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Monday, May 12, 2014

Examples of "I've Never Been To College" & "I've Never Been To Frisco" Verses in Children's Rhymes

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents examples of and commentary about the "I've never been to college" verse in children's rhymes. Alternative forms of that verse begin with the line "Ain't never been to college" or "Ain't never been to 'Frisco" (I've never been to Frisco").

The content of this post is provided for folkloric, cultural, and recreational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

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

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STANDARD FORM OF THIS RHYME
"I've never been to college" is the first line of a verse that appears at or near the end of a number of African American originated children's rhymes. The standard lines to this rhyme are
"Ain't never been to college (or "I've never been to college)
Ain't never been to school (or "I've never been to school)
But when it comes to boogie (or "Boogie Woogie")
I'm an educated fool (or "I can boogie like a fool" or a similar line)"
-snip-
"Boogie" = dancing
"Boogie Woogie" is a style of fast paced partner dancing similar if not the same as the (Lindy Hop/Swing dancing of the late 1920s) and the fast dancing of the 1950s.

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SPECULATIVE SOURCE
My guess is that this verse is an adaptation of the 19th century song "Old Jesse" which was collected by the Anglo American folklorist Dorothy Scarborough and included in her 1925 book On The Trail Of Negro Folk Songs (pp 71-72). Here's that song (presented with explanations given in parenthesis). Note: That book spells out what is now known as "the n word". For the purposes of this post I've written that word as "N__".

Chorus:
Old Jesse was a gemman {gentleman}
Among de olden times.

Verse 2
N__ never went to free school,
Nor any odder college.
An' all de white folks wonder whar
Dat N_ got his knowledge.
He chawed {chewed} up all de Bible.
An' den spat out de Scripter,
An' when he 'gin {begin} to arger {argue} strong,
He were a snortin' ripter!
-snip-
According to Dorothy Scarborough, the song "Ole Jesse" is from Alabama. This song shouldn't be confused with another traditional African American plantation song entitled "Uncle Jesse."

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CHRONOLOGICAL EXAMPLES (The featured lines of this verse are given in italics.)
1952, New York City
This verse was included in a review of the vinyl album 1, 2, 3 and a Zing, Zing, Zing, although the rhyme itself wasn't identified in that review:
"While conducting research in his hometown of New York during the summer and fall of 1952, [Tony] Schwartz compiled a large number of recordings in west Midtown Manhattan (his particular subject area was two blocks wide and 20 blocks long)...Since children from diverse cultural backgrounds are sampled, a wide variety of songs and games are presented to the listener. From clapping games played by children between the ages of eight and 12 to camp songs sung at a housing project by preteen youngsters, the breadth of these recordings is definitely broad and the words are certainly entertaining. For example, one young girl rattles off the following passage with a relaxed and swinging lilt: "I never went to college, I never went to school, but when it comes to boogie I'm the educated fool."
http://www.allmusic.com/album/1-2-3-and-a-zing-zing-zing-street-songs-games-of-the-children-of-new-york-city-mw0001162154

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1950s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania [African American girl Barbara Ray, collected by Azizi Powell, 1998]
AUNT JENNY DIED
Soloist:
Aunt Jenny died. .
Group:
How did she die?
Soloist:
She died like this. [The soloist makes a funny pose such as raising one of her legs and raising her arm at the same time & freezing in place.]
Group:
She died like this. [The group tries to exactly imitate the soloist's pose]
Soloist:
She died like that. [The soloist strikes a new pose]
Group:
She died like that.
[The group tries to exactly imitate the soloist's pose. The soloist and the group repeat the same sequence with the mention of other relatives until "momma" is mentioned]
Soloist:
My momma livin'.
Group:
Where she livin'.
Soloist & group in unison:
Well she lives in a place called Tennessee.
Jump up Tenna Tennessee [The entire group performs the movements as indicated by the words]
Jump back Tena Tennesse
Jump in Tena Tennesse
Jump out Tena Tennessee
Well, I've never been to college
I never been to school.
But when it comes to boogie
[On the word "boogie", while still standing in place, the entire group does a hip shaking dance movement; Participants don't have to do the exact same movement]
I can boogie like a fool.
You go in, out, side to side.
You go in, out, side to side.

-snip-
I collected this rhyme from Barbara Ray as part of her response to a voluntary, written survey on children's rhymes that I conducted with fellow staff at my [then] work site. Barbara wrote that girls stood in a circle or semi-circle while chanting this "song". She later performed "Aunt Jenny Died" for me during a break at our work site.

For what it's worth, I don't have any memory of this rhyme from my childhood in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1950s.

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1973 Pointers Sisters, children's rhyme as a preface to the Jump Blues song "Wang Dang Doodle"

Walkin down the alley alley alley
Shakin your jelly jelly jelly
swingin your partner partner partner
Ladies and gentlemen
Children too
These brown babies gonna boogie for you
We gonna turn around
We gonna touch the ground
We gonna step back, and step back, and
boogie on down.
Hands up, ah cha cha chacha
Sam boom! Ah cha cha cha cha
To the front
To the back
To the side side side
To the front
To the back
To the side side side
I never went to college
I never went to school
But when I came back
I was an educated fool


This rendition continues with the "Sams Boom!" lines chanted faster and faster. The group then began singing the "Wang Dang Doodle song. Here's that video:

The Pointer Sisters: Wang Dang Doodle



SafariCreations, Uploaded on May 22, 2009
-snip-
"Wang Dang Doodle" begins at 1:32 of this video. The children's playground rhyme that the Pointer Sisters chanted is a version of "Ladies And Gentlemen, Children Too".

An adapted United Kingdom version of the "Ladies and Gentlemen, Children Too" rhymes is found at http://www.skip-hop.co.uk/dancing-and-movement-skipping-rhymes-c91.html. Here's that version of that rhyme with no date given :
Lord and ladies
Children too
This young lady will dance for you.
She is going to turn around.
She is going to touch the ground.
She’s going to boogie woogie
Till her drawers fall down.
She never went to college
She never went to school.
And now she’s back
She is a nasty fool.


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1973 from Shimmy Shimmy Coke-Ca-Pop! by John Langstaff & Carol Langstaff(Doubleday & Company, Inc.,) p. 15

Oh, you never went to college,
You never went to school.
But when it's time to boogie,
You can boogie like a fool!


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1980, vinyl record Afro-American Tales & Games Told by Linda Gross, Traveling Storyteller
http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/folkways/FW77865.pdf

Chitty, chitty, bang bang
I can do karate
Chitty. Chitty, bang bang
I can shake my body
Chitty. Chitty, bang bang
I can shoot somebody*
Chitty. Chitty, bang bang
Oops, I can shoot somebody

Aunt Dinah died
How did she die?
She died like this (repeat)
Aunt Dinah died
How did she die?
She died like this (repeat)
Aunt Dinah living!
Where she living?

Oh she living in a country called Tennessee
She wears short short dresses
up above her knees
She shakes that shimmy where ever she goes

Hands up, tootsie, tootsie, tootsie
Hands down- tootsie, tootsie, tootsie
Turn around tootsie, tootsie, tootsie
Touch the ground tootsie, tootsie, tootsie

Now I never went to college
And I never went to school
But when it comes to boogie
I can boogie like a fool

To the front to the back to the side side side (repeat)

*I heard this line as “I can hurt somebody” in Pittsburgh area around 2001-2005
On “oops I’m sorry” the partners try to flick each other on the forehead. That line is followed by “I can tell my mommy”.

Although these rhymes are given as one rhyme, they may be recited as independent separate rhymes.

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1987 Step it Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage
by Bessie Jones, Bess Lomax Hawes , p. 31, p. 32 (available on Google Books)
Head and Shoulders Baby
Head and shoulders baby; 1-2-3
Head and shoulders baby; 1-2-3
Head and shoulders baby
Head and shoulders baby
Head and shoulders baby.
Head and shoulders baby; 1-2-3
I ain’t been to Frisco
I ain’t been to school
I ain’t been to college
But I ain’t no fool

To the front
To the back
To the side side side
To the front
To the back
To the side side side
-snip-
Additional verses following the same pattern:
Milk the cow...

Throw the ball...
-snip-
I believe that the very similar verse beginning with the line "I've never been to Frisco" is a variant later form of the "I've Never Been To College" verse. As of this date, I've only found "I've never been to Frisco" verse in versions of the African American originated children's movement song "Head And Shoulders Baby".
"Frisco' = San Francisco (California)
-snip-
Here's an example of this rhyme performed by an adult elementary education class:

Head and Shoulders Baby



Vincent Bates, Uploaded on Apr 1, 2011
-snip-
Directions for playing as a partner hand game [hand clap game]
"Cross R on 1
Cross L on 2
Cross R on 3
Jump front on “front”
Jump back on “back”
Jump right left right (both feet) on “side side side”
-snip-
Milk the cow = perform an up and down tugging motion with both hands held up in front of your body

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RELATED LINKS
Additional examples of the "I've Never Been To College" verse can be found in these pancocojams blog posts:
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/05/ladies-and-gentlemen-children-too.html for information about and examples of that playground rhyme

http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/08/aunt-jenny-died-childrens-playground.html

and
http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/02/front-back-side-to-side-in-childrens.html

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Visitor comments are welcome.

2 comments:

  1. Loved the article. It brought back memories of singing songs in my childhood (born in '76). I was wondering if you'd ever gone to the South to research such songs. I'm curious add to the similarities and differences between songs from different regions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greetings, Kelli!

      Thanks for your comment.

      In response to your question, no, I've not been to the South to do any research. The only direct collecting that I've done is in my adopted city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and its surrounding areas between the 1980s to around 2010.

      Most of my research is from the internet. Google is my friend :o)

      That said, I'd love to have done more direct research and might do so in the future.

      Delete