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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"The Old Black Booger" Folk Song (information, comments, & lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

"The Old Black Booger" is a folk song with an interesting title whose structure, lyrics, and tune clearly testify to its membership in the "Old Shoe Boots And Leggings" family.

Here's information about the "Old Shoe Boots And Leggings" family of folk songs
From http://web.spsp.net/jbealle/bullfrog/Bullfrogtext.html

Introduction:
Bullfrog Jumped: The Long and Short Histories of Songs on the CD
by Joyce Cauthen
"Bullfrog Jumped is a CD of children’s songs that were recorded across Alabama in 1947

..."Under a wide variety of titles, "Old Shiboots and Leggings" has appeared in British and American collections since the 1700s. Other titles include "The Old Man's Courtship," "Old Shoes and Leggins," "The Old Man from Over the Sea," "Old Grey Beard," "The Dottered Auld Carle," and many others. All depict, in farcical tones, a failed courtship. Early country music versions were recorded by Henry Whitter ("Overshoes and Leggins," Okeh, 1926), Uncle Eck Dunford ("Old Shoes and Leggins," Victor V-40060, 1928) and the Burnett Brothers ("Old Shoes a-Draggin'," Victor 23727, 1932).

Among the many variants, there are a few narrative strategies that commonly recur. Callie Craven's version* follows a well-known course: at the mother's insistence, a hapless suitor is offered chances at courtship; the dutiful daughter seems to have little hope of avoiding marriage; but the man spoils the courtship with his ridiculous and crude behavior.

Although there some versions by male singers, this song is chiefly a women's song"..."
*Click http://www.allmusic.com/song/old-shiboots-and-leggings-mt0031668966 "Old Shiboots and Leggings" for a brief sound file of Callie Craven singing this song. (1946)

Also, click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/09/racially-derogatory-variants-of-old.html for a pancocojams post about this family of folk songs.

Here's a link to a brief sound file and lyrics for "The Old Black Booger"
http://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/songinformation.aspx?ID=881

Cat. #0881 (MFH #687) - As sung by Ollie Gilbert, Mountain View, Arkansas on August 29, 1969

Here are the lyrics that are given on that website:

VERSE 1
O, yonder comes that ole black booger
O, I won't have him
Com'in across't th sea, t' marry me
With his ole shoe, boots an' leggins

VERSE 2
My mamma, she told me, t' open th door
O, I won't have him
I opened th door an' he fell in th floor
With his ole shoe, boots an' legg'ins

VERSE 3
Well, mamma she told me, t' set 'im a chair
O, I won't have him
Set 'im chair an' he looked like a dear
With his ole shoe, boots an' leggins

VERSE 4
Well mamma, she told me, t' set 'im a plate
O, I won't have him
Set 'im a plate an' he eat like a snake
With his ole shoe, boots an' legg'ins

VERSE 5
Well mamma, she told me, t' fix his bed
O, I won't have him
Fixed his bed an' he stood on his head
With his ole shoe, boots an' legg'ins

VERSE 6
Well mammy told me go saddle his horse
O, I won't have him
Went t' saddle his horse an' th bridle was lost
An' his ole shoe, boots an' legg'ins

VERSE 7
Mamma she told me, t' bid 'im farewell
O, I won't have him
I bid 'im farewell but I wished 'im in Hell
With his ole shoe, boots an' legg'ins

Variants
0217 With His Old Gray Beard a Shining
0254 With His Long Cane Pipe a Smokin'
0289 With His Ole Gray Beard A Shining
1539 Old Shoes and Leggins

COMMENTS ABOUT "THE OLD BLACK BOOGER"
The word "black"
Given that song's theme of a woman being courted by a ridiculous, crude old man, I believe that the word "Black" in the song "The Old Black Booger" refers to a person of ill repute and not a person of African descent.

For information about the adjective "black" being considered a negative, consider the sixth definition of that word in http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/black
"a: thoroughly sinister or evil : wicked

b: indicative of condemnation or discredit "
-snip-
Also consider the meaning of the noun a "blackheart"...
http://www.ask.com/question/what-is-the-meaning-of-a-black-heart
"a person who have [sic] no feelings and no regards for other people's feelings. A healthy heart is considered to be red."

Of course, the definition of "black" as given above, if not the definition of "blackheart", is steeped in racism. But the point is that the use of the word "black" in "The Old Black Booger" song (or in any other song) doesn't necessarily mean that the song is about Black people.

That the word "black" in "The Old Black Booger" doesn't refer to a Black man is particularly true because in the Southern part of the United States, and elsewhere in that country up until fairly recently (and still among many people today) it would have been anathema for a White woman to be courted by a Black man. (Notice that I'm assuming that this song was sung by White Americans who weren't putting on the role of a Black person while singing this song.)

For those reasons, I don't think that the inclusion of the word "Black" in that song's title causes it to be categorized as racially deregoratory.

**
The word "booger"
I believe that the word "booger" in the song "The Old Black Booger" probably is a put down term for a man who thinks he is frightening.
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booger
Booger [second colloquial definition]
"A ghost or hobgoblin used to frighten children, also boogerman, boogieman, or bogeyman (mainly southern U.S.)."

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The word "mammy"
I think that the use of the word "mammy" in this song [VERSE 6
"Well mammy told me go saddle his horse"] doesn't mean that the singer was Black or that the singer was putting on the role of a Black person for the purpose of this song. Non-Black people in the American South and in other nations also used the word "mammy". Note the past tense, as the word "mammy" has long been is retired from formal or informal use in the USA, probably because of its close association with the ante-bellum South. And I believe that "mammy" has also been retired from use in other nations - as well it should be.

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ADDENDUM
Although these songs aren't related, I'm intrigued by the possibility that the word "booger" in the song "The Old Black Booger" could remind people of the song "Old Johnny Booker" which was also known as "Johnny Booger" and "Mister Booger", among other songs. In early versions of that song, the character "Johnny Booker" (Booger, Bucca, Bucker) wasn't necessarily Black, but the person asking for his help certainly was Black.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-old-time-song-johnny-booker.html for a post about the song "Johnny Booker".

Also click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/09/gus-cannon-old-john-booker-you-call.html for a post about the song "Old John Booker You Call That Gone.

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RELATED LINKS
http://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/songinformation.aspx?ID=0217 "With His Old Gray Beard a Shining"

**
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=19426 "Penguin: The Old Man From Lee"

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Thanks to all who I have quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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