Our Singing Country

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Our Singing Country
a. No. 242. Ace. on guitar and sung by John Bray (Big Nig), Amelia, La., 1934. See "Careless Love," L0.3, p. 137, p. 218.
"Big Nig" of Amelia, Louisiana, stood six feet and seven inches in his socks. Alan, on one of our visits, measured the spread of his mighty arms as an inch longer. When he works, "Big Nig" is the singing leader o( a gang of Negroes who snake cypress out of the Louisiana swamps. "Big Nig" booms his signals to the flatboat out on the black bayou 5 the engineer toots his reply, and the logs come busting through the tangled swamp forest. Ten whistles means "A man dead."
On our first visit we mistakenly tipped "Big Nig" in advance of his sing­ing, only to find out later that he had become too drunk to sing; A year or so afterwards repeated, visits put on records the singing and guitar picking of this remarkable man.
The "Trench Blues," according to "Big Nig," was composed during the World War when he was a soldier in France. "They didn't give me a gun," said "Big Nig"; "all the weapons I ever had was my guitar, a shovel, and a mop."
The tune resembles "C. C. Rider" and "Careless Love" in Negro Folk Songs As Sung by Lead, Belly (Macmillan, 1936).
—Adventures of a Ballad Hunter

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