MUSICS OF ALABAMA:
EXAMPLES OF TRADITIONAL MUSIC FROM HISTORIC ALABAMA COLLECTIONS
Historical pieces are included in this compilation and following volumes to display the diversity of traditional music styles that were, at one time, common in Alabama. Little specific documentation is available on the people featured other than what could be culled from the accompanying notes from collections of the Library of Congress, the Byron Arnold Collection at the University of Alabama Hoole Special Collections Library, and the Ray Browne Collection held at the Sound Archive for the Center for Popular Culture, Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio
An unknown woman explains how this child's game is played and how the song is sung. A traditional song from the Byron Arnold Collection, Hoole Special Collections Library at the University of Alabama (Tape 3 disk 11B).
Traditional song recorded by John Lomax for the Library of Congress (LC 4029 b2) Led by Maddie Mae Cole of Mt. Pile school near York AL 10-30-40
References. Step It down: Games, Plays, Songs & Stories from the Afro-American Heritage by Bessie Jones & Bess Lomax Hawes, U of GA Press:Athens, GA 1972
Traditional song performed by Harriet McClintock near Sumterville, Alabama. Recorded by John A and Ruby T Lomax 1940 for the Library of Congress in Washington. 4034 A1
"Come Butter Come" is a type of work song that one would use to ease the monotony of churning butter. Note the song goes a bit faster and faster after each verse, the churner urges the cream to become butter by pressing the dasher faster and faster down into the churn filled with cream. One can picture the aspiration of the churning action. The dasher would be down in on the word 'come' and pulled up on the word 'butter'.
Sung by Corly Pennington from Fernbank, AL Recorded by Ray Browne 8-14-52. Dr. Browne recounts that Pennington was from Fernbank, just west of Millport in North Alabama. She lived in Alabama almost all of her life. She was about forty years old at the time of the recording. She learned all of her songs from her father. Her vocal style is unique with the upturned pitch ornamentations she delivers at the end of certain phrases. This short piece is a fragmented rendition of a well known ballad "Black Jack Davey". Nonsense words are used between the verses. The melody is basically the same as other renditions of "Black Jack Davey," or American variant, "Gypsy Davey."
Black Jack David come
ridin' through the woods,
"How old are you,
my pretty little miss,
"Come, go with me,
my pretty little miss,
pull off those high heeled shoes
She soon pulled
off those high heeled shoes
'Twas late at night when
the land-lord come
"Go saddle me my
He rode till he came to
the deep below;
"How can you leave
your house and land,
"Very well can I
leave my house and land,
"I won't t come
back to you, my love,
"Last night I lay
on a feather bed
She soon run through her
"Oh, once I had a
house and land,
"Carrie, Carrie" is a work song that denotes a specific task of lifting bales of cotton while working on a loading dock. It is interesting to note the full harmonies used by the men singing this simple song phrase. Since the men do not give the whole impression of actually lifting the bales it is harder to determine the where the aspiration of the work would take place. However it seems that right after each phrase is sung a bale would be lifted and placed before the beginning a following phrase. One can hear John Lomax in the background urging on the singers along between each verse. The invectives of the "boss man" can be heard slightly as well.
"CARRIE, CARRIE" Sung by Thomas Langston, Judge Broadus, Albert Nicholson and Joe Milhouse. State docks, Mobile, AL. Traditional tune recorded by John A. Lomax 1937 for the Library of Congress (LC1335 A2)
A traditional tune recorded by John A. and Ruby T. Lomax in Livingston, Alabama November 3, 1940 for the Library of Congress (LC ref 4069-A-1.) Vocal and guitar by Tom Bell.
This is a song that Tom Bell would play at a juke joint, dance party or festive gathering for people to dance or "shimmy" to.
"The Shimmy, was probably derived from a Nigerian dance, the "Shika", brought to America by the African slaves. It was mentioned in the song "The Bullfrog Hop" in 1909 by Perry Bradford. It became very popular in the USA 1910 to 1920, and became a national craze after Gilda Gray introduced it in the Zeigfeld Follies in 1922, and claims the name comes from "chemise", having been asked by a reporter what she shook in the dance. However, Mae West claims to have done it in the show "Sometime" in 1919. It was described by the singer Ethel Waters, saying she put her hands on her hips and worked her body fast without moving the feet." (Groves Music and Musicians editor Stanley Sadie, 1980, 17/257)
Tom Bell recorded a few tunes for the Lomax's at that time. They all have been released on a commercial recording Travelin' Man. Recorded by John S. and Ruby T. Lomax in Livingston, Alabama 11-3-1940 (LC 4069 A1)