“Old Marse John”


Lyrics about a slave promised freedom by his mistress -- but the freedom does not arrive as scheduled. Many floating verses about southern life. Chorus: "O mourner, you shall be free... When the good Lord sets you free."


About half of this song, as found in Lomax, is identical to "Raise a Ruckus." But the chorus is different, and the similarities could be due to the Alan Lomax's "improvements." So I've classified them separately.

The Brown fragments "Jigger, Rigger, Bumbo" is another mystery unto itself. It has the "Raise a Ruckus"/"My old marster promised me" opening, and a chorus, and that's it. At some point, there comes a limit on separating songs based on nonsense choruses. So I tossed it here. Roud appears to have a whole category (#11723) of fragments around the "My old master/mistress promised me." - RBW

Cross references


  1. Lomax-FSNA 271, "Old Marse John" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BrownIII 471, "Jigger, Rigger, Bumbo" (1 fragment)
  3. Roud #6707
  4. BI, LoF271


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1925
Found in: US