Coffee Grows (Four in the Middle)

DESCRIPTION: Playparty in two or three parts: "Coffee grows on white oak tree, The river flows with brandy o'er, Go choose someone to roam with you...." "Four in the middle, you can't get around..." (may have more verses) "Railroad, steamboat, river, and canal..."
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: playparty courting nonballad love train drink
REFERENCES (12 citations):
Wolford-ThePlayPartyInIndiana, pp. 33-35=Wolford/Richmond/Tillson-PlayPartyInIndiana, pp. 161-163, "Coffee Grows in a White Oak Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
List-SingingAboutIt-FolkSongsInSouthernIndiana, pp. 121-124, "Coffee Grows in a White Oak Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph 524, "Four in the Middle" (1 text plus 8 excerpts and/or fragments, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore3 78, "Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees" (7 texts plus 1 excerpt and mention of 1 more, but almost all mixed -- all except "H" have the "Coffee grows" stanza, but "A" also has verses from "Fly Around, My Pretty Little Miss"; "and "C" through "H" are mostly "Little Pink"; "B" is mixed with "Raccoon" or some such)
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #117, "Coffee Grows on White-Oak Trees" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 154, p. 301, "Coffee Grows on White-Oak Trees" (1 short text); also 85, p. 212, "Going to the Mexican War" (1 fragment, with the "Knapsack on my Shoulder" text and also the "Coffee Grows" stanza)
Hudson-FolkTunesFromMississippi 33, "Coffee Grows on White-Oak Trees" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Scarborough-OnTheTrailOfNegroFolkSongs, pp. 105-106, "Hold My Mule" (1 text, 1 tune, which Scarborough implies is a "Jim Along, Josie" by-blow but which appears to be built on the "Four in the Middle" segment of this song)
Abernethy-SinginTexas, p. 97, "Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees" (1 text, 1 tune)
Spurgeon-WaltzTheHall-AmericanPlayParty, pp. 86-87, "Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees"; pp. 102-103, "Four in the Middle" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax/Lomax-FolkSongUSA 31, "Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #735
cf. "Bheir Me O" (melody has same first lines as "Coffee Grows")
cf. "Fly Around, My Pretty Little Miss" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Dance Josey" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Love Grows Under the White Oak Tree" (initial lyrics)
The Raging Canal
NOTES [133 words]: For a Texas by-blow of this, see "Dance Josey." Both are ring games, described by Abernethy-SinginTexas as being played at a "Josey party."
The Chad Mitchell Trio songbook states unequivocally that the first line of this should be "Coffee grows on white FOLKS' trees," making it a Black protest against the whites who owned slaves (or, at least, all the property). An interesting thought, but you'd think at least a few collectors would have let the "white folks'" reading through -- but the only source that seems to have that reading, out of dozens of collections, is Talley. (Who, admittedly, had it from Black informant.) Furthermore, it doesn't explain the second line, equally impossible, about rivers running with brandy. And this playparty seems to have been well known to white children. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.3
File: R524

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