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View Full Version : Who/what is/was 'Cotton-Eyed Joe'?


jjimm
08-27-2004, 04:14 AM
Can't find anything online about this phrase.

Why were his eyes cotton?

Are there any negative or racist connotations to the phrase?

Zabali_Clawbane
08-27-2004, 04:23 AM
I searched "History of folk song Cotton Eye Joe" and got these. Lyrics. (http://mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=1353) Discussion of meaning (http://mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=13537). (Scroll down a good ways to read the discussion.) One of the theories is that it means "blue eyed". Another theory is that it's origin is racist. This is a fun folk dance to do, I love to dance this dance. :cool:

xash
08-27-2004, 04:28 AM
Can't answer your question directly, but here's a discussion I found online:

From http://mudcat.org/thread.CFM?threadID=13537
Cotton-eyed is what some people called a blue-eyed black person

Zabali_Clawbane
08-27-2004, 04:29 AM
Hehe, you got the same discussion I did on your search xash. :D

jjimm
08-27-2004, 05:40 AM
Hmm, interesting.

I eventually managed to find something else (http://phantomranch.net/folkdanc/dances/cottoney.htm) that contradicts the discussion on your cites:Cotton-Eyed Joe is one of the most popular western tunes ever played with nearly 500 recordings made. The story goes that Joe would take a "cotton to" (or liking to) other fellows' gals he would see, and so the term "Cotton-Eyed Joe." The words given at the bottom of this description are those on the Bellaire recording and were written by Isaac Payton Sweat (of The Sweat Band) and D. Howard, and are as sung at Gilley's, the famous "kicker" bar in Pasadena, Texas. The traditional words were written in "Min Skål Din Skål: a songbook for folkdancers," by Richard Lindauer and Grace West, 1951.Sounds like maybe they're trying to tone down the slavery (?) implications of the lyrics:Daddy held the fiddle,
held the bow
He beat the hell out of Cotton-eyed Joe

asterion
08-27-2004, 10:17 AM
What, no one else thought to ask where did he come from or where did he go?

For that matter, why the heck do they play it at baseball games?

Colibri
08-27-2004, 11:09 AM
What, no one else thought to ask where did he come from or where did he go?

For that matter, why the heck do they play it at baseball games?

I've wondered that too. I know they have been playing it at Yankee Stadium after the seventh inning stretch for some years. Is this a widespread thing?

PussyCow
08-27-2004, 11:39 AM
Oooh! I hate that song!!
Now I'm gonna have it stuck in my head for at least all day (and knowing my accursed brain, probably longer).

Dammit jjim!







Who will finish that last line for me?

asterion
08-27-2004, 12:09 PM
I've wondered that too. I know they have been playing it at Yankee Stadium after the seventh inning stretch for some years. Is this a widespread thing?

I went to an Isotopes game a couple nights ago and they played it sometime during the game. I don't think it was after the seventh inning stretch, as I believed they nearly went right into YMCA.

Mathochist
08-27-2004, 12:30 PM
Dammit jjim!

Who will finish that last line for me?

"I'm a doctor, not a Disk Jockey..."

11811
08-28-2004, 07:40 AM
"I'm a doctor, not a Disk Jockey..."

Is this the song/dance where the dancers respond "Bullsh*t!" to the caller?

Horatio Hellpop
08-28-2004, 09:35 AM
I'd heard that "Cotton-Eyed Joe" was an old black man with a shock of white hair and bushy white eyebrows.

drewbert
08-28-2004, 09:37 AM
Cotton-Eyed Joe is one of the most popular western tunes ever played with nearly 500 recordings made.
And somehow I've managed to miss 499 of them. Fine with me.

Zabali_Clawbane
08-28-2004, 10:05 AM
And somehow I've managed to miss 499 of them. Fine with me.

Here's a pop/dance music version. Enjoy! (http://launch.yahoo.com/artist/default.asp?artistID=1022267) ;) (Actually the fiddling on the 2 songs this band performs is good, though I could do without the visuals.) You'll have to be logged in to your Launch/Yahoo account to see the video. If you have a Yahoo e-mail account, then you already have a Launch account waiting for you. Just sign in using your Yahoo ID and password.

Mathochist
08-28-2004, 12:45 PM
Is this the song/dance where the dancers respond "Bullsh*t!" to the caller?

I believe that's "Charlie on the M.T.A.".


-Did he ever return?
-No he never returned
-And his fate is still unlearned
-Bullshit!

toadspittle
08-28-2004, 01:00 PM
I went to an Isotopes game a couple nights ago and they played it sometime during the game. I don't think it was after the seventh inning stretch, as I believed they nearly went right into YMCA.

Isotopes? Is there a Springfield in Central Pa. that I don't remember?

Cisco
08-28-2004, 01:43 PM
Here's a pop/dance music version. Enjoy! (http://launch.yahoo.com/artist/default.asp?artistID=1022267) ;)


I'm pretty sure that that was the one version drewbert has heard. It was, by a country mile, the most popular version of at least the last 20 years or so.

Isotopes?

I wondered that too. Is there really a team called the Isotopes? Do they have the same mascot, etc?



Regarding the OP: When I was in high school we used to use the term quite a bit. When you smoke pot your mouth dries out and you get "cotton mouth". Your eyes also turn red, which we assumed was from being dried out too, hence "cotton eye" :).

MikeS
08-28-2004, 02:42 PM
Isotopes? Is there a Springfield in Central Pa. that I don't remember?

Maybe the team from Albuquerque (http://albuquerquebaseball.com/) was in town.

tim314
08-28-2004, 02:55 PM
The Albequerque Isotopes are named after the Simpson's episode where the Springfield Isotopes threatened to move to Albequerque. I'm pretty sure the people of Albequerque actually voted on this as the name they wanted for their minor league team. Which officially makes Albequerque the coolest place ever. :D

astro
08-28-2004, 03:23 PM
Did someone say "cotton"!? (http://mywebpages.comcast.net/cpeek001/cotton.mp3)

InternetLegend
08-28-2004, 03:51 PM
Which officially makes Albequerque the coolest place ever. :DAnd I believe this is officially the first time anyone's ever said that.

The team used to be the Dukess, way back when I was a child, and it was a farm team for the LA Dodgers. The team was sold to Portland a few years ago (and renamed the "Beavers"), and Albuquerque was without a team until someone managed to buy the Calgary Cannons. There was a great deal of to-do about what to name the team (I'm not sure, but I believe "Dukes" may have been taken at that point). After a lot of public wrangling and newspaper polls, the team was named the "Isotopes" by popular demand.

It's spelled Albuquerque, by the way, although there's a long-winded story about that, too. We'll take any accolades we can get, no matter how you spell it.

(asterion, this is the second Albuquerque reference I've seen you make. Are you actually here? We may have passed each other at the game.)

BrainGlutton
08-28-2004, 04:05 PM
Michelle Shocked did a song called "Cotton-Eyed Joe" -- I think it was on her Arkansas Traveler album -- but it wasn't a cover of the folk song, it was just loosely based on it.

ElvisL1ves
08-28-2004, 07:35 PM
I believe that's "Charlie on the M.T.A.".
Don't know about you, but I've become quite fond of the Dropkick Murphys' "Skinhead on the MBTA".Now all night long, Skinhead rides through the stations
Crying "What will become of me?
How can I afford to go buy crack in Chelsea
Or a bundle in Roxbury?

asterion
08-28-2004, 07:38 PM
(asterion, this is the second Albuquerque reference I've seen you make. Are you actually here? We may have passed each other at the game.)

Well, I'm currently in Maryland. I was in Albuquerque until yesterday. I'll be back to school in Pennsylvania tomorrow. I was raised in Albuquerque, still have my parents' house listed as my primary residence, and absentee vote. In other words, it's still home until I find a job somewhere else.

samclem
08-28-2004, 07:46 PM
To get back to the OP, I've done a bit of searching and found the earliest cite in print for the term(so far).

I found a story(fiction) in the Saturday Evening Post from 1875. The heroine, a young(18-22), white Southern? female named Dolly is singing the song while she helps her Black nursemaid cook. Dolly sings the words "Don't you remember a long time ago, I dreamed that I ran away w/ Cotton-eyed Joe?" The nursemaid chides Dolly for singing the song, knowing that Dolly's mother wouldn't approve of it. Dolly asks "why did you teach it to me then?" Later in the story Dolly sings "Oh, I'd have been married twelve months ago, if it had not have been for Cotton-eyed Joe."

So, who comes to the door but her blue-eyed cousin, Joe. (distant cousin :D )

Later in the story, a character describes Joe as a person with "great white eyes."

But, still later in the story, Joe is described again as having BLUE eyes.

The story ends as all good Bodice-rippers should. The flirtatious/coquettish Dolly finally overcomes her need to play coy and says she loves him(when she thinks he's dying). They get married. The end.


My analysis is, currently, that the song was originally put to words by African Americans, obviously prior to 1875. There's no doubt it was a fiddle tune well before this time. But whites certainly knew the words by 1875. I can't see any derogatory racial meanings here. The term could have reference to both persons with prominent whites of the eye, and also could refer to blue-eyed persons. Or both.

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