Times Gettin' Hard

DESCRIPTION: "Times gettin' hard, boys, Money's gettin' scarce. If times don't get much better, boys, I'm bound to leave this place." "Take my true love by the hand, lead her through the town...." The singer prepares to depart for (California?) where times are better
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag; recording by Jaybird Coleman) -- but see NOTES for a probable instance from 1850
KEYWORDS: hardtimes poverty exile
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, p. 242, "Times Gettin Hard, Boys" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 117, "Times Are Getting Hard" (1 text)

Roud #15620
RECORDINGS:
Jaybird Coleman, "Times Gettin' Hard -- Work's Been Gettin' Scarce" (Gennett, unissued; rec. 1927)
Pete Seeger, "Time's A-getting Hard" (on PeteSeeger06, PeteSeegerCD01) (on PeteSeeger26)
Wiggins Bros., "Times Am Gittin' Hard" (Brunswick 260, 1928)

NOTES [211 words]: Although there don't seem to be any printed or recorded versions of this prior to 1927, Greg Leatherwood pointed out to us a North Carolina account book by Seth Squires, copied 1850-1858+1861, which has some words of the song in the margin of an 1850 entry (p. 47). This text, a "speech bubble" placed in the mouth of a cartoon figure, reads something like this (the transcription is Leatherwood's, but I have no reason to disagree with it):
Times is getting hard
And money is getting scarce
If times does not alter
I am going to leave this place
Tol lol diddle I do. Yes Sah!
How you sell dat [illegible] de nine pence [illegible] Sah.
Leatherwood observes, "The last couple of lines suggest that the song may have been part of a minstrel show script as the lines consciously imitate black dialect." I agree, though I haven't encountered the text elsewhere.
Marginal entries are sometimes entered long after the fact, so I can't list this as the Earliest Date, but odds are very high that this was in existence by 1850.
The Squires manuscript is now in the the University of North Carolina's Southern Historical Collection at the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. It is available on microfilm; the microfilm gives the accession number as #3747. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.0
File: San242

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