Old Jaw Bone (2)

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OLD JAW BONE [2]. American, Minstrel Song. The use of a jawbone from a horse, ox or mule, was a plantation icon, exploited on the minstrel stage as a (often comic) supplement or alternative to the use of the 'bones' as a rhythmic accompaniment. The teeth would be left in the jaw, and a key or a piece of metal (or any other scraper) would be drawn across them to produce a sound. The song "Old Jaw Bone" was first printed in Boston in 1840, and is perhaps by Joel Sweeney [according to Robert Winans]. "The Old Jawbone" was printed in The Negro Minstrel (Glasgow, 1850, p. 14) and Christy's Negro Melodies No. 4 (Philadelphia, c. 1854, p. 18), while "Walk Jaw Bone" was published in the Negro Forget-Me-Not Songster (c. 1847, p. 55). The following lyric can be found in Old Dog Tray Songster (Baltimore, 18--, p. 248):

De jaw bone hung agin de wall,
De gals all thought dat it would fall;
But dar it hung till de gals all gone,
Den hurra for de old jaw bone.

Den walk Jawbone, ginger log,
Jaw bone gwine de whole hog.

The lyrics tended to be non-connected, 'floating', and, in some cases nonsensical or comically exaggerated.

It may have been also that Jawbone was a minstrel character. A volume called Christy's Nigga Songster (New York, T. W. Strong, c. 1850) contained songs "As Sung By Christy's, Pierce's, White's and Dumbleton's Minstrels," including one called "Jim Jawbone" (set to the tune of "Yankee Doodle was a gentleman"):

Jim Jawbone was a color'd man,
Ob de true nigga blood, sa,
In old Virginny he did grow,
Among de 'bacca buds, sa.
His fader cum from Alabama,
His moder cum from Guinea,
Dey suckled little Jawbone wid
De leaf ob ole Virginny.

Success to de tobacco leaf,
An' nigga's Jawbone Grinny,
Sing may dey raise for our relief,
De plant ob ole Virginny.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Gumbo Chaff (The Complete Preceptor for the Banjo), 1851; p. 10.

Recorded sources: New World Records NW388-80338, "The Early Minstrel Show."

See also listing at:
See/hear the song played with banjo accompaniment on the minstrelring.com [1]

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