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Origins: Billy Boy

DigiTrad:
BILLY BOY
BILLY BOY 2
BILLY BOY 3


Related thread:
Tune Req: Billy Boy Newcastle Version not in (11)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
My Boy Tammy (Scots Musical Museum, VI, 1803, no.502)
My Boy Willie (from One Hundred English Folksongs, Cecil J. Sharp, 1916)


Joe Offer 12 Jan 04 - 07:15 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 12 Jan 04 - 07:32 PM
Joe Offer 12 Jan 04 - 07:41 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 12 Jan 04 - 07:49 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 12 Jan 04 - 08:01 PM
Malcolm Douglas 12 Jan 04 - 08:11 PM
Joe Offer 12 Jan 04 - 08:13 PM
Cruiser 12 Jan 04 - 08:15 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 12 Jan 04 - 08:27 PM
curmudgeon 12 Jan 04 - 08:32 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 12 Jan 04 - 08:49 PM
cobber 12 Jan 04 - 09:47 PM
Hamish 13 Jan 04 - 09:16 AM
GUEST,Hugh Jampton 13 Jan 04 - 11:04 AM
Stilly River Sage 13 Jan 04 - 11:13 AM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Jan 04 - 11:19 AM
MartinRyan 13 Jan 04 - 11:23 AM
TheBigPinkLad 13 Jan 04 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,JOHN OF ELSIES`S BAND 13 Jan 04 - 11:40 AM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Jan 04 - 12:47 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Jan 04 - 01:29 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Jan 04 - 01:43 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Jan 04 - 02:48 PM
Joe Offer 13 Jan 04 - 08:01 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 13 Jan 04 - 08:21 PM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Jan 04 - 12:44 AM
dick greenhaus 14 Jan 04 - 12:49 AM
Joe Offer 14 Jan 04 - 12:55 AM
rich-joy 14 Jan 04 - 02:29 AM
GUEST 30 Dec 05 - 04:32 PM
shepherdlass 30 Dec 05 - 08:57 PM
Arkie 30 Dec 05 - 11:08 PM
cptsnapper 31 Dec 05 - 03:26 AM
GUEST,Lighter 31 Dec 05 - 10:14 AM
Bob the Postman 31 Dec 05 - 11:09 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 09 Jun 11 - 02:24 AM
GUEST,Dave (Bridge) 03 Jul 11 - 10:26 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Jul 11 - 12:35 PM
Gibb Sahib 03 Jul 11 - 04:23 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Jul 11 - 05:34 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Jul 11 - 06:27 PM
Richie 12 Dec 11 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,SteveG 12 Dec 11 - 03:12 PM
radriano 12 Dec 11 - 04:54 PM
Lighter 12 Dec 11 - 05:48 PM
GUEST,SteveG 12 Dec 11 - 05:52 PM
Richie 12 Dec 11 - 09:56 PM
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GUEST,Sadie Damascus 03 Jun 14 - 11:07 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 03 Jun 14 - 11:51 AM
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Subject: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 07:15 PM

I guess this is a song I've known forever. Let's see what I remember without looking in a book:

    Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
    Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?
    I have been to seek a wife, she's the joy of my life,
    She's a young thing and cannot leave her mother.

    Can she bake a cherry pie? ...quick as you can blink an eye

    How old is she? Six times six and four times seven, forty-eight and eleven.. or something like that.

I see we have at least three versions in the Digital Tradition. I wonder what else we can find out about this song. I see it's sometimes linked with Child #12, Lord Randall, but I don't know that I can buy that. If the guy doesn't get poisoned, what's the link to Randall?

I've always thought of "Billy Boy" as an Appalachian song. Are there European versions (other than the Lord Randall series)?


Here's the entry from the Traditonal Ballad Index:

Billy Boy

DESCRIPTION: Asked where he has been, Billy says he has been courting, and has found a girl, "but she's a young thing and cannot leave her mother." In response to other questions, he describes her many virtues, always returning to his refrain
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1914 (Brown)
KEYWORDS: courting age youth
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Britain(England(North,South)) Canada(Mar,Ont)
REFERENCES (15 citations):
Bronson (12), 29 versions (though Bronson omits a higher fraction than usual of the versions known to him)
Belden, pp. 499-501, "Billy Boy" (2 texts)
Randolph 104, "Billy Boy" (1 text plus a fragment and 5 excerpts, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen, pp. 131-133, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 104A)
BrownIII 121, "Billy Boy" (2 texts plus an excerpt; the headnotes mention 47 texts in the Brown collection)
Hudson 133, pp. 278-280, "Billy Boy" (4 texts, condensed, plus mention of "at least" 8 more)
Eddy 38, "Billy Boy" (5 texts, 1 tune)
Creighton/Senior, pp. 246-248, "Billy Boy" (2 texts plus 2 fragments, 1 tune) {Bronson's #20}
Wyman-Brockway I, p. 14, "Billie Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #26}
Sharp-100E 58, "My Boy Willie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 320-322, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #28}
LPound-ABS, 113, pp. 231-232, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
JHCox 168, "Billy Boy" (4 texts)
Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 267, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
DT (12), BILLYBOY BLLYBOY2* BLLYBOY3*

Roud #326
RECORDINGS:
Ray Covert, "Billy Boy" (Herwin 75564, c. 1927)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Lord Randal" [Child 12]
Notes: A number of scholars have linked this simple little song with the classic ballad "Lord Randall." Since they only have two things in common, however (the courting theme and certain metrical traits), in the Ballad Index at least we keep them separate. - RBW
File: R104

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

The Ballad Index Copyright 2003 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 07:32 PM

Well, we know it from the 19th c, from a broadside printed in Baltimore by T. G. Doyle (American Memory).
We know it from sheet music, 1847: "Billy Boy, A Curious Legend," by Edward L. White, pub. by Ditson, Boston.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 07:41 PM

Hmmm. Neither one sounds Appalachian, does it? Is it from the Tin Pan Alley of the mid-19th Century? In the crosslinked thread (click), Conrad speaks of a Newcastle version, but he did not post lyrics. Could it be that UK versions stem from the U.S.?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: Lyr Add: BILLY BOY (Edward L. White, 1847)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 07:49 PM

Broadside and sheet music identical. here goes:

Lyr. Add: BILLY BOY
Comp. Edward L. White, 1847

Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife;
She's the joy of my life,
She's a young thing and cannot leave her mother.

Did she bid you to come in, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Did she bid you to come in, charming billy?
Yes, she bade me to come in,
There's a dimple in her chin,
She's a young thing, etc.

Did she set for you a chair,Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Did she set for you a chair, charming Billy?
Yes, she set for me a chair,
She has ringlets in her hair,
She's etc.

Can she make a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she make a chery pie, charming Billy?
She can make a cherry pie,
Quick as a cat can wink her eye;
She's etc.

Is she often seen at church, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Is she often seen at church, charming Billy?
Yes, she's often seen at church,
With a bonnet white as birch;
She's etc.

How tall is she, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
How tall is she, charming Billy?
She's tall as any pine,
And straight as a pumpkin vine,
She's etc.

Are her eyes very bright, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Are her eyes very bright, charming Billy?
Yes, her eyes are very bright,
But alas, they're minus sight,
She's etc.

How old is she, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
How old is she, charming Billy?
She's three times six, four times seven,
Twenty-eitht and eleven,
She's etc.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 08:01 PM

Kittridge (JAFL 1913) called it a british import and Sharp thought it was a comic version of "Lord Randall." Neither had the sheet music from 1847, nor did V. Randolph when he wrote up a 'folk' version in his Ozark Folksongs, vol. 1, pp. 391-393.
Clifford Johnson, What they Say in New England," 1897, was the first to print an American variant on the sheet music.

Yep, Sharp tried to steal this one for the Brits, but he was wrong.

I will check to see what else E. L. White wrote.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 08:11 PM

It's certainly been reported very widely in America, but has been common enough in England (My Boy Billy/Willie or Billy Boy, usually) and in Scotland (My Boy Tammy).

There are a few broadside editions of the Scottish form (which is a re-write made by the poet Hector MacNeill, first published in 1791) at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

My Boy Tammy

There is useful information in Iona and Peter Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, under no. 44 (Billy My Son/Lord Randal) and no. 45 (My Boy Billy). The Opies don't seem entirely convinced about the Randal connection. Bronson considers it a "spirited parody" of Randal. James Orchard Halliwell found versions in Suffolk and Yorkshire prior to 1844: the Opies quote the Yorkshire text. The Broadside set quoted above reads a little like a parody of the parody, so to speak, though the last verse at any rate has been found in oral currency.


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Subject: ADD Version: My Boy Willie
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 08:13 PM

Well, I guess this is English.
-Joe Offer-

MY BOY WILLIE

O where have you been all the day
My boy Willie?
O where have you been all the day?
Willie won't you tell me now?
I've been all the day courting of a lady gay
But she is too young to be taken from her mammy.

O can she brew and can she bake
My boy Willie?
O can she brew and can she bake?
Willie won't you tell me now?
She can brew and she can bake
And she can make a wedding cake
But she is too young to be taken from her mammy.

O can she knit and can she spin
My boy Willie?
O can she knit and can she spin
Willie won't you tell me now?
She can knit and she can spin
She can do most anything
But she is too young to be taken from her mammy.

O how old is she now
My boy Willie
O how old is she now?
Willie won't you tell me now?
Twice six, twice seven
Twice twenty and eleven
But she is too young to be taken from her mammy.

Source: One Hundred English Folk Songs, edited by Cecil J. Sharp, 1916 (Dover edition)

Notes: A Yorkshire version of the words given by Halliwell in his Popular Rhymes (p. 328); and a Scottish variant in Herd's Scottish Songs (volume ii, p. 1). See also Baring-Gould's A book of Nursery Songs and Rhymes (No. 24).
The song, I imagine, is a comic derivative, or burlesque, of "Lord Rendel."

Click to play



There's a very similar version at The Contemplator.


The First Digital Tradition Version also follows this pattern - it's from the Burl Ives Songbook.
    Where have you been all the day, my boy Willie?
    Where have you been all the day, Willie won't you tell me now?
    I have been all the day courting of a lady gay
    But she's too young to be taken from her mother
The Burl Ives tune is very similar to that in Sharp, but I don't think it's as interesting.

Click to Play Burl Ives Tune


The Second DT Version is a parody:
    Don't you want to go to war, Billy Boy, Billy Boy,
    Don't you want to win a silver medal?
    No desire do I feel
    To defend Republic Steel
    I'm a young thing, and cannot leave my mother.

The Third DT Version is from American Ballads and Folk Songs (Lomax):
    Where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
    Where have you been, charming Billy?
    I've been down the lane to see Miss Betsy Jane,
    She's a young thing and cannot leave her mammy!
I guess the DT does not have the version I grew up with, which is very close to the broadside/sheet music Q posted above. Guess I'd better harvest Q's version. -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Cruiser
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 08:15 PM

My favorite verse that I learned in the mid 50s is:

Can she drive a model T Billy boy, Billy boy
Can she drive a model T charmin' Billy
Yes, she can drive a model T
Down a ditch and up a tree
She's a young thang that can not leave her mother.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 08:27 PM

"The Modern Harp," Edward L. White, 1846; "Harmonia Sacra," 1851, "The Wreath of School Songs," 1847, "The Tyrolean Lyre," 1847, etc. same authors. The same E. L. W.?
He composed "Grand Triumphal Quick Step," 1847; The Morning Flowers Display Their Sweets," Wesleyan hymn.
Can find very little about him.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: curmudgeon
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 08:32 PM

The High Level Ranters have a nice version on vinyl; can't remember the title.

Terry includes a Tyneside seafaring setting in The Shanty Book, Vol. I.

Joe's text goes with the tune that is the march of the Royal Tank Corps. The first tanks in WWI were part of the Navy (division of land ships) and were fondly known as Big Willie and Little Willie after the Kaiser and his son.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 08:49 PM

Ah, weel, I have to recant. A British Isles song revised by White.
"My Boy Tammy," linked by Malcolm Douglas, above, is certainly similar, so have to agree with Malcolm's comments. Should have checked my Bronson (Billy Boy, Child No. 12, Appendix) where he says the first appearance was in "The Bee," 1791, and gives several versions.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: cobber
Date: 12 Jan 04 - 09:47 PM

Shucks! I thought this was a Jerry Lee Lewis original. He was the first person I heard singing it even before my fifth grade music teacher taught us a different version (which may have been a 1940's pop version). Instead of young lasses and their mothers it went
Where have you been all the day, Billy Boy, Billy Boy
Where have you been all the day my Billy Boy
I've been walking all the day with my darling Nancy Gray
Singing Nancy tickle my fancy, oh my darling Billy Boy.
Is she fit to be your wife? etc
She's as fit to be my wife as a fork is to a knife singing...etc


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Hamish
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 09:16 AM

I do a composite version of Billy Boy which uses various sources ranging from Gloucestershire to Northumbria. The Northumbrian bit comes through particularly in the "And me Nancy kittled me fancy" and the "Can she make an Irish stew?/Aye, an' singin' hinnies* too" lines...

Unfortunately I've lost track of where these came from. But I got the "She is twice six and seven/She is twice twenty and eleven" and the general groove from Eliza Carthy's version.

*a kind of tea cake or scone.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST,Hugh Jampton
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 11:04 AM

Spot on Cobber. We were all singing that version down here in SE England in schools as youngsters. I`ve always regarded it as an English country song by its terminology and sentiments.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 11:13 AM

There's a nice version of Billie Boy on one of Ed McCurdy's albums. Banjo accompaniment. I'll look it up later.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 11:19 AM

I should think that Eliza had that from her dad. He recorded a set using tune and one verse (the final one above) from Marina Russell of Upwey in Dorset (Journal of the Folk Song Society, VIII (34) 1930 210-11), most of the rest of the words coming from Mrs Lizzie Welch, Hambridge, 1904 (James Reeves, Idiom of the People, 1958, 75). I don't know where the common "school" set that everybody over a certain age in the UK remembers came from; it was just there. Normally I'd think Sharp, but perhaps not on this occasion.

In notes to Mrs Russell's set (Journal of the Folk Song Society, VIII (34) 1930 211) Anne Gilchrist refers to Hector MacNeill's re-write, and quotes from G. F. Graham a verse of the "despised original" on which MacNeill based his My Boy Tammy:

Is she fit to soop the house,
My boy Tammy?
She's just as fit to soop the house,
As the cat to catch the mouse,
And yet she's but a young thing,
New come frae her mammy.

The final verse ("Twice six, twice seven...") turns out to be quite common. It was the only verse Mrs Russell remembered, and Miss Gilchrist also quotes a form of it from Herd's MS:

I am to court a wife
And I'll love her as my life
But she is a young thing
And new come frae her Minnie
She's twice six, etc.

There are two examples of MacNeill's Tammy at Levy, with music; neither mention him, however. Another look through Roud suggests that there is scarcely a part of Britain or America where the song hasn't turned up in one form or another. It was also transmitted through print, of course.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: MartinRyan
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 11:23 AM

As I read the lines, I hear a Geordie voice, or therabouts, in my head. Wonder who it was?

Regards


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: TheBigPinkLad
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 11:29 AM

Until I grew up I never dreamt it was anything other than Northumbrian. One of the few folk songs we were taught at school, we used to giggle at the 'kittled me fancy' line as we thought it very rude.

Was there a version of it in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST,JOHN OF ELSIES`S BAND
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 11:40 AM

Here is an English West Country version we sang when I was in "Four Square Circle". We learned this and many others from Ken Penny and "The Journeymen"
    Where be going to my boy Billy boy,
    Where be going to Billy me boy.
    Where be going for evermore here Billo
    Down in the meadow so gay, so gay.

    (Spoken) I be seeking service missus.

    Then bargain with me oh my boy Billy boy
    Bargain with me oh Billy me boy
    Bargain with me for evermore here Billo
    Down in the meadow so gay, so gay

    (Spoken) `ow much will `e pay I missus.

    `Bout three pound and ten, oh my boy Billy boy
    Three pound and ten, oh billy me boy
    Three pound and ten, for evermore here Billo
    Down in the meadow so gay, so gay.
    etc.etc.
The tale goes on discover the missus is looking for a replacement for her husband who died " seven long days ago".
If anyone is interested in the complete recording drop me a line on
johnh.hills@virgin.net


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 12:47 PM

That isn't a version of Billy Boy, for all the similarity of the first verse. It's a form of The Rigwiddy Carlin (various spellings) which has also been found as Tam Booey (various spellings), Magherafelt Hiring Fair, and so on. It's number 366 in the Roud Folk Song Index. From what you quote, I'd think it's the set that Peter Kennedy recorded from Dicky Lashbrook at Kelly, Devon, in the early 1950s. It appears in Folksongs of Britain and Ireland (p 450) as Bargain With Me. More common in Scotland, it seems, where Peter Buchan published a text in 1828.


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Subject: Lyr Add: MY BOY TAMMY (from Bodleian)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 01:29 PM

Here is one of the versions in the Bodleian Collection.

Lyr. Add: MY BOY TAMMY

Oh, where hae ye been a' the day, my boy Tammy?
Where hae ye been a' the day, my boy Tammy?
I've been by burn and flowery brae,
Meadow green and mountain grey,
Courting o' this young thing, just come frae her mammy.

And where gat ye that young thing, my boy Tammy?
And where gat ye that young thing, my boy Tammy?
I got her down in yonder bowe,
Smiling on a broomy knowe,
Herding a wee lamb and ewe for her poor mammy.

What said you to the bonny bairn, my boy Tammy?
What said you to the bonny bairn, my boy Tammy?
I praised her een sae lovely blue,
Her dimpled chin and cherry mou',
I pree'd it aft, as ye may trow- she said she'd tell her mammy.

I held her to my beating breast, my young, my smiling lammy,
I held her to my beating breast, my young, my smiling lammy;
I hae a house, it cost me dear,
I've wealth o plenishing and gear,
Ye'll get it a'wer't ten times mair, gin ye will leave your mammy.

The smile gaed aff her bonny face- I munna leave my mammy,
The smile gaed aff her bonny face- I munna leave my mammy;
She's gi'en me meat, she's gi'en me claes,
And been my comfort a' her days;
My father's death brought mony waes- I munna leave my mammy.

We'll tak' her hame and mak' her fain, my ain kind-hearted lammy,
We'll tak' her hame and mak' her fain, my ain kind-hearted lammy;
We'll gie her meat, we'll gie her c'aes,
We'll be her comfort a' her days;
The wee thing gi'es her hand an' says- there, gang and ask my mammy!

Has she been to kirk wi' thee, my boy Tammy?
Has she been to kirk wi' thee, my boy Tammy?
She has ben to kirk wi' me,
And the tear was in her e'e-
But oh! she's but a young thing, just come frae her mammy!

Bodleian Library, Ballads Catalogue, 2806 c.11(142), no date. Firth b.27 (457/458) view 3, essentially the same, also no date. Firth b.27(59 also appears to be the same, T. Pearson, Manchester, no date.
Search

Click to play


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 01:43 PM

They'd all be the same, I expect; that's the MacNeill re-write, of course. He got quite a bit of stick from contemporaries over that; many thought it rather cissy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 02:48 PM

Here is the tune for the MacNeill redaction.

X:1
T:My Boy Tammy
C:Words Hector MacNeill, c.1791. Tune traditional.
B:Scots Musical Museum, VI, 1803, no.502
N:SMM prints 3/16 note in 4th bar as 1/8
N:Roud 326, Child 12 (appendix)
L:1/8
Q:1/4=100
M:4/4
K:F
D3/2 E/ F3/2 G/ (A3/2=B/) c2|(G3/2A/) (G3/2F/) E/ C3/2 z|
w:Whaur hae ye been a'_ day, my_ boy_ Tam-my?
D3/2 E/ F3/2 G/ (A3/2=B/) c2|(Af) (ed) A/ d3/2 z d|
w:Whar hae ye been a'_ day, my_ boy_ Tam-my? I've
d3/2 e/ f3/2 d/ c3/2 B/ A2|F3/2 A/ c3/2 A/ G3/2 E/ C2|
w:been by burn and flow'r-y brae, Mea-dow green and moun-tain grey,
d3/2 f/ e3/2 f/ d2 A2|F3/2 G/ A3/2 G/ F/ D3z/|]
w:Court-ing o' this young thing, just come frae her mam-my.

Click to play

To play or display ABC tunes, try concertina.net


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 08:01 PM

Malcolm, in the DT entry for Billy Boy 3, Dick Greenhaus says Professor Child groups "Billy Boy" with "Lord Randall," Child 12. I see you mark "My Boy Tammy" as "Child 12 appendix." I couldn't find the connection stated in Child - where does Child indicate this?

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Jan 04 - 08:21 PM

Bronson has a discussion and songs under Billie Boy, Appendix to 12. I think this is what Malcolm was referring to. The Appendix to Lord Randall in Child just has more fragments of Lord Randall in my copy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Jan 04 - 12:44 AM

Just so: Roud follows Bronson in this.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Jan 04 - 12:49 AM

Similarities between songs lie oft in the ear of the behearer (to quote Mr Thiemw). Child's logic isn't always transparent, but I'd guess that the similarity lies in the question-from-parent/answer-from-offspring structure, rather than any similarity in plot.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Jan 04 - 12:55 AM

I was tempted to conclude that "Billy Boy" was a truly American song - until Q posted "My boy Tammy" and Malcolm dated it at 1791. Maybe we didn't come up with anything original until the Beach Boys, huh?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: rich-joy
Date: 14 Jan 04 - 02:29 AM

Well, Guest, John of Elsies's Band - I haven't heard that song (whatever its lineage) in years - and I would like a copy, so I will email you, as suggested!

Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 04:32 PM

came across this thread looking for the lyrics for the Geordie song.
I latter found the geordie one here


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: shepherdlass
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 08:57 PM

The Northumbrian version (according to the Northumbria Anthology CD notes) was apparently collected in a 1921 volume, "The Shanty Book" edited by Walter Runciman. It's such a prevalent song in the NE that I was actually stunned to look through all 4 volumes of the famous Catcheside-Warrington Tyneside songbooks and realize it wasn't included in them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Arkie
Date: 30 Dec 05 - 11:08 PM

I read somewhere that in the Scottish lowlands and the English borderlands "billy" was once a common term for friend or buddy. Hence, a close friend might be referred to as "billy boy".   Would this have any bearing on the song Billy Boy?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: cptsnapper
Date: 31 Dec 05 - 03:26 AM

Frank Crumit also recorded it: he used quite a few folk songs & wrote one or two in " folk " style.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 31 Dec 05 - 10:14 AM

Stan Hugill has this as a shanty, observing that later verses were "mainly bawdy." Has anyone heard any of these (or other) "bawdy" verses ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Bob the Postman
Date: 31 Dec 05 - 11:09 AM

I always thought that Billy Boy was a topical satire about some Prince William or other for whom a marriage or engagement to a very young noblewoman was arranged. (At the same time I also picked up the notions that Georgie Porgie is a topical song about another royal courtship and that Little Jack Horner is a satire about a certain courtier who schemed to secure himself a "plum".) Having read this thread, I postulate that the nursery rhyme as we know it today is a satirical reworking of the Tammy/Willie versions in light of a notorious dynastic marriage.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 09 Jun 11 - 02:24 AM

This song was apparently reworked into a calypso, "Caroline", according to Gordon Rohlehr. "Tell me where you been last night, Caroline?"


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST,Dave (Bridge)
Date: 03 Jul 11 - 10:26 AM

It is in Shanties of the Seven Seas as a Halyard shanty from the North East of England. Stan should know.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Jul 11 - 12:35 PM

"Billy Boy" is widespread in England, not only in the north east but in "London, Liverpool and South Wales" according to Hugill. The versions stem from "similar shore songs, of which there are many."

It seems to have been used as a capstan chantey (Terry), at the windlass (Runciman), and as a question and answer song (Hugill).
All the above from Hugill, Shanties from the Seven Seas.

I doubt and direct connection to "Caroline" since this is a common theme that is not confined to any one locality, and could have developed independently. "Billy Boy" was a common song everywhere English was spoken (still in school songbooks), and undoubtedly was known in English-governed parts of the Caribbean, but there is no evidence that it is related to the Caribbean "Caroline." Thread 32412, with lyrics to the 1927 song by Houdini.
Caroline, Calypso, Houdini


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 03 Jul 11 - 04:23 PM

re: the Caribbean life of this song, I just wanted to bring attention to the Lomax-recorded song "Willie Boy" in Nevis/St. Kitts:

http://www.amazon.com/Willie-Boy/dp/B0010WFIJK

re: Dave's comment, "Stan should know." Or, I'd say, "Stan read it in a book somewhere." It's quite unclear (I think purposefully so) how this song may have fit into Hugill's direct experiences. I haven't seen it appear under the guise of a shanty until Terry's book (1921) -- that's the first version Hugill prints (though he makes a couple lyrical changes that are suspicious!). Though the song up to that point, as far as I am seeing, had not been documented elsewhere as a shanty, recording artists during the shanty "boom" in the 1920s did recorded it among classics like "Rio Grande." By the time Hugill would have gone to see, even shanty aficionados (home listeners) might have considered "Billy Boy" to be a classic shanty in its own right. However, I am skeptical whether it had ever been much of a chanty or else just another one of many "regular" songs that were haphazardly sung by localized crews in later days.

I don't know where Hugill's second version comes from. He doesn't say. Usually, if he learned it at sea, he says who he learned it from, so I'm leaving open the possibility that he sourced it elsewhere.


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Subject: Lyr Add: BILLY BOY (Opie & Opie)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Jul 11 - 05:34 PM

Lyr. Add: BILLY BOY
Opie & Opie, The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book

Where have you been al the day, Billy boy, Billy boy?
Where have you been all the day, my boy Billy?
I have been all the day
Courting of a lady gay,
But oh ! she is too young
To be taken from her mammy.
2
Is she fit to be thy love, Billy boy, Billy boy?
Is she fit to be thy love, my boy Billy?
She's as fit to be my love
As my hand is for my glove,
But oh ! she is too young
To be taken from her mammy.
3
Can she brew and can she bake, Billy boy, Billy boy?
Can she brew and can she bake, my boy Billy?
She can brew and she can bake,
And she can make a wedding cake,
But oh ! she is too young
To be taken from her mammy.
4
Is she fit to be thy wife, Billy boy, Billy boy?
Is she fit to be thy wife, my boy Billy?
She's as fit to be my wife
As a sheath is for a knife,
But oh ! she is too young
To be taken from her mammy.
5
How old may she be, Billy boy, Billy boy?
How old may she be, my boy Billy?
Twice six, twice seven,
Twice twenty and eleven,
But oh ! she is too young
To be taken from her mammy.

Iona and Peter Opie, 1955 and reprints, The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book, Oxford University Press.

No date given for the rhyme.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Jul 11 - 06:27 PM

Lyr. Add: (MY BOY WILLY)
Halliwell, 1846, CCCXIX without title

Where have you been all the day,
My boy Willy?I've been all the day,
Courting of a lady gay:
But oh ! she's too young
To be taken from her mammy.
2
What work can she do,
My boy Willy?
Can she bake and can she brew,
My boy Willy?
3
She can brew and she can bake,
And she can make our wedding cake:
But oh ! she's too young
To be taken from her mammy.
4
What age may she be?
What age may she be?
My boy Willy?
5
Twice two, twice seven,
Twice ten, twice eleven:
But oh ! she's too young
To be taken from her mammy.

Fourteenth Class, Love and Matrimony.
James Orchard Halliwell, 1846, The Nursery Rhymes of England, 4th edition.
http://www.presscom.co.uk/nursery.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Richie
Date: 12 Dec 11 - 11:31 AM

Although attributed to Hector Macneill in 1791, a nearly identical text was printed in 1776 by David Herd, George Paton in Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, titled "The Lammy." The first verse is repeated throughout:


THE LAMMY.

"Whare hae ye been a' day, my boy, Tammy?
Whare hae ye been a' day, my boy, Tammy?"
"I've been by burn and flow'ry brae,
Meadow green, and mountain gray,
Courting o' this young thing,
Just come frae her mammy."


"And whare got ye that young thing, my boy, Tammy?"
"I gat her down in yonder how,
Smiling on a broomy know,
Herding ae wee lamb and ewe for her poor Mammy."


"What said ye to the bounie bairn, my boy, Tammy?"
"I praised her een, sae bonnie blue,
Her dimpled cheek, and cherry mou';
I pree'd it aft, as ye may trow;— she said she'd tell her Mammy.

"I held her to my beating heart, my young, my smiling Lammie!
"I hae a house, it cost me dear;
I've wealth o' plenLshin' and gear;—
Ye'se get it a' war't ten times mair, gin ye will leave your Mammy.'

"The smile gaed aff her bonnie face, "I manna leave my Mammy;
She's gi'en me meat, she's gi'en me claise,
She's been my comfort a' my days;
"my father's death brought mony waes--"I canna leave my Mammy;

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 12 Dec 11 - 03:12 PM

Scottish and English oral versions aside, the Northumbrian chantey could easily be derived from American versions as are many other chanteys.

I'm not sure if Roud numbers still put both songs together, but if that is the case I'll recommend he separates the two, unless anyone has any further proof they are linked in any other way than parody.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: radriano
Date: 12 Dec 11 - 04:54 PM

This is one of those songs that went to sea and became a capstan shanty:

Billy Boy        capstan
Stan Hugill, Shanties from the Seven Seas


Where have ye bin all the day, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Where have ye bin all the day, me Billy Boy?
I've bin walin' on the quay, with me charmin' Nancy Lee
An' sweet Nancy tickled me fancy, oh, me charmin' Billy Boy!

Is she fit to be yer wife, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Is she fit to be yer wife, me Billy Boy?
Aye, she's fit to be me wife as the fork is to the knive

Can she cook a bit o' steak, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
She can cook a bit o' steak, aye, an' make a gridle cake

Can she make an Irish stew, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
She can make an Irish stew, aye, an' a Cornish pasty too

Does she sleep close unto thee, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Aye, she sleeps close unto me, like the bark is to the tree

Can she make a feather bed, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
She can make a feather bed, fit for any sailor's head

Can she darn and can she sew, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Aye, she can darn and she can sew, there is nought she cannot do

Can she wash and can she clean, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Aye, she can wash and she can clean, an' she plays the tambourine

Can she heave the dipsy lead, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
[She can heave the dipsy lead an' she loves to roll in bed]

Can she strop a block, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
[Aye, she can strop a block an' she'll be waiting on the dock]



Notes from the book: " … Billy Boy is given by Terry as a Northumbrian capstan shanty, and he gives it in the Northumbrian dialect, but I rather fancy it had a wider field than Northumberland. I have met many seamen from London, Liverpool, and South Wales who also knew this shanty. Like Terry states, it had many unprintable stanzas not lending themselves to easy camouflage. There are two main versions, the well known one and one in a minor key. Of course they have both stemmed from similar shore songs of which there are many. At times two shantymen would sing, one for the questions and one for the answers. Bill Fuller, who had sailed in Sunbeam I, told me that Sir Walter Runciman would often sing it at the windlass aboard that vessel.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Lighter
Date: 12 Dec 11 - 05:48 PM

Radriano, did you get those bracketed lines from Hugill? Or are they newly "folk-processed"?

"I have met many seamen from London, Liverpool, and South Wales who also knew this shanty. Like Terry states, it had many unprintable stanzas not lending themselves to easy camouflage."

The existence of so many singers and unprintable stanzas suggests that it was rather well known as a shanty.

Perhaps other collectors, aside from Terry, didn't mention it because it was both largely unprintable and, in the clean stanzas, indistinguishable from the shore song. (I.e., "not really a shanty.")


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 12 Dec 11 - 05:52 PM

Just to be clear on the Roud numbers issue. Whatever was the situation in 2004, Lord Randal is Roud 12 and all versions of 'Billy Boy/My Boy Tammie etc are Roud 326.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: Richie
Date: 12 Dec 11 - 09:56 PM

Hi,

Here's a shanty version from 1920:

http://bluegrassmessengers.com/billy-boy--terry-northumbrian-1920.aspx

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: radriano
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 04:48 PM

Hi Lighter,

Those are my additions. Actually, they are PG versions of bawdy lyrics I had written.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST,Sadie Damascus
Date: 03 Jun 14 - 11:07 AM

Joe and folks,

I am striving to prove the oft-assumed connection between Lord Randall and Billy Boy (or Tammy Boy). I just can't find any version of Billy Boy that even suggests a poisoning or bad blood between Billy and his sweetheart/grandmother/stepmother at all. Has anyone proof? I have read many theories, boiling down to "Well, Billy Boy might be a comic take on the ballad; certainly So-and-So believeds it.

Is there any intermediary song that can hook them for me for once and for all?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Billy Boy
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 03 Jun 14 - 11:51 AM

That grand old singer Johnny Doughty of Sussex sang a good version, titled "My Boy Billy". You can hear it on the Musical Traditions double CD "Up in the North, Down in the South" (MTCD 311-2).


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