An Example Of The Singing Game "Johnny Cuckoo" As Sung By Janie Hunter - Bag Avatof Anonymous - Latest Quotes Photos

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

An Example Of The Singing Game "Johnny Cuckoo" As Sung By Janie Hunter

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part IV of an ongoing pancocojams series on African American versions of the English children's singing game "Two Dukes A-Riding".

Part IV presents an excerpt from the record notes for the album Been In The Storm Too Long and lyrics for a South Carolina version of the "Johnny Cuckoo" singing game that was sung by Janie Hunter. A link to a sound file for that version of "Johnny Cuckoo" is also included in that post.

Part IV also includes information about the Gullah culture that is documented as the original site of examples of the singing game "Johnny Cuckoo". (Visit Part III for a more widely known example of "Johnny Cuckoo" from the Gullah culture.)

Click for Part I of this pancocojams series. Part I presents excerpts from two Mudcat folk music discussion threads: "Help: johnny cockaroo" [comments from 2008, 2009] and "Lyr Req: Playground songs" [one singing game example which I collected in 1992 and posted on that forum in 2007].

Click for Part II presents text (word only) examples of and sound files for a few versions of the children's singing game "Two Dukes A-Riding" (or other titles for versions of that singing game.)

Click for Part III of this pancocojams series. Part III presents my thoughts about the meanings of the words "Johnny Cuckoo" in the African American singing game with that name. Part III also showcases a text (word only) example and a YouTube video of the singing game "Johnny Cuckoo" as sung by Bessie Jones and children from St. Simon's Island, Georgia along with a YouTube sound file and lyrics for a version of "Johnny Cuckoo" as sung by Joan Baez.

The Addendum to Part III presents an article excerpt about Black men in the United States Civil War's Union army and Black men in the Confederate army.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, recreational, and entertainment purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Janie Hunter and all those who are quoted in this post.

The record note excerpt given below identifies this showcased example of this singing game as being from Johns Island off the coast of South Carolina.

Another example of "Johnny Cuckoo" that is featured in Part III of this pancocojams series is from St. Simon's Island, Georgia.

Both of these examples are from Gullah people in the United States. Here's some information about the Gullah culture:
"The Gullah are African Americans who live in the Lowcountry region of the U.S. states of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, in both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands. They developed a creole language, the Gullah language, and a culture rich in African influences that makes them distinctive among African Americans.

Historically, the Gullah region extended from the Cape Fear area on North Carolina's coast south to the vicinity of Jacksonville on Florida's coast. Today, the Gullah area is confined to the Georgia and South Carolina Lowcountry. The Gullah people and their language are also called Geechee, which may be derived from the name of the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia.[1] Gullah is a term that was originally used to designate the creole dialect of English spoken by Gullah and Geechee people. Over time, its speakers have used this term to formally refer to their creole language and distinctive ethnic identity as a people. The Georgia communities are distinguished by identifying as either "Freshwater Geechee" or "Saltwater Geechee", depending on whether they live on the mainland or the Sea Islands.[2][3][4][5]

Because of a period of relative isolation from whites while working on large plantations in rural areas, the Africans, drawn from a variety of Central and West African ethnic groups, developed a creole culture that has preserved much of their African linguistic and cultural heritage from various peoples; in addition, they absorbed new influences from the region."...


Side I: Side II:
1. Talking 'Bout a Good Time 1. Down on Me
2. That's All Right 2. Reborn Again
3. Jesus Knows All About My Troubles 3. Row, Michael, Row
4. Talk 4. Johnny Cuckoo
5. Lay Down Body 5. Old Lady Come from Booster
6. I'm Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table & Prayer 6. Shoo Turkey
7. Been in the Storm So Long 7. Mr. Postman Die
8. Water My Fl~ers
9. The Rabbit and the Partridge '
10. Jack and Mary and the Devil

FOLKWAYS RECORDS Album No. FS 3842 Library of Congress Card Number: R67-3095
© 1967 by Folkways Records & Service Corp., 701 Seventh Ave. ,New York, N. Y. 10036, USA
Distributed by Folkways/Scholastic Records, Englewood CliffS, N.J.

[page] 2
The people you hear on this record live on Johns Island -- one of the sea islands just off the coast of South Carolina. The record was made to accompany a book about these people -- a folk-life study of a southern rural Negro community. Ain't You Got a Right to the Tree of Life? is available from the Simon & Schuster Publishing Co.

The oldest forms of Negro folk life still alive today in the United States are to be found in the sea islands. These low flat islands, covered with swampy marshes, rich farm land, and forests of live oaks draped with Spanish moss, have only had bridges and causeways built to them from the mainland since about 1930. Some of them are still only accessible by boat. Because of their relative isolation from the cross-currents of modern life, the sea islands have preserved many aspects of the old slave culture, including the Gullah dialect, the old spirituals and style of Singing them, their own folk version of Christianity and "praise house" form of worship, folk tales and beliefs.

Most of these people are very poor and have large families. They work primarily as domestics and field hands. Some of them have to go into the nearest city, Charleston, for work since there is little opportunity to make a living on the island. Though there is a very low level of literacy among the older generation there is a rich oral tradition of folk expression.

Central to this tradition is Moving Star Hall. This is the gathering place for the older people. Here each person expresses himself in sermon, song, testimony and prayer. Moving Star Hall is also an organization for visiting the sick and burying the dead. The small clapboard building has been up since 1917 but the praise house form of worship and the burial society go back much further in time. A small group of Singers from Moving Star Hall have now travelled to northern folk festivals and concert halls.

I first went to Johns Island in 1959 to work with an adult literacy program and to record some of the music. I returned each winter and finally moved I nto the Negro community around Moving Star Hall with my wife and son and stayed for two years. During those years we gathered on tape many hours of life experience, songs, tales, children's games, much wisdom and wit. This record is only a small sample. I would suggest that anyone really interested in the area get the book, Ain't You Got a Right to the Tree of Life. There is also an earlier record from Johns Island: Sea Island Folk Festival, Folkways No. FS 3841.

Guy Carawan, Furnace Dock Road
Peekskill, New York

(Thanks to Simon & Schuster for permission to reprint text used in the book and photographs taken by Robert Yellin.)


[page] 12
Jane Hunter:
This is a children's song that our mothers taught us when we was growing up. In the afternoon we finish our work then we go in the yard and play ring
plays. And the sound is like this:

Here's one Johnny Cuckoo on a rainy day my
Is one Johnny Cuckoo on a bright starry night.
Please tell me where you come from on a rainy day my darling,
Please tell me where you come from on a bright starry night.
I come for my baby on a rainy day my darling,
I come for my baby on a bright starry night.
Oh, you look too black and dirty, dirty, dirty,
You look too black and dirty
Chuck 'em in the coffee pot.

This is a game. When you clap, then the kids do a dance you call a Charleston by it."


Track Info
ALBUM: Been in the Storm So Long: A Collection of Spirituals, Folk Tales and Children's Games from Johns Island, SC
COUNTRY(S): United States
LANGUAGE(S): English"
Unfortunately, this sound file is very brief and I've not been able to find a longer example online.

I've not heard this complete song whose tune is different from the more widely known version of "Johnny Cuckoo" that is sung by Bessie Jones and sung by Joan Baez.

The tempo of this Janie Hunter version is also slower than the above mentioned examples and has no hand clapping accompaniment (in the brief audio file).

This concludes Part IV of this pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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