Bohunkus (Old Father Grimes, Old Grimes Is Dead)
DESCRIPTION: Old Grimes, "the good old man," was always dressed in a long black coat and was widely respected. He had two sons, (Tobias) and Bohunkus. "They has a suit of clothes... Tobias wore them through the week, Bohunkus on a Sunday."
AUTHOR: Words: Albert Gorton Greene?
EARLIEST DATE: 1822 (Providence Gazette)
KEYWORDS: father children death clothes humorous
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,Ro,SE,So)
REFERENCES (15 citations):
Belden, pp. 258-259, "Old Grimes is Dead" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph 428, "Old Father Grimes" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Owens-1ed, pp. 224-225, "Bohunker and Kychunker" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
BrownIII 321, "Josephus and Bohunkus" (2 texts plus a fragment)
BrownSchinhanV 321, "Josephus and Bohunkus" (1 tune plus a text excerpt)
Morris, #113, "Old Grimes" (2 texts)
Gardner/Chickering 194, "Old Grimes" (1 fragment)
Neely, pp. 217-219, "Old Grimes Is Dead" (1 text
Hubbard, #201, "Old Grimes" (1 text, in which the brothers are Josephus and Cachecker)
Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 576-577, "Old Grimes" (1 text)
Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 83-84, "Bohunkus" (1 text)
Spaeth-WeepMore, pp. 150-151, "Old Grimes" (1 text)
JHCox 170, "Old Grimes" (1 text, with an "Old Grimes" first verse and the rest unrelated)
Pankake-PHCFSB, pp. 156-157, (No title listed) (1 text, tune referenced)
ADDITIONAL: Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 94, "Tobias and Cuancus" (1 text, tune referenced)
ST R428 (Full)
Ernest V. Stoneman, "Josephus and Bohunkus" (Victor, unissued, 1927)
cf. "Auld Lang Syne" (tune)
NOTES: This piece seems to fall into two parts, one describing Old Grimes, his clothes, and the respect with which he was treated (so, e.g., in Spaeth's Weep Some More and Botkin's New England Folklore).
The other describes the humorous exploits of (Tobias/Josephus) and Bohunkus (so in Speath, Read 'Em and Weep; also the "B" text and perhaps the "C" fragment in Brown), who shared almost everything, usually with one brother having rather the better of the distribution. In Randolph's version, for instance, Tobias gets the clothes for six days out of seven.
On the other hand, in Spaeth, when they went to the theatre, Bohunkus was in the gallery and Josephus in the pit; Bohunkus died of cholera but Josephus "by request"; Bohunkus went to heaven and Josephus to Hell (or, in one book, "Sing Sing"!). This version was printed at least as early as 1913 in Songs That Never Grow Old, and is listed there as anonymous.
Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House in the Big Woods, chapter 10) has a different sort of a plot, in which Grimes's wife is so stingy with cream that he blows away in the wind.
Based on the notes in Brown, it appears that Green wrote only the "Old Grimes" text, with the rest coming from elsewhere. But this does not solve the matter, for it appears that Greene was not responsible for the first verse of "Old Grimes"; when he confessed authorship in 1833, he denied writing the opening stanza.
Spaeth's "Old Grimes" text is so feeble that it's hard to believe such a thing could enter tradition. And, indeed, no traditional form similar to the printed versions from Spaeth and Botkin seems to have turned up; they all add some sort of comic ending (see Randolph, Cox, Wilder; Brown "A").
My feeble guess is that "Old Grimes" did not become traditional until it picked up some sort of humorous element, perhaps from "Bohunkus," and circulated only in that form. "Bohunkus" very possibly did not enter tradition at all on its own; although the Pankakes have a text which may have come from oral tradition, it is so short that it could be a fragment of a Grimes/Bohunkus conflation. But it's probably best if you examine the matter yourself.
This should not be confused with the piece called "Old Roger is Dead (Old Bumpy, Old Grimes, Pompey)" in this collection, which also goes under the title "Old Grimes." - RBW
Opie-Oxford2 6, "Old Abram Brown is dead and gone" is the usual first verse for this song: "Old Abram Brown is dead and gone, You'll never see him more; He used to wear a long brown coat That buttoned down before." - BS
Last updated in version 4.1
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.