Friday, March 14, 2014

"Goodbye Liza Jane" (also known as "Going To Cairo", "Black Them Boots" etc.) lyrics & videos

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents lyrics and five YouTube videos of the Old Time Music song "Goodbye Liza Jane" (also known as "Going To Cairo", "Black Them Boots", "Scraping Sand In The Bottom Of The Sea", and other titles). Comments about these songs are also included in this post.

The composers of these songs are unknown. However, many of these songs' verses are found in 19th century dance songs that have been attributed to African Americans.

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.

(These comments/lyrics are presented in no particular order and are numbered for reference purposes only.

1. From
"Sung by: James Clifton Ferrell
Recorded in Memphis, TN 6/30/63

Black them boots and make them shine,
A goodbye and a goodbye.
Black them boots and make them shine,
Goodbye, Liza Jane.
Oh, how I love her,
It's a scandal and shame.
Oh, how I love her,
And it's goodbye, Liza Jane.

Black them boots and make them shine,
It's a goodbye and a goodbye.
Black them boots to make them shine,
And a goodbye, Liza Jane.

(Comment by Mr. Ferrell: "We used to have a . . . At school, there was four of us that used to play them things, them play-party numbers and dance to it. And there was a whole bunch of them things that we would do, and I just . . . Every once in a while once of them runs across my mind. Now that's one, and I . . . I bet I haven't put that together in years like that.")"
"Black them boots" means to polish the boots with boot wax. (Initially, "black" was the only color of shoe and boot polish (wax).) My sense from these lyrics is that the singer was getting his boots polished so that he would make a good impression on Liza Jane who was leaving town after rejecting his romantic interest. Another song title in the large family of "Liza Jane" songs is "Rejected By Liza Jane"[Read Comment #5 below]. "Poor Liza" ("Poor Old Liza Jane") is another Old Time Music "Liza Jane" song. The lyrics to that song indicate that Liza died on the train.

2. From
"The story behind “Going Down to Cairo" is certainly specific to Illinois. In his book “Folk Songs and Singing Games of the Illinois Ozarks,” David McIntosh said it comes from a “play party” circle dance for eight couples. In spite of its strong association with children’s singing games, it traces back to Cairo’s past as a wide-open river town when farmers shipped corn to market there by flatboat.

“It was pretty hard to find a good place to pass the time away so they began going to the saloons and various other places where they were entertained,” said McIntosh’s source for the song. “The women noticed on the return trips that the men ‘blacked their boots’ and dressed up a great deal more than usual and began to make frequent trips to Cairo.”

The words are:
Black them boots and make them shine,
Goodbye and a goodbye.
Black them boots and make them shine,
Goodbye, Liza Jane.

Going down to Cairo, with a goodbye and a goodbye.
Going down to Cairo, goodbye Liza Jane.

And another verse begins:
I ain’t got time to kiss you now,
Goodbye and a goodbye.
I ain't got time to kiss you now,
Goodbye, Liza Jane ..."
“Cairo” (pronounced KAY-row] is a town in Illinois.

That blogger also wrote "Maybe there’s an echo here of how a rowdy old fiddle tune like “Going Down to Cairo” turned up in southern Illinois as a children’s game."

3. From "Lyr Req: Limber Jim: History & Lyrics", posted by John Minear, 04 Jul 02
[writing about songs that include the refrain "Shiloh" as does versions of "Limber Jim"]
"...I have found two other references on this. First of all is the play-party song in Ruth Crawford Seeger's AMERICAN FOLK SONGS FOR CHILDREN, pp. 96-97, called "Scraping Up Sand In The Bottom Of The Sea".... The chorus goes:
Scraping up sand in the bottom of the sea, Shiloh, Shiloh,
Scraping up sand in the bottom of the sea, Shiloh, Liza Jane.

[Pete] Seeger says that this comes from "The Missouri Play-Party" by Mrs. L.D.Ames, Vol. 24 of the AMERICAN FOLKLORE SOCIETY's bulletin.

There is a verse in this song that goes:
Black those shoes and make them shine,
Shiloh, Shiloh,
Black those shoes and make them shine,
Shiloh, Liza Jane.

Vance Randolph, in his OZARK FOLKSONGS (Vol ?, p. 359) has a version of this song, without the "Shiloh" response, that goes:
Black them boots an' make'em shine,
Good-bye, good-bye,
Black them boots an' make'em shine,
Good-bye, Lazy Jane.
Oh how I love her, ain't that a shame?
Goobye, goodbye,
Oh how I love her, ain't that a shame?
Goodbye lazy Jane
See that snail a-pullin' that rail?
Goodbye, goodbye,
See that snail a-pullin' that rail?
Goodbye, lazy Jane.

In his headnote, Randolph says, "Compare the "Shiloh" game-song reported by Ames (JAFL 24, 1911, p.317), also a similar item published by Hamilton (JAFL 27, 1914, p.296) under the title "So Goodbye Susan Jane."
For the record (no pun intended), John Minear also mentioned that the song "Salt Rising Bread" (#110 pp. 71-72) in Thomas W. Talley's 1922 collection Negro Folk Rhymes Wise and Otherwise has a verse that mentions dancing "Shiloh". That blogger also wrote that "There is a very interesting discussion [about call and response and dancing Juba]... at the end of Talley's book (p.269). The response "Shiloh!" would be given by the larger group of people"...

A digital reproduction of Talley's book can be found at

4. From "Going to Shiloh? (from John Hartford)", posted by Will,27 Feb 97
Subject: Lyr Add: SHILOH (from Kathleen Krull)
"I don't know about John Hartford, Kathleen Krull's book "Gonna Sing My Head Off" has the following lyrics.
2/4 time, in E
Scraping up sand in the bottom of the sea, Shiloh, Shiloh.
Scraping up sand in the bottom of the sea, Shiloh, Lisa Jan.
Ch: Oh, how I love her, O, Liza Jane. Oh, how I love her, goodbye Liza Jane.
v2. Black those boots and make them shine.
v3. A hump-back mule I'm bound to ride.
v4. Hopped up a chicken and he flew upstairs."

5. From
"GOODBYE LIZA JANE [1]. AKA- "Liza Jane (1)." Old-Time, Bluegrass, Western Swing; Breakdown. USA. ... Bob Wills (Texas), the father of western swing, said this was the first tune he learned (as "Goodbye, Miss Liza Jane") to fiddle.

Swing Ma, swing Pa, goodbye, goodbye,
Swing that gal from Arkansas, Goodbye Liza Jane.

Oh how I loved her, ain't that a shame,
Oh how I loved her, Goodbye Liza Jane.

Swing that gal and don't be late, goodbye, goodbye,
Knock down Sal, big fat gate, Goodbye Liza Jane.

Take a chaw of tobacco, spit on the wall, goodbye, goodbye,
Swing that gal clear across the hall, Goodbye Liza Jane.

Three wheels 're off and the axel's draggin', goodbye, goodbye,
You can't ride the little red wagon, Goodbye Liza Jane.

Other versions go:

Charlotte Town is burning down, goodbye, goodbye.
Burning down to the ground, goodbye, Liza Jane.

Oh, how I miss you, ain't that a shame,
Oh, how I miss you, goodbye, Liza Jane.

Alt. Chorus:
Ain't y'mighty sorry? Goodbye, bye-bye
Ain't y'mighty sorry? Goodbye, Liza Jane.

Liza Jane had a dress of red, goodbye, goodbye,
Queen of hearts, or so she said, goodbye, Liza Jane.

Liza Jane countin' her toes
You can smell her feet wherever she goes.

I got a gal and a hound dog too,
She don't bite, but the hound dog do.

Liza Jane 'bout half grown,
Jumps on a man like a dog on a bone

Liza Jane, pretty as a rose,
Bites her nails and picks her nose.

Goin' down to Caro, goodbye, goodbye,
Goin' down to Caro, goodbye Liza Jane.

Well, I blacked my boots and I made 'em shine, goodbye, goodbye.
I blacked my boots and I made 'em shine, goodbye Liza Jane.

A version of the tune and song, under the title "Rejected by Eliza Jane," was collected by the African-American collector Thomas Talley which he printed in his book Negro Folk Rhymes (1922, reprinted 1991 edited by Charles Wolfe). His lyrics go:

W'en I went 'cross de cotton patch
'I give my ho'n a blow.
I thought I heared pretty Lizie say:
"Oh, yonder come my beau!"

So: I axed pretty Lizie to marry me,
An' what d'you reckon she said?
She said she wouldn' marry me,
If ev'ybody else was dead.

An': As I went up de new cut road,
An' she go down de land;
Den I though I heared somebody say:
"Good-bye, ole Liza Jane!"

Well: Jes get 'long, Lizie, my true love.
Git 'long, Miss Lizie Jane.
Perhaps you'll sack "Ole Sour Bill"
An' git choked on "Sugar Cain." "

These examples are presented in chronological order based on their YouTube posting date. The videos with the oldest dates are given first.

Example #1: Turkey Creek String Band - "Goodbye Liza Jane"

TurkeyCreekSB, Uploaded on Jul 15, 2009

The Turkey Creek String Band is an exciting seven-person acoustic ensemble centered in Southern Middle Tennessee.
Our repertoire consists of traditional fiddle tunes, folk, western swing, waltzes, bluegrass, and Irish jigs...

Example #2: Going down to cairo


TheGriffon87, Uploaded on Jan 26, 2010

Groupe folklorique "LOU GAIS MARCHOIS" danses western

Example #3: Goodbye Liza Jane - Bob Wills with Tommy Duncan vocal.wmv

radiobob805, Uploaded on Sep 15, 2010

Example #4: Going Down to Cairo


dejibber, Uploaded on Jun 4, 2011

Julia Kindergarten Musical "Going down to Cairo"

Example #5: Bullis Charter School Treble Voices Going Down To Cairo


Anthony Shortland, Published on May 16, 2013

Bay Section CMEA Area V - Large Group Choral Festival

Saratoga High School, Saturday May 11th 2013

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  1. What a wonderful thing you are doing here. Thanks. I'll be back soon.

    1. You're welcome, Chappie.

      I appreciate your comment. I love learning about these topics and sharing the information I find with others.

      Best wishes and One Love!