Friday, October 18, 2013

Dink Roberts - Roustabout (also known as "Buffalo"), video, lyrics, and comments

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series on Black banjo songster Dink Roberts. This post showcases a short video clip of Dink Roberts' performing the song "Roustabout". Dink Roberts called that song "Buffalo". "Roustabout" is also known as "Hop High Lulu", "Hop High Lula Gal", "Lula Girl" and other similar names.

Part II of this series presents a partial transcriptions of information about Dink Roberts from the annotated notes from the 1998 compilation album Black Banjo Songsters Of North Carolina And Virginia. Selected information and comments about Dink Roberts from other blogs and websites are also included in that post which will be published ASAP.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Dink Roberts: Roustabout (1983)

AlanLomaxArchive, Uploaded on Feb 17, 2012

A fragment of "Roustabout" sung and played by Dink Roberts. Shot by Alan Lomax and crew at Dink's home in Haw River, North Carolina, late July 1983. For more information about the American Patchwork filmwork, Alan Lomax, and his collections, visit [03.29.01]

Subject: Lyr Add: ROUSTABOUT
Date: 24 Nov 02 - 10:33 PM

...Here are the lyrics to Dink Roberts' [1894-1989] version of 'Roustabout':

ROUSTABOUT ("Buffalo")

Where you been?
You - roustabout
Say, when you go a-courtin'
Yea, when you go a-fishin'
Carry a hook and line
Yea, when you go a-courtin'
Court with a willin' mind
Yea, who been here since I been gone?
Little bitty girl with the red dress on

Source: transcription in booklet in Various Artists 'Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia' Smithsonian/Folkways SFCD 40079.

The notes by Cece Conway and Scott Odell to this piece read in part:
Along with 'Coo Coo', this ['Roustabout'] is one of the important showpiece tunes in the black banjo repertory ... This tuning [gCGBD] ... was also used by the earliest minstrels. The song is likely a reminder of the older uses of this tuning that was current when whites first learned the banjo from blacks in the 1830s and later when the 5-string banjo appeared ...

Dink says that he learned this song at age 15 from his family in the Piedmont. He took it with him when he moved to Mt Airy in Surry County to farm and to work on the railroad. The 2-part structure with the striking key change is found in other black versions and also in Fred Cockerham's. An outstanding white banjo player, Fred grew up and lived most of his life in Low Gap, not far from Mt Airy, but did not remember any black musicians in the area; nor is there any indication that he and Dink ever heard each other play. Some black players, including John Tyree and Rufus Kasey, call this tune 'Hop Light' or 'Hop Along Lou', echoing the refrain used in some versions, including Cockerham's. To the best of Fred's memory, Mal Smith brought 'Roustabout' to the area from Virginia in the first quarter of the century and called it 'Long Steel Rail'. The likelihood of a Virginia source is strengthened by the complex and closely related versions of black players Rufus Kasey, Josh Thomas and others from Virginia, many of whom were working on or near the railroads during this same period.[Cece Conway and Scott Odell, pp25-26 in booklet to SFCD 40079]
Stewie also wrote that he has an instrumental recording entitled "'Hop Along Lou' by John Tyree. This is another version of the Old Time Music song "Roustabout"/Hop High" etc.

Stewie also includes a transcription of White American banjo/singer Fred Cockerham's version of "Roustabout". It appears that that version [that begins with the words "roustabout, oh roustabout" is the one which is most familiar to most Old Time Music/Bluegrass fans.

From [Viewer comment thread for the video embedded in this post.]

Tony Thomas, 2012
"Dink Roberts never called this song Roustabout. He called the tune Buffalo. Folklorists and folk revivalists label this song with that title, but Black players like dink called it either Buffalo or Hoo High or Hop High Lulu, save one I know who called it thus, but after a folklorist told him the song was Roustabout, added a verse from a record and started calling what he had called Hop High Lulu all his life Roustabout."

AlanLomaxArchive, 2012
"Directly after this performance, Lomax asks Roberts, "What do you call that tune?" He replies: "Oh, 'Roustabout.' "
In the portion of the transcribed notes from the album Black Banjo Songsters Of North Carolina And Virginia that are included in Part II of this series there is a comment about Dink Roberts and the titles of the songs he played.

Although those notes don't indicate this, I wonder if Mr. Roberts could have heard that "Roustabout" was the title for this song that White people used and consequently gave the White man [Lomax] the title that he thought that Lomax wanted.

My thanks to Dink Roberts for his musical legacy.

Thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube and those who are quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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