Volume VIII, No. 4, Summer 1981


WE PLAY A LITTLE MUSIC

THE WRIGHT BROTHERS PLAY AND SING OLD-TIME MUSIC

Edited by Dwayne Sherrer

Photographed by Gina Jennings


"I used to could sit up and sing all night," Jule said.

Lon added, "When I was a boy, getting pretty well grown, about every Saturday night, back over here about a mile from here, there was three or four houses there, and we would meet at one house or another and have a little dance and cut up and have a big time."

Lon, Jule and Norman Wright tuned up their instruments and played for us tunes they had heard in their youth, some fiddle and banjo tunes, some just singing. "I don't know the words," Lon kept saying, yet when he started to play the melody, he would remember a stanza or so.

Jule plays a fiddle which is close to two hundred years old.

"We play a little music, not much anymore. I don't know what instruments we have got, a violin, a banjo, several guitars. I don't know how many fiddles we got, seven or eight I guess.

"Jule has a seven string banjo he made hisself and a fiddle a hundred and fifty or two hundred years old. He's had it fifty-three years. It had been a hundred years since this old man brought it here. He brought it from Germany. It didn't have much of a sound when Jule got it. It'd been laying out in the smokehouse for twenty years. We've got a homemade uke Jule made, a harmonica, and a couple of accordions too.

"We'll play some," Alonzo continued, "but I'd much rather you people play. If you just try you can play, anybody can if they try."

[54]

Norman exhibits a ukulele which Jule made by hand.

Lon plays an Irish dance tune on his favorite fiddle.




BACHELOR'S HALL

Bachelor's Hall was a song Lon used to describe why he never got married. He said, "There was a lot of women I could of got, but I didn't care anything about getting married."

"Well, come all you good people and
listen to me,
I'll relate to you a story of the
saddest degree,
Of a man of experience and a favorite
to win,
Will be the ruination of most of the
men.

'Cause when you are single, you can
live at your ease.
You can roam this world over, come home
when you please.
When you get married, you start a new
life,
Lost your sweetheart's affection and
got you a wife,
And your wife she'll grumble and your
children will squall.
How happy is a man that keeps a
bachelor's hall.

How happy is a man that keeps a
bachelor's hall
No wife to control him, no children to
squall.
You can't step aside, boy, to speak
with a friend,
For your wife's got your elbow say what
do you mean.

How happy is a man that keeps a
bachelor's hall,
No wife to control him, no children to
squall.
When you're single, you can live at
your will.
You can hug and kiss your sweetheart
and be in the same still.

But when you get married, you start a
new life.
You lost your sweetheart's affection
and got you a wife,
And your wife will grumble and your
children will cry.
Life is so sweet, boy, you better not
try.

When you are single, it's pumpkin and
pie,
And when you get married, it's root
hog or die.
So fill up the glass boys and drink
bourbon wine.
Live happy while single for tomorrow
you may die.




BOHEMIAN WALTZ

[56]



BUTCHER' S BOY

"I've heard that song played all my life," Lon said. "I think the old original way they sung it was Jersey City on that first verse instead of Jefferson City. I've heard them sing it Jersey City, but they got to where they sung it Jefferson City."



"In Jefferson City, where I did dwell
'Twas a butcher's boy that I loved so
well.
He courted me and my love away
But then with me, he would not stay.

"But there's a lady down in town
Where my love goes and sets down.
He takes this lady upon his knee,
And he'll tell her things, that he won't
tell me.

"But I know the reason why
This lady's got more gold than I.
But gold will melt and her silver will
fly
And then she'll be just as poor as I.

"So I went upstairs now to make my bed,
And nothing to my mother said.
So mother come up with a drooping tear,
Says, 'What's the matter, darling dear.'

"Go get me a chair and set me down,
And a pen and ink just to write it
down."
So every line she would drop a tear
And every other line, "Sweet Willie
dear."

Oh father come up and the door he broke.
He found his daughter with a rope,
And with a knife he cut her down,
And on her bosom, these words he found.

"Go dig my grave both wide and deep,
And place a marble stone at my head and
feet.
And on my grave, place a grieving oak
To show to the world that my heart was
broke."



COTTON-EYED JOE

"Cotton-eyed Joe was an old dance piece along with old Sally Goodin and Old Jay Bird Sale," Norman said.

Cotton-eyed Joe and he fell in the well,
And he busted his banjo all to hell.
Oh, if it hadn't of been for Cotton-
eyed Joe,
I may have got married a long time ago.
Hold my fiddle and hold my bow
While I knock the socks off Cotton-eyed Joe.



EIGHTH OF JANUARY

[57]

GIRL I LEFT IN MISSOURI

My parents raised me tenderly,
And they had no boy but me,
My mind was bent on moving.
With them I did not agree.

There was a wealthy merchant
Lived in the town near by.
He had a lovely daughter
On whom I did cast my eye.

This girl she was beautiful,
And she was very fair.
Not another gal in all the world
With her I would compare.

I told her my intentions
Were to soon cross o'er the plains.
She said there will be no difference
If I'd return again.

She said she would prove content
And must of took things unkind,
So I kissed, shook hands and I parted
With the gal I left behind.

When I got down to Osol,
Into Utah I did go,
And the people they were so kind,
And the girls they was not slow.

Well, I worked the summer over.
My wages I confined
Till I'd be going back again
To the girl I left behind.

Well, one evening when I was strolling
Along the public square,
Well, the mail coach just arrived,
And the messenger boy was there.

He handed me a letter
That gave me to understand
The gal that I once had loved so well
Had married another man.

Well, I read on a little farther
And I found the news was true,
So I turned myself about
Not know what to do.

Well, my work and play had ended,
And the company I'll rejoin,
And I'll go roam from place to place
Another gal to find.
But I know I never shall forget
The one I left behind.

"O' sol used to be a little stopping place down here on the Pacific Railroad where people would catch the train to go back west," Lon said.



I WAS BORN IN OLD MISSOURI

"I Was Born in Old Missouri," was a song Alonzo heard on the Fourth of July at a Chautauqua. Lon said, "A Chautauqua is just craziness, okay, clowns and some of them would sing a little, slight of hand stuff was about all there was to it, but I used to like to go out there when I was a kid."

I was born in old Missouri
In a little country town,
And the gals they come
To see me from miles around.

They'd rock me in a cradle
And when I'd kick up a rile
They'd tickle my little coal black feet.
Oh, they couldn't stand them now.

When I was about ten years old
Learning how to swim,
Well, the gals put on bathing suits
And with me they'd go in.

They'd let me float upon their backs
Bring curls to my brow
I was just a baby then.
Why don't they try it now?

[58]

LADY AT THE BALL

"'Lady at the Ball' sure is a good piece," Jule said. It's got awful good music to it, though it's got awful dirty words. Them ladies used to dance to that all night, and if they had knowed what it was, that they was playing, they'd of went home. I played that one night, pretty near all night, and they danced to the figure eight dance. Sixteen couples and it took just about all night for them to get through.





LITTLE IRISH ROSE

There's a pretty spot in Ireland
That I always claim for my own,
And the flowers in the Flornies
They never, never die.

It's the home of the old shilalah
And my heart goes back there daily.
Yes, my heart goes back there daily
To the dear old Emerald Isle.

For no letter will I be mailing,
For soon I shall be sailing,
And I bless the ship that takes me
Back to my little Irish Rose.

With a hug and a kiss, I'll greet her,
For there's not a coleen sweeter,
Yes, there's not a coleen sweeter
Than my dear little Irish Rose.

And I'll stay on forever,
Yes, I'll leave that old place never,
And I'll whisper to my sweetheart,
"Now come take my name be sure."

"That's the last verse but there's a whole lot more verses in between there." Lon said.



LONESOME JOHN

"I don't know if 'Lonesome John' had words or not," Lon said. "I guess it did. A lot of them good dance tunes had pretty hard words to them. I don't sing them. Most of them good square dances were just awful rowdy songs. If some of those ladies had knowed the words was, they wouldn't have danced to them."

[59]

MY WIFE IS TWENTY-ONE YEARS OLD

My wife is twenty-one years old
This Fourth of July.
I wanted to buy her something nice
And I didn't know what to buy.

Just a pair of brand new silk hose
In a purplin box,
For ne'er shall I forget the day
She knitted my twenty socks.

"That was just and old Irish Waltz," Norman said.



NIGGERS AND THE DUTCH

Oh, the Niggers and the Dutch,
And they didn't have much,
But I'd rather be a Nigger
Than a goddamn Dutch.

Niggers and the Dutch
And they had an up and down,
Couldn't get the floor
And they danced on the ground.

"That's all I ever know'd of that song," Lon said. "I just heard people sing a few words of it that-a-way. Some of them would play it on the fiddle."

BITTERSWEET regrets the disrespectful connotation in this song, but since it was part of the culture, we felt we should include it here. In fact, many in the area in past years held the "Dutch" in lower esteem than the blacks.





OLD JAY BIRD SALE

I went to the jay bird sale
Nothing left but the wings and tail,
So I sold my fiddle and I sold my bow
To dress my gal in calico.

"I don't know any more of the words." Lon said.

[60]

OLD SALLY GOODIN

I had a piece of pie
And I had a piece of puddin'
And I'd give it all
To see old Sally Goodin.

Looked up the road
And saw old Sally coming,
Throwed everything down
Like to broke my neck a-running.

"That's about all I ever knowed of Old Sally Goodin," Lon said.



PRETTY FRAULEIN

Far across the deep blue water
Lived an old German's daughter
On the banks of the old river Rhine
Where I kissed her and held her
And told her I loved her
She was my pretty Fraulein.

Down by the water
Lived an old German's daughter
Down by the old river Rhine
Where I kissed her and left her.
I will swear that I loved her
'Cause she was my pretty fraulein.



PLUCKING THE DEVIL'S EYES OUT

"This song is 'Plucking the Devil's Eyes out,' said Lon. "There's words to it, but I don't know them. Some people call it Good God Lizy.

Good God, Lizy
Can't you get up in the morning?
Good God, Lizy,
Can't you get up at all?

That's all the words I ever heard."

[61]

ROOT HOG OR DIE

This will tell you how it is
When you first get on the road.
You have an awful team
You carry a heavy load.

You have to whip and holler,
And you swear it's on the sly
And you punch your team along, boys,
It's root hog or die.

Yes, I'm a bold bull whacker
On the Salt Lake City line.
I can whip a rascal,
Who yokes an ox of mine.

With the sawdust in your tote
And the dust that's in your eye
You're a free and rugged outlaw
Boys, it's root hog or die.

Yes, there's many strange things
To be seen along the road
The antelope, the deer,
The great and sandy toad.

The rabbit jumps so high
There's always a bloody Indian
It's root hog or die.

Every day at noontime
There's something to do.
If nothing else boys,
You have an ox to shoe.

First you rope and throw him,
And there you'll make him lay.
And you'll tack on his shoe.
Boys, it's root hog or die.

Oh, there's prairie dog and dog towns,
And all the prickly pear
And the buffalo bones
Scattered eyerywhere.

With the sawdust in your tote
And the dust that's in your eye,
We are tough and we can stand it.
Boys, it's root hog or die.

Well, we arrived at Salt Lake
On the twenty-fifth of June.
The people were surprised
To see us come so soon.

With the sawdust in your tote
And the dust that's in your eye,
You have to bend your back and stand it,
Boys, just to root hog or die.

"This song is about when they drove the old oxen out to the gold fields," Lon said. "Right through here is where they drove the old ox wagons to Salt Lake City, Utah--right through my garden there. That was the main road."



RYE WHISKEY

Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, oh lordy
I cried,
You kept me from starving or surely
I'd died.
Oh, I eat when hungry, I'll drink when
I'm dry,
Travel around and find some more rye.

Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, oh lordy
I cried,
You kept me from starving, or surely
I'll die.
I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler and I'm
far from my home,
And the ones that don't like me can
leave me alone.

Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, I love you
so well.
Find me some whiskey and I will dwell.

Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, oh lordy
I cried,

[62]

Give me whiskey or surely I'll die,
Till I laid down with my head against
the wall,
Blamed ole rye whiskey is the cause of
it all.

Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, oh lordy
I cried,
Give me whiskey or surely I'll die.
I'll go out on a mountain and build me
a still
And sell rye whiskey for a green back
dollar bill.

Wifey, oh wiley, I told you before,
Just give me a pallet and I'll sleep on
the floor!



SOLDIER'S JOY

"My Grandma Wright's aunt, her husband he had a bunch of slaves," Lon said, "and there was some of them played fiddles, and Dad said they taught him that song."





STRAWBERRY ROAN





TAKE ME BACK TO THE BRIGHT AND SUNNY SOUTH

Take me back to the bright sunny south
Take me home.
Take me back to the bright sunny south,
Take me home
Where the mocking birds sing me to
sleep every night
Oh, why was I tempted to roam.

[63]

Take me back to the little log shack on
the hill
Where the ivy was creeping round the
door,
And the moon that was shining so high
in the trees
Take me back and I never will roam.

Take me back to the little log shack on
the hill
Where the ivy was creeping round the
door,
And the beautiful moon shone high up in
the trees
Oh, why was I tempted to roam?



WHEN THE FROST IS ALL OVER

"That is an old Irish piece," Lon said. "That is what they used to dance to when they had what they called an Irish wake. They haven't had any since my time, but Dad said he went to an Irish wake one time. He played that piece all night for them. He said they danced three days and nights. Every time they come to a halt, why they would stop and offer the corpse a little whiskey. If he wouldn't get up and drink, why they would play it again and dance it again. And after three days and nights if he wouldn't get up and take a drink of whiskey, they would take him out and bury him. Dad said he played one night, then he had someone else play the next day. He never went back. He said he didn't reckon the old fella ever got up because they buried him back over there someplace. He seen the grave."

"I've got arthritis so bad I can't hardly play anymore, but I used to could get them jigging at those dances," said Jule. Norman added, "My fingers, I tell you, are an awful shame. Look at that wrist what kind of shape it's in. I had it busted, had a nerve pinched in there and these fingers are just numb."

"I can't think of anymore songs right now," said Lon. You will just have to come back and maybe I can get some more fixed up."

Dwayne talks with Norman, Jule and Lon. Photo by Allen Gage.

BITTERSWEET would like to acknowledge Ron Atteberry and his music theory class at Lebanon High School for their help in transcribing the music for this story, and Cinnamon Wade of Columbia, Missouri for the use of information from her tape of the Wright Brothers.

[64]




Copyright 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.


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