The Bluegrass Messengers
Jump Jim Crow- Version 5

Jim Crow (A Comic Song)

Old-Time Breakdown- widely known; Words and Music by Thomas Dartmouth ("Daddy") Rice, 1808-1860;

ARTIST: From an unknown on-line source;

CATEGORY: Fiddle and Instrumental Tunes; DATE: Late 1820’s;

RECORDING INFO: Wine, Melvin. Cold Frosty Morning, Poplar LPI 40290, LP (1976), cut# 13; Fiddler Henry Reed; Wine, Melvin. Visits, Heritage (Galax) 033, LP (1981), cut# 19;

RELATED TO: “Uncle Joe;” “Hop Light Lady;” “Hop High Ladies, the Cake's All Dough;” "Did You Ever See The Devil, Uncle Joe?" Hop Up Ladies;” “Hop High, My Lulu Gal;” “Miss McLeod of Raasay's” “Miss McCleod's/McCloud's Reel” "(Miss) McCloud's Reel," "Mrs. MacLeod Raasay," "Miss McLeod's Reel," "Did You Ever Go To Meetin' Uncle Joe, Uncle Joe?" "Do You Want to go to Heaven, Uncle Joe?" "Run Here, Johnny, There's a Bug Done Got on Me."

OTHER RELATIONS TO: John Crow; Old Buzzard; Blackberry Blossom (Irish) ; Cutty Sark ; Coal Branch Reel "Green Mountain," "Knickerbocker Reel," "Billy Boy," "Sally's Hornpipe," "Walk Jaw Bone," "Whitewash Station."

OTHER NAMES: Jump Jim Crow; There's a whole collection of broadsides (under Black Faced Minstrelsy) in the Bodleian Library (printed in British Isles) entitled- Crow Family; Miss Jane Crow; Billy Crow and the Death of Jim Crow;

SOURCES: Fiddler Henry Reed; Augustus Clapp (Stephen Collins Foster) published a Jim Crow Song Jubilee later in 1847. Song sheets also in Levy. Sigmund Romberg published a version; Scarborough, On the Trail; "Minstrel Songs, Old and New" (1883) page 209; Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; pg. 83 (additional lyrics on pg. 424). Traditional Music in America, Folklore Associates, Bk (1940/1965), p 83a (Jim Crow); Traditional Music in America, Folklore Associates, Bk (1940/1965), p424b (Jim Crow); Randolph 252, "Jump Jim Crow" (1 text, 1 tune); Gilbert, p. 18, "Jim Crow" (1 text)

NOTES: D Major. Standard. ABC. The name of this old minstrel tune appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. It is also in the repertoire of fiddler Henry Reed. In the 1960's Braxton County, W.Va., fiddler Melvin Wine (1909-1999) returned to fiddling after a 20 year hiatus and was 'discovered' by young revival fiddlers, eager to learn authentic tunes. "'One song I played, Jump Jim Crow, the young people just hungered for that one,' Melvin says. 'I played it so many time at (the West Virginia State Folk Festival at) Glenville, I wore the feathers off the crow'" (Mountains of Music, John Lilly ed., 1999, pg. 11).

This song and dance was created by Thomas ("Daddy") Rice in the 1820’s and is the earliest and one of the most popular minstrel songs both in the US and abroad.. The chorus connects it to “Uncle Joe/Hop High Ladies” family of songs (tune of McLeod's Reel) but I consider them different songs (see notes from Traditional Ballad Index). The song is also important as a source of lyrics for other minstrel songs and bluegrass songs. Here’s some info about Jim Crow from The Harvard Theatre Collection, The Houghton Library:

In 1822, English actor Charles Mathews mounted a one-man show in black-face called "A Trip to America," based on the dialect, songs and dances he observed while in the United States. During a visit to New York's African Theatre, Mathews claimed that an actor performing the role of "Hamlet" was interrupted by calls from the audience for the slave song "Opossum up a Gum Tree," an incident that Mathews used to construct one of the most popular segments of his show.

Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice popularized the black-faced minstrel on the American stage with his 1828 caricature of a crippled plantation slave, dancing and singing the words:


"Weel about and turn about and do jus' so,
Eb'ry time I weel about, I jump Jim Crow." 

After touring American cities, Rice took his immensely popular act to London in 1836. By then "Jim Crow" had proliferated in prints and sheet music, and he became a stock character in minstrel shows, along with his counterparts Jim Dandy and Zip Coon. White audiences readily accepted the stereotype of the happy-go-lucky, singing, dancing, grinning buffoon as representative of blacks, at the same time that white hostility and violence against free blacks escalated.

Ira Aldridge, one of the few black actors of the period to portray Shakespearean characters before white audiences, sometimes ended an evening's performance with a rendition of "Opossum up a Gum Tree" or "Jump Jim Crow," which he delivered with pathos rather than humor before offering a plea for the abolition of slavery.

MORE NOTES: From ‘Inside the Minstrel Mask’: Readings in Nineteenth Century Blackface Minstrelsy' Ed Annemarie Bean, James V. Hatch and Brooks McNamara, Wesleyan Uni Press 1996 - Alexander Saxton writes:

He [Rice] tried unsuccessfully to break into New York theatre, then drifted west, working as a stagehand and 'bit player' throughout the Mississippi Valley. In 1831, imitating a shuffle he had seen performed by a black man on the Cincinnati levee, Rice for the first time 'jumped Jim Crow' - and Jim Crow made Rice's fortune. Adapting his act to various issues - eventually including a minstrel burlesque of Uncle Tom - Rice was applauded in London and became a perennial favorite at New York's famous Bowery Theatre. ['Inside the Minstrel Mask' p69].

From an On-line source: "Jim Crow" introduced the Negro style of dancing to the stage. It was the invention of Thomas Dartmouth ("Daddy") Rice, who got the idea for title, tune, and dance step while watching an old Negro stablehand do some tricky steps to his own humming. Its tremendous success insured the future of Negro songs as entertainment and started the minstrel vogue.

NOTES ON THE NAME- JIM CROW: According to Mezz Mezzrow's "Really the Blues", Jim Crow was a term used by persons of colour to refer to white racists. The south is sometimes referred to as the “Jim Crow South,” meaning that it perpetuates racial stereotypes from an earlier age.

Interestingly, Eric Lott notes the overlaps with clown and harlequin traditions registering first 'in British productions such as "Cowardy, Cowardy Custard; or Harlequin Jim Crow and the Magic Mustard Pot" (1836)' which 'marked a trend beginning in the 1830s of appending the name Jim Crow to all sorts of British clowns and Punch-and-Judy figures' ['ITMM' p10-11].

EVEN MORE NOTES: Eric Lott has an essay titled 'Blackface and Blackness'. In it, he notes that the first song sheet edition of 'Jim Crow' was published by E. Riley in the early 1830s. He quotes selected verses from it and gives his source as Sam Dennison 'Scandalise My Name: Black Imagery in American Popular Music NY, Garland Publishing 1982 pp51-57.

From Ceolas: A song popularized on the minstrel stage of the mid-19th century. Dave Evans remarks on the similarity of the title "Jim Crow" to "John Crow," a folk name for a buzzard, and suggests that the "Jim Crow" song and dance is perhaps derived from the slave dance "The Buzzard Lope" (see Parish, Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands, 1942).

From fiddler Henry Reed’s web-site: “Jim Crow/Jump Jim Crow" has its origins in the minstrel stage, where the tune was used for an often extravagant or elaborate set dance. The song and dance was created by Thomas ("Daddy") Rice. The published versions show connections to Henry Reed's set. The pace in this set is slower than in typical breakdown tunes, suggesting its use in a clog or other slower-paced fancy dance.

From the Traditional Ballad Index: Randolph has a report that this song has been heard as far afield as Delhi, India. It can perhaps be questioned whether "Jump Jim Crow" and "Uncle Joe" are the same song, as all they have in common is the chorus. Since, however, the song consists of unrelated lyrics that readily "float," it seems best to put them together. – RBW. Is this really a single song? The tune for "Hop High Ladies" is "Miss McLeod's Reel," a Scottish/Irish tune, whereas I believe the tune for "Jump Jim Crow" is quite different. –PJS. The eternal problem of the folk song collector. Which is more important: Lyrics or tune? The tunes ARE different in some instances, and so are the "extreme" versions of the lyrics -- but as in other cases of continuous shading, I have to classify together. For whatever it's worth, the "Jim Crow" versions seem to be older; Gilbert claims it was introduced in 1828 by Thomas D. Rice, and Spaeth (A History of American Popular Music, p. 71) amplifies with a bit of folklore (not automatically false) that Rice heard the chorus from a Black walking down the street and made it his own.


Here are the lyrics: 

Come, listen, all you gals and boys, I'm just from Tuckyhoe; 
I'm gwine to sing a little song, My name's Jim Crow. 

Chorus:  Wheel about, an' turn about, an' do jis so;
Eb'ry time I wheel about, I jump Jim Crow.

I went down to de river, I didn't mean to stay, 
But there I see so many gals, I couldn't get away.

I'm rorer on de fiddle, an' down in ole Virginny, 
Dey say I play de skientific, like massa Pagganninny.

I cut so many munky shines, I dance de galloppade; 
An' w'en I done, I res' my head, on shubble, hoe or spade.

I met Miss Dina Scrub one day, I gib her sich a buss;
An' den she turn an' slap my face, an' make a mighty fuss.

De udder gals dey 'gin to fight, I tel'd dem wait a bit; 
I'd hab dem all, jis one by one, as I tourt fit.

I wip de lion ob de west, I eat de alligator; 
I put more water in my mouf, den boil ten load ob 'tator.

De way dey bake de hoe cake, Virginny nebber tire; 
Dey put de doe upon de foot, an' stick 'em in de fire.
























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