Remembering The Old Songs:


by Lyle Lofgren

(Originally published: Inside Bluegrass, May 2004)

This song started out with Stephen Foster. You've all heard of him and sung some of his songs. He was one of the first commercial pop composers. He lived in New York, but had a knack for the easy tune and antebellum nostalgia, even while the south still used slavery. He cranked out lots of songs about de good ol' days on de ol' plantation. The words to many of these songs were so sad that, as Oscar Wilde once said about The Death of Little Nell, "one must have a heart of stone not to laugh at it." Foster published Angelina Baker in 1850, and it was featured on stage by the original Christy Minstrels. One of the verses is:

Way down on de old plantation, dah's where I was born,
I used to beat de whole creation hoein' in de corn;
Oh, den I work and den I sing, so happy all de day,
'Til Angelina Baker came and stole my heart away.

CHORUS: Angelina Baker, Angelina Baker's gone,
She left me here to weep a tear and beat on de old jawbone.

This "Angeline" is a parody of Foster's "Angelina." Most parodies are spoofs that ride the popularity of the original. They therefore usually have a one-to-one correspondence with the source tune and words. "Angeline" is more like a recomposition (perhaps from memory) of Foster's song. Whoever composed it used only part of the original tune, and all the references to slavery days have been lost in the transmogrification of "Baker" from a surname to a profession.

The source for this song is Uncle Eck Dunford (1878-1953), an entertaining fiddler and singer from Galax, Virginia. He was evidently one of those self-educated people who never stopped learning. He could recite Shakespeare and Blake as well as comic monologs. The birth of national interest in mountain music is usually dated to the 1927 Bristol (Tennessee) Victor recording sessions by Ralph Peer, resulting in such phenomena as Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. Less well known is that Ernest Stoneman of Galax was Peer's local talent scout. Stoneman's own recordings became very popular, but the other musicians he brought in are as interesting as the ones who became stars. Uncle Eck recorded at the second Bristol session, in October, 1928. His name wasn't a sobriquet like "Uncle Dave Macon." He was literally Uncle Eck, having married an aunt of Ernest's wife Hattie.


Complete Lyrics:
1. Angeline the baker lives in our village green,
The way I always loved her beats all you ever seen.

Angeline the baker, her age is forty-three,
I bought her candy by the peck, and she won't marry me.

2. Her father is the miller, they call him Uncle Sam.
I never will forget her, unless I take a dram. CHO.

3. Angeline is handsome, Angeline is tall,
They say she sprained her ankle a-dancing at the ball. CHO.

4. She can't do hard work because she is not stout,
She bakes her biscuits every day, and pours the coffee out. CHO.

5. I'll never marry no other girl, no matter where I go.
I said I'd marry Angeline just twenty years ago. CHO.

6. The last time I saw her was at the county fair.
Her father run me almost home and told me to stay there. CHO.

Return to the Remembering the Old Songs page.