Roll on the Ground (Big Ball's in Town)

DESCRIPTION: Floating verses: "Let's have a party, let's have a time/Let's have a party, I've only a dime"; "Work on the railroad, sleep on the ground/Eat soda crackers, ten cents a pound." Chorus: "Roll on the ground, boys, roll on the ground (x2)."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1899 (recording, Billy Golden)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Floating verses, mostly concerning high life: "Get on your big shoes, get on your gown/Shake off those sad blues, Big Ball's in town"; "Let's have a party, let's have a time/Let's have a party, I've only a dime"; "My love's in jail, boys, my love's in jail/My love's in jail, boys, who's going her bail?" And "Work on the railroad, sleep on the ground/Eat soda crackers, ten cents a pound." Chorus: "Big Ball's in Boston [Nashville], Big Ball's in town/Big Ball's in Boston, we'll dance around." Or, in the other common version, "Roll on the ground, boys, roll on the ground (x2)."
KEYWORDS: prison dancing drink humorous nonballad floatingverses dancetune
FOUND IN: US(SE,So)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
BrownIII 234, "Working on the Railroad" (1 text plus two unrelated fragments, the "B" and "C" fragments probably belong here; the "A" text is a jumble starting with "Working on the Railroad" but followed up by what is probably a "Song of All Songs" fragment)
Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 200, "Big Ball's In Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 199, "Roll On The Ground" (1 text)
DT, ROLLGRND*

Roud #12114 (and probably others)
RECORDINGS:
Warren Caplinger's Cumberland Mountain Entertainers, "Big Ball in Town" (Brunswick 241, 1928)
Georgia Yellow Hammers, "Big Ball in Memphis" (Victor V-40138, 1929)
Billy Golden, "Roll on the Ground" (Berliner 0539, c. 1900; Victor A-616, c. 1901; rec. 1899) (CYL Albany 1131 [as "Roll On de Ground"], n.d.) (CYL: Lambert 5077 [as "Roll on de Ground"], n.d. but c. 1900) (Victor 16804, 1911 [as "Roll on de Ground"]; rec. 1905)
Al Hopkins & his Buckle Busters, "Roll on the Ground" (Brunswick 186, 1927)
J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers, "Big Ball's in Town" (King 622, 1947)
Fate Norris & his Playboys, "Roll 'em on the Ground" (Columbia 15435-D, 1929)
Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, "Big Ball In Town" (Columbia 15204-D, 1927)
Taylor-Griggs Louisiana Melody Makers, "Big Ball Up Town" (Victor 21768, 1928)
Thaddeus C. Willingham, "Roll on the Ground" (AFS, 1939; on LC02, LCTreas)
Unidentified artist [label reads "Negro Shout"], "Roll on the Ground" (Busy Bee 67, c. 1904)

ALTERNATE TITLES:
Big Ball's in Boston
NOTES: Harry Oster has reported an anti-Semitic variant from Louisiana, "Hook Nose In Brooklyn." - PJS
Cohen/Seeger/Wood report "This tune is the sort that exists only for itself and its suitability on the banjo, the words being only very freely attached and often with reference to a drunken state." This seems to be true of most variants, except perhaps for the prejudiced version mentioned by Paul. - RBW
Maybe so; the piece, however, seems to have begun life as a "coon song" -- a popular minstrel piece. - PJS
File: CSW200

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.