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Origins: State of Arkansas

DigiTrad:
STATE OF ARKANSAS
THE STATE OF ARKANSAW


Related threads:
Lyr Req: My Name Is John Johanna (Kelly Harrell) (15)
Lyr Add: Tocowa (1)
Lyr Req: Meat you couldnt chaw / State of Arkansas (5)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The State of Arkansas (from Ozark Folksongs (abridged), Randolph/Cohen)


Liam's Brother 14 Dec 98 - 10:31 AM
dick greenhaus 14 Dec 98 - 07:52 PM
Liam's Brother 14 Dec 98 - 09:22 PM
GUEST,dave ruch 15 May 03 - 02:56 PM
Mark Ross 15 May 03 - 03:07 PM
PoppaGator 15 May 03 - 04:27 PM
katlaughing 15 May 03 - 05:41 PM
Joe Offer 15 May 03 - 06:44 PM
Joe Offer 15 May 03 - 07:10 PM
Stewie 15 May 03 - 07:12 PM
masato sakurai 15 May 03 - 07:30 PM
masato sakurai 15 May 03 - 07:46 PM
masato sakurai 15 May 03 - 07:53 PM
Art Thieme 15 May 03 - 08:20 PM
GUEST,dave ruch 15 May 03 - 08:26 PM
Stewie 15 May 03 - 09:20 PM
Coyote Breath 16 May 03 - 02:10 AM
PoppaGator 16 May 03 - 08:48 AM
Uncle_DaveO 16 May 03 - 11:26 AM
GUEST,Q 16 May 03 - 11:46 AM
Uncle_DaveO 16 May 03 - 11:57 AM
GUEST,Q 16 May 03 - 04:34 PM
GUEST,Q 16 May 03 - 04:42 PM
Jim Dixon 29 Mar 10 - 01:56 PM
Jim Dixon 29 Mar 10 - 02:07 PM
PoppaGator 29 Mar 10 - 02:08 PM
deepdoc1 29 Mar 10 - 02:09 PM
Jim Dixon 01 Apr 10 - 09:14 PM
Goose Gander 02 Apr 10 - 10:44 AM
Goose Gander 02 Apr 10 - 04:39 PM
GUEST,Kegan 07 Aug 10 - 03:49 AM
GUEST,leeneia 07 Aug 10 - 11:27 AM
Arkie 07 Aug 10 - 09:26 PM
GUEST,Missing some lyrics 11 Oct 10 - 12:34 PM
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Lighter 06 Jul 14 - 07:28 PM
cnd 15 Apr 21 - 11:01 PM
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Subject: State of Arkansas
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 14 Dec 98 - 10:31 AM

I've always liked the fine old Irish-American song, "The State of Arkansas." Some versions make reference to turkeys, e.g.

Then I shouldered up my turkey, hungry as a shark,
Traveling along the road that leads to the Ozarks;
It would melt your heart with pity as I trudged along the track,
To see those dirty bummers with their turkeys on their backs.

Ornithologists aside, does anybody know what a turkey is?

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Dec 98 - 07:52 PM

Also called a bindle. A sack containing personal posessions.


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 14 Dec 98 - 09:22 PM

Thank you, Dick. Here's hoping many bundles come into your bindle this happy holiday season.

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: GUEST,dave ruch
Date: 15 May 03 - 02:56 PM

Catskill Mountain (NY) singer George Edwards' "I Walked The Road Again" seems to make the same use of the word turkey, ending each verse with some variation of "I got up and hoisted my turkey and I walked the road again"


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: Mark Ross
Date: 15 May 03 - 03:07 PM

Turkey is also slang for an old style suitcase.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: PoppaGator
Date: 15 May 03 - 04:27 PM

Anyone have any more info on the "Irish-American" origin of this song? I started a thread a week or two ago asking about the tune to "Diamond Joe [#2]" because it always sounded vaguely Irish/Celtic to me, and I wondered if there was an older traditional number from Ireland with the same melody.

I learned only that "State of Arkansas" (an obviously American lyric) shared the same melody with "Diamond Joe," but nothing about any earlier tune from across the Atlantic. I'd appreciate any info on how/why this song has origins in Ireland.

Incidentally: After checking out the "State of Arkansas" lyrics in the DT, noticed that it shares *one* line (or, I guess, two) in common with "Diamond Joe":

His bread it was corn dodger / his meat I could not chaw...


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: katlaughing
Date: 15 May 03 - 05:41 PM

Don't know if this helps at all, but I did find this in an old thread:

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Meat you couldnt chaw
From: Midchuck - PM
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 01:34 PM

"The State of Arkansas." I've seen it, but don't have the lyrics. It got moved over the State line to Texas and became "Diamond Joe," with that particular line still included. Joe Val picked it up (from Ramblin' Jack and/or Tom Rush?)and turned it into Bluegrass, and a good many BG performers have recorded it. In fact, I think there's an album of J. V.'s by that title.


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 May 03 - 06:44 PM

I'm surprised we haven't has more discussion of this song. the Digital Tradition lists this as "STATARK2" - but I can't find a "statark1" (oh, OK, it's stateark) the Traditional Ballad Index lists lots of songbook entries, and cross-references to "Diamond Joe." I'll post the Ballad Index entry.
-Joe Offer-

State of Arkansas, The (The Arkansas Traveler II) [Laws H1]

DESCRIPTION: A traveler arrives in Arkansas and finds that it fully meets his (lack of) expectations. He "never knowed what misery was till I come to Arkansas." His boss had promised that the state would make him a different man, and he is: He is now badly starved
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1906 (Belden)
KEYWORDS: poverty humorous hardtimes starvation
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,SE,So) Ireland
REFERENCES (15 citations):
Laws H1, "The Arkansas Traveler"
Belden, pp. 424-426, "Bill Stafford" (2 texts)
Randolph 347, "The State of Arkansas" (4 texts plus 2 excerpts, 3 tunes)
BrownIII 331, "Arkansas Traveller (II)" (2 texts)
Hudson 80, p. 208, "Tocowa" (1 short text with "Tocowa," not Arkansas, the site of the singer's bad experience)
Thomas-Makin', pp. 171-172, (no title) (1 text)
Friedman, p. 434, "The Arkansaw Traveler" (1 text)
Lomax-FSUSA 71, "The State of Arkansas" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 167, "The State of Arkansas" (1 text, 1 tune)
JHCox 53, "An Arkansaw Traveller" (3 texts)
Asch/Dunson/Raim, p. 44, "My Name Is John Johanna" (1 text, 1 tune)
SHenry H0, p. 53, "The State of Arkansaw" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NAS, pp. 225-226, "Old Arkansas" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 46, "The State of Arkansas" (1 text)
DT 643, STATEARK* STATARK2*

RECORDINGS:
Almanac Singers, "State of Arkansas" (General 5018A, 1941; on Almanac01, Almanac03, AlmanacCD1)
Kelly Harrell, "My Name is John Johanna" (Victor 21520A, 1927; on KHarrell02, AAFM1, HardTimes1)
Pete Seeger, "State of Arkansas" (on PeteSeeger19, AmHist2)
Pete Seeger & Sonny Terry, "Arkansas Traveller" (on SeegerTerry)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Barnyards o' Delgaty" (theme)
cf. "Joe Bowers" (tune -- some versions)
cf. "Diamond Joe (I)" (tune, lyrics)
cf. "Way Out in Idaho (I)" (lyrics)
Notes: This should not be confused with the fiddle tune "Arkansas Traveler," or with the minstrel-show sketch from which it derives. -PJS
File: LH01

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: ADD Version: State of Arkansas
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 May 03 - 07:10 PM

Here's a version collected by Vance Randolph. Randolph says it is part of a family of songs that has been traced by Eckstorm to a nineteenth-century sea song, "Canada I O," in turn believed to be based on an eithteenth-century Scots love song, "Caledonia."
Randolph says a "turkey" is a hobo's valise. "Bummer" is either "bum" or "boomer" (a transient or temporary railroad worker).

I have to say that I have an easier time with the rhyme and meter of the version in the Digital Tradition - but I suppose this version is more authentic.
-Joe Offer-


THE STATE OF ARKANSAS

I landed in Saint Louis, six dollars an' no more,
I read the daily papers until my eyes was sore;
A-readin' advertisements, it was my chance, I saw,
They needed daily lab'rers in the state of Arkansas.

Bill Hughes was the agent, straightway to him I did go,
He says there was five dollars in money I must pay;
I paid him down the money, a ticket I did draw,
Which carried me over the railroad in the state of Arkansas.

I paid him every dollar, I never received a show,
Until I was safely landed in the town of Little Rock,
I had neither friend or relative to extend to me their paw
Or tell me I was welcome in the state of Arkansas.

While walkin' on the platform I thought I had met a friend,
He was a man-catcher, he said his name was King;
He says, "You are a stranger, this idea I do draw;
On yonder hill is my hotel, the best in Arkansas."

I followed my conductor to his well-respected place,
Where hunger an' starvation was pictured in its face;
His bread it was corn-dodger, his beef I could not chaw,
He charged me fifty cents a meal in the state of Arkansas.

Next mornin' so early I set out for Ozark,
A-feelin' low in spirit, an' hungry as a shark;
I bought a pint of whiskey my feelings for to thaw
An' trudged along the railroad in the state of Arkansas.

It would make your heart melt with pity to see me walk the track,
Or to meet a charter bummer with a turkey on his back,
Plenty stout an' able to work his under jaw
Around a scanty table in the state of Arkansas.

There's another grand connection located with the camp.
Where every accommodation is waitin' for a tramp,
A-sleepin' round a campfire without sheet, bed, or straw,
A-scratchin' ticks an' chiggers in the state of Arkansas.

Workin' on the railroad at four bits a day,
These kind of wages they do not like to pay;
I'm goin' out to the Nation an' marry me a squaw,
I'll bid farewell to all the roads in the state of Arkansas


as sung by Emma L. Dusenbury, Mena, Arkansas, Nov 7, 1930

From Ozark Folksongs (abridged), Vance Randolph/Norm Cohen, 1982

Click to play


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: Stewie
Date: 15 May 03 - 07:12 PM

The earliest printed reference Meade et alia 'Country Music Sources' give for 'State of Arkansas' is Oct 1891 in 'Wehman's Collection of Songs' [NYC, Henry J.Wehman, 1884-1994, 42 issues]. Earliest recording is Kelly Harrell & The Virginia Stringband 'My Name Is John Johanna' on 23 March 1927 and issued as Victor 21250 in October 1928.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: masato sakurai
Date: 15 May 03 - 07:30 PM

"My Name Is John Jo Hannah" is on KELLY HARRELL VOL 2: 1926 - 1929 (Document DOCD-8027).

~Masato


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: masato sakurai
Date: 15 May 03 - 07:46 PM

Supplemental Notes in Anthology of American Folk Music (Smithsonian Folkways) to "MY NAME IS JOHN JOHANNA" (Kelly Harrell and the Virginia String Band).


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: masato sakurai
Date: 15 May 03 - 07:53 PM

At the Wolf Folklore Collection:

THE STATE OF ARKANSAS (THE ARKANSAS TRAVELER) (Sung by: W.P. Detherow; Recorded in Batesville, AR, 6/25/52), with no audio, but with lyrics & notes.


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: Art Thieme
Date: 15 May 03 - 08:20 PM

John Cohen did "JOHN JOHANNA" for years for his solo spot during shows with the New Lost City Ramblers. Of course, the NLCR can arguably and quite convincingly be said to have been responsible for the just about the entire resurrection of interest in Old-Timey string band music.

Also, "State Of Arkansas" can be found on one of my issued recordings-------Art Thieme--LIVE AT WINFIELD.

(Art)


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: GUEST,dave ruch
Date: 15 May 03 - 08:26 PM

Being in Buffalo NY myself, I'm wondering about the first line reference to "Buffalo town" in the Kelly Harrell version & others I've heard - I assume this is the kind of lyric that changed to whatever town the singer fancied on the day she/he sang it, but does anyone know for sure if there is a Buffalo connection here?


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Subject: Lyr Add: ARKANSAS
From: Stewie
Date: 15 May 03 - 09:20 PM

All the comments on 'State of Arkansas/John Johanna' I have seen - Kinney Rorer in notes to County Harrell LP; Paul Oliver in 'Songsters and Saints'; Dr D.K. Wilgus in notes to 'Native American Ballads' RCA LP; Tony Russell and Janet Kerr in OTM #2; and Mack McCormick in notes to the Herwin Henry Thomas LP set - indicate that it is from the 19th white minstrel tradition. I have seen no reference to an Irish connection for the tune.

In July 1927, the songster Henry 'Ragtime Texas' Thomas recorded a version in a medley of songs that he titled 'Arkansas' - 'Let Me Bring My Clothes Back Home', 'State of Arkansas' and 'Travelin' Man'. The 'State of Arkansas' section fuses a verse from 'The Roving Gambler'.

ARKANSAS
(medley by Henry 'Ragtime Texas' Thomas)

I am a rambling, gambling man
I gambled in many towns
I rambled this wide world over
I rambled this world around
I had my ups and downs through life
And bitter times I saw
But I never knew what mis'ry was
Till I lit on Arkansas

I started out one morning
To meet that early train
He said, 'You better work with me
I have some land to drain
I'll give you fifty cents a day
Your washing, board and all
And you shall be a different man
In the state of old Arkansas

I worked six months for the rascal
Joe Herrin was his name
He fed me on corn-dodgers
They were as hard as any rock
My tooth is all got loosened
And my knees begin to knock
That was the kind of hash I got
In the state of Arkansas

Source: transcription in Mack McCormick's essay accompanying Henry Thomas 'Ragtime Texas: Complete Recorded Works 1927-1929' Herwin LP 209.

There is another transcription by Paul Oliver in his 'Songsters & Saints: Vocal Traditions on Race Records' at pp 112-113. The only variation is that he has 'Johanna' for 'Joe Herrin' and 'My tooth is all got loosened/And my knee-bone 'gin to raw'.

According to Godrich & Dixon - I only have an older edition - the Thomas recording was not issued at the time. Harrell recorded it ealier, but the recording was not issued until 1928.

Wilgus notes that the piece was spread by professional minstrels who inserted their own names. They probably inserted place names as well and Harrell, a Virginian, picked up a version that had 'Buffalo'.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 16 May 03 - 02:10 AM

My name is Sanford Barnes, I come from Nobleville town
I been this wide world over, I been this wide world round
I been this wide world over, many ups and downs I saw
But I never knew what misery were 'til I come to Arkansas.

The version I've been singing was collected by one or another of the Lomax(es). The tune is NOTHING like the Diamond Joe that I sing. Ain't the folk process wonderful?

The tune I'm familiar with sounds a bit like the tune for "I'm a Good Old Rebel" as played by Mitch Greenhill in the 'brothers' film "The Long Riders". But not quite.

I think I learned "my" Diamond Joe from Ramblin' Jack Eliot but if so that was a long time ago. Coulda been Luke Faust, too. Lucas Hapgood Faust... Chicago??...1960-64??

CB

CB


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: PoppaGator
Date: 16 May 03 - 08:48 AM

Coyote Breath: I'd guess that "your" Diamond Joe might be one of the three entirely different tune by that name in the DT. Have you looked there?

"My" Diamond Joe, which shares the same melody with State of Arkansas, is #2 of the three. I first heard it on a Tom Rush record, whose liner notes attribute it to Cisco Houston, a contemporary and sidekick of Woody Guthrie, who purportedly collected it from cowboys in Texas.

I would have guessed that any Diamond Joe of Jack Elliott's would be the one disseminated by Cisco Houston, with whom he must have been acquainted, but what the hell do I know? Until a week or so ago, I didn't know anything about State of Arkansas, John Joe Hannah, or the existence of three different dueling Diamond Joes.

This is all very interesting. I only hope there's more!


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 16 May 03 - 11:26 AM

I have Ramblin' Jack's version of "Diamon Joe" on a collection type CD, and it's the same tune as I know for "State of Arkansas", which has a similar story line presumably the same tune as given by Joe Offer on the 15th.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 16 May 03 - 11:46 AM

What purports to be the version of John Johanna by Kelly Harrell and the Virginia String Band is posted in thread 5871: John Johanna


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Subject: Lyr Add: STATE OF ARKANSAS
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 16 May 03 - 11:57 AM

I just looked at the versions in the DT, and neither is VERY close to the version I have, which comes from the singing of Lee Hayes, on a 12 inch LP from Commodore Records, from the side called Sod Buster Ballads, the other side being Deep See Chanteys and Whaling Ballads.

The Sod Buster Ballads side featured Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Millard Lampell, and Lee Hayes. The Deep Sea Chanteys and Whaling Ballads side had Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Peter Hawes, and Millard Lampell. Notes for both sides were by Alan Lomax. I'm unable to find a copyright date on either the shuck or the LP, but it had to be in the early 50s.

The words of Lee Hayes's version are as follows:

THE STATE OF ARKANSAS

My name is Charlie Brannan
From Charleston I come
I've traveled this wide world over
Some ups and downs I've had
I've traveled this wide world over
Some ups and downs I've saw
But I never knew what mis'ry was
Till I hit old Arkansas

I dodged behind the depot
To dodge that blizzard wind
Met a walking skeleton
Whose name was Thomas Quinn
His hair hung down like rat-tails
On his long and lantern jaw
He invited me to his hotel,
The best in Arkansas

I followed my conductor
To his respected place
There pity and starvation
Were seen on ev'ry face
His bread, it was corn dodger
His meat I couldn't chaw,
But he charged me a half a dollar
In the State of Arkansas

SPOKEN:
Then I got me a job on a farm.
But I didn't like the work, ner the farm, ner the farmer, ner his wife....ner none of their childern,
So I ups to him one day, and I says, "Mister, I'm quittin' this job, and you can pay me off, right now!"
He says, "All right, son, if that's the way you feel about it,"
and durned if he don't hand me a mink-skin!
I says,"Hell, Mister, I don't want this thing; I want my money!"
He says, "Why, that's what we USE for currency down here in the State of Arkansas!"

Well, I took my mink-skin, went to a bar to get me some drinkin' whiskey. Laid the mink-skin on the bar, and durned if the bartender don't throw me a pint!
Then he picked up the mink-skin, blowed the hair back on it, and give me four possum hides and fourteen rabbit-skins for change!

I'm goin' to the Indian Territory,
And marry me a squaw.
Bid farewell to the cane brakes
In the State of Arkansas.
If you ever see me back again
I'll extend to you my paw,
But it'll be through a telescope
From Hell to Arkansas!

DRO


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Subject: Lyr Add: STATE OF ARKANSAS
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 16 May 03 - 04:34 PM

The Sanford Barnes verse quoted by Coyote Breath was collected in 1938 by Dr. George Hastings, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and reproduced in Randolph as C, vol. 3, p. 29.
Randolph has a few more lines:
It was in the year of ninety-six,
In the merry month of June,
I landed in Hot Springs, Arkansas,
One sultry afternoon.

Another 'Sanford Brown version', with a number of verses, is provided with sheet music. In this one, he was borned in Buffalo town (lyrics below).
Brown, North Carolina Folklore, collected 1915-1916, has a Santford Barnes, who comes from Little Rock town. The sheet music is different from that in Randolph. Brown has another version collected 1939 with yet another melody in sheet music.
Still another bit of sheet music with some differences is given with a version collected in Galena, MO, 1942 (learned 1931), in Randolph, p. 322-33. This man is Jack Shepherd from Maxwell town.

Like so many of these songs, the tune varied according to the
performer.

In Randolph, a version collected in 1942 from Mr. Charles Ingenthron, Walnut Shade, MO, "learned in the [18]90's," p. 29-30, has sheet music. Similarties with version posted by Uncle_Dave O.

The version A posted by Joe Offer, collected from Mrs. Dusenbury, 1930, has different sheet music. The song Canada I O, mentioned by Joe, is in the DT, seemingly a version from Maine.

THE STATE OF ARKANSAS

My name 'tis Sanford Barnes,
I was borned in Buffalo town,
I've traveled the wide world over,
I've roamed the world around,
I've had my ups and downs in life,
And some good times I've saw,
But I never knew what misery was
Till I struck Arkansas.

I landed in Hot Springs,
One sultry afternoon,
(Two lines missing)
There I spied a walking skeleton,
He handed me his paw,
Invited me to his hotel,
The best in Arkansas.

I went with my conductor
All to his dwelling place,
(two lines missing)
He fed me on corn hoe-cakes,
His beef I could not chaw,
And he charged me sixty cents for that
In the State of Arkansas.

I started out next morning
To catch the morning train,
He says you better come work for me,
I have some land to dreen,
I'll give you sixty cents a day,
Your washing, board and all,
You'll find yourself a different man
When you leave Arkansas.

I worked six weeks for that galoot,
Jess Hurrell was his name,
He was six foot seven in his stocking feet,
And tall as any crane,
His hair hung down in rat-tails
On his long and lantern jaw,
And he was a photograph of all the gents
That lived in Arkansas.

He fed me on corn hoe-cakes
As hard as any rock,
Till my teeth began to loosen
And my knees began to knock.
I got so thin on sage and sassafras tea
I could hide behind a straw,
So I was quite a different man
When I left Arkansas.

Farewell to swamp angels,
The canebrakes and the chills,
Farewell to sage and sassafras tea,
And popcorn dodger pills,
If ever I see that land again
I'll give to you my jaw,
For it'll be through a telescope
From here to Arkansas.

From Mr. Doney Hammontree, Farmington.Arkansas, 1941, a similar version with added final stanza:

Oh now I am a railroad man
At a dollar-'n-a-half a day,
And here I 'low to work
Till I can get away,
Then I'll go to the Cherokee Nation
And marry me a squaw,
Farewell to hog and hominy
In the State of Arkansas.


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Subject: RE: State of Arkansas
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 16 May 03 - 04:42 PM

In another version in Randolph, the 'singer' is Bill Stafford, also borned in Buffalo town. Many similarities to the version posted by Joe Offer. Supposedly learned in the late 90's.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE STATE OF ARKANSAW (from J Lomax)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 29 Mar 10 - 01:56 PM

From Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax (New York: Sturgis & Walton Co., 1910), page 226:


THE STATE OF ARKANSAW

MY name is Stamford Barnes. I come from Nobleville* town.
I've traveled this wide world over. I've traveled this wide world round.
I've met with ups and downs in life, but better days I've saw,
But I've never knew what misery were till I came to Arkansaw.

I landed in St. Louis with ten dollars and no more.
I read the daily papers till both my eyes were sore.
I read them evening papers until at last I saw
Ten thousand men were wanted in the state of Arkansaw.

I wiped my eyes with great surprise when I read this grateful news,
And straightway off I started to see the agent, Billy Hughes.
He says, "Pay me five dollars and a ticket to you I'll draw.
It'll land you safe upon the railroad in the State of Arkansaw."

I started off one morning a quarter after five.
I started from St. Louis, half dead and half alive.
I bought me a quart of whiskey my misery to thaw.
I got as drunk as a biled owl when I left for old Arkansaw.

I landed in Ft. Smith one sultry Sunday afternoon.
It was in the month of May, the early month of June.
Up stepped a walking skeleton with a long and lantern jaw,
Invited me to his hotel, "The best in Arkansaw."

I followed my conductor into his dwelling place.
Poverty were depictured in his melancholy face.
His bread it was corn dodger, his beef I could not chaw.
This was the kind of hash they fed me in the State of Arkansaw.

I started off next morning to catch the morning train.
He says to me, "You'd better work, for I have some land to drain.
I'll pay you fifty cents a day, your board, washing, and all.
You'll find yourself a different man when you leave old Arkansaw."

I worked six weeks for the son of a gun. Jesse Herring was his name.
He was six foot seven in his stocking feet and taller than any crane.
His hair hung down in strings over his long and lantern jaw.
He was a photograph of all the gents who lived in Arkansaw.

He fed me on corn dodgers as hard as any rock,
Until my teeth began to loosen and my knees began to knock.
I got so thin on sassafras tea I could hide behind a straw,
And indeed I was a different man when I left old Arkansaw.

Farewell to swamp angels, cane brakes, and chills.
Farewell to sage and sassafras and corn dodger pills.
If ever I see this land again, I'll give to you my paw.
It will be through a telescope from here to Arkansaw.

[* Nobleville is the former name of two settlements: Rochester, in Champaign County, Ohio; and Sterling, in Wayne County, Pennsylvania.]


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Subject: Lyr Add: STATE OF ARKANSAW
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 29 Mar 10 - 02:07 PM

From "Songs and Rhymes from the South" by E. C. Perrow, in Journal of American Folklore, Volume 26 (American Folklore Society, Jan-Mar, 1913), page 173:

20. THE STATE OF ARKANSAW*

(From East Tennessee; mountain whites; from the singing of F. LeTellier; 1910)

My name is John the Bummer, with a budget on my back,
Trampin' daown the railroad, trampin' daown the track;
Trampin' daown the railroad, a village there I saw,
Trampin' daown the railroad, in the State uv Arkinsaw.

I went daown to the station; the agent there I saw,
Selling railroad tickets to ride in Arkinsaw:
Said, "Pitch me daown five dollers, en' a ticket you shell draw
To ride upon the railroad in the State uv Arkinsaw."

I bought me a pint uv licker my troubles to withdraw,
While ridin' on the railroad in the State uv Arkinsaw;
I follerd my conducter to a most inquainted place,
Where hard luck en' starvation wuz pictured in the face.

I got off at the station; a porter there I saw,
Who took me to a hotel, the best in Arkinsaw!
They fed me on corn dodgers, en' beef I could not chaw,
En' charged me half a doller in the State uv Arkinsaw!

University Of Louisville,
Louisville, Ky.

* This song is rather the work of the minstrel than of the folk. Cf. J. A. Lomax, "Cowboy Songs," for an extended version. The State of Arkansas is the butt for many satirical songs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: PoppaGator
Date: 29 Mar 10 - 02:08 PM

Buffalo City, Arkansas is due east of Fayetteville and roughly halfway between Mountain View and Mountain Home:

http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Buffalo+City&state=AR&country=US&latitude=36.167801&longitude=-92.441902&geocode=CITY

You'll probaby want to zoom out to a wider area to get an idea of just where this is...

I knew there was a Buffalo River up there in the Ozarks, then ran a search on Mapquest and found the "City" (undoubtedly a rather small town).


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: deepdoc1
Date: 29 Mar 10 - 02:09 PM

Tom Rush has a version on his "Trolling For Owls" album. It is very similar to several of the above.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 01 Apr 10 - 09:14 PM

The "Buffalo town" mentioned in some versions of the song must be in some other state, not Arkansas. The narrator says he was born in Buffalo and then traveled to Arkansas.

The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names—the most complete database I have found—lists 38 places named Buffalo, and a further 76 places formerly named Buffalo, or having a longer name that includes "Buffalo", e.g. Buffalo Bend, Buffalo Bluff, Buffalo Center, etc.


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Subject: Lyr Add: STEVENSVILLE BLUES
From: Goose Gander
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 10:44 AM

Stevensville Blues

As sung by Bill Jackson in Arvin, California 1941Voices from the Dust Bowl

STEVENSVILLE BLUES

My name is old Bill Stryker
I was not raised in town
For nineteen years and over
I rambled this world round
Ate corn-bread and molasses
Slept on a naked hill
Didn't know what sufferin' was
Till I came to Stevensville.

Landed there December
Nineteen and seventeen
Landed on Clear Boggy
That good old runnin' stream
Down came a walking skeleton
A-clamberin' down the hill
And he asked me into his hotel
The best in Stevensville.

I was to rise next morning
To catch an early train
Says, "Young man, you'd better stay,
We have some land to drain
Give you a dollar and a half a day,
Pay board and washing bills
You'll find yourself a different kid
When you leave old Stevensville."

He fed me on corn dodgers
As hard as any rock
Till my teeth began to loosen
My knees began to knock
I got so poor and skinny
I couldn't climb a hill
Indeed, I was a different kid
When I left Stevensville.

They fill my heart with pity
As I roam up and down the brook
To see them old Stevensville boys
With turtles on their hook
Them being scarcely able
To drag 'em up the hill
To help support the tables
In the homes of Stevensville.

Page image 0002

If you want to know him
C. T. Walls is his name
Down in his boots
He's tall as any crane
His hair hangs down in rat-tails
His clothes he doesn't fill
He is the best one
Of the gents of Stevensville.

Goodbye to the old swamp angels
The cane-brakes and the hills
Goodbye to Mr. Walls
The boss of Stevensville
If ever I see that place again
I says to S. M. Dill
It'll be through a mighty telescope
Far off from Stevensville.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Goose Gander
Date: 02 Apr 10 - 04:39 PM

Arkansas as sung by Sam Bell, recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Tuolumne County, California on August 2, 1939.

From American Memory.


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Subject: Lyr Add: WAY DOWN IN ARKANSAS / STATE OF ARKANSAS
From: GUEST,Kegan
Date: 07 Aug 10 - 03:49 AM

WAY DOWN IN ARKANSAS (STATE OF ARKANSAS)

In eighteen-hundred-and-eighty-two, in the merry month of June,
I landed at the Hot Springs one sultry afternoon.
A living skeleton walked to me, offered me his paw;
Invited me to his hotel - the best in Arkansas.

I followed my conductor up to his boarding place;
Misery and starvation was written on his face.
His soup was half dish-water, his beef I could not chaw,
But he charged me fifty cents a meal in the state of Arkansas.

Started out next morning to catch an early train;
A fellow said, "You'd better stay, I have some land to drain.
I'll give you fifty cents a day, washing, board, and all."
He said I'd be a different lad when I left old Arkansas!

I worked six months for the son-of-a-gun, Joe Roberts was his name;
He was nine feet, thirteen inches tall and looked just like a crane.
His wife was tall and skinny, so was his ma and pa;
But that's the way they grow 'em in the state of Arkansas.

He fed me on corn dodgers as hard as any rock;
My teeth began to loosen, my knees began to knock.
I got so thin on sassafras tea I could hide behind a straw;
I sure was a different lad when I left old Arkansas!

I took a train for Texas, more dead than alive –
quart of whiskey under each arm, my spirit to revive.
I got dead-drunk and went to sleep, somebody broke my jaw.
I rode nine days and they put me off right back in Arkansas.

But I'm now in Florida, no canebrake or no chills.
They don't feed me on sassafras tea or old corn-dodger pills.
If you ever see me there again, I'll hand to you my paw,
But it'll be through a telescope from here to Arkansas!

-----
Recorded by The Golden Melody Boys (Dempsey Jones and Phil Featherstonhaugh [Spelled as 'Featherstone' on song copyright records] from Cedar Rapids, Iowa) in January of 1928 for Paramount Records and released on Broadway 8134 as "Way Dow In Arkansas" [sic] (Paramount catalog #3087).

Vocal by Dempsey Jones (b. 1891 - d. 1963)
Mandolin accompaniment by Phil Featherstonhaugh (b. 1892 - d. 1969)


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 07 Aug 10 - 11:27 AM

Thanks, Kegan. A lot of clever rhymes and witticisms there. I like 'I got so thin on sassafras tea I could hide behind a straw.'

Proof that the statement 'You can never be too rich or too thin' has its limit.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Arkie
Date: 07 Aug 10 - 09:26 PM

Jimmy Driftwood did a rewrite of this calling his version Sanford Barney. I may have the words somewhere but cannot get to them at the moment.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: GUEST,Missing some lyrics
Date: 11 Oct 10 - 12:34 PM

My uncle used to sing this to me when I was a child. I've been trying to piece back together the version that he sang from various variations.

The place that I'm missing a line is on the third verse. I've found several that speak of Billy Hughes, or some such name, but he didn't mention a name in his, just going to the station. Nor did he mention an operator. It may have been talking to a conductor.

I know he probably sang this as a watered down version, I'm just trying to get it back as close to how I heard it then. If anyone has any suggestions as to what might go there. I've looked at about 20 differnt versions of this, and I'm sure there are hundreds.

Thanks,
jd

My name is Sanford Taylor I came from oldsville town
I've been this wide world over, I've traveled all around
I had my ups and downs in life, had better days I saw
But I never knew what misery was til I came to Arkansas

I landed in St. Louis with ten dollars and no more,
I read the morning paper till both my eyes were sore,
I read the morning paper until at last I saw,
Ten thousand men were wanted in the state of Arkansas

I went to the station, to catch the morning train
_________________________________________

He said give me five dollars, and a ticket you shall draw
That'll take you on a train to the state of arkansas
ty

I left out the next morning at a quarter after five,
I left from St. Louis, more dead than alive,
I bought me a quart of whiskey, my misery for to thaw,
I got drunk as a skunk when I left for Arkansas

I landed in Hot Springs, One sultry afternoon,
I dogged behind the depot, was in the month of june
Up stepped a walking skeleton, who handed me his paw,
Invited me back to his hotel, the best in Arkansas.

I followed my companion back to his dwelling place,
There I saw starvation was in that rascals face
He fed me on corn dodger, his beef I couldn't chaw,
He charged me fifty cents a day, in the state of Arkansas

I got up the next morning, to catch the early train,
He said if you'll work for me, I got some land to drain
I'll give you fifty cents a day & all that you can chaw
He said you'll be a different man when you leave Arkansas

He fed me on corn-dodgers as hard as a rock
My teeth commenced to loosen and my knees begin to knock
I got so thin on sassafras tea I could hide behind a straw,
You can bet I was a different man when I left Arkansas

I bid farewell to sassafras tea and them corn dodger pills,
I bid farewell to swamp angels, those canebrakes and those chills,
If I ever see this place again I'll give to you my paw,
It'll be through a telescope, from hell to Arkansas!


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: GUEST,airymouse
Date: 06 Jul 14 - 09:59 AM

This version is close to B5 Billy Staffer in the Mary Lomax Ballad Book.

Oh my name is Sanford O'Brien and I come from Rockford Town
I've traveled this world over; I've traveled this world round
I've had my ups and downs in life and better days I saw
But I never came to misery, till I came to Arkansas.

'Twas in the summer of 83 in the merry month of June
I landed in Hot Springs on a sultry afternoon.
Up came a walking skeleton handed me his paw
Invited me to his hotel,the best in Arkansas

I followed my conductor unto his dwelling place
His poverty has depicted on his melancholy face
His bread was corn dodgers and his beef I could not chaw
And that's the kind of food I got in the State of Arkansas.

I started out next morning to catch the early train.
He says,"You stay a while with me; I have some land to drain.
I'll pay you 50 cents a day, your washing board and all
Indeed you'll be a different man, when you leave Arkansas."

I worked 6 months for that son of a gun. Jess Harold was his name.
Six foot seven in his stocking feet; as tall as any crane.
His hair hung down in ringtails o'er his long and lantern jaw,
A photograph of all the gents in the State of Arkansas.

He fed me on corn dodgers, as hard as any rock
My teeth got loose and shaky; my knees began to knock.
I got so thin on sassafras tea, I could hide behind a straw
Indeed I was a different man, when I left Arkansas.

Farewell to Jessie Harold, likewise his darling wife
I know that she'll remember me the longest day of her life
For she put her little hand in mine and tried to bite my jaw
Saying, "Sanford dear remember me, when you leave Arkansas."

I started out next morning to catch the half-past five
I started out next morning, half dead and half alive
I got a quart of whisky, my misery to thaw
And I got as drunk as a biled* owl, when I left Arkansas.

*The word is "boiled", but it was pronounced as spelled.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 06 Jul 14 - 12:51 PM

Why oh why is Arkansas not pronounced like Kansas with an R in front?


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jul 14 - 07:28 PM

Because that's how they say the name of the river!


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: cnd
Date: 15 Apr 21 - 11:01 PM

Here's my transcription of another version of the song, fairly similar to the versions provided by GUEST,Q and airymouse above. This version was performed by Will Starks in Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 9th, 1942. Listen here

My name is Sam the bum
And I came from over town
I've traveled this wide world all over
I've traveled this world around
Had my ups and downs through life
In better days I've saw
But I never knew what misery was
Til I came to Arkansas

In the year of of '92
In the merry month of June
Landed into Hot Springs
On a sultry afternoon
[Up] stepped a walking skeleton
And handed me his paw
Invited me to his hotel
The best in Arkansas

I followed my companion
Unto his dwelling place
And his poverty, it provided
With a small, calm fate
His bread, it was corn dodgers
His beef I could not chaw
And that's the kind of hash they had
In the State of Arkansas

I started out the next evening
To take the early train
And he said "You'd better wait for me
I have some land to clean
I'll pay you fifty cents a day
Your washing, board, and all
And you'll find you'll be a different man
When you leave Arkansas"

I worked six months for the son-of-a-gun
Jess Hollins was his name
He's six foot seven in his stocking feet
He was taller than any crane
Had his hair all down in ring-uns*
[Over] his long and ashen** jaw
And photographs of all the gents
That was raised in Arkansas

I read the daily paper
Until my eyes got sore
I saw they wanted ten thousand men
In the state of Arkansas

His bread was corn dodgers
Hard as any rock
My teeth begin to loosen
And my knees begin to knock
And I got so thin offa sassafras tea
I could hide behind a straw
Indeed I was a different man
When I left Arkansas

And if ever I see that land again
I'll hand to you my paw
It will be through a telescope
From my home to Arkansas

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Interviewer: Where'd you learn that one, Will?
Will Starks: I learned that from a fellow, come down to penn. in 27, and his name was Alf Darley, a colored fellow, plays on his banjo.
I: Was he from Arkansas?
WS: He lived in Memphis, he just heard the song in Hot Springs
I: Did you ever sing it for somebody from Arkansas?
WS: Yes, sir.
I: How'd they think of it?
WS: [laughs] The people from Arkansas laughed about it, but then, my mother, I went over there and played it for them, they live over close to the southland of Arkansas, from ?Helm?, and she said "Oh, Billy, for God's sake" [laughs]

* probably, ringtails
** most versions comment on a 'lantern' jaw rather than ashen


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: GerryM
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 02:09 AM

Upthread, 16 May 03 - 11:57 AM, Uncle_DaveO wrote,

"I just looked at the versions in the DT, and neither is VERY close to the version I have, which comes from the singing of Lee Hayes, on a 12 inch LP from Commodore Records, from the side called Sod Buster Ballads, the other side being Deep See Chanteys and Whaling Ballads.

"The Sod Buster Ballads side featured Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Millard Lampell, and Lee Hayes. The Deep Sea Chanteys and Whaling Ballads side had Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Peter Hawes, and Millard Lampell. Notes for both sides were by Alan Lomax. I'm unable to find a copyright date on either the shuck or the LP, but it had to be in the early 50s."

I'm looking at the Seeger discography at the back of David Dunaway's biography of Seeger. It lists an album, The Soil and the Sea, recorded June 1941, released 1941, re-released 1964, originally issued on General Records and on Commodore BA 20, 21 as Sod Buster Ballads, Deep Sea Shanties. The personnel are given as The Almanac Singers: Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays, and Peter Hawes; Seeger accompanies on banjo and harmonies throughout.

It includes State of Arkansas.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 07:42 AM

Wichita Opinion, Aug. 26, 1892, p. 1:

                   THE STATE OF ARKANSAW

My name! [sic] 'tis Sanford Barnes,
I come from Noblesville town
I've traveled this wide world over,
I've traveled this world all 'round.
I've had my ups and downs through life,
And better days I've saw
But never knew what misery was,   
'Till [sic] I went to Arkansaw.

In the year of of '82,
In the merry month of June.
I landed in Hot Springs,
One sultry afternoon,
Up stepped a walking skeleton,
And handed me his paw,
And invited me to his hotel,
The best in Arkansaw.


I followed my conductor,
Unto his dwelling place,
There was poverty depicted,
In his melancholy face.
His bread, it was corn dodger,
His beef I could not chaw.
That's the kind of hash they had
In the State of Arkansaw.

I started out the next morning
To catch the early train,
He said "You'd better work for me
I've got some land to drain.
I'll give you fifty cents a day,
Your washing, board and all
And you'll be a different man
When you leave Arkansaw.

I worked six weeks for the son-of-a-gun
Jess Harren was his name.
He war six-foot-seven in his stocking feet
And as tall as any crane.
His hair hung down in rat-tails
O'er his lantern jaw.
He was the photograph of all the gents
That come from in Arkansas.

He fed me on cord dodger
As hard as any rock.
'Till my teeth began to loosen,
And my knees begin to knock.
I got so thin on sassafras tea
I could hide behind a straw.
And indeed I was a different man,
When I left Arkansaw.

Farewell to the swamp-angels,
The canebrakes and the chills.
Farewell to sassafras tea
And to corn dodger pills.
If ever I see that land again,
I'll give you my paw,
It will be through a telescope
From my here to Arkansas.

I stepped aboard the evening train
At a quarter past five,
And started for Rockville,
Half dead, half alive.
I got a quart of whisky,
My misery to thaw,
And I got drunk as a biled [sic] owl
When I left Arkansaw.


Noblesville is now a suburb of Indianapolis. Rockville is 53 miles to the west.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 07:44 AM

That should be "From here to Arkansaw."


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 07:54 AM

A virtually identical text appeared in the Denver Post Magazine (May 14, 1905), p. 5, sent in by "J.M.H." of Denver.

He called it "The Arkansaw Traveler."


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: cnd
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 09:36 AM

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas (perhaps predictably) has a good description of the song's history, though as your above reference makes clear their dates are later than it seems is actually the case.
The earliest printed text of this song may be that which E. C. Perrow published in Journal of American Folklore in 1913. The earliest sound recording is probably the one by Kelly Harrell and the Virginia String Band, done in a studio in Camden, New Jersey, in 1927. One of Vance Randolph’s Ozark consultants, however, suggested that he knew the song from the 1890s. Writing in Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Robert Morris proposed an earlier origin date, in the 1870s. Several commentators, including Library of Congress folksong researcher Alan Lomax, hypothesized that the song was of Irish-American origin. It does bear some resemblance to “The Spalpeen’s Complaint to the Cranbally Farmer,” which Patrick Weston Joyce published in 1909. Ballad scholar D. K. Wilgus reported a text of the song from Ireland and proposed that it had originated there and was imported to the United States in the late nineteenth century.

When G. Malcolm Laws created his catalogue of what he called “native American ballads,” he included “The State of Arkansaw” as the first entry in his chapter “Ballads on Various Topics.” He also contributed to some confusion about the song by titling it “The Arkansas Traveler.” Though it has been reported under that name—along with “The Arkansas Navvy,” “A Hobo in Arkansas,” and “The Arkansas Emigrant,” among others—“The State of Arkansaw” has no connection with the skit and fiddle tune to which Laws’s title usually refers. It more likely derives from the tradition of complaint songs popular in the nineteenth century, which responded to the failure of westward migration to meet media-generated expectations. “The State of Arkansaw” joins “Michigan-I-O,” “The Dreary Black Hills,” “Nebraska Land,” and “The Lane County Bachelor” in a category of “folk dystopias,” hyperbolic descriptions of frontier disappointments.
Fresno State writes the earliest known date was 1906.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: cnd
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 10:07 AM

I haven't found a definitive rendition of the song earlier than yours from 1892 yet, but I have seen evidence that a song it's based upon was around in 1875. Three joke stories in papers from 1875-78 have the following (or a similar) story:

"I'll holler!" she said, clutching the railing.
"You mean that you will scream?"
"Yes, sah."
"And raise a row?"
"Yes, sah."
"Well you just try it on, and if I don't put a sticking plaster over your mouth I'm no Court!"
She looked.
He looked.
And she didn't dare do it.
When the Maria rolled away the boys sang:
  We've traveled this wide world all over,
  And had piles of sorrow and sport;
  But we never laid eyes on a human
  Who'd successfully bluff this 'ere court."

I feel that those lines scan fairly well to the SoA tune but they could also of course come from a different song.

Source (Rochester [NY] Democrat and Chronicle, May 6th, 1875, p. 3) and similar (Daily State Gazette [Green Bay, WI], May 10th, 1875, p. 1; Columbus [Nebraska] Era, September 14th, 1878, p. 5).

Another possible predecessor of the song appeared in 1891 in The Arkansas Democrat (October 29th, 1891) which brings me to a point I've been thinking about: all this time, people have merely mentioned an Irish origin of the song but nothing more. Is it possible the song is Old Rosin the Bow? This song is like a dreary antonym to Rosin the Bow, which would perhaps have made the song more comedic in its day.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: GUEST,#
Date: 16 Apr 21 - 04:49 PM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBoKXo60Z10

Some history there as Raymond Crooke sees it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: State of Arkansas
From: Lighter
Date: 03 May 21 - 12:08 PM

Charles F. Lummis, A Tramp Across America (1892), p. 29[referring to 1884]: "

"A fifty-verse song, which one of the section-men at White Horse [apparently in Colorado] sang, touched a responsive chord within:
        
        His bread was nothing' but corndodger, [sic]
                His beef you couldn't chaw,
        But he charged us fifty cents a meal,
                In the state of Arkansaw!"


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