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Origin: Follow the Drinking Gourd (Burl Ives?)

DigiTrad:
FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD


Related threads:
Folklore: Website on the 'Drinking Gourd' song (34)
(origins) Origins/Meaning: Follow the Drinking Gourd (132)
Scholastic/Folkways Recordings-We shall overcome (5)
Chords Req: Follow the Drinking Gourd (7)
Chords Req: Follow the Drinking Gourd (11)
Follow The Drinking Gourd: 2001 (6)
Story: Follow The Drinking Gourd II (64)
Story: The Drinking Gourd I (62)
(origins) Origin: Follow the Drinking Gourd (5)
Tune Req: Follow the Drinking Gourd (9) (closed)


Uncle_DaveO 16 May 05 - 03:53 PM
GUEST,Allen 16 May 05 - 04:06 PM
GUEST,Bill D 16 May 05 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Amos 16 May 05 - 07:42 PM
GUEST 16 May 05 - 07:59 PM
GUEST,brucie 16 May 05 - 08:01 PM
GUEST,Joe Offer 16 May 05 - 08:31 PM
GUEST,McGrath of Harlow 16 May 05 - 08:36 PM
GUEST 16 May 05 - 08:46 PM
GUEST 16 May 05 - 08:47 PM
GUEST,Masato 16 May 05 - 09:31 PM
GUEST,brucie 16 May 05 - 09:37 PM
GUEST,brucie 16 May 05 - 09:40 PM
GUEST,Q 16 May 05 - 09:42 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 May 05 - 05:40 PM
GUEST 17 May 05 - 08:54 PM
GUEST,Q 17 May 05 - 08:56 PM
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Subject: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 16 May 05 - 03:53 PM

It seems to me my earliest reollection of hearing Follow the Drinkin' Gourd was on an old pre-LP "record" by Burl Ives, in the mid to late 40s.

A guy who is making a discography of this song "heard" me say that was my recollection, and he's drawn a blank trying to find such a recording.

Can anyone shed any light on this?

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,Allen
Date: 16 May 05 - 04:06 PM

Well, at first glance in the discography (dunno if's complete or not) at the back of the Song Book I don't see it listed.


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,Bill D
Date: 16 May 05 - 07:40 PM

I don't remember ever seeing a listing of Burl doing it....Pete Seeger is all I really remember.


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,Amos
Date: 16 May 05 - 07:42 PM

The first really popular version of this song, IIRC, was recorded by the Weavers in their early rise to fame; I have never heard of Burl Ives doing it.



A


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 May 05 - 07:59 PM

I never knew the following:

"Follow the Drinking Gourd" is a coded song that gives the route for an escape from Alabama and Mississippi. Of all the routes out of the Deep South, this is the only one for which the details survive. The route instructions were given to slaves by an old man named Peg Leg Joe. Working as an itinerant carpenter, he spent winters in the South, moving from plantation to plantation, teaching slaves this escape route. Unfortunately, we know nothing more about Peg Leg Joe.

The song and its translation are as follows:
When the sun comes back and the first quail calls,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
For the old man is waiting for to carry you to freedom,
If you follow the Drinking Gourd.
"When the sun comes back" means winter and spring when the angle of the sun above the horizon at noon is getting higher each day. Quail are migratory birds which winter in the South. The Drinking Gourd is the Big Dipper. The old man is Peg Leg Joe. The verse tells slaves to leave in the winter and walk towards the Drinking Gourd. Eventually they will meet a guide who will escort them for the remainder of the trip.

Most escapees had to cross the Ohio River which is too wide and too swift to swim. The Railroad struggled with the problem of how to get escapees across, and with experience, came to believe the best crossing time was winter. Then the river was frozen, and escapees could walk across on the ice. Since it took most escapees a year to travel from the South to the Ohio, the Railroad urged slaves to start their trip in winter in order to be at the Ohio River the next winter.

The river bank makes a very good road,
The dead trees show you the way,
Left foot, peg foot, traveling on
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
This verse taught slaves to follow the bank of the Tombigbee River north looking for dead trees that were marked with drawings of a left foot and a peg foot. The markings distinguished the Tombigbee from other north-south rivers that flow into it.

The river ends between two hills,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
There's another river on the other side,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
These words told the slaves that when they reached the headwaters of the Tombigbee, they were to continue north over the hills until they met another river. Then they were to travel north along the new river which is the Tennessee River. A number of the southern escape routes converged on the Tennessee.

Where the great big river meets the little river,
Follow the Drinking Gourd.
For the old man is awaiting to carry you to freedom if you
follow the Drinking Gourd.
This verse told the slaves the Tennessee joined another river. They were to cross that river (which is the Ohio River), and on the north bank, meet a guide from the Underground Railroad.

From

http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/planetarium/ftdg1.htm


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,brucie
Date: 16 May 05 - 08:01 PM

Sorry. The above cut and paste was by me. I know it's longer than usually allowed, but the info is pertinent and really news to me.


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,Joe Offer
Date: 16 May 05 - 08:31 PM

Brucie, MUSIC copy-pastes are highly encouraged, no matter how long. If you find MUSIC information, please provide both the text and a link.

It's just the multi-page non-music copy-pastes that are discouraged, since Mudcat is primarily a music forum.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 May 05 - 08:36 PM

We've had a bunch of interesting threads following up this story of the song, and how it came to be collected and so forth - this link takes you to them.

That's not meant as a suggestion that there may not be more to be said, or that there's anything in any way undesirable about starting up a new thread about the song. But there's some stuff in there worth reading.


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 May 05 - 08:46 PM

All of this has been posted and discussed in detail in a Mudcat thread. Unfortunately, Mudcat is sinking fast and I forget the thread number.
To review, "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd," words and story, were first published by H. B. Parks in an article by that name in the book, titled "Follow de Drinkin' Gou'd," pp. 81-84, Pub. of the Texas Folk-Lore Society, No. VII, 1928, Univ. Texas Press.
Some scholars dismiss the story as fictitious, which it probably is.


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 May 05 - 08:47 PM

Guest is Q


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,Masato
Date: 16 May 05 - 09:31 PM

The thread is:

http://207.103.108.99/thread.cfm?threadid=17760&messages=101#562824


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,brucie
Date: 16 May 05 - 09:37 PM

Gotcha, Joe.

I tried to make a link but for some reason it isn't working just now. Don't know what the problem is. My right clickie is funny. We have been having system problems for a few days now. Hope they get it cleared up soooon.

Bruce


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,brucie
Date: 16 May 05 - 09:40 PM

"Your comments, questions, and feedback are welcome.
Web Author and Publisher: Geoff Holt gholt@madison.k12.wi.us
Madison Metro. School District Webmaster: webmaster@madison.k12.wi.us
Updated September 7, 2004"

The person who made that page I pasted.


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 16 May 05 - 09:42 PM

Thanks, Masato. maybe a direct link will work to the thread now: drinking gourd


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 May 05 - 05:40 PM

Some scholars dismiss the story as fictitious, which it probably is.

Would that be the story said to be contained in the song, amnd aboutb how the song was used, or the story about how it was collected in a few variants?

In other words does that "probably" mean that HB Parks is accused of fabricating the story and the song, or does it reflect the way that folklore and folk tales aren't always literally fact - which doesn't necessarily stop them being "true".


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 May 05 - 08:54 PM

More than one question here, some of which I considered in another thread, but navigation too uncertain at this time.
1 Song variants
a. Four lines from Tennessee, collected on the NC border (by H. B. Parks, 1912).
Foller the drinkin' gou'd (2x)
No one know, the wise man say,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.
Parks says he heard the same four lines later in Louisville (1913).
This was followed by another fragment from Texas, also coll. by H, B, Parks (1918):
Foller the Risen Lawd (2x)
The bes' thing the Wise Man say
Foller the Risen Lawd.
This would seem to be from the same song. The singers said they got it from a black revivalist with whom they traveled. Both verses may be fragments of an old spiritual of gospel song.

The song itself was also collected by Parks (1918?), from "an old Negro" at College Station, TX (home of Texas A&M University, with some 45000 students). It was not published by Parks until ten years later.

The song in the DT has been embroidered and enlarged by the singer, Paul Campbell). Here are Parks lyrics:

Lyr. Add: Foller the Drinkin' Gou'd

When the sun come back,
When the firs' quail call,
Then the time is come
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.

Chorus:
Foller the drinkin' gou'd,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
For the ole man say,
"Foller the drinkin' gou'd."

The riva's bank am a very good road,
The dead trees show the way,
Lef' foot, peg foot goin' on,
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.

The riva ends a-tween two hills
Foller the drinkin' gou'd;
'Nuther riva on the other side
Follers the drinkin' gou'd.

Wha the little riva
Meet the grea' big un,
The ole man waits-
Foller the drinkin' gou'd.

Parks goes on to say that there was a story in the records of the Anti-Slavery Society of a peg leg sailor who was a conductor on the underground railroad.

The song was recorded by Pete Seeger and others, and the story was spread afar.
No other record or fragment of the song has been found, although 77 years have passed since publication.

No record of any such underground railroad conductor has been found, although there are many descriptions of the exploits of conductors on the underground railroad, and of the many thousands that they escorted to freedom (briefly discussed in my post of 13 Apr 05, thread 17760).
In that thread, I said the task of conducting the slaves fell to careful, well-organized members of the Underground Railway. One conductor, Robert Purvis, is credited with transporting 9000. Thirty thousand reached Canada.
The 'first station' had to be reached by the escapee by following careful directions which reached him by word of mouth and diagrams drawn in the dirt.
I commented that "Few slaves would be dumb enough not to know the dangers of simple-mindedly "following the drinking gourd."

My personal belief is that Parks concocted the story, partly from an old spiritual, and abetted by wishful thinking, and perhaps a desire to put one over on J. Frank Dobie, at that time editor for the Texas Folk-Lore Society (Or did someone at Texas A&M University have a hand in it?).

H. B. Parks, "Follow The Drinking Gourd," pp. 81-84, in Publications of the Texas Folk-Lore Society, 1928, Number VII, "Follow de Drinkin'
Gou'd."
Others have questioned the story, but I must emphasize that the above remarks are solely mine.


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Subject: RE: Follow the Drinkin' Gourd, by Burl Ives?
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 17 May 05 - 08:56 PM

The above guest is Q. Sometimes I am recognized, other times moribund Mudcat doesn't know me.


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