“Davy”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1928 (recording, Weems String Band)
Keywords: dancing nonballad food discrimination
Found in: US(SE)

Description

Dance tune; "Davy, Davy, where is Davy/Down in the henhouse eating up the gravy/Davy, Davy, where is Davy/Down in the chickenyard, sick on the gravy." (There may also be a "why can't a white man dance like a nigger" verse).

Supplemental text

Davy
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From the recording by the Weems String Band, Columbia 15300-D,
as transcribed by George Lineberry, related by marriage to the
Weems family.

Davy, Davy. Where is Davy?
Down in the (2 syllables, can't determine) eatin' up the gravy.

Davy, Davy. Where is Davy?
Down in the (2 syllables, can't determine) eatin' up the gravy.

Davy, Davy. Po'r ol' Davy.
He got choked on chicken and gravy.

Davy, Davy. Po'r ol' Davy.
He got choked on chicken and gravy.

Hoe cake, a hoe cake, a Johnny cake, a flitter (fritter).
Why cain't a white man dance like a N-----?

Hoe cake, a hoe cake, a Johnny cake, a flitter (fritter).
Why cain't a white man dance like a N-----?

He ain't got the big foot, he ain't got the figure.
That's why he cain't dance like a N-----.

He ain't got the big foot, he ain't got the figure.
That's why he cain't dance like a N-----.

Notes

This piece instantly makes me think of some of the versions of "Black-Eyed Susie (Green Corn)." I can't prove any connection, though. It also bears some slight similarities to "Davy Crockett" -- but, again, nothing concrete, just isolated words. - RBW

Only, I think, the name. - PJS

George Lineberry, the husband of the grand-niece of "Uncle Dick" Weems and "Uncle Frank" Weems, explains how the song actually came about:

"The Weems String Band (Perry County, TN) traveled to Memphis, TN in 1928 where Columbia was recording groups for the potential '1928 version American Idol.' (NOT).

"[Their] musical numbers were instrumental -- not vocal arrangements. However, Columbia wanted lyrics, i.e. no lyrics -- no record. So the Weems String Band went back to the hotel, created some lyrics (kind of) for their two songs: 'Greenback Dollar' and 'Davy' (sometimes referred to as 'Davy, Davy'). The lyrics met the minimum requirement, but both songs remained basically instrumentals.

"The next day they returned to Columbia's 'studio' and recorded both songs, resulting in their only record."

The New Lost City Ramblers proceeded to bowdlerize the song to within an inch of its life (Lineberry's transcription is in the Supplemental Tradition, and it will demonstrate why they did so). Had the Ramblers known its story, they probably would have just played it as an instrumental. Though the instrumental style also apparently puzzled them, based on the notes in Cohen/Seeger/Wood. Lineberry's comments may explain that, too: A third Weems, Jess, played bowed 'cello. - RBW

Recordings

References

  1. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 68, "Davy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. ST CSW068 (Full)
  3. BI, CSW068