Tag Archives: work

John Henry (Pete Seeger Version)

TITLE: John Henry (Blankenship Version) AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: train, work, death, technology, railroading, worker EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1909 Journal of American Folklore HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Researchers are still trying to pin down the REAL John Henry, from Guy B. Johnson, , 1929 to Scott Nelson’s book 2006 book

Pick a Bale of Cotton

TITLE: Pick a Bale of Cotton AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS:  work, farming, bragging EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1933 (recording, James “Iron Head” Baker & group) SOME CONSIDER THIS SONG OFFENSIVE  First collected by Alan Lomax from prison farms in Texas, this is a boastful song about picking an impossibly large quantity of cotton (a read more »

Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down!

TITLE: Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down! AUTHOR: Words: Edward Harrigan / Music: David Braham CATEGORY: Author Known, Public Domain KEYWORDS: sailor, work, drink EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1885 (“Old Lavender”) According to Sigmund Spaeth, A History of Popular Music in America Random House, 1948, pp. 186-187, the late 1870s saw a series of musical skits called the Mulligan series. read more »

Buddy Won’t You Roll Down the Line

TITLE: Buddy Won’t You Roll Down the Line AUTHOR: Uncle Dave Macon? CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: strike, labor-movement, mining, work, scab, prisoner EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1925 (collected by Robert W. Gordon; info in Archie Green’s Only a Miner: Studies in Recorded Coal-Mining Songs HISTORICAL REFERENCES: This strike apparently took place in Tennessee in the 1880s, according to read more »

Worried Man Blues

TITLE: Worried Man Blues AUTHOR: unknown, although copyrighted by AP Carter CATEGORY: Traditional, Debated KEYWORDS: work, prison, train, abandonment, punishment EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1929 (recording, Carter Family) It was great to hear Pete Seeger sing “Worried Man Blues” just months before his death. It will be a performance I won’t soon forget. (sgg) “Worried Man Blues,” read more »

John Henry (Blankenship Version)

TITLE: John Henry (Blankenship Version) AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: train, work, death, technology, railroading, worker EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1909 Journal of American Folklore HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Researchers are still trying to pin down the REAL John Henry, from Guy B. Johnson, , 1929 to Scott Nelson’s book 2006 book  SOME CONSIDER THIS SONG OFFENSIVE: Many versions over read more »

Buffalo Skinners

TITLE: Buffalo Skinners AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: work, homicide, boss, revenge EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1910 HISTORICAL REFERENCES: When the western plains of the United States were home to great buffalo herds, hunted almost to extinction in the 19th century. “The Buffalo Skinners” (“The Hills of Mexico”) is a traditional American folk song. It tells read more »

Erie Canal

This one is for my friend John Marshall TITLE: Erie Canal AUTHOR: Thomas S. Allen CATEGORY: Public Domain, Debated KEYWORDS: canal, animal, work EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1905 HISTORICAL REFERENCES: 1825 – Erie Canal opens (construction began in 1817) The Erie Canal Song, as it is commonly known, was written in 1905 under the title Low Bridge, Everybody read more »

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

TITLE: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: railroading, work, courting EARLIEST DATE: 1894 (Carmina Princetonia) Although this is surely a composed song, James J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music (1971-1995) cannot find any references to the “Railroad” verses prior to 1894 (when it was twice published as “The Levee Song”) No composer is read more »

Wanderin’

TITLE: Wanderin’ AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: public domain, traditional KEYWORDS: work, hardtimes, rambling EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Sandburg) Carl Sandburg, collected the song from Arthur Sutherland of Rochester, NY, as learned from comrades in the American Relief Expedition to the Near East in the 1920’s. Also a variation from Hubert Canfield of Pittsford, NY. The year after Sandburg’s American Songbag read more »

Get Along Little Dogies

TITLE: Get Along Little Dogies AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: cowboy, animal, work EARLIEST DATE: 1893 (journal of Owen Wister) This is probably the best known cowboy song. The rhythm is taken from the movement of a horse. It dates back to then early trail-drive days, and is adapted from the Irish ballad “The Old read more »

Farmer is the Man, The

TITLE: The Farmer is the Man AUTHOR: Unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: farming, work, poverty, commerce, money EARLIEST DATE: 1923 (recording, Fiddlin’ John Carson) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: The Populist movement in the United States (1890-1896). “The Farmer is the Man” is the most famous song inspired by the Populist movement, also known as the People’s Party in late-19th century America. read more »

Father Grumble

TITLE: Father Grumble AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: contest, husband, wife, work, humorous, feminist EARLIEST DATE: 1825 I love this song. It reminds me of a television sitcom starring a doofus husband and the strong, level-headed, extremely competent wife. Wait a minute, that’s no sitcom, that’s my life! Unfortunately, this is a perfect read more »

Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill

TITLE: Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill AUTHOR: words: Thomas Casey/music: Charles Connolly CATEGORY: author known, public domain KEYWORDS: work, railroading, hardtimes, talltale, comic EARLIEST DATE: 1888 (play, “A Brass Monkey”; sheet music published by Frank Harding of New York, seemingly without attribution) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Refers to the construction of the American railroads in the mid-19th century. “Drill, read more »

Bring Me Little Water Sylvie

TITLE: Bring Me Little Water Sylvie AUTHOR: unknown, primarily credited to Leadbelly, although the Traditional Ballad Index lists the author as unknown. CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: work, worksong, nonballad EARLIEST DATE: 1936 Leadbelly’s Uncle Bob Ledbetter had a wife named Silvy. When he was out plowing with his mules he would often holler for read more »

Everybody Happy?

TITLE: Everybody Happy? AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain KEYWORDS: children, days of week, food, work EARLIEST DATE: 1927 Pardology: Songs For Fun And Fellowship (Harbin) I’ve found this song on found on Document Records Field Recordings, Volume 8: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi 1934-1947. Kids love singing this! 

Michael Row the Boat Ashore

TITLE: Michael Row the Boat Ashore AUTHOR: unknown CATEGORY: traditional, public domain KEYWORDS: religious, nonballad, travel, river, ship, work, worksong, floatingverses, shanty EARLIEST DATE: 1867 (Allen, Ware, Garrison) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Seeger dates this Georgia sea islands worksong from the mid-19th century. Michael, Row the Boat Ashore (is an African-American spiritual and was first published in Slave read more »

Cotton Mill Girls

TITLE: Cotton Mill Girls (Hard Times in the Mill) AUTHOR: Debated, Traditional but sometimes credited to Hedy West CATEGORY: Public Domain, Debated KEYWORDS: work, hardtimes, factory, technology, boss, miller EARLIEST DATE: 1956 (recording, Pete Seeger) HISTORICAL REFERENCES: Hard Times in the Mill chronicles the movement of farm families as the United States became industrialized in the early read more »

Beans, Bacon, and Gravy

TITLE: Beans, Bacon, and Gravy AUTHOR: unknown, although there were many claimants for authorship EARLIEST DATE: 1931 CATEGORY: Public Domain, Authorship Debated KEYWORDS: hardtimes, food. work HISTORICAL REFERENCES: The Great Depression in the United States which started in 1930 and lasted a decade. Pete Seeger writes in the liner notes to American Industrial Ballads that Beans, Bacon and read more »

Down on Penny’s Farm

TITLE: Down on Penny’s Farm AUTHOR: unknown EARLIEST DATE: 1929 (recording, Bently Boys) KEYWORDS: hard times, work, farming, poverty, landlord HISTORICAL REFERENCES: None Bascom Lamar Lunsford, (1882-1973), the Southern folklorist, lawyer, and traditional singer [who lived just a bit further south on Turkey Creek, in Leicester, NC, than the admin of this website], says he read more »