Bobbing Joe

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X: 1 T:Bobbing Joe. (p)1651.PLFD.010 M:6/4 L:1/4 Q:3/4=80 S:Playford, Dancing Master,1st Ed.,1651. O:England H:1651. Z:Chris Partington. K:Amin A2 e e2 d|e>fg d>c B|A2 B c>dB|Ae2 A3:| |:B d2 G3|B d2 G3|A2 B c>BA| c>de A3|]



BOBBING JOE. AKA and see "Bobbing Joan(e)," "Bob(by) and Joan/John," "Bobbin-a-Jo." English, Country Dance Tune (6/4 time). A Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Sharp): AAB (Chappell, Raven): AABB (Johnson). This air appears in John Playford's first (and every subsequent) edition of his The English Dancing Master (1651) and Musick's Delight on the Cithren (1666, where it appears as "Bobbing Joan," a frequent title variation). Quite old, it was considered part of the traditional repertoire in John Playford's day (Pulver, 1923), and may be related to the morris tune "Bobbin-a-Joe." As "Bobbing Joane" it appears in several ballad operas, including Gay's Polly (1729), The Bay's Opera (1730), The Mad House (1737), and A Cure for a Scold (1738). As a dance tune it also appears in Walsh's Compleat Country Dancing Master, vol. 1 (1718) and vol. 3 (1731).

There is some confusion with the similarly titled triple hornpipe melody "Boban John," a different tune.

Musicologist Anne Gilchrist tried to make sense of the various names [1]:

In Scotland "Joan" has two syllables, "Jo-han" or "Jo-an," hence English "Joan" is apt to be mistaken for Scots "John" with a long "o". The [lost] song may be connected with a verse printed in Halliwell's Nursery Rhymes (3rd edition, 1843, p. 100):

Here am I, little jumping Joan,
When nobody's with me I'm always alone.

A tune called "Jumping Joan" is printed in Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion (Book ix); later, in Playford's Dancing Master (1680) as "Joan's Placket", and later still in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum (No. 138) as "Jumping John." And "When Joan's ale was new" becomes in a N. Lancashire fisherman's version "When John's sail was new." So there are sufficient instances of the confusion.


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Barlow (The Complete Country Dances from Playford's Dancing Master), 1986; No. 10. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time), vol. 1, 1859; p. 312. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician No. 14: Songs, Airs and Dances of the 18th Century), 1997; p. 1. Playford (The English Dancing Master), 1651; No. 10. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 37 (a facsimile copy of Playford's Dancing Master version). Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 36.

Recorded sources : - Dorian 90238, The Baltimore Consort - "A Trip to Killburn." Maggie's Music MMCD216, Hesperus - "Early American Roots" (1997).

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



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  1. Quoted in Anne G. Gilchrist, "Some Additional Notes on the Traditional History of Certain Ballad-Tunes in the Dancing Master", Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, vol. 3, No. 4, Dec., 1939, p. 274).