Billy Boy

DESCRIPTION: Asked where he has been, Billy says he has been courting, and has found a girl, "but she's a young thing and cannot leave her mother." In response to other questions, he describes her many virtues, always returning to his refrain
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1776 (Herd, according to Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes)
KEYWORDS: courting age youth
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,Ro,SE,So) Britain(England(North,South)) Canada(Mar,Ont)
REFERENCES (51 citations):
Bronson (12 Appendix), "Billie Boy," 29 versions (though Bronson omits a higher fraction than usual of the versions known to him)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 12, "Billie Boy" (4 versions: #2, #6, #15, #20)
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, pp. 499-501, "Billy Boy" (2 texts)
Randolph 104, "Billy Boy" (1 text plus a fragment and 5 excerpts, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 131-133, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 104A)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore3 121, "Billy Boy" (2 texts plus an excerpt; the headnotes mention 47 texts in the Brown collection)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore5 121, "Billy Boy" (4 tunes plus text excerpts)
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #222, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 133, pp. 278-280, "Billy Boy" (4 texts, condensed, plus mention of "at least" 8 more)
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-2ed, pp. 10-11, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scarborough-ASongCatcherInSouthernMountains, pp. 296-298, "Billy Boy" (4 texts, mostly short; 1 tune on p.435) {Bronson's #27}
Eddy-BalladsAndSongsFromOhio 38, "Billy Boy" (5 texts, 1 tune)
Stout-FolkloreFromIowa 17, pp. 24-27, "Billy Boy" (2 texts plus 2 fragments, 1 tune)
Neely/Spargo-TalesAndSongsOfSouthernIllinois, pp. 190-192, "Billy Boy" (2 texts)
Wolford-ThePlayPartyInIndiana, pp. 24-25=Wolford/Richmond/Tillson-PlayPartyInIndiana, p. 141, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
List-SingingAboutIt-FolkSongsInSouthernIndiana, pp. 141-143, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Carey-MarylandFolkLegendsAndFolkSongs, pp. 114-115, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, pp. 246-248, "Billy Boy" (2 texts plus 2 fragments, 1 tune) {Bronson's #20}
Pottie/Ellis-FolksongsOfTheMaritimes, pp. 44-45, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #20, although with a change of key that could affect the scale used}
Flanders/Brown-VermontFolkSongsAndBallads, pp. 162-163, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronon's #29}
Linscott-FolkSongsOfOldNewEngland, pp. 166-167, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #19}
Wyman/Brockway-LonesomeSongs-KentuckyMountains-Vol1, p. 14, "Billie Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #26}
Fuson-BalladsOfTheKentuckyHighlands, p. 105, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
Cambiaire-EastTennesseeWestVirginiaMountainBallads, pp. 45-46, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 89, "My Boy Billy" (3 texts, 3 tunes) {B=Bronson's #22, C=#8}
Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs 58, "My Boy Willie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Karpeles-TheCrystalSpring 115, "My Boy Willie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 12, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 320-322, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #28}
Hugill-ShantiesFromTheSevenSeas, pp. 450-452, "Billy Boy" (3 texts, 2 tunes) [AbrEd, pp. 336-338]
Hugill-SongsOfTheSea, p. 171, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kinsey-SongsOfTheSea, pp. 50-51, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Pound-AmericanBalladsAndSongs, 113, pp. 231-232, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
Hubbard-BalladsAndSongsFromUtah, #197, "Billy Boy" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Cox-FolkSongsSouth 168, "Billy Boy" (4 texts)
Bush-FSofCentralWestVirginiaVol5, pp. 8-9, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gainer-FolkSongsFromTheWestVirginiaHills, pp. 166-167, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Boette-SingaHipsyDoodle, p. 87, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
Terry-TheShantyBook-Part1, #1, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #6}
Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, p. 267, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
Leach-HeritageBookOfBallads, p. 6, "Billy Boy" (1 text)
Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes 45, "Where have you been all the day, My boy Billy?" (2 texts)
Cohen-AmericanFolkSongsARegionalEncyclopedia2, pp. 690-691, "Bili Boy (Billy Boy)" (1 Hawaiian text plus English translation; it is clearly a rewrite, not just a translation)
Wolf-AmericanSongSheets, #140, p. 11, "Billie Boy" (1 reference)
cf. Gardner/Chickering-BalladsAndSongsOfSouthernMichigan, p. 477, "Billy Boy" (source notes only)
Averill-CampSongsFolkSongs, pp. 95, 237, 286, "Billy Boy" (notes only)
GirlScouts-SingTogether, pp. 38-39, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
National-4HClubSongBook, p. 59, "Billy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
SongsOfAllTime, p. 4, "My Boy Willie" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #40, "My Boy Tammy" (1 text)

Roud #326
Ray Covert, "Billy Boy" (Gennett 6204/Herwin 75564, 1927)
Frank Crumit, "Billy Boy" (Victor 19945, 1926)
Donnie Stewart & Terry Perkins, "Billy Boy" (on JThomas01)

Bodleian, Harding B 25(1057), "The Lammy" ("Whar hae ye been a' day, my boy Tammy"), D. Bass (Newcastle), 1800-1810; also 2806 c.14(107), "The Lammie"
cf. "Lord Randal" [Child 12]
NOTES [183 words]: A number of scholars have linked this simple little song with the classic ballad "Lord Randall." Since they only have two things in common, however (the courting theme and certain metrical traits), in the Ballad Index at least we keep them separate.
De la Mare attributes the "My Boy Tammy" text to Hector MacNeill (1746-1818), a prolific author now almost forgotten. (Granger's Index to Poetry, for instance, cites only one of his poems: This one.) Given the dates of other versions, it seems unlikely that MacNeill originated "Billy Boy," but he may well have created a popular recension. - RBW
The Bodleian "Lammy"/"Lammie" texts match the first verse of Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes 45 second text.
The "Lammy"/"Lammie" texts are well enough known to have parodies. See, for example: NLScotland, L.C.1270(002), "Parody on the Lammy" ("O whar hae ye been a' day, creeshie souter Johnnie"), unknown, c.1845, an anti-alcohol song; Bodleian, Harding B 27(44), "Bottom's Song" ("Whar ha'e ye been a' day"), McNeil and Co. (Edinburgh?), no date, a song on 19th century politics. - BS
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File: R104

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