Possum up a Gum Tree

Find traditional instrumental music
Jump to: navigation, search

Back to Possum up a Gum Tree[edit]


POSSUM UP A GUM TREE. AKA - "Opossum up a Gum Tree." American, Air (4/4 time). Cecilia Conway (1995) finds references to the song "Opposum up a Gum Tree." As she relates, English performer Charles Mathews witnessed the tune being sung by the noted tragedian and performer Ira Aldridge (1807-1867) at the African Grove Theater in New York. The theater was a venue for black performers, and at the conclusion of Hamlet (rendered in dialect) the audience had called for their favorite song; Aldridge obliged. Mathews (who later incorporated the material into a comic act for the British stage) made several transcriptions of the song, the tune of which appears to be similar to the "Turkey Buzzard" family of tunes. Conway, in her book African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia (1995), states that "the song is apparently a variant of the dance tune 'Cooney in de Holler,' which was popular in Philadelphia and the Five Points dance halls and dives of New York during the time of 'Juba' Lane and Charles Dickens." Hans Nathan (Dan Emmett and Negro Minstrelsy, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1962), citing T. Allston Brown (The Origins of Minstrelsy), writes that the song was known to white boatmen and African-Americans in South Carolina.

The song was published in London by J. Willis & Co. c. 1824:

Possum up a Gum-Tree,
Up he go, up he go
Racoon in the hollow
Down below, down below.
Him pull him by hims long tail,
Pully hawl, pully hawl,
Then how him whoop and hallow
Scream and bawl, scream and bawl.
Possum up a Gum Tree
Racoon in the hollow
Him pull him by hims long tail
Then how him whoop and hallow.


Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources:




Back to Possum up a Gum Tree[edit]