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Kansas Play-Party Songs

by Myra E. Hull

November 1938 (Vol. 7, No. 4), pages 258 to 286
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.


KANSAS Play-Party Songs" is a part of a collection of songs which I began to set down in 1929, as a memorial to my mother, Eliza Sinclair Hull, and her singing life. For eighty years there was always a song on her lips and in her heart. Through all the hardships of pioneer life, through the drudgery of rearing a family of seven, she sang. Her first song, in 1849, was


Oh, Susannah, don't you cry for me;
I'm going to California, the gold mines to see.

Her last song, in 1929, was "Old Black Joe." [1]

She sang every manner of song: Old World lullabies; old camp-meeting hymns; political songs from Andrew Jackson to Bryan; innumerable Civil War songs; popular songs of her girlhood, such as "Eulalie " "Bonnie Eloise " "Annie Lisle," "In the Hazel Dell," "Listen to the Mocking Bird," "The Carrier Dove," "Bird of Beauty," and "Rosalie, the Prairie Flower." She sang airs from grand opera, lovely Swiss mountain songs, and old Scotch songs. Many of these I set down as they occurred to me.

It was Dr. R. W. Gordon, of the American Folklore archives of the Library of Congress, who suggested to me, in 1930, that I might make a more valuable contribution to literature if from these songs I should select the quaint folk songs and ballads that I had been recollecting from my childhood. From this beginning I have already recorded more than a hundred and fifty folk songs, most of them my mother's, and I feel that I have only combed the surface.

Both words and music have all been set down by me exactly as I heard them sung, without any emendations or corrections. Their sources are as follows: First, they are largely from my own native community, Richland township, Butler county, to which my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Byram Hull, came as homesteaders in 1873, bringing with them a rich contribution of songs, many of which had



come to their home in southern Ohio, with their ancestors from North Carolina, Virginia, and' Pennsylvania, about 1810. Our pioneer Kansas neighbors from the East and the South also brought with them various folk songs, particularly interesting being those of a colony of North Carolina Quakers, who began their settlement near the present town of Rose Hill, in 1870. Other songs were contributed by the family of Leroy W. Cook, who pioneered in Stevens county. They, too, were Quakers, originally from North Carolina. From a third community, Lawrence, I have secured several folk songs:

from Mrs. Harriet Pugh Tanner, whose songs came with her family from Highpoint, N. C., in 1871; from Hannah Oliver, who came to Lawrence from England eighty years ago; and from Marcia Carter, a teacher in the Lawrence public schools. A very valuable contribution is that of Freda Butterfield, a student in the University of Kansas, whose songs are still sung at play parties in her community, near Iola. Miss Butterfield has also furnished directions for playing the games.

I mention specifically the places from which the ballads came because their migration is a matter of importance to the history of folk ballads. No song in this collection has been obtained from a printed copy in any other collection, and no song is exactly like any of the variants in the fifty other collections with which my songs have been compared. These songs are called Kansas songs because they have been sung by Kansas folk since pioneer days, some of them for more than sixty years.

In the matter of preparing this collection I am indebted to Harold Spivacke, acting director of the music division of the Library of Congress, and to Alan Lomax, also of the Library, for their encouragement and advice. I am greatly indebted to the graduate research committee of the University of Kansas and to the college student employment project, whose funds enabled me to prepare the music manuscripts for publication, final revisions having been made by Harold Lynn Hackler, a student in the school of fine arts in the University of Kansas.

I am especially grateful to Kirke Mechem and to Nyle H. Miller of the Kansas Historical Society for their interest and encouragement in the publication of this article.



The play-party song is perhaps the best example at the present time of the American folk song as a living, growing song. It still flourishes in its most typical milieu, remote rural sections, such as the inaccessible Appalachian and Ozarks regions; it has in recent years enjoyed a popular revival among more sophisticated young people; and it has always been kept alive in its simplest forms in the singing games of school children.

The folk song is, first of all, traditional; that is, it has been handed down solely by word of mouth, from generation to generation for so long that its origin has been lost in antiquity. Some of the songs in this collection were old in the days of Oliver Cromwell. Some have been in my own family for at least five generations. What the original form was no one knows. Hence the folk song is usually anonymous. In some remote time, some "idle singer of an empty day" more gifted than his fellows, struck it off, in a moment of inspiration, perhaps with others in his company adding a line or a refrain. Since it was transmitted orally, often from people who could not write to people who could not read, changes and alterations were always taking place, so that of the numerous parallels that a given song may have, no two are ever exactly alike.

Changes may arise because some transmitter did not understand what he heard; such an example of folk etymology is pointed out later in "King William Was King James's Son." Other changes may come from the singer's supplying phrases or lines to fill in forgotten passages; or sometimes a well-meaning singer takes it upon himself to correct the grammar or diction of the song, thereby complicating greatly the task of the ballad collector, who is attempting to trace the growth and evolution of the song.

The joyous, natural, uninhibited spirit which prevails at the typical play party is highly conducive to spontaneous, extemporaneous creation. Hence the play-party song furnishes the best example of the folk-song's habit of taking unto itself new and varied lines and stanzas. Evidences of such communal accretions are found among Kansas play-party songs. For example, in "Skip to My Lou" the very exigencies of the moment may lead a nimblewitted player to add a line, such as "Skip a little faster; this will never do!" Then, too, a timely hit or jibe at some participant, such as the parodied stanza in "Oh, Sister Phoebe," may add much to the hilarity of the occasion.


Perhaps at this juncture a word of explanation of the term "play party" may not be amiss. The play party was invented for the benefit of those young people who liked to have a good time, but whose parents did not permit them to go to dances. Fifty years ago, in my native community, near Douglas, the young people were divided into three groups: those who were not allowed to attend any parties, but found their social excitement at literary societies, singing schools, spelling bees, or even in revival meetings; those who attended play parties; and those lost souls who went to dances. As one pious woman testified in meeting, in the characteristic singsong:

[music and notation.]

And from the accounts of my uncles and the other gay young blades who fiddled and called for these dances, perhaps the good sister was not far wrong!

However, in a last analysis, there is little difference between some of the liveliest of the play-party games and the dances. In the choosing of partners, the promenade, and the "Swing your pardner," the technique was similar. But yet there was a subtle difference in the atmosphere; and when at the play party, at the suggestion of some stranger or the chance intrusion of that limb of Satan, the fiddler, the line of demarcation was crossed, the young folks as well as their self-appointed chaperones scented the change to dangerous ground immediately. (I am informed that the most objectionable innovation was the manner in which the girl's partner seized her around the waist and gave her a violent "swing.")

The play-party songs are a combination of game, song, dance, and pantomime, these elements varying in importance with the nature of the game. Some of them began, no doubt, as simple children's games, or as outdoor country dance tunes. Others were originally simple songs. But since the folk songs are traditional and anonymous, it is impossible to be certain as to their original forms.

Whatever the method by which they were first combined, the word and the tune are sometimes strangely mated. The tune of


the play-party song is not often original. It may be borrowed from an old ballad air or from another folk song; it may be a popular tune of long ago, such as "The Girl I Left Behind Me"; it may be stage hits of an earlier time, such as "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay"; it may even utilize a hymn tune, like "Consolation"; but the commonest source is the popular fiddle and dance tune, such as "Pop, Goes the Weasel," "Old Dan Tucker," and "My Father and Mother Were Irish." In many of the play-party games, the different changes are directed by the words of the song. For example, in "Pig in the Parlor,"

It's the right hand to your pardner,
The left hand to your neighbor;
The right hand to your pardner,
And all promenade,

the play is obvious, taking the place of the "calling" at the dance, which may run something like this:

Honor your pardner, left hand lady;
Join eight hands and circle around.

In some play-party songs, the words are not sufficient to keep the game moving. At such a time a leader takes charge, as in the complicated game, "U-Tan-U."

Perhaps further explanation of the play-party game will not be necessary here, as detailed instructions for playing accompany a number of the songs.

Since children's singing games are so closely related to certain types of party games, a few of these heard in Kansas during the past fifty years will be considered here. Many of these I learned from my mother; others were sung by the children of Diamond School District No. 78, whose old stone schoolhouse has been a landmark in southern Butler county since 1878.

One of the first games I ever played was taught me by a group of Quaker children whose parents had come to Kansas from North Carolina in 1872, and established the Friends church near what is now Rose Hill. In playing this game, we sat down in a circle, and one child began by carrying on the following conversation with her nearest neighbor:

Toady, toady, how is thee?
I'm as well as I can be.
How's the neighbor next to thee?
Thee stay here and I'll go see.


And so the game continued indefinitely. It was, as I remember it, enjoyment in the lowest key.

However, the version recorded by W. W. Newell, as played by New York and Philadelphia children about 1883, is much livelier:

"The question [`Quaker, Quaker, how is thee?'] is accompanied by a rapid movement of the right hand. The second child in the ring inquires in the same manner of the third, and so all round. Then the same question is asked with a like gesture of the left hand, and [continues] . . . with both hands, left foot, right foot, both feet, and finally, by uniting all the motions at once. `A nice long game.'" [2] I have recently seen college students play in a similar fashion a singing game called "One finger, one thumb, one hand; keep moving."

Another variant reported by Jean O. Heck, from Whittier school, Cincinnati, is called "Neighbor, neighbor, how art thee?" [3] Numerous other imitative motion songs are sung by Kansas children. Perhaps the most familiar is "The Mulberry Bush," a common version of which is:

1. Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush;
Here we go round the mulberry bush,

So early in the morning.

2. This is the way we wash our clothes,
All on a Monday morning.

3. This is the way we iron our clothes,
All on a Tuesday morning.

The song continues with the occupation of each day of the week. Children add verses at will, as "This is the way we wash our hands," or "This is the way we go to school." The old English May Day game, "Here We Go Gathering Nuts in May," is also sung to the same tune. [4]

A similar game, but not so well known, is "I Went to Visit My Friend One Day," the tune of which is that of the hymn, "Consolation Flowing Free." [5] This particular variant was sung by Lewis Madison Hull, of Nickerson, about 1904.



I went to visit my friend one day;
She only lives across the way;
She said she couldn't go out to play
Because it was her washing day.
And this is the way she washed away,
And this is the way she washed away,
And this is the way she washed away,
The day that she couldn't go out to play.

(The tune of the chorus is the same as that of the Stanza. The stanzas and chorus continue with the substitution of the work and corresponding pantomime for each day of the week, as in "Mulberry Bush.")

To the Same tune, "Consolation," is the Song, "Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow," as sung by the children in the public schools in Lawrence, at the present time.

1. Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow;
Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
Can you or I or anyone know
How oats, peas, beans, or barley grow?

2. Thus the farmer sows his seed,
Thus he stands and takes his ease;
He stamps his foot and claps his hands,
And turns around to view the land.

3. Waiting for a partner,
Waiting for a partner,
Open the ring and choose one in
While we all gaily dance and sing.

4. Now you're married you must obey,
You must be true to all you say,
You must be kind, you must be good,
And keep your wife in kindling wood. [6]

With similar words, but with different tune, is the version of this song given by Mr. Newell, who comments: This song " is still [1883] a favorite in France, Provence, Spain, Italy, Sicily, Germany, and Sweden; it was played by Froissart (born 1337), and Rabelais (born 1483)." Like "Needle's Eye" and numerous other folk songs it may have had its origin in rustic festivities designed to promote fertility of the fields. Mr. Newell further suggests: "It is not in the least unlikely that the original of the present chant was sung by Italian rustics in the days of Virgil." [7]


The essential feature of one group of children's singing games is the choosing of a "pardner." [8] One of the most universal of these, "London Bridge," according to W. W. Newell, has many European variants, Some of which are very old, an Italian one, "Guelf or Ghibelline?" going back to the year 1328. [3 ]

The following version, reported by Marcia Carter, as sung in the public Schools of Lawrence, has been sung in various Kansas communities for perhaps fifty years:



1. London bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down;
London bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.
2. Build it up with iron bars,
Iron bars, iron bars;
Build it up with iron bars,
My fair lady.
3. Iron bars will bend and break;
4. Build it up with gold and silver.
5. Gold and silver'll be stolen away;
6. Get a man to watch all night.
7. Suppose that he should fall asleep;
8. Get a dog to bark all night.
9. Suppose the dog should meet a bone?
10. Get a cock to crow all night.
11. Here's a prisoner I have got;
12. What's the prisoner done to you?
13. Stole my watch and broke my chain;
14. What will you take to set him free?
15. One hundred pounds will set him free.
16. One hundred pounds we have not got;
17. Then off to prison you must go.

More common still is the game, "Needle's Eye," which, like "London Bridge," is played in the following manner: Two children form a high arch with their interlocked hands, under which the other children march, singing. The two leaders let the bars fall, catching the favored one, who is asked to choose between "sun or moon," "gold or Silver," etc. According to his choice, he takes his place behind one of the leaders, and the game finally ends with a tug of war.

According to W. W. Newell, "Mrs. Gomme shows that in England the game has in different localities been played on particular days


of the year by young persons of both sexes, who danced through the streets, collecting numbers as they went, and finally attempted to encircle the village church with joined hands." [10]


The needle's eye that doth supply
The thread that runs so truly,
Many a beau have I let go
Because I wanted you.
And it's you, you, you,
And no one but you,
For many a beau have I let go
Because I wanted you.

Another English game similarly played is "King William Was King James's Son." Version "A" here recorded was sung by Hannah Oliver, who brought it from England to Lawrence more than eighty years ago. The game is an old favorite throughout the United States, many versions having been submitted to The Journal of American Folk-Lore. [11]

The song is sung under various names. In W. W. Newell's versions it appears as "King Arthur Was King William's Son" and "King William Was King George's Son." [12] Mr. Newell gives minute instructions showing how the game was played with hats in England and with a shawl in Ireland. In Kansas and other states in the Middle West, however, the game was a partner-choosing, kissing game. The song furnishes interesting examples of folk etymology. In Kansas, for "royal race" we sang "lawyer race." In Idaho, they sing-

Around the river race he run;
Upon his breast he wore a star,
Pointing to the ocean far. [13]

In the Kansas version "B" the singer, Joyce Harvey, a colored girl of a Lawrence pioneer family in which the song is traditional, seemed somewhat doubtful about "To point the way to Corkery," but certain about "Riley, Riley, race he run." In such a manner, lines of folk songs often become meaningless, through oral trans- mission.




1. King William was King James's son;
Upon the royal race he run.
Upon his breast he wore a star,
To point the way to the contest far.
2. Go choose you east, go choose you west;
Go choose the one that you love best.
If she's not here to take her part,
Go choose another with all your heart.
3. Down on this carpet you must kneel
As sure as the grass grows in the field.
Salute your bride and kiss her sweet,
And now you rise upon your feet.


King William was King James's son;
Riley, Riley race he run.
Upon his breast he wore a star,
To point the way to Corkery.

My mother used to sing a song, traditional in her family for perhaps a century, which evidently belongs to the rustic motion song group. "Rainin', Hailin'" is also a play-party game in some parts of the Middle West. [14]


1. Rainin', hailin', cold stormy weather;
In steps the farmer, sellin' out the cider.
2. I'll be the reaper, and you'll be the binder;
I've lost my true love and don't know where to find her.

Another motion song, "Draw a Bucket of Water," a song that has been popular in Kansas schools for fifty years, is played as follows: Two couples join hands independently one of the other. Hands remain joined throughout. As the couples extend their hands thus joined, one pair lies above and across the other. The players now sway forward and backward as they sing:

Draw a bucket of water,
For the farmer's daughter;
Calico strings and di-a-mond rings,
And let this lady (or fellow) pass under.

With the last words, the couple whose arms are extended just above the other's raise one arm each (that is, those hands are joined, one player's right hand thus being joined to his partner's left), and


let one player of the other couple step under. This is repeated, and the other of that same couple is taken in. Then those who are now on the inside take in the other couple by the same method. This has the effect of "braiding" the arms of the players and bringing the players into a solid "sugar bowl" formation. Now the players jump up and down frantically, at the same time attempting to revolve in a circle, as they yell: "Sally in the sugar bowl, Ha, Ha, Ha!"

Perhaps the most interesting of all these songs from a literary point of view is "Old Robin Is Dead." It goes by various names: "Old Rover," "Old Roger," "Old Grampus," "Old Pompey," "Old Cramer," and "'Old Johnny." In all probability the original was "Old Cromwell," the song going back to the days of the Commonwealth. [15] The words of variant "A" I heard recited by Alvin Hartenbower, of Douglass, about 1890. Variant "B" was contributed by Marcia Carter, as sung in the schools of Lawrence in 1936.



1. Old Robin is dead and laid in his grave,
Laid in his grave, laid in his grave;
Old Robin is dead and laid in his grave,
Oh, oh, oh
2. They buried him under an apple tree, etc.
3. The apples grew ripe over his head, etc.
4. An old woman came a-pickin' 'em up, etc.
5. And Robin got up and gave her a kick, etc.
6. It made the old woman go hippity-hop, etc.


1. Old Roger is dead and lies in his grave;
Hm ! Ha ! Lies in his grave.
2. They planted an apple tree over his head, etc.
3. The apples were ripe and ready to drop, etc.
4. There came an old woman a-picking them up, etc.
5. Old Roger got up and gave her a thump, etc.
6. Which made the old woman go hippity-hop, etc.

Among our many game songs which are related to the early English May Day dances belongs my mother's quaint song, traditional in her family for probably a century, "Walking on the Green Grass." I find that a similar game is current among Kansas children at the present time.


The tune given here is not like any other I have found. Its refrain, "Doss, doss, doss," is also unique, but undoubtedly related to the variants of Newell, Botkin, and other collectors. Newell mentions a number of these, such as "Dusty, dusty, day," and "Dust, dust, dust." He believes them all related to the Scotch rhyme,

A dis, a dis, a green grass,
A dis, a dis, a dis.

"A dis" is a derivative of the Scotch word adist, from the old English word meaning "come hither." He adds that this is no mere rustic game, but was once danced by ladies of high degree."


[music and notation.]

We're walk - ing on the green grass, Doss, doss, doss. Come,
all ye pret - ty mai - dens, Come walk along with us. And
if you are so fair as I take you for to be, I'll
I'll take you by your li - ly white hand; Come walk along with me

An immediate forerunner of the play-party game is "Go In and Out the Window," with its intricately weaving circle dance and its choosing of partners. The tune is the old favorite, "We're Marching Round the Levee," or "Walking on the Levy." Jean O. Heck gives the refrain as sung by Cincinnati school children, "For I'm engaged today! "17

The following is the traditional Kansas version:



1. Go in and out the window,
Go in and out the window,
Go in and out the window,
For we have gained the day.
2. Go forth and choose your lover, (etc.)
For we have gained the day.
3. I kneel because I love you, (etc.)
For we have gained the day.
4. I measure my love to show you, (etc.)
For we have gained the day.

With "Pass One Window, Ti-dee-o," we have definitely arrived at the grownup's play party. Dr. Leroy W. Cook, Boulder, Colo., learned this song at play parties in Stevens county, some thirty years ago. He believes that it came from Missouri, where it has been popular a long time. Mrs. Ames cites a similar version, as do several other collectors, but none are identical with his. [18]

[music and notation.]


Pass one wind-ow, Ti - doe - o, Pass two wind-ows, Ti - dee - o,
Pass three wind-ows, Jing - le at the wind-ow Ti - dee - o.
Swing con - ter, balance your beau, All go swing-in' to Ti - dee - o.
Ti - dee - o. Ti - dee - o, All go swing-in' to Ti - dee - o.

"Skip to My Lou" is perhaps the best known play-party song in the United States. [19] I heard it more than fifty years ago at the Diamond school in Butler county, and it is still popular. It is one of the best examples of accretions through extemporaneous additions of stanzas.



[music and notation.]

Lit-tle red wa - gon paint-ed blue; Lit-tle red wa - gon paint-ed blue,
Lit-tle red wa - gon paint- ed blue, Skip to my Lou, my darling.
Skip, skip, skip to my Lou; Skip, skip, skip to my
Lou; Skip to my Lou, my dar - ling.
2. Can't get a red bird, a blue bird'll do.
3. Ma's old boots, pa's old shoe.
4. My wife wears a number ten shoe.
5. Nigger on the woodshed, he fell through.
6. Fly in the biscuit, bit him in two.
7. Everybody skip and I'll skip too.
8. Pretty as a redbird, prettier too.
9. Can't get that'n, another'll do.
(Whenever appropriate.)
10. Skip a little faster; this'll never do.

DIRECTIONS FOR PLAYING "SKIP TO MY LOU."-Couples stand in circle, not holding hands. The boy stands at his partner's left. The skipper stands in the center of the circle. When the players begin singing, as, for instance,

Can't get a red bird, a blue bird'll do, etc.

the skipper skips to someone in the circle and swings this one. Either a boy or girl may skip; when the boy skips, he goes to a girl, of course; and if he succeeds in swinging her before her partner discovers that he has skipped to the girl and is swinging her, then the partner becomes the skipper, and-to keep the game lively-he quickly skips to another girl, etc. Often much fun is created by the partner who, seeing his girl taken away suddenly, looks around bewildered; and then when the couple stops swinging and the two fall back into the circle, the skipper "snatches" his former partner, and the earlier partner is again "left out in the cold." Of course, if one wishes to lose his partner, the thing to do is to make no effort to keep her. If a girl skips, she goes to the man, and another girl becomes skipper, etc.


If the game seems to drag, the appropriate verse is:

Skip a little faster; this'll never do, etc.

If someone wishes that all should skip, he loudly calls out (and usually others will pick it up)

Everybody skip and I'll skip too, etc. [29]

Also widely known is the play-party game, "Captain Jinks." [21] It was a popular stage song during the Civil War. My mother and her sisters used to entertain (1864) the soldier boys at Camp Mitchell, Highland county, Ohio, with a parody of this song, one stanza of which ran:

I'm Mrs. Jinks from Madison Square,
I wear fine clothes and curl my hair;
And how the gentlemen at me stare,
While the Captain's in the army!

As a play-party song, it is still popular throughout the United States. Miss Butterfield's version, the play-party arrangement, varies only slightly from my mother's version.


[music and notation.]

Cap - tain Jinks, the horse ma- rines; We clap our hands be -
yond our means, and swing that la - dy while in her teens for
that's the stout of the ar - my. We'll all join hands and
and circle to the left, and circle to the left, and circle to the left.
We'll all join hands and circle to the left, For that's the stout of the ar - my.


2. Captain Jinks, the ladies' knight,
The gentleman changes to the right,
And swings that lady with all his might,
For that's the stout [style] of the army.
When I left home my ma she cried,
My ma she cried, my ma she cried,
When I left home my ma she cried,
For that's the stout of the army.

DIRECTIONS FOR "CAPTAIN JINKS."-With hands dropped at their sides couples form a circle and sing:

Captain Jinks of the horse marines,
We clap our hands beyond our means.

With the word "clap" the players all clap their hands loudly. The boy turns and gaily swings his partner:

And swing that lady while in her teens,
For that's the stout of the army.

All join hands and, raising them above their heads, circle (skipping if there is room) to the left, singing:

We'll all join hands and circle the left,
And circle the left, and circle the left;
We'll all join hands and circle the left,
For that's the stout of the army.

The gentleman moves to his partner's right. This, of course, involves the girl's stepping to her left and causing the play to go on quickly:

Captain Jinks, the ladies' knight, The gentleman changes to the right.

Now the gentleman swings his new partner, the girl who is now at his right:

And swings that lady with all his might,
For that's the stout of the army.

With the boys on the inside the couples promenade, singing:

When I left home my ma she cried,
My ma she cried, my ma she cried;
When I left home my ma she cried,
For that's the stout of the army.

Now the game is played over and over again, until couples "reach home"; that is, until players are paired off as they were at the very beginning.


Another old favorite is "Pig in the Parlor," sung to the tune of "My Father and Mother Were Irish." This particular version is still popular in southeastern Kansas.

DIRECTIONS FOR PLAYING "PIG IN THE PARLOR."-Couples join hands to form a circle, in the center of which the "pig" (cheater) stands. Circling to the left the players sing:

Oh, we got a new pig in the parlor,
-And that is Irish too.

Then as all the players sing:

It's the right hand to your partner,
The left hand to your neighbor,

the girl turns to her left and her partner to his right, proceeding on, cutting in and out of the circle. The song continues:

The right hand to your partner,
And all promenade.

One promenades with the third person he meets in this manner. Couples continue promenading while they sing:

And all promenade,
And all promenade;
It's the right hand to your partner,
And all promenade.

While the players go, boys to the right and girls to the left, in and out the circle, the cheater makes his attempt to slip in ahead of another player at about the time the words,

It's the right hand to your partner,
And all promenade,

are sung the first time. The players now fall into a circle again, and if the first "pig" wasn't successful, everyone sings now:

It's the same old pig in the parlor, etc.

or, if the "pig" was successful:

Oh, we got a new pig in the parlor,


These similar verses often become tiresome and the players then sing:

Oh, we fed the cow in the kitchen, etc.
or: Oh, we tied the pig to the bed post, etc.
or: Oh, my father and mother were Irish, etc.
or: Oh, the bear went over the mountain,
-To see what he could see.
and: And when he got over the mountain,
-He saw what he could see.


Of course, after each of these verses, to direct the players, the common refrain is sung:

It's the right hand to your partner,
And all promenade.

"The Girl I Left Behind Me" is a tune that has bobbed up with popular words in every generation for almost a century. Sigmund Spaeth says that it is an old Irish folk tune set down as early as 1800. [22] According to my father, Lewis B. Hull, it was a favorite of the Union army drum corps, during the Civil War. Lomax has discovered a cowboy version. [23] It has been popular as a fiddle tune at play parties in Kansas for sixty years. "Straight Across the Hall," to a variation of this tune, is still played in Kansas. It is also used in the chorus of "Swingin' on the Corner."


[music and notation.]

Straight a - ross the hall to your op - po - site part - ner, swing her by the
right hand. Swing all your part-ners by the left, And pro-men-ade the girl
be-hind you. Swing that girl, that pret-ty little girl the girl I left be-
behind me With the bright blue eyes and the our-ly hair, And promenade the girl be-hind you.

The play-party song, "Swingin' on the Corner," is sung to the tune of "Buffalo Gals," an old popular air which goes under various


names, as "Louisiana Girls," "Charleston Gals,"" and "Broadway Gals." My mother's version was:

Buffalo gals, ain't cha comin' out tonight,
Ain't cha comin' out tonight,
Ain't cha comin' out tonight?
Buffalo gals, ain't cha comin' out tonight,
To dance by the light of the moon?
Danced all night, and my heel kep' a-rockin',
My heel kep' a-rockin',
And my heel kep' a-rockin',
I danced with a girl with a hole in her stockin',
And I danced by the light of the moon.


[music and notation.]

All hand up and cir - cle to the left, and cir - cle to the left and
cir - cle to the left; O, all hand up and cir - cle to the left in hon - or
to your part - ner. Swing that girl, that pret - ty lit - tle girl, the
girl I left be - hind me, With the bright blue eyes and the cur - ly
hair, Then prom-en-ade the girl be - hind you.

2. Swingin' on the corner like
Like swingin' on the gate,
Like swingin' on the gate,
Swingin' on the corner like
In honor to your partner.


Chorus: (The same as above and as follows.)

Swing that girl, that pretty litle girl,
The girl I left behind me,
With the bright blue eyes and the curly hair,
Then promenade the girl behind you.


She's pretty in the face and slim around the waist,
Is the girl I left behind me.

(Note: Choruses and verses are interchangeable ad lib.)

An old tune pressed into service in various play-party games is "Drunken Sailor," probably once an old chantey. A common Kansas version runs:

What'll we do with the drunken sailor?
What'll we do with the drunken sailor?
What'll we do with the drunken sailor?
Put him in a boat and sail him over.

Edwin F. Piper believes this to be a variant of "Come, Philander." [25] The same tune is used in the game, "Going to Boston," in the Lomax version, [26] and also in the following Kansas game:


[music and notation.]

Here goes Jum = bo thru', the wind - ow, thru' the wind - ow,
thru' the wind - ow; Here goes Jum - bo. thru' the wind -ow,
Down to Al - a - bam - a.
All prom -e - nade with your hands on should - ers,
All prom - e - nade with your hands on should - ers,
All prom - e - nade with your hands on should - ers,
Down in Al - a - bam - a



All couples form a circle, with the girls on the inside, facing their partners. This forms an aisle through which "Jumbo," the cheater or extra man, marches, while the players sing:

1. Here goes Jumbo through the window,
Through the window, through the window,
Here goes Jumbo through the window,
Down in Alabama.

As this stanza ends, Jumbo steals a girl in the circle, and the game goes rapidly on, with the refrain:

All promenade with your hands on shoulders,
All promenade with your hands on shoulders,
All promenade with your hands on shoulders,
Down in Alabama.

Now the man from whom the girl was stolen has become the new Jumbo; and as the players fall back in line, he starts marching through the aisle formed, and the game goes on:

2. Big white house and nobody livin' in it. (Repeat.)
3. Get me a wife and I'll go to livin' in it.
4. I got a wife and seventeen children.
5. Left my wife and seventeen children.

Peculiar to this game is the rhythmical clapping as the first stanza is sung.

The play-party song, "U-Tan-U," is known in the Middle West by various names, [27] as "Ju Tang," "Jue Tain," "Jew-tang," and "Shoe-string." The tune of Freda Butterfield's version seems to be unique:


[music and notation.]

Four hand round the u - tan, u-tan-u; Four hand round the
u - tan, u-tan-u;

The game is played as follows: Two couples join hands and circle to the left, singing:

1. Four hand round the U-tan,
Four hand round the U-tan,
U - tan u;

Then the boy turns to his partner and takes her right hand with his right hand, thus cutting to the inside of the circle. Immediately


he drops this girl's hand and cuts to the outside of the circle, taking the next girl's left hand by his left hand; then he steps to the inside again, taking the next girl's right hand by his right, etc., until he arrives home. At the same time the girls also cut in and out of the circle, going in the opposite direction. These movements form a continuous figure 8. During this time the players sing:

2. Right and left to U-tan,
U-tan-u ;
Right and left to U-tan,

(etc., until home again.)

Now both couples swing while they sing:

3. Once and a-half to U-tan,

The boy moves, after swinging one girl, on to the next girl, and that girl meets him as she leaves the boy with whom she has just. swung, etc., until home.

Now all join hands and circle to the left, singing:

4. One more couple to U-tan,

A new couple breaks into the circle and now it's:

5. Six hands round the U-tan,

This goes on long enough to accommodate all couples playing. Then, as a substitution for

One more couple . . .

the words:

One less couple to U-tan,

are used.

One of the two couples beginning drops out first, etc., until there are only two couples left playing and the game is ended.

Often it is hard to keep the players at the game until it is finished, for they become very dizzy if there are many couples and the playing time is correspondingly lengthened.

The play-party song, "My Brown Jug," is not the old favorite, "Little Brown Jug,"' but a much rarer song. Mr. Botkin gives several Oklahoma versions, [28] none of which have the same tune as this



Kansas one. Vance Randolph's Ozark version is to the tune of "Skip to My Lou," and has as the second stanza, "Hit come back all flounced around." [29]


[music and notation.]

Sent my brown jug down town, Sent my brown jug down town,
So ear - ly in the morn - ing.
Rail - road, steam - boat, riv - er and can - al, Lost my pal, she's a
fine old gal, But she's gone, gone, gone for ev - er

2. It came back a-bouncin' round,
It came back a-bouncin' round,
It came back a-bouncin' round,
So early in the morning.

A play-party song not widely known, but still sung in southeastern Kansas, is the following one:


[music and notation.]

Play - ing on the hills to - night, play-ing on the hills to - night
Play - ing on the hills to - night, But don't let the old folks know it.
Sail a-way east, sail a-way west; Sail a-way o-ver the o-cean, Be -
ware young man, if you want a good wife. You'd bet-ter be quick in the mo-tion,


2. The old folks are delight,
The old folks are delight,
The old folks are delight,
But the young folks they are darling.

"Six Little Girls" is sung to the tune of "The Mulberry Bush." The game is played as follows: Boys form a circle, leaving some space between boys, and inside this circle the girls form one. They are holding hands and facing the boys; they circle to the left, singing:

1. Six little girls a-skating went,
A-skating went, a-skating went;
Six little girls a-skating went,
So early in the morning.

Now they circle to the right, singing:

2. The ice was thin and they all fell in,
The ice was thin and they all fell in,
The ice was thin and they all fell in,
So early in the morning.

Each girl goes to the man in the circle who is nearest her, and each couple sings while swinging:

3. They called on the boys to help them out,
They called on the boys to help them out,
They called on the boys to help them out,
So early in the morning.

Now the girls form the outside circle and the boys the inside one and sing:

Six little boys a-skating went, etc.
Every boy goes to the girl in the circle who is nearest him-
They called on the girls to help them out, etc.

and the game is played over again.

The last four songs of this collection were "prime favorites" in Butler county fifty years ago. Of these "The Miller Boy" is so generally known that it is listed in almost every American play-party collection. The tune given here, the old dance tune, "Turkey in the Straw," is derived from the song, "Old Zip Coon," which was old in 1840, when it was parodied as a campaign song for William Henry Harrison. I remember a fragment, which my mother used to sing:

Oh, I went down to Northtown to give the game a run,
With my old dog, Cato, and my double-barreled gun;
And the first man I met was Billy Harrison.




According to Sigmund Spaeth, the tune goes back to 1815. [30] Isaac Goldberg attributes "Old Zip Coon" to George Nichols. [31] It seems to have been a "rough jig dance called 'Natchez in the Hill."' "Turkey in the Straw" was not only a fiddle tune, but a song as well. [32]

Variant "A" of "The Miller Boy," the one traditional in southern Kansas, is to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw," as is also variant "B," contributed by Mrs. Harriet Pugh Tanner, whose family brought it to Lawrence from Highpoint, N. C., in 1871.



[music and notation.]

Oh,_ hap - py is the mil - ler boy that lives by the mill. The_
wheel turns round- with a right good will, one- hand in the hop - per,
And the o - ther in the sack, O the la - dies step for - ward and the
gents step back.


1. There was a jolly miller; he lived by himself,
And all day long he was laying up his wealth;
One hand in the hopper, and the other in the bag,
The wheel turns round, and he cries out, "Grab!"

(Each man "grabs" his partner.)

2. There was an old soldier, and he had a wooden leg,
And he had no tobacco; no tobacco could he beg.
So save up your money, and save up your rocks,
And you'll always have tobacco in your tobacco box.


Another variant, as sung by Freda Butterfield, adds the refrain:

We're sailing east; we're sailing west;
We're sailing over the ocean.
Beware, young man; if you want a good wife,
You'd better be quick in the motion.

"Weevilly Wheat" is also widely known. [33] Leona Nessly Ball's Idaho collection of play-party songs has a ten-stanza version. Mrs. L. D. Ames's Missouri collection contains the unique line, "Come, honey, my love, and trip with me." Vance Randolph also has an interesting variant. [34] The most common Kansas version is as follows:


[music and notation.]

Char-ley he's a nice young man, And Char-ley he's a dan - dy.
Char - ley loves to kiss the girls When - e - ver it comes han - dy.

2. O, I'll have none of your weevilly wheat,
And I'll have none of your barley;
I'll have none of your weevilly wheat
To bake a cake for Charley.


"Oh, Sister Phoebe," or "'The Juniper Tree," is a typical example of the great change in form that often occurs in the folk song through centuries of oral transmission. According to W. W. Newell, it has developed from a centuries old European theme, "The Widow With Daughters to Marry." He gives a Philadelphia version, which is played as follows: A child, representing a mother, is followed by a file of daughters, each grasping the frock of the girl in front:

There comes a poor widow from Barbary-land,
With all her children in her hand;
One can brew, and one can bake,
And one can make a wedding-cake;
Pray take one,
Pray take two,
Pray take one that pleases you. [35]

In the more common version, however, only one daughter, Sister Phoebe, remains unmarried.


[music and notation.]

Oh, sis - ter Phoe- be, how hap-py were we, When we sat un - der the
Jun - i - per tree! The Jun - i-per tree,_ high oh, high oh, The
Jun - i - per tree,-- high oh!

2. Keep your hat on it will keep your head warm;
And take a sweet kiss; it will do you no harm.

The words lend themselves readily to local parody, as the following extemporaneous stanza from a Rose Hill community indicates:

Emmy, oh, Emmy, how happy were we
The night we sat under old Eli's peach tree!
Old Eli's peach tree, Heigh O, Heigh O!
Old Eli's peach tree, Heigh O!

According to Carl Van Doren, this game, a kissing game, is played thus: A girl sits in a chair in the center of the room, while the other players march around her singing. A boy carrying a hat walks round and round the sitting player. At the proper moment, he places the hat on the girl's head and kisses her. [36]


This song, like "The Miller Boy" and "Weevilly Wheat," is listed by play-party collectors throughout the country.

The play-party song, "Shoot the Buffalo," seems to be of purely American origin. Mr. Botkin thinks that the original was an emigrant song, "The Hunting of the Buffalo." [37] However that may be, the Kansas version, which has been sung in Butler county for nearly sixty years, is to the tune of "The Captain With His Whiskers," a popular Civil War song, which my mother sang to entertain the soldiers at Camp Mitchell, Ohio, about 1864.


1. As they marched through the town with their banners so gay,
I ran to the window to hear the band play;
I peep'd through the blinds very cautiously then,
Lest the neighbors should say I was looking at the men.
Oh! I heard the drums beat and the music so sweet,
But my eyes at the time caught a much greater treat;
The troop was the finest I ever did see,
And the Captain with his whiskers took a sly glance at me.

2. When we met at the ball, I, of course, thought 'twas right,
To pretend that we never had met before that night;
But he knew me at once, I perceived by his glance,
And I hung down my head when he asked me to dance.
Oh, he sat by my side, at the end of the set,
And the sweet words he spoke I never shall forget;
For my heart was enlisted, and could not get free,
As the captain with his whiskers took a sly glance at me.

3. But he marched from the town, and I see him no more.
Yet I think of him oft, and the whiskers he wore;
I dream all the night, and I talk all the day,
Of the love of a captain who went far away.
I remember with the superabundant delight,
When we met in the street, and we danced all the night;
And keep in my mind how my heart jumped with glee,
As the captain with his whiskers took a sly glance at me.

Chorus, after last stanza:

Perhaps he is here! Let me look round the house.
Keep still, everyone; keep still as a mouse,
For if the dear creature is here, he will be
With his whiskers, a-taking sly glances at me.


The Kansas version of "Shoot the Buffalo" is as follows:


[music and notation.]

Rise up, my dear-est dear, And pre- sent to me pour hand, And we'll
march a - way to - geth- or, To a far and bet- tar land. Brake and
Shoot the buf - fe -- lo, Brake and shoot the buf - fe - lo!
ral - ly round the cane-brake, And shoot the buf-fa - lo.

2. Where the hawk shot the eagle,
And the buzzard stumped his toe,
We'll rally round the cane-brake,
And shoot the buffalo.

This quaint song had as many variants as there were communities singing it, and it was sung throughout the West, from Missouri to Idaho. [38]

Thus we have traced, in this brief survey, the migrations of typical play-party folk songs, from their beginnings, centuries ago, in England, France, Provence, Italy, and Germany, to the Atlantic sea-board of America; thence, moving ever westward with pioneer folk, and all the while accumulating new themes and legends, they have finally reached the last frontier. "By the golden network of oral tradition," [39] have the poetry and song, the mores and ways of the folk been preserved.


1. This heritage of song has greatly enriched the lives of the children of Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Hull: Arthur Sinclair Hull, who died September 3, 1937; O. J. Hull, Ontario, Cal.; J. M. Hull, Bonner's Ferry, Idaho; M. L. Hull, Wichita; Myra E. Hull, Lawrence; Hazel Hull Cook, Boulder, Colo., and Loss Fern Hull, Pueblo, Colo. Their uncles, W. B. Hull and Tom Sinclair, were also a part of the family in pioneer days and contributed largely to the music of the community, in various social gatherings, such as singing schools, literary societies, and dances. (For a full discussion of pioneer life in this community see Myra E. Hull's article, "Richland Township," in Butler County's Eighty Years, edited by Jessie Perry Straford, El Dorado, 1934.)
2. Newell, W. W., Games and Songs of American Children (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1903), p. 130.
3. Heck, Jean O., "Folk Poetry and Folk Criticism," The Journal of American Folk-Lore, v. 40, p. 25. (Hereafter cited JAFL.)
4. The same tune is used later in "Six Little Girls A-Skating Went."
5. Jackson, George Pullen, White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N. C., 1933), p. 145.
6. Words contributed by Marcia Carter, Lawrence.
7. Newell, op. cit., pp. 80-81, 84; Heck, JAFL, v. 40, p. 14.
8. "Pardner," not "partner," is the common pronunciation in the Middle West.
9. Newell, op. cit., p. 253.
10. Ibid., p. 242. Newell quotes from Alice B. Gomme's Old English Singing Games (London, 1900).
11. Van Doren, Carl, "Some Play-Party Songs From Eastern Illinois," JAFL, v. 32, p. 493.
12. Newell, op. cit., p. 73.
13. Ball Leona Nessly, "The Play-Party in Idaho," JAFL, v. 44, p. 10. (See also "stout" for "style" in "Captain Jinks," pp. 272, 273, for another example of folk etymology.)
14. Newell, op. cit., p. 84; Piper, Edwin F., "Some Play-Party Games of the Middle West," JAFL, v. 28, p. 270.
15. Newell, op. cit., pp. 100-101; Hudson, Arthur Palmer, "Ballads and Songs From Mississippi," JAFL, v. 39, p. 167; Heck, ibid., v. 40, p. 76.
16. Newell, op. cit., pp. 50-51, 226-227; Botkin, B. A., "The American Play-Party Song," The University Studies of the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, Neb., 1937), p. 1343; Broadwood, Lucy E., and Maitland, J. A. Fuller, English County Songs (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1893), p. 106.
17. Heck, JAFL, v. 40, p. 26.
18. Botkin, op. cit., p. 333; Ames, Mrs. L. D., "The Missouri Play-Party," JAFL, v. 24, p. 311.
19. Piper, ibid., v. 28, p. 276; Gardner, Emelyn E., "Some Play-Party Games in Michigan," ibid., v. 33, p. 123; Randolph, Vance, "The Ozark Play-Party," ibid., v. 42, p. 203; Van Doren, Carl, Some Play-Party Songs From Eastern Illinois," ibid., v. 32, p. 493; Ball, ibid., v. 44, p. 20; Lomax, John A. and Lomax, Alan, American Ballads and Folk Songs (New York, Macmillan, 1934), p. 294.
20. All directions for playing these games were furnished by Freda Butterfield, of Iola, a student in the University of Kansas. She also contributed words and music for the following songs, which are still sung in her community (1937): "Straight Across the Hall," Swingin' on the Corner," Jumbo," "U-Tan," "My Brown Jug," and "Playing on the Hills Tonight."
21. The Journal of American Folk-Lore references for "Captain Jinks" and "Skip to My Lou" are almost identical. See Footnote 19.
22. Spaeth, Sigmund, Read 'Em and Weep, p. 16.
23. Lomax and Lomax, op. cit., p. 282.
24. Scarborough, Dorothy, On the Trail of the Negro Folk-Songs (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1925), pp. 112-162. 25. Piper, JAFL, v. 28, p. 277.
26. Lomax and Lomax, op. cit., p. 297.
27. Botkin, op. cit., No. 59.
28. Ibid., p. 230.
29. Randolph, JAFL, v. 42, p. 224.
30. Spaeth, op. cit., pp. 17-19.
31. Goldberg, Isaac, Tin Pan Alley (New York, John Day Company, 1930), p. 37.
32. One Kansas version runs:

1. I went down the alley just to pass the time away;
I heard an old darky on a rustic banjo play.
I asked what the tune was, and that darky began to roar,
Why, boss," he said, "that tune is called 'Turkey in the Straw.' "
Turkey in the Straw, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!
Turkey in the Straw, Ha, He, Ha, Ha, Ha!
Funniest thing I ever saw
Was when I watched that darky play "The Turkey in the Straw."

2. I stayed there to watch him just to see what else he'd do;
He started dancing many steps I thought quite new.
I said to him, "Uncle) I've not seen that dance before."
He laughed and said, 'That too is called 'The Turkey in the Straw.'"

3. It was a tune that was chucked full of pep;
And your head started going while you had to watch your step.
Oh-o, I've never herd such a quaint melody
As when that old darky played that southern dance for me.

33. See Footnote 19.
34. Ball, loc. cit., pp. 16-17; Ames, loc. cit., pp. 302-303; Randolph, loc. cit., pp 207-209.
35. Newell, op. cit., pp. 56-58, No. 8. No tune.
36. Van Doren, JAFL, v. 32, p. 490.
37. Botkin, op. cit., pp. 308-312. Five Oklahoma variants.
38. Ball, JAFL, v. 44, p, 16; Randolph, ibid., v. 42, p. 212; Lomax and Lomax, op. cit., pp. 296-297, twelve stanzas.
39. Newell, op. cit., p, 225.