“Old Moke Pickin' on the Banjo (Song of the Pinewoods)”


Singer lands in America in 1844 and works in the pinewoods. An Irish girl offers him whiskey and looks him over. He describes the teamsters with whom he works. Song may have many floating verses and a nonsense chorus.


Clearly we have a muddle here. Beck notes that this song can have a huge number of verses, but he lists only four, and the song makes little sense as a result. The chorus, meanwhile, is a reworking of "Shule Agra", with a last line close to "Tighten on the Backband (Whoa Back Buck)." Ah, the folk process! - PJS

A muddle indeed, and one with bounds very hard to define. Beck's refrain for this piece runs

Shu-li, shu-li, shula-racka-ru

Hacka-racka, shacka-racka, shula-bobba-lu

I'm right from the pinewoods. So are you

Johnny, can't you pick it on your banjo?

The more common chorus to this seems to be something like

Hooraw! What the hell's the row?

We're all from the railroad, too-rer-loo,

We're all from the railroad, too-rer-loo,

Oooh! The ol' moke pickin' on the banjo!

This chorus occurs, with variations, in Hugill and Sharp. - RBW

Hugill cites a Negro shanty titled "Tapiocum" found in v.3 of the _Folk Song Journal_. He only quotes one verse but believes that it is a variant of "Old Moke." - SL

Cross references


  1. Beck 22, "Song of the Pinewoods" (1 text)
  2. Hugill, pp. 340-341, "The Old Moke Pickin' on the Banjo" (1 text, 1 tune) [AbEd, p. 255]
  3. Sharp-EFC, IV, pp. 4-5, "He-Back, She-Back" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Roud #862
  6. BI, Be022


Alternate titles: “He-bang, She-bang”; “Tapiocum”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1941 (Beck)
Found in: US(MW)