Old Spencer Rifle,The
DESCRIPTION: The singer tells of Johnny's visit, and his "shooting" her with his gun, no less than seven times. John does the mother too and goes off with his gun-barrel bent.
EARLIEST DATE: 1942 (collected by Vance Randolph from Booth Campbell)
KEYWORDS: bawdy sex
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Randolph-Legman I, pp. 128-129, "The Old Spencer Rifle" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES: Annotator Legman in Randolph-Legman I asserts that the melody of this apparently unique ballad is "unmistakably" similar to "Yankee Doodle." In fact, it directly quotes "Cotton-Eyed Joe." - EC
The mention of seven shots and the "old Spencer Rifle" would seem to be a reference to the Spencer repeating carbine of the Civil War era. According to Mark M. Boatner III, The Civil War Dictionary, 1959 (there are many editions of this very popular work; mine is a Knopf hardcover), p. 782, "SPENCER REPEATING CARBINE. The first successful breech-loading repeating rifled carbine was patented in 1860 by Christopher M. Spencer of Conn. By 1864 it had become the standard arm of the Federal cavalry and by the fall of that year brigades of infantry began to appear with it.... The carbin was loaded by a tubular magazine that passed through the butt of the stock and held seven copper rimfire 52 caliber cartridges." Although it lacked range and penetrating power, it became famous because it could be "loaded on Sunday and fired all week." Thus the reference would seem to imply that the song originated during or shortly after the Civil War. - RBW
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