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Friday, January 25, 2013

Examples Of "Up And Down The Road I Go"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents lyrics of three African American folk songs that contain a verse beginning with the line "Up and down this road I go" and which also include the verse "Got a letter from ___ town"/East Saint Louis is burning down".

A sound file of one of these songs is included in this post. Unfortunately, I've not been able to find an online sound file or online video of the other two examples.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

FEATURED EXAMPLES
Example #1: Blind Arvella Gray Arvella's Work Song



Yamit Motek, Published on Jul 18, 2012

Blind Arvella Gray Arvella's Work Song - uploaded via http://www.mp32u.net/
-snip-
This sound file is probably from Arvella Gray's 1972 vinyl record Blind Arvella Gray- The Singing Drifter. That record was reissued in 2005 by Conjuroo Recordings.

Information about Arvella Gray's record can be found at http://www.stlblues.net/reviews_uj_blindarvella.htm
-snip-
Lyrics: Arvella's Work Song

[Arvella Gray talking]

Every morning, Captain Bo Bobbin would say to his foreman,
He say “Yeah ah when them boys sang them ah,
those lonesome songs, you’d betta watch ‘em,
but when they sang them happy songs, they alright.

[Arvella Gray begins singing and accompanies himself with handclaps.]
Verse #1
Little by little as the day grow long,
We gonna sing some happy song.
Little by little as the day grow long,
We gonna sing some happy song.
Little by little as the day grow long,
We gonna sing some happy song.

Verse #2
One of these mornings, it won’t be long
Captain gonna call me and I’ll be gone.
One of these mornings, and it won’t be long
Captain gonna call me and I’ll be gone.
Don’t you let the gator to the pond*

Verse #3
Do he give you more trouble than the day are long.
Don’t you let that gator to the pond
Do he give you more trouble than the day are long.

Verse #4
I went to the river and I couldn’t get across.
I jumped on an alligator, I thought he was a horse.
I went to the river and I couldn’t get across.
I jumped on an alligator, I thought he was a horse.

Verse #5
I caught him by the ear I speared him in the flank
You oughta see that alligator gettin to the bank.
I caught him by the ear I speared him in the flank
You oughta see that alligator gettin to the bank.

Verse #6
Up and down the road I go
Skippin and a dodgin from a 44.
Up and down that road I go
A skippin and a dodgin from a 44.

Verse #7
I gotta letter from a-Haggintown
East Saint Louey is burnin down.
I gotta letter from a-Haggintown
East Saint Louey is burnin down.

Verse #8
A newborn baby born last night
A-walkin and a-talkin ‘fore day light.
A newborn baby born last night
A-walkin and a-talkin ‘fore day light.

Verse #9
Waterboy bring your water 'round.
Don’t like your job, set your bucket down
Waterboy bring your water 'round.
Don’t like your job, set your bucket down.

Verse #10
Jack the rabbit, Jack the bear
Can’t you line ‘em, just a hair.
Jack the rabbit, Jack the bear
Can’t you line the track a hair.

Verse #11
Down in the wilderness a-preachin to the poor.
Gonna make this ten a six and a four.
Down in the wilderness a-preachin to the poor.
Gonna make this ten a six and a four.

Um! Um!
-snip-
This is my transcription from the video. Any additions or corrections are appreciation.

TEXT ANALYSIS OF SOME VERSES OF "ARVELLA'S WORK SONG"
Introductory Comments: The Captain's comments are interesting from a sociological standpoint since the nature of the workers' songs was felt to predict whether they would cause trouble or not. Further discussion of this point is beyond the scope of this post.

Verse #2: This is a floating verse from Spirituals (Floating verses" are found in a number of other songs or rhymes). In this verse, the "Captain" replaces God, Jesus, or "My Lord".

Verse #3: This line probably means "don’t you let that gator get to the pond."

Verse #4: This is a floating verse that is found in a number of African American folk songs & rhymes. Click http://www.gutenberg.org/files/27195/27195-h/27195-h.htm Project Gutenberg EBook [EBook #27195] version of Thomas W. Talley's 1922 compilation Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise And Otherwise for the examples "Crossing The River" and "Gray and Black Horses.

Verse #6 &7 are the two central verses that appear in each of the three songs in this post. Notice the sllght differences in these verses in the both of the other two song examples featured on this page.

A .44 is a type of gun.

Verse #7 refers to the East St. Louis [Illinois] Riot of 1917 in which much of the Black section of the town was burned to the ground by White residents, and many people were killed. For information about that tragedy, click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_St._Louis_Riot

I recall seeing the first line given as "Got a letter from Hagerstown". The versions of that line here and in the other examples are probably folk etymology forms of that name (though I'm not sure of the currect spelling of that location.)

That first line is also given as "Got a letter from Charlottetown" or "Got a letter from Shiloh town". And it's very likely that there are other versions of this line.

This verse is also found in the folk song "Sail Away Ladies".

Verse #10: Notice that Ella Jenkins (Example #2) indicated that she learned her clip of this song from Arvella Gray. Also, notice that the author of Ella Jenkin's record (citation below) wrote that "Mr. Gray had worked on the railroad when he was younger." It seems likely to me that Arvella Gray learned most if not all of these verses from lining track.
-snip-
For what it's worth, my guess is that the name "Arvella" is a form of the name "Orville".

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Example #2: Ella Jenkins - "Up And Down This Road I Go"
http://lfs.alexanderstreet.com/liner/bae2560124e9cecb81df4eb2c77d66e3/SFW45003.pdf
Smithsonian Folkways music notes for Ella Jenkins And The Goodwill Spiritual Choir Of Monumental Baptist Church
African American Folk Rhythms Record
Curator- Anthony Seeger, Smithsonian Folkways Collection, August 1988

Ella Jenkins learned this song from Arvella Gray, a blind street singer who played and sang on street corners as well as in music clubs on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. His street side audiences preferred to hear spirituals. Every year before the Kentucky Derby, he would take a train to Louisville and make a lot of money playing to the racegoers. Mr. Gray had worked on the railroad when he was younger and said that a bullet from a .44 had blinded him. His song carried a bit of his life as well as his music with it.

Up and down this road I go
Slippin and a doggin
From a 44.
Up and down this road I go
Slippin and a doggin
From a 44.

Jack the rabbit. Jack the bear
Won’t you line it
Just one hair.
Jack the rabbit. Jack the bear
Won’t you line it
Just one hair.

Got a letter from Hag in town
East St Louis is burnin down
Got a letter from Hag in town
East St Louis is burnin down

Got a letter from Hag in town
East St Louis is burnin down
Got a letter from Hag in town
East St Louis is burnin down

****
Example #3: Excerpt from Blues from the Delta by William Ferris, Da Capo Press; Revised edition (1988) page 34
From http://books.google.com/books?id=BUQA69Dpi6EC&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=east+saint+louis+is+burning+down+song&source=bl&ots=z-tVyDc5TP&sig=6OMIGZbsr0STDZoo54InsK6sveM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=g9oBUcfGIILC0QHXuYCwAg&sqi=2&ved=0CEQQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=east%20saint%20louis%20is%20burning%20down%20song&f=false

When you linin track you say

Up and down this road I go
Slippin and a doggin
From a 44.
Up and down this road I go
Skippin a
nd a divin for my 44.
Ha Ha, way over.
Ha Ha, way over.
Poor boys, pull together.
Track line much better.
Whoa!
Then we might say for the next track:

Oh, I got a letter from Haggis town
East St Louis is burnin down
Ha Ha, way over.
Ha Ha, way over.
Poor boys, pull together.
Track line much better.
Whoa!

There’s a lot more verses for track lining, but most of them have bad stuff in ‘em. If you don’t care, I’ll put them on here too.

Oh talkin ‘bout a pretty girl, you oughta see mine.
She got big titties and a broad behind.
Ha Ha, way over.
Ha Ha, way over.
Poor boys, pull together.
Track line much better.
Whoa!

****
RELATED LINKS
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/10/early-versions-of-cant-you-line-em.html Early Versions Of "Can't You Line' Em" ("Linin' Track")

http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=97649#1923691 Origins: Sail Away Ladies; Mudcat Cafe; "East Saint Louis is burnin down" verse [letter from Shiloh town]

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
Thanks to the unknown composer/s of these songs. Thanks also to Arvella Gray for his musical legacy. My thanks also to the authors of the articles that are quoted in this post, and the uploader of this featured sound file.

Also, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome

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