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Origin: Tell Old Bill

DigiTrad:
TELL OLD BILL
YOU'VE BEEN A GOOD OLD WAGON


Related threads:
(origins) Origin: Tell Old Bill (Van Ronk?) (28)
Origin: This Morn, This Eve, Right Now (28)


Phil from OK 28 Sep 98 - 04:55 PM
Art Thieme 28 Sep 98 - 10:24 PM
folk1234 30 Sep 98 - 12:11 PM
Art Thieme 01 Oct 98 - 12:03 AM
Phil from OK 05 Oct 98 - 05:54 PM
Art Thieme 01 Mar 02 - 07:39 PM
GUEST,MCP 01 Mar 02 - 08:30 PM
Art Thieme 08 Aug 08 - 02:26 PM
Suffet 08 Aug 08 - 10:24 PM
GUEST,ednaelk/diane 09 Aug 08 - 11:27 AM
Vicar 09 Aug 08 - 12:04 PM
Suffet 09 Aug 08 - 12:10 PM
Scorpio 09 Aug 08 - 02:14 PM
WinkyD 15 Sep 08 - 03:40 PM
GUEST,mg 15 Sep 08 - 03:44 PM
ClaireBear 15 Sep 08 - 03:59 PM
Janie 15 Sep 08 - 08:50 PM
GUEST,GUEST, Vicki Kelsey 16 Sep 08 - 12:09 PM
GUEST 26 Sep 08 - 12:30 AM
GUEST,Andy Ayres 16 Nov 10 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,Joseph Scott 06 Nov 14 - 03:52 PM
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Subject: Tell Old Bill
From: Phil from OK
Date: 28 Sep 98 - 04:55 PM

I'm seeking background (time period, location, evolution, etc.) on Tell Old Bill from American Songbag, Sandburg. The lyrics are in the DT DB. I have seen this song in other books done in the Queen's English, but "I lub de 'rigno' dilect dey got in de DT vershun". Thanks in advance for your help.


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: Art Thieme
Date: 28 Sep 98 - 10:24 PM

On the Georgia Sea Islands where a slave-type culture lasted longer because of the isolation from the mainland, it was sung

"Ol' Bill the rollin' pin,
This mornin' this evening...
Old Bill the rollin' pin, he had a hog eye and a double chin.

I gee to the mule but the mule wouldn't ge-e---this mornin', this evenin'...
I gee to the mule but the mule wouldn't gee,
So I hit him side the head with the single tree,
This mornin this evenin, so soon.

[This was a covered up way of talking about the policeman, Bill, who hit the people with his club--ie. the "rollin' pin"---without Bill knowing what was going on.]

Other songs also had this tune:
The Crawdad Song

versions of Frog Went a Courtin' ("unh-huh" instead of "this mornin")

"Mama Don't 'Low" (also has the same tune!)

"Pittsburgh Town"---by Woody Guthrie & the Almanacs see Pete Seeger's American Industrial Ballads on Folkways

Pittsburgh town is a smoky old town, In Pittsburgh (3 times)
Solid iron from McKeesport down...

What did Jones and Laughlan steal, in Pittsburgh
What did Jones and Laughlan steal,
Up and down the river--just as far as you can see,
Lord, God, in Pittsburgh!

From the Allegheny to the O-hi-o, In Pittsburgh,
From the Allegheny to the O-hi-o They're joining up in the C.I.O....

All I do is cough and choak...
From the iron filings and the sulpher smoke...
In Pittsburgh--Lord, God, in Pittsburgh.

(ALSO: On the mainland the song "TELL OLD BILL" as printed in Sandburg's __American Songbag__ (1927)---and as sung by Bob Gibson on an early Riverside LP---took on very urban details (could've been written today):

Tell old Bill when he gets home, this mornin',
"
Tell ol' Bill when he gets home,
Leave them downtown gals alone,
This mornin', this evenin', so soon!

Bill he left by the alley gate, this mornin...
Old sal said, "Now, don't be late."...

They brought Bill home in a hurry-up wagon, this mornin',
They brought...poor dead Bill--his toes were a-draggin'...

Oh no, it can't be so, this mornin...
Oh no, it can't be so--Bill he left about an hour ago, This morning, this evening, so soon.

(I used to use this medley as an illustration of the oral tradition---the folk process in action---how one song morphed into another as it went from person to person. And then I would suggest we CREATE OUR OWN FOLSONG RIGHT NOW!! I'd take just the forst line of the various versions--and come up with:

Tell old Bill when he gets home, this mornin',
That frog went a ridin' and he did ride, Unh hunh,
So you get a line and I'll get a pole, cause we don't care what mama don't 'low,
In Pittsburgh, Lord, God, in Pittsburgh.

I do hope this'll help you out some. I'm exhausted tonight and wasn't up to writing all these out like I might've. Have fun!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: folk1234
Date: 30 Sep 98 - 12:11 PM

Art. In our (Oklahoma City Traditional Music Association) song swap workshop, in addition to singing & playing monthly-theme-related songs, we like to discuss the genesis and life cycle(s) of the songs we bring to share. Your info and the way you have used it to describe the oral tradition is great! Thanks so much for your late night contribution.


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Oct 98 - 12:03 AM

MY PLEASURE!! GLAD TO DO IT!

Is a club called the SECOND FRET still in Oklahoma City? Played there a few times after Winfield. Also, is the Tulsa tribute to Woody still happening. That was a fun one too---in downtown Tulsa.

Art


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: Phil from OK
Date: 05 Oct 98 - 05:54 PM

Art: SECOND FRET no longer exists. The main acoustic venue in OKC is Rocky's Music Hall at Bricktown (Bricktown is the renaissance area of OKC). Tulsa still has the Tribute to Woody and this year Okemah (Woody's hometown) hosted a celebration. Come see us sometime.


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: Art Thieme
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 07:39 PM

Masato, Thanks for finding this. I'd forgotten all about it.

Best Regards,

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 01 Mar 02 - 08:30 PM

Of DIS MORNIN', DIS EVENIN', SO SOON (his title - not TELL OLD BILL as in his words in DT) Sandburg says (of the source) only that This arrangement is from the ballad as sung by Nancy Barnhart, painter and etcher, of St. Louis

The site: Old Town School of Folk Music - A Companion to the Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook, Stories & Information Compiled and edited by Mark Dvorak - has the following to say of it:
    Carl Sandburg first heard this grim blues-ballad from Nancy Barnhart of St. Louis back in the 1920s. Ten years later, folklorist and singer Sam Hinton came across an African American farmer in Walker County, TX who sang another version. And in the late 1950s, Bob Gibson introduced "Tell Old Bill" to a wider audience when he recorded an interpretation of Sandburg's version.

    While Gibson's records may sound like run-of-the-mill white-boy folk to modern listeners, he played an important role in popularizing folk music to American audiences in the 1950s at the very beginning of the folk boom.

    His 12-string guitar style influenced performers like Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapin; he was a mainstay at one of the first established folk clubs in the U.S., the Gate of Horn in Chicago; and he wrote songs with Shel Silverstein and Phil Ochs, as well as performing in a duo with Hamilton Camp. Most of all, he was one of the first folkies on the scene - when he began performing and recording in the mid-'50s, there was hardly anyone else playing guitar-based folk music for an educated, relatively affluent audience.

    Gibson helped Joan Baez and Phil Ochs in their early days, and was managed by Albert Grossman, who later handled the affairs of such giants as Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary. He did continue to perform in Chicago in the latter part of his life until he passed away from Parkinson's disease in September 1996 at the age of 64.

    Sources:
    • "Sing Out!" Magazine, Volume 9, Number 2.
    • "All Music Guide" on the World Wide Web.
    Recordings on file by: Bob Gibson, Jim Post.
Mick


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Aug 08 - 02:26 PM

It's good to see that some of us are still kickin' around.--I suspect some are more worse for wear than others...

Art


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: Suffet
Date: 08 Aug 08 - 10:24 PM

Greetings:

I first learned Tell Old Bill from one of Dave Van Ronk's Folkways LPs, and I later heard him do it once in person. By that time I had seen Sandburg's version in print, and noticed that Van Ronk's was somewhat different. Perhaps that was Bob Gibson's influence. In any event, I do it my own way in the key of E on a standard tuning 6-string guitar. Instead of plaing E position chords, I capo up two frets, but with the capo stopping only the 1st through 5th strings, thus leaving the 6th string open. I then use D position chords, with the uncapoed 6th string available as a bass E note. Essentially, I get the effect of a drop D tuning capoed up two frets without dropping the 6th string.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill or THIS MORNING THIS EVENING, SO
From: GUEST,ednaelk/diane
Date: 09 Aug 08 - 11:27 AM

Here are the chords and lyrics from www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/folk-songs-with-chords:

G       Am         G         D       G    Am
Tell old Bill, when he comes home this morning,

G       Am         G       Am       G    Bm
Tell old Bill, when he comes home this evening,

G       Am       G       D
Tell old Bill when he comes home,

   G          Am       G    D
To leave them downtown gals alone,

    G   Am       G    D       G
This morning, this evening, so soon.


Bill left by the alley gate this morning,
Bill left by the alley gate this evening,
Bill left by the alley gate,
and old Sal says, "Now don't be late",
This morning,this evening, so soon.

Bill's wife was a-baking bread this morning,
Bill's wife was a-baking bread this evening,
Bill's weife was a-baking bread,
when she found out that her Bill was dead,
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Oh no, that can't be so, this morning,
Oh no, that can't be so, this evening,
Ok no, that can't be so,
My bill left home just an hour ago,
This morning, this evening, so soon.

They brought Bill home in the hurry-up wagon, this morning,
They brought Bill home in the hurry-up wagon, this evening,
They brought Bill home in the hurry-up wagon,
Poor dead Bill how his toes were draggin,
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Oh no, that cannot be this morning,
Oh no, that cannot be this evening,
Oh no, that cannot be
They shot my Bill in the first degree,
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Repeat verse 1


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Subject: ADD Version: Tell Old Bill
From: Vicar
Date: 09 Aug 08 - 12:04 PM

the version we recorded in 1963 went like like this:

TELL OLD BILL

Tell old Bill when he comes home this mornin
Tell Old Bill when comes home this evenin
Tell Old Bill when he comes home to leave those downtown women alone
This mornin, this evenin, so soon

Bill's woman was bakin bread this mornin
Bills woman was breakin bread this evein
Bill's woman was bakin bread when they brought her the news that Bill was dead
this mornin, this,this evenin so soon

Oh no - it can't be so this mornin, Oh no - it can't be so this evenin
Oh no - it can't be so. I saw my Bill about an hour ago
This mornin,this evenin, so soon

They're bringin Bill home in a hurry-up wagon this mornin
They're bringin Bill home in a hurry-up wagon this evenin
They're bringin Bill home in a hurry-up wagon. Can't you see how his shoes are draggin?
This mornin, this evenin, so soon.

We're performing Old Bill when we do concerts these days and have changed one word in the first verse to what it probably was originally - "Downtown women" is now Damn white women" Because what probably got Bill in so much trouble in the first place!



     Joe Frazier - Chad Mitchell Trio


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Subject: Lyr/Chords Add: TELL OLD BILL
From: Suffet
Date: 09 Aug 08 - 12:10 PM

Greetings:

Here are the chords and words I use.

E         C#m       E       C#m         E         C#m
Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this morning,

E         C#m       E       C#m         B7
Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this evening,

E         C#m       E       C#m
Tell old Bill, when he get home,

       E          C#m      B7
Better leave them downtown women alone,

      E             B7          E       C#m    E    C#m (vamp)
This morning, this evening, so soon.


Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this morning,
Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this evening,
Tell old Bill, when he gets home,
Better leave them downtown women alone,
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Bill left here at half past eight, this morning,
Bill left here at half past eight, this evening,
Bill left here at half past eight,,
Old Bill left by the old front gate,
This morning,this evening, so soon.

Sal was home, she was a-baking the bread, this morning,
Sal was home, she was a-baking the bread, this evening,
Sal was home, she was a-baking the bread
When she heard the news her Bill was dead,
This morning, this evening, so soon.

"Oh no, that can't be so!" This morning,
"Oh no, that can't be so!" This evening,
"Ok no, that can't be so,
My bill left home just an hour ago!"
This morning, this evening, so soon.

They brought Bill home in a hurry-up wagon, this morning,
They brought Bill home in a hurry-up wagon, this evening,
They brought Bill home in a hurry-up wagon,
Oh, my Lord, how his toes were dragging!
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this morning,
Tell old Bill, when he gets home, this evening,
Tell old Bill, when he gets home,
Better leave them downtown women alone,
This morning, this evening, so soon.

As I wrote above, I play D position chords capoed up two frets, but I only have the capo extending across the first through fifth strings. I leave the sixth string open as a bass E note.

--- Steve


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Subject: RE: Tell Old Bill
From: Scorpio
Date: 09 Aug 08 - 02:14 PM

Thanks so much, Suffet, for supplying the chords to go with the tune I have stuck in my head.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill
From: WinkyD
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 03:40 PM

Dear Fr. Joe:
Oh, maybe you will sing this in Lancaster, PA, in March! I'm thrilled the CMT is coming back East!
I saw the Trio for the first time (ever. Hee.)in Ocean Grove, NJ, a few years ago, and met you. I'm the one who is from Summit Hill! :)
I hope to speak with you again next year!
God bless.
Denise B.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 03:44 PM

I was just thinking about this song..in the context of what to me makes a great song. The late great Bob Kotta said in some of the great ones at least people are doing things. Here they are baking bread, chasing downtown women, bringing the hurryup wagon etc. And I have always heard Old Sal was baking bread..I think the more specific the better. Names and dates and cities if you have them...Anyway a great song. So what was Old Bill doing anyway? I have always thought of it as a railroad type of accident.   mg


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill
From: ClaireBear
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 03:59 PM

When my brother was a coffeehouse folksinger, back in the mid-sixties, he sang this with a (last?) verse that started:

"Little Bill asked when will Daddy get home this morning"

Anybody remember this verse -- and how it ended? I was very young at the time and can't recall.

I also remember that his version had the words "coroner's wagon" instead of "hurry-up wagon."

Claire


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill
From: Janie
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 08:50 PM

In the FWIW dept., here are a couple of nice clips from YouTube with very different feels to them.

Eric Bibb & Brian Kramer
Not sure who this is


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill
From: GUEST,GUEST, Vicki Kelsey
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 12:09 PM

Hello, Vicar,
    THAT'S where I remember the song from!
    If you'd sung it in the library on the cruise with Jack, a lot of us would have joined in, word for word.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Sep 08 - 12:30 AM

When I sang this song in my high school folk group I soloed on thi verse:

They're bringin' Bill home in a hurry-up wagon, this morning,
They're bringin' Bill home in a hurry-up wagon, this evening,
They're bringin' Bill home in a hurry-up wagon,
Can't you see how his heels are draggin'!
This morning, this evening, so soon.

It is forever embedded in my most fond memories.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill
From: GUEST,Andy Ayres
Date: 16 Nov 10 - 09:14 AM

Has anyone any information at all about the club that was called 'The Second Fret'? My late wife used to play there a lot (I believe she want by the name Sandy Fletcher at that point in her life)


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Subject: RE: Origin: Tell Old Bill
From: GUEST,Joseph Scott
Date: 06 Nov 14 - 03:52 PM

Ben Harney published a variant of "This Morning This Evening So Soon" as "You've Been A Good Old Wagon But You've Done Broke Down" in 1895. A recording of Harney singing it himself can be heard on youtube if you search on ben harney wagon. The folk song Harney heard by 1895 was similar to the "Dummy Line" that Bascom Lunsford said he learned in 1898.


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