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Saturday, July 2, 2016

"Old Dollar Mamie" (African American Prison Work Song)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases two sound files of the prison work song "Old Dollar Mamie" (also known as "Dollar Mamie"). Information about "Old Dollar Mamie" and a transcription of this song's lyrics are also included in this post.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to the identified and the unidentified men who sang this work song in the examples which are featured below. My heart goes out to all those who sung such an emotionally moving song under such terrible conditions. My thanks also to the John and Alan Lomax, the collectors & recorders of this song. Thanks to the publishers of this song on YouTube.

Hat tip to Julia Glanville whose comments about "Dollar Mamie" in July 1, 2016 on a pancocojams post about the song "Rock Island Line"a reminded me about this song.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/06/o-berta-prison-blues.html for another prison work song from Parchman Farm, Mississippi

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SUMMARY STATEMENT ABOUT "DOLLAR MAMIE"
"Old Dollar Mamie" is an African American call & response work song that was recorded being sung by prison chain gang workers in South Carolina (1922).

"Dollar Mamie" was also recorded being sung as a work song by prisoners in the infamous Parchman Farm prison in Mississippi. (1959). The percussive sound of the singers' swinging their axes is the only accompaniment to the men's voices in this song.

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LYRICS - OLD DOLLAR MAMIE

Old Dollar Mamie told-a,
Old Dollar Bob well-a
Old Dollar Mamie told-a,
Old Dollar Bob well-a
Old Dollar Mamie told-a,
Old Dollar Bob well-a,
Well the dress she wanted cost-a,
Dollar a yard, well-a,
Dollar a yard, baby,
Dollar a yard, well-a.
Well the dress she wanted cost-a,
Dollar a yard, well-a.

Well, you hush, hush, Mamie, don't you,
Don't you say nary a word, well-a,
Well, you hush, hush, Mamie, don't you,
Don't you say nary a word, well-a,
Well, you hush, hush, Mamie, don't you,
Don't you say nary a word, well-a,
Well you shall have it, if it's,
In this world, well-a,
In this world, baby,
In this world, well-a,
Well you shall have it, if it's,
In this world, well-a.

Old Dollar Mamie turned her,
Turned her head and cried, well-a,
Old Dollar Mamie turned her,
Turned her head and cried, well-a,
Old Dollar Mamie turned her,
Turned her head and cried, well-a,
You could hear her call, well-a,
For a level mile, well-a,
For a level mile, well-a,
For a level mile, well-a,
You could hear her call, well-a,
For a level mile, well-a.

Well, I'm going to Memphis, well-a,
When I get my 'role, well-a.
Well, I'm going to Memphis, well-a,
When I get my 'role, well-a.
Well, I'm going to Memphis, well-a,
When I get my 'role, well-a.
Stand on the levee, well-a,
Hear the big boats blow, well-a,
Hear the big boats blow, well-a,
Hear the big boats blow, well-a.
Stand on the levee, well-a,
Hear the big boats blow, well-a.

The Katy left Memphis with-a,
With a hundred men, well-a.
The Katy left Memphis with-a,
With a hundred men, well-a.
The Katy left Memphis with-a,
With a hundred men, well-a.
In Arkansas City, well-a,
Didn't have but ten, well-a.
Didn't have but ten, well-a,
Didn't have but ten, well-a,
In Arkansas City, well-a,
Didn't have but ten, well-a.

Well you raise 'em higher, let 'em,
Let 'em drop on down.
Well you raise 'em higher, let 'em,
Let 'em drop on down.
Well you raise 'em higher, let 'em,
Let 'em drop on down.
You won't know the difference, when the,
When the sun goes down, well-a.
When the sun goes down, well-a,
When the sun goes down, well-a.
You won't know the difference, when the,
When the sun goes down, well-a.


From Alan Lomax's Prison Songs, Historical Recordings from Parchman Farm, 1947-48, Volume One: Murderous Home.*

[posted by Roger in Baltimore; http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=14515
-snip-
*Note the citation given for the Parchman Farm recording (given as Example #2 below) is 1959 and not 1947-48.

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SHOWCASE EXAMPLES
Example #1: Old Dollar Mamie



Various Artists - Topic

Published on Dec 8, 2014
Provided to YouTube by TuneCore

Old Dollar Mamie · South Carolina Chain Gang (1922)

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Example #2: Negro Work Songs- Old Dollar Mamie



Nico Fournier, Published on May 15, 2014

Negro Prison Blues and Songs from Louisiana and Mississippi
-snip-
Here's some information about this recording from http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=4245
James Carter [axe, vocal]
Ed Lewis [axe, vocal]
Henry Mason, [axe]
Johnny Lee Moore [axe, vocal]

Setting: Parchman Farm, Camp B (Mississippi) 9/19-9/20, 1959

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