Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Such A Getting Upstairs" (Lyrics & Morris Dance Videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Update: June 21, 2020

This is Part II of a two part series on the 19th century song "Sich A Gittin Upstairs" ("Such A Getting Upstairs"). This post provides several examples of lyrics for this song and three video examples of Morris dancing to this tune.

Click for Part I of this series. That post focuses on the history of this song in the United States and in England.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

The once highly popular 19th century song "Sich A Gittin Up Stairs" ("Such A Getting Upstairs") is now mostly known as the Headington (Cotswold) Morris dance "Getting Upstairs".

Here are some lyrics for different versions of this song.

WARNING: What is now known as "the n word" is fully spelled out in most version of this song.

Because I consider that word a pejorative referent, I don't fully spell it out even when I'm quoting old texts.

From a Getting Upstairs [hereafter known as Mudcat: Getting Upstairs]

From pavane, 14 Aug 01 - 04:55 AM
"I have been looking for the full song to the Headington Morris Dance 'Getting Upstairs', which has the snippet :

Some likes coffee, some likes tea
Some likes a pretty girl, just like me [Just like I do, I suppose that means]
Such a getting upstairs and a playing on the fiddle]
Such a getting upstairs I never did see"

posted by masato sakurai, 15 Aug 01 - 04:26 AM
"Bits of info (not in The Fiddler's Companion) #2. There is a song sheet (without music) containing "Sich a Gitting Up Stairs" in America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets, Libray of Congress. This was "Sold by L. Deming, wholesale and retail, No. 62, Hanover Street, 2d door from Friend Street, Boston, and at MIDDLEBURY, Vt.," and begins with:
ON a Suskyhanner raft I come down de bay,
And I danc'd, and I frolick'd, and fiddled all de way.
Sich a gitting up stairs I never did see, &c.
Trike he to and heel--cut de pigeon wing,
Scratch gravel, slap de foot--dats just de ting.
Sich a gitting up stairs, &c.

"Such a Getting Upstairs" as a going-up-to-bed song from Indiana is in Ruth Crawford Seeger's American Folk Songs for Children (Doubleday, 1948, p.53) with music:
Such a getting upstairs I never did see,
Such a getting upstairs it didn't suit me.

In her notes, Ruth says: "It is the refrain of a play-party tune
whose second section can be whistled or hummed or played, or sung with varying words like the following from Virginia: Some love coffee, some love tea, But I love the pretty girl that winks at me." The Indiana version is sung by Mike and Peggy Seeger in their Rounder album with the same title as the songbook's (LP & CD)."

posted by raredance [rich r], 17 Aug 01 - 10:38 PM
"B A Botkin in "The American Play-Party Song" (1937, 1963 Frederick Ungar Publishing) has a couple unusual lyric versions and the following note:

Based on a minstrel song. See "Sich a Gittin Upstairs," in "The Negro Forget-Me Not Songster' (Fisher and Brother, 18?)

First gent out,
Swing that lady with a right hand about,
Partner by the left as you come around,
Lady in the center and you'll all run around.
Such a kitten (sic) upstairs,
Well I never did see.
Such a kitten upstairs,
Well she don't suit me.

I got up in the morning, the rain was pouring down.
I saddled up old Grady and bound for -----[name] town.
Honor to your right, honor to your left,
Swing your next partner and promenade to your left.
Such a getting upstairs I never did see.
Such a getting upstairs don't suit me.

six of seventeen verses that were reposted by Jim Dixon 22 Sep 10 - 09:56 AM

From The Quaver; or, Songster's Pocket Companion (London: Charles Jones, 1844), page 164:
[Google Books]

6. N___r held a meetin, 'bout de clonization,
And dere I spoke a speech about amalgamation.
Sich a gittin, &c.

7. To Washington I go, dere I cut a swell,
Cleanin' gemman's boots, and ringing auction bell.
Sich a gittin, &c.

8. I called on yaller Sal, dat trades in sausages,
And dere I met big Joe, which made my dander ris.
Sich a gittin, &c.

9. Says I, "You see dat door? just mosey N____a Joe,
For I'm a Suskehannah boy, wot knows a ting or two."
Sich a gittin, &c.

13. Two behind and two before,
Wait till you get to the watch-house door.
Sich a gittin, &c,

14. Sal is sassy, I know what she means,
She's been to school, and is up to beans.
Sich a gittin, &c.
Explanation of certain words:
"yaller Sal" = “yaller” a light skinned Black woman

"mosey" = leave [usually given as "just mosey along"]

"wot knows a ting or two." = "what knows a thing or two" [who knows a thing or two]

“is up to beans” = colloquial for "is knowledgeable", related to the still heard colloquial statements "You don’t know beans about that” ["You don't know anything about that" and "to spill the beans” [share a secret].
I found verse #6 to be interesting since "amalgamation" [interracial mating] was an anathema. Therefore, a Black man making a speech about that would cause a commotion i.e. such a gettin upstairs.

From “Fiddler’s Companion”

..."Various ditties or rhymes have been collected with the melody in American tradition, including floating verses. Wilkinson (1942) printed these:

Old Molly Hyar, what you doin' dar?
Settin' in a cornder smokin' a cigyar.
Such a gittin' up sta'rs I never did see
Such a gittin' up sta'rs I neved did see.
Some love coffee, some love tea,
But I love the pretty girl that winks at me.
Such a gittin' up stairs you never did see,
Such a gittin' up stairs you never did see.
This rhyme was collected with one of Bayard's Pennsylvania-collected versions:
Went upstairs with a dollar and a half,
Came downstairs with a cow and a calf.
Such a gittin' upstairs I never did see,
Such a gittin' upstairs'll never do me.
"Old Molly Hyar, what you doin' dar?" is included in Thomas W. Talley's 1922 collection Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise And Otherwise p. 22.

Example #1: Getting Upstairs - Hinton-in-the-Hedges

TheNewYdde, Uploaded on Mar 30, 2009
DDMM Ale 2009

Example #2: AMM - Getting Up Stairs Hinton - Swan Hill 2009

adelaidemorrismen, Uploaded on Sep 14, 2009

The Adelaide Morris Men dancing Getting Up Stairs Hinton at the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement Museum in August 2009.

Example #3: Getting Upstairs - Kennet Morris Men

Neil Stevens Published on May 27, 2013

Danced at Yattendon and Frilsham Fete 2013

The line "I Love Coffee, I Love Tea" is found in some versions of the song "Such A Getting Upstairs". That line lives on in the large family of contemporary playground rhymes that are known as "I Love Coffee, I Love Tea", "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa", or "Down Down Baby".

The earliest documented example of "I Love Coffee" as a jump rope rhyme was in 29 June 1869, Port Jervis (NY) Evening Gazette, pg. 2, col. 3 "a little eight-year-old girl... in one of the schools of Oswego, a few days ago. (...) I love coffee I love tea I love you if you love me" [Reposted from

It's interesting to notice that partner hand claps are a large part of the performance activities that are done by Morris troupes who perform "Getting Upstairs".

Here's an excerpt from  "Never Seen The Like Since Getting’ Upstairs"
Skillet Lickers
..."There are lots of reports of skipping rope rhymes beginning "I love coffee, I love tea, I love the boys and the boys love me" (see, for example, E.C. Perrow, "Songs and Rhymes from the South" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. XXVIII, No. 108 (Apr 1915 (available online by JSTOR)), #58 p. 186 "I Love Coffee" (1 text); Robert Craig Maclagan, The Games and Diversions of Argyleshire (London, 1901 ("Digitized by Google")), p. 254, ("March, march, two by two, my little sister lost her shoe, I love coffee, I love tea, I love the boys and the boys love me" (1 text)), but I have only seen "I wish my mother ... when she was young" with "x loves coffee, etc.," in "Sailor Laddie."
On the other hand, the "hold your tongue" lines exist independent of "x loves coffee." For example, "Tell your mother to hold her tongue. She had a fellow when she was young. Tell your father to do the same. He was the one to change her name" (source: Ed Cray, "Jump-Rope Rhymes from Los Angeles" in Western Folklore, Vol. XXIX, No. 2 (Apr 1970 (available online by JSTOR)), p. 126, ("Tell your mother to hold her tongue") (1 text)). Another game has a mother refuse to allow her daughter to "go down to the corner to meet her beau"; her father says, "Yes my daughter, you may go Down to the corner to meet your beau. Tell your Mother to hold her tongue She had a beau when she was young!" (source: Loman D. Cansler, "Midwestern and British Children's Lore Compared" in Western Folklore, Vol. XXVII, No. 1 (Jan 1968 (available online by JSTOR)), p. 14). - BS"...

Click for the 2012 pancocojams post entitled Racialized Versions Of "I Like Coffee I Like Tea". Additional pancocojams posts of "I Love Coffee I Love Tea" can be found by clicking that tag below.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to those featured in these videos & to the publishers of these videos.

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. As a collector of contemporary English language children's playground rhymes, I was surprised to find out that there was a Morris dance that includes the line "I love coffee, I love tea". That line is used as the title of a huge family of playground rhymes. Examples of those rhymes are also known as "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa" and "Down Down Baby".

    Prior to the 1970s or so in the United States, those playground rhymes appear to have been performed as jump rope rhymes. But since that time, hand clapping has taken the place of jumping rope with those rhymes and almost all other previously jump rope rhymes.

    The melody of the "Getting Upstairs" Morris dance is the same as or very similar to that of "I Love Coffee" rhymes. However, the tempo of those rhymes is slightly faster, and those rhymes are chanted in a sing song like manner and not sung like the "Getting Upstairs" song was sung in one of the featured videos to this post.

    The partner hand clapping that the Morris dancers do is the same or similar to other partner hand clap patterns*,

    Furthermore, the parallel line formation that the Morris dancers use is the same formation that is documented in the 1967 film of African American school girls performing some hand clapping/ singing games. A clip of that film "Pizza Pizza Daddy-o". can be found by clicking this link:

    Besides the costumes, bells, and hand held handkerchiefs, one main difference between the performance of the "I Love Coffee" playground rhymes and the "Getting Upstairs" Morris dance is that the Morris dancers are men while most playground rhymes are performed by girls, mostly ages 6-12 years. Another crucial difference between Morris dances and hand clap games is that Morris dancers move across a performance space while persons performing hand clap games chant rhymes while standing in one spot.

    *Other hand clap games are done with three people and four people (two sets of partners). Also, some mildly competitive hand slapping games such as "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" and "Stella Ella Ola" are performed by groups of people.

  2. A version of the lyrics appears in Frederick Marryat's novel 'Poor Jack'(1840) , sung by a fictional black character called Opposition Bill, a retired sailor:
    'On board of a man-of-war dey hauled me one day,
    And pitch me up de side just like one truss of hay.
    Such a getting upstairs I neber did see,
    Such a getting upstairs.

    ..And so on for five more verses, describing the hard life of a sailor. Whether Marryat knew the song already or invented his own verses to suit his fiction, I don't know. He had been in North America and the West Indies and naturally also served with black sailors, so may have been familiar with the song before it became more widespread. Or it may have been one of the songs spread by blackface minstrel troupes, which were hugely popular in London from 1836 onwards, when Thomas D. Rice began the craze there.

    In the mid 19th c it seems to have been identified in England as a 'minstrel' song. (I say this because it crops up in a musical burlesque version of Macbeth performed April 1853 at the Olympic Theatre, along with others such as 'Lucy Neal', 'Who's dat knockin on de door', 'Jim Crow' etc. See reference in Wikipedia to the actor Frederick Robson.)

    1. Thank you Anonymous December 9, 2013 at 5:29 AM for your informative comment. I appreciate those additional references.

      I agree that from my reading "Getting Upstairs" was identified as a minstrel song in England, having been introduced there by White American black-faced minstrels.