Billy Barlow (II)
DESCRIPTION: William Barlow "come[s] before you with one boot and one shoe." He arouses the wonder of the girls, is given free entrance to the races, and is more unusual than any animal in the circus. He hopes some young lady will accept him as a beau
EARLIEST DATE: 1910 (Belden)
KEYWORDS: talltale courting clothes
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Belden, pp. 253-255, "Billy Barlow" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES: Belden notes this as a comic song performed as far back as 1842, and popular enough to parody during the administration of Franklin Pierce (1853-1857). Belden also notes that Edgar Allen Poe refers to his ex-publisher as "Billy Barlow," implying that, by 1840, the name was already used for a buffoon.
Joy Hildebrand brings to my attention Sam Cowell (1820-1864), who performed as Billy Barlow. From the dates, it looks like Billy probably predates Cowell. But Hildebrand speculates that Cowell might have converted Billy into a character in the "Cutty Wren" type song "Billy Barlow (I)." So far, this is just speculation -- but it makes some sense.
Cowell was successful enough that a chapbook was printed, bearing the proud advertisement "SAM COWELL'S SONG-BOOK, Containing all his best Copyright Songs, for SIXPENCE." The songs listed on the cover include "The Ratcatcher's Daughter, Alonzo the Brave, Billy Barlow, Richard III, La Somnambula, Mazeppa, Aladdin, The Forty Thieves, The Merchand of Venice, Lord Lovel, Hamlet, and Othello. Evidently, when he wasn't playing Billy Barlow, he was parodying Shakespeare. - RBW
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