Jaybird Died of the Whooping Cough

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JAY BIRD DIED OF/WITH THE WHOOPING COUGH. AKA and see "Here Comes Jack with a Fiddle on His Back." Old-Time, Breakdown. USA; Tennesse, Virginia. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Charles Wolfe (1991) states that printed versions of this song/tune have been found as far back as 1846, and that it has been fairly widely collected from both black and white sources.

Jaybird Died of the Whooping Cough,
Squirrel died of the colic;
'Long come a red bird sittin' on a fence,
Call all the young girls to frolic.

Put that mule back under o' the shed,
Yonder comes the owner;
Stole his horse and bought me a mule,
And I ain't gonna pay no more.

African-American collector Thomas Talley, in his book Negro Folk Rhymes (reprinted in 1991, edited by Charles Wolfe), gives the following verses, the last two of which are relatively rare, according to Wolfe:

De Jaybird died wid de Whoopin' Cough,
De Sparrer died wid de colic;
'Long come de Red-bird, skippin' 'round,
Sayin': "Boys, git ready fer de Frolic!"

De Jaybird died wid de Whoopin' Cough,
De Bluebird died wid de Measles;
'Long come a Nigger wid a fiddle on his back,
'Vitin' Crows fer to dance wid de Weasels.

Dat Mockin'-bird , he romp an' sing,
Dat ole Gray Goose come prancin',
Dat Thrasher stuff his mouf wid plums,
Den he caper on down to de dancin'.

Dey hopped it low, an' dey hopped it high,
Dey hopped it to, an' dey hopped it by,
Dey hopped it fer, an' dey hopped it nigh,
Dat fiddle an' bow jes make 'em fly.

Wolfe states older printed sources include White (243), Brown (3:201), Browne (447), and an early Tennessee variant appears in the Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin 2, p. 30. See also the Kentucky variant entitled "Here Comes Jack with a Fiddle on His Back."

Source for notated versions: John Ashby (1915-1979, north Va.) via the Double Decker String Band (Kuntz); John Ashby [Phillips].

Printed sources: Kuntz (Ragged But Right), 1987; pp. 347-348. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; p. 122.

Recorded sources: County 773, John Ashby and the Free State Ramblers - "Fiddling by the Hearth." Fretless 144, Double Decker String Band- "Giddyap Napoleon." Marimac 9008, The Lazy Aces - "Still Lazy After All These Years" (1986. Learned from John Ashby via Peter Honig).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Mudcat discussion [2]




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