“Johnny Booker (Mister Booger)”


About the troubles experienced by a teamster/sailor along the way: A broken yoke, a stalled cart, etc. Chorus something like "Do, Johnny Booker, oh do, do me do, Do, Johnny Booker, oh do" or "So walk a Johnny Booger to help that nigger...."


"Johnny Booker" includes key verses from "Poor Old Man": "Said an old man come riding by/Said, young man, your mule's gonna die/If he dies I'll tan his skin/If he lives I'll ride him again." This probably entered minstrel tradition via African-American sailors -- or entered the shanty tradition from minstrel shows.

The Chitwood-Landress recording is a bit of a conundrum: it doesn't include most of the canonical mule verses, nor the canonical chorus, but the tune and gestalt are the same. I classify it as a proto-Johnny Booker, and assign it the earliest date, but note its peculiarities; it may be a Chitwood-Landress composition, built on the skeleton of this song. - PJS

Cross references


  • Gus Cannon, "Old John Booker, You Call That Gone" (on AmSkBa, DownHome)
  • Bill Chitwood & Bud Landress, "Johnny, Get Your Gun" (Brunswick 2883, 1925)
  • Cousin Emmy [Cynthia May Carver], "Johnny Booker" (Decca 24214, 1947; on CrowTold01)
  • Jack Elliott, "Old Johnnie Booker" (on Elliotts01)
  • Earl Johnson & his Clodhoppers, "Johnnie Get Your Gun" (OKeh 45171, 1927)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Old Johnny Booker Won't Do" (on NLCR17, NLCRCD2)
  • Walter "Kid Smith, "Old Johnny Bucker Wouldn't Do" (Gennett 6825/Supertone 9407 [as Jerry Jordon, "Old Johnny Bucker Won't Do"], 1929)


  1. Randolph 268, "Mister Booger" (1 text plus a fragment, 2 tunes)
  2. Scarborough-NegroFS, p. 100, "(Johnny Booker)" (1 fragment, 1 tune, probably this although it's short enough that it might be "Johnny Boker (I)")
  3. Lomax-FSNA 258, "Knock John Booker" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 194, "Johnny Booker" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Roud #3441
  7. BI, R268


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1925 (recording, Bill Chitwood & Bud Landress)
Keywords: work travel
Found in: US(So) Britain(England(North,South))