Thoughts, etc # 16

The minstrel shows of the 18th and 19th centuries were a very popular form of entertainment in the young United States. This entertainment form is now considered totally “politically incorrect”, and much of the music is being equated with the connotations given to the Stars and Bars on the flag of Georgia. There were no black performers, just white performers in black-face, and many derogatory names and epithets derived from this music form. The music was usually of a light nature and portrayed a Southern pastoral setting. The music ranged from the walk around tune of Daniel D. Emmet’s Dixie’s Land, to the songs of Stephen Foster.

Many songs have the same tune or variants of the same tune, such as The Virginia Reel, Turkey in the Straw, Ole Zip Coon, and Jump Jim Crow. The tune started on the minstrel circuit as Natchez Under the Hill, a fiddle tune. This tune is derived from the ballad My Grandmother Lived on Yonder Little Green, which in turn derived from a much older Irish ballad, The Old Rose Tree.

The words for Ole Zip Coon were added to the tune in about 1835 and became popular during Andrew Jackson’s presidency. It remained popular through the Civil War, and many different words and versions were put to this tune both then and now.


O, Ole Zip Coon was a larned Skoler,
Ole Zip Coon was a larned skolar,
Ole Zip Coon was a larned skolar
Plays possum up a gum tree and cooney in the hollar.

Possum up a gum tree cooney up a stump,
Possum up a gum tree cooney up a stump,
Possum up a gum tree cooney up a stump,
Den ober double trouble when the coon did jump.

O ist Sukey blue skin, she in lub with me,
I went de odder after noon to take a dish ob tea,
What do you tink now, Sukey hab for supper,
Why chicken foot an possum heel widout any butter.


I went down to Sandy Hollar de odder after noon,
And de first man I chanced to meet was ole Zip Coon;
Ole Zip Coon is a natty skolar,
For he play upon the banjo, “Cooney in de holler.”


My ole missus she am mad at me,
Kase I wouldn,t go wid her into Tennessee.
Massa build a barn an put in it de fodder,
Twas dis ting or dat ting or one ting or odder.


I pose you heard ob de battle New Orleans
Whar ole Genral Jackson gib de British beans.
Dere de Yankee boys do de job so slick,
For dey cotch ole Packenham an rowed him up de crick.


I hab many tings to tork about, but don’t know what come first,
So here de toast to ole Zip Coon before he gin to rust.
May he hab pretty girls, like de King ob ole,
To sing dis song so many times ‘fore he turn to mole.


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