Old Dan Tucker

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Old Dan Tucker
by Daniel Decatur Emmett
Legend states that Emmett composed the tune when he was only 14 years old, naming the title character for himself and his dog, Tucker.

Published versions[edit]

"The Original Old Dan Tucker", Boston: Charles H. Keith, 1843:

OLD DAN EMMIT's
ORIGINAL BANJO MELODIES
EMMIT, BROWN, WHITLOCK, PELHAM
The Original
OLD DAN TUCKER
As sung by the Virginia Minstrels
Words by Old Dan. D. Emmit
I come to town de udder night,
I hear de noise an saw de fight,
De watchman was a runnin roun,
Cryin Old Dan Tucker's come to town.
Gran' Chorus.
So get out de way! Get out de way!
Get out de way! Old Dan Tucker.
Your to late to come to supper.
Tucker is a nice old man,
He use to ride our darby ram,
He sent him wizzen down de hill,
If he hadn't got up he'd lay dar still.
Chorus
Here's my razor in good order,
Magnum bonum—jis had bought 'er,
Sheep sell oats, Tucker shell de corn,
I'll shabe you soon as de water get warm.
Chorus
Old Dan Tucker an I got drunk,
He fell in de fire an kick up a chunk,
De charcoal got inside he shoe,
Lor bless you honey how de ashes flew.
Chorus
Down de road foremost de stump,
Massa make me work de pump;
I pump so hard I broke de sucker,
Dar was work for ole Dan Tucker.
Chorus
I went to town to buy some goods
I lost myself in a piece of woods,
De night was dark I had to suffer,
It froze de heel of Daniel Tucker.
Chorus
Tucker was a hardened sinner,
He nebber said his grace at dinner;
De ole sow squeel, de pigs did squal
He 'hole hog wid de tail and all.
Chorus[1]

New York: Atwill's, 1843:

I come to town de udder night,
I hear de noise den saw de fight,
De watchman was a runnin roun,
Cryin Old Dan Tuckeer's come to town,
Chorus:
So get out de way!
Get out de way!
Get out de way! Old Dan Tucker,
Your too late to come to supper.
Tucker is a nice old man,
He use'd to ride our darby ram,
He sent him whizzin down de hill,
If he had 'nt got up he'd laid dar still,
Chorus
Tucker on de wood pile--can't count 'lebben,
Put in a fedder bed--him gwine to hebben,
His nose so flat, his face so full,
De top ob his head like a bag ob wool,
Chorus
High hold on de holler tree,
He poke his bill in for to see,
De lizzard cotch 'im by de snout,
He call old Tucker to pull 'im out,
Chorus
Tucker he had cash a plenty,
Dressed to death--his old trunk empty,
To kiss de galls he thot was useless,
'Cept he kissed wid a sway-back-looseness,
Chorus
Here's my razor in good order,
Magnum-bonum--jis hab bought 'er,
Sheep shell de oats, ole Tucker shell de corn,
I'll shade you all when de water gets warm,
Chorus
I went to meetin de udder day,
To hear old Tucker preach and pray,
Dey all got drunk, but me alone,
I make ole Tucker--walk-jaw-bone,
Get out de way, Get out de way,
Get out de way you hard'end sinner,
Your too late to come to dinner.[2]

"The Latest Version of Old Dan Tucker", Deacon Snowball's Negro Melodies, 1843, includes this alternate verse:

We are de boys from old Virginia,
And take de shine from Pagannini [sic],
Wid our old banjo and jaw bone,
We drive all udder music home.[3]

Galbreath presents this version as "authentic":

I came to down de udder night,
I heard de noise, den saw de sight,
De watchmen dey (was) runnin' roun'
Cryin' "Ole Dan Tucker's come to town."
Chorus:
Git outen de way
Git outen de way
Git outen de way, Ole Dan Tucker,
You's too late to come to supper.
Sheep an' hog a walkin' in de pasture,
Sheep says, "hog can't you go faster?"
Hush! hush! honey, hear de wolf growlin',
Ah, ah, de Lawd, bull dog growlin'.
Chorus
Here's my razor in good order,
Magnum bonum—jis hab bought 'er;
Sheep shell oats, an' Tucker sell de corn,
I'll shabe ye soon as de water gits warm.
Chorus
Tucker went roun' hickry steeple,
Dar he meet some colored people,
Some was black, some was blacker,
Some was de color ob brown tobackur.
Chorus
Jay bird in de martin's nest,
To sabe he soul he got no rest.
Ole Tucker in de foxe's den,
Out come de young ones nine or ten.
Chorus
Tucker on de wood pile can't count lebben,
Put 'im in a fedder bed goin' to hebben;
His nose so flat, his face so full.
De top ob his head like a bag ob wool.
Chorus
High-hold on de holler tree,
He poke his bill in for to see,
De lizard cotch 'im by de snout,
He call for Tucker to pull 'im out.
Chorus
I went to de meetin' de udder day . .
To hear old Tucker preach and pray;
Dey all got drunk but me alone,
I make ole Tucker walk jaw bone.
Chorus[4]

Political versions[edit]

William Jennings Bryan used the tune for his campaign song in the 1900 Democratic National Convention in Kansas City:

Voters, come and hear my ditty,
What was done at Kansas City:
David Hill, the New York lion,
Nominated Billy Bryan.
Chorus:
Get out of the way, you Grand Old Party,
Get out of the way, you Grand Old Party,
Get out of the way, you Grand Old Party,
You're so old, you're getting warty.
For running mate there was a pull,
But 'twas no use, the woods were full;
And then and there to still the noise
They gave the job to Illinois.
Chorus
Still your boss is Mark A. Hanner,
He looks just like a stockyard's tanner.
Is the ring our hats we're shying,
Whoop! Hurrah! For Billy Bryan.
Chorus
Keep the banners ever flying;
Follow always Billy Bryan.
Onward now and all keep steady,
'Cause we're after Mack and Teddy.
Chorus[5]

Marion Harland recorded another political version from a Whig rally in 1844:

The moon was shining silver bright, the stars with glory crowned the night,
High on a limb that 'same old Coon' was singing to himself this tune:
Chorus:
Get out the way, you're all unlucky; clear the track for Ole Kentucky!
Now in a sad predicament the Lokies are for President;
They have six horses in the pasture, and don't know which can run the faster.
Chorus
The Wagon-Horse from Pennsylvany, the Dutchmen think he's the best of any;
But he must drag in heavy stages his Federal notions and low wages.
Chorus
They proudly bring upon the course an old and broken-down war-horse;
They shout and sing: 'Oh! rumpsey dumsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumsey!
Chorus
And here is Cass, though not a dunce, will run both sides of the track at once;
To win the race will all things copy, be sometimes pig and sometimes puppy.
Chorus
The fiery Southern horse, Calhoun, who hates a Fox and fears a Coon,
To toe the scratch will not be able, for Matty keeps him in the stable.
Chorus
And here is Matty, never idle, a tricky horse that slips his bridle;
In forty-four we'll show him soon the little Fox can't fool the Coon.
Chorus
The balky horse they call John Tyler, we'll head him soon or burst his boiler;
His cursed 'grippe' has seized us all, which Doctor Clay will cure next fall.
Chorus
The people's fav'rite, Henry Clay, is now the 'fashion' of the day;
And let the track be dry or mucky, we'll stake our pile on Ole Kentucky.
Get out of the way, he's swift and lucky; clear the track for Ole Kentucky![6]

Version from the Civil War:

Old Abe is coming down to fight,
And put the Democrats to flight;
He's coming with the wedge and maul
And he will split 'em one and all.
Chorus:
Get out the way, you little giant
Get out the way, you little giant
Get out the way, you little giant
You can't come in, you're too short and pliant.
Abe, he lives in a big log hut,
Can drive the wedge and use the glut;
He swings the maul and when he hits,
It goes in the ground or else it splits.
Chorus
Old Abe knows how to drive the team,
Because he never goes by steam;
But now the ox-goad he will use,
And dust the giant in his shoes.
Chorus
Look the prairie's all on fire,
If poor Douglas had grown higher;
He might have seen the smoke and stuff,
But his short legs can't run fast enough.
Chorus[7]

Folk versions[edit]

Slave version from 1850s Orange County, North Carolina:

Marster and Missus look' might fine—
Gwine to take a journey, gwine whar dey gwine,
Crab grass a-dyin', red sun in de west,
Saturday's comin', nigger gwine to rest.[8]

Slave version remembered by Dora Franks of Aberdeen, Mississippi:

Old Dan Tucker was a mighty mean man,
He beat his wife with a fryin' pan.
She hollered and she cried, "I'se gwine to go,
Dey's plenty o' men won't beat me so."[9]

North Carolina version:

Ole Aunt Dinah she got drunk,
Felled in de fire and kicked up a chunk.
Red hot coal popped in her shoe—
Lordy a-mighty! How de water flew?[10]

Another North Carolina version:

Ole Dan'l Tucker clomb a tree,
His Lord an' Marster for to see.
De limb hit broke an' Dan got a fall—
Nuver got to see his Lord at all!
Miss Tucker she went out one day,
To ride with Dan in a one horse sleigh.
De sleigh was broke, and de horse was blind—
Miss Tucker she got left behind.
As I come down de new cut road,
I spied de peckerwood and de toad,
And every time de toad would jump
De peckerwood hopped upon de stump.
And next upon de gravel road,
I met Br'er Tarypin and Br'er Toad.
And every time Br'er Toad would sing
Br'er Tarrypin cut de pigeon wing.
Ole Dan and me we did fall out,
And what d'ye reckon it was about?
He trod on my corn and I kicked him on the shins;
That's jest the way this row begins.
If Ole Dan he had corn to buy,
He'd mo'n and wipe his weepin' eye;
But when Ole Dan had corn to sell,
He was as sassy as all hell.[11]

Miscellaneous stanzas from the folk tradition:

I came to town de udder night,
I hear de noise, an' I saw de fight.
De watchman wuz a-runnin' roun'
Cryin' "Old Dan Tucker's come to town."
Old Dan Tucker he went to de mill,
To git some meal to put in de swill;
The miller swo' by de point of his knife
He nebber had seed such a man in his life.
Dan Tucker and I we did fall out,
And what do you think it was about?
He tread upon corn; I kicked him on de chin,
An' dat's de way dis row begin.
Old Dan began in early life,
To play de banjo an' de fife;
He play de niggers all to sleep,
An' den into his bunk he creep.(Lomax 261)
Old Daniel Tucker wuz a mighty man,
He washed his face in a fryin' pan;
Combed his head wid a wagon wheel
And he died wid de toofache in his heel.
And now Old Dan is a gone sucker,
And never can go home to supper.
Old Dan has had his las' ride,
An' de banjo's buried by his side.(Lomax 262)

Chorus:

So, git outa de way for old Dan Tucker,
He's come too late to git his supper.
Supper's over and breakfast cookin',
Old Dan Tucker standin' lookin'.[12]

Michigan, 1920::

Here's old Dan, he comes to town;
He swings the ladies round and round.
He swings one east, he swings one west,
He swings with the one he loves the best.[13]

Pineville, Missouri, 4 June 1927:

Old Dan Tucker down in town,
Swingin' the ladies all around,
First to the right an' then to the left,
An' then to the one that you love best.
Chorus:
Git out of the way for old Dan Tucker,
He's too late to git his supper,
Supper's over an' breakfast a-cookin',
An' old Dan Tucker standin' a-lookin'.
Chorus
Old Dan Tucker down in town,
A-ridin' a foat an' a leadin' a hound.
The hound give a howl an' the goat give a jump,
An' throwed Old Dan a-straddle of a stump.
Chorus
Old Dan Tucker he got drunk,
Fell in the fire an' kicked out a chunk,
Fire coal got in Dan's old shoe,
Oh my golly how the ashes flew!
Chorus[14]

Bentonville, Arkansas, 21 November 1935:

Old Dan Tucker is a fine old man,
Washing his face in the fryin' pan,
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
An' died with a toothache in his heel![15]

Rolla, Missouri, 5 April 1938:

I went to town the other night,
I heard the noise and I saw the fight,
The watchman was a-running round,
Cryin Old Dan Tucker's come to town!
Old Dan he worked in the cotton field,
He got a stone bruise on his heel,
He left the field and went through the woods
To the little pond where the fishin's good
Old Dan he went down to the mill
To get some meal to put in the swill,
The miller he swore by the point of his knife,
He never seen such a man in his life.
And now old Dan is a done gone sucker,
And never will go home to his supper,
Old Dan he has had his last ride,
And the banjo's buried by his side.[16]

Australia:

Old Danny Tucker was a dirty old man,
He washed his face in the frying pan,
Combed his hair with the leg of a chair,
Died with a toothache in his hair.[17]

Miscellaneous stanzas, source unknown:

Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man
He washed his face in a frying pan
He combed his hair with a wagon wheel
And died with a toothache in his heel.
Chorus:
So get out of the way for old Dan Tucker
He's too late to get his supper
Supper's over and dinner's cookin'
Old Dan Tucker just stand there lookin'.
I come to town the other night
I heard the noise and saw the fight
The watchman was a-runnin' round
Crying "Old Dan Tucker's come to town."
Old Dan Tucker is a nice old man
He used to ride our darby ram
He sent him whizzing down the hill
If he hadn't got up, he'd lay there still.
Old Dan begun in early life
To play the banjo and the fife
He played the children all to sleep
And then into his bunk he'd creep.[18]

Reed Springs, Missouri, 1847:

Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man,
Washed his face in a fryin' pan,
Combed his head with a hickory stick,
Layed down to die with a limber prick.
Old Dan Tucker down in town,
A-lookin' up an' a lookin' down,
Huntin' a grass-widder for to fuck,
Poor old Dan didn't have no luck.[19]

Benton County, Arkansas, c. 1910s:

Old Dan Tucker was a fine old soul,
Buckskin belly and a rubber ass-hole,
Swallowed a barrel of cider down
And then he shit all over town.[20]

Alternate chorus from San Francisco, c. 1955:

Git out the way for Old Dan Tucker,
He's too late to git his supper,
Supper's over an' the dishes are washed,
Nothin's left but a piece of squa-ash.[21]

Notes[edit]

  1. Quoted in Mahar 229, Nathan, and Waltz.
  2. From Pre-1852 Minstrel Songs.
  3. Quoted in Cockrell 156.
  4. Galbreath 542-3.
  5. Welsch 78-9.
  6. Harland 137.
  7. Quoted in Forcucci 131.
  8. Avriett, The Old Plantation, 140-46, quoted in Abrahams, Singing the Master, 236-37. Quoted in Mahar 259.
  9. Franks 129.
  10. McCulloch-Williams, Martha. Letter to the editor of the New York Sun. Quoted in Lomax 258.
  11. McCulloch-Williams, Martha. Letter to the editor of the New York Sun. Quoted in Lomax 259-61.
  12. Lomax 261.
  13. Gardner 116.
  14. Randolph, Vance. Ozark Folksongs, Volume III. P. 302. Quoted in Waltz.
  15. Randolph, Vance. Ozark Folksongs, Volume III. P. 303. Quoted in Waltz.
  16. Randolph, Vance. Ozark Folksongs, Volume III. P. 303. Quoted in Waltz.
  17. Meredith, John, and Anderson, Hugh. Folk Songs of Australia. P. 263. Quoted in Waltz.
  18. Quoted in Waltz.
  19. Randolph 431.
  20. Randolph 431.
  21. Randolph 433.

References[edit]

  • Cockrell, Dale (1997). Demons of Disorder: Early Blackface Minstrels and Their World. Cambridge University Press.
  • Crawford, Richard (2001). America's Musical Life: A History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Forcucci, Samuel L. (1984). A Folk Song History of America: America through Its Songs. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  • Franks, Dora (2000). Interview printed in Yetman, Norman R., ed. (2000). Voices from Slavery: 100 Authentic Slave Narratives. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
  • Galbreath, C. B. (1901). "Song Writers of Ohio". Ohio Archæological and Historical Publications. Vol. XIII.
  • Gardner, Emelyn E. (1920) "Some Play-party Games in Michigan". The Journal of American Folk-lore Vol. 33. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: The American Folk-lore Society.
  • Harland, Marion (1910). Marion Harland's Autobiography: The Story of a Long Life. New York City: Harper & Brothers Publishers.
  • Lomax, John A., and Lomax, Alan (1934). American Ballads and Folk Songs. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Mahar, William J. (1999). Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
  • Nathan, Hans (1962). Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Vance, Randolph (1992). Roll Me in Your Arms: "Unprintable" Ozark Folksongs and Folklore. Vol I: Folksongs and Music. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press.
  • Waltz, Robert (4 August 2005). "Oral Transmission". A Site Inspired by the Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism. Accessed 14 January 2006.
  • Welsch, Roger L. (1966). A Treasury of Nebraska Folklore. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.