JACK O’ DIAMONDS, Cowboy Tune

#Music #Cowboysongs #amwriting #HistoricalFiction
A popular ditty with cowboys, this old tune has borrowed from both Irish and American traditions. If some of it sounds familiar, the line “Her parents don’t like me, they say I’m too poor” was borrowed by Peter, Paul & Mary for “Pretty Mary”; the lines “I’ll eats when I’m hungry” and “them that don’t like me” and the theme in general, all can be found in The Moonshiner by the Irish Rovers. For an American version of this song, you can’t do better than the Willis Brothers here.

JACK O’ DIAMONDS

Refrain:

Jack o’ diamonds, Jack o’ diamonds, I know you of old,
You’ve robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold.
Oh, whiskey, you villain, you’ve been my downfall,
You’ve kicked me, you’ve cuffed me, but I love you for all.


Oh Mollie, oh Mollie, it’s for your sake alone
That I leave my old parents, my house and my home,
That I leave my old parents, you caused me to roam,
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


My foot’s in my stirrup, my bridle’s in my hand,
I’m gonna leave Mollie, the fairest in the land.
Her parents don’t like me, they say I’m too poor,
They say I’m unworthy to enter her door.


They say I drink whiskey, my money is my own,
And them that don’t like me can leave me alone.
I’ll eat when I’m hungry, I’ll drink when I’m dry,
And when I get thirsty I’ll lay down and cry.


I’ll build me a castle on yonder mountain high,
Where my true love can see me when she comes riding by.
Where my true love can see me and help me to mourn.
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


I’ll get up in my saddle, my quirt in my hand.
I’ll think of you, Mollie, when in some far distant land.
I’ll think of you, Mollie, you caused me to roam,
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck,
I’d dive to the bottom to get one sweet sup.
But the ocean ain’t whiskey, and I ain’t a duck!
So I’ll play Jack o’ diamonds and try to change my luck.


Oh baby, oh baby, I’ve told you before,
Do make me a pallet, I’ll lie on the floor.
I’ve rambled and gambled this wide world around,
But it’s with the rebel army, dear Mollie, I’m bound.


It’s with the rebel army, dear Mollie, I roam,
I am a rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.
I have rambled and gambled all my money away,
But it’s with the rebel army, oh Mollie, I must stay.


Jack o’ diamonds, Jack o’ diamonds, I know you of old,
You’ve robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold.

The Cowboy’s Dream

#amwriting #cowboysongs

A common theme in cowboy songs is the hope of heaven. This particular song is sung to a Scottish air virtually everyone is familiar with: My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. A very early (1935) and abbreviated recording of the song by The Sons of the Pioneers features Roy Rogers on vocals and yodel. It can be heard here.

The Cowboy’s Dream

Last night as I lay on the prairie,
And gazed at the stars in the sky,
I wondered if ever a cowboy
Would drift to that sweet by and by.

CHORUS: Roll on, roll on;
Roll on, little dogies, roll on, roll on,
Roll on, roll on;
Roll on, little dogies, roll on.

The road to that bright, happy region
Is a dim, narrow trail, so they say;
But the broad one that leads to perdition
Is posted and blazed all the way.

They say there will be a great round-up,
And cowboys, like dogies, will stand,
To be marked by the Riders of Judgment
Who are posted and know every brand.

CHORUS

I know there’s many a stray cowboy
Who’ll be lost at the great, final sale,
When he might have gone in the green pastures
Had he known of the dim, narrow trail.

I wonder if ever a cowboy
Stood ready for that Judgment Day,
And could say to the Boss of the Riders,
“I’m ready, come drive me away.”

CHORUS

For they, like the cows that are locoed,
Stampede at the sight of a hand,
Are dragged with a rope to the round-up,
Or get marked with some crooked man’s brand.

And I’m scared that I’ll be a stray yearling,
A maverick, unbranded on high,
And get cut in the bunch with the “rusties”
When the Boss of the Riders goes by.

CHORUS

They tell of another big owner
Whose ne’er overstocked, so they say,
But who always makes room for the sinner
Who drifts from the straight, narrow way.

They say he will never forget you,
That he knows every action and look;
So, for safety, you’d better get branded,
Have your name in the great Tally Book.

Note: if you’re interested in seeing more traditional cowboy songs, John A. Lomax anthologized many of the lyrics in Cowboy Songs & Other Frontier Ballads, published in the Journal of American Folklore in 1938. It’s available for download from the University of Nebraska.

Whoopi-ti-yi-yo

This is another one of those cowboy songs I learned very early on: I can’t begin to tell you how many verses I’ve heard to it. I’m including only the ones that are most popular, the ones I’ve heard recorded by more than one source. A “dogie”, of course, is a cow.

Whoopi-ti-yi-yo

As I was out walking one morning for pleasure,
I spied a cow-puncher all riding alone;
His hat was throwed back and his spurs was a jingling,
And as he approached he was a-singin’ this song,

Refrain

Whoopi-ti-yi-yo, git along little dogies,
It’s your misfortune, and none of my own.
Whoopi-ti-yi-yo, git along little dogies,
For you know Wyoming will be your new home.

It’s early in the spring we round up the dogies,
We mark ’em and brand ‘em and bob off their tails;
Round up our horses, load up the chuck-wagon,
Then throw the dogies upon the trail.

Refrain

Your mother was raised away down in Texas,
Where the jimson weed and sand-burrs grow;
Now we’ll fill you up on prickly pear and cholla
Till you are ready for Idaho.

Refrain

Notes: Since both my maternal and fraternal grandparents lived two hours away (in opposite directions, no less), and in the days before cars were equipped with anything more than a radio, it was critical for the seven of us children to be happy in the car. One of the tricks my parents had was teaching us these songs, and then letting us make up our own verses as we went along. It was so much fun, I’ve adapted it to my manuscripts, and let my fictional Donovan family do it as well.

Tuesday Trivia #12a: A Cowboy and his Outfit

“I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy …”

These words from Streets of Laredo are not as transparent as they may seem to be. Our modern interpretation of “outfit” refers basically to the clothes we wear, and can be stretched to include belt, shoes, hat, and (for a woman) handbag.

But would clothes distinguish a cowboy from a farmer? or a rancher? Remember that clothing was in limited supply in the Old West. Many cowboys wore Mr. Levi Strauss’ blue jeans, but striped pants and corduroys were also common and, after the Civil War, so were army twills. Shirts were made of muslin, cambric, flannel and corduroy — sometimes even gingham. And while high-heeled boots would have distinguished cattlemen from farmers, they wouldn’t always distinguish the rancher from his cowhands.

To a cowboy, his “outfit” included not only what he wore, but his saddle & saddlebags, bridle, rope, bedroll, rifle & guns, most of which were always with him. It could include even his horse. In short, it meant all of his personal possessions, and that’s the outfit we’re seeing reference to in the song.

But there’s another definition of outfit in the Old West, loosely meaning comrades-in-arms. Whether it was the cowhands of the Bar-X ranch, or the outlaws of the notorious Hash Knife gang, the “outfit” was defined as a cowboy’s friends and associates. For better or ill, a cowboy carried the reputation not only of himself, but of his outfit as well.

MOLLY BAWN

This is a traditional Irish song which I first learned as a child, listening to my grandmother’s recordings of the great Irish tenor, John McCormack. In the Donovan Family Saga, John Patrick Donovan sings it to his wife, Molly.

Oh, Molly bawn, why leave me pining
All lonesome waiting here for you?
While the stars above are brightly shining
Because they’ve nothing else to do.

The flowers late were open keeping
To try and rival blush with you,
But their mother Nature sent them sleeping
With their rosy faces washed with dew.

Now the pretty flow’rs were made to bloom, dear,
And pretty stars were made to shine,
And the pretty girls were made for the boys, dear,
And maybe you were made for mine.

The wicked watchdog he is snarling
He takes me for a thief, you see,
For he knows I’d steal you, Molly darling,
And thereat thwarted I should be.*

Oh, Molly bawn, why leave me pining
All lonesome waiting here for you?
While the stars above are brightly shining
Because they’ve nothing else to do.

NOTES: “Bawn” is an Irish word that means fair or pretty.

*John McCormack, among others, sings this line as “And then transported I should be.” But “transported” in this sense means sent to a penal colony or sold into slavery, and I believe the dog would enjoy seeing that happen. So I prefer this alternate version.