They Don't Allow Me to Beat Them

DESCRIPTION: "Don't allow me to beat them, Got to drag them along." The singer has been "Stumbling and falling, Trying to get away." "If my woman had of been here, I'd have been gone, She'd have brought my shooter." "Captain got a pistol and he wants to be bad...."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1936 (VaWork)
KEYWORDS: prison escape work nonballad worksong animal
Willie Williams, "Oh Lord, They Don't 'Low Me to Beat 'Em" (on VaWork)
NOTES [216 words]: The prisoner drives a mule team pulling a plow and, between verses, he hollers at and threatens the mules.
One verse begins "Captain got a pistol and he wants to be bad," and continues, "Must have been the first one That he ever had." That verse is also in Lomax-ABFS as "Cap'n got a 44 an' he try to play bad, Take it dis mornin' ef he make me mad" (John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1953), pp. 47-52,"Levee Camp 'Holler'"), in one of the Odum and Johnson books as "Captain got a lugger [sic; should be 'luger' pistol used by the Germans in World War I], Tryin' to play bad, I'm goin' to take it in the mornin' If he makes me mad" (Henry W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson, Negro Workaday Songs (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1926 ("Digitized by Internet Archive")), pp. 105-106, "Don't You Give Me No Cornbread"), and in Hurston as "Cap'n got a pistol and he try to play bad, But I'm going to take it if he make me mad" (Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men (New York: Harper Perennial,1990 (paperback edition of J.B. Lippincott, 1935 original)), pp. 264-266, "Can't You Line It?"). The verse becomes tamer among the menhaden fishermen who have a different relationship to "the captain" (see "Going Back to Weldon"). - BS
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