X:1 T:Gumbo Chaff M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Minstrel tune B:Elias Howe – Second Part of the Musician’s Companion (1843, p. 56) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:A E|AA Ac/d/|ef/e/ dB|BB B/c/d/e/ |fg/f/ ec| ee a>e|ef/e/ ec|AA A/B/c/d/|1 ef/e/ e:|2 e/c/d/B/ A|| |:c/e/|dB BB/d/|cA Ac/e/|f/a/g/f/ e/d/c/B/|cAA A/e/| dB B/f/e/d/|cA Ac/e/|f/a/g/f/ e/d/c/B/|Aaa:|]
GUMBO CHAFF. AKA - "Gombo Chaff." American, Song Tune (2/4 or 4/4 time). C Major (Ditson): G Major (Howe). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part or AB. Thomas Dartmouth Rice is credited with creating one of the earliest blackface characters, the riverboat-man Gumbo Chaff, in 1834 (it was also part of the repertoire of other early blackface performers, including Thomas D. Rice and George Washington Dixon. Gumbo Chaff became a stock character for a time at minstrel performances. The melody was included in one of the earliest surviving minstrel collections, an 1848 banjo tutor by Boston publisher Elias Howe, who took the pseudonym "Gumbo Chaff" for the book. In 1850 Howe sold the rights to the book to another Boston publisher, Oliver Ditson, on the condition that Howe not publish similar works for a period of ten years. Ditson re-issued the Chaff/Howe banjo tutor in 1851. Ditson also seems to have adapted Howe's same contents to a volume that he also published in 1850; his Ethiopian Violin Instructor, Containing Full and Complete Instructions, With All of the Negro Melodies of the Day, Including Those of The Christy Minstrels. However, Ditson had also published it around the year 1840 in his own collection, The Boston Collection of Instrumental Music.
The first stanza of the song goes:
On de Ohio bluff in de state of Indiana,
Dere's where I live, chock up to de Habbana,
Eb'ry mornin early Massa gib me likker,
I take my net and paddle and I put out de quicker,
I jump into my kiff and I down the river driff,
And I cotch as many cat fish as ever nigger liff.
There is some melodic similarity with the English tune "Bow Wow Wow", which "Gumbo Chaff" may have been based partly on.