“Eight Negro Songs” (From Beford Co. Virginia)

Here is the complete book:
Eight Negro Songs
(From Bedford Co. Virginia)

Collected by Francis H. Abbot
Edited by Alfred J. Swan

You can download the PDF of this book here: eight_negro_songs_abbott
Or you can scroll down to see an image of each page.



Lyrics to all eight songs

A transcription of the lyrics to all eight songs . . .

“Who Gon Bring You Chickens”

Who gon bring you chickens when I’m gawn? Aw! Ba-beh!
Who gon bring you chickens when I’m gawn?
Six mont’s in jail ain so long, Aw, dahlin
Hit’s wukkin on dat county farm.
Who gon be yo true love now? Aw honey!
Who gon be yo true love now?
Six mont’s in jail ain so long, Aw dahlin
Hit’s wukking on dat county farm
I got my pick and shovel now, Aw babeh!
Yo true love done gawn!

[Who going to bring you chickens when I’m gone?
Six months in jail ain’t so long, ah, darling.
It’s working on that county farm.
Who going be your true love now, Aw honey?
Six months in jail ain’t so long, aw darling
It’s working on that county farm
I got my pick and shovel now
Your true love done gone.]

“Muh Regluh Dram”
Talk about yo whisky, talk about yo wine,
I’d ruthuh hev mah regluh dram’n tuh hev muh right min’.
How does I talk, Babe?
“Talk all right”
Talk about yo whisky, talk about yo beuh,
I’d ruthuh hev muh regluh dram’n tuh be uh millionneuh.
How does I talk, Babe?
“Talk all right”
Talk about yo whisky, talk about you gin,
Doctuh said ‘twould kill me, but ‘e nuvvuh said whin,
How does I talk, Babe?
“Talk all right”
Preachuh in de pulpit got Bible in his han’
Preachin fuh uh dollah fuh tuh git ‘im uh-nuth-uh dram
How does I talk, Babe?
“Talk all right”
Preachuh in de pulpit got dollah in his han.
Says yuh cain go to Heb’m tel yuh giv’ im uh-nuth-uh dram
How does I talk, Babe?
“Talk all right”

[Talk about your whiskey, talk about your wine,
I’d rather have my regular dram than to have my right mind
Talk about your whiskey, talk about your beer
I’d rather have my regular dram than to be a millionaire.
Talk about your whiskey, talk about your gin.
Doctor said it would kill me but he never said when.
Preacher in the pulpit got Bible in his hand
Preaching for a dollar for to get him another dram
Preacher in the pulpit got dollar in his hand
Says you can’t go to Heaven until you give him another dram.]

“Ole Ark Movin’”
Ole ark a-movin’, movin’, movin’
De ole ark a-movin’ by de Sper’t o’Gawd
Well de ole ark a-movin’, movin’, movin’
De ole ark a-movin’, well, I thank Gawd!
How many days did de watah fall?
Forty days an’ nights an’ all,
Ole ark she reel, de ole ark she rock
I see de ole ark when she made huh fus start
Watah riz up to de second flo’
Watah come in at de winduh an’ de do’
Monuh whyn’t yuh come along
Noah, Noah can’t yuh lemme come in?
Naw! De do’s is locked an’ de winduhs is a-pinn’d.

[The old ark is moving, moving, moving
The old ark a-moving by the Spirit of God
How many days did the water fall?
Forty days and night in all.
Old ark she reel, the old ark she rock
I see the old ark when she made her first start
Water rise up to the second floor
Water come  in at the window and the door
Mourner, why not come along?
Noah, Noah can’t you let me come in?
No! The doors is locked and the windows is a-pinned.]

“Squirl, He Tote A Bushy Tail”
Squirl, he tote uh bushy tail, Possum tail am bah,
Raccoon tail am uhringed all around, Stumpy goes ole hyah
Yas, Lawd!  Stumpy goes ole hyah.
Raccoon am uh cunnin’ thing, He ramble in de dark
Nothin’ tuh disturb his min’
‘twel he heah muh little dog bark.
Highuh up de cherry tree, sweetuh grow de cherry
Sonn-uh yuh go cote date gal, soonuh she will marry

[Squirrel, he totes [carries] a bushy tail, Possum’s tail is bare.
Raccoon’s tail is ringed all around, stumpy [like a stump] goes the old hare.
Raccoon is a cunning thing, he rambles in the dark
Nothing to disturb his mind
Until he hears my little dog bark.
Higher up the cherry tree, sweeter grows the cherry.
The sooner you go court that gal, the sooner she will marry.]

“Bookuh Red”

Bookuh Red, he is dead,
Don’tchuh see de crape aroun’ de women’s heads, Ah Lawd!
Baby I’m satisfied, Don’tchuh know dat I’m satisfied,
When I’m by muh baby’s side, Ah Lawd! Baby I’m satisfied.
Tole Miz Bookuh dat Bookuh was dead,
She was stannin’ in de kitchen mekkin up bread,
Says Ah Lawd! Baby I’m satisfied.
Ef yuh don b’lieve dat Bookuh is dead,
Jes’ look at dat hole in de back uv ‘is head
Bookuh waz wukkin on de smoky road,
But dey brough him home on de coolin’ boa’d
His heels wuz up an’ his toenails draggin’
He wuz bottom side up in de hoodoo waggin

[Booker Red, he is dead.
Don’t you see the crape around the women’s heads, oh Lord!
Baby I’m satisfied. Don’t you know that I’m satisfied
When I’m by my baby’s side, Oh Lord! Baby, I’m satisfied.
Told Ms. Booker that Booker was dead,
She was standing in the kitchen making up bread . . .
If you don’t believe that Booker is dead,
Just look at that hole in the back of his head.
Booker was working on the smoky road [the railroad]
But they brought him home on the cooling board.
His heels were up and his toenails dragging
H was bottom side up in the hoodoo wagon.]

“De Bad Man’s Ball”
Ball wuz gib’m at de Bad Man’s Hall
Some folks call it de Bad Man’s Ball
Ball wuz gib’m by de Sons uv Res’
And de nigguhs all come in duh Sunday bes’
In come uh nigguh name Slewfoot Pete,
Strung wid dimons fum ‘is head to ‘is feet,
His eyes wuz red and ‘is gums wuz blue
‘cause he wuz uh nigguh right thu and thu
Long come uh nigguh name Billy Gohelf
Coon wuz so mean, he wuz skyuhed uv hisself
Loaded wid razuhs an guns,
So dey say ‘cause he killed uh coon or two ev-very day
In come uh gal she wuz big an’ stout,
Had uh chunk o’ chewin’ gum in huh mouf,
Huh har wuz so nappy’t wuz uh puffec’ burr
An’ none uv de dahkies wouldn’ dance wid huh.
She jump in de flo’ an’ she double up huh fist,
Says you wan’to tes’ yuh nerve,
Jes’ jump uh-ginst this
Ef some uv you nigguhs don dance wid me,
Wid muh razuh’m gon brek up this Jamboree
She says I come fum uh bad bad lan’
An muh name is Ann Eliza Stone
I’d have all you nigguhs fuh tuh unduhstand,
I’m pretty mean wid muh habits on
Gon bring all de guns fum de baddleship Maine
Gon tuh mek some you coons climb uh tree
Ef you dah to doubt muh reputation
I’m gon brek up dis Jamboree
In come uh nigguh name Slippery Jim
None ov de gals would’n dance wid him,
He re’ch in his pocket drew is thirty two
Dem nigguhs did’n run, Gawd! how dey flew
One ole sistuh went down th’ough de flo’
De win’ fum huh coattail blew op’n de do’
‘long come uh cop an’ ‘rested Slippery Jim
‘cause all de uhthuh nigguhs had done lef’ but him.

[Ball was given at the Bad Man’s Hall
Some folks call it the Bad Man’s Ball
Ball was given by the Sons of Rest
And the niggers all come in their Sunday best.
In come a nigger named Slewfoot Pete,
Strung with diamonds from his head to his feet.
His eyes were read and his gums were blue
Because he was a nigger right through and through
Along come a nigger named Billy Gohelf
The coon was so mean, he was scared of himself.
Loaded with razors and guns, so they say
Because he killed a coon or two every day
In come a gall she was big and stout
Had a chunk of chewing gum in her mouth
Her hair was so nappy it was a perfect burr
And none of the darkies would dance with her.
She jumped in the floor and she doubled up her fist
Says, “You want to test your nerve, just jump against this.
If some of you niggers don’t dance with me,
With my razor I’m going to break up this jamboree.”
She says, “I come from a bad, bad land
And my name is Ann Eliza Stone
I’d have all you niggers for to understand,
I’m pretty mean with my habits on.
Going to bring all the guns from the battleship Maine
Going to make some of you coons climb a tree.
If you dare to doubt my reputation
I’m going to break up this Jamboree.”
In come a nigger named Slippery Jim.
None of the gals would dance with him.
He reached in his pocket, drew his .32
The niggers didn’t run-God!-how they flew.
One old sister went down through the floor.
The wind from her coattail blew open the door.
Along come a cop and arrested Slippery Jim
Because all the other niggers had done left but him.]

“Dat Lonesome Road”
Look down, look down dat lonesome road,
Hang down my head an’ cry
Hang down my head an’ cry
De bes’ uv frien’s mus’ paht someday,
Den why not you an’ I,
Den why not you an’ I?
Tell me, honey, ef you know what ‘tis dat mek me love you so?
Tell me, ef you know.
Tell me, dahlin’ ef you can
What mek you so diffunt fum any uhthuh man?
Tell me, ef you can.
True love, true love, what hev I done
To mek you treat me so
To mek  you treat me so.
You’ve made me walk dat lonesome road,
Like uh nuvvuh done befo’
Like uh nuvvuh done befo’
Look down, look down dat lonesome road,
Hang down my head an’ cry
Hang down my head an’ cry

[Look down, look down that lonesome road,
Hang down my head and cry.
The best of friends must part someday,
Then why not you and I?
Tell me, honey, if you know
What it is that makes me love you so?
Tell me, if you know.
Tell me, darling if you can.
What makes you so different from any other man?
True love, true love, what have I done
To make you treat me so?
You’ve made me walk that lonesome road
Like I never done before]

“Vanderbilt’s Daughter”
Vanderbilt’s daughter said befo’ she died
Dey wuz two mo’ roads dat she wanted tuh ride,
When ev’vy body wonduh what roads dem could be,
‘twuz de Eas’ Coloraydo an’ de Santy Fee
De Eas’ Coloraydo is de bes’ uv all
Dey got uh train dey call de cannon ball,
She run so fas’ dat de passengers cain see
Cause dey boun’tuh mek connection wid de Santy Fee.
Vanderbilt said dat befo’ he died,
He wuz gon tuh fix de bumpuhs so de ‘boes couldn’ ride,
Ef dey ride dey haft uh ride de rawd,
An’ trus’ dey lives in de han’s uv Gawd.
Got up one mawnin’ ‘twuz uh drizzelin’ rain,
Couldn’ see nothin’ but uh C. an’ O. train.
Up in de cab wuz ole Bill Jones
He’s uh good engineuh, but he’s dead an’ gawn.
Ole Bill Jones he wuz uh good engineuh,
Says to de fiuhman, “Jim yuh neentuh feauh,
All uh want is de boiluh hot,
Gon to mek it to de junction by twelve o’clock.”
He run a hunduhd miles befo’ he stopped,
Wan but one minute in between de block,
He seb he wan runnin’ uh tall,
Seys he give uh hunduhd dolluhs jest uh git de high ball.
He look at de watah an de watah wuz low,
Look at his watch, and de watch wuz slow,
Look at de fiuhman an’ he shuk his head,
Said, “Jim, we mout mek it, but we’ll bofe be dead.”
He reverse de engine, th’ew de levuh back
Twenty seb’m jumbos jum’d de track,
He holluhd to de fiuhman, say
“Jim, yuh better jump,
‘cause two locomotives is about tuh bump.
Ef dey bum’ dey gon tuh ben’ de rail,
Ef dey bum’ dey gon tuh ben’ de rail,
Ef dey bum’ dey gon tuh ben’ de rail,
Dey won be nobody livin’ here tuh tell de tale.”

[Vanderbilt’s daughter said before she died,
There were two more roads that she wanted to ride
When everybody wondered what roads them could be
It was the East Colorado and the Santa Fe.
The East Colorado is the best of all
They got a train they call the cannonball.
She run so fast that the passengers can’t see
Because they bound to make connection with the Santa Fe.
Vanderbilt said that before he died,
He was going to fix the bumpers so the hoboes couldn’t ride.
If they ride they have to ride the rod [under the train],
And trust their lives in the hands of God.
Got up one morning it was drizzling rain,
Couldn’t see nothing but a C&O train.
Up in the cab was old Bill Jones [in later songs it would be Casey Jones]
He’s a good engineer, but he’s dead and gone.
Old Bill Jones he was a good engineer,
Says to the fireman, “Jim you needn’t fear
All I want is the boiler hot,
Going to make it to the junction by twelve o’clock.”
He run a hundred miles before he stopped,
Wasn’t but one minute in between the block,
He said he wasn’t running at all,
Says he give a hundred dollars just to get the high ball.
He look at the water and the water was low.
Look at his watch and the watch was slow
Look at the fireman and he shook his head
Said, “Jim, we might make it, but we’ll both be dead.”
He reverse the engine, threw the lever back
Twenty seven jumbos jumped the track,
He hollered to the fireman, say
“Jim, you better jump,
Because two locomotives is about to bump.
If they bump they going to bend the rail,
They won’t be nobody living here to tell the tale.”]

The Editor’s Note

Here is a transcription of the Editor’s Note from Alfred J. Swan.
You can see a photocopy of the actual the Editor’s Note on the front page of this blog.


The few Negro Songs that compose the present little volume have been one of the great delights of my sojourn in Virginia. In the picturesque and forcible execution by their collector, my friend Mr. Francis H. Abbot, they never failed in their most direct aim: to portray to the listener the rich imagery, the racy humour, the naive pathos, and the simple, yet original philosophy of the modern negro’s mind. From a purely musical point of view they constitute a value that cannot be disregarded. Melodically, some of them are on a par with the best there is in folk-song literature. Rhythmically, they possess all the treats of genuine collective creation; (absolute spontaneity of rhythm, irregular time, etc.), and their constant use of syncopation rescues even the more obvious melodies, with great dash, from triviality.

I have put down with such accuracy as musical notation would allow both melody and accompaniment, from the performance of Mr. Francis H. Abbot. Not a note of his has undergone any change, my own suggestions being confined to purely outward matters, such as choice of key, etc. The piano accompaniment in the majority of cases is in imitation of the guitar to which the songs were sung originally. The only exception is the song “Squirl he tote a bushy tail,” which is obviously one of the melodies that stand out unaccompanied in all their glory. I could not resist the temptation, however, to underscore a descending Dorian scale into which the song fitted admirably, for the benefit of the singer who will prefer the most frugal accompaniment to no accompaniment at all.

I may add, in conclusion, that a great deal of the vitality of these songs rests in the Negro dialect, which should be studied by the singer with great care, from Mr. F. H. Abbot’s glossary.

New York,
July 1923
Alfred J. Swan

Bob Dylan and Paul Clayton

One of Bob Dylan’s greatest songs is “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (1962). Apparently, Dylan learned the tune from Paul Clayton’s song “Who’s Goin’ to Buy You Ribbons When I’m Gone?” (1960). And Clayton seems to have gotten at least the lyrical idea for his song from an older song called “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone.”

Here’s a passage from Spitz’s biography of Dylan:

A more delicate wrinkle arose of the authorship of “Don’t Think Twice.” No one complained about the lyric; it was so damn original that folksingers admitted losing sleep over it. But the melody had a familiar ring to it. Word began to spread that Bob had lifted it almost note for note from Paul Clayton’s ballad, “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Ribbon Saw.” That in itself wasn’t a contemptible offense. By definition, folk music encouraged an element of borrowing from sources to preserve its traditional flavor. But Bob not only ignored his debt to Clayton’s composition; he copyrighted the tune in  his own name without acknowledging its origins or, as was custom, listen the melody as “traditional.”

Several folksingers complained that Bob had done Paul an injustice. There wasn’t any question of Clayton’s contribution, nor was Bob able to wriggle out of it by feigning ignorance. Some time before the song appeared, he ran into Clayton, Van Ronk, and Barry Kornfeld, another Village folksinger, at which time he said, “Hey, man—I really dig ‘Who’s Gonna Buy Your Ribbon Saw.’ I’m gonna use that.” No one gave it a second thought. Clayton himself had copied it from an old music-hall number called “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone.’ The guys figured, “Fair enough—Bob’ll probably do a nifty variation on a theme.” Unfortunately, “Don’t Think Twice is a dead ringer for “Ribbon Saw.”    (Bob Spitz, Dylan: A Biography, Norton 1989, pgs. 200-201)

According to Stephen Wilson, Paul Clayton “had taken two different ideas. I know this from Clayton’s own lips. He slightly changed the tune to ‘Call Me Old Black Dog.’ The words were a song he’d picked up a sheet copy of in the University of Virginia library, called ‘Who’s Gonna Buy You Chickens When I’m Gone.’ He liked the idea of it.”  (Quoted from pg. 132 of Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival by Bob Coltman, 2008).

I went looking for that older song to find, in a sense, the grandfather (grandmother?) of my favorite Dylan song. It wasn’t available anywhere online. So I was able to get a copy of this 1923 book Eight Negro Songs  from Virginia. And it’s now available on this blog.

You can read much more about the Dylan/Clayton connection at these websites:

Francis H. Abbot

About Francis H. Abbot

I can’t find much about Francis H. Abbot. If you have more information, please leave a comment.

I’ve been able to piece together a few facts about Abbot.
He was from Bedford county, Virginia. He was a collector of songs, eight of which he sang for Alfred J. Swan for the book Eight Negro Songs. Swan, in his editor’s note, also identifies Abbot as his friend.

Abbot appears to have also helped Robert Winslow Gordon, who was the head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress in 1928. You can hear Abbot sing “Vanderbilt’s Daughter” (March 1932) for the Gordon collection here:
This song is a version of “Casey Jones.”

There was a professor of French in the 1920s at the University of Virginia named Francis H. Abbot. I’m not sure if that’s the same guy.