Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?

DESCRIPTION: "Oh dear, what can the matter be? (x3), Johnny's so long at the fair." Johnny had promised to bring the singer various gifts, such as "blue ribbons... to tie up my bonny brown hair," but he is long in coming
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1792 (British Lyre, according to Scott)
KEYWORDS: love separation nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(England,Scotland(Aber)) US(SE) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (14 citations):
GreigDuncan8 1685, "Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?" (3 texts, 2 tunes)
Williams-Thames, p. 201, "Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Ox 213)
BrownIII 122, "Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?" (1 text plus mention of 1 more)
BrownSchinhanV 122, "Oh, Dear, What Van the Matter Be" (2 tunes plus text excerpts)
Creighton-SNewBrunswick 85, "Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be?" (1 text, 1 tune)
Opie-Oxford2 280, "Johnny shall have a new bonnet" (3 texts)
Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #158, p. 118, "(Johnny shall have a new bonnet)"
Dolby, p. 138, "Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?" (1 text)
Scott-EnglishSB, pp. 42-42, "Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?" (1 short text, 1 tune)
WolfAmericanSongSheets, #226, p. 17, "Bunch of Blue Ribbons" (2 references)
Silber-FSWB, p. 150, "Oh, Dear! What Can the Matter Be"" (1 text)
Fuld-FFM, pp. 398-399, "Oh! Dear, What Can the Matter Be?"
ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #78, "Oh! Dear1" (1 text)

Roud #1279
Bodleian, Firth b.25(103/104), "Dear! What Can the Matter Be," J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838; also Harding B 11(2743), Harding B 11(2743), "Oh! Dear What Can the Matter Be"
LOCSinging, sb10024a, "Bunch of Blue Ribbons," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878

cf. "My Sailor Boy (A Sailor Boy in Blue)" (theme)
cf. "Faithless Boney (The Croppies' Complaint)" (tune)
Seven Old Ladies (File: EM119)
Faithless Boney (The Croppies' Complaint) (File: Moyl038)
Bring Your Blueberries to Job's Store (by Johnny Burke) (Johnny Burke (William J. Kirwin, editor), _John White's Collection of Johnny Burke Songs_, Harry Cuff Publications, St. John's, 1981, #49, pp. 78-79) (Johnny Burke, _Burke's Popular Songs_, self-published, 1929 (a PDF is available on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. [12]) (Johnny Burke (John White, Editor), _Burke's Ballads_, no printer listed, n.d. (PDF available on Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. 21)
NOTES [127 words]: Fuld reports this song appearing, almost as if by magic, in sundry editions and manuscripts between 1770 and 1792. None list authors, and few can be dated exactly. The origin of this song, clearly more popular for its tune than its banal lyrics, must therefore remain a mystery.
The Opies note a clear resemblance with their #280, which begins
Johnny shall have a new bonnet,
And Johnny shall go to the fair,
And Johnny shall have a blue ribbon
To tie up his bonny brown hair.
The Opies call this "the nursery, and possibly original, version" of the song. - RBW
Broadside LOCSinging sb10024a: H. De Marsan dating per Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS
Last updated in version 4.4
File: FSWB150B

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