Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes



Share page  Visit Us On FB



Previous Contents Next
IV
FIRST SONGS
That form of theatrical entertainment known as the "negro minstrel show" was in the first hey-day of its popularity. It originated prior to 1830, but did not reach its full development until more than ten years later. Like many other great discoveries, it seems to have been stumbled on by accident. Its origin is cre­dited to an actor named Thomas D. ("Daddy") Rice, and it grew out of his singing, in costume and character, a negro song, "Jump Jim Crow." Henry E. Krehbiel, in his book, "Afro-American Folksongs," says that "if the best evidence obtainable on the subject is to be be­lieved," Rice caught both song and character from the singing and dancing of an old deformed and decrepit negro in Louisville.
Writing in 1867, Robert P. Nevin gives the following account: Rice observed one day in Cincinnati a negro stage-driver singing the song:
Turn about and wheel about, and do jist so, And ebery time I turn about, I jump Jim Crow,
and conceived the idea that the song and character be­hind the footlights might tickle the fancy of the public as much as the sprig of shillallah and the red nose then popular among light comedians.
He did not have an opportunity to test the idea until the following autumn, when he was playing in Pitts­burgh. The theatre, located on Fifth Street, is described as "an unpretending structure, rudely built of boards and of moderate proportions, but sufficient to satisfy the taste and secure the comfort of the few who dared to face the consequences and lend their patronage to an establishment under the ban of the Scotch-Irish Calvin-ists." According to Nevin, Rice obtained his costume
39







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