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Member
Picture of Chris J. Strolin
posted

Question:
Over on the OEDILF site, Mephistopheles has written what I consider a very clever piece on the word "bluebottle" that requires the reader to be at least somewhat familiar with the song "Bluetail Fly":
_______

Saw a bluebottle fly here and there:
Gimcrack shiny, it danced in the air.
Had 'im cornered for sure
Near a pile of manure.
(Gimcrack cornered? But why would I care?)

Quick, Henry! the Flit!
_______

The song was first published in 1846 and became extremely popular in the States to the point of gaining status as a classic folk song, but I'm not sure how well known this piece is outside the US. Just out of curiosity, let me put this into the form of a poll.

Feel free to include your nationality with any post about how you voted. (No fair googling!) The correct answer will be posted eventually.

Thanks much.


The poll question is: What fairly unusual event takes place in the song "Bluetail Fly"?

Choices:
The narrator's master is thrown into a ditch and dies after the horse he was riding was bitten by a bluetail fly.
The narrator's wife takes a lover based on a bluetail fly whispering in her ear that it would be all right.
The narrator accepts his lot in life as a slave working in a corn field with his only complaint being the flies.
The narrator, a private under General George Washington, looks forward to being bitten by bluetail flies (summer) since this will mean he has survived the winter at Valley Forge.
The narrator's baby chokes to death after swallowing a bluetail fly but the narrator is not overly distressed.

 
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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quote:
The song was first published in 1846 and became extremely popular in the States to the point of gaining status as a classic folk song, but I'm not sure how well known this piece is outside the US.

Hmmm...I've never heard of it, and I've lived here all my life. Therefore, I guessed...and with my "guessing skills" from the Bluffing game, I am 100% certain to be wrong!
 
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Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care
Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care
Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care...


...learned that one nearly sixty years ago, sung by Burl Ives and recorded on a 78-RPM record album.
 
Posts: 5588 | Location: Worcester, MA, USReply With QuoteReport This Post
<Asa Lovejoy>
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I hven't looked it up, but isn't it a Stephen Foster song? He wrote lots of popular stuff back then.
 
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from Straightdope.com, edited so as not to spoil CJ's poll (remember the poll?)

...we consulted Tom Miller, Straight Dope curator of music, he told us about an interpretation he'd picked up from Charlie Maddox, a musician in Shenandoah, Virginia. Maddox said "crack corn" came from the old English term "crack," meaning gossip, and that "cracking corn" was a traditional Shenandoah expression for "sitting around chitchatting." Maddox claimed "Jimmy Crack Corn" was an abolitionist song, and that "blue-tail fly" referred to federal troops in their blue uniforms overthrowing the slave owners.

A conspicuous defect of this theory is that "Jimmy Crack Corn," published in 1846, is attributed to an outfit called the Virginia Minstrels. The Virginia Minstrels helped originate the blackface minstrel show, not one of your prime vehicles for abolitionist sentiment. The author of the song, though not definitely known, was probably a Virginia Minstrel named Daniel Emmett, a popular songwriter and musician whose best-known composition was the southern anthem "Dixie" (1859). Like his contemporary Stephen Foster, Emmett was a northerner who wrote sentimental songs about the south in black dialect. So don't go looking for any deep social message.

(emphasis added)
 
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Picture of Hic et ubique
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haberdasher: "Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care..."

Shoo Fly Pie
and Apple Pan Dowdy makes your
Eyes light up,
Your tummy say "Howdy."
Shoo Fly Pie
and Apple Pan Dowdy
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff.

Shoo Fly Pie
and Apple Pan Dowdy makes the
sun come out
When Heavens are cloudy,
Shoo Fly Pie
and Apple Pan Dowdy,
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!


OK, so it's not THAT old!
 
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FabulousFoods.com has this to say about
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy,
performed exactly one hundred years later (1946)
by Dinah Shore!

(That'd be about when I learned the Bluetail Fly...)
 
Posts: 5588 | Location: Worcester, MA, USReply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of Chris J. Strolin
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On the OEDILF site, 6 people chose answer #1, the correct one, 2 went for #3, and none went for the two best (IMO) wrong answers, #2 & #5. They didn't pull in any votes here, either. #2 was supposed to remind people of the expression "a flea in her ear" which is defined pretty much as I had it there. The software on the other site allows for more poll choices so I put in a pair of "I don't know" options (one for those born and raised in the States and the other for non-Yanks) and both pulled in 7 votes.

Bottom line, this song is not that familiar to folks in general (as I would have guessed) but a higher percentage of Wordcrafters got it right (which I would).

The following are the original lyrics:
__________________

When I was young a us'd to wait
On Massa and hand him de plate;
Pass down the bottle when he git dry,
And bresh away de blue tail fly.

CHORUS: Jim crack corn I don't care,
Jim crack corn I don't care,
Jim crack corn I don't care,
Old Massa gone away.

Den arter dinner massa sleep,
He bid dis niggar vigil keep;
An' when he gwine to shut his eye,
He tell me watch de blue tail fly.

(CHORUS)

An' when he ride in de arternoon,
I foiler wid a hickory broom;
De poney being berry shy,
When bitten by de blue tail fly.

(CHORUS)

One day he rode aroun' de farm,
De flies so numerous dey did swarm;
One chance to bite 'im on the thigh,
De debble take dat blu tail fly.

(CHORUS)

De poney run, he jump an' pitch,
An' tumble massa in de ditch;
He died, an' de jury wonder'd why
De verdic was de blue tail fly.

(CHORUS)

Dey laid 'im under a 'simmon tree,
His epitaph am dar to see:
'Beneath did stone I'm forced to lie,
All by means ob de blue tail fly.'

(CHORUS)

Ole massa gone, now let 'im rest,
Dey say all tings am for the best;
I nebber forget till de day I die,
Ole massa an' dat blue tail fly.

(CHORUS)
_________________

This is definitely not what Burl Ives sang.

Research shows some disagreement regarding the chorus with "cracking corn" meaning snoring, gossiping or chatting with friends, drinking hard liquor, and a few other things. One source reported that the bluetail fly was a symbol for the blue-coated Yankee soldiers who overturned the world of the slave owners but, given the nature of the song, that seems like a bit of a stretch to me. I also read that this was one of Abe Lincoln's favorite songs but, to be fair, he never heard Paradise by the Dashboard Light.
 
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quote:
This is definitely not what Burl Ives sang.


But not that far off, just cleaned up a bit and with the a few parts left out.

If memory serves me correctly(and in this case I'm pretty confidenet), what he sang was

"When I was young I used to wait
On my ol' Master and hand his plate
And pass the bottle when he got dry
And brush away the Bluetail Fly.

Chorus:
Jimmy Crack Corn and I don't care,
Jimmy Crack Corn and I don't care,
Jimmy Crack Corn and I don't care,
My Master's gone away.

One day he ride around the farm,
The flies so numerous they did swarm,
One chanced to bite him on the thigh,
The Devil take the Bluetail Fly.

(chorus)

The pony run, he jump, he pitch,
He threw my Master in the ditch,
He died, and the Jury wondered why,
The verdict was the Bluetail Fly.

(chorus)

They laid him under a 'simmon tree,
His epitaph is there to see,
"Beneath this stone forced to lie,
The victim of the Bluetail Fly."

(chorus)


And looking over your version, I think the verse with the hickory broom was probably in there, too, just not in dialect.

All subject to correction from a Burl Ives (or maybe a Decca) Google.
 
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"Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?"

"I think so, Brain, but if Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why does he keep doing it?"

Pinky & The Brain
 
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