Cotton-Eyed Joe

DESCRIPTION: "If it hadn't been for Cotton-eyed Joe, I'd have been married a long time ago." "Where did you come from, where did you go...." Stanzas describe country life, fiddle playing, and attempts to outshine Cotton-eyed Joe
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (recording, Dykes' Magic City Trio); seemingly quoted 1882 (see NOTES)
KEYWORDS: fiddle music nonballad
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore3 104, "Page's Train Run So Fast" (1 text)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore5 104, "Page's Train Run So Fast" (1 tune plus a text excerpt)
Scarborough-OnTheTrailOfNegroFolkSongs, pp. 69-70, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wolfe/Boswell-FolkSongsOfMiddleTennessee 82, pp. 132-133, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 262-263, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-OurSingingCountry, p. 99, "Cotton Eye Joe" (1 text, 1 tune)
Abernethy-SinginTexas, p. 67, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (1 text, 1 tune); also pp. 83-84, "Little Brown Jug" (1 text, 1 tune that are clearly "Little Brown Jug," with supplementary dance verses that appear to derive from "Cotton-Eyed Joe" or "Corn-Stalk Fiddle" or some other very unstable text)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 35, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (1 text)

Roud #942
Arthur "Brother-in-Law" Armstrong, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (AFS 3979 B2, 1940)
Granville Bowlen, "Cotton Eyed Joe" [instrumental] (on MMOK, MMOKCD)
Fiddlin' John Carson, "Cotton Eyed Joe" (OKeh 45122, 1927)
Carter Brothers and Son, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (Vocalion 5349, 1929; on GoingDown; rec. 1928)
Tom Dumas, "Cotton Eyed Joe" (on USMississippi01)
Dykes' Magic City Trio, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (Brunswick 120, 1927)
Spud Gravely & Glen Smith, "Cotton Eye Joe" (on HalfCen1)
"Big Sweet" Lewis Hairston, "Cotton Eyed Joe" (on ClassBanj)
New Lost City Ramblers, "Cotton-Eye Joe" (on NLCR10)
Elmo Newcomer, "Cotton Eyed Joe" (CroMart 101, n.d. but prob. late 1940s - early 1950s)
Pope's Arkansas Mountaineers, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (Victor 21469, 1928)
Bookmiller Shannon, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (on LomaxCD1707)
Gid Tanner & his Skillet Lickers, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (Columbia 15283-D, 1928)
Art Thieme, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (on Thieme03)
Bob Wills & his Texas Playboys, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" (Columbia 37212, c. 1947)

cf. "The Banks of the Arkansas" (lyrics)
NOTES [163 words]: Primarily a fiddle tune, with the sort of chaotic words one would expect of such a piece. I assume "Cotton-Eyed Joe" stands for something, but I've never heard an explanation. - RBW
It's been suggested that Cotton-Eyed Joe was a local character who was blind due to cataracts or another eye disease such as trachoma. - PJS
Talley, quoted by Wolfe, says that the original Joe was a slave musician whose hair went white because of his difficult life -- but this would presumably have caused him to be called "Cotton-Haired Joe." Of course, the shift from cotton-haired to cotton-eyed is phonetically easy. Abernethy-SinginTexas simply things Joe had light-colored eyes.
Jim Dixon points out to me that a few lines that appear to be from this song were found in the nineteenth century, in an article "Camping on the Lower Wabash" by M. H. Catherwood, in Lippincott's Magazine, Volume 30, (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, Oct., 1882), page 412. (available on Google Books). - [RBW]
Last updated in version 5.1
File: LxA262

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