Old Raccoon (The)

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OLD RACCOON. Old-Time, Minstrel: Song & Breakdown (2/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Judging from the dialect verse Ford prints with the tune, it began on the black-face minstrel stage:

Raccoon's tail got rings all around,
De possum's tail am bare.
De rabbit ain't got no tail at all,
Just a little bit a bunch a hair. ... (Ford)

In fact, the stanza belongs to a minstrel era song called "Uncle Gabriel" as well as several other songs and is a "floating verse." "Uncle Gabriel" is a song about animal's tails:

Mr. Coon he is a mighty man,
He carries a bushy tail,
He steals old massa's corn at night,
And husks it on a rail.

The squirrel has a bushy tail,
Stumpy grows de hair,
De old coon's tail am ringed all round--
De possum's tail am bare.

Raccoon got a bushy tail
Opossum's tail is bare;
Rabbit ain't got no tail at all,
But jes' a bunch o' hair,
But jes' a bunch o' hair.

"Uncle Gabriel" was printed in Clark's Orphean Warbler (London, 1850) and a variety of period songsters. Apart from the minstrel stage, the lines were collected from the antebellum Black community in the South. An article called "Notes on Texas Folk-Lore" in the Journal of American Folk-Lore (1915), for example, gives a song called "Old Virginia Breakdown" with the final stanza:

Raccoon's tail am ringed all round, 'possum's tail am bare,
Rabbit got no tail at all, but de put a little motion dar.
I went down to de ole hen house, I got upon my knees,
Mos killed myse'f a laffin to hear dat chicken sneeze.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; p. 62.

Recorded sources:




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