De hawk an' de buzzard went to roost,
An' de hawk got up wid a broke off tooth.
Den: De hawk an' de buzzard went to law,
An' de hawk came back wid a broke up jaw
Dat buzzard tried to plead his case,
Den he went home wid a smashed in face.
Talley, Negro Folk Rhymes.


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