Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Examples of "Dance Josey" & "Can't Dance Josey" Songs

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series of 19th songs that include the phrase "dance Josey" or "can't dance Josey".

Part I provides lyrics for a song that begins with the verse "Git your partner if you want’er dance Josey". Other songs mentioned in this post are "Hello Susan Brown", "Four in the Middle" (also known as "Two In The Middle"), and "Hold My Mule ("Jim Along Josie"). The song "Raging Canal" is also briefly mentioned in this post.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II focuses on the play party song "Chicken On The Fencepost" which also includes the words "can't dance Josey".

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

A number of 19th century American [United States] songs sung or called out while couples danced reels include the words "dance Josey" or "can't dance Josey".

Information about one way that "Josey" was danced is found in this excerpt from Round the Levee by Stith Thompson; 1916 (page 12)
"An elaboration of this form is found in several games which, while varying in figures, are related by having plans for changing partners. In “Josey”, the leading couple take the first couple to the right into the middle of the ring, and the four dance or march through the entire song. The first couple retire, and others take their place as the game continues.

Git your partner if you want’er dance Josey
Git your partner if you want’er dance Josey
Git your partner if you want’er dance Josey
Oh law, Susan Brown (or “Susie Gal” or “Miss Susan Brown”) (Partners swing left and right)

Hold my mule while I dance Josey etc. (Right and left circle)

Number nine can’t dance Josey etc (Swing right and left)
Wouldn't give a nickle if I couldn't dance Josey, etc.

Fiddler's drunk, and he can't dance Josey, etc.

Back step a little if you can't dance Josey, etc.

Git out of the ring if you can’t dance Josey etc

Usually sung for the last couple in the ring.
"Oh law" means "Oh Lord".

Here are three comments from about certain songs that include the "can't dance Josey" lyrics:

"Subject: RE: Origin: Four in the Middle
Date: 27 Feb 09 - 10:29 AM


It seems clear that "Raging Canoe" is a mishearing of "Raging Canal."

The 1844 minstrel comic song "Raging Canal" was very popular in the 1800s. This song is clearly a different song and that the title has appeared as a lyric in the "Four in the Middle" songs."
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: railroad steamroad river and canal
Date: 26 Jan 01 - 09:19 AM

Your right Stewie. It was done by the CMT, before Chad left in the mid-60s. As with many songs they did, they modified the lyrics and tune to fit their truly unique vocal style. They made it much better.
Subject: Lyr Add: HELLO SUSAN BROWN (f/Chad Mitchell Trio)
Date: 28 Jan 01 - 02:59 AM

Thanks folk1234. I have found it. It's on a 1962 live recording by the Chad Mitchell Trio - 'At the Bitter End' Kapp Records PK 6002. They recorded it under the title 'Hello Susan Brown' arranged and adapted by Milt Okun. The lyrics are similar to 'Ragin' Canal (Two in the Middle)' in the DT as pointed to by Dick.
Coffee grows on white oak tree etc
Two in the middle and I can't dance Josie
Two in the middle and I can't get around
Two in the middle and I can't dance Josie
Hello Susan Brown

Railroad, steamboat river and canal
I lost my true love on that ragin' canal
She's gone gone gone
And she's gone gone gone
She's gone for to stay on that ragin' canal
Four in the middle etc
Fiddle in the middle etc
Wheel around, turn around etc
Coffee grows on white oak tree etc
"Wheel around" means "to spin around".
Click for a video of the Chad Mitchell Trio singing "Hello Susan Brown". That song begins at 6:16 of that video.

Also, click for lyrics to the Chad Mitchell Trio version of "Hello Susan Brown".

From "On The Trail Of Negro Folk Songs" edited by Dorothy Scarborough, Publisher: Cambridge, [Mass.] : Harvard University Press, 1925 [pages 105-106]

Hold my mule while I dance Josey
Hold my mule while I dance Josey
Oh, Miss Susan Brown.

Wouldn't give a nickel if I couldn't dance Josey
Wouldn't give a nickel if I couldn't dance Josey
Oh, Miss Susan Brown

Had a glass of buttermilk and I danced Josey
Had a glass of buttermilk and I danced Josey
Oh, Miss Susan Brown
This song and the other "Jim Along Josey" songs are given in the section for "dance songs and reels". The author wrote that "Hold My Mule" was "danced like the Virgina Reel".

Click for my comments about the different meanings of the word "josey".

Click for another variant of "Jim Along Josie" that was collected by Dorothy Scarborough.

And click for information about "Jim Along Josie".
WARNING: What is now known as the n word is fully spelled out on this page.

Thanks to the unknown composers of these songs. Thanks also to the folklorists who collected these songs and all those who are quoted in this post.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. I just happened upon this version of "Four In The Middle" that doesn't have the "can't dance Josey" lyrics:

    Subject: Lyr Add: FOUR IN THE MIDDLE
    Date: 26 May 04 - 12:34 AM

    ...Lomax collected a play party song in Kingsville, Texas, 1939 Southern States Recording Trip which suggests that the 'coffee' verse in "Pretty Little Pink" is a floater:

    Sung by Ruby Wilson, Kingsville, TX

    "Green coffee grows on white oak trees,
    The river flows with brandy ose
    Go choose the one to roam with you,
    As sweet as striped candy ose.

    Four in the middle and you can't get about
    Four in the middle and you can't get about
    Four in the middle
    Swing your partner around you.

    Six in the middle and time half out

    Eight in the middle and swing

    Ten in the middle and two goes out

    -American Memory, under "Four in the Middle." Audio.
    "My Pretty Little Pink" is a late 19th century American song.