Saturday, November 1, 2008

Jim Along Josie


I'm continuing covering songs and info about Lily May Ledford. One song she played that I learned from her recording several years ago is "Jim Along Josie."

Lily May was not only an authentic mountain girl who interpreted the real songs from her region but she had a natural feeling for bluesy songs of African-American origin. Listen to her connect with the spiritual "Didn't It Rain." Perhaps it's through music that we are best reminded that we are all children of God.

Many of the hillbilly songs were passed around from both white and black sources and the first big hillbilly star was Jimmie Rodgers, a white interpreter of the blues. Bill Monroe was strongly influenced by a black guitarist. Other Kentucky hillbilly artists like the Carlisle Brothers reveled in the magic of the blues even to an extent where their racy lyrics were considered to be offensive by listeners in their region.

With this background information, let's look at the Coon Creek Girls (led by Lily May) version of Jim Along Josie:

JIM ALONG JOSIE by the Coon Creek Girls


Down in Mississippi as you well know
There’s a song named Jim Along Joe
Folks call out when the bell does ring
And this is the song that they do sing:

Chorus: Hey get along, Jim along Josey,
Hey get along, Jim along Joe! (REPEAT optional)


Sister the other night did dream,
She was floating up and down the stream
When she awoke she began to cry,
And the white cat scratched out the black cat’s eye.

Chorus: Hey get along, Jim along Josey,
Hey get along, Jim along Joe!

Chorus: Hey get along………, Jim along Josey,
Hey get along……………, Jim along Joe!

Let's look at the origins of this minstrel song. "Jim Along Josie" was widely known both here on the US and abroad by the mid 1800s. It was written by Edward Harper about 1838. The Levy Collection has the sheet music by Edward Harper published in 1840. Did he write the song? No one now for sure but he did publish the song as author and it's credited to him.

With this and other old songs sometimes the lyrics use racial slurs which I find offensive and have changed. You can look at the real sheet music on-line.

SOME RECORDINGS: Lawrence Older, Adirondack logger, ballad singer and fiddler, back in 1964 and released the recording, with excellent notes written by Pete McElligott, as Folk-Legacy FSA-15;
Pete Seeger, (on PeteSeeger3, PeteSeegerCD03);
Ledford, Lilly Mae. Banjo Pickin' Girl, Greenhays GR 712, LP (1983), cut# 15;
Older, Lawrence. Adirondack Songs, Ballads and Fiddle Tunes, Folk Legacy FSA-015, Cas (1964), cut#B.07;
Seeger, Peggy And Mike. American Folk Songs for Children, Rounder 8001/8002/8003, LP (1977), cut# 19;

OTHER NAMES: “Hey Jim Along Josie,” "Jim along Josy" “Hey Jim Along”

RELATED TO: The “Limber Jim/ Buckeye Jim” group which is related to “Seven Up,” “Shiloh” and the large “Liza Jane” family has floating lyrics with “Jim Along Josey.” Floating lyrics from Cotton-Eyed Joe,” “Fire on the Mountain” and “Granny will Your Dog Bite”

PRINT SOURCES: Randolph 575, "Jim Along Josie;" Warner 180, "Get Along Josie;" Spaeth-Weep More, pp. 103-104, "Jim Along Josey;" Traditional Music in America, Folklore Associates, Bk (1940/1965), p239; American Folk Songs for Children, Doubleday/Zephyr Books, Bk (1948), p. 72;

NOTES: AABB form and also AB form (the verse being only two lines instead of four). Original sheet music (1840) key of C. “Jim Along Josey” is a minstrel song written by Edward Harper around 1838. It is not clear if the song was in the African-American tradition before 1838 and adapted by Harper or whether it was an original composition. I suspect Harper rewrote (adapted) the song from traditional sources.

In the title "Jim Along Josey" the word- Josey, is used as a name (could be a man's or woman's name) The word "Josey" is an African-American dance step. The word, Jim, is not really used for a name. "Get Along Josey" could just as easily be substituted for "Jim Along Josey." There is one version entitled, "Git Along Josie."

The “Jim Along Josey” lyrics and fragments of the lyrics show up in a number of songs and fiddle tunes. The “Limber Jim/ Buckeye Jim” group which is related to “Seven Up,” “Shiloh” and the large “Liza Jane” family has floating lyrics with “Jim Along Josey.” Floating lyrics from Cotton-Eyed Joe,” “Fire on the Mountain” and “Granny will Your Dog Bite” also appear in “Jim Along Josey.”

The melody is used for the 2nd part of the fiddle tune, “A Horse named Rover” and has spawned several sequels and parodies Ticket Taker (Bowery, 1840); The Black Ghost (1841); and The Masquerade (1843).

There are two distinct versions:

The Minstrel Version: Based on the Harper 1838 version which entered the folk process and eventually changed the number of verses from 4 verses to two verses. Other verses were created and added to the mix.

The Play Party Version: The first word in the chorus line is changed- Hey jim along, jim along Josie/Walk jim along, jim along Josie/Hop jim along, jim along Josie, etc.

FROM S. FOSTER DAMON "Notes to 'Jim Along Josey' [Firth & Hall edition (1840)]", in Series of Old American Songs (Brown University Library, 1936, No. 24):

"Jim Along Josey" was another sweeping success in the burnt-cork tradition. It was written by Edward Harper, who sang it in his drama, The Free Nigger of New York, about 1838 (E.L. Rice: Monarchs of Minstrelsy, p 24). In February 1839, John Washington Smith was singing it at the Bowery Amphitheater (Odell: Annals IV, 324). Thereafter, everybody sang it. It was developed into a number of extravaganzas and afterpieces: Jim Along Josey (Chatham Theater, 1840); Jim Along Josey, or the Ticket Taker (Bowery, 1840);

The stricter sects, which prohibited dancing, whether square or round, admitted "Jim Along Josey" as a game and not a dance, although to uncritical eyes the players seemed to be doing something easily mistaken for a Virginia reel. For the game, see the Journal of American Folk Lore (XXIV, 295 ff): "Play Parties and Games of the Middle West."

JIM ALONG JOSEY/LIMBER JIM: The widespread popularity of “Jim Along Josey” among both blacks and whites led to the quick adaptation of the lyrics into oral tradition. Compare the “Jim Along Josie” lyrics with Limber Jim/Buckeye Jim. Perhaps the “whooping cough,” is a reference to the disease, tuberculosis.

Jim Along, Josie: Now way down south, not very far off,
A bullfrog died wid de hooping cough,

Chorus: Hey get along, get along Josey,
Hey get along, Jim along Joe!

Limber Jim: Way down yonder in a wooden trough,
An old lady died with the whooping cough.

Chorus: Go limber, Jim; you can't go.
Go weave and spin, you can't go, Buckeye Jim.

From White: Way down yonder in de growin' corn
De old cow died wid de holler horn.
Way down yonder, in de forks o' de creek,
De old cow died in de middle o' next week.

JIM ALONG JOSEY/JAYBIRD DIED: Other songs have used the whooping cough lines including Jaybird Died of the Whooping Cough and Bile Dem Cabbage Down:

Jaybird died of the whoopin' cough,
Sparrow died of the colic.
'Long come a frog with a fiddle on his back
Inquirin' his way to the frolic.

EARLY EXAMPLES: The song was popular during the Civil War- here’s a letter from Prock, Baltimore and Ohio R. R., Va., Feb.13, 1862:

I see by the papers that several soldiers, formerly of the 14th, who are said to have been "through the campaign in Western Virginia," are recruiting for other regiments. The through meant I suppose to the tune of "Hey Jim a 'long, Jim a 'long Josey,"- our regimental "sick call."

Everyone knew when the showboat was coming because for twenty or thirty minutes before its arrival a steam-powered calliope, which was brought outside and set up on the deck, would send music echoing through the hills. The catchy tune "Get Along Josie" was one I remember, but there were many more."

From "The Journal of an African Cruiser," by An Officer of the U.S. Navy, in The United States Democratic review, Volume 16, Issue 83 (J.& H.G. Langley, etc., May 1845, p. 483) [N.B. the date]: August 2, 1843.--Liberia.--We were visited by Governor Roberts, Dr. Day, and General Lewis, the latter being Colonel Secretary, and military chief of the Settlement. They looked well, and welcomed me back to Liberia with the cordiality of old friendship. The Governor was received by the Commodore, Captain and officers, and saluted with eleven guns. He and his suite dined in the cabin, and some of the officers of the Porpoise in the ward-room. In the evening, we brought out all our forces for the amusement of our distinguished guests. First, the negro band sang 'Old Dan Tucker,' 'Jim along Josey,' and other ditties of the same class, accompanied by violin and tambourine. Then Othello played monkey, and gave a series of recitations.

Bodleian Library collection has numerous broadside printings of Jim Along Josie” in the British Isles from the 1840’s to 1860’s.

From firemen in NY in the mid 1800’s:I went down town to see my posey, Who did I meet but Jim Along Josey. Hey, Jim Along, Jim Along Josey, Hey, Jim Along, Jim Along Joe.

WITH A JOSEY ON: Here is a recurring verse found in many songs:
Who's been here since I've been gone? Pretty little gal wid a josey on.

Bert Mayfield was born in Garrard County, May 29, 1852. One song we would always sing was:

Who ting-a-long? Who ting-a-long?
Who's been here since I've been gone?
A pretty girl with a josey on.

FINAL NOTES: "Jim Along Josey" is one of the early minstrel songs and has had a profound effect on the lyrics and popularity of many American songs. The melody uses only 5 notes of the pentatonic scale. The song itself is followed by a lively ‘dance’ in which the comic actor had a chance to ‘do his stuff.’ The popularity of the song was doubtless due in large measure to the catchy tune of the chorus. The song became used as a ‘play party song’ in the Middle West and was admitted as a game even among those stricter sects that prohibited dancing.

Here are the original edited minstrel lyrics from Levy Collection- 1840 in dialect:


I’se from Lucianna as you all know,
Dar whare Jim Along Josey’s all de go,
Dem folks all rise when de bell does ring,
And dis is de song dat dey do sing.

Chorus: Hey get along, get along Josey,
Hey get along, Jim along Joe.
Hey get along, get along Josey,
Hey get along, Jim along Joe.

Oh! When I get dat new coat I expects to hab soon,
Likewise new pair tight-kneed trousaloon,
Den I walk up and down Broadway wid my Suzanna,
And the folks will take me to be Santa Anna.


My sister Rose de oder night did dream,
Dat she was floating up and down de stream,
And when she woke she began to cry,
And de white cat picked out de black cat’s eye.


Now way down south, not very far off,
A bullfrog died wid de hooping cough,
And de other side of Mississippi as you must know,
Dare’s where I was christen’d Jim Along Joe. (Chorus:)

De folk think dey’re fine,
Because dey drink de genuine
De southern folk dey lib on mush,
And laugh when dey say, “Oh hush!” (Chorus:)

I’m de man dat don’t mind my troubles,
Because dey are not’ing more dan bubbles,
De ambition dat dis man feels,
Is showing the science of his heels. (Chorus)

De fust President we eber had was Gen’ral Washington,
And de one we got now is Martin Van Buren,
But altho’ Gen’ral Washington’s dead,
As long as de country stands his name shall float ahead. (Chorus)

Clearly the Coon Creek Girls song lyrics come from the original. I'll see if I can find out more about where they learned their version and when. There's no mention of the song coming from her childhood which leads me to believe it was a song that came from John Lair's extensive song collection.

If you want more lyrics there are about one dozen versions at my web-site here:

See you later,



goooooood girl said...

Very fine......

The DoorKeeper said...

I guess you've seen this already, Richard, but there's a version of Jim Along Josie posted at

Taylor Kerekes said...

There is a version of this song sung by Kidsongs Kids: