Mudcat Café message #3120211 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46147   Message #3120211
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
24-Mar-11 - 02:18 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Huckleberry Hunting (Pumping Chantey)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Huckleberry Hunting (Pumping Chantey)
Bob--

So far as I have been able to speculate, the language of the song points to minstrelsy. The usual question is there of whether the documented minstrel songs took certain lyrics from oral tradition or gave them back to it. Given what seems to be a fairly wide spread of the racy "huckleberry/chinquapin" verse, i wouldn't be surprised if it had been part of a popular minstrel song.

Of course, lyrics were also shared/floated between minstrel numbers. Earlier in the thread I cited a song from early minstrelsy (i.e. early 1840s or earlier) that was using similar language. As another example, a version of "Old Tar River" by the Virginia Minstrels, from the same publication (ca.1843-1843), goes as follows:

pp239:

ORIGINAL OLE TAR RIVER

Banjo and dance accompaniments.
Sung by the Virginia Minstrels.

Its way down in ole Carolinar,
    Oh, ah, oh, ah
'Twar on de bank ob ole Tar riber,
    Dah, da, tiddle dum de da.

'Tis dar I met Aramintah Glober
She wanted me but I choose anudder.

Jim Carron katch a turkey buzzard
Black Betsy charmed dis nigger's gizzard

Her figure set dis heart a trotting
Her shabe war like a bale ob cotting

I ride upon de rolling riber
Wid a sail made ob a waggon kiver

Ole fat Sam died ob de decline
An dey dried him for a bacon sign

Is dere any one here loves massa Jackson
Yes I's de nigga loves General Jackson

He had a wife and a big plantation
De odder one in de choctaw nation

He thrashed the red coats at Orleans
He gib Packenham all sorts of beans

He is growing old, and will hab to leab us
His going will make a nation griebous

Along come a nigger wid a long tail coat
He wanted to borrow a tend dollar note
Says I go away, nigger, I ain't got a red cent

This has the obscure "Indian" nation referencing couplet, the Orleans/beans couplet (recycled in several chanties like "Stormalong" and "Knock a Man Down"), "rolling river" (smacking of "Shenandoah"), and a reference to a "turkey buzzard." The last seems to be another trope in American folk/popular music. A lyric from "Turkey Buzzard Blues" (cited above) uses the huckleberry idea.

"Uncle Bud" was also a song that was typically bawdy, and a version cited above uses the huckleberry couplet.

Songs like that were probably "carriers" of this floating couplet, but I couldn't say which one might have had the most influence.

It seems somewhat unlikely to me, in the nonnarrative discourse of minstrel songs, for there to have been any elaboration beyond the one couplet. If that was true, then someone later (perhaps a creative chantyman) may have started to continue it and construct a narrative.

Then again, maybe there was a popular song that did do a narrative of it.

When one strips down the chanty collections and eliminates versions that were copies of previous texts, one find few that continue the narrative beyond the one verse. There are other reasons why that may be the case, but it may be significant.