Annotation:We'll Have a Little Dance Tonight Boys

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WE'LL HAVE A LITTLE DANCE TONIGHT, BOYS. AKA - "Have a Little Dance." American, Minstrel Song and Tune (2/4 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. This minstrel song was printed in several minstrel songsters, such as Dandy Crow Songs (1858) and Whites New Illustrated Melodeon Song Book (1865--the title refers not to the musical instrument but rather to the Melodeon Concert Saloon, a venue for White's Minstrels). The dialect words go:

I'll song you now dis good old song
And then I'll song another,
Old massa's gwine dis aternoon,
To call upon his brudder;
Den wait a little while, my boys,
Till he gits out ob sight,
We'll drop de shovel and de hoe,
Spoken: What for?
To have a little dance to-night.

We'll have a little dance to night, boys
To-night, boys, to-night, boys,
We'll have a little dance to-night, boys,
An dance by de light ob de moon.

I like de cambric handkerchief,
O like de beaver hat;
Oh, hand me down my high heel boots,
Likewise my silk cravat.
De niggers dey am grinning,
And dar teeth look very white,
We'll go across de mountain, boys,
Spoken: What for?
To have a little dance to-night.

Chorus.--We'll have a little dance to-night, &c.

I rises at de broke ob day,
To take my morning walk,
I meet my lubly Julian,
And dis de way we talk;
I says, "you are my own true love,
You are my heart's delight,
Will you go over de ribber dis evening,
Spoken.--What for?
To have a little dance to-night."


The lyrics were updated to expunge the dialect, with completely new verses, by John Lair and recorded in 1944 by Doc Hopkins, onetime member of the Cumberland Ridge Runners, as a country breakdown/song.

The tune was entered into the mid-19th century music manuscript collection of Bellport, Long Island, ship's captain and fiddler Isaac Homan, along with numerous other minstrel song tunes, cotillion sets, and misc. dance tunes. It may be the Homan and his musical friends put on their own minstrel shows.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Gumbo Chaff (The Complete Preceptor for the Banjo), 1851; p. 4 (minstrel version). John Lair (100 WLS Barn Dance Favorites), 1935; p. 72 (country version).

Recorded sources: British Academy of Country Music B.A.C.M. 91, "Doc Hopkins & His Country Boys vol. 2."

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