Nigger Trader Boatman

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NIGGER[1] TRADER BOATMAN. AKA - "Trader Boatman." American, Reel. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Mike Yates (2002) suggests this tune is a distant relative of Emmett Lundy's "Julie Ann Johnson." His source, Pug Allen of Stuarts Draft, Augusta County, Va., learned the tune 'way back' from his father, and recalled these words sung to the tune:

N.... trader boatman, now mammy don't you cry.
Hug and kiss you 'fore I go, and call you honey pie.

When I was a little boy about six inches high,
I used to climb the table leg and steal my mammy's pie.

Great big hog into the pen, corn to feed him on,
All I wants a pretty little girl, to feed him when I'm gone.

The second verse is to be found in a ditty called "Training the Boy," collected by Fisk University African-American researcher Thomas Talley, printed in his Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise and Unwise (1922):

Wen I wus a liddle boy,
Jes thirteen inches high,
I useter climb de table legs,
An' steal off cake an' pie.

Altho' I wus a liddle boy,
An' tho' I wusn't high,
My mammy took dat keen switch down,
An' whupped me till I cry.

The last verse is a floating verse and appears in several tunes. Yates says that Glen Neaves' version has more content about the slave trade.


Additional notes





Recorded sources : - Folkways LP3830, Glen Neaves and the Virginia Mountain Boys. Musical Traditions MTCD321-2, Pug Allen (et al) - "Far in the Mountains" (2002). Rounder CD 0383, Mike Seegar & Paul Brown - "Way Down in North Carolina" (appears as "Trader Boatman" recorded 1980).

See also listing at :
Hear a fretless banjo version by Bill Boyer on youtube.com [1]



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  1. Some of items in the Traditional Tune Archive may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes. Such materials should be seen in the context of the time period and as a reflection of the attitudes of the time. The items are part of the historical record, and do not represent the views of the administrators of this site.