Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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FIRST SONGS                             51
heading "Foster's Ethiopian Melodies." The reference in the letter to Foster's "known reputation" and his "acquaintance with the proprietors or managers of the different bands of 'Minstrels' " is another evidence of the extraordinary vogue already acquired by these min­strel songs, although none of them had been in print more than a year. Testimony to the same effect is the fact that each of the Firth, Pond & Co. songs contained on the title-page the line, "By the author of 'Uncle Ned,' '0 Susanna' etc." The advice with regard to the com­poser's giving manuscript copies of his songs to various singers is significant, as is also the warning against yielding to the injurious effects of sudden and too great popularity.
The four songs published by Firth, Pond & Co. as "Foster's Ethiopian Melodies" are "Nelly Was a Lady," "My Brudder Gum," "Dolcy Jones" and "Nelly Bly." They are among the best and most characteristic of Foster's songs. "Brudder Gum" is one of the nonsense . songs:
White folks, I'll sing for you,
Nuffin' else to do, Spend my time a-pickin' on de banjo,
Hey, Brudder Gum!
My brudder Gum,
My brudder Gum so fair, All de yaller galls runnin' round,
Try to get a lock of his hair.
It would not have taken any great skill to make "Brudder Gum" "go" with any audience of that time. The happy-go-lucky absurdity of the negro minstrel, with his blackened face and wide-mouthed grin, never found a better vehicle than "Brudder Gum," with the crackling staccato of its banjo accompaniment and the rhythmic quirk afforded by the unduly long third line and the abrupt stop, "Hey, Brudder Gum."
"Dolcy Jones" contains a clever twist in the stutter at the end of each verse, "Da-da-d'-d'-Dolcy Jones."







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