“Fust Banjo, De (The Banjo Song; The Possum and the Banjo; Old Noah)”


Noah sets out to build the ark, despite the scorn of his neighbors. "Ham... couldn't stand the racket... soon he had a banjo made, the first that was invented." He took the hair of the possum's tail to string it; the possum remains bare-tailed to this day

Supplemental text

Fust Banjo, De (The Banjo Song; The Possum and the Banjo; Old Noah)
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

De Fust Banjo

From Hazel Felleman, ed., The Best Loved Poems of the American
People (1936), pp. 520-521. Presumably from some other printed

Go 'way, fiddle! folks is tired o' hearin' you a-squawkin'.
Keep silence fur yo' betters! don't you heah de banjo talkin'?
About de 'possum's tail she'sgwine to lecter -- ladies, listen!
About de ha'r what isn't dar, an' why de ha'r is missin':

"Dar's gwine to be a' oberflow," said Noah, lookin' solemn --
Fur Noah tuk de Herald, an' he read de ribber column--
an' so he sot his hans to wuk a-clarin' timber patches,
An' lowed he's gwine to build a boat to beat de steamah Natchez.

(9 additional stanzas)


The versions of this display extreme variation, and may even be separate songs. Reports are few enough, however, that I decided to lump the things just because there wasn't enough evidence to split them cleanly.

The attribution to Irwin Russell is from Felleman's _ The Best Loved Poems of the American People_, which sometimes has some very strange attributions. Her version seems to come straight out of a minstrel show; the question then is whether it is the original or if Russell worked from an earlier song. - RBW


  1. Randolph 253, "The Banjo Song" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  2. JHCox 181, "Old Noah" (1 text)
  3. ST R253 (Partial)
  4. Roud #5467
  5. BI, R253


Author: Irwin Russell?
Earliest date: 1878 (Christmas Night in the Quarters)
Found in: US(Ap, So)