Putting On the Style

DESCRIPTION: A series of comments on the folly of those who put on false faces. Example: "Young man in a carriage driving like he's mad... He cracks his whip so lively just to see his lady smile, But she knows he's only puttin' on the style."
AUTHOR: unknown (see NOTES)
KEYWORDS: humorous vanity pride
REFERENCES (10 citations):
Randolph 469, "Putting On the Style" (1 text plus an excerpt, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 320-322, "Putting On the Style" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 469A)
High-OldOldFolkSongs, p. 29, "Putting on the Style" (1 text)
Browne-AlabamaFolkLyric 132, "Putting On the Style" (4 texts, 1 tune)
Cazden/Haufrecht/Studer-FolkSongsOfTheCatskills 109, "Puttin' On the Style" (1 text, 1 tune+variant form)
Cox-FolkSongsSouth 184, "Putting On the Style" ( text)
ArkansasWoodchopper, pp. 60-62, "Puttin' on the Style" (1 text, 1 tune)
Seeger-AmericanFavoriteBallads, p. 68, "Putting On The Style" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 24, "Putting On The Style" (1 text)

Roud #3767
Vernon Dalhart, "Putting On Style" (Vocalion 15327, 1926) (Columbia 15082-D, 1926) (Edison 52118, 1927)
Warde Ford, "Putting on the Agony" [with half a verse of, "Our Goodman"] (AFS 4200 B3, 1938; tr.; in AMMEM/Cowell)
Pete Seeger, "Puttin' On the Style" (on PeteSeeger04); "Putting On the Style" (on PeteSeeger11)
[Ernest Stoneman &] The Dixie Mountaineers, "Puttin' on the Style" (Edison, unissued, 1927)

cf. "Putting on Airs" (theme)
cf. "Sweet Sixteen" (theme)
cf. "The Truth Twice Told" (subject)
NOTES [286 words]: Cazden et al have very extensive notes about the origins of this song, which largely boil down to, "Hey, we found this song, and it belongs to us and our informant!" Nonetheless, their notes, and the existence of the several versions in Randolph, demonstrate that the song has become a true folk piece. - RBW
Seeger dates this song from the 1880s, but offers no documentation. - PJS
The earliest claim I've seen is that it has the authors as Percy Wenrich and Edward Madden (1878-1952). But I haven't yet found sheet music. Madden was responsible for songs like "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," so he could write. So could Wenrich, perhaps best known for "Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet," and "When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose." But Wikipedia claims that Wenrich was born in 1887 (died 1952), so he could hardly have been responsible for nineteenth century versions! Other sources give slightly earlier birth dates, but still awfully late for a song supposedly found in the nineteenth century. And what are the odds that Madden and Wenrich -- both in their primes when Dalhart was recording -- would not have taken notice when such a big name recorded their song?
And the version in Cox, collected in 1917, was reported to be from the informant's mother, which makes a nineteenth century date highly likely. Indeed, the first verse begins,
Eighteen hundred seventy one,
January the first,
Thought I'd write a poem,
If I could or durst.
It will be noted, however, that this verse doesn't scan as well as the others. But Randolph's informant Doney Hammontree said it was in "all the popular songbooks" in the 1890s. Still, the biggest single factor in its popularity was probably the Dalhart recording. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.2
File: R469

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