Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Buckeye Jim" & "Limber Jim" comments, lyrics, & videos

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents comments, lyric examples, and sound file/video examples of the old time music dance songs "Buckeye Jim" and "Limber Jim").

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composers and collectors of these songs, and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the featured artists in these videos and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

From GUEST,Richie, 17 Nov 02
..."The Limber Jim Songs originated from and combined with various 1800 minstrel song adaptations of the "Froggie Went a Courting/Martin Said To his Man" songs including the "Kemo Kimo" songs, "Kitty Alone" songs and "Goodbye Liza Jane" songs.

Some titles of the "Kemo Kimo" songs are "Keemo Kimo" "Sing Song Kitty (Won't You Ki-Me-O);" "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O", "Kyman-I-Doe;" and "Beaver Creek" which are variants of the old "Froggie Went Courting" songs.

From Children Of The Levee, published by the University of Kentucky Press in 1957. It is a reprint of the original articles written by Lafcadio Hearn in 1874-1877 for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Commercial. Hearn: "But the most famous songs in vogue among the roustabouts is "Limber Jim," or "Shiloh." Very few know it all by heart, which is not wonderful when we consider that it requires something like twenty minutes to sing "Limber Jim" from beginning to end, and that the whole song, if printed in full, would fill two columns of the commercial! The only person in the city who can sing the song through, we believe, is a colored laborer living near Sixth and Culvert streets, who "run on the river" for years, and acquired so much of a reputation by singing "Limber Jim," that he has been nicknamed after the mythical individual aforesaid, and is now known by no other name"...

With regard to Lafcadio Hearn’s article about this song
"[That article] “has been published in several forms. I found it in a little book called CHILDREN OF THE LEVEE, published by the University of Kentucky Press in 1957. It is a reprint of the original articles written by Hearn in 1874-1877 for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Commercial. Here is what he says about the song "Limber Jim":
...The air [tune] is wonderfully quick and lively, and the chorus is quite exciting. The leading singer sings the whole song, excepting the chorus, "Shiloh," which dissyllable is generally chanted by twenty or thirty voices of abysmal depth at the same time with a sound like the roar of twenty Chinese gongs struck with a tremendous force and precision. A great part of "Limber Jim" is very profane, and some of it is not quite fit to print. We can give only about one-tenth part of it.(!) The chorus is frequently accompanied with that wonderfully rapid slapping of thighs and hips known as "patting Juba."

Here's excerpt of the song "Limber Jim" that is quoted by Lafcadio Hearns, March 17, 1876:
Chorus: Limber Jim,
[All.] Shiloh!
Talk it agin,
[All.] Shiloh!
Walk back in love,
[All.] Shiloh!
You turtle-dove,
[All.] Shiloh!

Went down the ribber, couldn't get across;
Hopped on a rebel louse; thought 'twas a hoss,
Oh, lor', gals, 't ain't no lie,
Lice in Camp Chase big enough to cry,--...
The origin of the closely related "Buckeye Jim" song is obscure. According to the Library of Congress, Fletcher Collins collected "Buckeye Jim" (aka "Limber Jim") from Mrs. J.U. (Patty) Newman in 1939, at Elon College, in North Carolina, which is the first documented version.

The "Limber Jim" group of songs includes "Buck-eye Jim" and "Shiloh". There are connections with other fiddle tunes such as "Seven Up". The "Seven Up," "Charlotte Town is Burning Down," "Shiloh," and "Goin' Down to Cairo" are all related to the large body of "Goodbye Liza Jane" songs.

This fiddle tune has floater verses and many variants. There are two distinct versions: the "Way Up/Down Yonder" versions (see also: Jim Along Josie), and the "Weave and Spin" (Limber Jim) versions. There are also versions that include "Shiloh" which appears to be a slang word for a type of dance or dance step in connection with the tune."...

Felicia wrote:

Hullo folks,
When I was a kid I learned to sing a song:

Way up yonder up above the sky,
A bluebird lives in a jaybird's eye...

Be nimble, Jim, ya can't go
Weave and spin, ya can't go
Buckeyed Jim.

Way down yonder in a holler log
An old grey woman died of the whoopin cough.

Be nimble, Jim, ya can't go...

Does anyone recall this song or what Buckeyed Jim would mean?
Excerpt of a response to this query from Angela in KY
"Buckeye" (every meaning but the candy? ) as a reference would seem to denote the dark eyes of Africans -- that might be assumed by lots of folks who associate songs like this, and "slavery times", with the era of chattel slavery; but as Thom Moore's comment indicates, this song probably predates that era. "Buckeye" might've endured among enslaved people of all kinds of color & mixture, as an admonition to keep your gaze "dark" -- impassive, so as not to reveal your emotions or intentions.... whatever the color of your own eyes or skin, or the colors showing in your parents, or your children... or in your "masters", or in their children."...
In that same Rootsweb post, Angela in Ky shares this quote from
"(scroll down to "Michael, Michael" & see paragraphs below lyric)
Thom Moore says: >>>> "One of the more touching sub-themes that comes up in this regard is the mixing of images of death with those of childhood. This is an issue that gets skirted around a lot. I remember hearing an old black American folksong, a children's song, that had a verse in it that went
"Way down yonder in a wooden trough,
an old woman died of the whoopin' cough
Buckeye Jim, y'gotta go
go weave and spin, y'gotta go,
Buckeye Jim."

As usual, there's all kinds of other information in it, too: weaving and spinning were the slave tasks of the earliest white
slaves in America, from the Cromwellian clearances and after. I remember the hairs going up on the back of my head the first time I heard that song. Death is something that doesn't make its way into pop music very much. But there were songs of death in white American folk culture, too, like this one." ["this one" referring to "Michael, Michael" as I take his meaning]"
This comment was reformatted for this post to highlight that verse.

Additional definitions of the word "buckeye" including the colloquial meaning of "protruding eyes".
are found in this pancocojams post about the song "Buckeye Rabbit"

...“Jim” is part of the deepest folk music tradition, harking back to a time when there really wasn’t any such thing as a “definitive” version of a song; lines were added, subtracted, and absorbed as performers carried them from place to place. The “Buckeye Jim” that survives today has its roots in what’s commonly referred to as the “Limber Jim” group or tree of songs, and shares bits of DNA with everything from “Jim Along Josie,” “Shiloh,” and “Liza Jane” (the latter of which boasts its own rich history and large number of offspring)....

In the version Ives came across, the lyrics warned:
Buckeye Jim, you can’t go
Go weave and spin, you can’t go
Buckeye Jim.

Those lines cut to the heart of the song’s roots as a worker’s (or, more accurately, slave’s) lament — a sort of matter-of-fact cautionary tale about the consequences of breaking rules that can’t be broken, and the death that rewards even those who follow the rules. (The folks at Mudcat go into a lot more detail in this thread "“Origin: Limber Jim”
That blogger also cites the Rootsweb comment that is posted above.
A commenter in that same Mudcat discussion thread wrote that the word "limber" in the song "Limber Jim" refers to being agile (flexible) in your movements.

WARNING: The word that is now commonly known as "the n word" is found in a number of verses of "Buckeye Jim" and in other 19th century African American songs archived in & discussed on that folk music forum.

Burl Ives - Buckeye Jim

rockthejukeboxvideo, Uploaded on Oct 7, 2009

A red bird danced with a green bullfrog. Well, that's what this song says, and it's called "Buckeye Jim".

Way up yonder above the sky
A bluebird lived in a jaybird's eye
Buckeye Jim, you can't go
Go weave and spin, you can't go
Buckeye Jim

Way up yonder above the moon
A blue jay nest in a silver spoon
Buckeye Jim, you can't go
Go weave and spin, you can't go
Buckeye Jim

Way down yonder in a wooden trough
An old woman died of the whooping cough
Buckeye Jim, you can't go
Go weave and spin, you can't go
Buckeye Jim

Way down yonder in a hollow log
A red bird danced with a green bullfrog
Buckeye Jim, you can't go
Go weave and spin, you can't go
Buckeye Jim
"Burl Ives Sings Little White Duck and Other Children’s Favorites is a 12-inch LP album of folk songs for children recorded by Burl Ives (vocal and guitar) for Columbia Records between 1949 and 1951"

Example #2: Forest Mountain Hymnal- "Buckeye Jim"


forestmountainhymnal, Uploaded on Jun 1, 2010

The highly anticipated music video for Forest Mountain Hymnal's song "Buckeye Jim"

Example #3: Class 7 - Buckeye Jim, re-working GIVE LINK IN COMMENTS


Radnor Primary, Published on Jul 11, 2013

Class 7 sang Buckeye Jim using their own lyrics. They learned it because it was in the pent atomic scale and this was part of our summer topic in music.
I applaud these children and their teacher for this project and its results. The lyrics of "folk songs" aren't supposed to be fixed. Composing new lyrics for songs that still retain the spirit of the song is true to the way these songs were sung way back then.

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