I Don't Love Nobody (1)

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I DON'T LOVE NOBODY [1]. AKA – “I Don’t Want to Get Married,” “I Love a Nobody, "Piece (1).” American, Country Rag (cut time). USA; widely known. C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Phillips): AABB (Brody): ABC (Beiswenger/McCann). This popular tune has been covered by many old-time fiddlers; Charles Wolfe (1983) remarks that it was issued by no less than six labels in the early 1930's, and prior to that it was recorded by Georgia fiddler Gid Tanner (1924), Earl Johnson (1927), and the Dixie String Band (1924). One early recording, by the Red Headed Fiddlers (with A.L. “Red” Steely on fiddle and Red Graham on banjo), resulted in the song being released as “Fatal Wedding.” The tune was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozarks Mountains fiddlers in the early 1940's, and 20th century Ozarks fiddler Art Galbraith noted that he heard many fiddlers play the tune (see Rounder 0133). Lyrics to the melody begin:

I was born in Kentucky, lived there all of my life,
Thought I'd better be lucky, never had no wife;
I once thought I'd get married, I asked a little girl to wed,
But when I asked her to marry me, this is what she said:

I don't want to get married, always want to be free,
I don't love nobody, nobody loves me;
All they want is my money, they don't care for me,
I don't want to get married, I just want to be free.


However, the tune appears to be derived from a ragtime song by monologist, female impersonator and minstrel entertainer Lew Sully , who may have adapted it from an older song. Sully (born Charles Sullivan, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1862) copyrighted it in 1896, and it was printed with a cover of Sully in blackface, and, indeed, Mr. Sully had a long career performing in various minstrel troupes in the Midwest and East Coast. The lyrics are considered provocative in modern times, and, in fact Sully seems to have authored similar songs with racist messages (“Hesitate, Mr. N….r, Hesitate”—see sketch in Rice’s Monarchs of Minstrelsy, 1909, p. 311).

Al Dexter's Texas swing tune "Rock and Rye Rag" is a similar melody. See also eastern Nebraska fiddler Bob Walters' (1889-1960) version as "Piece (1)."

Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - Doc Roberts (KY) and Tommy Jackson [Phillips]; Cotton Combs (1921-1984, Fayetteville, Arkansas) [Beisswenger/McCann]; Skillet Lickers (north Georgia) [Milliner & Koken]; Doc Roberts (Ky.) [Milliner & Koken].

Printed sources : - Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Tunes), 2008; p. 23. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; p. 139. Milliner & Koken (Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes), 2011; pp. 309-310. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 2, 1995; p. 67.

Recorded sources: -Conqueror 8239 (78 RPM), Doc Roberts (Ky. Recorded in 1932 and learned directly from the earlier Skillet Lickers recording). County 412, "Fiddling Doc Roberts" (1983). County 517, Red Headed Fiddlers – “Texas Farewell.” Davis Unlimited 33015, Doc Roberts - "Classic Fiddle Tunes." Document DOCD 8044, "Fiddlin' Doc Roberts, vol. 3." Document DOCD 8056, "The Skillet Lickers, vol. 1." OKeh 45101 (78 RPM), Earl Johnson & His Dixie Entertainers (1927). Rooster Records RLP-001, Cotton Combs – “My Fiddle and I” (c. 1970’s). Rounder 0088, Allen Shelton - "Shelton Special." Rounder 0133, Art Galbraith. Rounder SS-0145, Snuffy Jenkins. Rounder Records, Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers - "The Kickapoo Medecine Show" (appears as 5th tune of the Kickapoo Medecine Show skit). Starday SLP 235, Curly Fox (1963). In the repertoire of W.Va. brother band the Tweedy Brothers (Harry, George, and Charles), c. 1930, who played twin fiddles and piano; in the repertoire of banjo player Elizabeth Cotten (1895-198?), Chapel Hill, N.C.

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Doc Roberts' recording at Slippery Hill [2]
Hear the Skillet Lickers recording at Slippery Hill [3]

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