Monday, July 3, 2017

Henry Truvillion - Possum Was An Evil Thing (An Early 20th Century African American Song That Includes A Call)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides commentary and the text to the African American song "Possum Was An Evil Thing". That song includes a "call" -vocalizations that, among other things, were sung to express sorrow, loneliness, joy, or another emotion.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the unknown composer of this song, and to the singer Henry Truvillion who sung this song. Thanks also to John A. and Ruby T. Lomax for recording this song and B.A. Botkin for publishing this book of African American folk songs.

Click for a pancocojams post that includes some information about field hollers:

This post is also part of a continuing pancocojams series that showcases American folk songs, rhymes, and minstrel songs that feature the name "Dinah" and/or "Old Aunt Dinah." Click the "Dinah and Old Aunt Dinah songs and rhymes" tag below for other posts in this series.

From Folk Music Of The United States: Negro Work Songs And Calls
Music Division. Recording Laboratory AFS L8
From the Archive of Folk Song Edited by B. A. Botkin

[From the preface to a track laying song "Unloading Rails" that is given as song #1 in that book]

"Henry Truvillion (now Rev. Henry Truvillion, pastor of a small country church near Newton, Texas) grew up on a farm in Mississippi and has at various times been railroad section hand, boss of a construction gang on southern railways, driver of a "two-horse wheeler" on Mississippi River levee-building jobs, and roustabout on Mississippi River steamboats. For nearly twenty years he was head tracklayer for the Wiergate Lumber Company, where, according to John A. Lomax, "track-laying goes on the year round."



[page 2]

Sung by Henry Truvillion at Burkeville, Tex., 1940. Recorded by John A. and Ruby T. Lomax. In order to appreciate these children's songs, one must visualize the setting in the cotton fields, where childrcn have bccn picking cotton and are th[e] inking of a feast of fat possum baked with sweet potatoes. "Along toward sundown," says Henry Truvillion, "we'd all leave and go on home, and you can hear sometimes twenty-five boys and twenty-five girls all going home through the woods and across the fi elds, and they're all
singing the same song back at one another."

Possum was an evil thing,

He rambles in the dark.

He didn't know what the trouble was,

Until he hear old Rover bark.

Ooooh, baby, who*-oh-hoo!

Ooooh, baby, who-oo-hoo-hoo!

That's my baby, who-oh-oo-oo-oh'

Ooooh, baby, who-oh-hoo!

Old Aunt Dinah, who-oo-oo-oo!

Old Aunt Dinah, who-ho-oo-oo-ho!

Ooooh, baby, who-oh-hoo!

Ooooh, baby, who-oo-hoo-hoo!

That's me a-talkin ', who-ho-hoo-hoo-oh!


Oooh, Dinah, who-oh-ee!

Old Aunt Dinah, who-oo-hoo-hoo'

Old Aunt Dinah, who-oh-oo-hoo-oh'

Pronounced "whoa ."

[Page 3]

Ooooh, baby, who-oh-ho!

Possum was an evil thing,

He rambles in the dark.

He didn't know what the trouble was,

Until he hear old Rover bark.

Ooooh, Rover, who-oh-oo!

Who-oh, Rover, who-oo-hoo-hoo!

That's me a-talkin', who-oh-hoo-hoo-oh!

[page 4]

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