Blue-Tail Fly (Jimmie Crack Corn)

TITLE: Blue-Tail Fly
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: bug, servant, death
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1844; a sheet music version was published by F. D. Benteen of Baltimore in 1846

Blue_tail_FlyAlthough blackface minstrel shows relied heavily on negative racial characterizations, this minstrel song has an abolitionist attitude. It is usually associated with Dan Emmett, but was credited when published in 1846 to F.D. Benteen. A supposed favorite of Abraham Lincoln, the song reflects the hostility of slave towards master in Southern plantation society. The subtext for the song is that the slave in fact killed the master himself, blaming it on the blue-tail fly. This is hinted at, to varying degrees, in some versions of the song. (Ballad of America

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Jimmie Crack Corn
  • Big Old Owl
  • Jennie Crack Corn
  • Jinny Crack Corn
  • Shoo-Fly (chorus)

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Bugs Bunny

Blue-Tail Fly

When I was young I use’ to wait
On massa an’ hand him his plate
An’ pass de bottle when he got dry
An’ brush away de blue-tail fly

Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Ol’ Massa’s gone away

And when he’d ride in the afternoon,
I’d follow after with a hickory broom.
The pony being rather shy
When bitten by the blue-tail fly.

Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Ol’ Massa’s gone away

One day he rode around the farm,
The flies so numerous they did swarm.
One chanced to bite him on the thigh,
The devil take the blue-tail fly.

Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Ol’ Massa’s gone away

The pony run, he jump, he pitch,
he threw my master in a ditch.
He died and the jury wondered why.
The verdict was the blue-tail fly.

Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Ol’ Massa’s gone away

They buried him ‘neath a ‘simmon tree,
his epitaph is there to see,
Beneath this stone I’m forced to lie,
A victim of the blue-tail fly.

Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Jimmie crack corn an’ I don’t care
Ol’ Massa’s gone away

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Blues and Gospel Records 1902-1943, John Goodrich and Robert M.W. Dixon, Storyville Publications and Company, London Revised 1969.

SONGBOOKS:

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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