ON THE TRAIL OF NEGRO FOLK-SONGS

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252
NEGRO FOLK-SONGS
Ole Culpepper went up on Number Five, Goin' bring him back, dead or alive, Wus lookin' fer Railroad Bill.
Standin' on a corner, did n't mean no harm, Policeman grab me by the arm — Wus lookin' fer Railroad Bill.
Professor E. C. Perrow publishes several versions of this song in his article, "Songs and Rhymes from the South," in the Journal of American Folk-lore (volume xxv). Some hint of the time when this song may have originated is found in the second stanza of one that he gives:
Railroad Bill cut a mighty big dash, Killed McMillan like a Hghtnin' flash, An' he'll lay yo' po' body daown.
Railroad Bill ride on de train, Tryin' to ack big, like Cuba an7 Spain, An' he'll lay yo' po' body daown.
Get up, ole woman, you sleepin' too late, Ef Railroad Bill come knockin' at yo' gate, He'll lay yo' po' body daown.
Talk about yo' bill, yo' ten-dollar bill, But you never seen a Bill like Railroad Bill, An' he'll lay yo' po' body daown.
The following is a version current among Mississippi Negroes, Pro­fessor Perrow says:
Railroad Bill said before he died He'd fit all the trains so the rounders could ride — Oh, ain't he bad, oh, the railroad man I
Railroad Bill cut a mighty big dash, He killed Bill Johnson like a lightning flash — Oh, ain't he bad, oh, the railroad man!
The name of the victim seems to vary, being in some sections Mc­Millan, and in others Bill Johnson, but he was indisputably dead when Railroad Bill got through with him. Whatever he was called, he did not answer!
Railroad Bill was certainly a good workman, for not only did he shoot out the lantern from a brakesman's hand and shoot the lights out of Ole McMillan, or Johnson, — or both, — but he could hit a







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III