Saturday, June 17, 2017

Internet Excerpts About Early African American Sources for "Ain't Gonna Rain No More"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides several internet excerpts about early sources for the 19th century song "Ain't Gonna Rain No More"* (also given as "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More").

Three YouTube examples of "Ain't Gonna Rain No More" is also included in this post.

*Closely related forms of "Ain't Gonna Rain No More" are given as "Ain't No Bugs On Me".

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the original composer/s of this song, and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the singers/musicians who are featured in these YouTube examples and thanks to the publishers of those YouTube examples.
A related pancocojams post about "Standing On The Corner"/"Roaches & Bedbugs [playing basketball]" song/rhyme will be published on pancocojams ASAP and that link added here. Some of those songs/rhymes have "[it] ain't gonna rain no more choruses or verses.

(with particular attention to early African American sources for this song)

These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.
Excerpt #1:
From [Traditional Ballad Index entry for "Ain't Gonna Rhyme No More"
"DESCRIPTION: Verses held together by the refrain, "It ain't gonna rain no more." (Either between lines or as a standalone chorus). Examples: "What did the blackbird say to the crow? It ain't gonna...." "We had a cat down on our farm; it ate a ball of yarn...."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1919 (Brown)
KEYWORDS: nonsense nonballad animal
FOUND IN: US(MW,SE,So) West Indies


Roud #7657



cf. "Ain't No Bugs on Me" (tune, structure)
cf. "Ain't Got to Cry No More"
cf. "The States Song (What Did Delaware?)" (tune)

The States Song (What Did Delaware?) (File: CAFS1162)
Tenor solo, "The Klansman and the Rain" (Special K-3, rec. c. 1924)
W. R. Rhinehart, "Klucker and the Rain" (100% K-30, rec. 1924)

NOTES: A popular version of this piece was published in 1923 as by Wendell W. Hall. Even the cover, however, admits that it was an "old southern melody" -- and since we have traditional versions at least from 1925, there is little doubt that the song is traditional. - RBW


The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle."
Note that Mudcat folk music forum [quoted below] gives earlier dates for sources for this song.

Excerpt #2
[Pancocojams Editor: These selected comments are also numbered for referencing purposes only.]

1. Subject: RE: Lyr Req: It Ain't Gonna Rain No More
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 09:25 AM

" 'There Ain't No Bugs On Me'is an adaptation by Fiddlin' John Carson in 1927. It can be heard on Honking Duck. I have both Carson's lyrics and the Garcia's lyrics if anyone wants them."...

2. Subject: RE: Lyr Req: It Ain't Gonna Rain No More
From: GUEST,Richie
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 09:28 AM

"It should be noted that Wendall Hall's popular versions (first in 1923)were adapted from traditional sources. "
This Mudcat discussion thread includes two earlier posts [comments] that provide a number of verses from Wendall Hall's "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More" records.

3. Subject: Lyr. Add: Satan's Camp A-fire (Spiritual)
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 09:09 PM

"There are several fragments of "Ain't Gonna Rain No More" from 1919 or so in collections, and "the words of a refrain "Ain't Goin' to Rain No Mo'" in JAFL, Sept. 1911, p. 277 under the title "I Ain't Bother Yet" (Fuld).

Fuld notes that the last four bars of "Satan's Camp Afire" in Allen's "Slave Songs of the United States" (1867) have a similar melody. Anecdotally, Sandburg reports that the song is "at least as old as the 1870's." Fuld, J. J., 1966, "The Book of World-Famous Music," p. 307. (Dover, 1985, 3rd. ed.)

"Satan's Camp Afire" is no. 36 in Allen.

(Coll. Allen, 1867)

Fier, my Saviour, fier,
Satan's camp a-fire;
Fier, believer, Fier,
Satan's Camp a-fire.

Fragment, with score, no. 36. William Francis Allen, in Ware and Garrison.
The score in Irving Schlein, 1965, "Slave Songs of the United States," p. 64, is not the same.

See Traditional Ballad Index for discussion and examples of "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More," including Brown, 1919."...
Read the Traditional Ballad Index entry above.

4. Subject: RE: Lyr Req: It Ain't Gonna Rain No More
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Nov 06 - 01:42 PM

"Some of the verses above are similar to those of "Massa Had a Yaller Gal," variants of which have been quoted by White, Odum, Scarborough, Talley and others. These verses have been discussed in other threads.
An article in Literary Digest, 1916, mentions variants from South Carolina, dating back to 1876-1886 (White, American Negro Folk-Songs, p. 152-156).

Massa bought a yaller gal,
He bought er frum de south;
Her mouth look like de fireplace
Wid de ashes taken out.

Of all the beasts that roam the woods
I'd rather be a squir'l,
Curl my tail upon my back
And travel all over this worl'.

"Simon Slick" is similar:
Ole marster was a stingy man
And everybody know'd it;
Kept good liquor in his house
And never said here goes it.

Fitting the meter of "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'" much better are songs like "Uncle Ned," a minstrel song from 1848, but the tune is different:

Den lay down de shovel and de hoe,
And hang up de fiddle and de bow;
Dere's no more work for poor Uncle Ned
He's gone where de good old ni&&ers* go. [*Pancocojams editor: The "n word" is fully spelled out in this comment/lyrics]
N. I. White; Alabama, "sung by Negro who fought in Civil War," p. 164ff.

(Digression: The above verse was paraphrased in the Ethiopian Serenaders' Own Book, 1857. White found it surviving and sung by a Black in Alabama. One verse:
Then lay down the agricultural implements,
Allow the violin and the bow to be pendent on the wall,-
For there is no more physical energy to be displayed,
By indigent aged Edward,
For he has departed to the abode designated by a kind
Providence for all pious, humane, and benevolent colored individuals. )

Used by Johnny Carson in "It Ain't ....," some of the verses may go back to the Ethiopian Serenaders of the 1850's. A variant on "Massa Had a Yaller Gal."

I wouldn't marry a yaller gal,
I'll tell you de reason why:
Her hair's so dad-blamed nappy
She'd break all de combs I buy.
Verse from Jamaica (White, p. 323), but little different from those sung in the southern states.

Also common are the white, yaller and black lady-gal comparisons.

Well a white lady wears a hobble skirt,
A yaller gal tries to do the same,
But a poor black gal wears a Mary Jane,
But she's hobbling just the same.

The form goes back to songs that probably originated with Black slaves:
Mr. Coon he is a mighty man,
He carries a bushy tail
He steals old Massa's corn at night,
And husks it in a rail.

All above examples from White, collections of about 1915, but they can be duplicated and added to in the other references mentioned above."
Pancocojams editor: "Yaller gal" = a light skinned Black woman (a light skinned woman of mixed Black-non-Black ancestry)

Mr. Coon = Mr. raccoon.

5. Subject: RE: Lyr Req: It Ain't Gonna Rain No More
From: GUEST,Dan -Florida
Date: 01 Feb 12 - 08:18 AM

This is how I heard it from my grandfather born in 1908.

Bullfrog sittin on a lillypad gazin up at the sky
lilly pad broke and the frog fell in and got water all in his eye

My daddys got a building its 16 stories high
every room in that building is lined with chicken pie

Took my gal to the movies and what do you reckon she done
sat right down in the middle of the floor and there she chewed her gum

went out to milk my cow but the calf came in to suck it
cow turned around and butted me down and I fell in the bucket

how and the hell can the old folks tell it aint gonna rain no mo"
Pancocojams editor: The "bullfrog sittin on a lillypad" verse is a remnant of 16th century British "frog in the well" songs. Nowadays, the best known song in that family is "Frog Went a' Courtin'", but there used to be many other popular "frog in the well" songs in what is now the United Kingdom and in the United States.

Click for information about "frog in the well" songs.

Also, click for fpr a hand clap and hand clap game "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" whose standard lyrics have their source in the very old British "frog in the well" songs.

Excerpt #3
"It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'" is the title of a novelty song that is entirely the creation of the "Red-Headed Music Maker", guitarist and vocalist Wendell Woods Hall (1896–1969). Much like that other major, much-quoted song of the early 1920s, Yes! We Have No Bananas, the novelty, vaudeville aspect of "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'" is similarly undeniable. Hall's 1923 recording of the song, which was also popular in Britain, sold in excess of two million copies.[1] Additionally, it scored 20 weeks on the U.S. charts, six at number one.[2]

This song may be known to modern audiences because featured at the end of a 7-minute black & white animated cartoon, issued by Pathe Studios in May 1930, the work of John Foster & Mannie Davis, titled Noah Knew His Ark.[3] Part of the song is sung in The Plumber, a 1933 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short.[4] Many antecedents exist from the 19th century. Note the thread at "Ain't Gonna Rain No More" (the thread discussion begins in 1997). By the 1920s many variants were already extant in popular culture. Carl Sandburg suggests that the song goes back at least to the 1870s and includes verses in his "American Songbag.(published 1927.) This song cycle is an excellent example of the folk tradition of transmission with local variants abounding. Mr. Hall simply took some of what already existed and codified it probably with many of his own original verses. "The Midnight Special" is similarly attributed to Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) though the song certainly preceded him and his recordings."

Excerpt #4:
Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'
"This African-American song is believed to go back to the days of slavery, though it could well be a celebration of emancipation. This version was collected by Alan Lomax and Leadbelly in 1939. The song has been given new lyrics many times, the best known being Wendell Hall's 1923 version, which has become a popular campfire song for Scouts and Guides.

A very different version recorded by The Two Gilberts on an old 78 disc can be heard here.

You can hear my rendition and read the lyrics.*

You can also see a live performance together with Skip to my Lou at a session of The Hong Kong Folk Society at The Canny Man in Wanchai. Five years later I recorded these two songs with my six-year-old grandson, Axel. Here is our video.**

Ain't No Bugs On Me

This song probably developed from the African-American song Ain't Gonna Rain No More, which is sometimes sung to the same tune and shares some of the verses. The song is made up of several nonsense verses, some based on dreadful puns and some of them topical. For example there are references to the Ku Klux Klan, the Scopes trial, Billy Sunday, a well-known preacher in the 1920s and historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln. Several of the verses can be found in other songs, such as Old Joe Clark and Rich Gal, Poor Gal.

The earliest known recording is by Fiddlin' John Carson in 1928. The song has been recorded by a number of artists including Jerry Garcia."...
*The words "Read the lyrics" are given as a hyperlink for the lyrics that are sung in this rendition of "Ain't Gonna Rain No More". The link is That page only includes a few verses for that song.

**The words "Here is our" video is given as a hyperlink. That video is given as Example #2 below.

Example #1: It Ain't Gonna Rain No More

RaymondKamalay Published on Apr 17, 2013

This song is said to have been sung widely in minstrel shows in the 19th Century in the USA. When it was finally published in 1924, Wendell Hall (the Red-headed Warbler) claimed authorship. That's highly dubious. Sing along, if you like!
Here are a few comments from this sound file's discussion thread:
rockergod789, 2013
"useless fact: there is an ordinance that bans people from singing this song in Oenida Tennessee"

Frieda Werden, 2017
"I bet that is because the original chorus was "how in hell can the old folks tell it ain't gonna rain no more." That is how my daddy sang it. But in this arrangement "hell" is cleverly changed to "heck."

theBaron0530, 2016
"Yeah, it might be a children's song to Baby Boomers and subsequent generations, but I think that's because their parents passed it along to them. My great-aunts and -uncles (from "the Greatest Generation") used to sing this and other songs when they got together at family cookouts or events.

I remember a verse my Uncle Jimmy used to sing,

"A rich man takes a hansom cab
A poor man takes a train
A hobo walks along the tracks
But he gets there just the same"

Example #2: 1756. Axel presents: Ain't Gonna Rain / Skip to my Lou (Traditional American)

raymondcrooke, Published on Jun 8, 2014

My six-year-old grandson, Axel, continues to learn new folk songs, and even has a go at dancing to the music!

Example #3: It Ain't Gonna Rain - Cedarmont kids

Cedarmont Kids, Published on Jul 9, 2015
This is one of the many (relatively) contemporary, squeaky clean* children's versions of "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More".

*"Clean" versions of songs/rhymes don't contain verses that include content that some children refer to as "dirty" (i.e. profanity, gross references, sexually explicit content, or excess violence).

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