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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Four YouTube Examples Of The Song "Follow The Drinking Gourd" (with two lyrics versions)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part III of a three part pancocojams series about the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd" probably not being a historically authentic song about Black Americans escaping slavery.

Part III features lyrics for the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd" as sung by The Weavers and as sung by the New Christy Minstrels.

Part III also showcases four YouTube examples of "Follow The Drinking Gourd and features selected comments from the discussion thread for one of these YouTube examples.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2019/10/follow-drinking-gourd-is-probably.html for Part I of this series. Part I quotes the entire Wikipedia article about the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd".

Part I also quotes selected comments from a Mudcat folk music discussion forum thread about this song.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2019/10/excerpts-from-book-follow-drinking.html for Part II of this pancocojams series. Part II quotes two excerpts from the 2009 book Follow the Drinking Gourd: A Cultural History by Joel Bresler.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, historical, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the all those who escaped slavery via the underground railroad and thanks to all those regardless of race who worked on or otherwise supported the underground railroad.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these YouTube examples. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this pancocojams post, and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

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PANCOCOJAMS EDITOR'S COMMENT
I agree with those who consider the song Follow The Drinking Gourd to be historically inauthentic. Those who take that position doubt that Follow The Drinking Gourd was ever sung during African American enslavement. Read Part I and Part II of this pancocojams series for information and comments about those positions regarding this song.

Although I consider most renditions of "Follow The Drinking Gourd" to be musically pleasing, I'm concerned that the lyrics of this song oversimplify the difficulties and dangers that African Americans trying to escape from slavery faced and inaccurately describe the complexity of the underground railroad.

****
LYRICS: FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD
(as sung by The Weavers)

CHORUS
Follow the drinking gourd, follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is a-waitin' for to carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinking gourd.

When the sun comes back and the first quail calls,
Follow the drinking gourd.
The old man is a-waitin' for to carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinking gourd.

The river bank'll make a mighty good road,
The dead trees will show you the way.
Left foot, peg foot, traveling on,
Follow the drinking gourd.

CHORUS

Now the river ends between two hills,
Follow the drinking gourd.
There's another river on the other side,
Follow the drinking gourd.

CHORUS
-snip-
These lyrics were posted by Joe Offer in this Mudcat discussion thread: https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=17760 Follow The Drinking Gourd.

****
LYRICS: FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD
(New Christy Minstrels version)

Follow the drinking gourd,
We gotta follow the drinking gourd,
Follow the drinking gourd.
Think I heard the angel say,
Follow the drinking gourd.
Stars in the heavens gonna show you the way,
Follow the drinking gourd.

Step by step, keep a-travelin on.
Follow the drinking gourd.
Sleep in the holler till the daylight is gone.
Follow the drinking gourd.

Follow the drinking gourd,
We gotta follow the drinking gourd,
Follow the drinking gourd.
Keep on a-travelin that might road to freedom.
There s a good day comin and it won t be long.
Follow the drinking gourd.
All of God s children gotta sing this song.
Follow the drinking gourd.

Follow that river till the clouds roll by.
Follow the drinking gourd.
Keep on movin , better look to the sky.
Follow the drinking gourd.
Follow the drinking gourd,
We gotta follow the drinking gourd,
Follow the drinking gourd.
Keep on a-travelin that mighty road to freedom.

There s a little bit of heaven in that muddy road to freedom.
Follow the drinking gourd.
Keep on a-travelin that mighty road to freedom.
Step by step, keep a-travelin on.
Follow the drinking gourd


Source: https://www.flashlyrics.com/lyrics/the-new-christy-minstrels/the-drinkin-gourd-24
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SHOWCASE YOUTUBE EXAMPLES

Example #1: The New Christy Minstrels & Gene Clark - 1963 - Part lll/V [video]



mcd220, Jun 16, 2008

AWESOME song!

"The Muddy Road To Freedom" (The Drinkin' Gourd).

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Example #2: Follow The Drinking Gourd - The Weavers - (Lyrics needed) [sound file]



Carlo Schena, Jun 14, 2011

LYRICS NEEDED: any help is really welcome
Album - Goodnight Irene 1949-1953 [Disc 2]
Track 19 of 30

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Example #3: "Follow the Drinking Gourd" - Chorus School Level II [video]



San Francisco Girls Chorus, Aug 17, 2011

Director Amy Fickenscher and Level II perform "Follow the Drinking Gourd" at SFGC's Spring Recital and Graduation, June 3, 2011.

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Example #4: Eric Bibb - Follow The Drinking Gourd



Riddle Films, Mar 19, 2013

From the television series, God's Greatest Hits, airing in Canada on VisionTV on Friday nights at 10:30pm.
-snip-
Here are selected comments from this video's discussion thread. Note my comment in the beginning of this post.
Numbers are added for referencing purposes only.

1. star gazer, 2015
"This was a song from slavery
The slaves made songs and there would be hidden messages in them"

**
2. Nate 101, 2016
"This song is a spiritual. Also a code. It is telling you first thing in the morning leave follow the big diper. Than stay by trees and river. The river will keep the dogs of your sent. The trees have notes. Than (the old man) was a man at the ohio river and he will take you across. Than the conducters of the Underground Railroad will help u go to Canada"

**
REPLY
3. MrUnsprung, 2018
" "When the first quail call" is the time of year to run. Quail breeding calls are heard in mid-April in Alabama. "The dead trees show the way ... Left foot, Peg foot, Traveling on." The "Old Man" referred to was Peg Leg Joe, a conductor on the underground railroad, like Harriet Tubman. Peg Leg Joe marked trees and other landmarks with charcoal or mud shaped like a left foot and a round spot in place of the right foot. Runaways would be met on the banks of the Ohio and wait for conductors to take them to safety, perhaps Peg Leg Joe himself."

****
4. Akai Smi, 2016
"Don't forget to mention it was a song to alert slaves when to run."

**
REPLY
5. MrUnsprung, 2018
"It contains clues as to when to run, where to go, and how to get there."

**
6. bea g g, 2018
"Was watching the fresh prince of bel-air and in the 17th episode they talk about this song so now im obsessed with this song. And it's meaning. It's just amazing"

****
This concludes Part III of this pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

Excerpts From The Book "Follow The Drinking Gourd: A Cultural History"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a three part pancocojams series about the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd" probably not being a historically authentic song about Black Americans escaping slavery.

Part II quotes two excerpts from the 2009 book Follow the Drinking Gourd: A Cultural History by Joel Bresler.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2019/10/follow-drinking-gourd-is-probably.html for Part I of this series. Part I quotes the entire Wikipedia article about the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd".

Part I also quotes selected comments from a Mudcat folk music discussion forum thread about this song.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2019/10/four-youtube-examples-of-song-follow.html for Part III of this pancocojams series. Part III features lyrics for the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd" as sung by The Weavers and as sung by the New Christy Minstrels.

Part III also showcases four YouTube examples of "Follow The Drinking Gourd and features selected comments from the discussion thread for one of these YouTube examples.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and historical purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who escaped slavery via the underground railroad and thanks to all those regardless of race who worked on and otherwise supported "the underground railroad".

Thanks to Joel Bresler for his research and his writing on the subject of the song Follow The Drinking Gourd and its cultural impact.

****
PANCOCOJAMS EDITOR'S COMMENT
I agree with those who consider the song Follow The Drinking Gourd to be historically inauthentic. Those who take that position doubt that Follow The Drinking Gourd was ever sung during African American enslavement. Read Part I and Part II of this pancocojams series for information and comments about those positions regarding this song.

Although I consider most renditions of "Follow The Drinking Gourd" to be musically pleasing, I'm concerned that the lyrics of this song oversimplify the difficulties and dangers that African Americans trying to escape from slavery faced and inaccurately describe the complexity of the underground railroad.

****
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD: A CULTURAL HISTORY
From http://www.followthedrinkinggourd.org/index.htm
"Follow the Drinking Gourd:
A Cultural History

Introduction
The American folksong Follow the Drinking Gourd was first published in 1928. The Drinking Gourd song was supposedly used by an Underground Railroad operative to encode escape instructions and a map. These directions then enabled fleeing slaves to make their way north from Mobile, Alabama to the Ohio River and freedom. Taken at face value, the "drinking gourd" refers to the hollowed out gourd used by slaves (and other rural Americans) as a water dipper. But here it is used as a code name for the Big Dipper star formation, which points to Polaris, the Pole Star, and North.

In the ensuing 80 years, the Drinking Gourd played an important role in the Civil Rights and folk revival movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and in contemporary elementary school education. Much of the Drinking Gourd's enduring appeal derives from its perceived status as a unique, historical remnant harkening back to the pre-Civil War South – no other such map songs survive. But re-examining the Drinking Gourd song as history rather than folklore raises many questions. And the Drinking Gourd as it appears in roughly 200 recordings, dozens of songbooks, several award-winning children's books and many other places is surely not "traditional." The signature line in the chorus, "for the old man is awaitin' for to carry you to freedom," could not possibly have been sung by escaping slaves, because it was written by Lee Hays eighty years after the end of the Civil War. (1)

****
From http://www.followthedrinkinggourd.org/Afterword.htm
"Follow the Drinking Gourd: A Cultural History

Afterword, or "Is This Song 'Authentic'"?
What of this song is left to us?

...I am constantly asked whether the Drinking Gourd is "authentic." I've learned not to answer immediately. Since authenticity can be defined in many different ways, this is actually several distinct questions rolled into one. I will take my best stab at answering, "What of this song is left to us?"

Could the song as it appears on most recordings and in the three children's books have been sung by escaping slaves?

No, because the lyrics and chorus were written by Lee Hays and first published in 1947, nearly 80 years after the end of the Civil War. (A much smaller number of recordings use the Randy Sparks version, which came even later.)

Could thousands of slaves have used the Drinking Gourd route to escape?

Based on our knowledge of slave escapes from the Deep South, I view the chances as vanishingly small. See here* for the details.

From here on, I believe the evidence is sketchier.

Was Peg Leg Joe an actual person?

Perhaps. But even if there was a Drinking Gourd song "in the field", that doesn't prove that there really was a Peg Leg Joe. There are many songs based on real people, there are many songs based on composite characters, and there are many song based on fictional characters. For the record, I reviewed two decades' worth of minutes from the New England Anti-Slavery Society along with various Society ledger books. I found H.B. Parks's great-uncle Dr. Harris Cowdry (who served as a Vice President from 1840 to 1848.) But sadly, there's no trace of a peg-legged sailor. Nothing would delight me more than to find the old salt lurking in a slave narrative or other primary source document. Please send any Peg Leg Joe sightings my way – they would be very welcome indeed!

Did the collectors hear what they say they heard?

I am inclined to believe that Parks heard the song where, when and as he relates in his account. This was a man with tremendous powers of observation. With a colleague, he conducted a pioneering survey of the Big Thicket in East Texas. In 1945, he collected a previously unknown orchid which was then named for him. Upon his death, a colleague wrote, when "(i)n company with other collectors on field trips Mr. Parks generally collected the most material and the best specimens." (Alfred H. Alex, Journal of Economic Entomology, April 1959.) Follow the Drinking Gourd is his most notable specimen.

Lee Hays reported hearing a version of the song from his Aunty Laura. I don't know why he would mislead his fellow Weavers when presenting the work for arrangement and performance – they certainly sang many other selections that had no direct connection to a group member. The John Woodum version as reported by Randy Sparks is confirmed by contemporaneous notes and remains a tantalizing variant and possible third source for the song.
I believe that versions of the Drinking Gourd song were sung by black Americans dating back to at least the early 20th century, and likely earlier than that.

Did the collectors report the song accurately and completely?

Parks wrote that the "Negro at College Station" who explained the song to him "said that the song had many verses which he could not remember. He quoted a number which, either by fault of memory or secret meaning, are unintelligible and are omitted." These missing verses could, of course, be extremely important in fully understanding and vetting the song. I contacted the schools Parks was associated with, various libraries and his family in a fruitless search for any working papers or unpublished notes. I had to conclude they were lost.
There are also problems with the musical transcription presented in the Parks article, which is atypical of black music and difficult to sing as presented.

Did the collectors interpret the song properly?

I have more questions than answers on the Parks account. His interpretation was based in turn on information relayed to him by a "Negro at College Station" and his great-uncle. As noted here, I do not believe Parks was able to confirm the account with a great-uncle. If I am right, this throws into doubt exactly who confirmed the interpretation and provided key additional details. If not a great-uncle, was it another relative, or anyone else? Absent this confirmation, could the black informant have misinterpreted parts of the song? What about the details supposedly supplied by the great-uncle, such as the region where Peg Leg Joe operated? Is it at all possible the route actually started in another locale and refers to other rivers – leading to a more welcoming territory than the hostile southern Illinois end point of the route as we know it?

I believe Lee Hays overstated the amount of information conveyed in the song. Hays thought it began as a camp revival song – I have not been able to separately confirm this provenance.

So what are we left with? A song that played a rich role in the folk revival and civil rights movement, and that continues to be widely performed and recorded today. A song taught to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of schoolchildren owing to three award-winning children's books and a firm place in today's multi-cultural curriculum.

Towards a New Theory
Previous explanations of the Drinking Gourd song – whatever their accuracy – at least had the virtue of being internally consistent and neatly compelling! According to the received wisdom, Follow the Drinking Gourd was taught to slaves in the Mobile, Alabama region by a real person, an itinerant abolitionist who also marked the encoded route given in the song. This route was then used by slaves to escape northward to freedom, crossing the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky. This version hinged on H.B. Parks's assertion that a great-uncle who had been active in the Underground Railroad confirmed the particulars based on primary records.

As we have seen, there are serious questions on many of these points. If we believe Drinking Gourd was an actual folksong, but discount some or all of this explanation, we are then left with the most critical question of all: how to explain it?

Here is a preliminary new theory about the song and how it evolved. If the song predated the Civil War, it served principally as an inspiration to escaping slaves, like the Woodum version. The song would have contained limited or no map information. The geographic verses were added after the war, either by creating new verses, or by combining the Drinking Gourd verses with those from another song. (Traditional songs are so often combined "in the field" that ethnomusicologists have several terms of art for it, including "amalgamation" and the unfortunate sounding "contamination.")

It's also possible the song as we know it from the Parks account emerged in its entirety after the Civil War. Whether it arose before or after the war, we needn't argue about the historical authenticity of the song including the entire route, or the route ending in southern Illinois, or many other historical points because we can now evaluate the song as folklore, not as history.

Perhaps Peg Leg Joe was an actual abolitionist, or a composite character, working in the South. Perhaps the song actually traces the route of one or several intrepid freedom seekers and grew in popularity by celebrating their exploits. According to this theory, the collectors could have heard the songs in the field and the "Negro at College Station" could have correctly interpreted its meaning (as folklore.) But Parks did not confirm the story separately with a family member and there was no Drinking Gourd song complete with map information sung in the antebellum South.

Coda
I have tried to present the information I collected without editing it to favor my own point of view. Adherents of both sides of the authenticity argument will find plenty of ammunition to further their positions! My goal is to spur a thoroughgoing re-assessment of the song, its history and its cultural impact. I welcome suggestions on other lines of inquiry, and corrections to this research.

Underground Railroad myths die hard. But who needs myths when the real story of Follow the Drinking Gourd is so fascinating? A story with larger-than-life characters like H.B. Parks and Lee Hays, and mysterious ones like Aunty Laura and John Woodum. Let's all tell the real Drinking Gourd story. I hope you agree it's a great one.

Copyright 2008 - 2012, Joel Bresler.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED"
-snip-
* The word “here” is hyperlinked to this page of that book: http://www.followthedrinkinggourd.org/The_Song_As_History.htm#Number_of_escapees”.

That page also includes this sentence about markers (elements) of fakelore: “The popular version of Follow the Drinking Gourd certainly has many of these markers. The lyrics were rewritten and melody re-arranged to the point where neither are representative of the African-American tradition. And after its rewrite the song fit snugly into the desire of the Weavers and others for activist songs that drove social change.

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This concludes Part II of this three pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

"Follow The Drinking Gourd" Is Probably Fakelore And Not A Historically Authentic Song About Black Americans Escaping From Slavery (Part I)

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Update: October 20, 2019 at 5:45 PM

This is Part I of a three part pancocojams series about the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd" probably not being a historically authentic song about Black Americans escaping slavery.

Part I quotes the entire Wikipedia article about the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd".

Part I also quotes selected comments from a Mudcat folk music discussion forum thread about this song.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2019/10/excerpts-from-book-follow-drinking.html for Part II of this pancocojams series. Part II quotes two excerpts from the 2009 book Follow the Drinking Gourd: A Cultural History by Joel Bresler.

Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2019/10/four-youtube-examples-of-song-follow.html for Part III of this pancocojams series. Part III features lyrics for the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd" as sung by The Weavers and as sung by the New Christy Minstrels.

Part III also showcases four YouTube examples of "Follow The Drinking Gourd and features selected comments from the discussion thread for one of these YouTube examples.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and historical purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the all those who escaped slavery via the underground railroad and thanks to all those regardless of race who worked on or otherwise supported the underground railroad.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

****
PANCOCOJAMS EDITOR'S COMMENT
I agree with those who consider the song Follow The Drinking Gourd to be historically inauthentic. Those who take that position doubt that Follow The Drinking Gourd was ever sung during African American enslavement. Read Part I and Part II of this pancocojams series for information and comments about those positions regarding this song.

Although I consider most renditions of "Follow The Drinking Gourd" to be musically pleasing, I'm concerned that the lyrics of this song oversimplify the difficulties and dangers that African Americans trying to escape from slavery faced and inaccurately describe the complexity of the underground railroad.

****
THE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE ABOUT "FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD"
ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Follow_the_Drinkin%27_Gourd
"Texas Folklore Society and H. B. Parks
Follow the Drinking Gourd was collected by H. B. Parks, an entomologist and amateur folklorist, in the 1910s. Parks reported that Peg Leg Joe, an operative of the Underground Railroad, had passed as a laborer and spread the song to different plantations, giving directions for slaves to escape. The song was published by the Texas Folklore Society in 1928. (The cover spells the title "Foller de Drinkin' Gou'd.")[1]

Lee Hays
In 1947, Lee Hays, of the Almanac Singers and The Weavers, rearranged Follow the Drinkin' Gourd and published it in the People's Songs Bulletin. Familiar with African-American music and culture,[4] Hays stated that he himself had heard parts of the song from an elderly black woman named Aunty Laura. Hays described the melody as coming from Aunty Laura, while the lyrics came from anthologies – probably the Parks version.[5]

Randy Sparks / John Woodum
In 1955, singer Randy Sparks heard the song from an elderly street singer named John Woodum. These lyrics diverged greatly from the Parks and Hays versions and included no geographical information. Sparks later founded The New Christy Minstrels, with whom he recorded a version of the song based on Woodum's lyrics.[1][6]

Meaning
Polaris, the North Star, is found by imagining a line from Merak (β) to Dubhe (α) and then extending it for five times the distance after Dubhe (α) to Polaris (α Ursae Minoris).

Two of the stars in the Big Dipper line up very closely with and point to Polaris. Polaris is a circumpolar star, and so it is always seen pretty close to the direction of true north. Hence, according to a popular myth, all slaves had to do was look for the Drinking Gourd and follow it to the North Star (Polaris) north to freedom.[citation needed] James Kelley has argued against the historicity of this interpretation in the Journal of Popular Culture.[3]"
-snip-
H.B. Parks, Lee Hays, and Randy Sparks were White Americans.

In the song Follow The Drinking Gourd, the character Peg Leg Joe was White.

****
SELECTED COMMENTS FROM A MUDCAT DISCUSSION THREAD ABOUT "FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD"
[Pancocojams Editor's Note: This Mudcat discussion began on February 2, 2000 by Guest, Pablo. As of October 20, 2019, I counted 134 comments in that (still open) discussion with the last comment being posted by me (writing as Guest, Azizi) on April 5, 2012.

That comment informed Mudcat readers that I quoted selected comments from that discussion thread and portions of Joel Bresler's book, as well as showcased a YouTube video of the Weavers' singing "Follow The Drinking Gourd" on a page of my (now deactivated) cocojams website. That comment was one of a number of comments that I had published on that Mudcat discussion thread.

This pancocojams series is probably an extended version of that cocojams post which I can no longer access to read.]

From https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=17760
Follow The Drinking Gourd

[I assigned numbers to these comments for referencing purposes only]

1. Subject: RE: Help: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Oct 01 - 10:38 AM

"FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD
By H. B. PARKS

The following story is a compilation of three incidents and an attempt to explain them. A number of years ago while a resident of Alaska I became much interested in folk-lore and consequently anything of this nature came to attract my attention quickly. I was a resident of Hot Springs, North Carolina, during the year of 1912 and had charge of the agricultural work of a large industrial school. This school owned a considerable herd of cattle, which were kept in the meadows on the tops of the Big Rich Mountains on the boundary between North Carolina and Tennessee. One day while riding through the mountains looking after this stock, I heard the following stanza sung by a little negro boy, who was picking up dry sticks of wood near a negro cabin:

Foller the drinkin' gou'd,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
No one know, the wise man say,
"Foller the drinkin' gou'd."

It is very doubtful if this part of the song would have attracted anyone's attention had not the old grandfather, who had been sitting on a block of wood in front of the cabin, slowly got up and, taking his cane, given the boy a sound lick across the back with the admonition not to sing that song again. This excited my curiosity and I asked the old man why he did not want the boy to sing the song. The only answer I could get was that it was bad luck. About a year later I was in the city of Louisville and, having considerable time to wait for a train, I went walking about the city. My journey brought me to the river front, and while standing there watching the wharf activities I was very much surprised to hear a negro fisherman, who was seated on the edge of the wharf, singing the same stanza on the same tune. The fisherman sang the same stanza over and over again without any variation. While I am unable to write the music that goes with this stanza, I can say that it is a jerky chant with the accented syllables very much prolonged. When I asked the fisherman what he knew about the song, he replied that he knew nothing about it; he would not even converse with me. This seemed to be very peculiar, but because of the story of bad luck told by the grandfather in North Carolina I did not question the negro further. In 1918 I was standing on the platform of the depot at Waller, Texas, waiting for a train, when, much to my surprise, I heard the familiar tune being picked on a violin and banjo and two voices singing the following words:

Foller the Risen Lawd,
Foller the Risen Lawd;
The bes'thing the Wise Man say,
"Foller the Risen Lawd."

The singers proved to be two Negro boys about sixteen years of age. When they were asked as to where they learned the song, they gave the following explanation. They said that they were musicians traveling with a colored revivalist and that he had composed this song and that they played it and used it in their revival meetings. They also said the revivalist wrote new stanzas to fit the meetings. These three incidents led me to inquire into the subject, and I was very fortunate in meeting an old Negro at College Station, Texas, who had known a great many slaves in his boyhood days. After I had gained his confidence, this man told the following story and gave the following verses of the song. He said that just before the Civil War, somewhere in the South, he was not just sure where, there came a sailor who had lost one leg and had the missing member replaced by a peg-leg. He would appear very suddenly at some plantation and ask for work as a painter or carpenter. This he was able to get at almost every place. He made friends with the slaves and soon all of the young colored men were singing the song that is herein mentioned. The peg-leg sailor would stay for a week or two at a place and then disappear. The following spring nearly all the young men among the slaves disappeared and made their way to the north and finally to Canada by following a trail that had been made by the peg-leg sailor and was held in memory by the Negroes in this peculiar song.

(music line inserted here)

1 When the sun come back,
When the firs' quail call, Foller the drinkin' gou'd.

Chorus: Foller the drinkin' gou'd,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
For the ole man say,
"Foller the drinkin' gou'd."

2 The riva's bank am a very good road,
The dead trees show the way,
Lef' foot, peg foot goin' on,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.
Chorus:

3 The riva ends a-tween two hills,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
'Nuther riva on the other side
Follers the drinkin' gou'd.
Chorus:

4 Wha the little riva
Meet the grea' big un,
The ole man waits--
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.

Now my birthplace is in the North and I also belong to a family that took considerable part in the underground railroad movement; so I wrote about this story to the older members of the family in the North. One of my great-uncles, who was connected with the railroad movement, remembered that in the records of the Anti-Slavery Society there was a story of a peg-legged sailor, known as Peg Leg Joe, who made a number of trips through the South and induced young Negroes to run away and escape through the North to Canada. The main scene of his activities was in the country immediately north of Mobile, and the trail described in the song followed northward to the head waters of the Tombigbee River, thence over the divide and down the Tennessee River to the Ohio. It seems that the peg-legged sailor would go through the country north of Mobile and teach this song to the young slaves and show them a mark of his natural left foot and the round spot made by the peg-leg. He would then go ahead of them northward and on every dead tree or other conspicuous object he would leave a print made with charcoal or mud of the outline of a human left foot and a round spot in place of the right foot. As nearly as could be found out the last trip was made in 1859. Nothing more could be found relative to this man. The Negro at College Station said that the song had many verses which he could not remember. He quoted a number which, either by fault of memory or secret meaning, are unintelligible and are omitted. The ones given are in the phonetic form used by the College Station Negro and become rather simple when one is told that the "drinkin' gou'd" is the Great Dipper, that the "wise man" was the peg-leg sailor, and that the admonition is to go ever north, following the trail of the left foot and the peg-leg until "the grea' big un" (the Ohio) is reached, where the runaways would be met by the old sailor. The revivalist realized the power of this sing-song and made it serve his purpose by changing a few words, and in so doing pointed his followers to a far different liberty than the one the peg-leg sailor advocated."
-snip-
*I think the Guest in this comment was Q (Frank Staplin) who actually was a member of Mudcat at that time. When that website had technical difficulties, all the members were listed as "Guests".

*Note: "Comments" are referred to as "posts" by Mudcat members and published comments are said to be "posted" in a particular Mudcat discussion thread.

****
2. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Mar 05 - 05:50 PM

"As posted in another thread, this song is controversial. The words were collected by [H.B. Parks*] in 1928 at College Station, Texas, from "an old man."

Whether this is a valid, old song or something devised by someone at the University (Texas A & M) is uncertain.
Also, as posted elsewhere, the song, if valid, would be for exceedingly dumb slaves. The slave narratives and other records of slavery times suggest a higher degree of sophistication among the slaves and word of mouth communication of specific information about possible escape routes.

Parks (in the article posted above by 'Guest'), repeats the anecdote about a peg leg man, a story which, following emancipation, was spread widely and appears in the song, and also relates the song to a probable spiritual fragment, "Follow the Drinkin' Gou'd," collected in North Carolina by Parks and to "Foller the Risen Lawd," collected by Parks in Texas from members of the troupe of a 'colored revivalist.'

A nice little story, but impossible to document."...
-snip-
*Q initially wrote "The words were collected by J. Frank Dobie in 1928 at College Station, Texas, from "an old man.", but corrected that sentence in a subsequent comment [post] in that same discussion thread, indicating that he meant to write "H. B. Parks" and not "J. Frank Dobie", at that time the editor of the Texas Folklore Society.

****
3. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Mar 05 - 09:21 PM

"Scholars are beginning to think that Praks, the "collector," wrote this haunting song himself not too long before 1928."

****
4. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 11:11 PM

"After passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, an escaping slave could no longer just head more or less north to cross the Ohio River or otherwise reach a non-slave state.

The task of conducting the slaves fell to careful, well-organized members of the Underground Railway. Routes were not straight line. It was mostly up to the escapee to reach the first 'station', which he did by following carefully the path passed by word of mouth among the slaves by 'travelers.'

Once the escapee reached a station, his fate was in the hands of the conductors, who laid out the route and escorted the slaves. The route never was due north, but zig-zaged according to location of safe houses or sites, and sometimes was delayed for days to a time until the route was deemed safe.

Much is written about one or two of these conductors, but there were others that were more important.
-John Parker helped slaves to cross the Ohio River and passed them on to other helpers.
-William Cretty of New York helped 3000.
-Robert Purvis of Philadelphia is credited with transporting 9000.
-William Still, also of Philadelphia, conducted many.

Others included David Ruggles, Josiah Henson, Harriet Tubman and many others whose names are buried in records or unknown.

Purvis, Still and Ruggles were African-American free men.

Routes through the northeastern states of New York, New Jersey, parts of Pennsylvania, etc., involved transit by boat, train and horse-drawn vehicles, carefully worked out to avoid enforcers of the Fugitive Slave Act.
Some 30,000 reached Canada, and others were hidden in rural areas with strong anti-slave populations.

Few slaves would be dumb enough not to know the dangers of simple-mindedly "following the drinking gourd." Getting to the first station required following careful directions which reached him by word of mouth and diagrams drawn in the dirt."

****
5. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: GUEST,Joel Bresler
Date: 18 May 05 - 08:28 PM

"Hi, Lighter wrote on 05 Mar 05 - 09:21 PM

Scholars are beginning to think that Parks, the "collector," wrote this haunting song himself not too long before 1928.

Which scholars, please? I am researching the song. Are you referring to the Tuscaloosa News October, 2004 article? The source won't go on the record.

Many thanks,

Joel"

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6. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 May 05 - 11:25 PM

"Joel, see my post in thread 81241, 17 May 05, 08:54PM- Drinkin' Gourd*
(posted as Guest when Mudcat was severely ill).

In the over 75 years since Parks published his story and song in 1928, no one has found any evidence of the pegleg conductor. There are no citations other than those based on Parks article.

The story is dubious, since the underground railway operated by word of mouth in getting the escapee to the 'first station,' a safe location or house. A 'conductor' would supervise from then on.

Also, as noted in this thread, 13 Apr 05, going north solo was almost a sure way to get caught, since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 applied in ALL states; if found anywhere, the slave by law was returned to his owners.

The story has been embroidered by singers like Campbell and Seeger (the one in the DT, for example) and in a book for children that I have seen."...
-snip-
*Update: The Addendum to this post consists of three comments from another Mudcat thread about "Follow The Drinking Gourd", including the comment that Q referenced above.

**
7. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 19 May 05 - 08:58 AM

"I don't have my reference handy, but the scholarly suspicions stem from exactly the sort of points that Q has raised here."

****
8. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 May 05 - 02:21 PM

"Good luck on your research.

Whenever I get time, I look into more of the underground railway literature, and interviews with former slaves, looking mostly for songs, but also just interested in learning a bit more.

I think the idea of coded 'escape' songs is largely nonsense. Word-of-mouth and sketches in the dirt would be much more effective."

****
9. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 19 May 05 - 08:30 PM

"Joel, good research ! I generally agree with Q. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, if it was truly "out of character" for Parks to have concocted the story, perhaps he was taken in by somebody else ! The point is that the song just sounds too good to be true - in many ways.

Too bad we don't have the text that Lee Hays heard as a young boy. A comparison would be in order.

A further possibility - assuming Hays's recollection was correct - is that the song was commercially written, perhaps for a long-forgotten stage drama, not long before Parks heard it.

Just thoughts."

****
10. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: Azizi
Date: 20 May 05 - 02:37 PM

..."I'm African American but this song certainly wasn't anything that was passed down to me by oral tradition. But, then again, to be fair, that could be explained by the fact that I don't have any Southern relatives {or at least I didn't have any relatives who lived in the Southern part of the United States until a few members of my family started moving to different Southern states about five years ago}.

So-forget about my personal lack of knowledge about this song.
I don't get a sense that it is part of the oral tradition of African Amerians who have had Southern roots for a long time.

And I don't see it mentioned in published recollections of former slaves as a means by which they or people they knew escaped from slavery.

The idea that there were "coded references to a known safe routes" to freedom that were passed on without someone who was a trusted 'family retainer' i.e. a House Negro {substitute the word you want} not hearing about it and not telling ole massa and missus, seems to me to be beyond belief.

I think that 'Follow The Drinking Gourd' is like an urban legend only it's not urban.

Azizi"

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11. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Feb 07 - 01:28 PM

"Historian Fergus M. Bordewich has written a fine book called "Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America." He shows how the Underground Railroad forced Americans to think about slavery in new ways, as it delivered tens of thousands of former slaves into Northern communities.

In an article for the NY Times (Feb. 2, 2007), he discusses the myths that "submerge the horrific reality of slavery in a gilded haze of uplift. But in claiming to honor the history of African-Americans, they serve only to erase it in a new way"

Not his main theme, but he considers the myths and bizarre legends attached to the Underground Railroad. One of them concerns the ballad, "Follow the Drinking Gourd."
The version as taught in some schools and often heard as 'truth' actually was composed by Lee Hays of the Weavers in 1947, a fictional song based on two little fragments collected in 1928 of what may be an old hymn.
(Lee Hays is currently associated with BMI; Follow the Drinking Gourd is BMI Work # 3519896)"

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12. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 20 Oct 09 - 03:57 PM

"FWIW, I've now done an extensive search of various American newspaper, book, and periodical databases back to 1800: millions and millions and millions of words. I haven't found a single reference to the song or the legend earlier than Parks's in 1928."

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13. Subject: RE: Origins: Follow the Drinking Gourd meanings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Oct 09 - 05:53 PM

"Lighter- Which adds to the opinions of many folklore specialists that the song did not exist before the 'date of collection'.

The legend is ridiculous anyway; The North Star (Polaris, Dhruva, many names) would lead an escapee into certain recapture by 'patrollers'; any codes would have to do with contacting the underground railway or other assistance to fleeing slaves.

Of course various words or phrases would be developed to hide meaning ('codes'); all groups desiring secrecy develop them, but the 'Gourd' song has no value in this regard."

****
ADDENDUM - THREE COMMENTS FROM ANOTHER MUDCAT DISCUSSION THREAD ABOUT "FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD"

Pancocojams Editor's Note: The comment (i.e. The Mudcat post) that is given as #2 below was referenced in the comment given as #6 in this pancocojams post.

From https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=81241 Origin: Follow the Drinking Gourd (Burl Ives?)

1. Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 May 05 - 08:46 PM

All of this has been posted and discussed in detail in a Mudcat thread. Unfortunately, Mudcat is sinking fast and I forget the thread number.

To review, "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd," words and story, were first published by H. B. Parks in an article by that name in the book, titled "Follow de Drinkin' Gou'd," pp. 81-84, Pub. of the Texas Folk-Lore Society, No. VII, 1928, Univ. Texas Press.

Some scholars dismiss the story as fictitious, which it probably is.

**
2. Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 May 05 - 05:40 PM

Some scholars dismiss the story as fictitious, which it probably is.

Would that be the story said to be contained in the song, amnd aboutb how the song was used, or the story about how it was collected in a few variants?

In other words does that "probably" mean that HB Parks is accused of fabricating the story and the song, or does it reflect the way that folklore and folk tales aren't always literally fact - which doesn't necessarily stop them being "true".

****
3. Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 May 05 - 08:54 PM

More than one question here, some of which I considered in another thread, but navigation too uncertain at this time.

1 Song variants
a. Four lines from Tennessee, collected on the NC border (by H. B. Parks, 1912).
Foller the drinkin' gou'd (2x)
No one know, the wise man say,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.
Parks says he heard the same four lines later in Louisville (1913).
This was followed by another fragment from Texas, also coll. by H, B, Parks (1918):
Foller the Risen Lawd (2x)
The bes' thing the Wise Man say
Foller the Risen Lawd.

This would seem to be from the same song. The singers said they got it from a black revivalist with whom they traveled. Both verses may be fragments of an old spiritual of gospel song.

The song itself was also collected by Parks (1918?), from "an old Negro" at College Station, TX (home of Texas A&M University, with some 45000 students). It was not published by Parks until ten years later.

The song in the DT has been embroidered and enlarged by the singer, Paul Campbell). Here are Parks lyrics:

Lyr. Add: Foller the Drinkin' Gou'd

When the sun come back,
When the firs' quail call,
Then the time is come
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.

Chorus:
Foller the drinkin' gou'd,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
For the ole man say,
"Foller the drinkin' gou'd."

The riva's bank am a very good road,
The dead trees show the way,
Lef' foot, peg foot goin' on,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.

The riva ends a-tween two hills
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
'Nuther riva on the other side
Follers the drinkin' gou'd.

Wha the little riva
Meet the grea' big un,
The ole man waits-
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.

Parks goes on to say that there was a story in the records of the Anti-Slavery Society of a peg leg sailor who was a conductor on the underground railroad.

The song was recorded by Pete Seeger and others, and the story was spread afar.
No other record or fragment of the song has been found, although 77 years have passed since publication.

No record of any such underground railroad conductor has been found, although there are many descriptions of the exploits of conductors on the underground railroad, and of the many thousands that they escorted to freedom (briefly discussed in my post of 13 Apr 05, thread 17760).

In that thread, I said the task of conducting the slaves fell to careful, well-organized members of the Underground Railway. One conductor, Robert Purvis, is credited with transporting 9000. Thirty thousand reached Canada.

The 'first station' had to be reached by the escapee by following careful directions which reached him by word of mouth and diagrams drawn in the dirt.
I commented that "Few slaves would be dumb enough not to know the dangers of simple-mindedly "following the drinking gourd."

My personal belief is that Parks concocted the story, partly from an old spiritual, and abetted by wishful thinking, and perhaps a desire to put one over on J. Frank Dobie, at that time editor for the Texas Folk-Lore Society (Or did someone at Texas A&M University have a hand in it?).

H. B. Parks, "Follow The Drinking Gourd," pp. 81-84, in Publications of the Texas Folk-Lore Society, 1928, Number VII, "Follow de Drinkin'
Gou'd."

Others have questioned the story, but I must emphasize that the above remarks are solely mine."
-snip-
"Navigation too uncertain" means "The website wasn't fully functional at that time".

"Paul Cambell" was a pseudonym adopted from 1950 to 1953 for Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Peter Seeger" (Members of The Weavers) singing group. http://www.lazyka.com/linernotes/personel/CampbellPaul.htm.
-snip-
As indicated in a subsequent comment, the "Guest" who posted these comments was actually the member with the screen name "Q". That website wasn't working fully so members might be listed as "guests".

****
This concludes Part III of this three part pancocojams series on the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd".

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

Friday, October 18, 2019

"When Billy Boy Was One" & "Poor Pinocchio" (Hand Clap Rhymes Text Examples & Videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Update: October 18, 2019 5:01 PM

This pancocojams post provides text examples of the hand games "When Billy Boy Was One" & "Poor Pinocchio".

Two video examples of "When Billy Boy Was One" are included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and recreational, purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

Hat tip to the editor and contributors of Mama Lisa's World: International Music & Culture https://www.mamalisa.com/blog/can-anyone-help-with-the-tune-to-when-billy-boy-was-one/. I've added two examples of "When Billy Boy Was One" from that page, one of which indicates the 1960s as the decade that the contributor learned that version. I've also added a link for an audio file of the tune that a Mama Lisa blog contributed shared for this rhyme.

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A considerable amount of this post's content was published in this 2013 pancocojams post http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/12/when-billy-boy-was-one-poor-pinocchio.html">http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/12/when-billy-boy-was-one-poor-pinocchio.html.

Although this blog focuses on music, dance, and language practices from African Americans and other Black people throughout the world, I sometimes also showcases examples of children's rhymes and singing games which may not be from those populations because that is another interest of mine. Although the textual structure, the percussive rhythm, and accompanying hand clap & body patting movements of these rhymes strongly suggest that these rhymes are of African American origin, I don't know if that population was the original source of these rhymes.

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INFORMATION ABOUT "WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE" AND "POOR PINOCCHIO"
"When Billy Boy Was One" isn't the folk song "Billy Boy" ("Oh where have you been Billy Boy") and "Poor Pinocchio" isn't the nursery rhyme character "Pinocchio". However, it's highly probably that the characters' names in both of those playground rhymes were lifted from those widely known cultural sources.

I collected one example of "Poor Pinocchio" (from a Canadian school girl) and three other examples of that rhyme online. Each of these examples are found below. However, there are considerably more examples of "When Billy Boy Was One" online. Five of those examples are found below.

I think that "Poor Pinocchio" is a spin off of "When Billy Boy Was One", but I don't have any way of proving that.

"When Billy Boy Was One" (also known as "Billy Boy" and "Billy") and "Poor Pinocchio" are what I call a "life stages" playground rhyme. A "life stages" rhyme is one that chants a line about a person starting with age one and successively moving to an agreed upon age [usually age ten]. The first line of those two line rhyming verses usually begins with the word "when" and indicates the person's age. The second line indicates an activity that is supposedly characteristic of that age:

When Billy Boy was one
He learned to suck his thumb

Or the second line ends with a word that rhymes with the age that was given in the first line:

When Billy Boy was seven
He went to heaven

Similarly, here are examples from "Poor Pinocchio":
1*. Poor Pinocchio he learned to suck his thumb, thumb
after thumb after thumb, after thumb after thumb.
Cross over

4*. Poor Pinocchio he learned to shut the door, door after
door, after door, after door. Cross over

[The numbers at the beginning of this example are chanted.]
-snip-
Another form of "life stage" rhyme is one which instead of ages mentions periods pf a person's life -from babyhood to death and sometime beyond. The rhymes "When I Was A Baby" ("When Susie Was A Baby", "When Pebbles Was A Baby" etc.)* are examples of those kinds of life stages children's rhymes. However, in addition to being "life stages" rhymes, "When I Was A Baby" etc. is also a cumulative rhyme, in that each line that is chanted includes a portion from each preceding line.

As is the case with the "When I Was A Baby" rhymes, mimicking actions are performed while chanting the second line of "When Billy Boy Was One" and the second line of "Poor Pinocchio". For instance, while chanting "He learned to suck his thumb", the chanters mimic sucking their thumb. However, I'm not certain if any mimicking action is done for the "went to heaven" line that is usually chanted for the number "seven" verse, unless it is flapping your arms in imitation of angel's wings.

The term "cross-down", "cross over" or "crosstown"* is usually found in the "When Billy Boy Was One" rhymes. That word not only serves to separate the successive age verses, but also describes an action or series of actions that is/are always done when that word is said. Read my comments in the "Performance Activity" section about those motions.

"*Crosstown" is probably a folk etymology form of "cross down", a description of the direction of a hand movement.

I think that "When Billy Boy Was One", the similarly chanted rhyme "When Pebbles Was A Baby*" and the rhyme "Poor Pinocchio" all came from the same source and I believe that source was "Miss Susie Had A Steamboat".

The only example of "When Billy Boy Was One" and "Poor Pinocchio" that I've heard chanted "in real life"(Example #2 of "Poor Pinocchio") had the same or very similar tune as "Miss Susie Had A Baby". However, from examples that I've subsequently heard online and from comments that I've read, it appears that different tunes are used for "When Billy Boy Was One" (and presumably, also for versions of "Poor Pinocchio".

Also, click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/11/when-pebbles-was-baby-part-ii.html for Part II of "When Pebbles Was A Baby" to find text examples and videos of those rhymes.

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PERFORMANCE ACTIVITIES
"When Billy Boy Was One" and "Poor Pinocchio" appear to usually be recited as two partner hand clap game with accompanying mimicking motions.

Each of these rhymes includes the word "cross down" or some variant form of that word. Saying "cross down" is a signal to begin a crossing movement that may also be combined with a body patting motion. Here's one description of the "cross down" performance action from one of the examples found below:
"Cross down - start by crossing both hands over your chest, with your finger tips touching your shoulders, then uncross them and smack your thigh's. Your left hand will smack your left thigh and right hand, right thigh."

Criss-cross jumping (crossing your feet when you jump) could be done instead of the actions given below.

Performance directions are found in some of the examples below.

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FIVE TEXT EXAMPLES OF "WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE"
(These examples are given in chronological order based on the date in which the example was posted online, with the oldest dated example given first.)

Example #1: WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE
I'm an elementary teacher from Minnesota. I'd like to add a hand clapping, patting game I learned from some first grade girls back in the 1970's. They called it "Billy Boy." As they chanted the lyrics they clapped their own hands, then the opposite hand of their partner, then their own opposite shoulders, and finally their knees.

When Billy Boy was one (sung as two syllables) he learned to suck his thu-umb, (two syllables again.)
Thumb-dee-ah-dah, thumb-dee-ah-dah,
Half past one, cross down,

When Billy boy was two-o, he learned to tie his shoe-oo,
Two-dee-ah-dah, two-dee-ah dah,
Half past two cross down." etc.

three: climb a tree,
four: shut the door,
five: jump and dive,
six: pick up sticks,
seven: got to heaven,
eight: clean his plate,
nine: sing this rhyme,
ten: he learned to say, 'THE END!'"
-Skeezyks, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=4300 Children's Street Songs, January 31, 2005

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Example #2: WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE
Two people sit facing each other. I'll do my best to describe the handclap motions...

Cross down - start by crossing both hands over your chest, with your finger tips touching your shoulders, then uncross them and smack your thigh's. Your left hand will smack your left thigh and right hand, right thigh.

The next step is to clap. When you clap, you begin singing the song.
(For example: (cross down) (Clap), When Billy Boy was one..... (now begin claping with your partner - your right hand claps with their right hand - then you clap your hands together, next your left hand claps with your partner's left hand, then you clap your hands together.

Repeat until the verse is over.

When you start the next verse, begin again with cross down, slap your thighs, When Billy Boy was two...etc.

Verses: When Billy Boy was one, he learned to suck his thumb. Thumb Billy, Thumb Billy, half past one.

When Billy Boy was two, he learned to tie his shoe. Shoe Billy, Shoe Billy, half past two.

When Billy Boy was three, he learned to climb a tree. Tree Billy, Tree Billy, half past three.

When Billy Boy was four, he learned to close the door. Door Billy, Door Billy, half past four.

When Billy Boy was five, he learned to swim and dive. Dive Billy, Dive Billy, half past five.

When Billy Boy was six, he learned to pick up sticks. Sticks Billy, Sticks Billy, half past six.

When Billy Boy was seven, he learned to pray to heaven. Heaven Billy, Heaven Billy, half past seven.

When Billy Boy was eight, he learned to roller skate. Skate Billy, Skate Billy, half past eight.

When Billy Boy was nine, he learned to tell the time. Time Billy, Time Billy, half past nine.

When Billy Boy was ten, he learned to catch the hens. Hens Billy, Hens Billy, half past ten. Cross down, then end!
-Jackie; cocojams.com, 2/28/2007 [Cocojams was the name of my cultural blog which I voluntarily deactivated in 2015.]

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Example #3: WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE
then there was about billy boy
cross down when billy boy was 1
he learned to suck his thumb
thumb after thumb after half past one

2 was tie his shoe
3 was climb a tree
4 was shut the door
5 was swim and dive
6 was pick up sticks
7 was pray to Heaven
8 was shut the gate
9 was pay the fine
10 was say the end

and at the end it was
... end after end after half past ten
cross down the end.
-Guest, Julie, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=4300 Children's Street Songs, December 5, 2007

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Example #4
From https://www.mamalisa.com/blog/can-anyone-help-with-the-tune-to-when-billy-boy-was-one/
patty Says:
October 30th, 2015 at 7:37 pm
I used to sing a similar one when I was in elementary school but it went like this: (not sure about the spelling on the second line of each verse)

When Billy boy was cero, he learned to be a hero
so herioca, herioca, half past cero.

When Billy Boy was one, he learned to suck his thumb,
So thumbioca, thumbioca, half past one.

When Billy Boy was two, he learned to tie his shoes,
so shoe-ioca, shoe-ioca, half past two.

When Billy Boy was three, he learned to climb a tree,
So treeioca, treeioca, half past three.

When Billy Boy was four, he learned to shut the door,
so doorioca, doorioca, half past four.

When Billy Boy was five, he learned to swim and dive,
so diveioca, diveioca, half past five.

When Billy Boy was six, he learned to pick up sticks,
so stickioca, stickioca, half past six.

When Billy Boy was seven, he learned to climb to heaven,
so heavy-oca, heavy-oca, half past seven.

When Billy Boy was eight, he learned to shut the gate,
so gate-ioca, gate-ioca, half past eight.

When Billy Boy was nine, he learned to stand in line,
so lineioca, lineioca, half past nine.

When Billy Boy was ten, he learned to feed the hens,
so henioca, henioca, half past ten.

****
Example #5
From https://www.mamalisa.com/blog/can-anyone-help-with-the-tune-to-when-billy-boy-was-one/
Jen Says:
December 10th, 2017 at 5:01 am
We used to play this game in grammar school in the 60’s in Southern California. The lyrics were similar on each line except we used to say “olioca” twice, then “half past (whatever number was next)” then “cross-down” and then start the next line. For instance:

When Billy Boy was one, he learned to suck his thumb,
Olioca, Olioca, half past one, cross-down,
When Billy Boy was two, he learned to tie his shoe,
Olioca, Olioca, half past two, cross-down,
and so on…

I don’t know, it’s just the way I learned it from other kids. I like everyone else’s version too. I love the internet enabling us to look up these old games and songs!
-snip-
Mama Lisa's blog includes additional examples of and comments about this rhyme, including this comment:
"Gary Says:
December 15th, 2016 at 9:26 pm
We played this game back in the 1960’s. But instead of saying “thumb de-li-da-la” or “thumbioca”, we said: “thumb billy-ona”. This was in the south central Pennsylvania area of the US"

In addition, Miriam McLatchey (September 4th, 2018 at 3:15) shared this link to an audio file for "When Billy Boy Was One" on Mama Lisa's blog: https://mysongfile.com/songs/when_billy_was_one

Another contributor indicated that the tune sounded like the theme song used for "Loony Tune" cartoons.

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SHOWCASE VIDEOS OF "WHEN BILLY BOY IS ONE"
Video #1: Heart sisters. School rhymes- Wjen Billy was one



Ania Heart, Apr 17, 2017

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Video #2: Farrell - When Billy Was One - OCES September 2018



Ms. Boyd, Oct 22, 2018

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FIVE EXAMPLES OF "POOR PINOCCHIO" (complete and partial examples)
(These examples are given in chronological order based on the date in which the example was posted online, with the oldest dated example given first.)

Example #1: POOR PINOCCHIO
1. Poor Pinocchio he learned to suck his thumb, thumb
after thumb after thumb, after thumb after thumb.
Cross over *
2. Poor Pinocchio he learned to tie his shoe, shoe after
shoe, after shoe, after shoe . Cross over *
3. Poor Pinocchio he learned to climb a tree, tree after tree,
after tree, after tree. Cross over *
4. Poor Pinocchio he learned to shut the door, door after
door, after door, after door. Cross over *
5. Poor Pinocchio he liked to kick bee hives, hives after
hives, after hives, after hives. Cross over *
6. Poor Pinocchio he learned to pick up sticks, sticks after
sticks, after sticks ,after sticks. Cross over *
7. Poor Pinocchio he learned all about heaven, heaven after
heaven, after heaven, after heaven. Cross over *
8. Poor Pinocchio he learned to shut the gate, gate after
gate, after gate after gate. Cross over *

[and so on up to 11-use any word that rhymes with those numbers]
* When you say "cross over" you fold your arms crisscross over your chest, and the other girl you are doing the handclap with does the same thing at the same time.
-Natashia, (White female, age 13; Hinton, Alberta, Canada; October 21, 2005; collected by Azizi Powell
-snip-
[The numbers at the beginning of this example are chanted.]

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Example #2: POOR PINOCCHIO
I vaguely remember a clapping song that went something like

Poor Pinocchio one
He used to suck his thumb
But poor P-I-N-O-C-C-H-I-O
cross down and

Poor Pinocchio two
He (something something) shoe (learned to tie?)
But poor P-I-N-O-C-C-H-I-O

that's all I remember...does this ring a bell to anyone else?
-Enjal, http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=95;t=000442;p=1 "Topic: Skipping and clapping rhymes", 20 February 2003

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Example #3
"Poor Pinocchio
Does anyone remember the jump rope song about "Poor Pinocchio"?" https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrshoffy/7331562194
published on May 13, 2012 with a photograph:
"Poor Pinocchio 1, he learned to suck his thumb..."
-snip-
The reference to "Poor Pinocchio" as a "jump rope song" is interesting as it suggests that this rhyme was probably chanted before the performance activity for many "jump rope songs" converted to hand clapping (some where around the 1970s and 1980s).

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Example #4:
I vaguely remember a clapping song that went something like

Poor Pinocchio one
He used to suck his thumb
But poor P-I-N-O-C-C-H-I-O
cross down and

Poor Pinocchio two
He (something something) shoe (learned to tie?)
But poor P-I-N-O-C-C-H-I-O

that's all I remember...does this ring a bell to anyone else?
-Enjal, 20 February, 2003, http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=95;t=000442;p=1
-snip-
This contributor's location is given as "the other Portland (US)"

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