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Monday, May 13, 2013

Leadbelly - "Po' Howard" and "Green Corn" (examples & lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents a sound files of & lyrics to the Sukey Jump songs "Po' [Poor] Howard" and "Green Corn". This post also includes comments about several phrases and lines found in those two songs.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

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INFORMATION ABOUT SUKEY JUMP SONGS
"Sukey Jump" is a long obsolete, Southern Black American colloquial referent for Black people's country dances. The term "sukey jumps" also referred to the fast paced music that itinerant musicians played at those dances. The word "sukey" rhymes with "LOOK ee".

Most of the information about sukey jumps comes from several 1939/1940 recordings of Folk/Blues singer/musician Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) as well as interviews of Leadbelly that were conducted & recorded by folklorist/collector Alan Lomax. From Leadbelly's comments, it appears that the term "sukey jumps" was used in the Deep South (states such as Louisiana, Texas, & Mississippi) prior to the end of slavery in the United States (1865) and at least until 1940. In 1935 her book Mules To Men about life for Black people in rural Florida, Black folklorist Zora Neale Hurston also used the term "sukey Jump" as a referent for a dance attended by Black people which was held outdoors around a bonfire.

According to online sources who quoted Leadbelly or others, the music for Sukey Jumps was provided by musicians/vocalists who played the accordion, fiddle, and/or guitar and sang accompaniment. "Po Howard" and "Green Corn" are two of the songs mentioned in those articles.

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FEATURED EXAMPLES
Example #1: LEAD BELLY ~ Poor Howard (Po' Howard)


3006khz,, Published on Dec 30, 2012

Poor Howard (Green Corn). The audio is hard to hear, but, i think this is one of Lead Belly's coolest tunes.

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Example #2: Green Corn - Leadbelly (come along cholly)



songs1994, Uploaded on Mar 3, 2009
-snip-
"Cholly" is a nickname for "Charles" (similar to "Charlie").

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LYRICS TO PO' HOWARD/GREEN CORN
(as sung by Leadbelly)
From http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=4280 "Lyr Req/Add: Poor Howard / Green Corn"

Song lyric #1:
Subject: RE: Req/ADD: Poor Howard/Green Corn (from Leadbelly)
From:BrooklynJay
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 09:51 PM

Here are the lyrics and notes to Poor Howard, transcribed from page 53 of Lead Belly - No Stranger To The Blues:

Transcribed from 1940 Library of Congress sessions now available on Lead Belly/Gwine Dig A Hole To Put The Devil In, Rounder CD 1045. Other Lead Belly recordings: Lead Belly/In The Shadow Of The Gallows Pole, Tradition CD 1018, Lead Belly/Bourgeois Blues and Lead Belly Memorial Vols. 3 & 4, Collectables Cds 5183 and 5604 (1939 Musicraft sessions). Additional Library of Congress recordings are included in two monologues on square dances or sooky jumps: Lead Belly/Go Down Old Hannah, Rounder CD 1099 and Lead Belly/The Library of Congress Recordings, Elektra boxed LP set EKL-301/2.

He was the first fiddler after Negroes got freed in slavery times. Po' Howard was a Negro, used to play for 'em at the sooky jumps and the number he played it was "Po' Howard, Po' Boy." ...Because they dance so fast, the music was so fast and the people had to jump, so they always called them sooky jumps...Sooky, well that's a cow - sometimes when you tell it "sooky, sooky, sooky", you know, sookin' the cow away.
Huddie Ledbetter, 1940

Old Howard's poor boy.
Old Howard's dead and gone.
Left me here to sing this song.

Left me here to sing this song. (3)
Who's been here since I've been gone? (2)

Pretty little girl with a red dress on. (2)
Pretty little girl with a red dress on, old Howard's poor boy.
Left me here to shout for joy.
Old Howard's dead and gone.

Left me here to sing this song. (2)
Left me here to sing this song, old Howard's dead and gone.
Old Howard's poor boy, old Howard's poor boy.
Left me here to shout for joy, goodbye Howard, dead and gone.

(additional lyrics from Elektra Library of Congress recording)

Who's been here since I been gone?
Big black man with a derby on,

The day I left my mother's home
The day I left my home
The day I left my father's door
The day I left my home
The day I left my friends (4)
-snip-
Song lyrics #2:
Subject: RE: Lyric req: poor howard
From:Doctor John
Date: 19 Dec 00 - 02:16 PM

More...
Who's been here since I've been gone?
Pretty little girl with a red dress on - or -
Great big man with a Derby on. (X2)
Poor Howard was his mother's poor boy...etc
Left me here to shout for joy
Green Corn
Green corn, come along Charlie (X2)
Green corn, green corn, come along Charlie(X2)
All I want in this creation, Pretty little wife and a big plantation.
Two little kids to call me poppa, One named Slop and the other named Gravy. (x2)
One's gonna flop and the other's gonna save me.
Green corn...
Wake snake day's a breaking, Peas's in the pot and howcakes* a baking.
Green corn...
-snip-
*"howcakes="hoecakes"
-snip-
Song Lyric #3
Posted By: GUEST,Martin
17-Aug-06 - 12:07 PM
Thread Name: Req/ADD: Poor Howard/Green Corn (from Leadbelly)
Subject: ADD: Green Corn (from Leadbelly)
The version I've got sounds like this...

GREEN CORN
green corn come along charlie
green corn come along charlie
green corn go and tell Polly
green corn go and tell Polly

green corn
green corn
green corn
green corn

all I want in this creation
's a little bitty wife and big carnation

Two little boys to call me pappa
One named [Thomas?] another named Davey

One named [Thomas?] another named Davey
One's gonna put up, other's gonna save me

green corn come along charlie
green corn come along charlie
green corn go and tell Polly
green corn go and tell Polly

green corn
green corn
green corn
green corn

Wake Jake day's a breaking, Peas's in the pot and [?]cakes a baking

green corn
green corn

Stand around, stand around the demi-john [sounds like 'Jimmy John']
Stand around, stand around the demi-john
Stand around, stand around the demi-john
Stand around, stand around the demi-john

[Talks a bit about demi-johns]

Stand around, stand around the demi-john
Stand around, stand around the demi-john
Stand around, stand around the demi-john
Stand around, stand around the demi-john

green corn
green corn
green corn

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SONG SOURCES AND THE MEANING OF CERTAIN LINES
Comment #1: Regarding the line "Old Howard's Dead And Gone"
I believe that the line "Old Howard's dead and gone" is lifted from the "Pompey is dead" family of folk songs & children's game songs.

Those songs originated in Great Britain and were known to 19th century (and earlier?) African Americans by the name "Old Ponto Is Dead", "Poor Roger Is Dead" and other similar titles.
For an example of this rhyme http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=121468
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Comment #2: Regarding the phrase "jimmy-John" [This is an excerpt of a comment that I posted in 2009 on this Mudcat thread: http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=126099 "Origins: What a Jimmy-john is?"

"[Jimmy-John] is probably folk etymology for "demi-john". See this excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carboy

"A carboy is a container for fluids, typically used for in-home fermentation of beverages, often wine...

In brewing, a carboy is also known as a demijohn. It is a glass or plastic vessel used in fermenting beverages such as wine, mead, and beer. Usually it is fitted with a rubber stopper and a fermentation lock to prevent bacteria and Oxygen from entering during the fermentation process."
-snip-
Also, see this repost from another Mudcat thread:

Subject: RE: Req/ADD: Poor Howard (from Leadbelly)
From: MikeofNorthumbria - PM
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 09:50 AM

Justr a thought about "stand around the demi-john"

I remember reading somewhere (sorry, no reference available) that old-time dancers sometimes demonstrated their skill by stepping around - and over - a demi-john (a gallon liquor jar) without touching it (A bit like the bacca-pipes jig or the broom dance.)

Since "Green corn" is clearly a dance tune, this might be how the demi-john got in there."
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Comment #3: Regarding the word "hoecakes"
"Hoecakes" are a type of "johnnycake".
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnnycake
"Johnnycake (also jonnycake, johnny cake, journey cake, shawnee cake and johnny bread) is a cornmeal flatbread that was an early American staple food and is prepared on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Jamaica...

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term hoecake first occurs in 1745, and the term is used by American writers such as Joel Barlow and Washington Irving.[12] The origin of the name is the method of preparation: field hands often cooked it on a shovel or hoe held to an open flame. Hoes designed for cotton fields were large and flat with a hole for the long handle to slide through; the blade would be removed and placed over a fire much like a griddle."[13]

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Comment #4: Regarding the phrase “shout for joy”:
In my opinion, the phrase "shout for joy" in Leadbelly's songs "Po' Howard"/"Green Corn" doesn't mean "exclaiming loudly", but refers to a type of religious dance that is done when people "feel the [Holy] Spirit (the Holy Ghost]. "Feeling the Spirit" is also referred to as "getting happy" and that involuntary religious dance is called "the holy dance". That "holy dance" is characterized by performing fast foot shuffling movements in time to uptempo religious music.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/05/black-church-praise-break-videos.html for video examples of praise breaks in African American churches.

Also click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/05/african-american-ring-shouts-origins.html for information about and reinactments of African American ring shouts.

Two other characteristic movements that occurs when people "get happy" in church ("shout for joy"; "feel the spirit") is when people spontaneously run down the aisle or run around the entire church sanctuary. These movements can be directly traced to the "ring shout".

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RELATED LINKS
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/05/what-sukey-jumps-means-information-song.html What "Sukey Jumps" Mean (information & song examples)

Also, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID4PHKQYRto for a sound file of the Bluegrass song "Hot Corn Cold Corn" which I think is related to "Green Corn". There are earlier sound files of this song performed by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, but the lyrics of those song files are harder to understand.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
Thanks to Leadbelly for his musical legacy. Thanks to those whose comments I quoted in this post, and thanks to the YouTube publishers of these sound files.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

2 comments:

  1. Really interesting! I was singing 'Old Howard's Dead and Gone, Left Me Here To Sing This Song' yesterday and have now found out lots more about a song I only knew a bit of. Thanks very much. Michael Godwin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Michael Godwin.

      I appreciate your comment. I learned about this song thanks to the internet.

      Delete