Been to the East Been to the West
X:1 T:Been to the East, been to the West N:From the playing of the Leake County Revelers (Mississippi), with N:fiddler Wil Gilmer. M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel D:https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/been-east-been-west D: D:Columbia 15318-D (78 RPM), Leake County Revelers (1928. Recorded D:04/1928 in New Orleans, La.). D:Document DOCD 8029, "Leake County Revelers, vol. 1" (1998) Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G (Bc|d)cde d2B2|dedB G2 ((3ABc|d)edd B3G|A2 G4Bc| dcde dcBc|dedB G2((3ABc|d)edd B3G|A2 G4:| [B2g2]-|[Bg]a [B2g2][_Bf]-[=B2g2]a|b2 a4- ag-|ag a2 abag|f2[d4f4]([de]-[ee]-| [ee])e e2 +slide+[e3e3]e|g2 e4 ef|gfed d2 (B/c/B) |A2G4||
BEEN TO THE EAST, BEEN TO THE WEST. AKA and see "Great Big Yam Potatoes." American, Reel (cut time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Phillips): AA'B (Milliner-Koken): AABB (Kuntz, Songer). The fast-paced reel-like song/tune is from the Leake County Revellers, recorded on a Columbia Records 78 RPM in 1928. The Revelers sang these words to the first strain:
Well, I've been to the east and I've been to the west,
And I've been to Alabama;
Prettiest girl I ever did see,
And her name was Susianna.
Prettiest little girl I ever did see,
Lives in Alabama;
Wanna know her name, I'll tell you what it would be,
Her name is Susianna.]
Hawk said, "I'll find me something for to eat,
Gonna 'light on the yellowhammer."
Versions of the above lyric substantially predate the Leake County Revelers, however, and similar rhymes can be found in play-party songs collected in the late 19th and early 20th century, and in the black-face minstrel song "Brack [sic] Eyed Susianna", published in 1846 in Philadelphia by A. Foit, as sung by the Nightingale Serenaders. The chorus to the song (sans dialect spelling) goes:
I been to the east, I been to the west,
I been to South Carolina;
And of all the gals I love the best,
Is my black-ey'd Susianna.
The phrase 'been to the east, been to the west' is a ballad meme and variants can be traced to Child balladry. "Rare Willie, Drowned in Yarrow; or, The Water o' Gowrie" (Child No. 215) contains the verse:
She sought him east, she sought him west,
She sought him broad and narrow,
Till in the clifting of a crag
She found him drowned in Yarrow.
Musically, "Been to the East" is closely related to the West Virginia tune "Horney Ewe (The)" AKA "Hornio" and Melvin Wine's "Going Down to Georgie-O." "Goin' to Chatanooga" is also similar in the first strain.