Boll Weevil, The [Laws I17]

DESCRIPTION: The boll weevil, which is just "a-lookin' for a home," inevitably comes in conflict with the cotton farmer. The farmer tries many techniques to drive the weevil out; the weevil, far from being inconvenienced, is often represented as thanking the farmer
AUTHOR: possibly Postal McCurdy & Emabel Palmer
EARLIEST DATE: 1916 (excerpt quoted in H. V. Benedict and John A. Lomax, The Book of Texas, p. 75)
KEYWORDS: animal bug poverty farming
c. 1898 - Boll Weevil arrives in the southern U.S. from Mexico
REFERENCES (23 citations):
Laws I17, "The Boll Weevil"
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #105, "The Boll Weevil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore3 214, "Boll Weevil Blues" (2 texts)
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 72, pp. 199-200, "Mister Boll Weevil" (1 text)
Scarborough-OnTheTrailOfNegroFolkSongs, p. 66, (no title) (1 excerpt, probably of this song); pp. 77-79, "Mr. Boll Weevil" (plus other versions with no title) (2 texts plus 3 excerpts, 1 tune)
Friedman-Viking/PenguinBookOfFolkBallads, p. 319, "The Ballet of the Boll Weevil" (2 texts+1 fragment, 1 tune)
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, pp. 8-10, "Boll Weevil Song"; 252-253, "De Ballet of de Boll Weevil" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Scott-TheBalladOfAmerica, pp. 316-318, "The Ballad of the Boll Weevil" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax/Lomax-FolkSongUSA 69, "The Boll Weevil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 112-117, "De Ballit of de Boll Weevil" (1 text, 1 tune, composite)
Lomax-FolkSongsOfNorthAmerica 285, "The Boll Weevil Holler" (1 text, 1 tune)
Botkin-TreasuryOfAmericanFolklore, pp. 916-918, "Boll Weevil Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Coleman/Bregman-SongsOfAmericanFolks, pp. 66-67, "The Boll Weevil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Richardson/Spaeth-AmericanMountainSongs, pp. 90-91, "Boll Weevil Blues" (1 text, 1 tune)
Arnett-IHearAmericaSinging, pp. 140-141, "Boll Weevil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Botkin-TreasuryOfSouthernFolklore, p. 751, "Boll Weevil" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 244-246, "Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues"; "The Boll Weevil" (2 texts)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 118, "Ballad Of The Boll Weevil" (1 text)
NorthCarolinaFolkloreJournal, Portia Naomi Crawford, "A Study of Negro Folk Songs from Greensboro, North Carolina and Surrounding Towns," Vol. XVI, No. 2 (Oct 1968), pp. 82-83, "Boll Weevil Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
OneTuneMore, p. 24, "Boll Weevil Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), p. 163, (no title) (1 fragment)
Moses Asch and Alan Lomax, Editors, _The Leadbelly Songbook_, Oak, 1962, p. 23, "Boll Weevil" (1 text, 1 tune, heavily adapted by Lead Belly)

Roud #3124
Pink Anderson, "Bo Weevil" (on ClassAfrAm, PinkAnd1 [as "Bo' Weevil"])
Arkansas Trio, "Boll Weevil Blues" (Edison 51373-R, 1924)
Al Bernard, "Boll Weevil Blues" (Brunswick 2092, 1921)
Fiddlin' John Carson, "Dixie Boll Weevil" (OKeh 40095-B, 1924)
Jaybird Coleman, "Boll Weevil" (Black Patti 8055, 1927; on StuffDreams1)
[Vernon] Dalhart, [Ed] Smalle & [Harry] Reser, "Boll Weevil Blues" (OKeh 40156, 1924)
Fats Domino, "Bo Weevil" (Imperial 5375, 1956)
Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry & Cisco Houston, "Boll Weevil Blues (Boll Weevil)" (on WoodyFolk)
Vera Hall, "Boll Weevil" (AFS 1323 A1, 1937)
Ernest Hare, "Boll Weevil Blues" (Vocalion 14151, 1921)
Lead Belly, "The Boll Weevil" (Musicraft 226, rec. 1939)
W. A. Lindsay & Alvin Condor, "Boll Weevil" (OKeh 45346, 1929; rec. 1928)
The Masked Marvel (pseud. for Charley Patton), "Mississippi Boweavil Blues" (Paramount 15805B. 1929; on AAFM1, BefBlues2)
Blind Willie McTell, "Boll Weevil" (on USWMcTell01)
Charlie Oaks, "Boll Weevil" (Vocalion 5113, c. 1927)
Ma Rainey w. Lovie Austin & her Blues Serenaders, "Bo-Weavil Blues" (Paramount 12080, 1924)
Tex Ritter, "Boll Weevil" (Capitol 40084, 1948)
Carl Sandburg, "The Boll Weevil" (Victor 20135, 1926)
Pete Seeger, "Boll Weevil" (on PeteSeeger05) (on PeteSeeger43); "Ballad of the Boll Weevil" (on PeteSeeger31)
Bessie Smith, "Boweavil Blues" (Columbia 14018-D, 1924)
Gid Tanner & Riley Puckett, "Boll Weevil Blues" (Columbia 15016-D, c. 1924)

cf. "Poor Man Blues" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Frankie and Albert" [Laws I3] (tune)
NOTES [204 words]: Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag reports collections of Boll Weevil verses dating back to 1897, but it is not clear in context whether these are actually part of this song. - RBW, PJS
And indeed, the origins of the song are obscure, or at least messy. The Bernard, Hare & Arkansas Trio recordings credit the authorship to McCurdy & Palmer, as does a regional guide to the town of Fakes Chapel [state unknown] which claims that McCurdy wrote the "'well-known' folk song" there in 1923. The recordings, of course, make this date impossible, but he seems to have had a hand in the creation of some well-known verses. Fiddlin' John Carson copyrighted his version in 1924, and it certainly contains some of the classic lines. - PJS
Sandburg, incidentally, enjoyed this song so much that he occasionally signed letters "Boll Weevil"; see Herbert Mitgang, editor, The Letters of Carl Sandburg, Harcort Brace & World, 1968, pp. 207, 241. - RBW
Not all the versions included here are "looking for a home" but they all share the set of boll weevil verses. Some are in a traditional blues form, and those don't share tunes or line structure; listen, for example, to Pink Anderson, Charley Patton, Bessie Smith, and Blind Willie McTell. - BS
Last updated in version 6.3
File: LI17

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