Remembering The Old Songs:


by Bob Waltz
(Originally published: Inside Bluegrass, June 2000)

Don't panic, Lyle Lofgren fans! Lyle is on a trip this month, so you're stuck with me again, but he'll be back next month, undoubtedly with something much more serious than this!

Last month, I gave you a song from Kelly Harrell, one of the best balladeers of the late Twenties. Well, this month we'll show you Harrell's flip side -- in more senses than one.

This is a piece you've probably heard somewhere in your life. I learned it as a kid as Go In and Out the Window (which, in hindsight, strikes me as a very strong innuendo for "night visiting" -- the practice of, well, young men sneaking in girls' windows to, ahem, have some fun and keep warm). The standard title in the south, though, seems to be Round and Round the Levee or Marching Round the Levee.

I don't know where or when this song originated, but it has survived very well in the American South; Vance Randolph, in addition to having four versions of his own, cites fourteen different sources!

The reason that the song survived, it appears to me, is that it is one of the best of the "playparties."

What's a playparty? Glad you asked. A playparty was a sort of primitive social engineering project.

Many southern churches forbade dancing. The had no use for instrumental music. Indeed, they didn't allow anything that smacked of courting.

This didn't work very well. Apart from the fact that, if enforced, it would lead to the extinction of the human race, the kids just wouldn't stand for it. So the playparty was invented. Young men and women, carefully chaperoned, were allowed to play formalized games to the accompaniment of music. It was hardly as much fun as spooning in the parlour, but it prevented all-out teen rebellion.

Most playparties were too elaborate to describe in this limited space, but you can look up descriptions of this one in Randolph (#538) or Newell's book of singing games.

As far as I know, Kelly Harrell was the first person ever to commercially record a playparty (no guarantees on that!); this was one of the last sides he cut, on February 19, 1929. His version isn't really in the pure playparty vein; it actually verges on having a plot. But the lyrics of these things vary widely; among the first lines I've seen are "Go in and out the window"; "We're marching 'round the levee"; "Go forth and choose your lover." The final line may be something like "For we have gained the day"; "For love has gained the day"; "As we have done before."

Then there's that funny title. Truth is, much as I like Harrell and respect his music, I probably wouldn't have included this song if it weren't for the title. It's not Harrell's. But Harrell, who usually enunciated very clearly, sounded a little odd on this song. His last line is, '"Cause love has gained the day." But he pronounced '"cause" as "caze." The stupid record company people couldn't figure out "caze," and stuck the title Cave Love Has Gained the Day on the record. Who could resist a song with a title like that?

I hope I have the rest of these words right, but I'll admit that I had trouble with a few of the words myself. I just hope I didn't botch it too badly.

Cave Love

Complete lyrics:

Go find your lover like I did,
Go find your lover like I did,
Go find your lover like I did,
'Caze love has gained the day.

I'd give ten cents to kiss her, (x3)
'Caze love has gained the day.

I'd walk fifty miles to see her, (x3)
'Caze love has gained the day.

I've got some candy to give her, (x3)
'Caze love has gained the day.

I'll try [to] take it over Saturday, (x3)
'Caze love has gained the day.

I've got her a whole dime's worth, (x3)
'Caze love has gained the day.

That's the way I beat the other fellow (x3)
'Caze love has gained the day.

We 'II fly to get married at Christmas (x3)
'Caze love has gained the day.

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