Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?

DESCRIPTION: Bill (a B&O brakeman) and his woman have a fight; he storms out. She begs, "Won't you come home, Bill Bailey... I'll do the cooking, honey, I'll pay the rent; I know I've done you wrong." (At last Bill shows up in an automobile)
AUTHOR: Hughie Cannon
EARLIEST DATE: 1902 (sheet music, recordings by Arthur Collins and Dan W. Quinn)
KEYWORDS: love separation reunion
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Neely/Spargo-TalesAndSongsOfSouthernIllinois, pp. 216-217, "Bill Bailey" (1 text)
Browne-AlabamaFolkLyric 124, "Bill Bailey" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 253, "Bill Bailey" (1 text)
Geller-FamousSongsAndTheirStories, pp. 205-210, "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuld-BookOfWorldFamousMusic, pp. 145-146, "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?"
ADDITIONAL: Robert A. Fremont, editor, _Favorite Songs of the Nineties_, Dover Publications, 1973, pp. 29-33, "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please ----- Come Home" (1 text, 1 tune, a copy of the original sheet music)

Roud #4325
Perry Bechtel's Colonels, "Bill Bailey" (Brunswick 498, c. 1930)
Al Bernard, "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" (Brunswick 312, 1929; Panachord [UK] 25148, 1931; rec.1928)
Homer Brierhopper, "Bill Bailey" (Bluebird B-6903/Montgomery Ward M-7242, 1937)
Big Bill Broonzy, "Bill Bailey" (on Broonzy01)
Arthur Collins, "Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home" (CYL: Edison 8112, 1902)
Warde Ford, "Bill Bailey" [fragment] (AFS 4215 B3, 1939; in AMMEM/Cowell)
Dan W. Quinn, "Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home" (Victor 1411, 1902)
Jess Young's Tennessee Band [or Young Brothers' Tennessee Band], "Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home" (Columbia 15219-D, 1927)

cf. "The Hop-Joint" (some lyrics; character of Bill Bailey)
cf. "Oh, Baby, 'Low Me One More Chance" (theme)
Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey?
NOTES [202 words]: Although obviously not a folk song in origin, this strikes me as a popular enough piece as to belong here. Fuld mentions several papers examining who "Bill Bailey" might have been. He seems to find none of them entirely convincing.
The story in Geller is that William Bailey was a "lazy shiftless Negro whose angry spouse, weary of supporting him, had finally turned him out." Cannon, apparently too sexist to fathom this, was convinced she would take him back, and made the wife the lazy one.
Philip Furia, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Greatest Lyricists, 1990 (I use the 1992 Oxford paperback with a new preface), p. 29, says that the original sheet music of this shows "wooly-haired caricatures" of the protagonists, and notes that this makes the idea of throwing him out "with nothing but a fine-toothed comb" particularly un-helpful, because a fine-toothed comb would be useless on such hair.
Spaeth's A History of Popular Music in America mentions another 1902 song, "I Wonder Why Bill Bailey Don't Come Home" (by Frank Fogarty, Woodward, Mills), and still another, "Since Bill Bailey Came Back Home," by Billy Johnson and Seymour Furth. Unfortunately, he supplies no details. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
File: FSWB253B

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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.