Annotation:Billy Barlow (2)

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X:1 T:Billy Barlow [2] M:6/8 L:1/8 R:Jig (minstrel?) B:Elias Howe – Second Part of the Musician’s Companion (1843, p. 57) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:G B|e3b2a|gfe ^def|gfe fe^d|efg B2B| e3 b2a|gfe ^def|gfe edc|BGE E2:| |:G/A/|BGE BGE|BGE E>FG|AFD AFD|AFD DEF| GGG A2A|B^c^d e2f|gfe edB|BGE E2:|

BILLY BARLOW [2]. American, Minstrel Song (6/8 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The melody appears in one of the earliest collection of minstrel songs and tunes, The Complete Preceptor for the Banjo (1848), by 'Gumbo Chaff', a pseudonym for Boston collector and music publisher Elias Howe (who had previously published it in 1843 in one of his large compendiums). Howe published his banjo book in 1848, but soon afterward sold the rights to it and several of his other publications to fellow Boston publisher Oliver Ditson, who re-issued the tutor in 1851. The Chaff book can only be considered a 'tutor' in the broadest sense--there are a few pages devoted to fingering and scales on the banjo, but the majority of the book is in simple music notation, with no effort at describing how the melodies are to be played on the instrument. Ditson adapted Howe's publication for the fiddle as well, issuing nearly the identical work as a fiddle tutor in 1851.

The second strain is shared with "Billy Barlow (1)", printed by Francis O'Neill in Music of Ireland (1903). It appears as the first strain in O'Neill's tune, although the respective accompanying strains differ.

The comic song appears to have been earliest published in New York in 1836 by George Endicot, based on the performance of the song by Jack Reeve. It proved popular, and Billy Barlow became the name of a stock buffoon-like character in minstrel and variety shows. A Civil War era version begins:

Now ladies and gentlemen how do you do,
I come out before you with one boot and one shoe;
I don't how 'tis, but some how 'tis so,
Now isn't it hard upon Billy Barlow.
O dear, raggedy o, Now isn't it hard upon Billy Barlow.

There is an extensive discussion of the song and its numerous variants and antecedents on the Mudcat discussion group [1].

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Gumbo Chaff (The Complete Preceptor for the Banjo), 1851; p. 14. Elias Howe (Second Part of the Musician’s Companion), 1843; p. 57. Keith’s Flute Instruction Book, Boston, 1847; p. 37.

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